Cadre 5:

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:54 am

Just to let you know, I 'm deep in Chapter 16: Under the Microscope Part 2: We're Fighting Back. It will end in one hell of a cliff hanger. I've been upgrading my graphics skills so that's put some of my writing behind. Here's a little sneak preview of the cover for next issue:

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Location: Russell, KY

Issue 16: Under the Microscope Part I- We're Fighting Back

Postby cobalt-blue » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:48 pm

Cadre 5 Issue 16 Under the Microscope Part II


My contacts with the local neo-human gangs have come to a fruitful conclusions. We have reached an amicable agreement and are preparing for our first test of both the warspawn pharmaceuticals with which I'm going to supply them as well as their ability to carry out a mission for me.

The costs for this mission are not significant so far. In the few weeks I've been here, I've been able to insinuate myself into rather high places in the government. Humans have not changed much in the last few thousand years, and the same approaches that worked on their ancestors are working now. I've managed to whisper the right words to the right people and stir up more controversy about one of the Cadre in the media services. I suspect that before long the stress of it will bring the others into it as well.

I won't call them news services, they don't report the news; instead they shape it to fit their agenda and use it as a tool. This is the kind of action that none of our Houses, nor the Houses of our foes will allow. It allows leaders to hide behind words with double meanings and the letter of the law instead of its spirit. Reality must be honored no matter how unpleasant.

On my new allies: I've decided to use some of the off the shelf boosters we use with our own shock troops. This is as much an experiment in how the neo-human physiology will react to what we've developed for our tribe over the last several millenia as it is to discover what the servant of our foes has done. It will boost those with the appropriate talents into something a little more formidable than they are currently, but won't let them get out of control. Of course over-using them will burn out first their powers, then their minds, and finally their bodies.

They are set to move as soon as we identify the best time and place for our first encounter. I do not want to send agents to the Academy itself. First off, there is no reason to destroy valuable resources, and secondly, that is their home, and they will go further to defend it than in the general population. I do not yet wish to push them into lethal combat.

I am sending one of my primary warspawn into the combat as well. I feel the need to have someone there who can keep these new agents from violating their instructions. They are after all basically criminals and are by nature a cowardly and untrustworthy lot. They are a gang of rogues to which the government turns a blind eye because of some vague political agenda that prey on the weak and helpless underclass. This group happens to be a gang of half-breeds calling themselves The Medio. They've banded together because their mixed genes make them stand out among the chosen of their two cultures. The irony of the situation is that the half of their heritage that gives them the neo gene is the half that they reject.

Robert Killpatrick

My experiments have not gone unnoticed by the Elders. They have decided to send someone to supervise my experiment. Mind you She has made it clear that She is not here to interfere, or take over what I've done, but simply to see what I have accomplished. She has brought with her resources from home that will prove to be very valuable.

I am ready to enter phase two of the experiment. I have two agents highly placed in the neo-human community now, and have managed to expose my subjects to further treatments. An unexpected side-effect has been that it has boosted my control group as well. I am considering setting up a secondary experiment with those two. Project Berserker was more than worth expenditure of resources.

The equipment that the Elder has brought has allowed me to expand my own base. As I bury my new organization in the bureacracy of the government, it will be more difficult to get large equipment shipped to hidden locations without someone knowing where it is, and what it contains. This equipment will help me with that, especially the fabricators and the translocation devices.

Now I am simply making preparations to start the second phase of testing. With the addition of the Elders resources I will be able to more easily create my own neo-humans capable of forcing Cadre 5 into the levels of exertion that I need for phase two to go into effect. To hide some of what I am doing, I've decided to activate the genes from the experiments of the other tribes. If I'm careful in how I do this, I won't need to worry about cross contamination into our own experiment. For this, I have to thank that idiot leading the present administration. He's given me the perfect solution to that particular problem.

I am concerned over signs that one of the other Houses has sent an operative- a warmaster no less- here as well. I'm afraid that they might interfere with the experiment. This cannot be allowed. I am currently directing my own agents to investigate this warmaster's activities. This worries me. I do not wish to restart the war between our peoples again.

Jim Waterford Teacher: Cadre 5

I knew they were coming. Hell, I met with them the day before. I even understood why it was necessary for them to observe. However, that didn't mean I had to like it. These kids had been through enough grief of late, and the new guys had been working their collective butts off to get up to speed. On that last part, I'm not so sure that Draupnir wasn't "cheating" and telepathically boosting their language base.

Still, the meeting that morning in Doctor Blair's office had not gotten off on the right foot. There were six of them spreading out to various areas of the school. The lead observer from the US Department of Education was a fiftiesh heavy set black woman who came across as just too damn arrogant for her own good. The first words out of her mouth were, "I'm not impressed with the diversity, or lack of it, I see in your school Mister Blair- especially in Cadre 5."

"That's Doctor Blair, Doctor Delang. That is unless you want to do away with the formalities of titles all together." he told her putting the ball in her court. "As for the diversity, we had at least one African American girl on Cadre 5 until the government saw fit to take her away from us. That would have been one out of six on the original team representing eighteen percent of the cadre body. I believe that would have been three percentage points higher than African Americans represent in the general population."

"You had the opportunity to bring in a more diverse population when you took in your three new students," she argued.

"We took in a total of fifteen new students this term, three of which had minority backgrounds, Doctor Delang," he told her.

"Still, none on Cadre 5. I would like to see some more people of color on that team; your premier team," she told him.

"Fortunately for the cadre and the school, you don't have a say in that," Doctor Blair told her while I sat quietly. This was going to be good. "We choose the students for this school based on their abilities and their skills, not what color of skin they have. We're not trying to put together a photo-shoot, but are trying to train students to be the best that they can be, and to meet the challenges they are going to face on the government teams. If there had been a minority student who met the criteria for Cadre 5 we would have accepted them, but there wasn't."

"And what is the criteria for that cadre, Doctor Blair?" she asked. "Is it different from the rest of the students?"

He looked at her and said, "The criteria for every cadre is slightly different Doctor Delang. It's based on test scores, personality, and neo-human classification. We are trying to build learning teams here, and that takes a little more effort than simply dumping all the student into a single class and throwing information at them."

"Neo classification? Are you tracking these students?" she asked. I knew exactly where this woman was heading. As far as the educational community was concerned, ability grouping or tracking students was a major sin.

Duncan smiled at her and said, "Only in that we try to construct our cadres with personalities, abilities, and backgrounds that will complement each other to make a stronger learning environment."

"What is the neo-classification requirement for your students on Cadre 5?" Doctor Delang asked.

"With one exception, class ten," Duncan told her. "That exception was made because the combination of enhancements for that particular student allow him to function as a class ten without having all of the prerequisite enhancement levels."

"You could have made an exception for another person of color as well," she said.

Duncan shook his head and said, "You want a person of color on the team, tell the judge in Illinois to give us Aiesha Richmond back. Beyond that, we are a private school. We can accept or deny whomever we wish." He locked eyes with her and said firmly, "This part of the discussion is over. Now if you have any questions about our classroom practices, I believe Jim Waterford would be able to address them best. He's the lead instructor for that cadre."

The woman turned to me and said, "I read your article in the American Journal of Education and Psychology, Mr. Waterford. It was impressive piece of work. I'm curious as to how your theories are holding up in the classroom."

I smiled at her and said, "Cadre 5's test scores speak for themselves."

"Don't you think that the overhaul of the US certification process would be prohibitively costly?"

"I never said it wouldn't," I told her. "On top of that, it's not a top down kind of change that the federal government can make. It will have to come from the states. Furthermore, it will mean giving teachers a full education across all subjects. I don't think that's something that the most teachers today want to do. This model works for Wyndgate, and is the secret of our success." I wasn't about to get into any arguments about what can and cannot be done with the certification process. "We are a private school, so we can hire the kinds of people we need for the model."

She nodded to me and smiled, "Well tell me about this Cadre 5 of yours. All of us of course have heard about their successes on the battlefield, but we wonder about how their every day life goes. There has been a lot of speculation about a military-style regime of training going on here."

I couldn't help it. I laughed at her. "No ma'am. It's about as far from a military regime as we can get. Actually, it's a lot less formal than most regular schools. The students gather in their cadre common room at eight o'clock for their lessons. Instead of being divided into separate rooms for each subject, they stay in their own area and the subjects come to them. Their home is their school, and they only go out of the common room for material intensive classes like science labs, art, and PE. We are after all a boarding school, so we use it to our advantage."

"It sounds like home schooling. What about socialization with the rest of the school?" she asked.

I grinned at her as I gestured toward the door. "They LIVE at the school, ma'am. They get plenty of socialization with the other students. They even get cross-training with other cadres in some of the outside classes."

"Like the training that recently lead to Miss Croften-Blake's problems?" she asked. "Or does he or she prefer mister?"

I grinned at her. I love it when people try to be snarky and end up showing their own ignorance. "Actually, if Croften-Blake were going to use a male honorific, then since he is unmarried, and under the age of majority, you should call him Master Croften-Blake, or Master Rowan." I could see I hit a nerve. That Doctorate of Education didn't mean a whole lot to me. I had ten times her education, and knew it.

"I will do no such thing!" she retorted.

I nodded as we left Duncan's office and headed toward the main stairs. As we began our ascent I said, "You asked. I teach my students to be accurate in their use of the language- both languages."

We worked our way up the long flight of stairs to the cadre's common room where the students were already gathered with their Netbooks and PDAs. I noted with a slight frown that Rowan was still wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a sweatshirt, and had not put on any make-up. She was sitting cross-legged on the carpet with a small table pulled up beside her for her computer. Kenna and Sawyer were on either side of her both giving her troubled looks.

Boomer had commandeered his favorite overstuffed chair and was going over some kind of notes on his computer screen. I recognized the conjugation chart we were working on for German last Friday. Michael was across from him, a soft-back book lying next to his laptop as he was furiously entering data from a yellow A-4 pad. Tracy and Patrick were on opposite ends of the sofa, and also seemed to be ready to go.

I introduced our guest and reminded them that they were here to observe. The looks that Sawyer and Kenna shot Doctor Delang were filled with icy daggers. I simply smiled and got down to our discussion on the ice ages and glaciation.

About an hour later, right as we were shifting into math and discussing how to calculate the mass of the Muzart Glacier in Asia, and how to use the exponents to express unwieldy numbers, there was a knock at the door. I'll admit to my surprise at our visitor. However, the look on our observer's face was priceless when Lady Lightning stepped in and said, "I'm sorry to interrupt your class Mister Weatherford, but I was wondering if I might borrow Shadow Claw for a while."

I had sort of been expecting this. Brian told me that he'd asked his mother to speak to Rowan; to sort of give her a pep talk. I was expecting it later in the day, but I have to admit that the woman's timing was perfect. I'd met her on a few occasions in the past, usually those dealing with the school or with Brian, but I could never get past the sheer aura of power and confidence that she exuded. This was a woman who for the past twenty years had put herself in harm's way to protect those who could not protect themselves; who had become a symbol of what was good and right about not only neo-humans, but about humanity in general, and America in particular. That big guy with the red cape in the comics could do no more than she did; could be no more impressive than she was; and could instill no more of a sense of sheer awe than she did. I nodded to her and said, "Of course." Then turning to Rowan I said, "Give your things to Kenna and go with Lady Lightning."

SHADOW CLAW aka Rowan Croften-Blake

Okay I'll admit it. What Jason did hurt me more than if he'd gut punched me. Suddenly having all the news programs discussing my love life and speculating on how I was "put together" was a an introduction to a harsh reality for me. It was not something for which I was prepared nor could have been prepared. I came to finding myself appreciating the fact that the school was very remote. The paparazzi could not come onto school grounds- but that didn't keep pictures from still getting out. There were still quite a few digital cameras in the hands of the students.

To keep the picture hounds at bay- even among my own schoolmates- I started dressing down. It was back to the baggy jeans and tee-shirts. I left the makeup sitting on my dresser and kept to myself. It was just easier this way. Easier, but not necessarily the best way to handle it. I knew I was alienating my friends, but I just didn't know what to do about it.

When Lady Lighting asked to see me, I was rather surprised. I can't say that I didn't know the woman knew my name. I'm not that stupid. I just didn't know she would have any interest in me. I handed my stuff to Kenna and stood to follow her.

We spoke very little as we made our way down the long seven flights of stairs, passing several students on the way. I caught a number of their double takes and stares as we traversed the building. When we crossed the main part of the building and then went into the lab sections of the North Tower wing before exiting their main doors I was a bit surprised. It was not only the long way out of the building but a meadering way that managed to take us through some of the most heavily populated areas of the facility. On the way, she asked me simple questions, and I guess they would have been considered small talk. It was nothing serious, just simple questions about school, which teachers I liked, and what I thought the National's chances at the pennant were this year. It was that kind of conversation until she found a nice bench under a huge maple tree in the middle of the main quad just east of the fountain in the drive.

As we sat, she said, "There's something I've been meaning to tell you Rowan, I just didn't know how."

"Ma'am?" I asked.

"I just wanted you to know how much your mom was an inspiration to so many of us in the neo-human community," she said.

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

"Back when your mother played the Amazon Princess on television, it was before there were any real superheroes. The people with unusual powers and abilities were all either on television or in the comic books. She made that role hers, and was an inspiration to a whole generation of boys and girls. I was ten years old when I first watched her adventures on Saturday nights, and I learned a lot of good life lessons from what she taught through that role. In a way, your mom, helped mold me into the woman I am today, into the hero that people look up to. There were many times when I was first getting started that I would ask myself, "What would Amazon Princess do?". It's a good question to ask yourself," she told me. I was nearly floored. Here was the world's greatest hero telling me that she admired my mom! It was sort of surreal.

"Thank you," I told her at a loss for words. I mean, I admired my mom, but I was supposed to. She was after all, my mother. "I'm not sure what to say."

She smiled at me and said, "That kind of hit you out of the blue didn't it."

I nodded and said, "Yes, ma'am."

She put her hands on her knees and looked out back toward the school. "I've been watching what has been happening on the news about the incident with Jason Conner. I realize it is none of my business, but I was wondering if you might would like some input from a seasoned veteran when it comes to dealing with the media?"

I swallowed hard. I'd been wondering who I could turn to for advice. It would never never in a million years have occurred to me that I might ask Lady Lightning, that she might be willing to help me. I told her, "I'd be glad for any advice you could give me, ma'am. I know I'm in over my head."

She smiled at me and chuckled. "That's the first step, Rowan; realizing when you're in over your head. What seems to me is the problem is that you're letting everyone else shape the debate about you. While everyone else has been talking about you, talking about things that are none of their business, you've been silent."

"But they just want to gawk, to look and see, and ask embarrassing questions," I complained to her.

She smiled and said, "Yeah they do. But you don't have to answer those with which you don't feel comfortable. Just because someone else discusses their bedroom activities on the talk shows doesn't mean that you have to get down in the gutter with them. You can go on one or two reputable shows, explain your background and your condition without painting a word picture and undo a lot of the damage others have done to your reputation. You can remind them that they are talking to a lady or a gentleman, or simply a person with with self respect, and you expect to be treated that way."

I nodded to her and said, "I don't even know where to begin. I don't know who to trust. Even that O'Malley guy on Vixen News has gotten into the debate- mainly trying to challenge me to come onto his show."

She nodded and said, "I know Bob O'Malley. He's a blowhard, but his heart is basically in the right place. However, his area of expertise is politics. I would stay away from his show, even if it is the highest rated one on cable. Maybe Gretchen Von Hostren and her For The Record program that comes on a little after him. She's a former lawyer, so she knows what kinds of questions cross the line. She's also got a good ear and will listen to what you have to say. If you'd like I could set you up with an interview."

I thought about what she had to say. I'd already sicced my lawyers on several of the people that had crossed the line, but it was starting to look like I was going to have to fight to get my image and respect back. I really shouldn't have let it go this far. Finally, I nodded and said, "Would you make it clear to her that I won't answer any questions of a personal nature- you know about my body."

She smiled at me and said, "Good for you kiddo."

"It's not that I'm ashamed of it, Lady Lightning. It's just that it's none of anybody else's business. My mom always taught me to respect my own and other people's privacy. I don't want to do a photo-shoot for that sports magazine's swimsuit issue, and I don't want to go talk with that woman in Chicago either. I just want to get back to school, and get on with my life."

"What about Kenna and Sawyer?" she asked.

"What about them?"

"Do you think they'd like to go with you?" she asked. "They are involved in this too."

I felt myself blush. Finally I said, "I would prefer it to be the whole team. That way we don't have to give away any more information than we have to. If the whole team is there, it will look like the we're facing it together. If it's just Kenna and Sawyer, it'll put them in the spotlight and they may not want that."

She smiled at me broadly before saying, "Now you're thinking. You may have to invest in a mask for Ace though. He's the only one who could possibly maintain a secret identity."

"I'll buy him a box of them," I told her.

BOOMER aka Brian Alexander

The whole day was screwed up. We all felt like ponies on parade, and we were starting to resent it. I could see daggers in the looks Kenna and Sawyer kept shooting at our visitors. I couldn't really blame them, they had plenty of right to be angry at the government- Sawyer especially so. He and I had discussed what had happened at his house a few times, and I could see the deep sense violation and betrayal in his eyes every time he talked about it. He held the government personally responsible for his ten year old sister being forced to kill someone to defend their home.

I think a lot of the anger from Kenna was bleed over from the loss of Aiesha. It's funny. Those two fought like cats and dogs, but her absence seems to left a bigger hole in the tiny girl's life than any of us. Lance had once made a comment about some friendships being based on friendly rivalry. That definitely seemed to be true with them.

So in the end, their distrust wasn't unfounded even if it was apparent. We worked our way through math, and then into history, or this case pre-history with Doctor Delang watching us intensely. She was constantly moving around the outside of the lounge area like some kind of mother hen. It was a strange contrast of disapproving facial expression with a mothering body language. In some ways it was a little off-putting.

We were getting deep into the Clovis culture and the debate over whether or not they were the first Americans, when Mr. Wateford began peppering more and more of the discussion with German. I noticed a huge smile appear on both Kenna's and Sawyer's face and their expressions softened slightly. We finished up history in German and then segued from German sentence structure into English grammar. Yeah, we were ponies on parade, but I started to actually enjoy it- especially when I realized that the observer was in way over her head. It was clear she'd never conjugated an English verb in her life, much less one in German. After a while, it sort of became a game; to show off and make Mr. Waterford look good. See the government is good for something- getting us fired up with school spirit for one. Damn, I'm starting to sound like Sawyer.

About ten minutes before noon, Sawyer's stomach made a loud groaning sound. We all turned to him and then looked worriedly at Mr. Waterford. It was Kenna who spoke up and said, "Mr. Waterford, you may want to hurry it up. The "trouble-alert" just went off."

"What does she mean by that?" our guest asked worriedly looking around as if Fury was about to come crashing through the wall.

"That if we don't feed him soon, there's going to be trouble," I said with a snarky grin. She was an outsider, she didn't understand the importance of Sawyer's stomach. "Every time it growls, there's usually some kind of crises. We've learned to keep him well fed."

Sawyer just blushed deeply when she asked, "Is this some kind neo-power not in Mr. Grey's file?" I could almost hear the bones in Sawyer's neck snap as he turned to look at her when she mentioned his file.

"I was unaware that our observers were given access to our student files," Mr. Waterford said, his voice suddenly becoming icy.

She crossed her arms and said, "We weren't. It was the file the Department of Neo-human Affairs sent to us." She looked at Sawyer, whose eyes were suddenly the size of saucers. "There's no mention of an precognitive abilities in his file."

"It's a joke, lady," Patrick spoke up loudly. "Sawyer's stomach growls and we know it's time to break from what we're doing and go eat. It's the kind of thing that family and friends tease each other about. I of course will understand if those last two concepts are unfamiliar to you." Damn! Something had irritated the hell out our resident speedster.

She looked down at her watch and raised an eyebrow. "My goodness, where did the time go?"

Michael laughed and said, "Welcome to Mr. Waterford's class. The only man I know who can make learning not only interesting but riveting." He looked down at his notes and said, "That's six pages of homework tonight so far, not counting the math. Luckily, we've got PE, art, music, and Commander Erikson this afternoon. There's not likely to be much homework there."

"Really?" Kenna asked. "Have you got the painting laid out for Ms. Warshawski in art yet?"

He crinkled his nose at her and smirked, "Yep. You got those lines memorized for Ms. Deller in music yet?"

"Yep," she countered. Then they both looked over at Tracy and she said, "But I'm looking forward to hearing his solo. Anybody ever tell you, you got real talent?"

Our angel knock-off smirked and said, "Yeah, right when they tell me that my taste in music is terrible."

"That's it for the day, cadre," Mr. Waterford told us closing his data pad and standing up from the large overstuffed chair in which he was sitting. "I'm sure you'll all catch up Rowan on what she missed." He grinned over at our guest and said, "You are of course welcome to join us at the faculty table."

I was hoping that meant we'd get a break from her- at least for lunch- but no such luck. Much to our dismay, she sat down at the table with us, and looked at her plate. "This is quite some lunch you guys have here," she said.

I lglanced down at the baked chicken and potatoes. It was typical fare for lunch. Dinner was usually much better, and breakfast was usually a pretty wide range. The food here was much better than what I ate at my old middle school back in Winsted. "It's fairly typical," I said. "Actually, it's very good. But then again, considering what our parents pay in tuition, it should be." I thought she probably needed a reminder that this was a private school, and that we weren't going to put up with all the crap about public schools.

She nodded and dug in, not responding. "Where is Ms. Croften-Blake?" she finally asked.

Kenna shrugged and said, "I think I saw her heading back up to the cadre as we were coming down."

"She's going to miss this excellent lunch," Doctor Delang said.

"Rowan doesn't eat much anyway," I told her.

"She doesn't sleep much either," Michael added. "It's a side effect of her powers."

"Must be nice to have those kinds of advantages," the doctor said.

"Yeah, but I know he'd trade them all in, to have his parents back," Sawyer said quietly.

"I'm sorry?" Doctor Delang said.

"I said that he...," he stopped in mid-sentence staring across the room. I noticed the dining room suddenly became very quiet and I followed his gaze.

Rowan was getting into line. Gone were the baggy jeans, and ratty old sweat shirt. She'd replaced it with smart pair of dark slacks with a matching belt, a pink button down and a pair of penny loafers- very preppy looking. I could see where she had on just a touch of make-up. And yes I can see that fine of detail at that distance. Heck I could see the weave of her shirt from where I was sitting. Every eye in the room was watching her. It helped that Mom was standing right behind her with a tray as well. I saw quite a few nods of approvals before people went back to eating and the conversation rose to normal levels.

"What was that all about?" Doctor Delang asked.

"It probably means that somebody is in for a few unpleasant surprises," Kenna said with a very pleased tone. Then turning to me she said, "Looks like your mom decided to stay for lunch after all. She just sat down with Mr. Waterford, Commander Erikson, and Doctor Blair. You have been behaving haven't you?"

The doctor shook her head and said, "I don't understand."

Before anyone could reply, Rowan approached the table with a plate of chicken and glass of milk. She was the only person I knew, who still preferred milk over the other options for lunch. I think it's the cat in her. Kenna and Sawyer made room between them, and she sat. She looked around the table and nodded to Doctor Delang before smiling at Kenna. "Remember Operation Lombard?"

Kenna grinned and said, "Yeah."

"Well, now I'm about to pull a Skadi," she said with a smile. When Kenna gave her a look of surprise, she added, "What, I read those books you gave me."

Kenna simply smiled and said, "Kicking in the gates and demanding your just due. I like it."

I wasn't sure about the reference, but I understood what she was talking about. "So do I. How can we help?" I asked.

She looked down at Doctor Delang and then back at me before saying, "We'll discuss it at our team meeting." Team meeting? Since when did we have team meetings? Then I got what she was saying. This was team business and not for just anybody's ears. Kenna and Sawyer really were rubbing off on her. "Okay," I told her.

"How was the rest of classes?" she asked.

"Not bad. We got to the Younger Dryas cold shock. We've got a new assignment for that, but it's just building on we've already done. I'm thinking that we can take Mike's artifact chart, and build on it to be finished by next Wednesday." I grinned over at Sawyer and added, "Barring any input from Ghost's gastro-intestinal system."

"Do you children always discuss classwork at lunch?" Doctor Delang asked.

"No ma'am," Sawyer said. "We talk about a lot of things, but classwork is a neutral subject for the moment. Personal matters will be discussed in private." The woman looked a little taken aback by the not so subtle jab.

"You don't like me very much, do you Mister Grey? Why is that?" she asked. There was a hint of an accusation there and we all knew what it was about.

His voice became serious and hard, and his Southern accent became thick with emotion "Ma'am, Ah don' know you from Adam's house cat. But Ah know what you stand for. You are here as a representative of the US government. That's the same government that released mah identity to the general public and told a gang of criminals where to find mah family. Mah ten year old sister was forced to kill someone to save mah family and mah dad. I don't like the government right now." He looked down at his plate and said, "If you'll excuse me, Ah think Ah've lost mah appetite." He got up and left. Kenna and Rowan were right behind him. I'm not sure but I think Rowan actually growled as she passed the woman.

Doctor Delang just looked at the rest of us stunned. All she could say was, "I had nothing to do with what happened."

"Maybe so, Doctor Delang, but it still happened. A lot of people's lives have been changed by the present administration's attitude toward neos. Our friend Aiesha lost her mother to that attack. My house was blown up, and Kenna's family farm was attacked as well. Rowan, Kenna, Patrick, and Tracy can't even go to the mall or out shopping in DC without being harassed by the police and security. Rowan has had intimate information about his body released to the general public for all kinds of prurient speculation. You are here as a representative of that government, so you're going to catch the brunt of their anger. If it was someone else, they'd catch it just as much as you are. Don't read anything personal int it. For us, the word government has come to mean persecution."

"That's a rather mature point of view for a fifteen year old," she said.

"We're neos we don't get to be children. We all have to carry a national identification card that identifies us as a potential weapon of mass destruction. That sort of thing makes a person either grow up and deal with reality, or curl up and become victims. We choose not to be victims. My mom is big on telling people to take personal responsibility. Well for us, personal responsibility means growing up faster than most kids." Looking down at my plate, I realized that I too had lost my appetite too. It was a good thing that today was going to be a review day in Commander Erikson's class, and not a combat exercise. He said he didn't want to take a chance on an observer accidentally getting hurt. After this discussion, I could see the wisdom in his decision.

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Issue 16: Under the Microscope Part I- We're Fighting Back

Postby cobalt-blue » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:49 pm

SPEEDFIRE aka Patrick "Pat" Mattison

I guess it was because of how she was acting that irritated me the most about Doctor Delang. Right now, the whole "mothering" thing didn't sit well with me. For me the word mother, the imagery of "mother" was not something I saw as a positive. Tracy and I finished our lunch in silence and then headed up to the dorm to take care of brushing our teeth and then to get changed. It was going to be an interesting afternoon.

When we got to the main room, we found the primary team already there. Rowan turned to us and said, "I want to ask you guys a favor." She looked at Michael and said, "This will be a big favor from you."

"What is it?" I asked.

"Brian's mom is setting up an interview with Gretchen Von Hostren for me. I would like for you guys to come along. You don't have to, but I would appreciate the support."

"You know you don't have to ask us," Sawyer said putting an arm around Rowan's waist and gesturing toward Kenna.

"I'm there," Brian told us with a determined grin.

I looked over at Tracy and he nodded to me. We'd both been talking about this possibility for a few days. We were hoping to get a chance to put in our two cents worth in support of our newfound friend. "Count us in," I told her.

Michael looked confused, "Why is it such a big favor from me?"

Rowan chuckled and said, "Because of all of us, you're the only one with any chance, granted a small one, of ever keeping a secret identity. I'll buy you a mask if you want."

Michael thought about it for a moment and said, "Nah. Might as well be busted for a car as for candy bar. I'll go on without the mask. If we get involved in another fight with someone, we're likely to get our identities revealed anyway."

"Yeah, but you've still got a shot at it," Kenna said.

He shrugged and said, "Maybe, but somehow I doubt it." He looked around and asked, "When do we do this?"

"Looks like Thursday night," Rowan said. "Lady Lightning is getting it all hammered out with Vixen News and Doctor Blair this afternoon."

"Good," Brian said. "The sooner we can put this behind us, the better." He then took a moment and gave Rowan an appraising glance up and down. Offering his hand, he said, "Welcome back, Bro." Rowan just blushed and shook the hand. I got the feeling we were going to see a little more of the male side of our cat friend in the future.

PE went okay I guess. Mainly it was running and endurance training, which considering that we're a bunch of neos is really pushing things. Most people don't understand just how much the neo-gene influences our stamina. Exercises that are designed to keep us active, to push our energy reserves are hard to come by. Coach Moore had a very specific regime for doing that, and it worked. It busted our tails, but it worked.

Everything else went okay I guess- that is until we got to combat training, or in this case, review of last Friday's exercise. As we settled into our seats at the table, I noticed Commander Erikson and Sawyer going over notes on a clipboard. That couldn't be good; it usually meant that someone had screwed up big time in the exercise. I also saw Doctor Delang settling in to a chair and making notes of her own.

"Exactly, what is the nature of this class, Mr. Erikson?" the woman asked. The sound of the word mister grated on my nerves.

Evidently, it grated on Kenna's nerves too. "Commander Erikson," she corrected the woman. "He retired, so his military rank is still appropriate."

The commander shot her a look and he said, "Mister is fine."

"No, no. If the children are more comfortable with Commander, I'll use that."

Kenna grinned at her and said, "And don't get the wrong idea, Doctor Delang. We started calling him Commander, he didn't demand it." When the woman gave her a surprised look Kenna said, "When you think something that loud, I can't help but pick it up." She reached over and touched the Ψ pin on her collar. I watched as the woman's eyes became huge. Sometimes people forget that Kenna is a bonded telepath and graduate from the Psi-Corps Academy in Colorado. Smiling again, she said, "Maybe your government masters should have picked someone with a more disciplined mind."

"Faerie, that's enough," Commander Erikson said.

Immediately, the small girl turned around and put her hands in her lap and smiled sweetly at him. "Yes sir," she said with an expression that my dad describes as "butter wouldn't melt in her mouth."

Commander Erikson gave her a hard look and then turned back to Doctor DeLang. "This class is an extension of their physical education, science and history classes. We are attempting to teach them to use their neo-human abilities to help save lives and rescue people."

"Does that include the combat techniques we saw them employ against Fury?" she asked in obvious disapproval.

Erikson locked eyes with the woman before saying, "Yes, ma'am. It does."

"I'm wondering why you are training children to fight. Our schools are violent enough as it is," she said, marking something on her clipboard.

"Because under the current government plan, when they graduate from this school, each and every one of these children will immediately be sent to one of the regional teams around the country. They get no chance at college, military service, or even a civilian life. They will be put into life threatening situations almost immediately. It is my job to make sure that they survive those situations. The training that they received in this classroom saved at least two of their lives in that fight with Fury. I will not justify to you or anyone else training designed to keep children alive, Doctor Delang."

"You sound passionate about this issue, Commander. Why is that?" she asked.

"Because my daughter is one of those children. She's in Cadre 6," Commander Erikson said. Then as if dismissing the woman from that point on, he turned to the plasma screen and said, "This is the footage from our training exercise on Friday. First we're going to watch it through without breaking down what happened. Then we're going to go back and discuss what you did, whether or not it worked, and what you could do to do better. Any questions?"

"Do we have to watch the part where Ghost wiped the field up with me?" Ace asked blushing.

"Ghost?" Doctor Delang asked.

"In this class we always use code names, Doctor Delang. It keeps us in the habit of using them later."

As we turned our attention to the video, she nodded and made another mark on the clipboard. I made it a point to remember to ask Kenna later about whatever it was she was writing on that clipboard.

As for the review, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. We all sat and watched as Ace and Ghost squared off. Ace is good- damn good. His reaction times are very fast- not quite as fast as mine, but hey, I'm a speedster-, and he has a natural flexibility, speed, and strength that make him more than a match for any ten baselines. Ghost however, is simply mean. That's all I can say about it. When he's in a fight, he's out to win, and always seems to be thinking five or six moves ahead. Everything Ace threw at him, he countered. I got the feeling though that toward the end, Ace was starting to catch on. Experience was important.

When Kenna took me out of the fight I'll admit that I wanted to crawl under the table. I don't know whose idea it was to teach the foot and a half tall girl combat fighting, but it works surprisingly well. She never even had to use her psionic powers on me- at least I don't think she did. One minute I was closing with her at just under Mach 1, and the next I was sliding down the field on my stomach, trying to stop myself.

"Exactly what did you do to him there?" Ace asked.

Faerie smiled and said, "When he's going that fast, his feet are only in contact with the ground for a few microseconds each time he puts his foot down. It doesn't take much to redirect his momentum into a new direction."

"In other words, you tripped him," Lightwing said pointing to her ducking and rolling her back into my ankles.

She smiled sweetly at me and said, "In other words, I tripped him."

"Effective. But tripping speedsters is a regular staple of comic book combat," I countered.

"Well, I thought it best to use that instead of a this," she said holding up a roll of something.

"What is that?" I asked.

"Very thin steel wire. A quick loop around a limb and the other end around a stationary object could get messy quickly," she said. "But I like you, Speedfire, so I wouldn't use that on you."

My blood ran cold. I looked over Ghost and started to comment on his dating her, but decided was best not mention it in front our observer. He seemed to sense what I had realized and just smiled. "You're learning."

We went over the fight between Boomer and Lightwing against Shadow Claw. When Lightwing swooped out of the air and scooped her up, he discovered the same that that evidently Talon did. He had tiger by the tail. The only reason, he didn't end up out cold on the ground, was because when she slammed into his back, he turned himself into a lightbeam and let her fall about fifty feet before Boomer knocked her into the ground.

That fight went on for quiet a while. Boomer was using his force field to enhance his strength, and Lightwing had blinded her with a burst of white light, but still she fought on. Finally, Commander Erikson called the fight. "What happened here?" he asked. "Why didn't blinding her work?"

"Because she could hear us coming at her?" Brian asked.

"How could you have countered that?" Commander Erikson asked.

"I could have dropped a sonic boom on her. That would have affected her hearing."

"Wouldn't have worked," Shadow Claw said.

Commander Erikson turned to her and asked. "Why not?"

She grinned and said, "Because it was only partially my hearing. Both Boomer and Lightwing use a very potent body spray. I could smell them long before I could heart them."

"Hey, my girlfriend gave that to me," Brian protested.

Shadow Claw just smiled and said, "Maybe so. But it means I can pick both of you out of a crowd quite easily."

"I'll keep that in mind," Lightwing said.

The rest of the discussion went on like that. We talked about tactics, we talked about techniques, and we talked about alternatives. Mainly we discussed how to work as a team. What was abundantly clear was that the original group had far more experience than the three of us newbies. We had a lot of catching up to do.

FAERIE aka Kenna Draupnir

That night, Rowan got a confirmation from Doctor Blair that the interview had been arranged, and that it had been cleared with all of our folks. Although this was about Rowan, we were all going on the show with her. They called it an act of solidarity. It was also a chance to introduce our three new team members. Doctor Blair hinted that there was more in the works, something that he'd been working on with Rowan's lawyers. I could have "scanned" to find out what else was going on, but I actually trust Doctor Blair, so I decided to wait and see.

Wednesday a little better as far as being followed by one of the observers. At least Doctor Delang was looking in on Cadre 4 and we had another observer. This time it was a balding older man who sat quietly in the corner taking notes. I gave him a quick scan and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was actually taking notes about the classroom and our responses. He spent a great deal of time studying our projects from last week. The only thing I heard him say was to mutter quietly to himself, "this was done by high school students?"

In Commander Erikson's class I got another surprise. Our observer and the Commander knew each other. They talked about their time at Quantico together and the Commander actually let us do some training exercises while he was watching. Again, his notes all seemed to be about the teaching and the students, not about the powers. This was maybe a government bureaucrat I could actually respect.

Thursday came and went without any major issues, and at four we all piled into the van and headed into DC for our interview. Ms. Von Hostren had understood that we couldn't easily fly to New York to go on her show, so she made arrangements, evidently very fast arrangements. It was to be filmed- live- at the Morris-Clark Hotel in downtown DC. If we'd known then what we know now, we'd taken Rowan's jet to New York, or had the interview here on the school grounds. But as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Vixen news had of course announced that the interview was going to be live, and where it was going to be from. It didn't take long for the protesters to gather. Most of them were from the government union upset about the Civilian Security Force being pulled out of Wyndgate and about the charges that they were ordered to let Fury destroy the school.
However there was a small bunch in the group that did worry the hell out of me. They called themselves SNARRF- the Society for the National Acquisition of a Reclassification and Registry of Ferals. They wanted the government to reclassify feral neo-humans as animals so we can be put on the endangered species list. Then there were the furries. They didn't necessarily wanted us reclassified, they just wanted us to show up at the conventions. Although I'm not sure they didn't support reclassification too with the idea in mind of keeping us as pets. I'm not sure who worried me the most- the nut jobs or the fur pile. I did notice that someone had sent out the CSF to keep the groups from turning violent. I was just wondering who was keeping them in line.

We got into the hotel lobby and were whisked off where we met Ms. Von Hostren. She seemed to be a very busy woman who was rather pleased with the idea of being able to scoop her colleagues, especially that O'Malley guy. We went over the general timbre of the questions and discussed issues that were out of bounds- the most important were our love lives. We had already decided that we'd wear our new blue, red, and black uniforms for the interview, instead of the old blue, white and black ones. Civilian garb was right out.

The interview was set up on an enclosed balcony in one of the nicer hotel conference rooms on the third floor. Behind us was a wonderful view of the DC skyline, and below were the protesters. It was a very dramatic setting for an interview. Too dramatic, and to open and I should have said something about my concerns then.

As we settled in and the nice lady in charge of the production told us that we were live, Ms. Von Hostren began her usual introduction for the program. She gave a fair and balance history of what we'd done so far, and didn't try to sugar coat anything from either side. Believe it or nor we actually appreciated that. We understood the other side's point of view, we just knew that they were wrong. When she got into the River's piece, I could feel Sawyer squeeze my hand under the table. He was still seething about that particular piece of yellow journalism. Finally, she turned to Boomer and said, "I understand that you've lost one member and gained three new teammates."

Boomer smiled and nodded, "Yes, ma'am. We lost Glitch when he mother was killed in the attacks on our families. However, the school expanded its student population and three new members joined us: Ace, Lightwing, and Speedfire."

The blonde woman smiled and said, "Welcome to the show, and considering this team's history, I suspect that you're likely to become household names before long."

All three boys nodded their heads, but none really spoke up. Finally Gretchen turned to Rowan and said, Shadow Claw, lately you've been the subject of a great deal of speculation. You asked for this interview to sort of clear the air. Am I right?"

Rowan smiled her green eyes flashing in the light, "Yes, ma'am. There has been some speculation about me. Some of it is accurate and some of is way off base. I'd like to get that cleared up and move on. My corporation is getting ready to launch a new joint project with the Wyndgate Academy and I'd like to get this straightened out before we move on that."

"A joint project?" Gretchen asked, obviously as surprised by the news as I was. I knew, we all knew, that Rowan was working on something, but none of us felt any real desire to pry.

"Yes, ma'am. We can talk about that a little later. For now though I understand you have a few questions you and your colleagues would like to get answers to. As Lady Lightning informed you, I'm willing to answer those questions within certain parameters." Rowan told her. "And I believe that you will agree that the parameters I set were simply what would be considered good taste."

Ms. Von Hostren nodded and turned to face the camera before saying, "For the record, Shadow Claw agreed to come on this program and discuss the recent controversy with the understanding that it would not require her to describe anything but the most general terms the biological make up of her person. I personally find the speculation about this young teen's body to be in the poorest of tastes." She turned back to Rowan and asked, "Let's get right to the difficult part. Your birth certificate has an "I" listed under your sex. What does that "I" mean."

I could see Rowan blush as she faced the camera and said, "It means intersexual. I was born with an xxy sex chromosome and am both male and female- both genetically and genitally."

My research into this condition suggests that such cases are almost always simple sexual ambiguity. I take it that is not the case with you?"

Rowan nodded and said, "No, there is no ambiguity what so ever. I was born with both male and female parts. According to my doctor, they are both fully functional for their intended purposes."

Gretchen nodded. I could see the curiosity in her mind, but I could also see the agreement she had made with her friend Lady Lightning. She smiled and said, "Which gender do you consider yourself?"

Rowan smiled and I could see the sharp edges of her fangs. "Both. My parents raised me with no gender expectations, allowing me to choose which way I want to go. All my life, I've switched between girls' and boys' clothing, depending on which was the most comfortable for whatever activity I was doing. I think of myself equally as a boy and a girl."

"Sounds reasonable to me," Gretchen said. "What were the circumstances that led to status as an intersexual person being revealed to the press?"

Rowan frowned. "I was involved in a physical training exercise with another student- one with enhanced durability and strength like myself. His hands kept lingering in areas of my person that were inappropriate for prolonged contact. At one point, he grabbed an area and found more than he was expecting. We had an argument, and he backed down. The next day, I was being called all kinds of names by my schoolmates. The day after that, it was on the news."

"So, this is basically a case of a boor "copping a feel" as they say," Ms. Von Hostren said.

Rowan nodded her head and said, "Yes ma'am. That and spreading rumors to the press."

"There have been discussions of your love life. Some people are suggesting that you are romantically involved with more than one member of your team."

"My romantic life, such as it is, is not something I wish to discuss. It's a subject that neither a lady nor a gentleman discusses in public for the interest of strangers. I'm not one of the Hollywood or sports figure types, and I'm not the kind of person that goes and looks for press coverage. I'd be happy to be left alone."

"That sounds perfectly reasonable, and far more mature than a lot of what we're hearing out of Hollywood starlets these days. I can respect that, and I think my fellow journalists should as well." Gretchen turned back to the main camera and said, "When we come back from the break, we'll discuss Shadow Claw's recent legal difficulties and what they are really about."

When the light on the camera went off, we all let out a collective sigh of relief. It was funny but we all seemed to be almost holding our breath while Rowan was talking to Ms. Von Hostren. "I really appreciate you guys coming onto the set with me," Rowan told us.

"Hey," Boomer replied. "We're a team, and like Ace said: the team takes care of each other."

"Are you sure you want to talk about the legal charges?" Ms. Von Hostren asked. "You are a minor, and your records are sealed. Nobody has to know about them."

Rowan just smiled and said, "Right now, the fact that it's out there and sealed is doing me far more damage than having people talk about it."

"You have a criminal record?" Lightwing asked.

Rowan nodded. "The government prosecutor was talking about fifteen years in a supermax for it."

Ace whistled low and asked, "What did you do, kill someone?"

The look Rowan shot him was a mixture of anger and hurt. I felt like kicking him under the table, but my legs were too short. Instead I shot him the same kind of daggers that Rowan was. "No. It wasn't what I did. It was what I didn't do, or more accurately, what my parents didn't do."

Before she could reply the producer told us that we were about to go live again. Ms. Von Hostren turned to the camera and welcomed the viewers back. Then she said. "Before we went to break, Shadow Claw said that the records of her legal problems had been sealed because she was a minor. However, those charges are now causing all kinds of irresponsible speculation, and she is willing to give us an exclusive look at exactly why they government was threatening her with fifteen years in a supermax prison."

Rowan nodded and said, "Yes, ma'am."

"What were you charged with?" Gretchen asked.

"Failure to register with the federal government as a neo," Rowan said.

"Excuse me?" Gretchen asked. "That's all?"

"I was born a neo, Ms. Von Hostren. I was born with enough levels of durability and regeneration to make the corrective surgery for my condition impossible. My parents did not register me because they didn't want all kinds of people poking and prodding at me. After I went through my second cold-burn, and grew a cat's ears and tail, I went to update my status with the Department of Neo-human Affairs and found out that I wasn't registered. Since I was out of compliance for nine years, the government threatened me with six years for the base failure to register plus one year for each year I was out of compliance."

The look on Ms. Von Hostren's face was stunned. She asked, "Is that all?" Rowan nodded. "They were going to prosecute you, for your parent's lack of action?" Rowan nodded again. "With fifteen years in a supermax prison?"

"I got the feeling that the government's lawyer was looking to make a name for herself," Rowan said. "My lawyers are very good, but the all the cards were on the government's side. That's why I'm at Wyndgate. It was part of the agreement to keep me out of prison."

"So you were charged with a crime of omission that your parents' committed, and then punished for trying to rectify it?"bnm Gretchen asked.

Rowan nodded and said, "Pretty much, that's it."

"Didn't your lawyers tell you that those charges wouldn't stand up in court?" Gretchen asked.

"Actually, they informed me that they would eventually be dismissed, but not before the government made my life miserable in the meantime. They could seize my property, interfere with my cousin's guardianship of me, and force me into one of their federal schools until it worked its way through the courts. Accepting the agreement to attend a private school was a compromise," Rowan said.

"I see," Gretchen said. "It sounds like they were exercising power just because they could."

"I got that impression too," Rowan told her.

From there the interview slipped into much easier questions that were directed toward all of us. Gretchen asked me about the pin on my collar and I reminded her that I am the youngest graduate in the history of the Psi-Corps Academy. Ghost got to talk about what happened to his sister, and Boomer talked about losing his house to the attack. We all mentioned how much we missed Glitch. Ace, Lightwing, and Speedfire got to talk about their expectations for school and what they want to do when they grow up. Lightwing nailed the theme of the interview with his final words though: "If the government will let us."

Just as the interview was over, I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming surge of panic from outside. Even through the heavy glass we could hear the beginnings of screams from the crowd below. Speedfire rushed to the window and I saw his face turn pale. "Oh crap! Incoming!" he screamed and flashed away from the window.

Suddenly a fist the size of a pickup came crashing through the window. We all dove for cover. Boomer tackled Ms. Von Hostren and shielded her with his own body from the glass that went flying everywhere. Ghost did the same for the camera operator while Speedfire raced to move the producer out of the way.

The hand started grasping blindly in the room, trying to grab somebody. I dodged to side but felt my foot caught between two of its over-sized fingers. As I felt the bone in my ankle snap, I felt a surge of pain and a rush of an alien mind into mine.

Dr. Lovecraft
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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Dr. Lovecraft » Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:50 am

WHAT?!?! LOL A cliffhanger! Man... I am SOOOO loving this storyline. Don't you dare make us wait a month before you post more or I might not be able to contain myself! :D

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Manintights » Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:47 am

Just checking in to congratulate you on a really well written chapter for a wonderfull story.

I could go into detail but honestly, there's no need. WOW!

"As my father taught, 'Training will raise your shield to the blow, but courage fills the gaps the shield leaves open.'"

Play by post games:

New Vindicators: [Gae Bolg]

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:16 pm

Nicely done CB. Well written. Gripping and even though its' a giant-sized mook who needs to be smacked down...someone finally surprised Kenna.

Truly epic writing. It's no wonder Wizard magazine's writers "spoke" well of you during your time at Caliber.

P.S. Your photoshop work is coming along nicely thank you.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:27 pm

Thank you. Actually, the vast majority of that pic was "built" with Daz 3D Studio. I only photoshopped it together because my little laptop can't handle rendering seven three d images at the same time. But again thanks.

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Issue 17 Capitol Offenses

Postby cobalt-blue » Wed May 19, 2010 1:53 am


Cadre: 5 Issue 17

Duncan Blair Headmaster of Wyndgate Academy

The last twelve hours had been a nightmare. There was the smoldering wreck of a fuel truck sitting at the intersections of L and 11th Streets, the audio from the kids' tranmitters was being debated all over the talk shows, and the DC Department of Public Works was charging Shadow Claw for one manhole cover. Somehow I don't think she's going to have a problem paying for it. It had taken me until nearly midnight last night to get everything straightened out with the DC Police, and Department of Neo Human Affairs. The mumblings coming from them were ominous indeed.

The thing about it, was that once again the government had no case. The kids had not attacked first, and all the video and audio made it clear that they went further out of their way to protect the innocents than the Civilian Security Force, who had used civilians as human shields. But still there was a saying by the President's Chief of Staff, "Never let a crisis go to waste." And they weren't about to let this go.

After the kids had been checked out in the infirmary, I sent them to bed. Kenna's broken ankle was healing nicely and should be completely well by this morning. Brian had second degree burns on his back, but again his regeneration was taking care of that nicely. Ace's busted lip has already gone down, but according to Doctor Chapel, he's going to be limping for a few days. Sawyer, Tracy, Patrick, and Rowan seemed to be unscathed. Although Rowan was emotionally a little worse for wear. We've got to do something about finding a material for that kid's costume that was durable as she is.

Doctor Chapel entered the room and yawned over at me. "Mornin' Duncan," she said with a weary smile. I knew she'd been up late because after the kids got back she had to do a check-up on every one of them. She probably hadn't been to bed yet.

"You don't have to be here this morning, Grace," I said.

She smiled and sipped the coffee from the blue and gold cup with the Starfleet Medical logo on it. "I want to see the expression on Sawyer's face when Rowan tells him about what you two have got cooked up," she told me over the rim.

I smiled at that little reminder that the world wasn't quite as bleak as I was thinking. "You're right. That IS going to be worth seeing," I told her. "But that won't be until after we've gone over what really happened during that fight."

It was time to face the music. Time to find out what had really happened. Everything was very confusing right now because I only had bits and pieces of the scenario. Ms. Van Hosteren had been kind enough to supply me with a copy of the video from the fight, and our media department had pulled an all-nighter putting together the video from the other news sources. Now it was time to sit down with the kids and find out their side of the story. Also to find out exactly what some of those comments that were being played over and over really meant, and find out exactly why Kenna went berserk.

As if summoned by the thought, and considering how powerful a psi Kenna is, that is possible, she entered the room looking somewhat tired. "Good morning Doctor Blair," she said plopping down at the table. She set a cup of coffee in front of her and sighed.

"You okay, Kenna?" I asked worrying about her. She's generally not this exhausted, and I got the feeling it was emotional, not physical. She went after that giant like her very soul depended on fighting him off.

She looked up at me and smiled wanly. "I'm just tired Doctor Blair. I didn't sleep much last night. I kept having nightmares."

Before I could reply, Michael came limping in on the crutches Doctor Chapel had loaned him. He grinned sheepishly at me and said, "Doc Chapel said I should be off these by tomorrow."

I nodded to him and said, "Good. Are the others on their way?"

Kenna grinned into her coffee and said, "Yeah. Just as soon as the halls clear. Brian thought it best not to get any more slaps on the back in a crowded hall, no matter how good intentioned they are. Breakfast this morning was rather painful for him."

"How's he doing?" I asked.

"It's down to a painful sunburn, from what I understand," Michael said as he and Kenna exchanged glances. There was definitely something they weren't telling me. I got the feeling that it was more involved with inner team support than anything I should know about, so I let it lie.

I just smiled and began to set up the AV equipment and downloading the files we were going to need. This was going to be a long debriefing and it wasn't going to be their usual kind. I wanted to know a few things about this fight. The team did well, but there was some things hat still worried me; not the least of which was that Faerie had gone stark raving berserk against the giant that broke her ankle. It was like something out of an old Viking tale. She hit him with everything she had, and kept digging deeper for more.

It wasn't long before the halls quieted down and the rest of the team shuffled in. Okay, Rowan came bouncing in with a wide grin on her face. I don't think I've ever seen her that happy since she came here. Sawyer was grinning ear to ear as well. If it wasn't for the fact that the other three had the same grins on their faces, I'd have suspected a little early morning romance between the first two.

"Come on guys!" Kenna protested. "What's got you five so chipper?"

"Turn on the news," Brian said as he settled gingerly into his chair, leaning back carefully.

"What now?" I asked tapping the remote on my desk.

"...announcement from the Department of Neohuman Affairs that Cadre 5 has been cleared of all wrong doing in last evening's attack on the Morris-Clark Inn. The video footage provided by the news services as well as the hacked radio transmissions during the battle made it clear that the teen heroes went out of their way to avoid property damage as well as civilian casualties." The image on the screen showed Boomer in mid-flight catching a middle age woman who'd been tossed by one of the attackers. As he wrapped his arms and force field around her, he twisted to take with his own body the brunt of a flame attack aimed at her.

"What's your point?" I asked them.

"They're getting hammered on all the news programs," Sawyer said. "That one rescue of Boomer's is making them look really bad. And Ace's rather gallant rescue of that woman in the car is all over Facebook."

I nodded and realized that he really didn't understand how fast this could turn around. I'd dealt with people like the President in the past- granted most of them were trying to fry my brain with some kind of energy blast- but they were the same kind of people. He would back away here and probe somewhere else; he would reword his ideas and slip them into another bill. Putting on a good face, I smiled and said, "How're you feeling, Boomer?"

He grinned broadly at me and said, "A little sore sir, but it's going away."

"Good," I said as the rest of them settled into their seats. When everyone had quieted down, I began. "I wanted to discuss what happened with all of you, instead of just letting Commander Erikson do the debriefing. You've become something of a press phenomenon, and that can be both good and bad. Part of it is that someone has discovered the frequency that your headsets broadcast on. As you can tell from the news broadcasts, everything you said was recorded by several networks. We are definitely going to have to invest in some scrambling technology."

"At least we remembered to use code-names only," Tracy said as he settled into his chair trying to find a way that his wings wouldn't be hitting poor Sawyer in the face.

"Not that that really matters," Sawyer replied. It's not like we have secret identities anymore.

"No, but at least your training is holding," Commander Erikson added as he entered the room a large cup of coffee for each of us in hand. I was beginning to believe that Erikson was the best decision I ever made when it came faculty. But then again, a couple of old swabbies like us were bound to get along. We even liked the same coffee: flight deck sludge. It was guaranteed to keep nineteen year old boys awake and alert on the deck of a carrier for eighteen hours at a time- or the faculty of a neohuman school.

"And that's what I want to talk to you about. That and something that Rowan and I have been hammering out for the last few months," I told them taking the offered cup from Erikson's hand and sipping it. Strong sweet, and creamy- perfect.

"We keep hearing about this," Michael said. "But nobody has told us anything more than it's a surprise. I think we've been pretty patient."

"You have," Rowan said blushing as she dropped her satchel next to a seat and sat down. I could tell she was still a little embarrassed around the others after what had happened to her costume. "And after this meeting, we'll tell you."

"As for the meeting, I want you to tell me what happened." I looked at Faerie and added, "Especially you, Kenna. You were not acting rational."

The young blonde blushed and looked up at me saying, "About the time the giant's hand grabbed me and broke my ankle, I was hit with a psychic assault. It was powerful and almost more than I could handle." She looked up at me her eyes very serious and added, "And it wasn't human."

"Wasn't human as in neohuman?" Brian asked carefully.

She shook her head and said, "It wasn't human as in not native to this reality." She sat back in her chair and said, "And that's all I'm going to say about it. If I tell you any more, you'll think I"m insane."

"Kenna!" Sawyer said. "We'd never do that."

She turned and looked at him carefully and said, "Maybe you and Rowan might humor me, but the others would think I'm insane. I'd rather not be thought of as a religious fanatic, thank you."

Now I was really confused. "Okay, let's just deal with the fact that you were under a psychic attack. You and I can discuss the genetic origin of the attack later. What happened next?"

FAERIE aka Kenna Draupnir

I felt the bones in my ankle snap about the same time as something alien and monstrous tried to invade my mind. It was everything I could do to fight off the attack and the pain at the same time. I didn't even think about shrinking until he had me outside.

He really was a giant, his head stuck up over the top of the third floor lounge where we had been sitting. He looked like something out a gym rat's wet dream and he was wearing some kind of gray high tech armor- like what you might see on a sci-fi video game. His head and face was covered with what looked like an encounter suit helmet. However he was not the source of the mental attack.

It was another mind that was pounding at my own shields, trying to get in. I was finally able to get far enough behind them to think clearly. I was able to start analyzing the attack and what I found behind it almost caused my shields to drop. THAT COULDN'T BE! WHY WOULD ONE OF THEM BE HERE? What I read in that attack rocked my world.

I finally got control of myself and fought the attack off driving the invader from my mind. And it was just in time too; because the giant suddenly let go of my leg and I started to fall. I shrank and popped my wings to catch an air current rising off the warm street below just in time to see him swing and bat a red and blue missile across 11th Street into the brick apartment building there.

As I got my bearings and gained altitude, I looked over in time to see Shadow Claw leaping out of the hole she'd made as she was slammed through the wall. She was looking rather sheepish as she landed on the small grassy area just on the other side of a short wrought iron fence. I took a moment to look around and was shocked.

As the giant was trying to catch Ghost, Lightwing and Boomer as they followed us out of the building, Ace was already landing on the roof of the historic part of the inn and Speedfire was racing down the front of the building. There were eight other neos staggered around the crowd. Two looked like they were on fire, two were covered in ice, two were riding what looked like lightning fields and there two big bruisers on the ground. All of them were wearing matching jackets. Well I guess the two that were on fire were wearing matching jackets, I couldn't really tell through the flames.

The Civilian Security Force was ducking behind the protesters firing randomly toward the giant and the two on the ground. The crowd itself was panicking, and was running in every direction. The problem was that the safety barriers the CSF had set up was down either side of 11th Street was creating a dangerous bottleneck. One of the bruisers had picked up a blue compact and was getting ready to throw it into the crowd. Looking carefully I could see where the driver of the car was gripping the steering wheel tightly, her knuckles white from the strain. That was when I heard Boomer's voice come through the radios, "Ace stop that guy from throwing the car. There's a woman inside!."

"Got it Bossman!" Ace replied.

I turned back toward the giant and realized that I was facing a mortal enemy. I said a brief prayer to the First Chooser of the Battleslain and started laying into him with everything I had. This was my mortal enemy and there would be a good accounting for my actions.

ACE aka Michael McAllister

I'd seen the guy pick up the car and knew there was going to be a problem. And Faerie's description was accurate. Bruiser was a good name for him, as my face can attest. I poured on the speed, leapt off the roof and landed right in front of him. He must have been surprised because he stopped what he was doing and stared at me with stupid black
eyes. He stood a good seven feet tall, and I'll admit that was just a little intimidating. So I punched him in the balls and said, "That's no way to pick up a lady."

And I'll admit I didn't think it through. He dropped the car on me as he went down holding his crotch. It was everything I could do to catch it to keep it from knocking me to the ground, and maybe hurting the woman inside. I was stuck there holding the damn thing over my head by the frame. The real problem here was that I couldn't figure out how to get out from under it to set it down. "Guys! How about some help here! How do put this dang thing down!? I'm under it for heaven's sake!"

"Ghost, help Ace!" Boomer yelled through the radio. "We need to get these civilians out of the line of fire. Faerie, you all right?"

Faerie didn't answer and I had no way of looking up to check on her. But before Ghost could reply, Shadow Claw yelled. "I'll help Ace. Ghost, see what you can do about getting rid of that barrier before somebody gets crushed."

"Sounds like a plan!" Ghost replied as I felt the weight of the car lesson somewhat. Looking over, Shadow Claw was standing under the back end of it grinning at me.

She nodded and said, "Let go. I've got it."

I never got a chance to say anything. The next thing I knew I was seeing stars, and was flying through the air toward L Street. I felt like I'd been hit by a train, or by Ghost when he thought I was being particularly difficult. My head started clearing as I bounced to a stop in the middle of an intersection and I heard an air horn and the sound of screaming brakes. I looked up just in time to see a large semi jack-knifing toward me, the blue and white logo of a major fuel company staring me in the face. The only thing I could think of was: What the hell is a fuel truck doing in downtown DC?

SPEEDFIRE aka Patrick Mattison

Okay the guys in the CSF were going all Rambo on us. I could hear the sounds of automatic weapons fire all over the street- and yes I know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic. I grew up out west. As I came down the building, I saw them emptying what looked like Tavor 21s on full automatic into the other bruiser. They were hurting him too because he leapt over the street and grabbed woman wearing an anti-neo tee-shirt to use as a shield a .

I could immediately see that they weren't going to stop firing just because a civilian was in the way. "Guys, he's using a bystander as a shield and they're not going to stop firing!" I shouted into the radio as I took off.

As I passed one of the ice guys who was taking a bead on Boomer, I hit him with a jet of flame right in the face. He screamed and covered his eyes as the ice stream he meant for our fearless leader slammed into his own face. I whizzed up to the guy holding the woman burnt his fingers with another flame jet, and when he dropped the woman, I whizzed her out of the way. It's damn good thing that what ever I'm carrying gains the same protection from momentum that I get, or that could have been messy.

As I set the woman down next to the real police officer on the corner I raced off toward where Ace was about to become road-kill. I scooped him up by the arms and headed back toward the fight as the tanker rolled onto its side and started skidding toward the intersection. I grabbed two riders off their bikes and yanked them out of the way as the truck turned their Schwinn's into scrap metal. Looking over I saw Shadow Claw and had an idea.

SHADOW CLAW aka Rowan Croften-Blake

I set the car down and turned to look up. Kenna was shrunk down and hitting the giant giant with some kind of physical blasts coming from between her antennae. I think she was using some kind of force blast from her telekinesis. He kept staggering back, swinging at her with no effect as she was consistently nailing him in soft spots putting a serious hurt on him.

I guess he figured that he'd try to treat her like a fly, so he reached down and with a giant hand pulled up out of the ground one of the small trees planted beside the road and started using it as a swatter. I looked around quickly and found a manhole cover in the middle of the street. Running over, I sank my claws into it and pulled it from the road. For a split second, I considered warning him, but then thought better of it. To myself I muttered, "If I warn him, he may dodge and I'll have no idea where this might land."

Instead, I grabbed the rim and let it fly with everything I had. In an instant it streaked across the intervening distance and slammed through his armor and into his shoulder. There was a loud boom as it shattered the sound barrier. For half a second, he seemed to look at me and I could almost see the shocked look on his face under that halmet. He then looked down at the hole in his shoulder right as Faerie hit him in the face with another blast. "Timber!" I yelled.

He started to make a long slow collapse along the street in front of an area I had picked because there was nobody there. Slowly he started to simply disappear as if if he was phasing out of existence. There was no thud, no crushed concrete..., nothing hit the ground.

Suddenly I felt myself whisked sideways and the world became one big blur. When everything stopped moving I saw a semi on its side bearing down on me. Beside me, Speedfire said quickly, "You're strong! You stop it!"

Okay, let's get something clear. Yes I'm strong. But the problem is that the semi weighed around fifty tons and it was moving toward me at about thirty miles per hour. You do the math. That meant that it hit me with a force equal to fifteen hundred ton miles per hour. I can bench a maximum of about four hundred fifty tons, that's a third of the force it hit me with. Secondly, I only weigh around a hundred fifteen pounds, and my hands have a surface area of about thirty square inches each, and my fingertips and claws, far smaller than that.

I held my ground for less than a second before the metal started wrapping around me, and my hands, head and shoulders punched right through metal of the tanker. I still don't know where the spark came from, but for just a second I could smell the fumes before they ignited. I was blown up and then outward with the fireball, and watched in horror as my brand new costume burnt away in a matter of seconds.

I hit the side of the Vixen 5 Newsvan with enough force to rock it on its wheels. For a second I thought it was going to tip over. As I slid down and shook my head, I was suddenly hit with another burst of fire. "That's enough!" I heard Ghost scream through the air- my radio had been destroyed in the explosion.

Suddenly I looked up at saw one of the flamers that had been flying through the air, the one that was hitting me with a blast of fire suddenly flame out and fall to the ground. I smiled up to see Ghost floating behind him with what looked like one of the limbs from the tree the giant had dropped. It was smoking.

He nodded an eye toward me and growled, "Well, they won't be speculating now."

I looked down in horror to realize the the burst of fire had burned off the rest of my costume. With the exception of the waistband of my boxers, I was now totally nude, and about half the cameras in were pointed at me. Some of them from disturbing angles.

LIGHTWING aka Tracy Bramhold

Two of the bad guys were down, and Shadow Claw was not in a good mood. "If I were you, Speedfire, I'd give Shadow Claw a wide berth for a while. It's gonna' be a while before he's ready to forgive that one."

"I thought she could stop it," he protested.

"She could lift it with no problem. You of all people forgot about momentum though. We'll talk about it later. Right now I suggest you listen very close to Boomer and Ghost and do exactly what they say," I told him as I hit the bruiser that Ace racked up in the eyes with a low powered laser.

"Aaarghhhh! I'm blind!" he screamed stumbling around trying to find someone to attack. Ace hit him again, this time in the side of the head. The big guy stopped and I could see a wide smile come across his face. He lashed out and down with his over-sized fist and Ace hit the pavement face first. My teammate tucked and rolled before coming up in a powerful rolling kick back into the guy's groin. The bruiser's eyes rolled toward each other and he toppled forward. Ace hit him again to make sure he stayed down.

Suddenly automatic weapons fire rang out. I watched in horror as several bullets stitched across the concrete and three of them slammed into the side of Ace's knee. He screamed and went down, holding his leg and cussing. I won't repeat what he said, you all heard the bleeps on the news. But seriously though Ace, is that the same mouth you kiss your mother with?

I turned to find the gunman and saw one of the Civilian Security Force officers holding an Israeli bull-pup automatic rifle. He was switching aim toward Speedfire. I lashed out before he could fire. A powerful x-ray laser sliced the gun in half between his hands. He looked up at me and I hit him in the face with another laser burst to blind him. I'd had enough of this crap.

"CSF goons are firing on us now, Bossman!" I yelled at Boomer.

"Neutralize 'em but don't hurt them," Boomer called back. "They think they're just doing their duty."

I looked over to where he was, and saw one of the lightning riders falling to the ground unconscious, while the other flamer was firing at toward him will-nilly. I realized that he'd taken to the air so that their shots wouldn't hit any civilians.

I shifted to my light form and began to glow. It definitely got everyone's attention as I tried to create a second sun to match the one going down in the west. Suddenly I was being hit by ice, fire, lightning, and bullets. All were passing harmlessly through me though as a I landed between them and the burning truck. I could hear the thud of five point five six millimeter rounds striking the truck behind me.

GHOST aka Sawyer Jackson Grey

When everyone shifted their attacks onto Lightwing, Boomer and I looked at each other and nodded. We flew into action. I dropped behind the last lightning rider because I got the feeling he was the most likely to be able to hurt Lightwing. He must have heard me, or felt me or something, because as I got close, he spun around and hit me with a lightning stroke dead in the chest.

Somebody needed to teach this guy some basic physics. I was barely grounded so the most it did was hurt like hell. If I'd been standing on the ground I would have been dead. Instead it it just fritzed out my radio. I grinned at him and said, "My turn."

With a bit of concentration, I forced him to become less and less dense. He started rising into the sky unable to control his flight. As he began to disappear from sight, I watched as he gathered more and more electricity around him. It arced to him from the very air itself before he hurled it at me.

I figured this one was going to be more powerful, so I dodged out of the way, and the stroke went high and wide. It slammed into one of the ice guys and he screamed in pain before collapsing. I poured on the power and watched as he became a small dot in the sky. I had no idea how long it would take him to pass out from the low oxygen levels or from the cold.

I turned just in time to see the last bruiser charge the press line and grab one of the reporters. He picked her up and flung her at Boomer. "Heads up!" I yelled to my team leader.

He turned to see a rather frightened woman coming hurtling toward him. At the same time the last flamer was closing with him firing at the woman. Boomer did the only thing he could do. I watched him accelerate and wrap the woman in his force field. That must have weakened it because, as he twisted to protect her, I saw the flame jet pass through it and engulf his back.

Boomer arced back, his form outlined in the energy that was trying to burn him alive. I didn't waste any time. It was swift, it was brutal, and it was effective. I went from insub to a hundred times my density. I dropped on the bastard like seven tons of concrete. I felt several of his ribs break as I embedded both of us in the soft earth in front of the brick apartment building that Shadow Claw had hit earlier.

BOOMER aka Brian Alexander

That flame attack hurt like hell. It hit me before I could get my shield back up, but I would be damned before I'd scream and let give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had hurt me. Instead I grimaced as I used my flight power to eat up my passenger's momentum. "You okay, ma'am?" I asked.

She swallowed hard, nodded and asked, "Is this a bad time to ask for an interview?"

I laughed. I couldn't help it, it was funny. I nodded to her and said, "Yes, ma'am. Now's not a good time. Talk to my mom about setting up an interview." I arced us back toward the inn, set her down on its steps and looked around. The last bruiser was backing slowly away from an advancing nude Shadow Claw who'd deployed her claws. She looked like she meant business.

"¡Caray! La muchacha del gato está enojada. ¡Huya!" he yelled and turned to run.

"¡Elle tiene un pinga más grande que usted!" one of the ice projectors yelled, and took off in the opposite direction.

The bruiser should have paid more attention to the Discovery Channel. Turning and running is a bad idea around big cats. It marks you as prey. He took three steps and then she landed on his back and shoved his face into the sidewalk. He groaned once and then all eight of attackers just disappeared like the giant guy.

As we all landed and gathered in the middle of the street, suddenly there were a dozen or so automatic rifles pointed at us. Next to me I heard both Shadow Claw and Faerie groan. Between clenched fangs, Shadow Claw growled, "All you are doing is endangering your own men and the other civilians. Put the them away. We fought Fury. Somehow I'm not frightened by a little man with a big gun."

"I'd do what she said, Officer," I told him. "Right now none of us are in the mood to put up with your garbage. You ran at Sleepy Creek Mountain, so you might as well do it again."

"Stand down, Boomer," another voice called out over the crowd. "And you too officers. Put those guns away." A tall balding man pushed his way through the crowd holding up a leather encased ID.

"Who are you?" I asked, still not impressed.

"I'm Director Davidson from the Department of Neohuman Affairs. I work with your mom." He looked around and said, "We've got a fifteen year old kid standing here naked. Would someone get her a blanket?"

I could almost feel the heat off Rowan as she stepped behind me and crossed her arms. Then again, it could have simply been the pain of the wounds on my back. "We didn't start this, Mr. Davidson," I said.

"We'll sort that out in time, Boomer. For right now, lets see who needs medical attention," he replied. It was then I noticed the sirens in the background.

"As you know, we spent the next four hours answering questions from the DNA. They finally let us come back to the school with you around midnight."

Doctor Grace Lee Chapel

Duncan nodded as Brian finished up the report. All in all the kids did a rather good job. I could tell Duncan was worried about the press turning on the kids, but right now I didn't think that was going to happen. I don't doubt that the Administration has another card up its sleeve, but for now it was probably a good idea to let team bask in their success.

"Okay," Duncan said. "Your report at least explains why Michael was cussing like a sailor through the radio. I can't say I wouldn't let slip a few if I'd just been shot in the knee."

"Doctor Chapel says that another night of healing sleep and I should be back to new," Michael replied. Then looking over at Rowan he asked, "My parents said that you had some papers for me to sign about this new project. Wanna' tell us what it's about?"

Rowan looked over at Duncan and asked, "Do you want to talk about this now?"

Duncan smiled and said, "Might as well. We're done with the debriefing. I think Commander Erikson wants to have a second one later this evening. I'm cancelling the rest of your classes for the day. When we're done here, I want you all to get some rest, and then meet with him after dinner."

Rowan reached down into the satchel she was carrying and pulled out a handful of manila folders and handed one to everybody, and much to my surprise, even me. Each one had a small action figure in its package stapled to the front. "My lawyers found out that there was a company making illegal action figures of us. They were so good that we decided that instead of shutting them down, we'd offer them a chance to manufacture them under license. The academy will get a portion of the profits because we're using its logo, and team name, and each of you will get a portion of the profits for the use of your name, code-name and image."

"Hey, they even got horns right," Patrick said, the surprise evident in his voice.

"She's even wearing a little Thor's Hammer," Kenna added, her voice taking on an uncharacteristic sweetness to it.

Rowan replied with a smile, "Thought you'd like that touch."

"What have our parents said?" Sawyer asked.

"Each of your parents have agreed to the plan, but you can stop it here and now by not signing the release papers," Rowan told them. "The money you make from this will go into an escrow account like actors get. Some of it can be used to pay your tuition here if need be." I knew that was going to be a major selling point for Sawyer.

"Where do I sign?" the blond boy asked with a grin.

"Think about it, Sawyer. It pretty much is going to put your face on every toy shelf in America," Rowan cautioned.

"Like it's not already all over the news?" he snarked back.

Rowan smiled and added, "And there's talk about posters and even a comic book. That is if the action figures sell well." She looked over at Brian and added, "And your mom has agreed to let us do one of her in our uniform."

Brian looked confused and asked, "Our uniform? Why?"

"Because she has contract with the company that puts out the figures for Neo Force 1 to not let anyone else do one in that uniform," Rowan told him. "But she checked with her lawyers and they said that this wouldn't violate that contract."

"Cool!" Brian said. Like I said when I first met him. He'd work out his Oedipal issues eventually. All he needed was a girlfriend.

I looked down at the little figure of me with a clipboard and some kind of high-tech scanner like on Star Trek. "Did we really have to do us as well?"

"It makes them collectibles," Rowan said. "We made yours, Doctor Blair's, Mr. Waterford's and Commander Erikson's figures a limited run. They can charge more for them and it will make them worth more on resale."

I gave our young hermaphrodite a long look and then with a smile I asked, "Why do I get the feeling that Blake Enterprises is going to be in very good hands when you turn eighteen?"

Rowans face lit up and suddenly the male and female blended into one extraordinarily attractive young person who said, "Thank you Doctor Chapel. That means a lot to me. I've been spending a lot of time reading up on business models over the last several months. Mr. Waterford's projects have helped a lot."

Oohs and ahs started echoing around the room as each of the kids looked carefully at themselves and the action figures. When they saw the estimated sales figures and their cut of it, their faces lit up. It didn't take long for all the paperwork to be signed, and Duncan asked his secretary in to notarize them.

When it was done, they all shuffled back toward their suite. All that is except for Kenna who stood waiting for the others to clear. After they, Commander Erikson, and Mr. Waterford had left, she shut the door and looked at Duncan and I. "You wanted to know about the telepath who attacked me."

Jim nodded and said, "You said it wasn't human."

She smiled wanly and said, "Yes sir. It wasn't."

"What did you mean by being thought of as a religious fanatic?" I asked carefully.

I could see the conflict in her eyes as she chose her words carefully. Finally she said, "I know you don't believe the same as I do. That's okay. But you need to know one thing. The mind that attacked me was a Jotun."

"A what?" I asked.

"A giant of Norse legend," she said. "They are the elemental forces that battle the Gods for the lives and freedoms of mankind."

"How do you know what it was?" I asked.

"For one, it spoke fluent Old Norse. For two it tried its damnedest to keep that thought away from me. This one is very powerful and is here to test us."

"Test you? What do you mean?" Duncan asked carefully.

"That attack was staged. Someone brought those forces together to attack us to see how we would do. I get the feeling that there's a gathering storm of epic proportions on the horizon for us, Doctor Blair. I just hope we're ready for it."

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Thu May 27, 2010 3:07 pm

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! (with all apologies to Keith Giffen) Great twists and turns going here CB. I really look forward to every chapter of this story. Nice to see our heroes display something most teams don' saavy. (I mean many times have the Avengers stood there, jaws agape as the government threatened to shut them down. How did Tony Stark ever become a bazillionaire with such lackluster political skills?).

Keep it up. I'm always ready to read more.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri May 28, 2010 5:06 pm

Thanks guy. What I was really pushing for was that talking to Lady Lightning would keep them from making too many mistakes. They've also learned a great deal from not only their teachers but their parents as well. I'm trying to take a slightly different track with this story than most "teen hero" books- something I did with my Second Chances fan fiction. The idea is that parents aren't that stupid and they do really only want what's best for their kids. They are just in the difficult position of watching their kids do what nobody else can do. Also that corporations do a lot of good in the world/

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Re: Cadre 5 #18 Summer Vacation Part 1.A

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:26 am


Cadre 5: Issue 18

Doctor Grace Lee Chapel (Personal Observations)

After the whole incident in the capitol, things sort of calmed down. Some of the late night comedians were making a few choice comments about Shadow Claw losing her costume in that explosion, but most of those were coming from that gap-toothed idiot who seems to be obsessed with young girls having sex. You would think that he would have learned his lesson by now.

But Rowan was fighting back now, and sometimes she was downright vicious about it. She's picked several news services who are willing to give her a fair shake and she's hammering her critics hard. She even went on O'Malley's show and held her own. I always did say that she was the most stable of the bunch.

The rest of the school year sort of ended on a whimper. After that fight, even the end of the year cotillion was anti-climactic. By the time June rolled around most of us were just ready for summer vacation. Most of the drama coming out of Washington died down as the President was trying to unsuccessfully deal with that hole at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico pouring oil over everywhere. He didn't have time to pick a fight with seven teenagers just trying to make it in a world that he'd made harder for them. Still he did manage to get DC declared a neo-free zone: For the safety of the government. That one is taking a straight shot to the Supreme Court.

My own research was starting show some startling results. The more I dug into the nature of the neo-human gene the more I started to believe that it was deliberately introduced into the human genome. Not only that, I was finding traces of it in some pre-Burst Out DNA. It was following some startling patterns that made me wonder about various creation myths throughout history.

The situation with Talon seemed to be resolving itself, but not how I expected it. She wasn't going through a second cold burn like Rowan did. She was going through a simple but profound upgrade in powers. She wasn't adding anything new, but what she had was becoming supercharged. It was getting difficult for her to hide that fact from the Neoforce 1 physician. I'm going to have to have a talk with her and then him about that.

The problem was that the same thing seemed to be true for Brian, Sawyer, Kenna, and Rowan. Their enhancements seemed to be boosting again. Now that might be part of their normal growth pattern, but something told me that was not the case. Something was boosting them. All of their classifications were now twelve or above and Kenna was a high sixteen. They are approaching a level of power that is starting to mirror what happened to Duncan. I don't want to see that happen to them.

On a more mundane note, but just as profound is the change in personality of Lauren Rathbourne. Evidently her relationship with Brian has had a very positive effect on her ability as a student and a team leader. According to Andrea Thomas, her cadre instructor, she's gone from a low B student to a solid A student, and she's really taken control of her team.

My counselling conversations with her suggests that she's decided that she wants to be more than just "a rich girl with super powers". She talks a lot about making a difference in people's lives and about using her talents and skills to help society. I wouldn't be surprised if Rebecca didn't have something to do with that though. Lady Lightning can inspire folks just by walking into a room.

As for me, once I get the paperwork on these end of the year physicals and my inventory completed, I'm taking a few weeks off for a well-deserved vacation. I'm heading on a long tour of England and the surrounding islands. It should be quite a tour, and I'm looking forward to even the inevitable glitch that is bound to pop up here an there.

From my final discussions with all of the Cadres, it sounds like that are quite a few people planning on traveling this summer. There's a rumor that the ban on neohumans traveling outside of the country may be eased. The President is taking a pounding on a policy that too closely reflects various communist dictatorships. I know Kenna wants to visit her brothers and family on the Isle of Man. Rowan has hinted that she wanted to travel to Germany. Her comment was, "Why did I go to the trouble to learn German if I never get to use it."

Brian, I think is going home to bury a few ghosts of his own. He mentioned that he wanted to find out what happened to Jimmy's brothers and sisters and see what he could do to help them. It's rather poignant the way that kid's death has hurt Brian more than even Badger dying to save him. He told me that he could never repay the sacrifice that Badger made, but at least he had a chance at life and happiness. He had a chance to know what using his powers was like and went into the fight knowing what could happen. Jimmy never had that chance.

Sawyer is planning on spending the summer with his family. He wants to spend some time just being a kid and doing some fishing down on the lake near his home. I think he also wants to spend some time with his sister. He did tell me that Rowan and Kenna were both planning on a short visit. I think I'd love to be in that little town while the three of them were running around. I don't think that they are quite ready for three well-known neohumans in their midst.

As for Patrick and Tracy, they are both returning to Roswell for the summer. There's some issues going on with those two as well. Patrick has some "mother issues" to work out and their own community needs to learn to deal with them as local celebrities. In a way, their status as open neohumans will do more for the way ferals are seen and treated than all the bills in Congress or all the celebrity benefits in the world. Not that there'd been a whole of the latter. Between them and Rowan, it's possible that they could really help with some of the persecution that other ferals face.

Michael is the one that concerns me though. The answers I've been getting out of him in our counselling sessions have lately been a little too pat, almost coached. I know when someone is gaming the system, and I get the impression that is exactly what he's doing. Something is wrong there and I'm concerned about it. When I asked him about his plans for the summer, he said that he was planning on running around DC and visiting all of the museums. It seems that because his parents are part of the administration, he gets a special pass to be in the city.

I've told that there're plans for a whole team gathering later in the summer. Just before school starts back the whole team is supposed to go to the beach and spend a week. That is going to be one interesting vacation.

But on the bright side, the first checks from the new action figures started arriving. That's going to make a nice little nest egg. God, who knew how many people would want a "complete set"? Of course between the cut the school is getting and the cut the Cadre is getting, Sawyer's concerns about his parents not being able to afford this school have pretty much dried up.


SHADOW CLAW aka Rowan Croften-Blake

I was glad that school was out and the fallout from the whole fight in DC was starting to die down. Brian's mom had been a big help to me in learning to stand up for myself and not letting comments about me slide. I did end up having to sue a major news network, because some of the film of me after the explosion had been distributed to less than reputable websites.

By the time late May rolled around, we were all ready to go home, Kenna especially. The government's ban on neo travel had been relaxed if not downright lifted. She was flying to Europe to spend some time with her family. Sawyer and I had plans to join her after a couple of weeks visiting our own families. After that, Kenna and I were going to spend a few weeks with him in Alabama.

But first, Heather and I spent some time just hanging. It had been her first semester at Georgetown and she was bit wiped herself. The biggest pain in the ass was the security detail. After a bit of arguing, it was decided that I didn't have to have a security detail after all. I pointed out that if I could take a hit from the most powerful neo-human in world, then a security team wasn't going to be of much use to me. But Heather still had hers, and although I knew that they were important, it still irked us. At least the company we hired were real professionals and weren't as intrusive as they could be. Most of their employees had been Secret Service agents who'd protected former presidents and their families.

I could see the changes that had been made in the house while I was at school. An extra five feet had been added to the wall surrounding the property, it had been reinforced and another four feet of electrified wrought iron fence topped that. The whole place had a new security system, and the car had been replaced with one that was bullet and grenade proof. Martin, our drive was very happy about those upgrades. i don't think he's quite forgiven me for what happened to car at the mall.

It was cars that dominated Heather's and my time together. I would be turning sixteen on the first of August and it was time to get my learner's permit, which basically meant taking the learner's permit exam- at least that was what I thought it meant. However, the manager of our trust had other ideas. She insisted on us taking a combat driving course. The woman was becoming paranoid about our safety and the idea of the corporation losing its last heirs was giving her nightmares. So for a week and a half, Heather and I spent most of each day practicing emergency driving techniques, and how to avoid being run off the road and kidnapped. There were points where I wished someone would run us off the road and try to kidnap us, just so I could hit something.

We spent quite a bit of time in the evenings talking, catching up and not just a little car shopping. She kept joking that I should get a Jaguar. I thought it was a bit cliche, and teased her that she should get a VW Cabriolet. I remember Michael saying that it was the ultimate college girl chick car. The problem was that neither of us really expected to need a car since Martin drove us most places anyway. The only time it became an issue was when I was home and we both wanted or needed to go to different places. That was what the body guards were for though.

On a personal note, the government lawyer who'd threatened me with jail time for not registering, was facing a disbarment hearing. It seems that my interview with Ms. Van Hostren had set off calls for an investigation into the government's strong arm tactics. My own lawyers are of course being quite helpful.

Our biggest problem was that inside the beltway was now off limits for me. I had to get a special pass every time I wanted to go to DC. That made shopping at Pentagon City too much of a hassle. So, Heather and I started spending our money in Richmond and Baltimore. The funny thing, was this whole mess about no neos in the Capital was just keeping the law abiding ones out. There had been at least three neo-gang related incidents in the city since our fight there, and the cops didn't seem to be that keen on hunting them down and making THEM get their passes.

When it came time for the trip to the Isle of Man, Sawyer and I took the private jet over to meet Kenna. Again, the manager of our fund felt it safer and less of a hassle than a commercial airline. We stopped off in London for our point of entry and then hopped over to the small airport at Ronaldsway. Kenna, her mom, and her brother Kenneth met us at the airport.

Her mom was a tall blonde woman with deep gray eyes and was really quite attractive. Even being nearly five months pregnant- evidently the result of her last visit with her husband in January- she still seemed very fit. Kenneth on the other hand was obviously Kenna's twin. He had the same shade of blonde hair that he wore long with twin braids hanging in front of each very pointed ear. He had the same antennae extruding from either side of his eyebrows to curl up just over his head, and he was just as small as she was, not even at five feet yet. I could see the slight outline of the markings that made up his wings along the outside of some rather well toned arms. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt and a pair of jeans. A twin to her hammer hung around his neck.

Kenna literally threw herself at me and then at Sawyer, gliding through the air by sheer will alone. "I'm so glad you guys made it!" she said as she locked herself around my neck. I could see Kenneth chuckling to himself.

"She hasn't stopped jabbering about you guys since you called to tell us what time your plane would be landing. She's been like a kid on a sugar high."

As Kenna pulled away and threw herself into Sawyer's arms, I offered him a hand and said, "Hi, I'm Rowan. You must be Kenneth. Kenna has told us lots about you."

"Sis!" he protested.

"I didn't tell them anything you wouldn't want them to know!" she said kissing Sawyer on the nose.

Next to Kenneth, her mother cleared her throat and then said, "I'm Kenna's mother, Ingrid."

I smiled at her and said, "I'm Rowan, and the guy Kenna's trying to crush is Sawyer."

"I am not trying to crush him," she said with a smile and pulling back. "I'm just happy to see you guys."

"The feeling's mutual," Saw said turning bright red.

"Well, let's put the bags in the boot and get going back to Ravenshold," Kenneth said.

"Boot?" Kenna turned and asked. "You've been in the British Islands too long. Since when do you call the trunk of a car a boot?"

The other boy shrugged and said, "Hey, I simply adapt to where I am. You could always stay."

Those words sent my stomach into my shoes, and I literally heard Sawyer's heart skip a beat. Kenna must have sensed it because she smiled at us and said, "No. Not gonna happen. There's still too much to do back in the States. You could always join us."

"Absolutely not," Mrs. Draupnir said, her own English accent becoming very pronounced. "One of my children in the line of fire is enough. It's too much, but I'm willing to concede to my daughter and husband on this, Lady only knows why though."

"Besides," Kenna said with a smile. "Rowan and Sawyer would never be comfortable living full time in Europe." Now who was marking her territory?

Not knowing what I could say, I simply smiled and nodded where the flight crew was loading our bags into the SUV outside the gate. Sawyer followed my gaze and smiled saying, "Looks like bags are taken care of."

Mrs. Draupnir grinned and said, "So they are. Then let's be on our way. My mother is waiting tea on us."

I looked over at Sawyer and could see the tiny shift of weight and the muscles in his body. He had complained that he had no experience with English customs and was deathly afraid of making a mistake. He was the same way around my house, claiming that he was just a country boy from Alabama and didn't know a lot about how to act around rich people. That in itself was strange because I did some checking and his parents' company was the third largest building supply chain in the US. Sometimes he can be very clueless about his own worth.

The winding trip to Ravenshold only took about fifteen minutes, and the Manx countryside was beautiful. It was a cool summer day compared to what I'm used in Manassas, and there was just a bit of overcast to the sky. Kenna had squeezed in between me and Sawyer and a huge smile seemed to radiate from somewhere inside her. It really made me wonder what was going on.

*I'm just very happy to see you guys,* she said in my head.

*And with Rowan and Sawyer here, maybe the other boys will leave you alone,* Kenneth's voice suddenly intruded.

"I heard that," I said looking over at him in surprise.

"I did too," Sawyer said.

Both Kenna and Kenneth looked at each other in that twin like way. "That's new," Kenna said.

"What's new? Heard what?" Mrs. Draupnir asked.

"Rowan and Sawyer could hear something that Kenneth sent to me over our link," Kenna said.

I could see her eyes widen slightly in surprise. "That is new. Wonder what that's all about?"

"Maybe it's just the proximity of mine and Kenneth's link. I was talking to Rowan and Sawyer and Kenneth chimed in," Kenna said.

"So you're not a telepath like Kenna?" I asked her twin.

He shook his head and said, "No. We share a rapport and the ability to shrink, but outside of that, our enhancements are completely different."

"Ken's got some strength and durability, but beyond that he's an elementalist," Kenna said.

"Elementalist?" Sawyer asked.

The smaller boy nodded and said, "Yeah, I can generate and control the four elements."

"Cool," Sawyer said.

"Well, ice is kinda hard to do, but I can manage it," Kenneth said with a mischievous grin.

"He's Kenna's twin all right," Sawyer said.

"Like there was ever a question?" I asked.

Sawyer looked over at the blond boy and shook his head, "Not in this lifetime."

Arriving at the old manor house I was surprised at just how large it was. It was as big as the place I live, and that was saying something since my grandfather built it to house, his family, my dad's family, and my uncle's family. This place was old and looked like the stones had been cut from the granite and limestone of the island itself. It had a very old world feel to it, and it sort of reminded me of my first impression of Wyndgate Academy.

After getting settled into our rooms, which again were very old world in their feel, we made it back downstairs to meet the rest of the family. To be honest I was a little nervous. I'm not used to that many people running around, and I'm certainly not used to being the center of attention. We met Kenna's maternal grandmother, a handsome woman, whose blonde hair had not yet begun to turn gray and with laughing blue eyes. It was obvious from where Kenna and her mother got their good looks.

Then there were several aunts and uncles milling around, all being painfully polite and curious about Sawyer and myself. It was Kenneth who broke the tension when he sat down next to Sawyer and said, "Boy am I glad you guys are finally here. Maybe now my mates will stop trying to get me to put in a good word for them with Kenna."

"What?" Sawyer raised his eyebrow.

"You wouldn't believe it," Kenneth said, obviously enjoying the look of mortification that was beginning to express itself on Kenna's face. "She's got half the boys in town chasing after her and she just ignores it."

Kenna smiled and said, "That's because I can usually see what's on their mind when they start chatting me up, as you call it."

"So, you don't like being seen as a sex object," Kenneth ventured.

"No, I don't like being seen as a meal ticket," she told him.

"What?" Sawyer asked.

Kenna shook her head and said, "It's a long story that I really don't want to talk about. Let's just say, some of the boys that want to go out with me are more interested in Grans' bank account than me."

"What are you rich or something?" Sawyer asked.

Kenna grinned over at her Granmother who was suddenly smiling hugely. "See what I mean Grans?"

"I do, child, I do," the woman said.

Kenna turned to Sawyer and said, "My grandmother is one of the largest land owners in the country. Most of the boys I've been around here see me more as a stepping stone than a person. That's why I like you guys, you don't care about that."

"We didn't know," I told her. "And it wouldn't matter to me anyway." Why was everything lately coming down to how much money people had?

"Well, with you two here, that should pretty much shut down the lads and we can get back to some serious football," Kenneth said.

"Football?" Sawyer asked, his eyes widening.

Kenneth shook his head and said, "Not that kind of football. I'm talking about soccer."

Sawyer expression became one of disappointment as he said, "Oh."

"Still, we can see the town and maybe take the ferry over to Liverpool to go shopping," Kenna suggested.

"Actually I was thinking about taking all of you up to Edinburough for that," her Mom said.

"Ingrid, I don't think they're looking for tweed," her grandmother said. "Why don't I take them to London?"

"London?" Sawyer asked. "Can we see Trafalgar Square?"

Grans raised an eyebrow and asked, "You want to see Trafalgar Square? Most Americans want to see the Tower of London or Big Ben, or Buckingham Palace first."

Sawyer shrugged and said, "Lord Admiral Nelson is a personal hero of mine."

That seemed to please the lady and she said, "Of course. Trafalgar Square it is."

"As if shopping in London wasn't cliche as it is," Kenna said with a grin.

"Hey, I can handle shopping as long as we get a little sight seeing in on it too. There are some places in the British Isles I'd really like to see."

"Such as?" Kenna asked.

"Well, if we made it to Ireland, I'd love to see the town of Inisfree," he offered

Kenneth asked, "Why on Earth do you want to visit an obscure little Irish town?"

"Because it was the setting for my favorite John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man," Sawyer told him.

"I don't know if we'll have time for a trip to Ireland this visit," Kenna said. "You did mention that you wanted to get home before your sister's birthday."

Sawyer nodded and replied, "That's right. It's important to me this year to be there for it." Both Kenna and I knew why. Sawyer still felt guilty over what happened at his house while we fought Fury. The fact that his little sister had been forced to kill someone to save their dad was weighing heavy on Saw's shoulders. The plans were for him to fly back to the States a week before Kenna and I would join him at his home for a visit.

"In that case, why don't we stick to the island here, and to London, and maybe Liverpool. The ferries to Ireland can be a bit crowded this time of year," Kenna's Grandmother said.

"So what do you guys want to do today?" Kenna asked.

"I'd like to see the island, and maybe meet some of Kenneth's friends," Sawyer said.

"That should be about half the island then," Kenna's mom said with a chuckle. " Kenneth has made a lot o friends over the last year."

Kenna grinned and said, "And trust me, he wants you to meet all of them."

I gave her a questioning look and she replied, "Some of his friends don't believe you are who he says you are."

"And what do you say we are?" Sawyer asked his voice reflecting the same concern I felt.

"Kenna's significant others, and part of the team that took down Fury," Kenneth said. "Nothing that's not common knowledge."

I looked over at Kenna and said, "I didn't know our relationship was common knowledge."

Kenna stared at her brother and then looked back at me, "It's generally not, but it sort of became so after about the third time I had to fend off Asmund Kelly's advances. I told him I already had someone I was seeing and then Kenneth went and told him who."

"He would have demanded to know who they are anyway, Kenna. You know that," her mother interjected before it degenerated into an argument. It was at that point that I was suddenly hit with such a strong sense of loss over my own parents, my own family- knowing that there were no brothers or sisters with which to argue and my mom wasn't there to break it up if they were. I just sort of put down my fork, crossed hands in my lap and just waited out the rest of the "tea" without really hearing any more of it.

After the tea, Kenneth and Kenna showed us around farm, and to be honest the place was huge. As we were wandering through the fields in the late afternoon, I was struck with beauty of the island, the rich greens of the hills and the smell of salt air. I don't know what was really going on with me, but I suddenly felt a great bittersweet sense of melancholy wash over me. Without even thinking about it, I put an arm each around Kenna's and Sawyer's shoulders and pulled them to me.

Kenna looked up at me and asked, "What's wrong?"

I shook my head and said, "Nothing really. I guess all the stress of the year is catching up with me. I just suddenly feel the need to touch someone who loves me."

I could tell that Kenna and her brother exchanged some kind of conversation, but I had really didn't try to eavesdrop. But I did notice that he suddenly made some excuse to be somewhere else. The three of us crossed several large pastures surrounded by stone walls and fence hedges before ending up on a beach about a mile to the west of the great house. As we sat down on a small hill to watch the waves roll in Sawyer asked, "What's wrong, Rowan?"

I shrugged again and said, "I don't know. I just feel a little out of sorts."

"You're missing your mom again, aren't you?" Kenna asked.

"Is that what your telepathy is telling you?" I asked.

"No. If it was my telepathy, I'd KNOW. I'm just asking," she said defensively.

"I'm sorry," I told her. "I didn't mean to accuse you. I don't know what's wrong. I just sort of feel alone in the world. I mean, you've got your mom and dad, and Kenneth, and even little Brandt. We're going to visit Sawyer and his family, and the only place I can take you two is to see my cousin." I wrapped my arms around my legs and looked out over the breaking waves. Behind me, my tail was curling and uncurling slowly.

Sawyer sat down next to me and put an arm around my shoulders. "We can't do anything about your folks, Row. But I've got two sisters and a loud mouth snarky brother I'm willing to share with you. Hell, I'll give you my brother," he said. "If I hear Roll Tide out of his mouth one more time, I swear I'm gonna pop him one."

Kenna chuckled and said, "And I know my family is more than willing to make you feel at home."

I smiled weakly at her and said, "I know. Thanks."

"But it's that house isn't it?" she said. I looked at her and tilted an ear in her direction. She smiled and said, "Yeah, this time it's the telepathy. You don't want to go back to that empty house in Manassas and all the memories. But you know you'll go because that's the one place Heather feels safe."

"You know, having a telepath for a girlfriend can sometimes make talking about things easier," I told her.

"And some times it's a pain in the ass," she said.

"Yeah, that too," I said as she sat down in my lap and kissed me. "But right now, don't worry about it. We've got three weeks here, then two weeks at Sawyer's, and a week at the beach before you have to go home. Then it's only for a week before we're all back in school."

I nodded my head and said, "I know. I just feel guilty about leaving Heather by herself this summer. I'm all the family she's got left too. I feel like I'm not there for her the way she is for me. Hell, I'm the reason she has to have a security detail."

"You. Will. Not. Go. There," Sawyer said fiercely stressing each word with a powerful tone of finality. "You aren't the reason your cousin has a security detail. That horse's ass and his whole freedom-hating-in-control-of-Congress party is the reason Heather has a security detail."

I nodded and smiled up at him and said, "Yeah, but there are times I feel like I'm taking more from our relationship than I'm giving."

"Then figure out a way to give her something back," Kenna told me.

"How?" I asked. "It's not like I can buy her anything that she can't buy for herself. "I don't have anything but my time left to give her."

"Have you talked to her about this?" Sawyer of all people asked.

I shook my head and said, "No. I'd feel guilty bringing it up, and I'm sure she'd just tell me it's okay."

"I think maybe you guys should talk about it. Maybe something could be worked out. Sell the estate and buy something new, or close it down and move somewhere else, maybe some place smaller," Sawyer said.

"It's not just the estate, it's the whole thing," I looked over at both of them and tried to put what I was feeling into words. I sighed and said, "It's that there are times I just want to call my mom and tell her about things, about you guys. Sometimes I catch myself reaching for the phone and then I have to remind myself that I can't do that. I miss my dad. I mean we would go on special day outings, just him and me. Sometimes it was a father daughter day and sometimes it was a father son day, but it was always a Dad and me day."

"Why haven't you told us about this?" Sawyer asked. "I mean, we can at least be here for you."

I smiled at him and shook my head feeling the tears welling up. "What good does talking about it do? It just reminds me that they aren't there anymore." I felt a single tear roll down my cheek.

Sawyer leaned over and kissed the tear away, and then pulled back saying, "If you don't want to talk about it, that's okay. But if you do, then we're here for you. If you want us to just be around, or to hold your hand, or just sit and say nothing we can do that too."

I smiled and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ruin your day out here. I guess, it's a combination of everything that's happened over the past year is catching up with me."

"You don't have to apologize, Rowan," Kenna said. "Hell, if I'd been through what you have, I'd have slipped a knife between someone's ribs by now. Have I ever told you that you're the most together person, I've ever me? I've been in a lot of people's heads, and you are the closest thing I've ever met to being a stable normal person."

I smiled up at her. I'd never thought about that. I mean, I just thought I was this weird person with two sets of genitals, bad social skills and a strong sense of privacy. I hadn't considered myself to be a strong personality. "Thanks," I said smiling up at her. "I'm just trying to survive."

"Well, if you ask me, you're doing a bang up job of it, Rowan. But if you need to cry, if you need to let things out, we're here for you. We love and support you," Kenna said.

I nodded and and told them both, "Thanks." Looking around, I said, "And I'm sorry about chasing off Kenneth."

"It's okay," Kenna said. "It gives us a little time to ourselves, before all the festivities this weekend."

"Festivities?" I asked. She hadn't mentioned anything about a party.

"Yeah," she replied. "This weekend is the Manx Highland Games. Since Grans is the biggest landowner on the island, she's volunteered several acres for the Heritage Society to use. Kenneth and I are even competing."

"Really?" I asked. I was surprised that they'd let neos compete against baselines.

"Yeah. We're competing in one of the fencing tournaments," she said.

"I didn't think fencing was one of the official games," Sawyer protested.

"It's not. But one of the high schools has a nationally ranked fencing team so they added it as an exhibition competition."

"They let you play with sharp shinys?" Sawyer asked.

Kenna nodded and said, "Yeah. Dad's been teaching us sword play since we were kids. Kenneth's technically not supposed to compete because of his enhanced strength, but he tempers it down. Me, none of my enhancements really come into play, and if they did, it would be obvious because of the sparks between my antennae."

"So we get to watch you do some sword fighting?" Sawyer said. "Cool! Are you gonna wear a chainmail bikini?"

"I thought you weren't that visually stimulated by girls," I protested.

Sawyer grinned, "I'm not. But when it comes to you two, I get stimulated just thinking about you."

Kenna looked at me and said with a smile, "I'm not sure, but I think that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me."

We both leapt at him and pinned him to the ground. We spent the next three hours showing him exactly what he thought of him for saying something like that. We never did make it to meet Kenneth's friends that night.
Last edited by cobalt-blue on Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Cadre 5 Issue 18 Summer Vacation Part 1.B

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:27 am

GHOST aka Sawyer Jackson Grey

It didn't take Rowan long to come out of his depression. Kenna's family really did go out of their way to make us all feel welcome. The one person who did the most I think was the one none of us expected. Little Brandt took an instant liking to Row and followed him around everywhere. By now his toddling had turned into an all out run that was usually clocked at speeds that could only be described as neo. He also tended to lose his diaper a lot, usually when it was full.

We helped with some of the set up for the Highland Games. Actually, Mrs. Raven, Kenna's Grans turned the four of us into heavy lifters for the organizers. Let's face it, when I use my density control, I can lift a great deal, Kenna can use her telekinesis, and Kenneth is no slouch either, and we won't even talk about Rowan.

By the time things were set up, we definitely felt like part of the family, a very tired part of it- even Rowan. We all fell into our respective beds on Friday night, and fell fast asleep. Sometime around two am, I was awakened by a gentle knock on the door, and then Mrs. Draupnir stuck her head in. She smiled and said, "I'm sorry to waken you, but have you seen Brandt?"

I shook my head, wiped the sleep from my eyes and said, "No. I thought you put him to bed early tonight."

She smiled and said, "I did. He's not in his room."

Worried, I threw the covers off and slipped on my house shoes, glad that I was wearing a pair of sleep shorts and a tee shirt. "I'll help you look."

"Thanks," she told me. "I thought we'd broken him of getting up in the middle of the night."

"Where does he usually go when he does?" I asked.

She blushed and said, "Maggie's bed."

"Maggie?" I asked.

"My late father's Mastiff. He took up with her as soon as he could crawl," she said with a definite tone of embarrassment. "I already checked but he's not there."

Then I thought of something. "Wait a minute," I said and padded down the hall to Rowan's room. I didn't knock, but instead went insubstantial and stuck my head through the door and peered around the room. With a smile I pulled back out of the door and waved her over.

Very quietly, I opened the door to show Mrs. Draupnir. Rowan looked like he'd fallen asleep in the dormer looking out over the fields below. He was wearing a loose pair of sleep shorts and an Amazon Princess tee-shirt. Brandtt was curled up on his lap sucking one thumb and holding onto Row's tail with the other hand.

Mrs. Draupnir shook her head and padded into the room to take the sleeping child from Row's lap. Much to my surprise, Rowan didn't even wake up. He was definitely exhausted. The boy didn't sleep much as it was- usually only after a big battle- but I think this was a case of emotional exhaustion as much as it was physical. For a few moments, I thought about picking him up and putting him to bed, but thought better of it. I didn't want to get knocked through the wall, and I didn't want to wake him from what was probably some of the most needed sleep he'd had since the mess that Jason Conner started. Besides, he'd already proven that was as flexible as a cat so I wasn't too concerned about him being stiff from sleeping curled up in the dormer when he woke up in the morning.

As we closed the door and headed down the hall, Mrs. Draupnir asked, "Shouldn't we put her to bed?"

I shook my head and said, "I don't want to take a chance on waking him. He doesn't sleep much as it is, and he's been going through some stuff lately and I'd rather he get as much rest as possible."

"Going through some stuff?" she asked.

I nodded and said, "Yeah. Between all the garbage about his gender and that last battle where he lost his uniform, and missing his parents, he's been under a lot of stress."

She nodded to me and said, "Well thanks for helping me find, Brandt." The boy had already fallen asleep in his mother's arms.

"No problem," I told her as I headed back to my own room.

The next morning, Rowan came down to breakfast looking much better than I'd seen him in a long time. He was wearing a nice pair of jeans, a bright blue polo shirt with the Wyndgate logo on the breast and pair of hiking boots. His tail was swishing behind him and there was a smile on his face. "Good morning, everyone!"

Before any of us could reply a small pink blur streaked across the room and launched itself into his arms. There was no stopping and holding his arms out to be picked up, just a clear arc straight into Rowan's chest as if Brandt knew he'd be caught. "Ro-un!" the child squealed in delight.

Rowan looked confused and not just a little embarrassed as the small boy snuggled into his arms and reached up to pull on his ear. "Hey Brandt," she said. Looking over at Mrs. Draupnir he added, "I'm sorry."

"What are you apologizing for?" the woman said getting out of her chair and coming over to take Brandt. "I should be the one apologizing." As the boy reluctantly came to his mother, she said, "Did you know that he came into your room and curled up in your lap last night while you were asleep?"

He shook his head and said, "No ma'am."

Mrs. Draupnir smiled and replied, "He usually only does that with Maggie, the dog. He likes and trusts you. The only other person he seems to trust as much as you is Kenneth."

"Oh," Rowan said, his face unreadable.

As I sat there wondering how Rowan was going to respond, Mrs. Raven came into the dining room and looked around disapprovingly. "What's this? This is no way to attend the Highland Games." She started making little disapproving looks as she examined first Rowan and then me. Finally she said with a smile, "Right after breakfast you need to go back to your rooms and put on the clothes I sent up for you. If you have any questions, Kenneth can help both of you."

Rowan and I looked at each other and shrugged. Finally I said, "Yes, ma'am."

After breakfast, of which Rowan actually ate a great deal- with Brandt sitting on his lap- we headed back upstairs. There we found both Kenna and Kenneth standing in the hall wearing traditional Scottish outfits. Kenneth was wearing a gold, blue and black kilt with a large belt and whatever that thing that hangs in front of it is- I later found out it was called a sporrran. His shirt was at least a simple polo shirt but he was wearing dark black socks and the strangest pair of shoes I'd ever seen. They looked like they didn't have a tongue. Kenna on the other hand was wearing what looked like a traditional Scots woman's long skirt made in the same pattern as her twin's kilt, a nice white blouse and a bodice that did interesting things to her bosom. She was also wearing a white linen cloth tied over her hair. Both of them had their wings out and their antennae waving in the air.

"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" I said.

"I don't know," Rowan said with a smile. "I don't." I gave him a strange look and he looked at me and said, "Hey, I get to wear a skirt and not have people assume I'm a girl."

I shrugged and said, "Well, if it makes you happy I'll put on whatever you want."

"Really?" he stopped and arched an eyebrow.

I shrugged and as I disappeared into my room, and said, "Really. Kenneth, I'm probably going to need help with this."

Twenty minutes later, and a lot of snarky comments from my girlfriend's brother, I was standing in front of a mirror wearing a kilt and all the trappings. I looked over at Kenneth who said, "Normally I prefer my boyfriends with a little more mass, but I've got to say that if you weren't my sister's boyfriend, you'd be bent out of that outfit by now."

I blushed and grinned over at him, "Sorry, you aren't my type. You're cute and all, but not interested."

"But you like guys and your involved with my twin sister?" he protested.

"I'm funny like that," I said. "But thanks for the compliment."

He gave me a strange look, and I said, "I'm not heterosexual or even bisexual I AM gay. It's just that when it comes to girls, I'm just Kenna-sexual."

He nodded and said, "And Rowan- sexual."

"That too," I told him.

There was a knock at the door and the subjects of our conversation entered. "Just got one question for you Sawyer?" Kenna asked.

"What?" I replied suddenly feeling nervous.

"Are you going regimental?" she asked.

I gave Kenneth a questioning look and he shook his head saying, "No. If he's going to participating in the games, then he's going to need to wear underwear."

Looking over at Rowan I whistled lowly. He was wearing an outfit similar to mine. It fit extremely well, and the polo shirt was just baggy enough to make you wonder if those really were breasts under it. When he turned around for me to look at the other side I noticed the small hole made into the kilt to allow his tail to exit. I smiled and said, "I like."

"You're not exactly a sack of potatoes in that thing either you know," he said coming over to where I was standing. In front of Kenneth, he reached down and ran hand long the sides of my torso where the antique gold polo shirt clung to my sides. His touch sent a shiver down my sides that went straight to a more intimate area. He smiled over at Kenneth and said, "You do good work."

"Me?" he asked.

"Kenna told me that you picked out the clothes," he said.

"Well, yeah."

He smiled and said, "I like him in shirts that show off his torso. He's got great muscle tone."

"Hey!" I protested. "I'm right here, and I'm not a horse."

"I know," he said kissing me on top of the head. "But you are good looking and all mine and Kenna's."

Kenneth grinned and said, "Should I leave you three alone again?"

"No, according to Kenna, you know how us neos are. We don't have time," Rowan said. I felt the blood rising to my face.

"In that case let's go downstairs. Grans has you both registered for at least one event." He grinned back at me as he left the room. "And Kenna, you're right. He IS cute when he blushes."

It turns out that Kenneth wasn't kidding when he said we were registered for one event each. It seems that even though we protested that it wouldn't be fair for us to compete, that just made them that much more determined that we did. The other contestants took it as a challenge claiming that technique counted for at least as much as strength. It was kind of difficult to get them to understand that sometimes strength will just overpower the issue.

For some reason, they thought it would be fun to put the little guy in the caber toss. So after getting a few quick lessons from Kenneth and watching the other performers I set at it. Yeah, I cheated. I cheated like hell. That thing weighed almost two hundred pounds and was almost twenty feet long. A little density increase on me and decrease on it, helped make it a little more manageable. The problem was that I was supposed to flip it two hundred seventy degrees.

I watched these huge guys manage some pretty good tosses. Ken pointed out to me that it was supposed to land so that after I lifted it straight up, the top end would be facing me and the bottom end would be away from me, and that it had to be pointing perfectly straight away from me. The idea was that you were tossing a pole across a narrow gorge to walk across. I guess technique really did count for something.

With what seemed like everybody on the island watching me- I found out later that there over ten thousand people at the games- I went to work trying to make it land just the way I wanted. I'd practiced quite a few techniques with using my powers this way so I thought I could handle it. I forgot about something, and this was something my dad would have taken me to task for. I've grown up around lumber all my life. I'm supposed to know what the best material is for different jobs and why. I forgot that pine was brittle. My caber did exactly what it was supposed to. However when the top end of my lower density pine pole hit the ground, its decreased density combined with its mass and the force of it hitting the ground, it splintered down its length. I was disqualified because nobody would be able to walk across it.

I just shrugged my shoulders and grinned. Everybody still applauded, and I got some good natured ribbing, but for the most part it was fun. "Not bad, Sawyer," Kenneth said. "but next time you might want to change the density back when you've got it in the air." He looked down where my feet had made deep gouges in the earth when I ran up to toss the pole and added, "And remember that the ground here is softer than you're used to."

I laughed and looked around. Rowan was gearing up for the weight toss. I noticed where he was standing barefooted on the ground, and his lower legs were covered in black coarse fur. That meant that he had the claws on his feet extended for a better grip. I watched as he prepared for his first throw.

Suddenly, Kenneth poked me in the ribs. "Looks like trouble," he said pointing back to where a big guy with jet black hair was talking to Kenna. From the look of her, she wasn't too happy about it.

"What's up with that?" I asked.

"Asmund Kelly just won't take no for an answer and he seems just a little dense about what my sister can really do," he said. "Why don't we wander over there and see what's going on?"

I looked over to where Rowan was warming up. She looked up at me and nodded her head and gestured toward Kenna. I knew then that she'd heard what was going on. She couldn't leave the competition area, but I now could. I nodded to Kenneth and said, "Let's go."

We circled around so that we approached from the side. I wanted to hear what was being said.

The guy was talking to Kenna, ", you've got two boyfriends and I've got several birds on the side. Why not one more?"

"I'm not interested in something on the side Asmund," she said. I could see the energy arc between her antennae.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Well mainly because I'm more than happy with what I've got, and I'm not interested in anything you have to offer."

"What have you got?" he asked. "I haven't seen anybody around you but your brother. Come to think of it, I haven't seen you in the past few days."

"Grans has had us helping with getting this place set up. But if you really want to see one of my boyfriends look over to the weight toss competition. See that guy with the ears and the tail?"

"The one that thinks he's Runeclaw?" he asked.

"Runeclaw's a comic book character. He's the real thing," Kenna said. "Watch."

I turned to look and saw where Rowan was picking up the fifty-plus pound weight to be tossed over the bar. It was currently set somewhere around twenty-five feet. With a casual grace borne of a cat, he hefted the weight in one hand, and then with a light underhanded toss the weight cleared the bar with about five feet to spare. I turned back just in time to see Asmund's eyes suddenly grow large as the crowd went wild with applause.

I stood and listened some more. I knew that Kenna knew both Kenneth and I were nearby and listening in; I'd felt her mind touch mine. I wanted to let her handle it as much as was possible. I was going home in another week and she'd be here for a week longer with just Rowan. I did take a moment to look Asmund over rather closely. He was tall and well built with a strong jaw that reminded me of a young Kyle McLaughlin. He had raven hair and blue eyes, and was painfully good looking. To be honest, looking at him sort of made me feel a bit insecure.

"Asmund, you have nothing to offer me. I'm happy with Rowan and Sawyer. I have two absolutely gorgeous men that are both neos and can both keep up with me. If you haven't been paying attention, the main reason my brother hasn't settled down to one lover is because baselines can't handle his endurance in bed." She looked up and down him with an appraising look and asked, "Your good for what, about twenty minutes at the most? My lovers go all night."

"Go way outta' that!" he replied. "If your mum hears you talkin' like that, it'll be the nunnery for you."

"You really are a gack aren't you," she said. "A nunnery the last place my family would send me. You know the stories."

"Never gave 'em much mind," he said. "Nobody believes that rubbish."

She laughed at him and said, "Maybe you should go back and tell your Da, that they're true. You messin' with me isn't a good idea. I'm not the sweet good little Catholic girl you're used to." She pointed to the hammer pinned to her bodice. "Besides, we both know the only reason you agreed to your Da's plan to chat me up was so you could get close to my brother. He's the one you really want."

"Ara be whist with that," he said. "You don't know what you're talkin' about."

"Oh really?" she asked. "How many birds did you say you had on the side?" I was beginning to wonder how she'd picked up the local slang so quickly.

"A handful," he said.

"And how many have you actually shagged?" she asked. I could see her lock eyes with him and energy danced between her antennae.

"Enough," he said.

"Now you go way outta' that," she said. "But there is that stable hand on your Da's farm, and the landlord over in Ballaugh, and of course your sports teacher down at the high school. But don't put me on about the girls. We both know that you don't fly that way. Why don't you go and bother my brother. He might give you the pounding you seem to need so bad."

He turned and stomped off, his fists clenched. Kenneth and I came up to her and she turned. "That went well."

"Are you serious?" Kenneth asked.

"Yeah, the only reason he agreed to his da's plan was so he could get close to you," she said.

Kenneth looked at the disappearing back of the bigger boy and shook his head. "No, I've had my fill of footballers. They're okay on the pitch but leave a lot to be desired between the sheets."

"You, my brother are incorrigible," she said.

"I just don't have two gorgeous neos to scratch my itch when I need it," he said with a smile and a wag of his eyebrows.

"Don't worry, bro. When you get back to the States, I've got the perfect guy for you,"
she said.

We all laughed at that. Kenna had on more than one occasion mentioned that she wanted to fix up her brother with Goth from the Neo Force 1 team. We talked about that a bit as we walked around the games. For the most part it was a very good day. Both Kenna and Kenneth did well in their competitions, and we all had a good time.

We spent the next week wandering around island meeting people and basically hanging out. We took a trip to Dublin and to London for shopping and I did get to see Trafalgar Square. I also managed to pick up some new clothes. I have to admit, that what I bought fit me better than anything I've ever purchased back in the States. But it was over all too soon. I had to get back to Alabama before Chrissy's birthday. I had a bit of surprise for her.

It was a good thing that I had scheduled this flight a month in advance though. The crap I had to go through to get on the plane was unbelievable including a strip search. I literally had two US Marshals sitting on either side of me the whole flight back. I couldn't even go to the bathroom without having one of them right outside my door. I felt like those guys on Con Air.

By the time the plane landed and Dad picked me up in the airport in Birmingham I was more than a little irritable. He offered to let me drive, but I shook my head and told him no, I didn't think I was in the best frame of to be driving, especially through Malfunction Junction and then that mess at Arkadelphia Road. He just nodded and smiled.

By the time we were on Corridor X and heading toward Jasper, he looked at me and asked, "Wanna talk about it? Did you and Rowan or Kenna have a fight?"

I shook my head and said, "No. It's nothing like that. It was having two armed air marshals sitting next to me the whole trip. They acted like I was about to hijack the plane."

He nodded and said, "I'm sorry about that son. I hate that you have to go through this kind of garbage."

"I know, Dad, and I'm sorry for actin' like a badger with a sore paw. It just irritated me," I told him.

"Well, I'm impressed that you were willing to come home early for your sister's birthday," he told me.

I shook my head and said, "I don't know why. You guys know that Chrissy and I stayed in contact the whole time I was at Wyndgate. She's been through a lot because of what I am. It's the least I can do for her."

"Now that kind of thinking I don't like son," he said. "What we've all been through doesn't have anything to do with you. It has to do with the government trying to create a whole new race of slaves. I appreciate and admire the fact that you're thinking 'bout your sister, but don't you go and take on more responsibility than is yours."

"Still, she's my baby sister, and I want to do something nice for her," I told him.

He nodded and said, "Good. You know Braxton and Susanna are going to miss Rowan and Kenna being here, don't you?"

"Yeah, Mom said Braxton was going to Space Camp for two weeks in Huntsville and that
Susanna was going to Camp Skyline again. I'm sorry they're going to miss meeting them." I told Dad, although I knew that Susanna had already made it clear she had no interests in meeting my "freak" friends. I wasn't about to bring this up though. If I did, Mom and Dad might maker her stay home instead of going to camp and that would probably just turn nastier. It was a tactical decision.

Dad glanced over at me and said,"I want to talk to you about something son." He had that tone of voice that suggested I was in trouble. Either that, or it was going to be THE talk.

I nodded and asked, "Am I in trouble?"

He chuckled and said, "No Saw, you're not in trouble. But I do want to talk to you about our situation, and our finances. You seem to be under an erroneous impression that I want to set straight."

I felt my heart drop into my shoes and wondered if with the bad economy I was going to have to go to one of the government schools. I sighed and said, "Look Dad, I know the economy is bad and business has to be down. But I can pay my own way to Wyndgate now."

He shook his head and said, "Son, I don't know where you got the idea that we were hurting financially. Yes, business is down, but your mom and I have saved quite a bit and have made some good investments. Heather Blake said that you think that we're going to lose the house if one of your brothers or sisters should erupt."

"You took out a mortgage on the house to pay for my tuition," I told him.

"I don't know how you found out about that. But yes, we took out a mortgage on the house, but not because of the reason you think. We could have sold some stocks to pay for it, or simply taken it out of our savings. But taking out a mortgage was a tax move. Private school tuition isn't tax deductible, but a mortgage is. We get to deduct the interest we're paying on the mortgage from our taxes."

"But those guys from the government threaten to freeze our bank accounts," I protested.

"They threatened, son, they didn't do it. Since then we've diversified even more to make sure that they can't do that much damage in the future. Look son, you haven't done anything to disappoint your mother and or me. Hell, we're damn proud of who and what you are. If your brother or sisters, or if all three of them erupt, don't worry. Their tuition is there "

"Thanks Dad, I appreciate that," I said.

"I'm not finished, Sawyer," Dad said seriously. "Furthermore, you're not hiding anything from your Mom or me. We've expected you to end up with a boyfriend since you were twelve. We know about Rowan, and we know that what you and Rowan and Kenna are doing is rather unique. We just want to make sure you're safe."

I was stunned. I wasn't coming out of to my Dad, he was telling me that he and Mom knew. I was literally speechless. Finally, after long moments of silence, I said, "We're very careful Dad and we don't flaunt anything."

"You're not gonna make me a Grandfather before I'm fifty are you son?" he asked with a smile.

I shook my head and said, "No Dad. Both of them are on birth control."

He nodded and said, "I think that's more information than I wanted to know. But I'm at least relieved. Now mind you we're not giving you permission to have sex, but we're saying that if you do just make sure you're careful."

I could feel my cheeks burning and knew I had to be blushing when I simply said, "Yes sir."

He smiled and said, "Good. Now we haven't told Chrissy about your birthday present. The reason I wanted you to drive home was, that I wanted to see how you handle the car in heavy traffic. I was thinking of letting you drive her there yourself."

"Me?" I asked. "Drive myself? I'm not sure I'm ready for that, at least not in Birmingham on a concert night."

"Glad to see you not letting all the fame going to your head, son. It's good to know that you have recognize your limitations. Not many sixteen year olds are willing to do that."

"I know Dad, but I've seen too much in the last year not to; some of it has been brutal." The image of Badger being ripped in half by Fury, and of Lance lying on the ground his side opened up like he'd been bitten by a great white shark, and of those men whose web belts had exploded neatly slicing them in half all came to mind.

My dad didn't say anything. He just nodded his head as if he understood. Finally he said, "Your mom and I worry about that, but Doctor Blair assures us that your sessions with Doctor Chapel help you guys deal with that kind of thing. But as for Chrissy's birthday, we're going to drop you guys off at the Civic Center about six and pick you up at ten thirty. We're trusting you to keep a close eye on your sister."

"Don't worry Dad. I'll stay with her. I won't admit it to her because it's too good of a thing to tease her about, but I actually like that band. And I know the fact that they make it a point to keep it family friendly makes it easier on you and mom," I told him.

He chuckled and the mood lightened. We spent the rest of the trip home talking about this month's book. It was my turn to pick the book so we were discussing When Ripe Pears Fell, an obscure little book about the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky. It was the only work ever really done on that battle and Lambert's insights were very interesting. Some of the tactics he described sounded like they'd be useful for the team.

When I got home the first words out of my brother Braxton's mouth were, "Well, it looks like Auburn is starting its season against that high school team in Louisiana again this year." The week went down hill from there. I was so glad when he left for Huntsville and Susanna for her camp that I didn't even care when my friend Ryan from my old school told me that half the kids in our grade had invited themselves along on our swimming trip to Smith Lake.

It was supposed to be a little trip where I could introduce Ryan, Dewayne, and Jamie, friends of mine from my old school to my friends at my new school. It was supposed to be just the four of us, plus Dewayne's girlfriend Bethany, and Rowan and Kenna all heading up to the lake to swim and cook out and just goof off. Evidently word got around though and now it was about another fifteen extra people. I did remember to tell them that somebody else had to pitch in for the cost of food. My mom was supplying enough for the seven of us- eight actually since Chrissy had asked to go.

But before that trip happened, I had to deal with Chrissy's birthday. She kept giving me a strange look like she knew something was up. She was really upset when our parents wouldn't let her have a sleep-over birthday party, but left me in a position to guarantee her that I'd make it up. Trust me it was worth all that drama when she opened her present from me to find two front row tickets to a concert that night. I already had mine in my pocket and told her she could take one of her friends with her.

So I ended up spending that particular Saturday night with two eleven year old girls in the front row of a boy band concert as they screamed their heads off. It sort of reminds me of a joke: What screams, stands in a straight line and has no pubic hair? Answer: The front row of a Jonas Brother's Concert. The sad part about it was that because of my neo-classification, part of that description applied to me. Okay and I was screaming some too.

And it was all worth it. Chrissy's little friend got to stay over that night and there was a LOT of whispering and giggling coming from her room. It was clear that she'd had a good birthday, and that night I slept the best I had since I left home.

FAERIE ala Kenna Draupnir

Rowan and I spent the rest of our week in Europe shopping and just hanging out. Asmund gave me a wide berth from that point out. He as very much afraid that I was going to announce to the world that he was gay. I don't know what it is, but a lot of people in Europe just don't seem to understand exactly what being a neo means- especially one from the Psi-Corps.

And of course I'd had more contact with them. The Corps is nowhere nearly as powerful as it would like to be or as some people think it is. Mainly it's a training organization required for all telepaths and most other psis. It's also a bonding agent that uses what is known as the Triple Blind Scan to guarantee both a defendant's Fifth Amendment Rights in court as well as the accuracy of the report.

I'd gotten a rather interesting visit from them before we left for the US. They suggested that they would not be joining any attempt recover me if I decided to stay. They also wanted my impressions of how stable Alex was. I told them flat out that I was going back because if I didn't, that mean that most other neos would never get a chance to leave as well. I also told them what I knew about Alex.

After that visit, I needed a little shopping and downtime. Rowan and I spent a great two days in the best Viking traditions raiding the shops and stores of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. It was fun and it was just us girls, okay- I know but this was also a time while Rowan was setting herself up to be a little more feminine so as not freak Sawyer's friends.

The rest of the week we spent just having fun around the house and horseback riding. I was impressed at how well Rowan could handle a skittish horse, and they were all skittish around her. It was something about her scent. We spent one whole day riding up and down the north coast of the island.

When it came time for us to head back into the States, we gathered up our purchases, the gift we had Sawyer's little sister and our memories and headed to back across the Atlantic. The flight was actually a whole lot more pleasant than the one I had over on a commercial with an air marshal sleeping quietly on either side of me. Hey, I can't help it if they suddenly got so sleepy they couldn't keep their eyes open.

We made good time in Rowan and Heather's private jet, and it was a whole lot more comfortable. We called Sawyer to let him know that we would be landing early. I'm not sure, but I think that we upset some kind of plans. I really have trouble reading him that far away, and both he and Rowan have gotten better at keeping things from me.

When we landed at the small field outside of town, Sawyer was there with Chrissy waiting for us. He had a huge grin on his face and he just about knocked me down with excitement. "What?" I finally asked.

"Don't mind him, " Chrissy said with a smile. "Mom and Dad just proved that they can be as sneaky as he is."

"I don't understand," Rowan said.

"While my big brother was going out of his way to make my birthday special, he sort of forgot that he never got one from Mom and Dad for his birthday." She grinned hugely and said, "That is until this morning when told him that they wouldn't be able to take us all to the lake, that he'd have to drive his own car."

"I didn't know you had a car," Rowan said.

"Neither did he," Chrissy said stepping up and hugging our resident cat person. "It's good to see you guys again. Now that we've got Braxton and Susanne out of the house, you guys get their rooms."

"Out of the house?" I asked.

"Camp," Sawyer said quickly as he picked up our bags. "Susanne's going to Skyline Camp and Braxton's going to Space Camp in Huntsville." I could sense his relief at that idea. Sometimes sibling rivalry can be so much fun.

The hot Alabama sun was beating down on the parking lot and I felt like I was about to die. The bad part about it, was that it was still fairly early in the morning. The day was only going to get hotter. "The lake sounds good," I said.

"Which bathing suit did you bring?" Sawyer asked his eyes suddenly filled with trepidation.

"Rowan and I both picked up new ones in London. I got a nice little blue and orange number and hers is jet black," told him. Then I quickly added, "Don't worry, we're not going to embarrass you."

He chuckled and said, "It's not that. It's just that about half my old class at Farmstead has invited itself along. Some of the guys are pinchers."

"Once," Rowan said.

"Once what?" Chrissy asked.

"They'll pinch once. Then I'll toss 'em in the lake." Rowan said.

"Yeah!" Chrissy replied as she stopped at a new Jeep Patriot. It was dark orange and had vanity plate that had ablue and orange AU with a tiger coming through the A on the front plate holder. "Shotgun!" she called running to the door. When Rowan and I looked at each other she said, "This way, you don't have to worry about who gets to sit by Saw."

I smiled, chuckled and ran my hand my hair to cover the spark of electricity dancing between my antennae as I scanned her quickly. What I found from a brief touch of her mind startled me. The girl had some serious hero worship issues with her brother, and not a little of it was colored by her own budding awareness of sex. She was going to have to work out those on her own though or end up alone the rest of her life. In her mind, nobody could live up to the standard her brother set, so nobody had better try.

"We'll be happy to take the back seat Chrissy," I told her.

She and Sawyer both gave me a strange look. She grinned up at her brother, flipped her blond hair behind her and crawled in the front seat and buckled up as Sawyer and Rowan stowed the bags in the back of the Jeep. As I crawled in the back she turned to me and said, "I'm just teasing you. If you or Rowan want the front you can have it."

"It's okay, Chrissy...," I began. It was at this point that the kitty tranquilizer we'd given her gift decided to wear off.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Oh nothing," I said with a smile.

"Somebody just let the cat out of the bag," Rowan said from behind me.

"Ahh," I heard Sawyer say next to her.

"What?" Chrissy demanded.

"Might as well show her," I said.

"Show me what?" Chrissy demanded.

"Your birthday present from me and Rowan," I told her.

Rowan came around to her side of the car and handed her a small white ball of fur. Taking it into her lap she asked, "What happened to its tail?"

"It's a Manx. It was born without one," I told her.

"Ahhh," she said cuddling the small animal. "Let's go home and show him to Mom." Then as if thinking about it, she asked, "Do Mom and Dad know?"

Sawyer climbed into the driver's seat and Rowan joined me in the back. He nodded to his sister and said, "Yeah, we cleared it with them a month ago."

"You are one sneaky brother," she said leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. Then turning back to us she said, "Thank you."

Fifteen minutes and a trip down a long winding road, we pulled into the driveway of a huge neoeclectic style house. It was obvious that Sawyer came from a family with money. A huge well kept lawn led down a slope to a winding river. Chrissy bolted out of the car and toward the house carrying her new kitten and shouting for her mom.

We spent the next two hours getting settled into our rooms- all separate of course, and getting ready to go to the lake with Sawyer and his friends. I pulled out the little bikini I picked up in London and smiled at it. I bought it with just this trip in mind. It was designed to push the limits of what would be acceptable in this part of Alabama yet still keep me out of trouble, and more importantly keep Saw out of trouble. Hopefully it would keep too many eyes from looking too close at how Rowan was put together.

Sawyer had told us some about his friends, and I was looking forward to meeting them. That was the problem with Rowan and me. We didn't have a lot of friends for Sawyer to meet. I'd lived most of the past five years or so either at the Psi Corps Academy in Colorado or at the Danville School, and most recently at Wyndgate. Rowan had lived only at home and didn't make any friends who were age mates. Sometimes I wish it were different, but you know what that they say about wishes and horses. It was definitely going to be an interesting two weeks.

I put on a pair of shorts and a dark tee-shirt over the bikini and headed out to wait on the others to get ready. Rowan and Chrissy were already in the family room waitng. Rowan was wearing a pair of khaki knee-length shorts and a baggy "Amazon Princess" tee-shirt. She wasn't bothering hiding her tail or her ears, but she did have a nice pair of sun glasses stuck on the top of her head. I briefly wondered how she would manage to keep them on her face since her ears were at the top of her head. Chrissy was pulling a white tee shirt over her dark one piece bathing suit. Sawyer was still changing.

By eleven we were on our way to meet Sawyer's friends at some place called Jack's which turned out to be a fast food chain that's pretty much a southeastern chain. When we walked in I could feel the attention shift to us. I'd pretty much given up on brushing my antennae back into my hair, and Rowan's tail was swishing behind her. "Uh, I need to go to the restroom," Rowan said. "Sawyer, would you get me whatever the equivalent of a quarter pounder and a pint of milk is?"

"Me too," I told him. "Same order except I want a Coke."

He smiled at both of us and nodded. Looking at Chrissy he asked, "Let me guess squirt, chicken nuggets and a chocolate shake?"

She smiled and said, "No. I think I'll have what Kenna's having."

The three of us headed toward the back of the restaurant where there was a line of girls waiting to get in. I guess it was only a two seater. A tall girl about our age was talking to smaller girl in front of her. "Tell me exactly why you decided to come along on this trip, Paige? Last year you wouldn't give Sawyer or his friends the time of day."

Without turning the other girl said, "He's important now. He's worth the time of day. It just take some people a while to grow into their value."

Rowan and I turned and looked at each other. Why did this seem like dejavu all over again? Rowan simply crossed her arms, and her ears lay back against her head. The first girl evidently sensing the movement turned around. There was a brief look of shock on her face as she tried to figure out who we were. She was a tall blonde with her long hair pulled back in a pony tail. She was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of capri pants. She had just a tad bit of extra padding, suggesting that she was going to be one of those women who always struggled with their weight, but it looked good on them. Finally with a smile smile, she said, "You must be Kenna and Rowan, Sawyer's girlfriends." She stressed the last word. Offering her hand she said, "I'm Bethany, Dewayne's girlfriend."

I smiled over at her and said, "Nice to meet you. I'm Kenna, and this is Rowan. Like you said, we're Sawyer's girlfriends."

"You mean he wasn't lying?" the girl Bethany had been talking to suddenly turned around and asked.

"Sawyer doesn't lie," I said firmly.

"Any boy who says he has two girl friends who know about each other is lying," the girl told us.

"Sawyer doesn't and didn't," Rowan repeated my comment.

"And you're okay with that?" the girl asked.

"The situation works for us," Rowan told her.

The girl shook her head and slipped into the bathroom as the previous occupant left, murmuring something about, "Runt must really be something in the sack."

Rowan and I turned and looked at each other. I shrugged and said, "We don't discuss those things in public."

Much to my surprise, Bethany suddenly grinned hugely at that comment. "That's the best news I've heard yet."

"What do you mean?" Rowan asked.

"Just that I'm glad to see someone else who doesn't talk about private stuff to anybody who happens by," she said with a smile. Before I could reply another patron exited the restroom and Bethany slipped in. Nothing else was said about the conversation until much later. Rowan and I took care of business and headed back out to the dining room.

A fairly large crowd had gathered around Sawyer's table and was chatting away. Chrissy leaned over and said, "Looks like Paige isn't the only one who suddenly decided my brother was was worth the time of day. You two hit from the rear, and I'll flank 'em." She immediately took off around the crowd to come at the table from it's side.

Rowan grinned over at me with her sharp canines evident and said, "She's Sawyer's sister, all right."

I just grinned back at her and said, "Come on, this is going to be interesting I think. To my surprise though when we got past the crowd there were three seats open. One next to Sawyer and two across from him.

As we slid into our chairs, Chrissy appeared out of the crowd to my right and just seemed to slide right in next to her brother. A tall lanky blond boy with blue eyes smiled over at Chrissy and said, "Hiya Squirt."

"Hey Dewayne," she smiled up at him with what appeared to be genuine affection. "Did they get that goal next to your apartment fixed yet?"

"Nah, they say the neighbors are complaining about the noise," the boy said.

"Well that's what you get for playing basketball at two in the morning," she said shaking her head,, "Sheesh!"

Sawyer laughed at his sister and best friend. "That's why we like to keep you around, Chrissy. You don't let our heads get too big." Then with a smile, he said, "Guys, this is Rowan and Kenna, my girlfriends. Row and Kenna, this is Dewayne, Jamie, Ryan, Bethany, and it looks like the rest of my old class at Farmstead."

"Hey guys," I said.

Next to me Rowan nodded and blushed deeply before saying, "Hello."

"Hey Sawyer, can I get a ride with you guys to the lake?" Paige asked.

Sawyer looked a bit surprised, but Chrissy spoke up, "Sorry. We're all full up. Between the snacks, Sawyer's girlfriends, Ryan, Bethany, Jamie, and Dewayne, and me, there just isn't room."

"Besides Paige," didn't you drive your mom's car?" Bethany asked.

"Oh yeah," the girl said, "But if I could get a ride with Sawyer, then I wouldn't have to have the car back to the hospital before my mom's shift was over."

"You can ride with me," another guy offered eagerly.

"No thanks, Simon," she said. The look of disgust that came over her face was obvious and strong.

It wasn't missed by the guy offering it either. "Or not," he said disappointedly.

I shook my head at the girl's callousness and said, "Well, why don't we eat first and then worry about who rides in what car?"

"Good idea," Rowan said biting into her hamburger.

"Can I ask a question?" Bethany asked.

"Sure," I said.

"How can you eat like that still fit into that skin-tight costume?"

I shrugged and said, "It's one of the advantages of a neohuman metabolism. According to our team doctor, certain cells in our blood and body store energy much more efficiently than in baseline physiology. With Rowan they're so efficient, that the hamburger she's eating will probably last her most of the week."

"Wow," Bethany commented. "Must be nice."

"It has its compensations," Rowan looked over at me and said with a wink. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

"What's school like at Wyndgate?" Jamie asked. He was dark haired slightly heavy-set boy with hazel eyes.

Sawyer shrugged and said, "Not like anything we're used to. Most of our classes are held in suite and we only go out for combat, PE, music, and art, and we don't do music and art every day."

"And labs," I added.

"Yeah, we go to the science lab when we've experiments to do," he said.

"In suite?" Dewayne asked.

"Yeah, we all live in one big apartment-like suite. The main room is sort of a living room kitchen combination with seven bedrooms off of it. We have most of our classes in that main room. There are plenty of writing surfaces, and comfortable chairs, and of course a state of the art audio visual set up. We have class there, where we can be comfortable and Mr. Waterford makes all of our classes interesting."

"Who's Mr. Waterford?" Simon asked as he slipped forward.

"He's our cadre's lead teacher. He handles most of our subjects. He's a great teacher who plans his lessons like a discussion instead of a lecture," I told them between bites. The hamburger was actually quite good.

"Does he live in the suite too?" Bethany asked.

Sawyer shook his head and said, "No. He lives somewhere in town in one of the nearby towns I think."

"What's the training like?" someone else asked. "I mean is like in the movies with a challenge room with holographic projectors and robots?

"I wish," Rowan said. "No training consists of whatever Coach Moore or Commander Erikson comes up with for us. Sawyer's the team tactician and helps us work out our strategies. Our team leader is Brian, and he's very good at making the decision on how to handle situations."

"We could tell from what we saw on TV. You guys were awesome when you fought Fury and then those gang bangers in Washington," Jamie said.

I smiled and said, "Thanks. That was because of Commander Erikson and Mr. Waterford kicking our butts and making us train hard. But come on guys. It's summer, can we talk about something other than school?"

"Yeah," one of the girls said. "Can you get me Speedfire's phone number?"

I laughed at that. "No, but I can give him your email address if you want, " Sawyer said.

"You would?" the girl asked in surprise.

Sawyer smiled and said, "Sure, but I can't guarantee that he'll answer it."

"Does he have a girlfriend?" she asked.

I laughed and told her, "Not yet. I know he's dated a few times since he started school but hasn't found anyone he really likes yet." I didn't mention that he and Tracy were basically friends with benefits. That was none of her business."

She handed him a piece of paper and said, "Here's my email address."

Sawyer smiled and took it. As he opened his wallet to put it in, Ryan asked, "What's that?"

"What?" Sawyer asked.

"That card where your license is supposed to be?" he asked.

"Oh," Sawyer replied pulling the little plastic card with his picture, code-name, real name, and registration number embossed on it. "It's my Federal Neohuman Registration Identification Card. I have to carry it with me everywhere I go."

"Really?" Jamie asked.

"Yeah. Federal law says that I can go to prison if we don't carry them," I told him.

"Man, that's messed up," Simon said.

Sawyer shook his head and said, "Don't I know it."

We spent the rest of the lunch talking about what life was like for a neo. I watched Paige rather closely. She was starting to think twice about whatever her plans were. I didn't want to do a deep scan because I didn't want the sparks between my antenna to give me away. But it was obvious that she'd heard something she didn't like. It wasn't until we were at the lake that I found out what was really going on. In the end, it was really rather sad, and sort of pointed out that in some ways Sawyer and I faced very similar problems this summer.

The lake was a long winding thing that had been created by backing up the Black Warrior River. According to Sawyer it was also one of the cleanest lakes in America, so swimming in it wasn't any kind of real risk. The water was clear and blue and the reflected the Alabama sky beautifully.

When we got there and the tee-shirts and shorts came off, it definitely caught Sawyer's attention. The little black top that Rowan was wearing enhanced what she had upstairs, and the boy-like shorts she had on went a long way toward hiding what was downstairs. The fact that material had a leather like sheen to it, gave her a very exotic look. Mine was actually combining two bikinis I'd bought in the same style but different colors. The top was a deep royal blue and the bottoms were a hot orange. I knew those were the colors of Sawyer's favorite football team.

The other girls were wearing a variety of bathing suits ranging from one pieces to bikinis. The one that Paige was wearing could only be described as two bandaids and piece of dental floss. It left nothing to imagination. Actually, Paige was not much bigger than me, and had a very athletic figure if a somewhat flat chest. The little thing she was wearing though made her appear a lot more mature than she was.

The boys on the other hand were all wearing board shorts and some, like Jamie were even wearing a tee-shirt. I got the feeling it was to cover the little bit of extra fat he was carrying around his midsection. But most most of them were wearing only shorts, and were doing their best to catch the girls' attention.

Rowan, myself, and Bethany were lying in the sand on the short beach while the boys were out swimming. Paige was out there, brushing up against Sawyer every chance she could. Sawyer kept looking at us and blushing. It was clear that he wasn't comfortable with it, but I wanted to let him handle it. If I interfered now, then it would look too catty, and maybe embarrass him in front of his friends. Besides, both Rowan and I trusted him.

"What's Paige's deal?" I asked Bethany.

She smiled at me and said, "I'm not sure. Last year, she'd only date the older boys with cars. Now she's suddenly decided that Sawyer would look good on her arm."

Rowan raised an eyebrow and said, "She's pregnant."

"What?" I asked.

"She's pregnant," Rowan aid.

"How can you tell?" I asked.

She touched her nose and said, "I've been around enough pregnant women lately to know how they smell."

Bethany leaned forward and pulled her glasses down and looked over their tops. She glanced at me and then Rowan and said, "In that case, that girl is dangerous. I have a really good idea how she got pregnant and she's looking for a baby daddy."

I laughed and said, "I think we all have a good idea how she got pregnant."

She laughed and added, "I mean I know the circumstances. The problem is I bet she doesn't know which guy the daddy is."

I raised an eyebrow but before I could say anything, Sawyer plopped down between me and Rowan. I watched as he rolled over looked back toward the water and then smiled over at me before kissing Rowan rather seriously. Then he leaned over and kissed me too. "Are you showing off?" Rowan asked.

He shook his head and smiled, "No, I'm getting myself marked."

"Huh?" Rowan asked.

Suddenly Bethany started chuckling. "Sawyer, that was brilliant!"

"What?" Rowan asked.

"That," Bethany said pointing toward the lake where Paige was stomping out of the shallows, her face beet red with anger.

Sawyer twisted onto his back and held a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun. "I got tired of being hung on like a coat hook. Damn it, I'm not interested," he said the frustration in his voice was evident.

"I'll take care of it," Rowan said sitting up. "You two stay here."

Then she rose and strode off toward the retreating girl's form, sand kicking up behind her bare feet. In the distance I could see where she finally cornered the girl next to the black wrought iron fence alongside the road. Rowan gently leaned on the fence and began speaking to her. I watched as she casually twisted the stylized edges of the wrought iron with her fingers as they talked. It was such an innocuous motion that it could have been seen as simply something to keep her fingers busy while they talked. The effect however was not lost on Paige. Finally after a few moments the girl decided that it would be a good idea to leave the party.

Like I said, it was going to be an interesting summer.

Robert Kilpatrick

It's been a race to get everything in place for Phase Two since the attack on Cadre 5 by the Warmaster's forces. The battlefield has shifted suddenly and I find myself having to reach for more resources than I'd originally anticipated. Fortunately my benefactor has been extremely helpful in securing for me other resources. Our new facility is up and running now and the data She brought with her from home is very enlightening. Even She agrees that I am on the path that the Elders were searching for thousands of years ago.

I've dropped a few clues to the government about the gang that our enemies are manipulating and hinted that there may now be a neo-booster drug on the market. The scrambling in the halls of the government THAT has set off is amusing to say the least.

One of the resources the Elder has brought with her are a more modern and up to date series of genites. These will be much more efficient in targeting only those humans whose genetic codes were designed and augmented by the Elders. That way I can restrict the experiments to only humans who've descended from them.

The question now is how large of a population to use.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Fri Jun 25, 2010 9:24 am

As always, its nice to see the development of our Wyndgate students. I love the characters for the most part, but, was a little disappointed by one development in the story, that I should have expected, but, nevertheless was mildly put off by. All of our NS's now share a power that really exceeds the boundaries of strength, endurance, energy projection or the

Sure, Rowan's money far outstrips that of her teammates, but, despite that, none of her teammates or their families are looking for work or forced to hold down three jobs, or have to go without health insurance or anything that is an actual "real world" challenge. I had hopes for Sawyer, but, such is not meant to be, I guess.

Still, given the genre, it's a minor quibble. The characters and writing are spectacular and I look forward to more.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby cobalt-blue » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:22 am

Believe it or not, I thought long and hard about that. But when it came down to it, these kids are in a private school that cost 70k a year. However, Tracy and Patrick are both much more middle class, although professional middle class. There will be a few others who are dealing with monetary issues, later and I'm going to touch on that.

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Re: Cadre 5:

Postby Horsenhero » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:32 am

Yeah, I thought about that a little after I posted. Really, given the size (or rather lack thereof) of the student body, there aren't likely to be more than one, maybe two scholarship-type students in the school. I'm certain even such a "focused" school has such a program, why not take advantage of the tax breaks you're offered?

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