- LI: Sophomore Year #13 – Steam Complex Chp. 1
- LI: Sophomore Year #14 – Steam Complex Chp. 2
- LI: Sophomore Year #15 – Steam Complex Chp. 3
- LI: Sophomore Year #16 – Out of the Past Chp. 1
- LI: Sophomore Year #17 – Out of the Past Chp. 2
- LI: Sophomore Year #18 – Operation: Fuzzy Cheer Part 1
- LI: Sophomore Year #19 – Operation: Fuzzy Cheer Part 2
- LI: Sophomore Year #20 – Operation: Fuzzy Cheer Part 3
- LI: Sophomore Year #21 – Student Union Part 1
- LI: Sophomore Year #22 – Student Union Part 2
- LI: Sophomore Year #22 – Student Union Part 3
- LI: Sophomore Year #23 – Student Union Part 4
- LI: Sophomore Year #24 – Student Union Part 5
- LI: Sophomore Year Annual #5
Apartment 807 at the Weyland Plaza Apartment Towers was a comfortable, but not spacious home meant for a family of four. It was not, however, furnished for a family of four. In fact, it was barely furnished at all. There was one massive leather couch, a matching love seat, an expensive recliner with a built in fridge, drink holder and folding snack tray that bore Kura’s name along the top of the headrest in rhinestones she probably glued on herself, and a floor-to-ceiling projection screen.
There wasn’t enough seating for everyone there: Kura, Tammy, Maya, Steampunk, Olivia, The Gnome, Phineas, Zane, Rita, Phil, Eddie, Jacob and Joy, but the closet proved to be filled with yoga mats and cushions, so people could sit on the floor comfortably.
As Kura let the late-arriving Jacob and Joy ino the room, Tammy stood from where she’d been perched on the arm of the couch. “Okay guys: I know everyone here really wants to know what the hell all this was about and most of you know a little bit of it here or there, but probably not the whole story. This is the part where we explain the whole thing and why we need you.” She nodded to Steampunk, who handed Zane a flat format stick.
The cloaked teen slotted the stick into his palmtop and switched on the projector, filling the screen at once with a complicated timeline. Tammy, who in the interim had told Kura what a telescoping pointer was called, snapped her brand new pointer out and used it to indicate the chart.
“Okay, so all the badness, all the crazy and probably all the scary that’s happened at the school for the past two years goes back to World War II and the Nazis—because everything bad goes back to the Nazis most likely. So anyway, it turns out they had magic or some crap—and seriously, if you’ve seen the horned baboons that live down Harrier Avenue, how can you not believe in magic?–and summoned an efreet.”
“A what?” asked several voices at once.
Tammy waved the pointer dismissively. “Fire genie… thing. My brother has played every fantasy game known to man and trust me, the thing on the video was an efreet.” As she said this, Zane brought up a window showing stills from the video.”
“What the hell is that?” asked Phineas.
“An efreet—weren’t you listening?” asked Tammy, half-smiling. “But no, that’s a real thing from another world and I swear on my dad’s vocal cords this isn’t a prank. The Nazis summoned and tried to capture this thing, but it killed pretty much everyone before I guess someone managed to kill it. The video wasn’t really clear on if they killed it or not.”
Seeing the dis belief, she scowled at her audience. “Guys, this is serious. I’m really not making it up!”
“She’s not.” Joy said, sinking back against the counter low wall that formed a kind of barrier between the lving room and the kitchen. “I saw the same video.”
That set the others off, all talking over each other and mostly about their disbelief. Tammy tried shouting over them to no avail. Eventually, Olivia jumped to her feet.
“Guys! Guys! Listen!” Surprisingly, she was louder than even Tammy and the rabble calmed down to a manageable level. Olivia huffed out a sigh of annoyance. “I know it sounds nuts, but I was there. And you don’t even have to believe that they got an actual genie with actual magic: all you have to do is believe in mad science from World War Two which…”
She took a charm at random from her charm bracelet and pushed it under the band around her wrist. Starting from that point on her wrist, her skin transformed into red plastic. “…I think we can all agree existed.” Everyone paused to consider this, giving her an opening to plow on ahead.
“Right. So maybe they summoned that thing, maybe they made it in a lab or something. Whatever. The point is, the US and the Canadians got the thing and used its DNA in the same kind of experiments that ended up giving people like us our powers.” She made it a point not to look at Maya in when she said this.
“They called it SD-108, and sometime between then and now, they lost track of it. Now the Canadians at least had this thing called the Generations Project trying to get it back and they’re pretty much guessing at who might have been one of the kids from SD-108… right?” She asked Tammy.
With a grin of appreciation for the assist, Tammy nodded. “Exactly. That’s what happened last year when those fake FBI guys were after Maya at Midnight Black: they thought—“ and here she emphasized ‘thought’, “–Maya was one of those SD-108 kids, probably because her dad was in the Canadian Air Force. They actually tried again over spring break. That’s when Olivia found all this out.”
Kura, having not talked in a while, hopped up and floated over until she bumped into Tammy. “And that’s the thing: they don’t know who has the magic DNA in them, so they’re going after anyone they think might fit.” That was a lie at best and pure speculation on her part, but she said it with the same conviction she said everything with. She then struck a dramatic pose. “And that is why they’ve snuck spies into our school!”
Everyone looked around at the others, suspicion already growing on their faces.
“Not us!” Tammy waved her arms wildly. “The staff. Well two teachers at least.” She gave Joy an apologetic look. “Joy, I’m sorry, but this is the right thing to do: they need to know.”
Joy cringed as all eyes fell upon her. “But we don’t know that part for sure…”
“We know enough. Steampunk told us the whole thing.” Tammy said, the joyful light in her eyes dulling a bit as she realized what she was about to do. She gave Joy a pleading look. “It really does concern all of them.”
Jacob shifted in his space on the mat beside Joy. He gave her a concerned look, then gave Tammy a defiant one. “Joy, you don’t want to tell them, you don’t have to.” The look he was giving Tammy said that she wouldn’t tell if Joy didn’t want to either. Not if he had anything to do with it.”
Folding her arms, Tammy refused to look at Jacob, only Joy. “You saw the video. Do you want our friends just bumbling around not knowing the whole story?”
Joy shot her a glare. “After all the talking you been doing, they can guess, now can’t they? Weren’t you guys trying to cheer me up a couple of hours ago?”
Tammy sighed and leaned against the couch. “We were. We still are, really, but damn it, this stuff is getting scary. We’ve been attacked at our favorite lunch place, on vacation, and now these people are at our school and it’s about time we do something about it.”
“Then tell one of the teachers!” Joy shouted. “Why did you get half our class together and then decide to go and tell them my—” she stopped herself, “–my business?”
“Wh-what teacher can we trust to tell?” Maya’s voice was so quiet most of the others didn’t hear her. Eddie however, sitting on the floor in front of the space on the couch where Maya was sitting, did and spoke up. “That’s a really good point. If some of the teachers are working for the bad guys, then a bunch of them might be. Or more than one bad guy.”
Tammy bit her lip indecisively. “We can at least trust Ms. Keyes and Ms. Brant. My brother lived with them for a couple of years while he was going to school down here and they’re both good people.”
“Don’t forget Mr. Liedecker.” Jacob added, hoping to derail any disclosure to the others about Joys sister even though anyone with a brain could have guessed. “He founded the school after all and my dad did a lot of research on him before he sent me here: the guy’s like a superhero with money instead of powers.”
“Money is pretty much my second best superpower.” Kura agreed. “But the thing is, they’ll probably just think we’re dumb teenagers and tell the bad guys we’re on to them. Then they’ll get rid of the ones we know are bad and send in ones we don’t, or blackmail the good ones. Like, Ms. Keyes may be awesome and stuff in Powers class, but she’s also engaged—what if they kidnap her boyfriend to make her spy on us or do stuff to us?”
Tammy, who had heard the story of exactly what had happened when some ninjas kidnapped Ms. Keyes’s boyfriend (short version: she was a bad enough dudette to rescue her boyfriend), held back a snort. On the other hand, not all the other teachers were as capable.
“That’s true.” she admitted, trying to think quickly. “But Ms. Brant knows the Descendants, right? She’s the one that got them to come to the school for freshman orientation. So maybe we can get her to get us in touch with the Descendants…”
“Again, we’re stupids!” Kura said, “As far as they know. They work with the Institute; they probably think they already checked everyone out. What could group of teenagers know that they don’t?”
Zane’s eyes dimmed as he listened to the whole thing. “But we can at least try.”
“Yeah, try and if we fail, they do that thing I said and we’re back to square one.”
Joy, by this time, had had enough. Leaping to her feat, she all but exploded. “So what are you forming this Student Union thing for then? It’s not to collect evidence. It’s not to come up with the best way to tell people who can actually do something about what’s going on. Are you just planning to fight them yourself?!”
Looking for all the world like she was patiently watching the last horse crossing the finish line, Kura nodded. “Duh. And that’s part of the cheering you up thing too.”
“What!?” Joy’s voice reverberated off the walls, but didn’t seem to settle inside Kura’s skull.
With a teasing smile and a wink, Kura launched into an obviously prepared speech. “Uh-huh. And here’s why: If you’re the one who is in charge of everything we do when it comes to your family, and you’re the one that has all the evidence, then you have plenty of time to prove that your dad is innocent.”
Joy had a retort ready, but it died in her throat. She really wasn’t ready to admit that her father had done the things mentioned on the video. More to the point, she wasn’t ready for him to be brought up on charges or to go through his trial, having her and her sisters dragged through the whole sordid process.
What Kura was offering was, at the very least, a delay; time to get her head straight after being so messed up over the past week. And it was also a chance to avoid it altogether… provided she found evidence to the contrary. A darker voice in the back of her head pointed out that she could also get rid of all the evidence and pretend this never happened. It was a quiet voice, but she didn’t silence it instantly.
Looking away from Kura, she bowed her head. “Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad…”
“This was about your dad?” Phineas asked. “I thought you guys were arguing over your sister. Jeez, that’s a load off my mind—Miss Duvall is kinda awesome. Also hot.”
“Dude.” Phil hissed under his breath. “Don’t tell her you think her sister is hot here.”
“Indeed,” said The Gnome, “There is a time and place for ranking the relative hotness of our educators and now if not it. But The Gnome would gladly take up this conversation later at Midnight Black.”
“Anyway.” Tammy said, trying to retake control of the group, “Yeah, we kind of suspect Joy’s sister because her dad used to work for the first version of the Generations Project doing some hinky stuff—but then again, we also know he was mind-wiped after that, so…”
Rita raised her hand. “So… who is the other teacher?”
“Oh, that’s Kingsbury.” There was an immediate and general rumbling from the assembled teens that amounted to their utter lack of surprise on the matter.
“Now that I think about it, he’s kind of a crappy secret bad guy if he’s such an asshole to everyone.” said Phneas.
“Maybe the people that hired him never met him.” Eddie suggested.
Tammy shook her head. “Guys, you’re missing the point here. He’s not just some hardass teacher you put a really mean prank on during senior year: he’s a straight up bad guy working for guys just like the Academy. He’s not just a prick, he’s dangerous.”
“Okay, so what are we going to do about it?” asked Rita. “We’re not telling the police or our teachers, or even superheroes, so what’s left?”
“Correction:” Kura said, stepping forward, “We’re not telling the official superheroes. But come on: what do you think we are? We’ve got powers, we’ve got a secret base,” she gestured to the apartment, “and we’ve got an obvious villain.”
Scratching his hooded head, Zane visibly narrowed his eyes. “So we’re going to kick his ass?”
This made Kura giggle. “That would be so cool! But no. What we’re going to do is bring him to justice. Him and all of this Generations Project thing. We know who he works for, we know what they want, and they have no idea how on to them or organized we are. I’m telling you we can do this, guys! IF we play this right, Kingsbury will ead us to his boss, then his boss’s boss. And once that happens, it won’t matter who we tell: they’ll have nowhere to run.”
Eyeing Kura skeptically, Jacob asked, “No offense… but do you have a plan? A real plan? I’d stop all this as much as anyone, but we need to know what we’re doing here or we could all get in trouble… or worse.”
Kura opened her mouth. Then closed it. Then looked sheepish. “Just gimmie a couple of minutes, and—“
“She doesn’t plan.” The voice was so strong for the first time that anyone could think of that everyone shut up immediately to stare.
Maya Blumberg shrank back from the attention at the same time that Soot, excited about the same, popped out of her hair and waved a fingerless appendage in greeting. Her gaze dropped to her legs crossed beneath her and her voice came again, still louder than normal, but softer. “B-but I think I do.”
Dumbstruck, all Tammy could think to say was, “Maya?”
She nodded. “I-I’ve been thinking about this ever since we saw the video.” she blushed, “Ac-actually, since spring break, but I didn’t know that the P-project had someone at the Institute or that s-s-so many people might be willing to help.”
Hands knitting together in a nervous gesture, she continued. “I-it’s going to take the rest of the semester and some of the summer, b-but I have an idea. I just need all of your help.” Finally looking up with big, green eyes, she added, “Please?”
Kura squeed and leapt to hug Maya, almost kneeing Eddie in the face in the process. “Mmmmaya! I am totally behind you!”
“Me too, obviously.” added Tammy.
“Man, I’ve wanted nothing more since I got here than to go all hard like heroic on some cackling mad man. It’s just icing and cake that it’s King Dingleberry.” said Phineas with a thumbs up.
Phil tentatively raised his hand. “I guess this isn’t the kind of thing I can back out of: I already know too much.”
“The Gnome will not shy away from Justice’s challenge!”
“Dude, neither will I. And I couldn’t leave you guys to do this on your own.” added Zane.
Nodding, Olivia said, “I didn’t want to be part of this when you guys dragged me to spring break, but I’m not going to back away now.”
Rita looked over to Joy. “I only got involved in this to help you, Joy. You’re my friend and whatever you want to do, I’ll help.” Jacob nodded in agreement, also waiting to hear what Joy had to say.
The fuzzy girl chewed her lip in thought. The pressure of every pair of eyes in the room felt as if she might collapse under it. Finally, she heaved a sigh. “I’ll be in… for now. But if I don’t like it, I can stop, right?”
Maya nodded. “I p-promise. I don’t want anyone forced into doing anything they don’t want to.”
Kura clapped and cheered “So it’s settled then! The Student Union is on the case!”
To Be Continued…