- 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
“Okay, so I probably should have guessed Kura would go way past the original plan and get us in too deep the second we started talking.” Tammy sat in a stone bench in the seldom-used rooftop garden the Descendants often used as a vantage point, meeting place or (prior to getting their D-icons) place to change costumes. Her hands were clasped in front of her as she leaned forward with elbows on knees. Normally tidy, her red-brown hair was wind-swept from the ‘ride’ to the roof.
“And, I probably should have come to one of you guys first the second things went all ‘thriller of the week’ over Spring Break last year, but we thought we could handle it, you know?”
“Mmm-hm.” came the skeptical reply.
Tammy squirmed under her companion’s gaze. “But then Steampunk came up with the whole thing about Kingsbury—which you know, wasn’t all that shocking—and Joy’s dad and it’s snowballing. You get why I couldn’t tell Miss Brant or Miss Keyes, right? They’d do the responsible thing and let all the parents know and then the school will close down and that’s how guys like Tome or these Generations jerks win, you know? Everyone gets scattered, there’s no security like at the school, and they can pick kids off one by one. Not everyone has a big brother who can turn a station wagon into origami, right?”
Her companion crossed their arms. “That still doesn’t explain why you came to me. Your brother seems like the first person you’d tell. Or Cyn if you wanted someone to do things the sneaky way.”
A derisive snort came in reply to that. “War? You’re kidding right? I love him, but he would go all Big Brother Paladin on this. First thing he’d do would be to tell Miss Brant or Miss Keyes. Plus, he wouldn’t be subtle at all. And Cyn? Cyn is just as much my Big Sis as War is my Big Bro. She’d go on a rampage and probably kick Kingsbury’s ass. Not that I’d mind seeing that, but that doesn’t solve the problem, now does it?”
That got a laugh.
Tammy nodded and went on. “I don’t want the others to know I went and got help… but we could really use someone looking out for us, you know? Especially someone who can follow up on what Steampunk finds. I’m not sure if she means to be or not, but she’s kind of unreliable when it comes to big picture stuff.”
“Hmm. See, here’s the thing: I have to be the responsible adult too, at least to a certain extent. If—and I mean if I go along with this at all, you need to get that I will pull the plug on this if anything looks too dangerous, whether you see it or not. I actually doubt they’d shut the school down over this, but you guys have done so much already, I’m willing to let you take the shot… god, your brother really is rubbing off on me to even consider that. Funny, seeing as he might strangle me if he finds out I’m considering going along with it.”
“Like he wouldn’t fold faster than Vamanos on laundry day if you said ‘boo’ to him.” Tammy said with an impish grin.
Christina ‘Tink’ Carlyle, also known as Renaissance, rolled her eyes as she folded her arms. “This was before he found out I was aiding and abetting his baby sister in going up against some shady super-secret Canadian conspiracy.”
“Oh please, he was pissing off the Hip Sing Tong when he was my age.” Then her eyes widened. “Wait, does that mean you’ll be doing it? The aiding and abetting?”
With a reluctant sigh, Tink nodded, drawing a happy squeal from Tammy. She quickly put up a hand to cut that off. “I’m only doing this because I know you and I’ve heard of Kura… and I’m pretty sure if I didn’t agree, you guys would be off on some half-baked attempt at something before I could even put in a call.”
“Thank you so much!” Tammy leapt up and hugged the other young woman.
After a moment of suspicion, Tink hugged her back. When they broke apart, she licked her lips and stood back. “Okay, so what are you already doing?”
Tammy’s eyes shifted about nervously. “Um… we got a bunch of the others in on this, they’re watching Joy’s sister and Kingsbury for any funny business… and that’s it. Kura wants to find and hire like a hacker to tap their phones and stuff, but as far as I know she hasn’t.”
“And given how her parents seem to just give her an infinite pipeline of money, that’s totally possible, isn’t it?” Tammy nodded. “Right. Look, I think I have a better idea. Something I think your friends will like and that won’t put anyone in any real danger…”
The freshman biology class was letting out, and the man in question was packing up his things to leave for lunch when the almost inaudible voice reached him. He looked up to find Maya doing her best to avoid the freshmen as she slipped into the classroom. The curious little creature she called ‘Soot’ perched on her head, waving one of its flipper-like appendages at the passing students.
SD-108 be damned, Kingsbury wanted to know how the hell the girl’s powered worked whether or not it had any value to his employers. He may have been a plant for Generations, but he was still a scientists and still had the same curiosity.
“Maya.” He said impassively. Try as he might, he couldn’t keep his eyes off Soot, who was visibly bristling as he always did in Kingsbury’s presence. More than likely, it was just reacting to the skittish Maya’s fear of him, but it was disconcerting, as if the creature knew what he was doing.
The girl approached his desk slowly like a wild animal encountering humans for the first time. Kingsbury fought back a chuckle. It was ironic that she was so afraid of him, seeing as she was one of the few students who he didn’t hold in contempt since she had actual scientific aptitude.
“Um…” She stopped in front of his desk and pulled out a sheet of paper, a rarity in the state-of-the-art Institute. “Some of us wanted to start a science club?” somehow she turned it into a question. “B-because Mayfield has a lot of science exhibits and expos, b-b-but not a lot of them aren’t guided. S-so we thought maybe…”
Any humor Kingsbury found in the situation fell away. His bosses wanted him to do something exactly like this, but he’d been putting it off. His weekends should have been his own, and he wanted to attend such events without having to dumb down the abundance of local scientific brilliance to a bunch of children who wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.
If the higher-ups found out that he let such an opportunity go past, he would have some explaining to do. If he could convince Maya to withdraw the idea instead…
He shoved his tablet into its carrying case more forcefully than was necessary, making the girl start. “Really?” He asked, “I believe that according to the Institute’s policy, forming a club or other official school-sanctioned activity group requires a minimum of five students signing up. Do you have four other students interested in joining a Liedecker Institute Science club?”
Maya nodded quickly and paced the paper on the table with enough care that one might think she was handling a glass child. Then she gently pushed it toward him.
Kingsbury snatched it from her fingers and looked it over. It was a form with the Liedecker Institute letterhead on it. He hadn’t known there was an actual, physical form the students were meant to carry around to get signed. His eyes flew down to the signatures of the students. Maya Blumberg, of course. Edward Argent—who wasn’t the best student he’d ever had, but who had at least shown interest. Jacob Richmond, the suck-up who worked hard but just didn’t get the material.
The last name made his breath catch. Alice Tatopoulos.
He wasn’t sure which one worried him more, the creation or the creator. He might not have cared too much for people, but Alice Tatopoulos—the one who allowed a child to be created by splicing her own DNA, then abandoning it to the Project’s less than gentle care, scared him.
Almost as much as what the clone might know or remember scared him. Why was she signing on to be in the science club? Did her—no, it—even have the wherewithal to want something like that? Or to want revenge on Generations?
He knew he’d been quiet too long when Maya of all people tried to break the silence. “W-we’re supposed to get a staff member to sponsor us, s-sir.”
Well of course, who the hell else was going to sponsor a science club at the Institute. Laurel Brant’s father might have been a business genius, but nothing Kingsbury had seen of his daughter proved to him that she’d inherited anything from him besides his penchant for bleeding heart causes.
He put the form back onto the desk, making sure that his hand thudded on it. One last-ditch effort to scare her off before he signed away his free time. “And I suppose that I will be responsible for organizing outings and in-school meetings?”
Again, Maya nodded so quickly that Soot plastered himself to her scalp to keep from getting thrown off. Then she stopped, thought and shook her head instead, sending Soot scrambling for handholds again. “M-maybe later, but we r-really wanted to go to the Verdancy BioTech open house t-this weekend?”
Kingsbury sat back in thought. The annual open house where Verdancy showcased its latest concept releases for designer produce, medicine and related products was a highlight of any self-respecting biologist’s social calendar. He’d been trying to get an invitation for months to no avail.
No doubt Vincent Liedecker, favorite son of Mayfield would be able to pull strings and make it happen for the students of his darling Academy… and their chaperon.
Immediately Kingsbury saw all kinds of doors opening for him under the guise of furthering the science club’s educations. It didn’t matter that half of them were lost causes; he would benefit while giving the impression to his various superiors that he was making an effort.
In a word: perfect.
He tapped the form thoughtfully. “You know… that is an excellent idea, Miss Blumberg.” Pulling open the center drawer of his desk, he took out a pen, brand new and unused since the previous year, and uncapped it. “I’ll be more than happy to head up this group. Perhaps it will encourage more students to take an interest in the field.”
“Y-yes sir.” Maya said, carefully taking the paper back. “T-thank you.”
Several hours later, Maya, Eddie, Tammy, Kura, Steampunk and Zane were sitting around a table in midnight black as Maya gingerly extracted the paper form from a folder and put it flat on the table next to an identical one for a Computer Science club that Zane had supplied.
Zane quickly ran his palmtop over the forms and gave the screen a few taps. “There we go: meatspace signatures copied to the real digital forms.”
“Wow, there look just like the things we needed to get signed at my old school.” Tammy said, “Good job Zane.”
“Thanks.” The cloth-shrouded teen said, his eyes brightening in the gloom of his hood.
The table jumped as something heavy thudded on the table; a black toolbox that Kura had pulled out of her backpack.
“What the hell is that?” asked Eddie, eyeing the case with a cocked eyebrow.
Kura patted the box with pride. “This is a Crime Scene Investigations field kit: the same kind the LAPD’s CSI’s and probably a bunch of other letters use. With this, I can get Kingsbury’s fingerprints, get a scent profile, and if he spits when he talks, get a basic DNA workup.”
Everyone stared at her. Tammy slowly raised her hand. “Uh, Kura? The plan with the form was to just get his fingerprints so we could get a PI to run a deep background check on him. I’m pretty sure we could do that with a powderpuff and some tape.”
“Pfft. Like the school didn’t already do a background check. No, see I figure we can find someone online that can run him through like secret government databases if we can get his DNA. Then we’d have all the evidence we need to get him canned.”
Zane’s eyes dimmed. “Is that what we’re gonna do to Joy’s sister too?”
“Assuming she even really is Joy’s sister.” Kura said with an accusatory tone. Has anyone seen even a single patch of fur on the woman?”
Tammy facepalmed. “We’re not testing anyone’s DNA, Kura.”
“But I bought the thing!”
Maya raised her hand. “D-does this mean we aren’t going to the open house?”
“No, of course you’re going, that’s like the centerpiece of the entire plan.” said Tammy.
“At least let me do the fingerprints.”
“Fine Kura, do the fingerprints.”
“Sweet!” Kura made a show of snapping open the latches on her toolbox and flipping it open. A number of sectioned trays unfolded as the top opened, revealing various electronic devices, collection equipment, and at least five jars of fingerprint powder to lift from various surfaces.
While Kura was busy reading the instructions on the sides of the jars, Tammy snuck off to the bathroom and pulled out her palmtop. “Mother hen, this is Awesome Chick. The pigs are in the poke.”
“Are we really doing the spy stuff?”
“Duh. It wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t. How many other times have you gotten to be the mastermind?”
There was a long pause before Tink replied with a laugh and, “Okay, you’ve got a point. Alright, Awesome Chick, how’d the rest of the coop and Bad Egg take the plan?”
“Good. Good.” Tammy drew out the second word.
“Something didn’t go smoothly?”
“Kura… may have added some stuff with fake forms and getting fingerprints, and now she’s got a portable crime lab thing, but nothing really out of control per se. The important thing is Kingsbury and Joy’s sister both bit. All we need now is for Miss Brant to sign off on the trips. Are you sure this is going to work?”
Tink made an uncertain sound. “Fifty-fifty. From what you told me, these Generations guys aren’t exactly good at keeping a low profile, so as soon as they hear Kingsbury’s going to be taking you out of the Institute to a place where they don’t allow palmtops or anything that can make a recording, I think they’ll try and make a move.”
“And you’ll be there to take them down.” Tammy finished for her.
“Exactly.” What she didn’t say was that catching some goons from Generations would give her plausible deniability to bring the other Descendants in on the case without Tammy getting upset with her. “Verdancy’s open house is coming up first. Is everyone going on that in on the plan—well the version you supposedly came up with?”
“Yep. Let’s do this.” Tammy grinned.
To Be Continued…