Liedecker Institute #12: A Very Kura Christmas Part 2

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 1: Meet The Class

Martin Han cycled lazily through preview panels for various TV shows on his computer screen. There didn’t seem to be anything new that was interesting, or anything interesting he hadn’t seen before. Even the sports channel was failing him; covering basketball, football and hockey when he was a baseball and soccer fan.

He had homework to do, but it was before dinner, so seeking entertainment took priority. He also had friends; two out of only five other male members of the Junior class. But he’d see them soon at dinner, so it felt like a waste to try and find them now.

As he passed an old episode of Live Metal, he could swear he heard sleigh bells. Sleigh bells and giggling. Momentarily, he flipped back to see if he’d skipped over a Christmas special or something. He was wondering if it was off of some commercial when someone knocked on his door.

There was no one else in the room, so he answered it himself. He’d been partly expecting his friends, dropping by to collect him for a trek out into town for dinner. Instead, he found Kura Akagi wearing an antler hat and a red nose, Tammy Kaine in a green jean dress with an elf hat and shoes, and a laundry cart (nicked from the gym in the Student Enrichment Center) filled with miniature evergreens.

Martin’s power, described in the most lazy terms (and incidentally the terms used on his student records) was an enhanced visual, aural and olfactory capability. This accurately described his abilities in much the same way ‘pretty painting’ accurately describes Starry Night.

The reality was that Martin could ‘dial’ all three senses up or down, excluding or including specific wavelengths of light, frequencies of sound, or concentrations of fragrance. He generally kept all three just above baseline human to avoid annoyance, but he kept his nose open to the spectrum of human pheromones because scent was a much better judge of mood than body language.

It backfired spectacularly now because Kura’s giddiness and pride cut right past the cloud of pine, spruce and warm, spiced apple scents to hit him right in the sinuses like an icepick forged entirely out of wasabi.

Kura paid no attention to his coughing. In one hand, she jingled a set of sleigh bells in greeting, and with the other, she consulted an index card. “Room 323… Hi, DJ Payne or Martin Han!”

His senses finally settled down, Martin gave them both a puzzled look. He’d seen them around school and like everyone, was well aware of their reputation. That made the cart full of trees mildly sinister. “Yes?” He ventured.

“Your name is so cool by the way.” Kura said with a grin. “Is that seriously your real name? Because if it is, we need to set you up with hairball’s friend, the one that does the light show thing when there’s music?”

It finally clicked with Martin what she was talking about. “I’m not DJ, I’m Martin. What do you want?”

“Oh.” Kura’s mood dipped a tiny bit. “Oh, well then. Your name’s kinda boring then.”

“Trees! We’re giving out Christmas trees for everyone to decorate and bring to the party!” Tammy interjected, producing a printed flier from her dress pocket. It had a metallic green tree on it with the words ‘First Annual LI Holiday Tree Festival’ at the top and day and time information at the bottom. It made no effort whatsoever to explain anything else.

That wasn’t a problem because once started, the pair were a juggernaut of exposition.

“The rules are,” Kura cut in before Tammy was even done handing over the flier, “You’ve gotta decorate the tree to get in: that’s your invitation, see?”

“But,” Tammy picked up for her, “It doesn’t have to be a Christmas tree. It just has to be decorated, so you can put up decorations for another holiday, or… well anything; your favorite football team, or your hobby or whatever.”

“You get extra points if it tells people something about you.” Kura added.

“Except there’s no points.” Tammy clarified.

“But I will be keeping score.” said Kura.

“Anyway, at the end of the party, we vote on the trees for things like ‘best’ and ‘funniest’ and If you win, you get prizes. Plus, you know, we get to have a party. Sound good?”

It did, actually. Martin couldn’t help but start thinking of what he’d do with his tree. Still, there was the matter of their reputation as tricksters. “What’s the catch?”

“Catch?” Kura huffed. “What do ya mean by that?”

“You know what I mean,” Martin beat Kura out in height and weight by a good bit, but was pretty sure that Tammy could take him, provided he was busy with Kura, so he didn’t put any antagonism into making the point. “Like how you glued Tantrum’s room shut, or express shipped Rapunzel all those lab dissection frogs?

“So what happens here? We all meet where the flier says and you set off a security alert or just plain call the cops on us?”

Kura made a sound not unlike a hen who has been goosed. “Hey! First of all, those were really, really funny. Except, I thought they shipped the frogs live, so that one wasn’t as funny as I wanted. And second… um… it’s not a trick?”

“We wouldn’t do that.” Tammy defended both of them. “Tantrum and the hairball deserve it for being jerks, but what’ve you done to make us mad? Nothing, as far as I know. And if you did, you shouldn’t tell us, because then we will get you for it. But anyway, we’re serious: we want to start a tradition!”

“Plus, we’re official.” Kura said haughtily.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“We asked Ms. Brant.” Kura folded her arms as if she’d just got done appealing to a higher authority. “She said it was a great idea and that she’d been hoping some students would come up with something like this.”

“She also said she was proud to see us using our powers for good instead of evil.” added Tammy. “We also asked Ms. Carroll and she said as long as we were paying for the refreshments and didn’t do anything to get arrested or sent to the hospital, she didn’t care what we did.”

“Best student life… whatever she is… ever.” Kura grinned. “So are you in? Because if you join now and take your tree, we’ll give you a mug of hot cider!” She made the card disappear somehow and reached into the back of the cart to retrieve a huge thermos and bag of disposable cups.

Without waiting for a reply, she threw the bells around her neck, opened the thermos and poured a cup of the steaming liquid.

“You probably don’t want it.” Tammy made a face. “She puts cayenne pepper in so she’s the only one that can drink it on account of her powers to change how things taste. That way, she gets to drink it all.”

“That’s totally not why I do it!” said Kura. “The guy on Delicious Grub puts cayenne pepper in his.”

“A pinch.” scolded Tammy.

“They don’t make ‘pinch spoons’, okay? Besides, it’s tasty without my powers, you’re just being a wuss.” She stuck her tongue out at her friend.

“Can I just get my tree now?” Martin asked.


As with any high school, the staff found themselves hard pressed to keep the students (or themselves) focused on class instead of the upcoming vacation and holiday.

The administration and security personnel were a special case because LI’s first winter break came with its own unique and untested logistical issues:

Three students, including Alice “Steampunk” Tatopoulos and Annette St. John, had nowhere else to go and would be staying over the break. Added to that, another score or so families would be taking the up the Institute on Vincent Liedecker’s offer to fly them to Mayfield and set them up in a hotel so they could be together while still be within reach of expert security help (and the Descendants) if they needed it; they would be in and out of the Institute throughout the break.

None of the students gave any of this much thought. For them, all that mattered was the break and before that, the party.

Kura and Tammy’s idea had spread virally through the student body. Almost everyone thought the idea was at least interesting, if not fun and there had been a sudden run on art supplies as everyone set to work personalizing their little tree.

Some were on display outside of people’s rooms. Kura’s own technicolor chaos, for example, was proudly displayed in a small pot of water atop a folding chair. It wafted the smell of freshly baked gingerbread up and down the hall.

She wasn’t the only one to use her powers either: Jada Devos, a sophomore who had the ability to communicate with and alter the growth of plants was often seen carrying her tree around with her. Through unknown processes, it had been coaxed into growing sweet smelling, red and green fruit with markings that looked suspiciously like doves and snowflakes.

Other trees were top secret. Eddie Argent had swiped a hot glue gun, a few blocks of modeling clay, and a sheaf of colored foil sheets from the art room and neither the materials, nor his tree had been seen again.

Even Betty, who initially and loudly derided the whole idea hadn’t exactly thrown her tree away. Rumor had it that she’d been seen in town visiting a boutique for designer holiday decorations.

And surprising everyone, Steampunk was working on her tree was well, albeit while bombarding Tammy, Kura and Laurel all with questions about increasingly esoteric concepts about self expression and the ‘rules’ of the tree decorating contest. She also sampled many different materials, from ceramics to glitter.

If knowledge of the competition was the only deciding factor, Phineas and Jacob would have won hands down: a non-stop parade of girls from freshmen to seniors spent a disproportionate amount of time asking Jacob what he thought of their work so far or inviting him to go somewhere private and work on their trees together.

Somehow, Jacob always managed to make an excuse without hurting any feelings. This seemed to Phineas a complete waste of opportunity and if he was in the room when it happened, he made sure the girl knew that he was available for tree decorating.

None of the girls seemed as adept as Jacob in the art of the graceful rejection. Luckily, this didn’t hurt Phineas’s feelings any because he was a firm believer in the school of through that the pursuit was half the fun.

This was probably why he adapted the idea with much waggling of his leafy brow in asking Betty if she wanted to ‘decorate trees’ together (air quotes provided both from inflection and by him actually performing air quotes when asking). And this certainly led to Hightower replying on her behalf. And this in turn led to Hightower having a report on the history of one of the featured words in his tirade due before break when he failed to make sure none of the staff was listening.


December 19 was the last day of classes at LI and the day of the party. Friday, the day after was set aside so that anyone leaving would have time to pack and be with their family while still being able to get out of town before the weekend.

The morning of the nineteenth, the tree arrived. Kura woke Tammy up at an ungodly hour to go and meet the delivery crew, but the tree had been erected and the crew gone even before they arrived. They weren’t disappointed in the least.

The tree for the party replaced the regular tree that had graced the lobby for the past two weeks. That had been a regular ten foot spruce. Now, there was a twenty-two foot white pine that threatened even the raised ceiling of the LI lobby.

“Wow.” Kura breathed, her mind’s eye already dousing it with flocking, showering it with tinsel, and weighing it down with ornaments.

A wide grin broke out on Tammy’s face. “This is so beyond cool. It’s prodigious. We asked for a big-ass tree and check it out! They gave us the biggest tree this side of Rockefeller Center!”

“Prodigious? Sounds like Our school here is doing a fine job, Ms. Carroll.” Vincent Liedecker stepped from around the far side of the tree, eyes fixed on it and his tone vaguely distracted as he inspected the tree. “Remind me to give the English teachers something special with their Christmas bonus.”

Ms. Carroll. Tammy didn’t like the SLC one bit. She always got the impression that she’d looked at the woman funny at some point and that Carroll was always on watch for her to do it again.

“She didn’t learn that in school.” Kura giggled like she found that possibility completely silly. “Bliss Carpathia says it all the time on Imago. It means really awesome. Like shiny.”

“I don’t even watch Imago.” Tammy said automatically. “I read it… somewhere and thought it sounded like a fun word.

“Your brother watches it. You probably heard it from him.” Kura refused to believe that anything other than pop culture could make new words. To her, if neologism didn’t have something to do with trademark law, it was probably a stupid word anyway.

Liedecker chuckled and took off his examination of the tree, turning to face them fully. His seemingly sole concession to the season when it came to his style of dress was a Santa Claus pin on his lapel. “Ya’ll must be the girls that came up with all this then. What do you think of this little yule log we’ve got here?”

Kura was off like a shot, getting a running start so that she was moving at a pretty good clip when she floated off the ground. She fell into a slowly rising orbit around the tree, all smiles as she took the whole thing in. “This. Is Great! Exactly what I imagined!”

Tammy too hurried over, but she had enough manners to address Liedecker instead of ignoring him for a plant. “Thank you very much, Mr. Liedecker.” She was careful not to catch Ms. Carroll’s eye.

“Nothing I shouldn’t have done without getting the memo about what you two were doing.” Liedecker replied. “It didn’t even cross my mind we didn’t provide for anything like this already. Can’t have a school where you don’t get dances or parties.”

He raised an eyebrow to MS. Carroll. “Take a note, Ms. Carroll; Student Life needs to be on top of this. When I was in school, by this time, we would’ve already had something for Halloween and Homecoming. Can’t do nothing about that now, but next semester, make sure they get all the usual ones at least.”

Ms. Carroll shot him a glare that no one should ever direct at their employer where they can be seen and tightened her jaw more than it already was. “They seem to be doing that for themselves.” She observed. “Why don’t we just let these two for a party committee or something?”

There was no warning, aside from a Doppler ‘eeeee’ from above. Kura, who had been floating above, simply stopped flying and dropped directly onto the Student Life Coordinator, throwing her arms around her in an overjoyed hug.

Tammy was shocked by the grace and flexibility with which Ms. Carroll took the sudden addition of Kura’s weight. Instead of falling over as would be expected, she performed an amazingly athletic back-bend, corrected her balance, and came back up with Kura draped around her neck.

“Really?” Kura asked. “This is going to be the best thing! I had this great idea for President’s Day, and Valentine’s… and we need to do a spring thing too…”

Liedecker watched the whole thing, openly amused. “I think we might ant to start with the basics: Valentines, Spring Formal… after that we’ll talk. I’m appointing you staff adviser to the new student activity committee, Ms. Carroll.”

For the first time since she’d started attending LI, Tammy saw Ms. Carroll blink.

To Be Concluded in Liedecker Institute Annual #1

Series Navigation<< Liedecker Institute #11: A Very Kura Christmas Part 1Liedecker Institute Annual #1 >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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