- Liedecker Institute #13 – January Heatwave Part 1
- Liedecker Institute #14 – January Heatwave Part 2
- Liedecker Institute #15 – January Heatwave Part 3
- Liedecker Institute #16 – January Heatwave Part 4
- Liedecker Institute #17 – January Heatwave Part 5
- Liedecker Institute #18 – Fun and Games Part 1
- Liedecker Institute #19 – Fun and Games Part 2
- Liedecker Institute #20 – Fun and Games Part 3
- Liedecker Institute #21 – Dryads Part 1
- Liedecker Institute #22 – Dryads Part 2
- Liedecker Institute #23 – Dryads Part 3
- Liedecker Institute #24: Dryads Part 4
- Liedecker Institute Annual #2
Alvin folded his arms and scowled at the two boys. “So I’ve been hearing something about Kaine and Akagi forming some kind of powered posse to find Miss Blumberg here.”
Any other time, Phineas would snicker at the term ‘powered posse’, but now was not the time, even he knew better than to laugh at the stern security chief. “Well see, what had happened was…”
“Save it. I know enough.” Alvin cut him off. “It I had a say in it, your asses would be mine; I’m talking a couple dozen laps with no powers allowed, then one, two hundred push-ups same deal, followed by you choice of KP or scrubbing down the common rooms in the dorms. In fact, I’m going to strongly suggest all three to Ms. Brant once this is all over.
“Do you have any idea how dangerous what you did is?”
“We were using the buddy system. And Ed’s good luck.” Phineas knew that wasn’t the thing to say even as he was saying it.
Alvin only glared harder. “Once you graduate, I really don’t care if you kill yourself. But right now, while you’re at this school, you’re my responsibility and every time you throw yourself in front of a bullet, that reflects on me—and I don’t appreciate it, got that?”
Phineas nodded nervously.
“And can you stop calling me ‘Ed’?” Eddie asked.
“The same goes for you and all the others, Argent.” Alvin informed him.
By then, Maya had stopped eating. She didn’t turn around the look, but she listened to the entire exchange, which caused her to finally turn her big, pleading eyes on Alvin. “Mr. Warren…” She said in a quiet voice and waited for him to knowledge her. “I-I didn’t mean to get them in trouble.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, Maya.” Alvin assured her. “They got themselves in trouble.” The two boys flinched at his tone.
Authority figures were to be addressed respectfully and never contradicted. This translated over to pretty much any adult still, even though the last few months taught her that many adults were not only wrong, but undeserving of respect. But it was reflex at this point, prime military brat conditioning.
“Yes sir.” She said. Always respected, never contradicted. But gentle correction was still on the table—as long as it was respectful. “But they go themselves in trouble trying to save me. I really don’t want them to get in trouble over me.”
Alvin looked down at that worried face and was forced to heave a sigh. It wasn’t a face whose feelings you hurt. He turned toward the boys. Now there were faces you could yell at. Maybe scream and flee in Phineas’s case.
“Alright. I won’t make any recommendations. This time. But I’m using the secure line to call all your little friends and tell them I’m calling this search off. Tell me who all was involved.”
Eddie hesitated. What was the best thing for him to do? Ratting out his friends, even those he didn’t know very well, didn’t seem right. On the other hand, Alvin had a point about how dangerous this was with those fake agents on the loose. They had all accepted that, but now that Maya was found, it was a risk for nothing.
It rankled him mildly that he’d been robbed of his chance to be the hero, no matter how small that chance actually was. Sure, Kura and Tammy may have used their staggering tandem charisma to con him and the others into it, but he had been enjoying the bit of heroic fantasy.
“…and Joy and Rita.” Eddie came out of his thoughts in time to hear Phineas finish caving like an imploded building. Alvin nodded and headed to the other side of the shop to make his calls. Phineas, in the meantime, caught Eddie staring at him with a disbelieving expression. “What?”
Eddie just continued staring.
“Like Tantrum wasn’t going to tell him anyway.” Phineas folded his arms. “This way, maybe I get a brownie point with the guy for when I actually do something wrong.”
“When, not if.”
“Hey, I hang out with the queens of trouble. It’s definitely ‘when’.”
They were interrupted by a gentle laugh. Lucy had finally gotten through with the customer at the counter and came to stand across the counter from Maya. “If you two are done, I’d like you to meet Maya. Maya, these are two of my favorite regulars: Eddie and Phineas.”
Maya took a good look at both of them for the first time. It was obvious that Phineas was powered, so she was sure Eddie was too, only his power was hidden, like her. She wondered if he was as dangerous as she was.
“Hi.” She said cautiously. It wasn’t fear, it was being careful. Being like her didn’t make them instantly trustworthy anymore than being an adult did. Another hard lesson from life on the run.
“Hey.” Phineas ignored her guarded expression and hopped up on the stool directly beside her, grinning with his murderous looking teeth. Maya didn’t so much as flinch, which made his eyes dim in confusion a second. “Um… so yeah, I’m Micheals, Phineas T. But you can call me Xylem. That’s my code, it means ‘plant’.”
Maya looked perplexed. “No… it doesn’t. It’s one of the tissues that transports water and nutrients in vascular plants.” She looked from Phineas to Lucy, to Eddie. Didn’t everyone know this? From their expressions, she guess not. Her face heated and not from her powers. “I was really interested in biology before… before.”
“I don’t think we’ve gotten to that in our Bio classes.” Eddie stayed standing. He could see how she leaned away from Phineas, how it had nothing to do with how he looked and didn’t want to add to her discomfort. “So are you going to be joining the school?”
That stung her a bit. They had a biology class. They might have gymnastics as a gym elective. She missed those. She missed school. I was a terrible bit of bait, but it couldn’t be anything more than bait, right? Like the Academy. And even if it wasn’t she really shouldn’t be around people.
Hurriedly, she shook her head. “No. I can’t. I’ve got to go.”
With all the tact he was known for, Phineas flared his eyes a few times, the equivalent of rolling them. “Go where? Come on, LI is probably the best place to be for any of us; we’ve got superheroes watching our backs!”
“I’ve got to go.” She repeated and turned back to her food. It was settled in her mind; she would finish and then she would leave.
“Why?” Phineas persisted, leaning on the counter so he was still talking to her face. “Better yet: how? Those goons are on the prowl for you and you can be they’re watching every plane, train and road out of here for you.”
“Dude.” Eddie prodded the plant boy in the shoulder.
“What?” He looked up and Eddie shook his head. Frowning,h e nodded in turn and gestured for the other boy to do something. Neither noticed Lucy smile slightly at the exchange.
Taking a deep breath, Eddie walked around to the other side of her and pointed to the stool. “Mind if I sit here, Maya?”
She shook her head, mouth full of sandwich.
Eddie slid onto the stool and turned to fold his arms up on the counter, not looking at her. “I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like the Academy. Did you go to the Academy?” Another shake of her head. He mirrored the gesture. “Me neither. But we’ve both heard the stories right? The kidnappings, stuff like that?”
This got a nod out of her. At least it was a different reaction.
“Yeah, so see, this place is backed by the Descendants. They’re heroes and more than that, some of our classmates actually got saved from the bad guys by them. And Mr. Liedecker, he’s the guy who owns the place, he’s been a major regular good guy in Mayfield forever.” He drew patterns on the table with a fingertip and listened to Phineas giving Lucy his drink order for a second.
“What I’m trying to say is, if you can trust anybody, it’s LI.”
Maya peeked at him sideways. That was the problem wasn’t it? How did she know she could trust anyone? The Academy had been perfectly ‘trustworthy’ for longer than she’d been alive before being found out. Besides, she had other reasons, so she didn’t need to hurt his feelings by explaining that no, she didn’t trust him.
“That’s okay though.” She only looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “I… I shouldn’t be around people.”
“I don’t want anyone to…” the memory of the cheerful song of the flames surfaced and burst like a soap bubble. “..to get hurt.”
Phineas made a rude sound that a human couldn’t possibly make without life long injury. “Are you serious? You think you’re dangerous? We live with Tantrum over there just down the hall.” He pointed and Maya Looked in time to see the blonde girl by the window look up, big Phineas a baleful glare, then got back to her reading.
“Major weight TK.” He explained, then at her expression, was forced to clarify, “Telekinesis. She moves stuff with her mind and she’s super strong with it. And hey, it’s not just her; Steampunk shoots steam, Tammy lightning, I’ve got thorns, and this kid Joel in the Junior class? Acid saliva. There is no way you’re more dangerous than a guy who needs a glass sneeze-guard, or A girl that can lobster-ize your ass if she pops a seam.”
Maya blinked at the revelation. Despite seeing other descendants on television, she always kind of assumed that she was the only one with any kind of control problem in retrospect, looking at it scientifically, that was silly; descendant mutations were so new and radical, there was very little chance there was any sort of instinct to controlling them.
“But that’s not to say we’re in constant danger.” Eddie cut in with a glare in Phineas’s direction. “Or much danger at all, really. Steampunk has a suit that keeps her from steaming everyone, Joel has his mask. Whatever your issue is, I’m sure they can help you too.”
“I don’t know…” Maya stared down at the empty bowl and empty plate in front of her. That was the biggest meal she’d had in weeks, but she was still hunger. Always hungry. Like the fire. To get her mind off it, she finally looked at Eddie directly. “I shouldn’t…”
He tried to look as reassuring as possible. “Look, maybe you can stay for a little while. At least until they get to the bottom of these guys at are after you. They sound like serious bad news. It’s probably best you don’t know what they accused you of.”
Her eyes lowered. So he knew. They all knew. “It’s true.” She muttered, hoping the stinging in her eyes weren’t tears.
“What?” Phineas breathed.
Lucy paused in delivering his coffee, her face lined with worry. More than ever, she wanted to hug the girl. “Oh Maya…”
No one got to say anything more. The bell above the door rang, drawing Lucy’s eye instinctively.
Coming through the door was none other than the fake FBI agent she had nicknamed ‘Buzz-cut’. He ambled in with a grunt. “Ms. Black, we needed…” He trailed off as he spied Maya. His hand dipped into his suit and drew a heavy weapon. It looked superficially like a revolver, but the cylinder was all one piece and fixed. There was a small LED readout on the back where the hammer would be on a normal firearm.
“Maya Blumberg, you are under arrest for the murder of Mark and Catherine Blumberg. You have the right to remain silent anything–”
“Now hold on here.” Alvin said, putting his phone down so he could go for his weapon. Before he could, the dangerous looking device was trained on him.
“No. You hold on. Hands up.” Buzz-cut ordered. Alvin complied, not knowing what he was up against just yet. Buzz-cut moved quickly to him and took his service weapon out of the holster. Displaying what Alvin recognized as police or military training, Buzz-cut stepped out of grappling range before training his own gun on him while the teched out device was returned to focusing on Maya.
“I’m private security at the Liedecker Institute.” Alvin said plainly. “You don’t have to worry about me, officer… agent?”
“Say what?” Phineas asked, earning a warning glare from Alvin. He understood now what the security chief was trying to do, but pressed on with the gunman nevertheless. “Man, how dumb are you? This place is crawling with descendants. We can kick your ass.”
“Without getting shot?” Buzz-cut sneered at him and moved the device to aim at him.
Phineas just made another rude sound. “Check the vines, dumbass. You know what happens if you shoot a hedge? Nothing, that’s what. Come on and shoot me. Once you’re out of bullets, I’m going to grab that table over there and wing it at your fat head.”
“Micheals.” Alvin scolded.
Buzz-cut laughed. “You think this I’m walking around throwing lead chunks at folks like a monkey? Take another look, freakshow. This is state of the art: fires an ionized blast of air and follows it up with a jolt of current about an eighth as powerful as a lightning bolt. You know what happens when a hedge gets struck by lightning?”
Meanwhile, Eddie was watching Maya. She hadn’t even turned around to face to the gunman. Instead she was hunched over the counter, breathing heavily. When he leaned closer, he could see tears streaming down her face.
“It’s going to be okay, Maya.” He assured her. “I’m good luck.” He went to pat her on the shoulder, but before he even made contact, he felt the heat emanating from her. Smoke was starting to rise.
“No.” She whispered. “It’s not going to be okay.”
The Be Continued…