Liedecker Institute #18 – Fun and Games Part 1

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 2: Student Life

Jada Devos had no complaints when it came to her roommate. The other girl, a freshman as opposed to a sophomore like Jada herself, despite her overly precise mode of speech, was friendly enough and never tried to pry into her personal business. She even lent her help when Jada’s lack of technical prowess threatened to drive her to frustration.

But the best thing about her roommate, the odd girl named Alice Tatopoulos, was her power. Alice’s core temperature was naturally near boiling, and her sweat glands were basically steam vents. She wore special clothes to contain the worst of it, but even with just her head, hands and feet exposed, she kept the humidity in her room at jungle levels.

This suited Jada just fine, as it was the perfect growing environment for her favorite plants. And that was indeed fortunate, as Jada’s power, was something her power creativity teacher called botanical sympathy, or in basic terms, she could communicate with an influence the growth in plants.

The communication part was highly limited. Plants had no senses beyond the ability to detect light, nutrients, growth and damage and thus weren’t the best conversationalists even to those who understood them. The growth part was more interesting, if not as dramatic as people imagined. She could cause a seed to sprout and grow to maturity in about a day of close attention, cause plants to bloom or fruit out of season, and alter the colors and flavors of both. Power creativity class was helping her learn to cause plants to grow structures they normally didn’t, and accelerate growth even more at the expense of the plant’s health.

She didn’t like the last part, she felt bad for the plants, as dumb as they were. They were like immobile dogs in her eyes; not too bright, but largely innocent and endearing.

The other half of her descendant manifestation, she could have lived without. She was a protomorph, starting with her height topping out at four feet, ten inches tall, though thankfully none of her other development was stunted.

On top of being eternally short, her skin had turned red, the color of a dark cherry, except where irregular splotches of black with a lighter red in the center that appeared all over her body. As if to somehow make up for it, her strange skin was extremely resilient. Her once dark, curly hair fell out when she manifested at eleven, but thankfully, it grew back, albeit raven black and ruler straight.

The insult to injury were the horns. They were ribbed and back-swept like an antelope’s. And like a deer, she molted them seasonally. As it was mid-February, she was left with velvety nubs on her forehead.

Like every morning, she got out of bed long after her rigidly regimented roommate was gone, showered, dressed, and watered her plants, checking on each of them to see if any had developed any sort of affliction during the night.

They were healthy, so she turned her attentions to herself. She’d come to terms the she looked strange, and in some cases, off-putting, but, as the poster of Sonja Remington on her wall reminded her daily, this didn’t mean she couldn’t still be pretty.

That was more true at the Institute than anywhere else. Half the students had never gone to a high school that wasn’t full of protomorphs and standards of attractiveness were skewed accordingly.

So she sprayed on some pink hair tint onto the tips of her hair and the velvet of her horns, and used face paint to make the spots on her face more symmetrical. She was in the middle of deciding if she should bother trying to bully her hair into a ponytail when someone knocked on her door.

“Come in.” She said, already knowing who it was because it was the same person every weekend morning.

Shelia Flaherty entered carefully to keep her massive, white wings from scraping the door frame. Wings aside, she looked normal; light brown skin, full bodied, black hair and hazel eyes that always seemed to get a joke you didn’t know had been told. Because her wings could be retracted into her body, she could pass as normal if she wanted.

She never would though. The previous summer, she’d been kidnapped by people that originally ran the Academy. It took intervention by the marines’ Superhuman Intervention Unit to save her and the experienced transformed her into a staunch defender of descendants’ rights. Everyone in the school knew it because in her own words, she would ‘go angel of vengeance’ on anyone she caught using the old term for what they were ‘psionic’. Even staff and teachers were not immune.

“Look outside yet?” she asked. As she spoke, she opened her wings and the room seemed to get slightly darker except for a sun-bright orb of light that appeared between her hands. Like every morning, she went around the room giving Jada’s plants a few moments of sun.

Jada decided to give up on her hair and turned to face her friend. “No, why?”

“Because for once Virginia’s crappy winter weather’s let up.” Sheila tossed the sun-globe from hand to hand. “It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and you’re totally wasting it. We probably won’t see a nice day around here again ’til April.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry I didn’t check the weather while I was unconscious.” Jada rolled her eyes. “So what does your marvelousness plan to do with this beautiful day?”

“No idea. Let’s head out to the park and people watch until something hits us.”

“You just want to scope on girls.”

Sheila snorted in faux offense. “I wouldn’t even thing of such a thing. I am an angel after all.”

“So was Lucifer.” Jada smirked at her friend. “And only he would hammer than ‘angel’ line into the ground as hard as you have.”

“I can’t help how I look.” Sheila shot back. “But anyway, I wasn’t even thinking that way, for real. I just heard someone’s trying to put together an all-descendant baseball game: no powers barred.” She grinned hopefully. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Yeah, if you can fly.” Jada folded her arms. “Not so much for the five-nothing girl who can have a frustrating conversation with center field.”

Sheila pouted and gave her a pleading look. “Oh come on, I need a friend to come with. You know this is going to turn into a clique vs clique thing and I need someone to talk to between at-bats.”

“Why not bring Debbie?”

“Pfft. You know how hard it is to get Gator-girl out of the building, much less of campus. She always thinks people are staring at her, poor thing.”

Jada nodded in sympathy. “Yeah, I was like that back when I first changed. Did you ever got through that?”

“Mine isn’t really the kind of thing people think is the bad kind of weird.” said Sheila, leaning on Steampunk’s desk. “The big thing with me was that I was kind of a pyro for a while there. If it could burn, I’d toss a sun-globe at it. My parents freaked and sent me to counseling for it.”

She formed a second globe, tossed it in the air, then formed a third and started juggling. “It didn’t work out like they expected.”

The spheres of concentrated light reflected in Jada’s eyes, nudging her to take stock of all flammables in the room. “You aren’t still…”

Sheila laughed. “No, but I do love these things. Dangerous, but beautiful. The therapist turned out to know what he was doing. He said that I was just exploring my abilities and suggested they find a way to channel that constructively.”

“How do you channel fireballs constructively?”

“Light, not fire.” Sheila chided.

“You’re the one that called yourself a pyro.”

Sheila made a face at her. “Mostly by distracting me with flight. Up until then, we all thought the wings were just for show, but my mom works at the zoo and asked their bird guy to take a look at them. He said they were functional, but that I couldn’t fly because of some kind of math involved.”

Jada nodded. “The Square-cube Law. I remember that from biology last semester.”

“Yeah, that’s the one. But telling me I couldn’t do something then worked just as good as it does now, so naturally, I fly whenever I get the chance now.”

“So how do you do it?” Jada gave her an askance look. “I mean it’s not like it’s a traffic law, it’s physics. You can’t just give it the finger.”

Smirking, Sheila let her sun-globes dissipate and leaned forward to beep Jada’s nose. “I have no idea and neither do my doctors. They also don’t know where my wings go when I retract them even after watching it on CAT scans.” She hopped back into the center of the room and rolled her wrist as if playing to an invisible crowd. “I, my dear friend, am a genuine miracle of science.”

A rude noise escaped Jada. “Yeah, you and every single other kid here.”

“Which is exactly why I want you to come with me: so I can prove my overwhelming superiority on the diamond. Or, you know, we can sit inside and be bored.”

Jada rolled her eyes. “Fine. But we’re on the same team, you understand? I’m not going to be the runty kid that gets picked last!”

***

Maya Blumberg cringed despite being fully kitted out in a catcher’s pads and mask. They were too big for her, naturally, and so was the glove she was holding up more to shield her face than catch a ball.

“I don’t want to do this.” she squeaked.

Her small voice managed to carry to the pitcher’s mound, where, Rose Abernathy better known as Arkose folded her stony arms and looked did her best to give the frightened girl a sympathetic look with no pupils or irises. “I don’t even want to be here. And this plan is stupid.”

“My plan isn’t stupid! It’s totally great and will make us kick butt!” Kura Akagi hopped up from sitting in the grass.

The credit went to Eddie Argent, who came up with it with his roommate, Phil Simms and Joy Duvall. Those three dragged Arkose into it and Phil had let the idea slip to Tammy Kaine and Kura Akagi over breakfast. The latter spread the idea all over school and also insisted that it be ‘no powers barred’. She and Tammy also brought Steampunk along.

Eddie rubbed his face and pondered how his idea to go to the batting cages had grown so out of control. He also now deeply regretted inviting the skittish-on-a-good-day Maya along.

“Guys, if Arkose can even do this, I don’t see the point of not just letting her pitch.” he said at length.

“Because pitching with super strength is so… so… done.” Kura said firmly. “If we really wanna have fun, we need to do everything as cool as possible.”

“You have to admit it is pretty cool.” Tammy was quick to back her friend up, if only to see if any resultant failure was suitably spectacular.

“It probably won’t even work.” Arkose insisted. She had only agreed originally on the condition that she could just sit and read while the others played. Nowhere along the way had she signed up to lodge a baseball between two adorably frightened green eyes, that remained visible of Maya. Somehow, that made the almost inevitability of injury resulting form this plan all the more unsettling.

“Actually, I think it would work.” said Phil. “As far as I’ve seen with my portals, anything that goes in, comes out at the same speed. So if you throw a baseball through it as hard as you can, it’s come out the same way. But I agree: this looks like a bad idea.”

Eddie looked back on the diamond and reviewed the plan. Phil was to open one of his portals in front of Maya’s glove. Then Arkose, who had never so much as touched a baseball in her life, was to throw one with her considerable strength behind it, directly at Maya, who, he gathered from his first meeting with her, most likely caught fire when faced with mortal danger.

Calling it a bad idea grossly misunderstood how bad an idea it was.

“Okay, maybe the basic idea works, but if she’s supposed to be throwing into the portal, why do you need a catcher? Couldn’t Phil just make the portal in mid-air?”

Phil nodded. “That’s what I said, but..”

“What if she misses? Then we’d have to chase the ball.” Kura was quick with anything to justify her schemes.

Closing his eyes, Eddie tried to center himself and think. At length, he spoke up again. “Okay, but why Maya? Why does she have to be catcher?”

“She’s new. She needs to be included.” This time, it was Tammy propping up the terribly faulty logic.

“I don’t want to be included.” Maya said, her eyes never leaving the ball gripped in Arkose’s stony hand.

Eddie sighed and walked over to her. “It’s okay, Maya. I’ll play catcher.”

“Hey, that’s no fun for her.” Kura protested.

“Taking a hundred mile-an-hour line drive isn’t fun either.” Eddie took the pitcher’s mask off Maya, earning a grateful look from the girl. “At least I’ve got my luck.”

“Yeah, And I think they’re going to need to borrow it, Vegas.”

Everyone looked to find a new group coming around the wooden bleachers. Davian Hightower was dressed all in black; black silk shirt and jeans with a black and silver Mayfield Colossi baseball cap. With him were his girlfriend, Betty ‘Rapunzel’ Sinclair, Annette St. John, who was to her annoyance widely called Tantrum, and Rita Clay Thomas, who to Betty’s annoyance was still occasionally known as The Synesthetic.

Rita was dressed causally in a hoodie and slacks, but the other two girls were inexplicably garbed replicas of Colossi player Juanita Carver-King, the only female player on the team’s current roster save for the name on the back being ‘Rapunzel’ for Betty, and ‘Ineffable’ for Annette. Annette did not look amused at this.

Neither did Kura. “How did you get personalize uniforms so fast?”

Betty scoffed and flipped her hair, which resembled the billowing of a mainsail and didn’t take any movement on her part thanks to her powers. “If you have enough money, you can get anything quickly.”

Kura grabbed Tammy for a quick huddle. “Do we have time to get our own uniforms?”

Tammy raised an eyebrow. “Why don’t you turn the clothes we already have into uniforms?”

A long moment passed as Kura goggled at the fact she hadn’t thought of that. Then, without a word, she gave them both fuchsia uniforms with yellow lettering. Kura’s said ‘Prestigirl’ while Tammy’s read ‘The Arc’, because she hadn’t settled on a name yet (as far as Kura knew). “Ready!” She announced with pride.

The sight of Kura’s garish stab at fashion made Betty’s back straighten and her hair lightened two shades. “For the bargain bin, maybe.”

Kura stuck out her tongue. “We’ll settle this on the gridiron.”

“Diamond.” Tammy corrected.

“Huh?”

“It’s a diamond, not a gridiron. How do you not know that?”

“I’m from Washington. We don’t so sports stuff.” Kura shrugged. “Also, it doesn’t look like a diamond; it looks kind of like a fan.”

“Just look at the bases.” Tammy gestured out at the field.

“But you don’t just play on the bases, you play in the rest too, right? It looks like a fan.”

“Are we late?” Sheila came gliding in over the bleachers and landed on top of them as Kura and Tammy’s conversation continued apace. At the same time, Jada appeared, walking with Jacob and… walking near Phineas.

“Check it out, Ed, I brought upperclassman girls!” Phineas shouted across the diamond, choosing to ignore the fact that the girls had, in point of fact, brought them.

“Wow. We’ve almost got enough people to field a full game.” Eddie noted.

“Fan!” Kura shouted and turned away from Tammy before she could reply. “Anyway, if we’re ready to play, you know what we’ve got to do first right?”

Eddie shrugged. “Figure out where the foul line is?”

Kura scoffed. “I don’t even know what that is. No: we’ve gotta pick teams!”

Back at the bleachers, Sheila didn’t have to look to know that the heat she felt on the side of her face was Jada aiming a death glare her way.

The Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Liedecker Institute #17 – January Heatwave Part 5Liedecker Institute #19 – Fun and Games Part 2 >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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