- 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
“Why are we choosing teams?” Eddie asked, already well aware of the futility of arguing logically with Kura. “We already have a team. And if those two play on Betty’s team, so do they.”
Sheila glanced at the two sides and quickly found that she and Jada were the only non-freshmen in the group. That wasn’t much of a surprise; the freshman class outnumbered the other three combined. Because of how small the classes were, the line between them was blurred and people took friends where they could find them. There was still something to be said about hanging out with people her own age, but she wasn’t about to argue.
“No!” Kura insisted. “That’s the way you’re supposed to do it: two captains and they take turns picking sides. It’s more fun that way.” She pointed at Betty. “Me and the hairball will be team captains, ’cause we hate each other and that makes winning or losing more important.”
Betty was sued to being called hairball by then and her hair only lightened slightly ti indicate her discontent. Instead, she crossed her arms and casually examined her nails. As much as she hated Kura, she knew the girl well after months of butting heads. She was sure she could play Kura’s proclivities to her advantage and humiliate her at the game.
“That’s actually not a stupid idea. I’m in. And I’ll even let you go first.”
“Okay, I pick Tantrum!”
A laugh started to escape Betty before she processed what Kura just said. Her hair rippled as she snapped her head up to stare at her high school nemesis. “You what?!” Beside her, Annette was cursing softly in French.
“I pick Tantrum.” Kura said.
“But what about your little friends?” Betty asked too quickly to be casual. “You’re really going to pass them over for her? You don’t’ even like her.”
“Who said anything about like? Tantrum has telekinesis. She can catch balls like it was nothing. We are playing to win, right?” Kura’s face made her disappointment in Betty’s lack of competitive thinking clear.
Betty glared and pointed at Tammy with a heavy braid. “Fine, then I’ll take your friend. She can shoot the ball down.”
“I can?” Tammy asked.
Hightower gave her a sidelong look. “Are you sure you don’t want to pick me first, babe? I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only one’s here who’s actually played baseball before.”
“No take backs.” Kura said quickly. “But you’re so right. I pick Hightower too.” Betty’s hair went white with rage, but Kura was quick to step in. “Playing to win, right?”
“Right!” Betty’s braid whipped around so hard that it made a cracking sound in air as he reoriented on Eddie. “And that was my strategy the whole time. I’m choosing Vegas and with his luck, it doesn’t matter what kind of mind tricks you try on me, you’re stilling to lose!”
Eddie decided not to bother pointing out how it didn’t work like that. While Kura worked on her own logic, Betty simply didn’t care.
At the same time, Tammy trotted over to Betty’s side of the field, hands in her pockets. “If that was your strategy, why was I your first pick then?”
“Element of surprise.” Betty snapped. “Shut up.”
Kura tapped her lip with one finger as she observed the remaining choices before pointing to Sheila. “You… um, I don’t know your name. You can fly, I want you on my team.”
“It’s Sheila.” The winged girl said. “Someone called me Sunsoul before. It’s cool if you want to use that, but I’m not big on the codes thing.”
“Sweet. Welcome aboard, Wing-girl.”
The picking went back and forth. Eventually, Kura’s team consisted of herself, Annette, Hightower, Sheila, Joy, Phineas, and Steampunk while Betty had chosen Tammy, Eddie, Jacob, Rita, Arkose and Phil.
Much to Jada’s annoyance, that left herself and Maya to come under Kura’s surprisingly tactically minded eye. This was exactly the reason she didn’t want to play in the first place. She’d always been a runt of her class, even before her powers kicked in, constantly picked last or just plain left out. Now, not only was she still the runt (even Maya was taller than she was), but her powers were useless in baseball.
Kura strutted in front of them like a general reviewing her troops, all ‘hmm’s’ and other noises she thought sounded speculative.
“Get on with it!” Betty barked. “I want to be done humiliating you in time for a late lunch at Merci.”
Despite not giving any indication that she heard of cared about Betty’s taunt, Kura suddenly rounded on Maya, causing the girl to cringe and a wisp of smoke to rise from your hair. “Okay, so what do you do?”
Maya didn’t relax, but she did look confused. “But I already told you.” She said in a wavering voice. “I smoke when I’m upset and… I can sense fire?” Kura never asked after everything she could do. Kura asked almost daily, but never pressed past that. She couldn’t decide whether Kura didn’t believe her, or just didn’t want it to be true.
Kura sighed. “Are you sure?” Maya nodded meekly. “Okay, red girl, you’re in. That means you’ve got Maya, hairball.”
Betty’s mouth tightened into a thin line. “Today is the last day you get to call me that, Akagi.”
A too-sweet smile came to Kura’s face. “If you can beat us, I promise not to bother you all next week. No names, no pranks—I won’t even get near you.”
“That sounds like a bet.” Betty’s hair darkened at the mere thought of a week with no Kura. “And what do you get out of this.”
It was meant to be a boast, so Kura hadn’t thought that far ahead. Luckily for her, she had Tammy and opposite teams or not, Tammy was her partner in crime, especially when it came to harassing Betty.
“Oh! I know! Betty, if we win, you but us all lunch at that Mercy place.”
“It’s pronounced Merci.” Betty said, thinking.
“Whatever. If you eat there, it’s stupid expensive, and there’s more than a dozen of us. Plus, you know we’re going to embarrass you.” Tammy grinned with all the malevolence in her mind.
“As is Akagi could ever beat me at anything.” Betty finally concluded before nodding to Kura, “You’re on.”
Betty’s team got first at bat because Kura got first pick for teams. Kura insisted Annette pitch and assured her cooperation by taking the catcher position so the Annette had the satisfaction to throwing the ball at her.
Jada was placed at shortstop and Sheila, who was covering the entire outfield with Hightower, stuck near her so they could talk.
“Are we having fun yet?” Jada asked flatly.
“What’s not to like?” Sheila asked, fluffing her wings, “Fresh air, good friends…”
“We don’t really know any of these kids.”
“You room with Steampunk.”
“Do you have any idea how little the girl talks? And when she does, it’s… weird. I asked her where she was from, and she told me that she was found at ‘Site GPII Alpha’. I don’t even know what that means.”
Sheila readied herself to fly as Betty herself stepped up to take the first at bat. A large portion of her hair had braided itself together and gripped a bat tight within its tresses.
“I’ve talked to her some. Seems like a nice enough girl. And Kura and Tammy did come up with that fun party idea at Christmas. Maybe there’s not our friends yet, but hey, lets give the kids a chance.”
Annette surrounded the ball in a field of purple psychokinetic energy and lifted it about a foot above her hand with an uncertain look in her eyes. Her specialty was brute force and it took a huge amount of concentration to lift and hold it steady without crushing it.
With great care, she maneuvered it in front of her and then lashed out with a burst of her power to push it forcefully toward home plate. The residual energy blasted out in a circle around her, kicking up a cloud of dust.
Betty swung mightily, her braid acting as a muscle as large as her entire body. The bat made contact with a resounding crack and sent the ball right back in Annette’s direction with a shallow upward angle. It trailed a tail of dust behind on its way to second base where Phineas was waiting for it.
The plant boy uncoiled the vines making up his legs and was rewarded by lifting himself ten feet higher, directly in the path of the ball. It hit him in the chest and got lost in the knots of leaves and vines.
“Out!” He shouted as his legs rewound themselves into their usual shapes.
“I can’t be out, I knocked it right through you!” Betty argued, oblivious to how that sounded.
Phineas laughed contemptuously and pulled the ball from where it was stuck where one of his lungs would have been if he hadn’t manifested into a patch of humanoid undergrowth. “Sorry, Rapunzel, but you’re not that strong.”
Sheila nudged Jada. “You can’t tell me that wasn’t cool.”
“The first part, with the pitch.” said Jada, “But the baseball in the chest just looked scary.”
“Hey, do you think your powers work on the plant kid?” That question had popped up in her head before, having seen Phineas around at school before, but she never got around to asking.
Jada got a disgusted look on her face. “I don’t know and I really don’t plan to find out. That’s terrible, Sheila.”
“How is it terrible? As far as I know there’s no one in the world whose powers let them make someone else’s powers stronger. I’d think he’d be overjoyed if you could.”
Arkose was next up to bat. She only knew the bare minimum about baseball, gleaned from occasionally seeing clips on TV. It was the only reason she didn’t hold the bat like a shinai.
On the mound, Annette found herself fascinated by her previous pitch and was looking to experiment. This time, she floated the ball directly in front of her and attempted a directed manifestation of her power, controlled by thrusting an open palm toward the ball.
It flew true, but with much less speed. It didn’t matter though, because Arkose took too much time watching it’s flight and took a strike without swinging.
“You’re looking at it the wrong way, Sheila.” Jada explained. “I wouldn’t be boosting his powers, I’d be making him grow new… plant stuff. Imagine if someone had to power to make you grow an extra arm or kidney? Wouldn’t that be the stuff horror movies are made of?”
“I think I’ve seen that one. I think the bad guy was a vampire or something.” She did a terrible imitation of an elderly German man, “Flesh sculpting ist mein art! You vill make de most vondervul masterpiece.”
“Head’s up!” Kura shouted from behind home plate.
For all her strength and training, Arkose wasn’t good with a bat. She clipped the ball into a bouncing grounder to shortstop.
Jada looked up in time to see the ball skip of the ground and come flying toward her head. “Gah!” Her hands came up and to her shock, she caught the ball neatly, several inched from a collision with her chin.
Stress laughter bubbled inside her and she showed it to Sheila. “Hey! I caught it! Would have thought.”
“Good.” Said Sheila, hurriedly. “Now throw to first.”
“Oh, right.” Jada turned and threw the ball for all she was worth. Consequently, she didn’t think much of her worth when it reached its maximum height just feet from her and started it’s trip back to earth.
Something flashed past and it took her a second to realize that Hightower had flown down and caught it. He came up with an athletic twist and fired the all off to Steampunk without delay. At first, it didn’t look like the quiet blonde even noticed the quarter-ton girl made of rocks bearing down on her, much less the ball.
But just as it passed her, one gloved hand came up into its path to intercept. The second it was secure, she stepped sideways onto the base without a single wasted motion. And she didn’t even flinch as Arkose coasted to a stop in front of her.
“According to the rules, you are now out.” She said in an even voice.
“Davian!” Betty howled from the bleachers that served as a dugout. “Why are you helping them!?” Her hair had gone completely white now, all the way to the roots.
“Sorry, babe.” Hightower shrugged. “You know me, I’m not about to lose no matter what team I’m on.”
Jada glanced over to her friend to see Sheila looking impressed by the play. It seemed as good a chance as any to change the subject away from the uncomfortable. “Looks like some of us don’t even need our powers to compete.”
Sheila only nodded and turned to watch Eddie come up to bat. Annette was starting to get into her role now and added a flourish with her arms as she launched the ball with a psychic thrust.
Eddie swung. The bat connected. And the ball hit a high arc that even Hightower couldn’t intercept on it’s way into the woods on the edge of the field.
“Then again…” Jada corrected herself over the sound of a now raven-tressed Betty celebrating.
To Be Continued…