Liedecker Institute #2: Meet the Class Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 1: Meet The Class

“Oh come on, what’s wrong with the zoo? Zoos are fun.” Kura Akagi pulled the official Mayfield Chamber of Commerce tourism brochure over to her side of the table. Of obvious Japanese descent, she was slightly plump with feathered hair that was pulled back and clipped into a trio of ponytails that hung to the middle of her back while two locks were allowed to hang down around her round, cheerful face.

“Don’t you think it’s a little too… ‘kid stuff’ for high school freshmen?” Tammy Kaine didn’t sound exactly sure of this assessment herself. She had reddish brown hair and her athletic frame topped five eight thanks to a summer growth spurt. “Besides, I want plenty of time to get over to Westmoreland Plaza and go to the place my brother and his friends hang out all the time.”

“How great could the place be?” Kura made a face, “They called it ‘The Dungeon’.”

“Trust me, I’ve been there.” Tammy giggled.

“Okay, but the El train goes right by there. We can go there and the zoo easily. Oh, and we need, need, need to find a place that does good pizza. I don’t care what else we do today, I’ve gotta get a steady source of cheese.”

“I’ll make you a deal; I’ll help you find a pizza place if you help me find a comic shop.” Tammy pulled the brochure back to her side.

“Comics? Why look? That’s what the internet is for… if you’re into that kinda thing.” Kura wrinkled her nose.

“Have you read any?” Tammy challenged. Kura shrugged. “We’ve got to fix that. My brother let me read all his collection and some of them are way shiny. And he always says that getting the paper version is a lot better read than the ones you can get online and read off a screen.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.” The dark haired girl leaned over the table to get a better look at the brochure, in the process accidentally whipping three streamers of hair into Tammy’s face. “Nice! There’s a bakery like a block from here! Pie!”

“We haven’t been here a whole day and you two are already trying to get out? Damn.” Phineas plopped himself into the seat beside Tammy and gave both girls a nettle-toothed grin. Phil and Steampunk remained on their feet, looking unsure.

“Hey, Finny!” Kura said happily. “I didn’t know you were gonna come here, especially with your mom being all…” She made a face.

“You know him?” Tammy asked.

“Oh yeah, Finny, this is Tammy. She’s my suitemate and she’s really cool. Tammy, this is Finny.”

“I met him yesterday.” Tammy waved nonetheless.

“Can you stop calling me Finny?” Phineas seemed to know how futile that request was.

Kura steamrolled right over the question. “There’s people following you, Finny.” She gave Phil and Steampunk quizzical glances.

“Oh. Right.” Phineas looked back at his two companions. “Sit down, guys. Kura Akagi, Tammy King,”

“Tammy Kaine.” Corrected the same.

“Kaine. Sorry. These are Phil and uh… Steampunk.”

“I am Alice Tatopoulos.” Steampunk informed the uninitiated. “But I am also referred to as Steampunk. You may address me with either, but my preference is Steampunk.” She made no move to sit down while Phil quietly took the seat next to Kura. “I am to interact with you, but first, I must receive nourishment and hydration. I will return.”

Kura and Tammy watched her go and then turned twin confused looks on Phineas. “Yeah, she’s… Okay, she’s really, really weird, but I’m a plant, so glass houses.”

“I like her.” Kura declared. “She’s like a robot or an alien. She’s even dressed in a space suit… or something. We need to keep her in the group.”

“What group?” Phil finally spoke.

“Our group of friends, duh.” Kura looked at him as if that was the first time she saw him. Without warning, she threw an arm over his shoulder, nearly pulling him out of his seat. “Hey Phil, we haven’t met.”

It took almost a full minute for Phil to get his breath and senses back in order. It wasn’t that Kura was a big girl or particularly strong—she was neither, standing five feet one in shoes—but she apparently made up for it in density. “Urk—Yeah, hi.” He managed. “I’m Phil, Phil Simms.”

This seemed enough to get Kura off him, at least physically. “Cool, got a code?”

Phil shook his head. “I didn’t know I needed one until about ten minutes ago. What about you two?”

Tammy bit her tongue. ‘Spark’ was out of the question if she ever wanted to use it as her heroic identity again and that had only just occurred to her the day before. Instead, she shrugged. “Don’t have one yet, I’m trying to come up with a really cool one that goes with my powers.”

“I’m Presti-girl!” Kura announced. When no one reacted to this, she added, “Like presto? Prestidti… prestidigitation. That’s it. It’s Greek or something for magic.” She rapped her knuckles on the table and changed it from a faux wood finish to stark white. “Which I kinda am.”

“You’re more of a showoff.” Tammy stuck her tongue out at the other girl.

Phineas snickered at this. “That really would be a pretty good name for you, Kura.”

“I said I’m Presti-girl.” Kura maintained with a sniff. “I’ve got it as my screen name and everything. So, what do you do, Phil?”

As Phil gave the trio a demonstration, Steampunk returned to the table with absolutely no fanfare and set down a tray containing a modest serving of sausage, eggs and toast and no fewer than six bottles of water. Without a word, or even a glance at the others, she opened a bottle and drained it without pause, reaching for a second the moment the first was dry.

“Jeez, now I know why they call you Steampunk.” Tammy remarked. “Drink all of those and water’s going to be coming out of your ears.”

That earned Steampunk’s odd, analytical attention. The girl’s dark eyes seemed to dissect Tammy with a glance before she spoke. “It is expelled through my pores, actually. At temperatures exceeding two hundred and thirty degrees. That is the reason for the designation: ‘Steampunk’.”

“What, seriously?” Tammy goggled. “That’s your power? It that what that creepy getup is for?”

Steampunk nodded stiffly and displayed her arm, specifically the metal stud nozzle. “The regulator suit allows me to monitor and control. Without it, I would emit a continual cloud of damaging steam and dehydrate within two hours and thirty six minutes.” She turned the nozzle and allowed a quick jet of steam into the air. “I must still remain well hydrated, but the suit allows me to put the steam I generate to work.”

“As in you can scald the crap out of people.” Phineas said, and then cringed, “Or steam vegetables.”

The alien gaze fell on him now. “The regulator suit is designed to protect others from scalding as well as regulate my level of hydration.”

“Uh… I think he means to ask how exactly you put your steam to work.” Phil prompted.

“The steam my body generates can be harnessed for any purpose the steam generated by a conventional boiler. I have endeavored to design devices to take advantage of this, but lack of resources has so far prevented the fabrication of such.”

“Huh.” Phil says. “So you plan to build real life… well, steampunk inventions and power them yourself?”

“I’ve heard of that!” Tammy cut in. “You have to make like a grappling hook gun. Those things are the coolest.”

Steampunk cocked her head quizzically. “What purpose would such a device serve?”

“Duh.” Kura took up Tammy’s case. “You’d be able to shoot grappling hooks and swing around all over the city!”

“You can buy one of those at an outdoor supply.” Phineas pointed out. “And they don’t work that way. You can’t just hook a building whenever you want to.”

“You could if you had a badass steam powered one.” Tammy insisted.

“Hey, wait a minute; you guys got me off topic.” Kura said. She pointed at Phil. “We need a name for him.”

“Really, Phil’s fine.” Phil held up his hands defensively.

“And Tammy doesn’t have a code either.” Phineas added.

Kura pouted. “Aw, come on, there’s gotta be a good name you’d want.”

Phil fidgeted in his seat. “Look, I don’t think it’s really that important and I’ve already been through this before with Hightower and Rapunzel—“

A switch seemed to go on in Kura’s head and once again, her train of thought seamlessly jumped tracks. “Betty.” She said sourly. “God, I hate that hairball. She’s such a bitch. What’d she do to you?”

Not used to Kura’s mayfly attention span, Phil had to think fast to catch up but wasn’t quite fast enough to know to shut up. “Nothing much. She and Hightower just made fun of my powers and she called me ‘Packrat’, which isn’t—“

Before he could get anymore out, Kura’s arm was around his neck again and this time, only putting out his free arm kept his head from meeting the table. “That sucks, Phil…. Actually Packrat’s a pretty good name, I think—but still. Sucks. And she’s not gonna get away with it.”

“Do I smell a scheme cooking?” Phineas asked hopefully.

“I’m already in.” Tammy volunteered. “Kura and my roommate both have already told me about how Betty was queen of the class at the Academy and that’s not gonna happen here if I can help it.”

“And Phil and Steampunk are in too.” Kura decided, much to the obvious surprise of Phil and the seeming indifference of Steampunk. “But, ya know, first, I really do want to go to the zoo.”

***

The central building of the Liedecker Institute was the Student Life Building; the main building, housing the cafeteria, library, computer lab and two rec rooms on the ground floor and the boys and girls wings of dormitories on the four upper floors.

Glassed in walkways connected the Student Life Building to the Administration Building which housed the classrooms, administrative offices, and auditorium. Aside from a few maintenance and security installations, the other major building was the Student Enrichment Center, home to the large multipurpose rooms that would eventually play host to art and music classes as well as facilities for a number of sports. It was separated from the main building by a wide lawn that was more of a park with its trees, walkways and ornamental fountain.

Of middling height and build, with short, light brown hair and the barest beginning scruff of what might eventually resemble a goatee on his chin; Eddie Argent was currently navigating the lawn with an apple in one hand and the map of the grounds from his orientation pack in the other.

He’d awakened around elven to an absent roommate and after a quick shower, had committed himself to familiarizing himself with the terrain. The main building had taken an hour and a half by itself thanks to a detour to the cafeteria to get the apple and a disproportionate amount of time practicing trick shots alone at a pool table in the rec room.

The school felt empty, even accounting for the tiny inaugural class. He chalked that up to most people still settling in and not venturing out or socializing just yet. Here and there was proof that he was not alone; an older boy and girl pair with similar mottled purple-red skin and horns sprouting from shoulders and temples were sitting on the edge of the fountain, talking excitedly. Above, a black girl with massive, white wings did an experimental loop in the air.

Eddie smiled and continued on. He’d never been around other kids that much outside of public school. He was an only child and both his parents worked, so he’d grown up used to making his own fun when necessary. This wasn’t to say he wasn’t looking to make friends.

He finished the apple just as he reached the enrichment center and pitched the core in the direction of the trash receptacle there. It went through the hole there without touching the sides. Eddie smiled again.

The map of the enrichment center was by far the most complicated of the entire institute; five stories high, with two basements and it was absolutely sprawling to boot. There were two pools, a basketball court, a boxing ring, a karate dojo, two weight rooms; one for normal equipment, one outfitted with specialized equipment for super strong students and those with unique anatomies; a handball court, and a room to itself for gymnastics. That was before one even got around to the multipurpose rooms and supply closets.

Eddie stopped in the main hall and closed his eyes. One place to start was as good as any, he decided and started off in first the direction that caught his fancy. He soon found himself standing outside the dojo.

It figured that he’d end up there, he thought. After all, one of the classes he’d been enthusiastic about signing up for was self defense. He pushed open the door to get a look at his future classroom.

The place looked like any other classroom for martial arts; starkly appointed with a floor spanning mat and a shelf along the back wall for holding various supplies needed for a given session. The girl made of stone practicing kata with a shinai, however, was something unique to a school for psionics.

Eddie hadn’t even met another psionic in person before move in day, and seeing the winged girl, or the twins with spikes, or the guy made of vines and leaves from afar hadn’t really prepared him for a sudden encounter with Rose Abernathy. Even when she noticed him and stopped her practiced swings with the wooden sword, he had a hard time not staring.

“Uh… hi.” He finally said, putting on a straight face.

“Hi.” Rose said, trying to keep her voice’s characteristic hollow and gravelly qualities in check.

“Sorry to interrupt you practice. I was just having a look around. I’m Eddie, by the way. Eddie Argent, from Vegas.” There was nothing, he’d found in his short time at the Institute, that broke the ice for him better than the simple mention of his home town. Everyone had questions and opinions.

Except, apparently, Rose Abernathy. She instead, wondered why he felt the need to drop that part into his introduction and gave him an odd look for it. “I’m Rose Abernathy. From Sedona. I’m going by Arkose here though.”

The odd look didn’t put Eddie off a bit. Instead he smiled. “What’s Arkose mean?” He ventured.

“It’s a kind of rock.” Arkose said flatly and returned to her kata albeit with slower, more deliberate swings. “As you can imagine, I don’t feel much like a Rose any more.”

“Oh.” Eddie carefully folded his map and tucked it in his jeans pocket. Folding both hands behind his head, he leaned back against the wall. “So you were at the Academy before?”

“For a little bit.” Arkose bought the shinai down harder now. “Until it turned out that they wanted me for a lab rat.”

“Kind of glad I dodged that bullet.” Eddie said. “I was actually trying to get my mom to send me the day the whole Redeemer thing came out. Heh, kind of got egg on my face there.”

“So how did you manage to convince them to let you come here then?” Arkose kept her eye on her shinai the entire time.

“As it happens, the guy in the apartment across from us gets the Mayfield Scribe delivered. One day, they left it at our place by mistake and my mom saw that the Descendants are vouching for the place. She loves prelates, so here I am.”

“That’s weird; I’m here because of the Descendants too.”

“Do tell.”

“I… got lost. Back at home.” She lied. “They worked with Zero Point and Majestrix to find me. After that, it wasn’t a hard sell for my parents.”

“Cool.” Eddie nodded. “I wonder if we’ll get to meet them in person while we’re here. I’ve got kind of a crush on the one with the ice powers.” Happily, he noticed this made Arkose smirk. “So, meet anyone else interesting here? Besides me?”

“I haven’t talked to many people at all.” She switched to sidelong strikes. “I’ve only really met my roommate and suitemates. Two of them aren’t bad. They never shut up, but they’re not bad. The other suitemate is kind of a snob though and mutters in French a lot.”

“Maybe you need a front man to introduce you to people.” Eddie offered. “And I’m doing the same thing for myself anyway. What do you say? I promise I’ll shut up whenever you ask.”

Arkose rolled her eyes, which made a strange scraping sound. “Okay. But why are you so hot to hang out with me?”

Eddie pushed off the wall. “It’s my power.” He shrugged ”Basically, I have good luck. And, considering I just met you entirely on chance; I figure it’s a good thing.”

To be continued

Series Navigation<< Liedecker Institute #1: Meet the Class Part 1Liedecker Institute #3: Meet the Class Part 3 >>

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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.

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