Liedecker Institute #8: Make Your Own Luck Part 1

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 1: Meet The Class

The last class period on Fridays (As well as Mondays and Wednesdays) at the Institute were geared toward teaching the students how to control and refine their powers. They could vary from week to week for some students, depending on powers; from group flight practice on the quad, to solo sessions in the reinforced ‘hard rooms’ in the basement of the enrichment center, to telepathic study halls in soundproof and psychic noise insulated meditation rooms in the dorms.

Some powers, however, still managed to defy attempts at formulating a training curriculum around. Powers, like Eddie Argent’s; which was why he had a free period during the last class of the weekend.

At first, he’d thought it was an unmitigated positive; time to either goof off or get homework out of the way early three times a week. As early October arrived though, he was finding it a blessing and a curse.

The curse came in the form of boredom. Most of the student body was in class, and no students were allowed off campus until the last classes were over. As there was only so much television he could watch, so many video games he could play and so much pool and air hockey he could play against himself, he spent a lot of time wandering the campus grounds.

Which was exactly what he wasn’t doing this day.

It was too hot out, thanks to a freak October heatwave, so he was staying inside, in the student lounge with a top hat and several decks of cards.

As the son of a blackjack dealer and a waitress at the Spires of Atlantis Hotel and Casino, he’d spent much of his childhood sneaking around backstage at hundreds of performances, and one didn’t watch acrobats, escape artists and magicians practice their craft without picking up some of the basics. Some of them even gave him one or two formal lessons.

Humming a clumsy tune, he fanned out one deck in his right hand, then squared the entire deck with a flick of the wrist before tossing half of it to his other hand. Both sets of cards squared again, he fanned them both out and brought them together into a single deck again in his left hand.

From there, he bowed the deck nearly in half, sending them springing one at a time into the top hat sitting on the opposite side of the couch in rapid succession. It was only then that he realized he had an audience.

Joy Duvall had come into the room in the middle of his impromptu show and when Eddie noticed her, she was perched on the arm of the second couch, gnawing on an apple.

To Eddie, Joy helped solidify his theory that something about being a psionic, or ‘descendant’, as some of the staff called them, made girls either highly attractive, or utterly adorable. She was firmly n the adorable camp; at least when she wasn’t chomping vigorously on an apple with a mouthful of sharp teeth.

Subconsciously, the scene made him shudder just for a second.

When she noticed him noticing her, she paused in mid-chew and her eyes widened with fear. “Sorry.” She said around a mouthful of apple. “I didn’t…” Shifting, she gathered herself to hop off the couch and make her escape.

“That’s okay.” Eddie tried to motion for her to stay. “It’s meant to be done for an audience.”

Joy froze at his insistence. “Are you sure? I mean… it’s me…”

“Um… what about you?” Eddie ventured.

Nerves and self-consciousness played over her features and she fiddled with her apple. “Because your friends don’t like me.” Her voice came out small and far away.

It didn’t take much to realize who she was talking about. Eddie frowned at where this was going and picked up two more decks, focusing on them instead of on her. “You know… Rapunzel, Ineffable, Hightower… I don’t really think of them as my friends, really. I just hang out with them because I’m friends with Summit.”

“Summit?” Joy asked, focusing on the apple in the same way he was focusing on his cards. “You mean Jacob?” Just the mention of his name made her face light up. Mentioning Jake made nearly all the girls’ faces light up, Eddie was swiftly learning.

“Yeah, Jacob.”

“You talk like them.” Joy observed.

“Huh?”

“You call everyone by their codes, just like them.” She slumped down on the couch and turned her would be snack over in her hands.

“I do?” Eddie blinked and thought it over. Rapunzel, Ineffable, Hightower, Summit; he had indeed. “I do. Sorry about that, um, Joy. But just because they don’t like you doesn’t mean I won’t. I mean I don’t even know you.”

They were both quite for a time, thinking. In the interval, Joy went back to munching on the apple and Eddie started a Cincinnati over-under, shuffling each of the two decks one handed.

“You’re Rita’s roommate, right?” He finally asked. She nodded. “And you two… you get along, right? Are you friends?”

“Sort of.” Joy finished the flesh of the apple and started crunching into the core.

“What do you mean sort of? Isn’t this an either/or thing?” With one swift motion, he spread the cards in his right hand across the coffee table in a straight, overlapping line. With another, he flipped the end card over, causing all the others in line to flip over as well.

“Rita and I hang out and watch movies, and stuff like that, yeah.” She was fully out of apple now, winding up holding only the stem. “But it’s always in the room, because I don’t want your friends to see and get mad at Rita, not let her hang out with them anymore and then she’d get mad at me.”

Eddie continued shuffling cards in his left hand while tapping the queens out of the spread pile with his right. “Rita’s a nice girl. At least I think so; she never looks happy when Rapun… Betty or Annette are ragging on people. She doesn’t stand up over it, but not everyone likes to play the hero.”

“You don’t either.” Joy observed.

That stung. Mostly because it was absolutely true. Eddie took the now liberated queens and stacked them on the table for Joy to see. Once he made sure she was watching, he fanned them on the table and did a few simple card flipping tricks with them.

“Yeah, I’m not much of a hero either. I’m kind of worried that Annette might lose it and squish me with her powers, or Hightower might just deck me.” He frowned as he arranged the queens side by side; hearts, spades, clubs, diamonds. “I’m always hoping Jacob will say something, but really? The guy’s so country, he’s worried about being rude to the jerks.”

He finally stopped shuffling the other deck and set it in front of the queens, cutting it into four piles, each of which he placed in front of a queen before gesturing for Joy to pick a card.

Curiosity got the better of her and she leaned forward to choose the one in front of the Queen of Spades before becoming aware of herself once again and flattening back against the chair.

Eddie dutifully picked up the pile in his left hand and swept the remaining three piles off to the side. “But just because I won’t yell at them for being gob-heads…” He dealt four cards off the top of the pile and spread them in another overlapping line in front of the queens. “Doesn’t mean I’m afraid to hang out with you. In public even.”

He flipped the four cards over; the queens of the other deck; hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds in exactly the same order as the four he’d laid out earlier.

Joy made a delighted noise in the back of her throat; somewhere between a purr and a squeal. “That was great! How did you do that?” She recalled talk about Eddie and the nature of his powers among the other students. “Was it your luck?”

This elicited a laugh from Eddie. Everyone seemed to want to ‘see’ his luck, which was a more difficult proposition then most people thought it should be, considering it usually only kicked in to his extreme benefit or safety. He tried to keep that second part quiet though, as ‘I’ll give you ten bucks if you can get heads flipping this dollar a hundred times’ might quickly turn to ‘let’s see if it kicks in if I hurl this heavy object as his head’ in short order.

He just shook his head and picked up the three discarded piles, fanning them out to reveal that the deck still had its four queens. “It doesn’t work that way.” He explained. “I can’t actually, you know, control it. It just happens.”

Joy blinked at the reveal that the two decks somehow had twelve queens. “How did…” She goggled.

Eddie grinned. “You watched me shuffle two decks, flare around with them a little, and then make four queens appear out of thin air, right?”

The fuzzy girl glared at him, and then had a revelation. “One of the decks had extra to start with!” She declared triumphantly.

“Good guess!” He laughed. “But not quite right. See, you didn’t see me use two decks; you saw me use three.” With some agile maneuvering with his foot, he kicked the top hat backward and into his hands. “You just didn’t know that it was part of the same trick”. He tucked the queens back into their original deck and put it back in its box. “It’s all about misdirection flourish when the audience expects yo to try and game the cards, game the cards when the audience thinks it’s a flourish.”

Joy smiled at the cleverness of this, careful not to show her teeth. “That’s really cool Ed… Vegas.”

“You can call me Eddie. Just please don’t call me Ed and we’ll get along fine.”

“Okay… Eddie.” Joy said, sliding off the arm of the couch to balance in her natural, pigeon-toed stance. “So you’d really be okay hanging out with me? Even if your friends would be mad?”

“I really couldn’t care less about what those guys think, except maybe Jacob and Rita.” He shrugged. “So…. yeah, if we turn out to like the same stuff, why shouldn’t we be friends?”

Joy frowned. “It’s just that… except for Rita, I haven’t really made any friends here.” Her tail lashed restlessly at exposing such a sensitive subject.

Such a thing was a foreign concept to Eddie. The very first thing he made sure of upon coming to the Institute was to make as many friends; even if they were just passing acquaintances, as he could. He was even on good terms with his roommate, Phil’s friends, even though they were actively opposed to his… clique.

As far as he could tell, Joy was a pleasant enough person, if a bit lacking in confidence (which he credited to Betty and Annette’s regiment of constant mental abuse). Her protomorphism, as mentioned before, left her looking cuddly and adorably awkward rather than ugly, creepy or scary, so that shouldn’t have been a barrier either.

Before he could stop himself, he found himself asking, “Well did you try?”

Her ears drooped, reminding him of an upset puppy. “Not so much.” She admitted. “I tried really, really hard to talk to Jacob, but he mostly talks about sports and life back where he lives and I don’t understand either of those. And I tried talking to Arkose and…”

“Now who’s calling people by their codes?” Eddie chided playfully.

“She wants to be called that.” Joy shrugged. “But she just wants to be left alone.”

“I noticed that.” Eddie nodded. “And I don’t get it either. I’d go crazy being alone as much as she is.” He blew out a long breath. The cards were back in their boxes and he was left with the problem of what to do with his hands. “What about my roommate’s friends? Do you know Phil?”

“They’re the ones that glued Annette into her room, right?” A small smile betrayed her amusement with the stunt.

“Yeah.” He smiled too. “That’s Tammy, Kura and Phineas. They hang out with Phil, and Rapunzel and company hate all of them. I think you’d fit in with them. Actually, I think I’d fit in more with them.”

Joy shook her head. “I could never prank someone like that. Especially someone scary and dangerous like Annette.”

“Good point.” Eddie was forced to concede. He’d solved the problem of his hands by putting them in his pockets. Now he’d come up with a gold dollar coin and a silver five piece, which he weighed in one hand.

This didn’t pass beneath Joy’s notice. “Do you know tricks with those too?”

“A few.” He replied, jangling them in his palm until the dollar was standing on edge atop its silver counterpart. Snapping his wrist, he popped them both into the air and snatched them out of it with the other hand. “But classes are almost over; how about I introduce you around? You won’t have to worry so much with me doing all the talking, right?”

“You’d really do that?” She perked up.

“Sure. What are friends for?” He smiled. “In fact, I might even be able to figure out something you and Jacob have in common.”

“Really?” She leaned forward in the seat even more than she had when she was watching the card tricks. “Like what?”

“Depends.” Eddie dropped the cards and coins into the top hat and without hesitation put it on. “You’re in the same Physics class as him and me—how’re you doing in it?”

“I’m getting a B so far. Why?”

“You’re in luck.” He grinned. “Jacob’s getting a C minus. I’m sure he’ll appreciate a tutor.

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Liedecker Institute #7: Reflections in Steam Part 2Liedecker Institute #9: Make Your Own Luck Part 2 >>

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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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