Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #25 – Auditions Part 1

Dear Students and Parents of Students in their Sophomore or higher year at the John C Liedecker Institute,

As you have no doubt learned from the media and the information packets sent to you over the Winter Break, the Institute will be establishing a Student Defense Team and introducing a new Powered Self Defense class this semester.

I would like to assure you that Powered Self Defense is an entirely voluntary class that students may opt out of simply by not signing up for it. However, the staff highly recommends taking said class for at least one semester in order to increase each student’s security and sense of safety on and off campus.

By that same token, by popular request, we are allowing parents to opt their children into a Restricted Campus status which will deny them the right to leave campus without a chaperon. In the interest of a healthy level of independence and responsibility, the staff does not recommend such a course of action, but in light of the fears expressed by some parents, we will accommodate such requests as they are made.

With regard to the program we are now calling the Institute Special Safety Patrol, we will begin the process of choosing candidates as soon as the new term starting with verbal interviews. Please be advised that no student will be allowed to undergo a verbal interview without written permission or verbal permission via secure recorded voice chat with their parent or legal guardian.

Interviews will be conducted over the course of the first week of classes. Once the staff have chosen finalists from the interviews, we will conduct simulations over the weekend to evaluate each candidate’s ability and performance under pressure.

Please understand that we are doing everything we can to ensure that the students chosen will be the best choices for this very important task and that it will entire program will be run with the safety of all students as the top priority.

I welcome all questions and concerns you may have and will make myself available to answer them.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Laurel Brant, Headmistress, The John C Liedecker Institute.


Alexis looked up from reading the email that had just gone out to the parents of the Liedecker Institute student body. She was at the breakfast table with Laurel, Ian and Cyn, using he free hand to assemble a breakfast sandwich out of a toasted bagel and the morning meal laid before them on the table.

Across from her, Laurel caught her expression over the edge of her coffee cup and raised a brow to encourage her to elaborate.

This drew a snerk from Alexis, who finally had to ask, “Safety Patrol?”

Cyn cackled around a mouthful of her own bagel. “That was my idea. Mom asked if there was anything she could do to make the program not sound so awesome every kid with common sense would want in on it.” She swallowed, then took a drink of orange juice to wash down the entire bagel. “First thing that popped into my head? Safety patrol. Seriously, who every wanted to be in the safety patrol in middle of high school? Only the dorks and preps, right?”

There was an awkward tension that Cyn didn’t recognize until she realized that her adoptive mother and Alexis were staring at Ian. He held up his hands as if a dozen cops had guns drawn on him. “Paradise Middle School’s Safety Patrol Captain two years running.”

“…Sorry?” Cyn asked with a cheesy smile.

Alexis leaned over and gave Ian a quick kiss. “Don’t worry, him being a dork was one of the things I liked best about him.” She looked back to Laurel, “So why try and scare the kids off?”

Laurel took another sip of coffee as she worked out how best to put it. After some thought, she put her cup down and said, “The long and short of it is that no matter what we say, the students are going to look at this as the Institute’s superhero training program. Which is exactly what it is if we’re going to be completely honest.

“What we need to do is make it less exciting and glamorous to the kids that just want to do this kind of thing for fun and not take any of it seriously. I purposefully front-loaded the program to gently convince those students to wash themselves out.”

She let out a little sigh, “At the risk of sounding biased, I might have some students in mind of discouragement than others.”


Kura Akagi was, naturally, the first student to produce the necessary parental permission to secure an interview. That is, Laurel’s office line was already ringing when she got in the first morning after winter break with both of the energetic girl’s parents on video chat ready to sing their daughter’s praises and strongly suggest the school could be on the good end of a large donation.

Laurel politely informed them that donations wouldn’t influence the staff’s decisions—without actually saying it in those exact terms—and scheduled Kura’s interview for first period. She had another handful of calls to field in the meantime.


“So they called?” Kura was bouncing on the balls of her feet as she entered the room and made her way to the chair before Laurel’s desk.

Laurel nodded. “You parents were most enthusiastic about letting you into the program.”

“They tried to bribe you, didn’t they?” the girl asked before Laurel was finished talking. When Laurel waffled, she smiled. “My daddy does that a lot. Grandma says he thinks money is a skeleton key—whatever that is, but I get what she means. He’s right a lot of the time too. I was a cheerleader for a month at the end of middle school because he for the school new bleachers for the football field.”

She beamed, then added somewhat shyly, “Grandma says he’s going to give me ‘affluenza’ doing stuff like that. She said I need to learn to earn things. You didn’t take his money right? ‘Cause you’re rich, Mr. Liedecker is rich—there’s no point in trying to buy you things, and I don’t think either of you need favors or deals with a fish stick company, right?”

A crawling sensation went of Laurel’s back. She had no idea that Kura knew anything about her, much less her connection to Brant Industries or the company’s portfolio. The idea that Kura Akagi of all people had studied up on her didn’t sit well.

“It’s more a matter of integrity. We are dealing with student safety here after all. You understand that, don’t you Kura?”

The girl nodded firmly. “Yeah—I’ve kinda been in the middle of a lot of those ‘students in danger’ things.” As she continued to speak, she started gesturing with her hands. “I totally get how important this is and I promise I’ll earn it if you give me a chance.”

Laurel regarded her carefully. “No offense, Kura, but given your record, I find that hard to believe. You have a very strong reputation as a class clown and we need people who are serious about this.”

The reaction she got from that was surprisingly to say the least. Kura looked wounded, pulling back into herself and chewing her lip. “Ms. Brant, just ’cause I like to have fun doesn’t mean I don’t take things serious! Come on, I started like half the traditions at this school! I helped save Maya on, like multiple occasions! Are you really going to not count those because I had a good time doing it?”

“Of course not,” Laurel defended, “But we also have to take into consideration all the pranks you’ve pulled in your time here. And your feud with some of the other students. The Safety Patrol is meant to protect all their fellow students, not just the ones you like.”

If anything, Kura looked even more put out. “Are you saying you think I’d let Hair… Rapunzel get hurt or kidnapped or something just ’cause I don’t like her?” There were actual tears glistening in here eyes. “Is that how you think I am, Ms. Brant?”

However much she’d dreaded interviewing Kura, Laurel hadn’t expected one of the reasons might have been making the girl cry. With expert pose, she kept herself from reacting and soldiered on. “No, it’s just that you’ve always been unpredictable. The Safety Patrol can’t be unpredictable.”

“But I know what to do already—I mean a little. The basics.” Kura leaned forward as she protested, almost falling out of her chair. “This summer, after the whole Walking Bear thing, I thought about what could’ve gone wrong, so I got my Daddy to send me on a survival camp experience. I know all sorts of survival techniques and also…” She reached into her pocket and produced a folded sheet of paper which she rapidly unfolded to reveal it as the printout of a certificate. “…I got certified in First Aid and CPR.”

Laurel accepted the certificate when it was offered to her. Already, she’d committed the issuing school’s name to memory for verification once she got time, but she doubted Kura would forge it.

“Momma wanted me to take a self defense course, but when your friends shoot lightning, catch fire, or turn to steel it’s pretty dumb to think punching is going to solve any problem we end up in. Plus, I have the nausea card.”

“Nausea card?”

“I usually just do a card, but it can be a shirt, or a bunch of snow.”

“I… don’t think I follow.”

Kura had the decency to look nervous before offering: “I could show you. But you won’t like it…”


A few minutes later, Kura stepped out of the office, closing the door to muffle the retching sounds from within.

Someone was waiting on the bench outside the office, the junior girl with dark skin and huge, angelic wings. Kura thought she’d heard someone call her Sheila. When sheila started to stand, Kura hurriedly gestured for her to sit. “She’s… gonna need a minute.”

“Is everything alright?”

Kura made a face. “I think I just sent my chances of being on the team to the bottom of the trash can—with a lot of coffee by the looks of it.” With that, she slunk off, not feeling in the mood for any of her usual eccentricities.


“Hello, Mother?”

Betty ‘Rapunzel’ Sinclair had, through careful application of her tresses, made her way to the privacy of the main building’s roof.

She’d spent most of breakfast bragging about how she would be on the ‘Safety Patrol’ by lunch. Now, third period was almost over and she hadn’t been called in for her interview. That meant something had to be wrong and the only element she didn’t have control over was on her parents’ end. Hence the phone call.

“Why yes, I do prefer to text with you, but this is important enough that I needed voice-to-voice. Did something go wrong with your video chat? Did Ms. Brant give you trouble?”

While she had no idea what to do if that was the case, knowing was more important than not. At least that was the theory.

“He said what?!” She sat bolt upright from where she’d been lounging in a nest of her hair, coming perilously close to pitching herself off the roof. “Tell me you don’t agree with him at least.”

Panic was starting to rise. She got herself steady with some of her hair forming up into a makeshift beach chair, but her breathing and thought processes were becoming erratic.

“No I do not understand! Why should any of us even care what Uncle William’s favorability ratings are? Am I the only one here that remembers he put out that awful circular talking about how much we need Braylocke Laws?”

After hearing the reply, Betty’s hair started to lighten past blonde, starting to merge into white. “Yes, it so totally and very much matters, Mother! Why? Because he wants to put people like me in some kind of super jail and hire psychos to hunt me down if I do anything wrong!”

Her eyebrow started twitching before she exploded with, “No, I don’t plan to do anything wrong! Do you not watch television? People get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit all the time. Only if it’s me, there’ll be guys with guns that shoot lightning or grenades, or even chainsaws!”

By this time, her hair had gone from platinum blonde to silver. There weren’t any more angry shades for it to turn when her mother’s next comment hit, making her clench her fist hard enough to strain the plastic casing of her palmtop.

“What?! Am I supposed to care what Uncle William feels in all this? No. He already betrayed me when he got on the Braylocke train. This is just me doing what’s best for me. And if you really cared about what was best for me, then you wouldn’t care so much about what was best for him!”

Betty wasn’t aware of how, seventy years ago phones were designed so that ending a call could be achieved by slamming the receiver down, but at the moment, she almost revived the practice while hitting the end call button.

To Be Continued…

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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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  1. Typos

    using he free
    using her free

    some students in mind
    some students more in mind (or something similar; ‘more’ might fit in another place in that sentence)

    went of Laurel’s back.
    went up Laurel’s back.

    was surprisingly to say
    was surprising to say

    When sheila started
    When Sheila started (I was 25 when I first met someone called Sheila. I thought she was joking, I’d believed it was just a generic term in Aussie slang rather than a name.)

  2. Oh snap! Betty is way more self-aware then you’d expect. I wonder how she’s going to get past that one… Maybe by enlisting Kura’s help to get the written permission? Probably not, but it would be interesting to see them working together and starting to understand each other a little bit.

    And to think her uncle is just doing it to protect her…

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