- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #25 – Auditions Part 1
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #26 – Auditions Part 2
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #27 – Auditions Part 3
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #28 – Auditions Part 4
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #29 – Auditions Part 5
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #35 – Together Part 2
“Basically, my dad says something like this might boost my self-confidence.” Zane rubbed the back of his head as he sat in the chair across the desk from Laurel, his eyes dimmed in shyness.
Laurel hmmed and typed on her tablet. “I have to admit, I thought you were making good progress on that front without it. All of your teachers say you’re very outgoing and friendly with the other students—even some who aren’t known for making fast friends.”
His eyes brightened a bit. “I guess that’s another thing I get from my mom. She always had tons of friends—even from all the way back to elementary school. Making friends is easy… it’s the keeping them… at least when it came to my old school…”
A subtle frown creased Laurel’s face, which he noticed immediately. “L-look, I don’t like hate myself or my powers or anything. Things are just… different. I used to be like the guy everyone thought was cool and fun and yeah I used to be ind of a pretty boy—oh, and I could sing! Like super-good.”
He hung his head. “All that’s gone now though. I’m not sure what I’ve got left… y’know aside from powers.”
“You’re still a very bright young man,” Laurel soothed, “and still incredibly charismatic. It’s hard to believe there would be a force on Earth that could stop you once you set your mind to it—especially not if you started believing in yourself.”
None of that was just placating. The boy had made easy friends with Annette, who generally hated everyone—even her clique of friends. Having learned business and the nature of power at her father’s side, she knew that networking trumped looks or aural beauty every time.
“Really?” He asked, tilting his head like a confused puppy.
“Of course, Zane. This school is about bettering yourself and I can’t encourage you to better yourself if I lie about how great you are all the time.”
“But I’m pretty great?” It was faux bravado, but it almost got a smile out of her.
In point of fact, she was unable to keep a slight chuckle out of her voice. “Yes, Zane. Back to my question though: I asked why you wanted to join, not why your father wanted you to.”
The young man rubbed the back of his head with a sleeve-covered hand. “Because… I… think I’d be good at it? Like people don’t think about it, but who doesn’t wear clothes? I control the stuff most clothes are made of, so if anyone attacks that isn’t like that plant thing last year, they’re wearing ready-made, full body handcuffs basically.”
“Hmm. That is an excellent point, Zane. I’ll keep that in mind.” Laurel added a note about his capacity for non-lethal take-downs in her tablet. Thankfully he didn’t decide to demonstrate on her like the last student who wanted to prove the same. Her stomach couldn’t take another nausea card incident.
“I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.” Sheila say ramrod straight in the chair across from Laurel, her jaw set in complete seriousness as she met the headmistress’s gaze with a level one. Were Laurel a lesser woman, she would have offered the girl one of the slots on the team purely because it didn’t feel like she was being given the choice.
But she was not a lesser woman, so she continued the interview in spite of the adamantine stare she was receiving. “Well of course, given your history and you very admirable volunteer work with Descendants Rights Worldwide, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”
Sheila however, didn’t miss a chance to press her point. “I still have nightmares sometimes, Ms. Brant. Post traumatic stress disorder. It isn’t an incapacitating case, but the kidnapping attempt is something that sticks with me. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about what could have happened. And I’m not what you would call ’emotionally fragile’, okay?”
Wisely, Laurel just sat back and let the young woman continue.
Apparently realizing she was coming on too strong, Sheila took a moment to center herself before going on. “We all heard about what happened to Maya with the fake FBI agents. Now, I really only know her in passing, but she’s definitely not the kind of person who can handle that, especially not multiple times. If there’s some way I can make sure it doesn’t happen to her or anyone else here, I want the chance to try; to do my best.”
She shifted in her seat, not a nervous gesture, but one that indicated that the emotional appeal was over and now she was shifting gears. May I ask you a question, Ms. Brant?”
“Of course you can, go ahead.” Laurel didn’t bother to hide how impressed she was with the younger woman.
Ducking her head in thanks, Sheila asked, “How many Juniors and Seniors do you have signing up for this?”
“We try not to pass that information around,” Laurel explained, “who is and isn’t interviewing for the team is something we foresee student conflict over. You know how it can be: teasing the kids who might be seen as wanting to be prelates, looking down on those who don’t…”
“That’s exactly what my point was, Ms. Brant.” Sheila was nodding in agreement, putting on a respectful tone. “There aren’t a lot of Juniors and Seniors in the first place, and most of us were in the Academy for a year or two before things went down. It wasn’t clearly and obviously self-serving before, but the Academy really taught against wanting to become a prelate… superhero. Whatever. All the respect and emphasis was on going military or private sector–‘being of use to society’ they said.”
That was how Laurel remembered her own time at the Academy. It was the selling point that kept American society as a whole from panicking over the existence of descendants in the early years. It had probably saved their lives, that implication that descendants were freaks and monsters, but safely leashed freaks and monsters.
The closest thing the Academy offered in terms of using one’s powers as a vigilante or independent first responder was the Enforcer Corps, the Academy’s means of policing so-called ‘rogue psionics’.
Unaware that her teacher knew what she was talking about first hand, Sheila kept talking. “The thing is, it’s worked. Most of my class, even my good friends, kind of look down on the idea. Thy think of wanting to protect their classmates is… well lame and corny.
“My point is, you’re probably not going to get many upperclassmen involved. And you’ll need one to keep the lowerclassmen in line. I mean, I’m pretty sure Tammy, Kura and her friends signed up—I know you can’t tell me, but they so did—and as much as I’m sure you and the other admins hate to admit it… they’ve been pretty good at protecting each other through all this. It’d be a stretch to say they all weren’t qualified, right?”
Once again, she’d hit on an undeniable truth. Now more than ever, Laurel was learning that many of her students had hidden depths.
“Are we being recorded?” Tammy asked, eyes darting around the room looking for hidden cameras.
“Of course not.” Laurel hid a tinge of professional annoyance. She was one of the leaders of a superhero team and headmistress of a school for powered students; of course she made sure on the daily that her office was free of bugs or any other kind of recording device, clandestine or otherwise. Still, she understood the girl’s nervousness: she had much the same reason for concern.
Tammy let out a breath before slouching in the chair and kicking her legs out. “So I’m in, right?”
“This is all just for show, I mean you know who I am and what I can do. Plus, I mean my brother…” she suddenly frowned and squinted at Laurel, “Warrick didn’t ask you to fence me out did he? He’s too over-protective for my own good, you know?” Her squint became a frown while she laughed with a hint of frustration. “You can’t even get mad at him for it. The guy is all about doing the right thing even when it’s annoying.”
Laurel smoothed her hands out across the surface of her desk, waiting for the torrent of words to stop.
“But can you please not listen to him? I’m ready! More ready than he was when he was my age. He was doing this stuff since before he was my age even. Sure, he screwed up sometimes, but I won’t I swear I won’t! Please don’t say I can’t be on the team!”
Realizing there was going to be no end to this, Laurel held up her hand. “Actually, Warrick made it clear to me that he actually does think you’re ready. I don’t know what changed his mind, but he has faith in you. Cyn and Tink too.”
Tammy’s eyes glowed with elation.
“But that isn’t going to have as much bearing on this process as you might hope.”
Tammy’s eyes wavered and slid down to the floor. “Oh.”
Frowning at having had to let air out of the young woman’s balloon, Laurel leaned forward. “Tammy, this isn’t going to be about your brother, or his friends, or even your friends. This interview is about you.”
“But you know me—and also who I know is part of me, that’s how politics work since I don’t have money to bribe you with.” After a beat, she blinked, “Can I go get Kura to bribe you?”
It took a force of will to keep from laughing, but Laurel managed it. “Tammy? I’m more wealthy than Kura’s parents. More than that, there aren’t any shortcuts in this. Everyone has to stand on their own when it comes to being vetted for the program.” She clasped her hands in front of her on the desk, “Tell me: why do you want to be in the program in the first place?”
Tammy continued to fidget in her seat and looked at her as if she’d just said the dumbest thing ever. “You don’t already know?”
“I know what I’ve heard and observed, but I want to hear it from you; how you would put it. And please be as honest with me and yourself as possible.”
That stopped her fidgeting. After a long, drawn-out breath, she said, “Okay, so… I want to be a hero. Like my brother.”
She held up a hand to preempt what she thought would be an interruption from Laurel, but none was forthcoming. “I know you said this wasn’t about him and I would really like you not to tell him what I’m about to say… but War’s amazing. Like seriously cooler than everyone not in the know thinks. He saves people like every day and keeps all sorts of scary stuff most people don’t even knowing about away.”
Without seeming to notice, she scooted back in the chair and seemed to withdraw into herself in introspection. “When we were kids, we played at that stuff. Warrick would put together dumb ‘gadgets’ like a grappling hook made out of a coat hanger or something and we’d take turns pretending to rescue each other.
“When I was little, I was the rescue-ee all the time, but it was so much fun when he started letting me being the hero and stuff.”
Slowly, Tammy lifted her eyes to meet Laurel’s. “Our parents were really good about teaching us right from wrong and stuff like that, but Warrick… he somehow taught both of us the difference between being good and doing good.
“I just want my chance, Ms. Brant. I wanna do good and after all the crap that happened last year, I think the program is how I can do that.” She glanced away shyly. “Besides, these are my friends. Even if I wasn’t in, I wouldn’t just sit back and let other people help them.” A tiny smile quirked her lips. “Just like my brother… I’m in this regardless.”
To Be Continued…