- 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
“You wanted to see me, Ms. Brant?” Maya Blumberg peered into the Headmistress’s office, tentative as was her way. She blinked in obvious surprise when she spied Lucy Black sitting on the couch situated beneath one of the high windows.
Lucy offered her the same warm smile that greeted all customers at Midnight Black and raised a hand in greeting. “Hello, Maya.”
“Come on in and close the door, Maya. We have something to discuss.” Laurel was behind her desk looking friendly and congenial as ever.
Maya gauged their expressions as she cross the threshold. Usually when she was called to the Headmistress’s office, it was to give her testimony regarding one of her friends’ stunts or because someone had sent an anonymous message about something Betty had done to her, or as part of the group of students who lived at the Institute year-round and had special procedures and dispensations during breaks.
None of those circumstance seemed to fit and they certainly didn’t involve Lucy. In fact, she couldn’t guess why Lucy was there at all. Sure, she did a lot of catering for school functions and she was friendly to all the LI students—her especially—but why would she be there for a meeting specifically involving her.
“I-is something the matter?” She asked, slowly making her way to one of the padded chairs across from Laurel.
“No, nothing’s wrong,” said Laurel, “Neither you nor your friends are in trouble. There’s just a certain matter that’s come up and we would appreciate hearing your thoughts on it.” She gestured broadly to both chairs before her and the open space on the couch where Lucy was sitting.
It took a moment for Maya to decide, picking the chair farthest away from anyone else in the room. Just in case. While she was doing so, Soot poked what passed for his head out of her hair and waved an appendage at Lucy whose eyes crinkled with amusement as she waved back to him with a parody of the same energy he was using.
She’d given up on trying to reign him in in that aspect. He waved at everyone whenever he got a chance. Just walking around off campus got her more looks than even those classmates of hers whose manifestations were overtly visible. Even among descendants, independent manifestations were almost unheard of.
By the time she sank into the seat, Soot had turned his attention to Laurel, who also obliged him with a wave of her own.
Maya, however, was still looking the two women over. Laurel had that look in her eye that Maya now associated more with Miss Keyes when she was administering a Powers test. It was measured, scientific and calculating without losing its warmth. Like a mother eagle watching her chicks exploring the edge of the nest and wondering if this time they were going to try and fly.
On the other hand, Lucy’s face betrayed a mix of emotions that Maya knew all too well because they were he state of being: nervousness, shyness, and that special kind of awkward you got when you were trying to regulate your behavior so people liked you better. No guilt though. Almost a year’s worth of therapy sessions and the guilt was still always there somewhere in Maya’s mind.
It took her far too long for her liking before she remembered Laurel had addressed her. Even then, all she could manage was, “Oh?”
Laurel visible took a moment to gather herself, mentally arranging every word with great care. “I first want to say that I’m very happy with your progress over the last year, Maya. You’ve integrated yourself well into the school, made some very good friends, work hard in your studies, and on several occasions have shown uncommon courage and strength of character. That said…”
The second those two words left the headmistress’s mouth, the little bubble of pride swelling in the girl’s chest deflated and she shrunk back into her chair. She physically cringed in anticipation of whatever was coming next.
Neither of the older women in the room failed to notice this. Lucy leaned forward, glancing in Laurel’s direction while the Headmistress herself cut off in a nervous cough. She recovered quickly and continued, “We understand that none of our individual staff member have time for the one-on-one interaction you need from adults at this age. You’re still a few years away from being an adult and high school is a time when you’ll need guidance on a personal level the most. Even if an organization like the Institute can legally be your guardian, it’s not as good at actually playing that part as one would hope.”
Maya’s eyes goggled. She had no idea what Laurel was getting at. Of course she missed her parents terribly, but the Institute was taking great care of her. After spending so much time on the run, it was an incredible feeling just to feel safe an cared for. Her friends were by no means an un-affectionate bunch, and when it came to getting advice and unburdening herself to an adult, she had Ms. Master her therapist and Lucy… oh.
She turned toward Lucy and gave her a quizzical look, wondering if there was something she’d said to the cafe owner that warranted alerting the Institute. “I… do okay,” she said, testing the waters, “If I need to talk about things, Luc… Miss Black—“ Lucy insisted on being called just Lucy, but adults tended to be weird about that sort of thing and Maya had no idea where Laurel stood on that, “talks to me about that sort of thing.” She had to take a guess as to what this was all about and then asked Lucy, “Should I stop? Talking I mean.”
The result was nothing like she’d expected. Lucy looked like her heart had broken as she rapidly shook her head. “No, Maya—of course not!”
Before things could go farther, Laurel interrupted again. “I would never ask that unless it put you or your classmates in danger, Maya. No, the reason I called you here was to tell you that Ms. Black here came to me today with some concerns that you might not be getting the care and attention you deserve from our current arrangement.” Maya started to protest, but Laurel simply kept talking and the girl shut up to avoid being rude.
“She’s asked me about the possibility of assuming your guardianship from the Institute. I felt that you’re more than old enough to have a say in this matter.”
Maya blinked rapidly and started down at her lap for a long moment. Lucy had been there on the day she arrived in Mayfield. She’d heard what the fake FBI agents told everyone about what happened to her parents. She hadn’t even heard about the ‘real’ account. Nor did she know about her possible inhuman origins—something even Miss Brant wasn’t aware of.
If Lucy became her guardian, all the danger and weirdness that had plagued Maya over the past year would come down on her too.
But at the same time, it would be nice to have somewhere to go during the breaks, have access to the little talks they shared more often, and maybe, just maybe had a shoulder to cry on that wasn’t just one of her friends or someone paid to be there for her.
Her more intellectual mind also realized that: One, several strange and dangerous situations had already befallen Midnight Black thanks to its popularity with the LI students; Two, Lucy hadn’t run screaming after any of those and was, in fact, seeking this out; and Three, the Institute would protect Lucy if she were Maya’s guardian, making her more safe, not less.
However, one simple fact remained that Maya couldn’t reconcile: Lucy wasn’t entering into this arrangement with all the information. Maya would have to tell her the truth: all of it.
And just like that, she made her decision. “Ms. Brant? C-can I talk to Ms. Black about this? Y-you know, alone?”
Laurel acquiesced immediately. “I was going to suggest that myself. The two of you have a lot of things to go over and I’m sure some of it’s person. You two can take all the time you need here. Meanwhile, I have another interview soon and I have to arrange to meet them elsewhere.”
As she gathered her purse and palmtop and left, Maya’s eyes followed Laurel curiously. She knew who was the next interview and she wasn’t sure she wanted to wish them luck or pray for failure. Both of which seemed pretty useless considering.
Finally, the door closed, leaving Maya and Lucy alone in temporary silence.
“I know this came up all of a sudden,” Lucy started, “To tell the truth, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but more recently with all the things that have happened and especially the museum…”
Maya nodded. A lot of people confused the Open House with a museum thanks to the news footage making it look like one of those eccentrically curated museums from movies and TV where Egyptian mummies and dinosaurs and rare gems all shared a single huge hall. What happened that night had been weighing on her too—especially after Eddie told her he was going to interview for the Safety Patrol.
He’d almost been killed or at least hurt. If she hadn’t been there…
If it wasn’t for the fact that she didn’t have a parent to grant permission, she would have interviewed if only to try and keep him from getting a slot and thus being safe.
Her eyes widened as it clicked. Now she did have someone who wanted to be her guardian—who could grant said permission. Looking up, she caught Lucy’s eyes.
But only if she still wanted the job after hearing everything that came with it.
Lucy smiled gently. “I don’t think you’ve called me ‘Ms. Black in months. It’s still okay to call me Lucy, okay?”
Maya nodded vigorously. “Lucy. I… need to tell you something. But you have to promise not to tell anyone else, okay?”
“Is this something that maybe the police should hear?” Lucy asked, trying to be responsible.
“I don’t think that they would believe you.” And then Maya started her story.
“Sorry for the change of venue, but my office is currently otherwise occupied,” Laurel said as she strode into one of the study rooms located off the dormitory wings.
Eddie Argent sat on the window bench with his legs folded, half looking out the window. He gave her his full attention the moment he recognized her. “It’s fine, Ms. Brant. This was closer anyway.”
Accepting his little show of grace, Laurel took a seat in one of the deep, plush armchairs next to the window he was occupying and took out her palmtop. “So I understand you want to interview for a slot on the Safety Patrol. I have to admit that your parents were surprisingly positive about the idea: most parents are at least hesitant: we haven’t been shy about underlining the possible dangers.”
“Yeah, but my parents understand that none of the dangers are gonna happen to me.” Eddie pointed out, shifting in his seat. The words were cocky, but his tone wasn’t. There was a hint of concern in his words.
“We don’t know how far your power extends in that regard,” Laurel countered, “Of almost all powers, yours simply defies measurement or compartmentalization. We can’t even tell what events around you are the normal course of things and which are your… luck.” She hated calling it that, but there was nothing for it. Probability manipulation was the official term, but Eddie’s took the form of pure, stupid luck.
He bobbed a nod. “Yeah, and that’s the thing, right? Since this started, I’ve never been hurt any worse than a scratch or bruise. Taking a moment to glance out the window, he said, “Some of the others said you ask why we want to be on the Safety Patrol. You want to know mine?”
“Actually, yes I would.”
Eddie rested his palms on his knees. “Because it’s not fair.”
For a moment, the room was silent as Laurel waited for him to elaborate. When he didn’t she asked, “I’m sorry… What isn’t fair?”
“The luck,” said Eddie. “Like if I got in a car crash, I’m not even scared: something stupid and impossible would happen to make sure I was okay, but what about everyone else in the car? You know how I figured out what my power was? Well… not really figured it out, but started to notice stuff?”
Laurel hummed a bit of encouragement for him to say on.
“You know those tests where you fill in the bubbles? Well we did a lot of practice tests in school and I started to notice that whenever I just guessed and filled in anything, It’d be the right guess. So I started just guessing every single answer and I was getting hundreds on everything.”
This made one of Laurel’s eyebrows rise. For one,s he hadn’t considered that his power would work for that. For another, she knew Eddie’s grades and he was a solid ‘C’ student with several B’s and a stray D mixed in. Any kid his age she knew would use that advantage at every turn and never, ever reveal it.
“Except a lot of my teachers graded on a curve. One guy get a hundred, everyone else is kinda shit outta luck—sorry.”
“I’ll accept that kind of language just this once. Go on.”
“Well it’s like I said: totally not fair. My friends would be C’s that would’ve been B’s if not for me. Or I’d sign up for some kind of raffle and end up winning something one of my friends really wanted. Or something would be about to happen to me—like this one time this guy Shawn put a balloon full of chocolate syrup in my chair so it’d look like I sh… crapped my pants, only my buddy Kyle ended up sitting on it instead.”
Eddie frowned. “What I mean is… I win all the time, only that means I make other people lose all the time.”
While Laurel didn’t know what that had to do with his reason for joining the Safety Patrol, she appreciated that he understood the privileged position his powers put him in. Still, she waited to hear what else he had to say.
“Then we went to that thing with the Science Club. Miss Brant… anything in the world could have happened that night to stop those robots from hurting me. They could have run out of power, the ceiling tiles could have fallen on them, they could have just all exploded. But none of that happened! Instead, Maya had to use her powers to save me—and Maya is terrified of using her powers around other people.”
He hung his head, looking ashamed. “I mean, yeah, maybe… maybe it was just her choice, right? But we don’t know. No one knows how my powers work, so as far as I know, my powers made Maya do that just to save me.”
Head still bowed, he wrung his hands. “I know everyone is telling you how they want to be on the team so they can be heroes and help the other students and stuff, but I want in because I know the team is going to get extra training and stuff in defending themselves. I figure getting the best training I can so I can protect myself means my powers won’t have to save me. It’s what’s safest for everyone.
“Also… well it’d be a decent warning, wouldn’t it?”
“Excuse me?” Laurel frowned, trying to parse that last part.
“If I don’t get in, I mean,” explained Eddie. “It might mean my luck decided it was best for me not to be part of it—which means something might happen to them or something.”
It felt like a manipulative trick to Laurel. She might have made that argument if she were in his place, but then she was a hypercog and she was fairly sure Eddie didn’t know the full ramifications of such a line of thought. Also, he looked too bothered by the prospect to be milking it.
Laurel shook her head, resolving to add ‘determinism’ to the curriculum possibility in the literature syllabus. “Eddie, would you have died if you didn’t get a hundred on your tests?”
“And does your power grant you extra knowledge so that you can get passing grades?”
Laurel nodded. “And you’ve still been disappointed, still gotten those scratches you talked about, still had awkward moments and made enemies like the boy who put the chocolate balloon in your chair?”
At this Eddie could only shrug. “Yeah?”
“My point is that you and your parents always describe your powers as ‘luck’: that it will always bend the universe a bit to get you the best possible result for you, yes?” He nodded and Laurel smiled. “Well the truth is,Eddie that you’re a teenager: you have no idea what’s best for you at this age. Maybe making this team or not making it is what’s best for you in a way you can’t fathom right now.”
It took Eddie a few moments of thought before he was forced to admit, “I… don’t get it, Ms. Brant.”
“That’s my point exactly.”
To Be Continued…