- 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
Laurel left Eddie in the study room some time later, her mind aflame with theories about the young man’s powers and new considerations as it pertained to the Safety Patrol’s final make-up.
Her students had all surprised her, making it clear to her once again that being a hypercog didn’t mean being omniscient because even a highly advanced intellect could be lacking in information. When she and her friends had been their age at the Academy, they certainly hadn’t been so thoughtful about their powers and how they fit into the world.
Than again, she supposed they had that luxury. In her time, the Academy had existed to smooth things over for them; to keep people from being afraid of them, to protect them from those who would exploit them.
Revelations about the Academy and the chain reaction that ran through the nation and the world since then had changed things considerably. Even with the Institute and its security, the students knew—not thought, knew—they were never really safe anymore. Hate groups like Reverend Stiles’s movement and the IBPA had become some swiftly prominent that there were politicians courting them and a ‘conversation’ about taking the kids’ very right to peacefully coexist away via Braylocke laws. The fake schools and rogue labs seeking to take advantage of young descendants weren’t a distant threat in another land, but uncomfortable realities that had happened to their peers.
They hadn’t really been forced to grow up, but in some aspects, they’d been forced to mature beyond their years—even the ones who seemed the least mature.
If anything, it convinced Laurel that the Safety patrol was a good idea. At the very least, these kids needed to have some measure of control over their own fate if they were to ever be able to live something approaching normal lives. That, or they needed to get used to not living a normal life, whatever the case might be.
She was pondering whether or not to return to her office to check up on Lucy and Maya when a voice called out to her from one of the adjoining halls. Turning to reply, she found Betty Sinclair emerging from the hall, followed by a portly older gentlemen wearing a business suit and carrying an attache case.
Two things stood out to her immediately. First, Betty’s hair was a glossy black. This usually boded well for the young woman and poorly for anyone unaffiliated with her as it was a sure sign that she was very, very happy. In fact, Laurel was sure she’d never seen the girl’s hair so dark and wondered if she might not actually be on some manner of drugs.
Second, the man behind her was clutching his attache case close, eyes never quite resting on anything for more than a second, head on a constant swivel. That was a look that instantly disqualified dozens of potential staffers from positions at the Institute: it was fear. Lots of people didn’t so much dislike descendants as they’d given into the Stiles-pioneered rhetoric of powerful and violent children who were a danger to everyone around them. As far as Laurel was concerned, such people didn’t have any place at the Institute and so immediately wondered why he was there.
“I’m so glad I caught up to you before you left for the day.” Betty was putting on the kind of sickly sweet smile of a society lady doing her best to be polite to another while secretly sizing her up for manipulation. It was a look Laurel knew all too well from years of attending business dinners with her father. “I wanted to talk to you about my interview for the Safety Patrol.”
Laurel gave her the same warm smile she offered to all her students, not letting on at all that she knew the girl was up to something. “I’m sorry, Betty, but your parents never gave permission. I’m not going to interview you unless there’s a chance you would be available for the team and until you get permission, you won’t be.”
“That’s actually why I wanted to talk with you, Ms. Brant. I’d like you to meet Scott Wakefield, my attorney in this matter.”
As the lawyer stepped forward to offer his hand, Laurel wondered incredulously if Betty was actually planning to sue he Institute over that policy. No matter how big his retainer, any lawyer worth his salt should have informed her that no, there was not a case to be had there.
Scott Wakefield clasped Laurel’s hand firmly and gave her a professional one-pump shake before releasing. “A pleasure, Ms. Brant, though I feel our meeting is a bit premature. Miss Sinclair wanted me to be on hand when she—against my council, min you—informed you of her current course of action and be on hand to answer any questions you might have.”
“I’m… sorry; what is this about again?”
Betty let loose a musical noblewoman’s laugh. “Oh that’s quite simple Ms. Brant: I’m suing my parents for my emancipation. I was hoping that simple news of the filing would convince you to change your mind about at least granting me an interview.”
In the past three years, Laurel had seen amazing things: a true to life dragon, an ‘angel’ conjured from vengeful souls, an invulnerable man, a robot who could pass for humans, actual, factual magic… and yet this was so absurd that it was one of the first things to actually make her fantastic brain stop in its tracks.
“I’m sorry… what?” She paused to take a breath. “You’re suing your parents because they won’t give you permission to take part in a school activity?”
Betty waved the accusation away. “That was only the straw that broke the camel’s back, Ms. Brant. I’m sure you know who my uncle is?”
If she didn’t already, Betty had been more than happy to namedrop him at every opportunity during her freshman year… right up until he started campaigning under a markedly different platform at least. “Yes, Congressman William Brant. I know of him.”
It wasn’t hard to miss the wrinkling of Betty’s nose at his mere mention. Laurel had been careful to keep her tone neutral; now she knew she needn’t have tried. “Then you also know his recent change of positions, especially on Braylocke laws.” Her hair started to lighten, from perfect black to something of a charcoal color and then moving into the darker browns.
“That’s the real reason my parents don’t want me in the Safety Patrol: they think it would hurt his political aspirations.” Brown lightened to dirty blonde and continued to grow more pale. Whatever composure the girl had was rapidly slipping away. “He’s joining the fight to take my rights away and my parents are holding me back to make sure he gets to do it. Maybe that doesn’t count as emotional abuse, but it is something, right?”
Part of Laurel had seem this coming. She’d followed the shifting stance of William Sinclair among others and knew it was only a matter of time before even Betty, who never showed much notice of politics beyond the privilege it could offer her would notice as well. She was honestly at a loss of words.
Mr. Wakefield wasn’t. “There is case law going back almost eighty years concerning parents whose bigotry would in turn target their children. Often, they try to disown their children, but there are cases where they are in a kind of denial. Our case will hinge on the definitions of hate groups as provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Descendants Rights Worldwide. Many such groups have donated and endorsed Mr. Sinclair.”
“I’m not sure that would hold up,” Laurel said, half-distracted. “William Sinclair isn’t Betty’s parent and you would have to prove that Betty’s parents have the same ties.”
The lawyer nodded. “That, of course, would be up to the courts to decide. But for the moment, the litigation has been filed and Miss Sinclair would like to petition you for a special exemption to the requirement of parent’s permission considering her current legal situation.”
Laurel set her gaze back on the young woman, whose hair had stopped a shade darker than platinum blonde and who was taking deep, slow breaths to calm herself down. “Betty… I’m very sorry about this happening to you. If there’s anything I or the school can do for you: counseling, mediation, even some time off from classes to deal with this, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
Betty met her gaze with a steady one of her own. She could tell what was coming, “But…”
“But,” Laurel heaved a sigh, “I can’t make an exception like this. There is still the chance that your reconcile with your parents, or you come to a settlement that leaves you with another guardian who has other reasons for you not to join the Safety Patrol. That means you’re still not clearly available for the team.”
To her credit, Betty never broke eye contact. “That isn’t all, is it? Is this about all the times I’ve been sent to your office?”
Laurel glanced at the lawyer, but decided to come clean anyway. “To be blunt? That does have an influence her. I would be hard-pressed to put you on the Safety Patrol after you’ve been repeatedly disciplined for bullying and alleged assault. How could we trust you to look out for the safety and well-being of your fellow students when you have proven time and again you might well be a detriment to it? The only reason you haven’t been expelled is because your victim refuses to speak against you and none of the staff have actively caught you.”
Betty recoiled like a vampire from sunlight. “Excuse me?!”
“You heard me, Miss Sinclair.” Laurel said, “You might well eventually get that interview, but you will have to prove to me far beyond the shadow of a doubt that you deserve your place on the team. The safety Patrol has no room for bullies.” She nodded to Mr. Wakefield. “Now if you’ll excuse me…”
Without paying any more attention to the reactions, Laurel walked off. She had other things to do—which included looking into Betty’s parents on her own. Whatever she did, the young woman didn’t deserve to be treated like she was accusing her parents of.
Hair now stark white, Betty let out a wordless growl and stalked off in the opposite direction, leaving her lawyer standing in the hallway wondering who was going to show him out. She didn’t quite turn the next corner before a pointy red hat blocked her view.
“The Gnome greets you, O hirsute one.”
“Can it, Elf.” Betty snapped, stepping around him.
Undeterred, The Gnome fell into step beside her. “The gnome couldn’t help but hear that you are in need of a means of proving yourself to our great Educator.”
Against her better judgment, Betty asked, “Yeah, and?”
“It just so happens that The Gnome may have a way for you to prove that you are something more than a long-tressed thug with good posture. The Gnome was going to ask Virginia, but you would do as well.”
Betty sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to like this. “Okay. Tell me. What is your dumbass idea to improve my image?”
“Simple: The Gnome needs a sidekick.”
Lucy Black was a resident of Mayfield, so she thought she had a good grasp of the fantastic. She’d had a front row seat for the Mayfield Mauler’s reign of terror, of countless superhero battles, of what might have been magic, and what certainly had been monsters.
Her business was frequented by the students of a school for kids with superpowers, for whom the impossible was something they did as their morning routine before breakfast and the laws of physics were polite, oft-ignored suggestions. She’d watched a fire eat french fries and wave cheerfully. She’d seen a fake FBI agent’s gun be disassembled down to the last nut and bolt and weld by an irate French girl.
And she was quickly coming to the understanding that she knew nothing about the world around her.
Maya Blumberg had lived through what seemed like a combination of hell and Alice’s Wonderland all in one. Chased by a Canadian conspiracy dating back to the Second World War based on Nazi mysticism that had killed her parents and made her think she’d done it. Observed by spies posing as her teachers. Thrown into a counter-conspiracy of her own classmates. Haunted by the possibility that somewhere on her family tree was something most definitely not human.
It was no wonder that Maya didn’t think the police would believe her; Lucy wouldn’t have believed her either if she didn’t know Maya was incapable of that kind of deception.
The girl folded her hands in front of her as she concluded her tale, staring at them instead of looking to Lucy. “S-so that’s it. I understand if you don’t want to deal with all that. I know I-I’d rather not.”
Were it possible for Lucy’s hear to break any more for the fragile teen before her, it would have been a fine powder upon hearing that. She got up and went over to kneel beside where Maya sat. Doing her best to move her head so as to catch Maya’s eye-line, she said: “I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all that, Maya.”
Tears pricked the redhead’s eyes as she nodded. “I-I am too. And that my friends had to. I-I really don’t want you to have to go through it too.”
Lucy reached out and covered Maya’s hands with hers. “I’m not going to lie, kid…. this whole thing is really freaky. But after hearing the whole thing? I want to help. Even if I can’t do much, I at least want to be there for you, okay? Help you… at least try and have some normal things that aren’t being hunted down or thinking about Thule Society stuff. Like… I don’t know, we can go shopping, or go see a baseball game—my dad’s a nut for it and sends me tickets to the Colossi a couple times a year. Things like that.”
Something like shock flickered in Maya’s eyes and it was clear she fully expected or even hoped Lucy would back down from wanting to adopt her. “B-but what if you get hurt?”
“Then I get hurt. But I kind of doubt it’ll come to that. This town has more superheroes than city councilmen. Plus, would you really rather keep going the way you are?”
“Not really. But I don’t see what else I can do.” Maya admitted. “They’re never going to stop. Not unless someone stops them. And like I told you, we don’t know who in the school to trust.”
Lucy nodded. Although she suspected Laurel and Vincent Liedecker could be trusted, she also couldn’t trust that their offices weren’t bugged… which made the last twenty minutes of conversation all the more concerning. “True. And the police aren’t set up for this. But you know who we could talk to?”
Maya shook her head, clearly doubting such people existed.
“The Descendants. We can find a way to contact them and tell them what’s going on. They can help, I’m sure of it.”
That obviously hadn’t occurred to Maya, as her eyes lit up with hope for the first time since she’d come into the room. “That could work!”
“Of course it could,” Lucy agreed, “So how about it, Maya? What do you think about me being your guardian?”
The girl smiled shyly. “I think I’d like that a lot. C-can you do something for me though?”
“I-it scares me a lot, but I don’t want to just sit there while my friends are in trouble. C-could you tell Ms. Brant I’d like to try out for the Safety Patrol?”
A bright smile emerged on Lucy’s face. “You’re one seriously brave girl, you know that? But yeah, I think I can do that.”
To Be Continued…