- 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
The Liedecker Institute’s auditorium was easily one of the least used facilities on he campus. Aside from orientation for the students every fall and commencement every summer, there wasn’t much need for it. Group announcements were more easily dispatched via the consolidated app all the students had on their tablets and palmtops. There weren’t enough interested students for theater or music classes and their attendant plays and concerts.
But the naming of the Institute’s so-called safety patrol; students who would be trained and expected to act in the same way as the public expected of superheroes; was going to be an historic event. The press was billing it as the announcement of the first class of a new superhero program and some were even starting to call Liedecker Institute a ‘superhero school’.
Laurel Brant knew the pros and cons of that kind of attention. She also knew it was unavoidable. The school and its students were targets—had been targeted several times already. That was why she hadn’t argued very hard against the idea when Vincent Liedecker suggested it, and why she’d chosen to administer the program personally.
It was also why she was giving the speech introducing the first members of the program, standing at center stage behind the podium. Behind her and to her right were seats for the Institute’s senior staff and VIP’s including Vincent Liedecker himself, the mayor two of her fellow board members from Descendants Rights Worldwide, and Chaos and Darkness of the Descendants. To the left were seven chairs reserved for the students who were presently standing in the wings waiting for their names to be called.
Her eyes scanned the crowd, especially the section set aside for parents—both those of the new Safety Patrol and of the other students. While she’d been tasked with essentially selling the public at large on the program, those parents were the ones she most needed to convince.
Taking a long, deep breath, she set her expression to its most professional and began.
“Good afternoon. To all the wonderful parents of our student body, respected leaders of the community, and members of our illustrious staff, welcome to what I hope will mark an historic moment for the school and for descendants as a people.”
She took one of the mikes off its mount and started a slow walk across the stage. “I haven’t spoke about it publicly very often, but it is open knowledge that I myself am a descendant; a hypercognative. My generation had things comparatively easy compared to those of today. As far as we knew, the Academy was a safe place where we could learn about our abilities; the people who would see us as ‘other’ weren’t so bold and cohesive as they’ve become; the terrors that sought us out were still concealed in shadow and ignorance. Myself and those who grew up with me were privileged beyond imagine without even knowing it.”
Stopping at the far left of the stage, she focused her attention on the center section behind the parents where the students were located. More than a few looked clearly surprised at hearing her identify herself as a descendant. That was a privilege she hadn’t spoke directly to: hypercognatives could use their powers all they wanted and would never stick out as more than a very intelligent person if they so wished. They were as advantaged over other descendants as they were over protomorphs.
“That time is over now. While I wish I wasn’t the one to place this terrible burden on our students, but as an educator, it is my duty to inform you that our illusions have been destroyed. We now know that were are targets. Of hate. Of violence. Of exploitation. So many of you have been victims or witnesses to this first hand. I have read report after report of attempted kidnappings, assaults, abuse—from strangers and families alike.
“At this very school, we have seen incursions and attacks far more often than anyone is happy with. Our security personnel and procedures have done all they could, but our world is rapidly changing and traditional responses are no longer adequate. When the enemies targeting us have powers beyond the capabilities of elite mundane forces, we must turn toward extraordinary ones to supplement them.”
Laurel looked to the rear of the hall and made eyes contact with T Alvin Warren, the Institute’s head of security. They’d had some long talks about the possible implications people could draw about his team’s performance and she wanted to make sure he understood she wouldn’t be throwing them under the bus.
“And so, we at the Liedecker Institute are proud to introduce the first generation of a new endeavor to help young descendants take an active role in their own protection and going forward in defending their communities.”
There was a short round of applause for that, a heartening gesture given how many of the parents hadn’t given permission for their own kids to be part of the Safety Patrol or even the self-defense training. At least those who wanted to keep their own children uninvolved appreciated the value of what other teens were doing.
Laurel waited for the clapping to die down before speaking again. “Before I introduce you to the courageous students we’re gathered her to honor today, I would like to say that it was a difficult task paring the team roster down to the seven slots we set forth for the program’s pilot phase. We had many talented and worthy applicants who were very close to being chosen and who I hope will apply again should the Safety Patrol become a regular part of our curriculum. Please join me in praising these wonderful students for putting themselves forward.”
More applause, louder and more dedicated this time. Laurel smiled as she watched the reactions among the students who hadn’t made the cut. There were plenty who had been upset and been very vocal when she’d given them the bad news, but now that the possibility of trying again next year had been presented, she could see some expressions softening.
At the same time, she made a mental note to offer other extra curricular courses to engage students who wanted to essentially play hero without having any real aspirations as such.
Finally, the applause subsided and she was able to speak over it again. “Thank you so much. Now, before we bring out the seven students who were chosen, allow me to shed some light on what they’ve agreed to: Members of the Safety Patrol will attend an extra class after dinner hours led by members of Mayfield’s own Descendants, Alloy, Renaissance, Vamanos and Chaos as well as members of Mayfield’s first response units. They will learn patrol routines, search and rescue, first aid, and other proper emergency procedures for both powered and unpowered response.
“They will also be issued uniforms by the school to identify them in times of emergency to allow you to know when they are acting in their capacity of a Safety Patrol member. They will be linked into the Institute’s security communications in order to allow them to respond as quickly as possible to threats.”
She moved back over to the far side of the stage, leaving plenty of space for the Safety Patrol members to take center stage. “And now, let us express our thanks and admiration for these extraordinary students who have volunteered to make our school safer and more secure. First, we have Zane Springfield, codename: Ragamuffin.”
From the left wing of the stage, Zane emerged, floating a foot off the ground. Instead of his usual mismatched jumble of clothes wadded and strung about his body beneath a black tattered cloak, he wore the same cloak, but over a set of dark gray bandages wrapped neatly around his arms and chest over a long, hanging robe of the same color that obscured his legs. His white, glowing eyes were bright and wide under his hood as he flew to the middle of the stage and waved at the crowd, especially his father; a lanky, bookish-looking man who had put himself in the very front of the parent’s section.
Laurel gave him time to enjoy the limelight before moving on. “Next, we have Alice Tatopoulos, codename: Steampunk.”
Alice walked out onto the stage at a steady, professional clip, offering only a slight nod to acknowledge the applause before taking her place standing beside Zane. She wore a modified version of her normal body suit. Instead of the shiny black material with steel nozzles to expel her excess steam, the new one was a dark tan with burgundy panels highlighting the muscles of her arms and legs and the nozzles were brass. More brass-work went into the tubes connecting the majority of the nozzles on her suit to a burgundy and brass lobstered device strapped to her back and from that to the pair of thick, leather gloves she wore. To top it all off, she wore a set of red-lensed leather flight goggles and a gear-and-goggles emblem on her chest.
She seemed to pay little mind to the attention or the costume as she settled into a straight-backed posture on the stage.
Even if she hadn’t heard and seen Steampunk’s friends putting the costume together for her, Laurel wouldn’t have had to guess that the young woman hadn’t assembled that herself. It wouldn’t surprise her if Alice Tatopoulos didn’t even know what ‘Steampunk’ meant in the first place.
A smile tugged at her lips as she moved on. “Following Alice, we have Eddie Argent, codename: Vegas.”
In stark contrast to Alice, Eddie came onto the stage full of energy and excitement. He raised his arms to the crowd’s encouragement, mugging for them as he made his way around the unresponsive Steampunk and gave Zane a high-five. He then gave Steampunk a careful pat on the shoulder before getting in line with his fellows.
Unlike the other two, Eddie hadn’t had anything that could have been called a costume before. He’d decided to make up for lost time with a cloth-of-silver suit and tie with a hunter green vest underneath. A dark green fedora sat at a jaunty angle on his head, almost but not quite concealing the similarly shaded domino mask he wore under it. A pair of fingerless gloves the same color with silver dice embossed on their backs completed the look as did a silver cane with a silver dollar tip.
He finished up his entrance with a flourish of the cane he’d been practicing for a week before leaning on it dramatically.
Laurel had to suppress both a laugh and a cringe. There was little doubt in her mind who would be heavily featured in the press that evening. Still, she had a job to do and a professional reputation to maintain, so she moved on, knowing that there was a very good chance that Eddie wouldn’t hold a candle to…
“Next up, we have Kura Akagi, codename: Prestige” Even as she said the words, she braced herself.
Kura took a running start and launched herself into a slow float into view. Her costume was somehow both more and less garish than the staff had feared. The main suit would have been skin-tight if it hadn’t been padded and reinforced with military-grade armor plates to supplement the ballistic cloth Brant Industries had donated for all the Safety Patrol uniforms. It was metallic pink with white diamonds laid end-to-end across her chest. She wore chunky boots and gauntlets made of black ceramic and embedded with pink lights. They matched the utility belt circling her waist.
Her mask was a hot pink ceramic masquerade mask that flared out across the upper part of her face like a bird taking flight and mirrored lenses over her eyes. Then there was the cape; a voluminous thing mounted to massive shoulder pads. It was black with a pink velvet-esque liner.
Instead of waving and mugging for the audience, Kura made her way front and center of her three teammates and dropped down into a dramatic-looking crouch.
Counting her lucky stars that looking cool had won out over making a scene with Kura, Laurel moved on. “After Kura, we have Maya Blumberg.” The audience reacted accordingly, but a good ten seconds passed before Maya stumbled out from the wings, casting a terrified and slightly betrayed look behind her.
Left with no choice, she got her bearings and started speed-walking to the safe harbor of her peers.
Of all the Safety Patrol members including even Steampunk, Maya’s costume matched her the least. It was mostly leather save for a rust colored tunic made of ballistic cloth. Her trousers were dark red with a vivid orange-and-lighter-red flame pattern spiraling up her left leg down to a pair of dark red boots with short heels. A heavy leather coat with spiral flames down the arms and a pattern of blazing comets on her back draped over her arms and she wore a pair of supple red gloves and a matching belt that fastened a pouch to her hip.
The coat had a hood, which she’d pulled up over her head, but any chance she had at hiding in the shadows of it were ruined by Soot sitting on her shoulder; waving at everyone and doing an excellent job of illuminating her face.
As quickly as possible, Maya made her way to the group, dithered a second over who to go to, then chose Eddie to stand beside. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder and leaned over to whisper something to her.
“Finally,” Laurel said, not leaving as long a pause this time as a mercy to Maya, “when we initially conceptualized the Safety Patrol, we intended for it to be a team capable of working independently in case their aid is needed in situations where they and other students are separated from the Institute and its personnel. Therefore, it was always intended for the team to have internal leadership chosen by myself.
“However, in the course of the selection period, it became clear that there were two candidates who each had differing but equally qualifying credentials necessary to hold the leadership position on such a team as this. Therefore, the last two members of the teams are co-captains of the safety patrol. First, please welcome the Patrol’s field leader; a young woman who has found herself personally engaged in a number of conflicts that have arisen both on and off campus and according to reports from credible witnesses, staff members and her own teammates, comported herself admirably both on her own and as part of a group with her fellow students. Ladies and gentlemen, Talia ‘Tammy’ Kaine, codename: Farad!”
Tammy exited the wings, holding her arms out in a grand gesture. Her brother had helped her design and fabricate the silver and gold micro-chain tunic and leggings backed with ballistic cloth and supported by heavy tungsten rings. Her boots were heavy brown bucket-tops with steel caps over the toes and heels. The soft, articulated gloves had dense tungsten caps over the knuckles and over the fingertips.
Over all that, she was wearing a white ballistic cloth coat that flowed down to her ankles and had yellow highlights and lining. A pair of thin, dense tungsten escrima sticks hung from loops by her hips. On her head, she donned heavily modified biker helmet with an open face and a built-in comm system. Beneath it, she wore a white domino mask shaped like a pair of lightning bolts.
She strutted on stage with a wide grin plastered on her face. Halfway to her team, she pulled out her escrima sticks and span them around her fingers, making them spark and crackle. She replaced them as she ended up next to Maya, patting her friend on the arm and whispering something to her before kneeling next to Kura to add to the dynamic of the group pose.
Her entrance caused a stir among the crowd, especially the press who were already speculating about the group’s inner workings. Laurel let them have their moment while she took the time to look to the wings and make eye contact with the final member. They’d had a long talk over the previous week about the co-leader situation and exactly what they did and didn’t want in their introduction.
So in deference to the final member, she waited until everyone had settled to speak again, making her tone carry the seriousness of the situation. “Our last member is someone who understands the perils and consequences of our failure in this endeavor first hand. The summer before this school opened, she was kidnapped and held for three hours by an organization geared to exploit young descendants. She escaped on her own and was able to direct authorities to her kidnappers’ hideout, ensuring that at least one group will never do harm to our children ever again.
“Her interview and subsequent follow-ups impressed upon me her passion to keep what happened to her from ever happening again, her level-headed approach to that goal, and her charisma to keep this team together. From her school work and extra curricular activity, I am also confident in her organizational and interpersonal skills which will help her work with our security staff and state, local and federal authorities. With all that said and my personal approval, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Liedecker Institute Safety Patrol’s operational and overall leader, Sheila Flaherty, codename: Sunsoul.”
As Laurel had hoped, her speech engendered the largest reaction from the crowd yet. Sheila came on stage to a standing ovation from her fellow students and their parents, which soon spread to encapsulate all the other guests. Her arrival was modest with a measured wave to the crowd and a steady pace to the rest of her team.
A cobalt blue waistcoat with yellow piping and buttons covered her upper body, buttoned up in a crisp, professional fashion with a matching set of trousers and shiny black boots with two-inch heels. The coat had been modified so she could have her wings out while she wore it, and her gloves had only middle fingers, leaving her palms exposed to summon up her powers. On her head, she wore a modified helmet like Tammy’s only in blue with a matching domino mask and a yellow wing design painted on the sides.
She joined her team, moving to stand behind the group, stretching out her wings to their full span. Then with a confident smirk, she held one hand aloft and ignited a brilliant ball of light that threw the whole team into sharp relief on the stage.
Only those closest to the stage noticed the newly minted Farad and Prestige exchange a grin.
Sheila only kept the light show up for a few minutes before releasing it and letting her arms down. “Thank you, Ms. Brant,” she said with a bright smile. Her comms had been patched into the house PA for the event. “for that wonderful introduction and for picking us to both protect and represent our classmates. I only have a few words and I’ll get them over with because I’m sure the rest of the team have things they’re dying to say, so—”
Whatever she was going to say next was interrupted by a sudden commotion on the comms that caused the other members of the patrol to pause as well.
Shock passed over Sheila’s face before she set her jaw and called out, “Everyone, get away from the back rows, now!”
No sooner had she said this than the back right corner exploded into rubble. The camera people and other members of the press stationed back there scattered just in time as a heavily damaged MPD powered armor officer came tumbling through, digging in his suit’s hands into the floor to keep from going any farther into the room.
That proved futile as something struck the suit hard from the front, driving it backwards through seats being rapidly vacated by the crowd. Finally, a powerful uppercut put the armored officer down for the count. With a metallic groan, he fell back into the center aisle, revealing his attackers.
At the head of the trio was a familiar figure to Laurel: dressed in black jeans and matching t-shirt with a large, purple scowling smilie on the chest along with combat boots and fingerless gloves. The only new addition to Bad Lass’s wardrobe was a strip of purple ribbon with holes cut out for her eyes tied around her head.
“So this is the school I was supposed to go to? Having some kind of pep rally for the ‘safety patrol’? I looks like I made the right choice.”
Behind her to the right was a young woman in a red vest and skirt under golden armor with a pair of red goggles clenched her hands into fists and in a quieter voice said, “Let’s just get this over with,’ before glancing over to the third member of their group.
He was swaddled in a cloak that looked like it was made of burlap, wearing a pointed hat made of the same. A grim expression was etched onto his dark features and one of his eyes had a scar over it—both eye and scar glowing a deep yellow. Observing the room with unsettling intensity, he extended arm from his cloak, revealing a heavily bandaged arm holding a a copper orb topped with a Celtic cross. Scarlet sparks crackled across its surface. “Yes,” he said in a cool monotone, “let us fulfill our mission.”
Bad Lass–Tamara Daye—shook her head. “Whatever. Let’s do this.” And with that, she sprang toward the stage where the Safety Patrol was readying themselves for battle.
To Be Continued…