"YOU DID WHAT?!" Mom shouted after I told her and my dad about my sparring match against Midgardsormr, followed by her swooning.
I'd never seen anyone swoon before, so seeing her become unsteady unnerved me. Both my father and I moved closer to catch her before she fell. "MOM!"
"Honey," Dad said as he came up beside her. Before he could wrap an arm around her, she raised her hand and motioned for him to keep his distance as she steadied herself.
"You're telling us that you sparred with that... that..."
I understood her frustration. Finding a word that described Midgardsormr is hard. It's like calling lava hot as you watch it roll over a city and destroy it. One word isn't anywhere big enough to encompass the entirety of what Midgardsormr might be at any one moment. "World Serpent? He has a lot of names, Mom, and can be quite monstrous and intimidating, but he's also sort of sweet too."
Her eyes went wide. "I knew I should have never allowed you to go to these league wars. You're not ready for this. I'M not ready for this. Did you hear our little girl?" She turned to look squarely into my father's face. "She just called Midgardsormr SWEET!"
"I'm sure it's just a phase, dear-" he said before she cut him off.
"No. Not a phase. No phases. We need to get some control back in our lives," she said. She raised both hand up in the air and moved to the mantle against the wall in our living room, he back to us.
Why did Mom have an issue with me calling Midgard sweet? He was nice to me and the rest of the Lothlorien league. WMD gave us great seats to watch the final round of Division 1. Midgardsormr took time out of his day to pay attention to little, tiny, insignificant (by his standards) me. It wasn't like I liked... "EWWW, MOM! He's like thousands of years old."
Dad pressed a finger to his lips, urging me to be silent. "Give her a moment. You took both of us by surprise. You agreed that you would be careful up there. Getting in a ring with him doesn't seem very careful to your mother and I."
Why do parents blow everything out of proportion? "He took off anything dangerous and promised not to use any poisons on me."
"You're not helping..." He gestured again for me to be silent.
After a few minutes, Mom straightened her back and turned back to face me. "OK. It happened. You survived and hopefully learned something from the experience. Now, your father and I want for you to be open to other new experiences as well."
"OK?" Something about her calmer tone worried me. She only spoke like that when she knew I wasn't going to like what she was about to say.
"Next week, school starts. You've had quite a bit of time to engage in your activities with BADGE over the last few months. When you are in school, we want you to get more of a taste for normal life and activities. The new charter school we talked about, the Sagan Academy, accepted into and we would support you going there, but with two conditions."
"A new school? That's fine," I said. "Why wouldn't I want to go there? The local school is boring."
"It's boring because you don't do anything to make any friends there. All you think about it being a cape and using your powers," she said. "If you want to go to this new school, first, you have to agree to join a club at the school that has nothing to do with your powers or fighting crime."
"Sure!" That actually worked perfectly with my plans. Art classes. They would have to have some club or group that would help me practice being able to visualize new forms. "What else?"
"The second thing is we want you to make friends there. Get to know children like you who don't have powers," she said. "If we have to adapt to you being a probationary field agent for BADGE as a minor, then you need to embrace that there is more to life than BADGE and having super-powers. To do that, we want you to go without using your powers at all on weekdays while you are in school."
"No using my powers?!" I couldn't believe what she was asking of me. "Do you want me to stop breathing too?"
"That's the problem, sprout. You only think about your life as an extension of your powers. You are more than your powers," Dad said.
"That's who I am. With my powers I can be anything." Why were they trying to limit me?
"We want you to learn who you are. What life is." Mom crossed her arms. "So, do we have a deal or not? I could always home-school you."
Going to the new academy had been something I looked forward to. The brochure said that the new programs they provided were cutting edge education experiences. Their zoology course would let me discover animals I'd never heard of. Public school had its moments, but most of the time I was so very bored in my classes. I needed to go to the Sagan Academy.
"Fine, but only if I can use my powers on weekdays if there is a special BADGE activity or in emergencies. You can't want me to NOT save someone if I could because of your-," I air quoted the next word. (Yes, using air quotes is retro, but I needed to make my point clear.), "-'condition'."
"That's fair. So we are agreed?" my father asked.
I put a hand up to my chin and stroked it for a moment before I answered.
My other hand went behind my back and I crossed my fingers. "Agreed."
It's not like they would be watching me 24/7. If I snuck a use of my powers in every now and then, it isn't like they would know.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
LOCATION: THE SAGAN ACADEMY
Throughout all the hallways, workers scurry about. Tables and chairs are placed in classrooms. Electricians and their apprentices string power lines and cables for the computer equipment, as well as cameras throughout the building's entrances, exits, evenly spaced out throughout the corridors and a minimum of four in each classroom to provide maximum coverage.
"They sure haven't pinched any pennies when it comes to their security system," Alec said to his co-worker, Sebastian. Together they installed the last of the equipment into the gymnasium. "This stuff is all top of the line."
"Deep pockets," Sebastian replied. He climbed down from his ladder and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. "I don't know what organization is sponsoring this academy, but they can throw work our way any day of the week. Every day of the week if possible."
Alec started placing his tools back into a large satchel. "Look at you, thinking about keeping Jane happy more than yourself. It must be nice to be dating the boss."
"It doesn't hurt anything if she's happy, does it?"
"I guess not." Alec zipped the bag closed. "It's lucky that they hired a bunch of smaller companies rather than one big outfit. You would think it would be cheaper for one of the big guys to handle a job like this than a dozen small outfits."
"Maybe they were all too busy to get the job done. This did sort of come across Jane's table as a last minute project." Sebastian said as he headed toward the large doors leading outside. "Doesn't matter, really. Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do or die."
Alec nodded. He lifted the bag up onto his shoulder and headed after Sebastian. Looking about the freshly painted walls, he noted the school's logo brandished on several pendants. A twisted ladder with differently colored bits connecting the larger segments. HELIXES was written within the bit of DNA represented by the image. "I bet the kids here won't be using this gym much. Looks like this is going to be a school for geeks and nerds."
"It's a brand new world these days. Who needs gyms and sports with all these people with superpowers. The last thing schools need is for some kid to get mad at their gym teacher and blow the roof off the place," Seb said as he headed out the door. "Don't forget the roll of spare cable over there?"
"Why didn't you grab it?" Alec turned back to where the spindle had been left.
"I forgot. Sue me. Get it and let's go to lunch." Sebastian disappeared into the warm light outside the gym. The door closed with a thud behind him.
"I swear, next time he forgets something and I have to go back for it, he's getting it himself," Alec grumbled as he lifted the cable and walked back across the gym floor. He stepped onto the insignia painted at center court and stopped dead in his tracks. A faint whirring noise hummed beneath him and a blue light emitted from the logo.
Alec's eyes glossed over, becoming vacant of any appearance of thought or presence. His eyelids fluttered slightly.
Just as suddenly as it came on, the light disappeared and the hum disappeared. Alec stood dazed in the middle of the large room.
Sebastian opened the door, creating a loud slam that echoed off the walls. "Come on man, how long are you going to keep me waiting. I'm hungry."
With a start, Alec shook his head as if waking up. "Give me a second. It isn't easy hauling all this junk."
"Come on, come on," Seb held the door open and motioned for Alec to hurry.
Picking up his pace, seemingly completely unaware of anything having happened, Alex crossed through the room and exited the building.
Seb shook his head, mumbling to himself as he watched Alec move to their work van. "Keep me waiting for fifteen minutes... only have an hour for lunch... I should have just left him."
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
"We really don't need to go shopping, Mom," I said as she pulled into the parking lot of Garmentland. "I've got plenty of clothes."
"Humor me," she said. "We need get you more than jeans and t-shirts so you can make a good first impression at the Sagan Academy."
I leaned against the car window and stared at the other people milling about the parking lot. Families got in and out of cars, vans, and busses carrying bags, purses, and other meaningless junk. None of this really mattered, not when there was crime out there to be fought. I sighed, frustrated to be wasting my last weekend shopping when I could be practicing my shapeshifting. "No dresses."
Mom nodded in that "I'm not listening to a word you said" manner. "Yes dear." She pulled into a parking spot and the two of us headed into the nicely air-conditioned building.
The store was familiar territory. We'd shopped their occasionally over the last year since we moved to the area. My parents felt it was important for us to move around from different parts of New Amsterdam so not to have to explain me or get anyone too interested in my development. When I was younger, I didn't understand why I couldn't just make myself look different. It was only over the last year that I grasped that people paid attention to the fact that my parents had a daughter who was brunette one day, red head the next, and blond the next week.
For going to the Sagan Academy, I decided my everyday appearance would be dark hair, blue eyes, a petite and dainty nose, and roughly five-foot-four-inches tall (slightly tall for a 13-year-old girl). I'd kept this shape pretty much every day since getting back from the BADGE Space Station and felt very comfortable in it. I tried my best to give myself my dad's chin and my mother's cheeks and eyes, which took a lot more effort than I had expected. For hours, I sat at a mirror with a picture of both, one in each hand, subtly warping my face until I reached the look I liked best.
"What do you think about this?" Mom asked as she held up a precious pink dress with frilly top.
"Ughhh," I said as I walked past her and to a different aisle of clothes. "No dresses, Mom. Don't you listen."
"Blossom, we need to pick out one nice outfit for the 'Meet and Greet' orientation," she said as she continued to search through the same rack of dresses. She stopped for a moment and then turned to face me. "We might be doing this all wrong."
"Huh?" I muttered.
She stepped closer to me and looked to make sure nobody was near us before whispering, "With what you can do, I don't need to look at sizes, do I? You can just make yourself any size you need to fit into them." She gave me an amused smile. "You could wear anything in this store if you wanted to."
"Yes, Mom. That's what my powers are for," I said while intentionally rolling my eyes. "To be able to take advantage of wearing clothes."
It was her turn to sigh. "You don't understand what it is like to find an outfit you love and not be able to wear it because it is too small or tight on your body."
"Whatever," I said. What she didn't understand is that I understood her frustration. I'd spent weeks trying to turn into a tarantula but couldn't make myself the normal size one would be. I ended up with the dimensions of a football sized spider, not a tiny one that could crawl through a pipe or narrow crack in a window. I spotted a blue hoodie that looked comfortable. "What about this?"
"That?" Mom's face scrunched up. "It's so... boring."
I knew at that point that today was going to be a very, very long and tiring day for both of us.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
In reply to this post by Madam Marvelous
THE STAR FORCE OBSERVATORY
"I still can't believe you and I are going to be working at the same joint," Quan (Wyldfyre) said. "And at a school to boot."
Romana(Prysmatica) nodded. "It is not anything I had expected. There's no reason it can't be fun."
"I doubt we will see each other much. You'll be busing getting in your hours in the school infirmary helping boys figure out why their faces are covered in zits and the girls figure out why there are red stains in their-"
"Don't even start that kind of talk!" Romana raised her finger and shook it at Quan. "We're going to be around children all day long and I expect you to be on your best behavior. No, strike that. I want you acting better than your best."
"Just getting it out of my system before we get on campus, sweetheart," Quan smiled.
The two of them typically found themselves only in uniform together as they fought crime. Today they were dressed in their civilian clothes preparing for new experiences in their personal, non-cape lives. Romana wore scrubs and practiced inserting a needle into an orange as Quan sketched at a large easel.
"Should we act like we know one another?" Romana asked and then smiled coyly to herself. "Or can I pretend I don't know you at all?"
Quan continued to sketch, unbothered by her taunt. "Whatever makes you happiest. I'm doing this for me, not for you. The position as assistant to the art instructor will help me earn some points with the college board. I might even get them to give me partial credits for the classes I had taken before I got expelled."
"You did set fire to your dorm room," Romana said.
"Not my fault. I didn't even know I had Morphon powers then, so forgive me not for having asbestos sheets on my bed."
"Getting your powers for the first time is scary. All my skin started to glow all of the sudden my first time. My brother and sister's gifts hadn't triggered yet. I was the first, and when it happened, I thought I must have gotten into something radioactive and was going to die."
"Ohhh, scary. You glowed," Wyldfyre mocked her. "You became a flashlight and I was literally on fire. I think one of us had it a little bit worse than the other."
"Why do you make everything a competition?" Prysmatica asked. It always irritated her, the way that Wyldfyre either had to be the best at everything and everyone else's experiences were pale in comparison.
"You're either on top or nothing, babe," Quan said. "Hasn't league war taught you anything? Anyways, can I get a ride with you to this 'Meet and Greet' with the students and parents, if you're going?"
"No? Come on," Quan pleaded.
"No," Romana smiled mischievously at him. "I've decided I don't know you after all. I have to keep my cover intact. Plus, I don't have accidental fire coverage on my car."
Keri (Astra) and Doug lay in the back of Doug's old Ford pick-up truck. It was red originally, it had faded to a dull orange now. They were looking at the night sky outside of town. Doug's robotic body was made to look as close to human as possible. They were enjoying the last day before school.
"Are you ready to show everyone your new body?" Keri asked. She was intrigued by his body. She knew it was just a modified robot henchman she had obtained through her battles this last year. It was just the thought of Doug inhabiting the form that was strange.
"Yeah, but why are you now a senior and I'm still a junior?" Doug asked.
"Because I wasn't stuck on the Astral Plane for a year," Keri replied. "Although, my first year as a woman was rather challenging. School was easier because of a beneficial side effect."
"What side effect was that?" Doug questioned.
"A true eidetic memory. What most people call a photographic memory," Keri stated. "Personally, I wonder why Director Nova wants us to go to Sagan Academy? Does he suspect something going on? Or is it just a great school?"
"It probably has something to do with a training program," Doug concluded. "I'm just happy to have a body. Learning how to use it to the best of my abilities will be a bonus." He stared at the sky a moment. "How are we getting there tomorrow? New Amsterdam is quite a ways from Colorado."
"Psychoportation," Keri answered, "psionic teleportation. Mom will teleport us. You have your uniform?"
"Yeah," Doug complied. "You?"
"Psionic responsive nanites that comprise my costume have that handled," Keri confirmed. "I wonder if any other young heroes will be there?"
We arrived nearly a half-hour early for the 'Meet and Greet' but we clearly were not the only ones. The parking area we were directed to leave our vehicle at was fifteen minutes from campus. The Academy had busses waiting to take parents and new students to the actual campus.
"I never expected there to be this many people," Mom said as she inspected her dress for imperfections. She looked very nice. Her rich, brown hair woven into a long French braid. A polka-dotted black and white dress that hung down just below her knees. Her make-up was impeccable.
It was obvious she let my father to pick his own wardrobe, which made me jealous. He got to wear a comfortable pair of jeans and a simple long-sleeved blue shirt, which he rolled up to his elbows. I, on the other hand, had to wear blue and gray striped leggings with a bulky, itchy navy blue sweater over a frilly shirt. I told her no dresses, but the way the oversized sweater hung on me, it might as well have been one. The things we do to make our parents happy.
"It is a sizable school. Seventh through twelfth grades. That's a lot of kids," Dad said as he pulled out a tie I hadn't seen him wearing earlier. He wrapped it around his neck, muttering to himself, until Mom walked up beside him and helped him knot it.
"You look very nice, dear," she said before leaning in and kissing him on his cheek.
"You're going to embarrass me before classes even start, you guys," I said. "Grow up."
They looked into each other's eyes and laughed as they wrapped their arms around one another. "Does it bother you when we do stuff like this, Munchkin?" Dad asked.
"Uh, yeah," I said. "It's gross." The sooner we got this evening over with, the better. I started toward the bus. "I'm going to the bus now. Don't join me until you're done smooching."
I got into the line of people climbing into a bus when a second bus pulled up behind the first. My parents must have got it out of their systems, because they weren't far behind me. Together, we all boarded and one the bus was ready, we departed to the Sagan Academy.
The main campus sat on several acres of property and we first knew we had arrived there when the bus passed beneath a large stone arch. Twin statues sat on large concrete squares, one on each side of the well-manicured lawn. My research into the school uncovered the fact that it was named after some scientist named Carl Sagan. He had become very famous because of his studies into the science of our universe while also making the concepts of STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Math) relatable to the average person though his television program COSMOS.
Personally, I liked Jane Goodall as a scientist, as she worked more with animals, or Ms. Fae, but this Sagan guy seemed like a knowledgeable dude as well. Part of the reason I was interested in the Sagan Academy is it claimed to be there to introduce its students to cutting edge sciences. As much as history could be interesting in some rare ways (not that I could think of one off-hand), I wanted to learn about the future more than I did the past. Who cares what a man did twenty or a-hundred years ago? I wanted to know what was going on NOW!
We wound around a long driveway, past several outbuilding that left me very curious. One looked like a giant butterfly house while another resembled a launch pad for rockets. A third resembled an enormous model of the solar system that moved around a glowing yellow sun. I pointed at it as we drove by. "Look at that."
"Wow," Dad said. "Why didn't they have stuff like this when we were in school?"
Finally, the bus pulled up to the main building of the campus. A large glass building, very clean and modern looking unlike most of the stodgy old brick-and-mortar school buildings I'd seen. A large banner hung over the main entrances. WELCOME STUDENTS, PARENTS, AND STAFF. Below it, a slightly smaller banner hung. WE'RE SO HAPPY TO MEAT YOU!!!
I snickered. Somebody clearly forgot to use their autocorrect while making that.
The bus stopped and everyone disembarked. As I got off the steps, an inviting aroma met my nose and shook hands. It reminded me of the Forth of July party BADGE threw. "Do you smell that?"
Looking around, a line of people headed to a lower level where tables and chairs were arranged around a series of large grills where they were cooking hamburgers and hotdogs.
"Oh," I get it," Dad said. "It isn't just a 'meet and greet'. It's a 'MEAT and greet.' No wonder so many parents are showing up."
He wasn't kidding. Another bus pulled up behind us, but it was clear several busloads of people arrived before we did. I had to give the Academy credit. They knew how to make a good first impression.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
There was a flash of silver blue psionic energy just outside the school gates as Futurina teleported Doug, his parents, Astra and herself. She was dressed in her blue leather armor and biker jacket. She didn't have a secret identity, she was always Theressoelae Jhandroelaeji known as Futurina to the humans of Earth. Why should she hide when she was living on Earth in exile for centuries. Her eyes flashed and she smiled as she saw Wyldfyre.
Doug's parents were stunned by the instant travel. They had never been teleported before. "Are you okay?" Doug asked. He was wearing the Sagan Academy uniform. He noticed Keri had changed her outfit before they got to his home. Seeing his friend now wearing a girls uniform was a little weird to him.
"How... we were just at home? Now we're in a completely different city? We're not even in Colorado..." Doug's mom stammered.
"It's called teleportation," Doug explained, "I'd try to explain it but I'm not sure how it works myself."
"I smell BBQ," Keri stated. "What a nice way to get to know parents and students." She began to levitate to fly towards the smells when Doug tugged on her skirt. "Oh, right, that's probably not a good idea." she landed. "Race you!" she began to run and he chased her.
"No fair!" Doug called after her.
"I guess we go that way," Doug's father followed. His wife and Futurina strolled along beside him.
The food provided by the Sagan Academy was outstanding, not just because of the flavor, but because of the innovation behind creating it as well. The grills used to cook the meat were completely solar powered. The buns for the burgers and hot dogs weren't baked, but created by food printers. Even the drinking water was moisture-farmed out of the atmosphere and cooled by cryo-technologies that I'd never even heard of before.
I could only estimate that there were over 2,000 people present, exploring the campus's classrooms, education zones, and biodomes. Mom and Dad talked to various parents and staff of the school while I hovered nearby, fiddling with the collar of my sweater. Every so often, they would call out to me, wanting to introduce me to someone new. "This is our daughter, Blossom."
"Hello, Blossom," they would say, followed by some dull observation. "My, don't you look nice", "You're tall for your age", or my personal favorite (NOT), "are you as excited as our son/daughter?"
I smiled, nodded, and politely replied, "Thank you" to the inane repetitive questions, searching the crowd for something more interesting than idle chit-chat.
When I spotted three familiar people walking nearby, I could hardly believe it. Astra, Doug, and Futurina were there with a couple of other adults. Finally, some cool people I knew were around. Then I realized that they wouldn't recognize me, since I changed by appearance from the girl with the golden ringlets I sported on the space station.
Astra and Futurina were both psionic, so I tried thinking really hard at them. Hi. It's Kitt'n. I'm over here.
Both of them turned to face me at the same time. I smiled and waved secretively with one hand, trying to keep my parents from seeing me.
A nearby speaker squelched to life, "Hello, students, parents, and staff of the Sagan Academy. I would like to welcome each and every one of you to our campus. I'm your headmaster, Mr. John Smith. With me tonight is my lovely wife, Sarah."
"Good evening," a bright and cheerful woman's voice, with a faint British accent, came over the speakers around the school. "It's grand to meet so many of you this evening."
His voice returned. "This Academy is meant to honor a very great man who once said 'Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.' Carl Sagan believed that understanding the world was the foundation of living well upon her. We all hope that we can be a part of bringing up our next remarkable, brilliant generation into this incredible new world we are discovering daily and making them an empowered force that continues the journey of humankind into the future, where even more waits to be explored and understood."
The crowd clapped politely in response. The speech continued on for several more moments, where the headmaster and his wife spoke about several of the programs offered, thanked multiple donors for funding, and other idle chatter that seemed to impress the parents. Then Mr. Smith made a plea directed to the student body. "To my students, I know that you will come here with high expectations. And you will all challenge us. I want each and every one of you to know that we welcome that. Bring your questions. Come forth and test us, our capabilities, and skills. Just like you, it is through facing these challenges that we improve. Don't hold back. And above all else, I want tonight to be an example of what you can expect. Every day, come to the Sagan Academy hungry for new experiences. Thirsty to know more, to do better, and to discover what fires your passions. As I hope we have proven to all who have joined us tonight, we are prepared to feed you all, not just in body, but also in mind."
Everything I'd experienced about school so far taught me that teachers were to be obeyed. To be listened to. Hearing him ask for us to challenge them wasn't what I was used to.
The Sagan Academy was going to be very interesting indeed.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
"Ain't it a small world sometimes," Quan(Wyldfyre) said to Astra as he joined her and her companions at the Sagan Academy 'Meat and Greet'. "Here I thought you lived in Colorado."
"When you can teleport, the world does shrink a bit," Astra replied.
"I thought I'd come over and congratulate you." Quan nodded at Futurina with a playful smile dancing on his lips and a suggestive wink.
"Congratulate me? On?" Astra said.
"You know, joining that thing we're members of," Quan said.
"Oh. You mean the Star Force." Astra nodded. "I'm looking forward to working with your league."
"Well, I'm glad your not bashful about it," Quan said. "Most everyone knows who Alan Marcus is, but most of the rest of the league prefers to keep their identity secret. Prysmatica, for instance. She's so far in the hero closet she might as well be mothballs."
"And you don't try to keep your identity secret?" Astra asked.
"Heck no. I don't brag about it either. People recognize me or they don't. All that matters is I know who I am. Everyone else can go and f---"
"Why don't you and I go to your art studio?" Futurina interjected. "You can show me around more of the campus."
"Whatever you want, babe," Quan said as his eyebrows rose. "I know some spots I'd like to hit."
Together Futurina and Quan walked off, leaving Astra and Doug to their own exploration.
"Anything you'd like to see, Doug," Astra asked. "It's been awhile since you've gone to school. Let me play tour guide for you."
"Nah. The only place I ever asked to go while in school was the bathroom, and when I did that, I usually didn't even go there," Doug said. "Now, I don't have to visit the little boys room at all, unless I want to."
"Is it weird having a robot body?" Astra asked. Being able to use her gifts to mentally sense what Doug felt was something she rarely did without permission, but more than that, what people thought was often misleading. Sometimes being able to hear thoughts left Astra with the impression that many thoughts were like having Tourette syndrome. There were lots of thoughts that happened in the flash of a momentary experience, but were random and not a true aspect of a person's personality.
She was curious how Doug thought he felt about being a robot.
"Hi Doug," Alan Marcus said as he approached. "Keri."
"Hi Alan. Mr. Marcus?" Astra grinned. "Since you are going to be a lecturer here on robotics and bio-mechanics, I probably should be a bit more formal when talking to you."
"Don't care," Alan said as he signed his response as well. He then held out a hand to Doug for an elaborate fist bump the two developed while Alan, or Catalyst, upgraded a robotic companion Astra provided for her friends temporary body. "We friends first."
"Hey, Morning," Doug said.
"Morning? His name is Marcus," Astra corrected.
"No. He's Morning. Alan Marcus. A.M.," Doug smiled. "Get it?"
"You're weird," Astra said and then wrapped an arm around Doug's neck. She pressed his head down and proceeded to ruffle his hair with her free hand. "I wonder if there's a brain in there sometimes."
"No brain," Alan said, pointing at Doug's chest. "Cognitive processor in chest. Brain in head a bad design flaw in people. Vulnerable to injury."
Catalyst Heroes Rising
"He's not wrong, you know...", said a familiar voice from behind Astra.
"It's just my conjecture, but the most probable explanation is that the tissue in closest proximity to the primary sensory array hyperdeveloped to keep the neural pathway as short as possible. Otherwise, it is likely that a more protected location would have been favored...", said Krystal.
Alan, who had seen Krystal approach, grinned and signed his greeting.
Astra had 'sensed' Krystal's familiar mental pattern approaching, even though she had been facing away, and so was not startled.
Doug, due to his highly attuned robotic sensors, had been aware that someone was approaching, though he was not familiar enough with Krystal's bio-metric patterns as yet to recognize her by sound.
Astra asked, "Krystal, what are you doing here?", while in nearly synchronized unison, Doug asked, "Ms. Fae, what are you doing here?"
"Due to my pending maternity, I've been placed on sabbatical by BADGE medical... I was wondering what to do to fill my time, when Ashley, my intern from last summer, contacted me for a reference to transfer to this school... I appeared at her evaluation to personally vouch for her, and happened to overhear that they were seeking a linguistics instructor.", she replied.
"As you may know, I am fluent in quite a number of languages and dialects, so the school hired me to fill the position... I'll also be mentoring the staff of the school newspaper.", Krystal concluded.
Kitt'n (as Blossom was known by in BADGE circles), who happened to be passing close when this information was shared, was quite elated, and quickly brought her parents over to meet her various aquaintences.
As excited as I was to see Ms. Fae and so many of my new heroic friends, I couldn't wait to introduce my parents to them. Then I remembered the First Rule: Protect Our Family. Mom and Dad would be livid if I introduced them to everyone here at the Academy at the first opportunity. Plus, they insisted that I not use my powers while attending classes. If they saw so many other heroes here with me, what if they decided to pull me out of attendance before classes even began.
And then a third thought occurred to me. If there were so many heroes here at the same time, what about villains. Bad people had kids too.
I froze dead in my tracks, making my dad bump into my back due to my rapid halt.
"Hey, kiddo, what's with the sudden stop," he asked. My mom, a few steps behind him, slid up to his side.
"What do you say we go out and check out the grounds, first?" I said while several feet from the gathering of Astra, Ms. Fae, and the rest. "There's too many people in here right now. I'm feeling a bit sick."
Mom knelt down and place her hand on my forehead. "Are you OK, sweetie? I'm sure there is a doctor around here somewhere."
"I'm fine, Mom," I said, brushing her hand away. "I just need some fresh air. New school jitters, I guess."
"There's a ramp over there up to the grounds. Let's head that way." Dad said.
His path would take us right up to Astra and everyone else."Ummm... can we go back and get some water first please. I think that would help."
"Anything you want dear," Mom said. She stood up and looked around the room, casting a suspicious eye at everything as any momma bear would. I could only hope she wouldn't recognize Astra, Ms. Fae, or Alan Marcus. "The refreshment table is over this way, I think."
She led us away from the gathered heroes and poured me a glass of cool, cucumber water. We then headed up a different set of stairs to the front lawn of the school.
If I had to juggle this much on the first night at the academy, how was I going to handle it for the whole semester?
"The facial recognition program has identified several known Morphon and otherwise enhanced or alien individuals in attendance," a man dressed in a black turtleneck said from a computer monitor. He watched the crowd of attendees of the meet and greet on the screen as some faces became highlighted and a smattering of data scrolled next to each one. "Some of the staff has already been identified as Risk Level C. It seems some parents and students are also capes of some variety."
A woman, dressed in a similar fashion, came up behind him and studied his screen. "Continue until we have information on everyone there, and then send the information up the pipeline. They're going to find this very useful indeed."
The camera panned over the crowd and clung to the images of Astra, Krystal Fae, Alan Marcus, and a large exclamation mark blipped over Doug.
"What does that mean?" the man asked.
"He's flagged in the system for some reason," she replied. "It seems our associates have an interest in this one."
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
There were elegant lamps lit outside in the courtyard of the Sagan Academy, creating a beautiful, serene scene to observe the early evening sky. I looked up and searched for the first star of the night, not able to find one immediately. At the edge of the branches bordering the landscaped garden area, I finally spotted on just above the tree-line at the opposite side of the sky from where the sun had set.
"So, what do you think?" Dad asked as the three of us walked away from the crowd to find a quiet place to talk. "Do you like it here so far."
I nodded. "Yeah. I think I'll like going here."
"I'm not sure about it, if I'm being honest," Mom said. "There's a lot of promise. Don't get me wrong, but its a bit flashy and showy. I see on the list of instructors and guest lecturers that several of them are... well known for other activities. Krystal Fae is here as an instructor and Alan Marcus too. I think there may be a bit too much overlap between other interests here for her to keep her promise. Did you know she was going to be teaching here?"
"No!" I shook my head. Mom had recognized them. Darn it. "I didn't have any idea she'd be here."
"At least she doesn't know who you here in your private identity, does she?" Mom looked at me. "We've asked Director Nova to keep that on a need to know basis."
"Until I'm assigned a full-time adviser, which hopefully will be here, I don't know how anyone would know who I am. But...," and I hated needing to admit this to Mom, but until you're around people with abilities, it is hard to imagine what all people can do, "she is a telepath. My body may change, but my mind doesn't."
Her hand went to her face, covering it as she closed her eyes while her elbow came to rest on the back of the palm of her other hand. The Mom Maneuver, I called it. The one where she did her best from crying or yelling as a headache started to come on. She breathed deeply. "I think we need to talk to Director Nova and make sure she's protected."
"Honey, I don't think..."
The two of them started to talk in hushed tones about my future, but my attention was pulled away from a strange light in the shrubbery beneath the trees. A young man wearing a uniform of some sort walked out of the foliage, and not the normal way. He passed through the leaves, trunks, and branches as if a ghost.
He stumbled into view of others walking around the grounds and collapsed. Several people, both male and female, screamed out in surprise.
"What dear? Oh, my lord," Mom said. She and Dad both quickly made their way over to the fallen man, with me quickly in tow behind them. I tried not to call attention to myself, which was fairly easy as everyone was intent on discovering what was going on ahead of me, but I needed to do something. "Astra. Ms. Fae. There is something weird going on out in the courtyard. Somebody might be hurt."
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Krystal looked at Astra in a meaningful manner at receiving Kitt'n's projection.
"Astra, could you remain here and project 'calm', and discretely discourage the crowd mentally from wanting to enter the courtyard?", projected Krystal.
Krystal then headed up the ramp herself as if merely wandering about the grounds.
As Krystal came into view of the stricken man, she made mental contact with him.
"Who found him? Can anyone tell me what happened?", asked Krystal.
She made a point of ignoring Kitt'n, by instead focusing on her father and mother.
As they described verbally what they had seen, she projected to Kitt'n her questions.
She then took several moments to make a discrete but visible display of mentally connecting to the stricken man.
She announced quietly that he was mostly uninjured, though he had collapsed due to dehydration and malnutrition. He seemed to have been stuck in a ghostly form for several days and had had nothing to eat or drink.
Krystal moved to a slightly more secluded position and materialized her BADGE comm unit.
She quietly described the situation and asking the others to clear the area, teleported herself and the stricken man discretely from the scene to the nearest BADGE medbay.
She reappeared moments later, cautioned the witnesses not to discuss the incident until BADGE had debriefed them, and returned to the event.
So focused on her task helping the man and trying to be considerate of Kitt'n and her families desire to keep her super identity private, Krystal couldn't help but feel she had missed something. Something about Blossom's parents seemed very familiar, and they were helpful when answering her questions, there was a subtle trepidation to them while they answered her questions. Her presence near to them brought out a sense of gratitude but extreme caution from both of the parents that Blossom didn't have.
While waiting for BADGE to arrive, Krystal used her personal datapad to review the records she had gotten when first assigned to work with Blossom. Much of the information had been listed as confidential at the behest of her parents, which when dealing with minors wasn't unusual. As she dug deeper, she realized that the family history was slightly over a year old. Much of the information had been completely fabricated. She had encountered situations like this before, when dealing with information relevant to individuals under witness protection.
She pursed her lips, deep in thought. Very few people could grant clearances she was unaware of. And the date when all the new data appeared also triggered some memories. She had been called in on a very unusual case of a newborn with extreme progeroid syndrome, aging so quickly she matured in just one day.
And with that remembrance, she knew why she found the father's face familiar. He and his wife had had cosmetic work done to disguise themselves, but she could make out enough commonality to realize she spent several hours with them at their daughter's bedside. But that couldn't be the same girl. She transformed into an ethereal creature after appearing to have died.
Transformed. That must have simply been a developing stage in her powers. With life being so busy and the baby surviving, Krystal hadn't considered connected the two as possibly being the same child. Then she realized that if Blossom was the same child, she was actually just over a year old. She had intended on following up on how they young girl progressed, but soon after her birth, Director Nova told her that the family had been placed into protective custody until she became of a more suitable age and were being attended to. She had accepted his orders and moved on to help with the next crisis.
Then all the business with the Jinn, the Ruby Shards, Chase disappearing, Morgana, and so many other crises occurred it wasn't any wonder that she put the unique family's situation on a back burner.
Pieces came together as Krystal thought more on the entire course of meeting Blossom. The near paranoia about keeping a secret of her identity, the mild training she had in shielding her thoughts, and her quick mind. It didn't explain how she blocked Krystal's telepathy entirely for a period of time, so there were still questions on her powers. Perhaps a discussion with Dr. Henderson about the specific results was far past due.
Krystal muttered to herself, "I guess she grew up faster than expected once again."
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Keri used her vast telepathic abilities to keep people from going to the courtyard. She also kept them calm. She had no idea what was happening there. She also knew to keep to herself. If she needed to know she would be told. At least her eyes didn't glow like Futurina's.
"What's going on?" Doug asked with concern.
"I'm not sure," Keri admitted. "Something in the courtyard. Krystal will let me know more details if I need them." She continued to redirect people. She was using a lot of psychic energy.
"I'm going to need another burger," Keri informed Doug. "I'm burning off a lot of energy. I'm not sure how long I can keep it up without more food."
"You still eat like a teenage boy," Doug chuckled. "I'll be back in a few." He looked at his parents. "Let's get a few more burgers." They walked away together.
Something seemed off. Futurina could sense danger and often see the future of friends and important people. Astra didn't have those powers. She had the ability to Astral Project. Futurina said she had at least some ESP ability but not enough to do more than sense the air abut her for her PK Shield.
The hairs on the back of Astra's neck rose as a slight chill took to her skin. An awareness beyond her normal ken seemed to warn her of being observed. She glance around the room, searching for eyes on her, but found nobody looking at her. Everyone seemed to be minding their own business or small groupings.
The BADGE shuttle arrived and departed. The crowd of parents and future students diminished, their conversations not on the children, but on the fact BADGE showed up. Astra overheard several parents discussing their fears that this was becoming an all too frequent occurrence.
"It's great BADGE is around, but remember back when we didn't have these capes and aliens flying all over the city," one woman said. "Now our kids can't even go to school without something weird happening.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
The day after Labor Day: First Day of School at the Sagan Academy
I had to admit, I looked pretty good in the mirror. I'd put my hair back into a long pony tail. Mom wanted me to wear an outfit she picked out (yuck) at the store, so I humored her by wearing the jeans she wanted, but instead of a frilly blouse, I wore a Julie and the Phantom's hoodie over a pink t-shirt. I liked that below the collar of my dark purple hoodie, a tiny splash of bright color could be seen.
"Time to go," Mom shouted from downstairs. Parents always complained that kids made a lot of noise. Truth be told, parents are the ones who scream and shout the most. Why wouldn't she just text me on my BADGE communicator?
Oh. That's right. I couldn't take it with me to school.
I scowled in the mirror as I thought on my first day of school being the last time I could use my powers until either a BADGE assignment or the weekend, whichever came first. Mom, Dad, and I were going to have to have a real conversation about that. Not morphing was like asking me not to breathe or eat.
"BLOSSOM. GET DOWN HERE!" Mom shouted.
I grabbed my backpack while glancing over my room for anything I might have forgotten. Not seeing anything, I hurried out the door and down the stairs. "I'm here. I'm here. I didn't want to forget anything."
"The shuttle isn't going to wait for you. If you're not out there on time, one of us is going to have to drive you," she said while Dad sat at the small table in the kitchen and read from his tablet. "And neither he nor I can do that without getting into trouble at work."
"Why did you have to go back to work Mom?" I asked. "Weren't you having enough fun being able to stay home all the time before?"
"You and your father aren't the only people in this family who get to have a life," she said. "I've spent the last year taking care of you, but with you off all day at the Sagan Academy, why shouldn't I get back to my career. I love what I used to do. I want to find out if I still do."
"Based on the garden you have out back, I think we already know the answer to that." Dad said as he winked at my mother.
Before having me, Mom worked at a botanical garden as a staff botanist. She loved flowering plants, dirt, and all sorts of other outdoorsy stuff. She told me about it all the time, but after having me, she had to give up that job when we moved. It hurt my heart, knowing that she chose not to go back to what she enjoyed so much because of her worry for me. Seeing her excited about going to back to work and doing what she loved again made me feel a little tiny bit better.
A chime range from Dad's phone. "That's the one minute warning, Kitt'n. Grab your stuff and go learn something."
I smiled as he patted my head while I moved past him to the fridge to grab my bottle of water for the ride.
Mom knelt and gave me a hug, and in unison, we looked into each other's eyes and at the same time said "Wish me luck. Jinx!" We hooked pinkie fingers together and smiled before I rushed to the front door.
Before I opened the door, I checked myself in the mirror one last time. I looked back into the hallway and into a large mirror that let me spy into the kitchen. Mom was at Dad's side, hugging his head close into her belly while he reached up with his free arm to grab her elbow.
My hearing was always quite acute. Not super, but good enough to hear them talking from the kitchen.
"It's going to be OK, isn't it? Should one of us go with her?" Dad said.
"We've never had much control over how fast she's grown up, but we have to trust her," Mom said. "I only hope we're doing the right thing?"
Right thing? What did she mean? The shuttle tires squeaked as it was turning onto our street. Grabbing my pack close to my chest, I hurried out to meet it. I'd have to ask Mom what she meant when I got back home.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Romana(Prysmatica) checked the final box on her checklist for supplies in the Sagan Academy Nurses Office. While the school wasn't meant to deal with situations that involved surgery or complicated long term care of any injured student, it was prepared for almost any emergency situation she could imagine. Epi-pens for allergic reactions, Naloxone in case of issues with a drug OD, insulin for any diabetic child who may have forgotten theirs at home, and bins full of bandages.
"Hello, Miss Delvalutra," a voice said from the office counter behind her. Krystal Fae had her arms propped on the counter as she leaned over and smiled warmly. "Another big step in your schooling efforts. I know that you are more than capable of handling most of what you come across, but please remember, I'm only a thought away if you need me."
"Thank you, Ms. Fae," Romana said with her pleasant Italian accent marking her words. Her dark blue/black hair was pulled back into a long braid and she word comfortable medical scrubs. "May the gods above see that nothing bad happens to these children while they are on campus."
"Well, gods are quite powerful, but the ability for children to get into trouble is more so, I believe." Krystal chuckled as she stood straight and place a hand on her belly bump. "I think spending more time around children might help prepare me for my future. Not that hanging around Mr. Hamilton at the Sentinel office doesn't resemble babysitting for Calvin and Hobbs at some moments."
Romana grinned as she blushed. Krystal was one of the few people that knew she and Chaz had gone out on a few dates over the last year, but he was unaware of Romana's Morphon abilities and activities as a cape. "I'm going to miss seeing him at the office everyday."
"I hear he is going to be coming here later today to do an interview of the headmaster," Krystal said. "No doubt he is going to be trying to find out more about the young man who appeared on campus the night of the meet and greet."
"Did you ever find out what happened to him?" Romana asked.
"Dr. Henderson took lead on that investigation. She told me after some initial tests that he had an unstable Morphon interaction," Krystal said. "He developed powers a couple of days after doing work here on the building and has no idea why he was on campus here. To make things even stranger, he currently has no trace of Morphon ability or alteration to his genetic code."
"So he had powers and lost them?" Romana set her clipboard down and straightened some flowers on the counter, while casually glancing around for any of the staff nurses to be listening in. "That doesn't happen much, does it?"
"No," Krystal replied. "99 percent of people who get powers keep them. The flare of a Morphon ability developing and then burning out is possible, but extremely unlikely."
"Do you think something is up?"
"I've found something is always up, my friend," Krystal replied. "If you're asking if it is tied to the Academy, I don't know. Yet."
"Miss Delvalutra, do you have that checklist done," a nurse said as she came out of an examination room. "If you do, could you please start with these?" She held out a datapad. "We want to make sure all special needs are attended to based on these medical files. If a student has a condition that requires any unusual medication or treatment, let's be ready." The nurse wore glasses and due to her small pug nose, the lenses sat very close to one another. She seemed almost as if she looked at you with one big eye. She turned and hopped back, noticing Krystal there for the first time. "Oh, hello Ms. Fae. Can we help you?"
"Romana has. She and I worked at the Sentinel together over the summer and I was just saying hello and wishing her good luck." Krystal smiled as she nodded at the nurse. "Goodbye."
With that, everyone returned to their duties, Romana and Nurse Turanga in the medical offices, Krystal on her way to her classroom.
Keri (Astra) and Doug walked down the hall heading towards their classes. The school uniforms they wore seemed strange to them as did the amount of students in the school. They were from a small town where everyone knew everybody. The cliques were the same but different.
"It's weird that your a senior and I'm not," Doug stated.
"Not really, you missed a year of school," Keri retorted. "I'm sure you can still graduate on time by taking both junior and senior classes, but that would severely limit your time to be a hero or have fun. I still think you could do it."
"Only if I have a true Eidetic Memory the same as you," Doug replied. "I guess, technically, I do in this robotic body, but will I retain it in my newly cloned body once ready?"
"That's a good point," Keri agreed. "We don't really know, do we?" She could feel someone or something watching them. She didn't see any cameras, but couldn't shake the feeling.
"Do you ever get the feeling we're being watched?" Keri questioned.
"No, I know we're being watched," Doug corrected. He started pointing "There's a camera, there's a camera, and there's a camera." He pointed out three hidden cameras. "My new eyes can pick the out the cameras with ease. I'm working a a scrambler program for privacy."
"Miss Mitchel," a man with a mild Scottish accent called out from a intersection between two hallways in the main Sagan Academy building. "May I have a word?"
Keri turned and spotted Headmaster Smith waving at her from the open doorway of a classroom. A steady stream of students heading into the room blocked him from approaching. She stopped and waited for him to make his way to her. She could have teleported behind him, but didn't want to flaunt her abilities to everyone, despite her not having a secret identity. "Sure, Headmaster. I don't think I've done anything to get me in trouble yet."
"Nay," he said as he straightened his tie and tucked it neatly into the V of his buttoned-up striped brown suite. "I'm more than pleased to have someone of your reputation at the Academy. Thank you ever so much for joining our little community here. I have a small request for you."
"Really?" Keri replied. What could the headmaster want from her on the first day of classes.
"We're having an assembly tomorrow, after everyone has had a chance to meet their teachers and classmates. I'm sure you are aware that you are not the only gifted person in attendance her, but you one of the ones many will recognize as an active hero. I've asked others like you to help me during a presentation for the student body," Headmaster Smith said. "I want to engage everyone in the issue of students with and without powers coming together and finding value in their own individuality. Our goal here is to be fully inclusive to all of our students. Powered, alien, or whatever a student might be, this is an environment for all."
Astra thought for a moment on his suggestion. "Well..."
"No rush to decide right now, Miss Mitchel," he said. "Think on it and let me know at the end of the day. Oh, and in addition, I am also going to propose a student organization for helping those students who have discovered they have powers to contact a peer for support, if needed. I'm not entirely familiar with your personal background when you discovered your gifts, but I think it is fairly universal that it is a stressful and difficult time. I know not every student will develop a power, but I would be remiss if I didn't expect a portion of our adolescent student body to succumb to the effects of Morphonic alteration, or whatever the proper term is."
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
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