New Guard

Summer Dulladrums
Passing time with alternative fiction

Blaigeard! So close, but so far off…”

Deaglan sighed, laying down yet another book on “pagan” rituals, staring at his notes of differences between the magic he had known, what he was taught, and what was written in stories told in the pages of various books he could find. It was like reading the results of a horrible game of telephone gone wrong. However, there was the occasional article online or excerpt from an obscure story that eerily accurate.

It proved to be ample distraction for Deaglan during the summer. Angel and Aaron (and even Alea, before she graduated) had taught Deaglan much about magic, helping him tune it to his needs, and how to use it. Then after the school year ended, Deaglan moved into his new dorm and had little to do aside from practice and summer classes, so he busied himself translating or identifying old spells and rituals from myth, particularly Arthurian lore and European mythos. While separating facts from fiction was oddly fun and satisfying, it came with a few moments of discomfort.

What stood out to him most was how horrible the Faerie were presented in certain tales. Sure, there were truths buried in various stories, but the details were wildly varied, depending on the source. Apparently, in some circles, humans would consider him half-goblin! Not to mention the surprise buckets of blood for those who open doors when a Dullahan passes by. Seriously, who has time to carry THAT much blood around in a bucket? Whips made of human spines? Gross AND impractical!

Deaglan sighed once more, poking at his cheeks; he was already beginning to feel self-conscious after reading that a Dullahan’s head had the consistency of rotten cheese.

Moments later he stood before his dresser mirror, looking himself over, making small tweaks to the glamour disguising his heritage. Rounder ears, less pale skin, maybe some freckles. He was already looking into some spells with Aaron’s help to make the glamour a physical change in some cases. He wasn’t worried about his friends knowing who he was, or rather what he was, but if it got out the “Masquerade” wasn’t just some kid with magic, but a being from Avalon, who knows what could happen to him. Deaglan already found some magicks that called for “goblin spleens” and “Dullahan’s Tongue”, and he wasn’t terribly keen on finding out how those were acquired.

He looked himself over once more, satisfied with his look. “Just be someone else. Easy enough, right?”

He wasn’t so sure.

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Responsibilities

Reggie walked into the commons area and plopped down on a couch in front of the TV. He didn’t sleep, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be exhausted. He got the Crunchy Roll app opened and looked at the clock. 3:47 a.m.

“Seriously?” He said out loud, “It’s bad enough I missed the party…THAT I HELPED PLAN, but now I don’t even have enough time to binge ‘A Certain Scientific Railgun’ before classes tomorrow. Man this internship is…eh screw it. Let’s do this.”

Reggie turned on the subtitles and set the fast forward to 10×.

“Alright lets see if we can take our mind off that bombshell they dropped.”

He heard the rustling before he saw her.

“Bombshell? I’m not…interrupting am I?” Funny how someone with such a kind voice could be called Toxin.

“Hey, Charlene. No you’re fine. Just unwinding after getting some stuff done for the Atoms.” Reggie paused the show.

“What’re you watching?” she asked as she sat down on the couch.

“Just some anime that Akira suggested before they left. Been meaning to get to it. You wanna watch?”

“I’d hate to slow you down.”

“Not possible, Charlene.”

The silence stretched on for an eternity to Reggie.

“Sooooo…how’s Sebastian doin’?” He regretted it as soon as he asked it. “Why did you bring up Casanova…” he thought to himself.

She looked at him puzzled. “What do you mean by that?”

“What? Nothing. You guys have just been hanging out a lot lately.”

“Uuuuuugh. Don’t’ tell me you’re buying into that rumor,” She said rolling her eyes.

“What…rumor? Man have I really been gone that much? Knowing stuff is like…supposed to be my thing.”

“No, running head first into trouble faster than everyone else is your thing.” The look she gave was both judging and mocking.

“So much shade. Can’t see. So dark…” Reggie motioned like he was feeling around in the darkness. He accidentally brushed Charlene’s containment suit. She instantly recoiled.

“Sorry.” He said pulling his hands back quickly.

“No. No it’s fine. Old habits. But no, me and Sebastian have just been hanging out…because….well…he gets it.” She started avoiding eye contact.

“Gets what?” Maybe Reggie was tired but he was obviously missing something.

“Ugh, you’re smarter than this, Reggie. He knows what it’s like to…he just…he can relate to my situation, you know? People have this idea of who I am but know nothing about me really. It’s the same with him sorta.” She shrugged her shoulders and leaned back on the couch more.

“I haven’t told you this, but, you know that’s why I went for this internship right? To give you a chance to show people that?”

“I didn’t ask you to do that.” She sat back up straight. Less relaxed.

“I know that. But I got to see that girl inside the suit and she was damn cool. You deserve a chance to show the rest of them that.”

“What if I don’t want to, Reggie. Did you think about that?”

“Fair. But at least then the decision would be yours and not the suit’s.”

“Please. You don’t have to do this for me. I’ve accepted this…” she motioned at the suit. “I don’t need a white knight. I don’t need to be rescued.”

“I know. I get that.” He pulled something out of his hoodie pocket. “But would you say you need a friend who will watch esoteric anime at normal speeds and share the Double Stuff Oreo’s he snagged from the vending machine that Brian hacked?” His look of mock innocence couldn’t help but garner a grin from Charlene.

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. But if I fall back asleep you better wake me up in time for class.”

She took a handful of Oreo’s and loaded them into the exchange port in her suit. She pulled her arms out of the gloves and sleeves and into the torso part and began munching on the cookies.

Reggie waited patiently for her to complete her get-comfy-ritual, nodded, and hit play.

“Naw,” he thought. “The internship is worth it. Bombshells and all.”

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Chiaroscuro Duality Vol 0 - Prelude to Disjuncture
The Summer of Torment

Journal the Third. Journal the Handstitched. Journal the definitely lopsided. Sorry for bringing you into the world all mixed up and put together wrong, 3Journal. Trust me, I’d know a thing or two about that.

Two. There’s that word again. The number of my torment. The number of my reckoning. The number of myself. It’s come up again and again this summer. I expect I’ll see it a lot more going forward.

Oh my friggin’ GOD it is so much easier to write without Noah BAMFing around hanging my boxers from the light fixture every ten seconds. 3Journal, dude, you don’t even know. You LITERALLY don’t even.

Okay. So, there’s a lot to chew on. I did a lot of that in New Journal this summer. Till I filled up every single freaking square inch of it in black ink, a spotted memoir to my torments. Like, I literally spent like eight pages just coming up with that line. It’s good though, right?

So, the thing is, I had a lot of time to think and write and work on myself. I think I needed that, 3Journal. I was SO freakin mixed up last year. I couldn’t do anything right, and I was letting everyone down all the time. And man, you know why? Cuz I couldn’t even come to terms with, like, who I AM.

Look, look! I know that sounds like some crap Devin would spout. But I promise, that home-invader douchebag did NOT get in my head this summer. Even if we were trapped on a ranch somewhere in bumfrick Montana for like two months together before he asked my mom to friggin marry him (OH THAT IS A WHOLE SEPARATE ENTRY, 3JOURNAL). That’s why you kinda rustle when I open you, by the way, 3Journal. Friggin dust everywhere, it got all in your binding while I was tying you up. I’m sorry about that.

But seriously though. I was trying so hard to seem like I was above being cool and hiding from who I really was that I totally forgot about like, the real me. And it took facing down a dude I thought was one of my best friends (he was actually a robot, who, um, I guess is actually my friend after all? Look, it’s confusing. Talk to New Journal about it, alright?) with a bunch of my ACTUAL best friends to figure that out.

So, yeah. Full disclosure. I Horseflight Magicka’ed right out in front of everyone. It was, um. A thing.

BUT!

I am SO passed all that now! Totally over it, and totally over myself. From now on, it’s just being, like, straight with everyone about who I am, you know?

So that’s why there’s some weird silver finger prints on your cover. Cuz I was dying my hair silver when I got called into the principal’s office to get invited to Next Gen Plus last week. To, like, show everyone that I wasn’t, like, posing anymore. Show ‘em that I’m the real me, now.

Except I didn’t get finished. Half my hair’s still black. That’s dye, too, by the way.

See? I am, like, so straightforward now. My life is an OPEN. FREAKING. BOOK.

But like my hair, 3Journal? I’m totally not finished yet. I’m still figuring myself out. And all my awesome new powers. Cuz like, obviously I’m 16 now. You can’t live your whole life living out the fantasies you have when you’re a little kid, like Horseflight Magicka or The Crow. You’ve gotta GROW and GROW UP. And oh, man, I am like, SO grown up now. Some guy at Dunkin Doughnuts the other day thought I was like, 18. Hah! I shoulda tried to buy some cigarettes.

And man, talking about GROWN UP? Oh man, I gotta tell you all about Killer Psycho 9: Bloodknife Libretto. It’s this freaking SICK anime Shadow showed me the other night. Oh man. There’s this one part, in episode FREAKING ONE, where the hero, this sick dude called Heart-Rent Divide, cuts some other dude in half WITH HIS OWN FACE.

Like. . . WHAT? That was so freaking awesome.

So, 3Journal? You’re going on this journey with me, even if you creak when I close you and you’re all covered in weird stains and sometimes pages fall out of you. We’re gonna find out who we are, man.

No more masks. No more drama. We’re living our real lives together now!

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BrokenEggTV: 60k Subscriber Q&A!

Hi guys! Ignacio Cardona here, probably better known as Eggy. I’m here with Sam the Cat for another episode of BrokenEggTV.

Today, I have a subscriber Q&A to thank you all for helping me reach 60,000 subscribers! Thank you so much! I really and truly appreciate it!

Before I get started, I want to also thank Leesa mattress for continuing to sponsor my channel. Guys, Leesa Mattresses are super comfortable and for every mattress they sell, they plant a tree! And if you use the code EGG20, you get up to $200 off a brand new Leesa mattress.

Let’s start the Q&A, SuperDoer456 sent in this question:

Are you coming back to the show anytime soon? Maybe a cameo?

SuperDoer456, thank you for the question. I want to say I am focused on my education l right now. Also, I think it might be a bit odd to have two Eggys right? By the way, I wish all the best to the new Eggy and the rest of the cast!

The next question is from JakkyChunDBZ.

Is it true that you aged out of the SuperDoers? You were the last original member.

Thank you, JakkyChunDBZ. I guess you could say I aged out. At the same time, I do not want to be typecast, I want to explore other opportunities in acting. I will keep you all updated on that front!

Here’s a question from PowerCreep0602:

What high school are you attending?

Nice try, but I can’t tell you that. I hope you understand, thanks for the question. I can tell you it’s been amazing. I am very happy that I got this opportunity. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful.

Last question is from KungFuHustler:

What’s the deal with the plush cat in every video?

KungFuHustler, thanks for your question. Sam is my little buddy, I’ve had him for few years. He was just waiting for me under the Christmas tree and he’s been with me ever since.

Well, that’s all the time for today’s episode. All the subscribers who’s question I read will get a signed headshot from me and a signed SuperDoers Season 12 DVD! Just private message me your address and I will send it out promptly.

Thanks again! also, remember to subscribe, comment and like!

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It's Fine

MC checked her phone for what felt like the millionth time. It was 11:04, with no missed calls, or text messages. She sighed, and plopped down on the ratty couch. “It’s fine. It’s going to be fine.”

DJ Kodiak, Leon and Sophia popped into existence and immediately started arguing. The same one they had, every day since Zoey left for school.

DK: It’s not fine. She promised she’d call at eight but she didn’t.
L: Maybe she just forgot, because she was busy. I’m assuming that the first day of college is overwhelming. What if we send her a text…
S: Oh, so we’re going to be that person? The girlfriend that calls constantly and never gives Zoey a moment’s peace. Zoey’s entering a new chapter in her life and we need to respect that. That’s the only way this will work.
DK: It’s not going to work, she left us behind! And you won’t let me tell her how much we miss her!
S: I’ve explained this to you a thousand times, as long as we respect…
L: I still think a text is a good option..

“SHUT UP! This is not helping.”

All three of them looked at her in disbelief, before disappearing. Somehow the silence was worse.

MC laid on her back, and looked at the brightly painted strips of fabric that flowed from the center of the ceiling to the walls. For years, illusions were the only decorations in the clubhouse. It was a way to practice her skills, and also an act of defiance against her parents. But then Zoey suggested that they create something real, that marked this space as theirs. MC could still see the paint splatters on her cheeks…

She tried to create an illusion of Zoey’s face, but something about it wasn’t quite right. Frustrated, she curled into a ball, tears flowing freely, and cried herself to sleep.


MC woke up to something buzzing in her hand.

OMG I’m SO sorry!!! Can I call you after my first class?

She rubbed her eyes, and stretched, her legs stiff from sleeping on the sofa. She typed a brief response.

Sure. Talk to you then.

Somehow she managed to avoid her mother, while sneaking in to the kitchen for some breakfast. She was setting up to work on a new track, when her phone rang.

“Hey.” Zoey sounded out of breath, like she had been walking up a lot of stairs.

“Hi.” She replied, before things lapsed into an awkward silence. Crap.

“I hung that poster you gave me above my desk.” Zoey said tentatively. She began describing the layout of the room making sure to include small details. (“Someone named Anna carved their name into the bedpost”, “The overhead light has bugs trapped in it”, “My roommate brought one of those 5-light floor lamps, the ones we were making fun of at Home Goods”)

As she spoke, MC created a miniature illusion dorm, adding more to it as Zoey talked. This was something they used to do over the summer, describe their surroundings, and create an illusion space. It started out as an excuse to practice their powers, but it was really a way to cope with not seeing each other every day.

“I can send you pictures.”

A miniature Zoey appeared, sitting cross legged on the bed. Sun streamed through the window, the light hitting her hair just right, so it crowned her head in a copper halo. MC smiled. “No, this is perfect.”

“It’s better in person.” She looked at the illusion dorm room, puzzled, before her brain caught up with itself.

“Are you asking me to come visit?”

Before Zoey could respond, there was a sound of a door slamming open in the background. “Hey, we’re headed to lunch, do you want to come with? Oh, sorry I didn’t realize you were on the phone. Wait, are you talking to your girlfriend? Hi Zoey’s girlfriend!” MC could practically hear the other girl waving through the phone.

“Uh, hi Zoey’s roommate?”

“Yeah, she says hi. I’ll catch up with you.” The door shut again. “Sorry about that, she’s…”

“Loud?”

“No, just really enthusiastic. All the time. She reminds me of you in that way.” MC’s heart skipped a beat. “I should go grab food before my next class. Ask your mom about next weekend, yeah?”

“I will. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

The illusion room disappeared as soon as the call disconnected, and was replaced with a humanoid sized Orca whale, who offered his fipper to her. “Hype Whale?”

“Hype Whale.” MC returned the high five with a grin on her face. “I’ve missed you buddy!"

Everything is going to be fine.

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A New Start
Flora's First Day

A grainy cell phone video on YouTube shows an average looking high school cafeteria. What isn’t average is the rapt attention everyone has at two girls arguing. A short, blonde girl stands stoically while a tall red head is perched at her seat across a large cafeteria table. Behind the two girls is another brunette quietly crying. The sound is terrible, the words can’t be made out but it is clear the red head is relishing the talk down she’s giving the blonde, who just stands with fists clenched. Finally enough people quiet down to hear “…and what is a nobody like you going to do about it? You’re just a runt from a trash family that’ll never amount to anything”

Five seconds of silence seem like an eternity

Suddenly out of now where the table lifts completely, the redhead and her friends move quickly away as it flips over and lands with a deafening thud. Screaming ensues, along with the shouting of the camera person as they run away. The blonde girl has barely moved and looks down at her hands in horror as the video finally cuts off.

The video is titled: Mutant Girl Flips Table which is a poor title, one of the more boring super power altercations and only has 700 views. Still, that was probably the second worst day of her whole life and haunted her all summer. She was lucky she wasn’t expelled although she obviously could not go back to Mill River High. Flora still felt more than crummy about the whole ordeal. She was an uncontrollable monster; she could have killed Lucille and the entire cheerleader team.

“Don’t watch that Flor, it’s just going to get you in a bad headspace” her older brother, Hal, said as he moved past her at the kitchen table to get to the fridge. She closed her laptop, and sighed before hiding her face in her surgical gloved hands.

“I know…I just…I don’t know. Hal, what if they all hate me?” She asked.

“They aren’t going to hate you. They’re going to think you’re super cool” she didn’t need to lift her head to know he was grinning ear to ear “but for real, you’re going to be fine. You’ve made a lot of progress this summer, and I’m sure you’ll meet people in the same boat as you. I mean you’re a pretty okay little sister, if that makes you feel better”

She finally cracked a small smile, and lifted her head. “Thanks, it does coming from a pretty okay big brother” she was momentarily startled before a large hand came down on both their shoulders. Her father came in, tired but in a great mood, as always.

“Good Morning, pretty okay kids. You all packed up, sweetie?”

“Yeah, it’s all in the truck and tied down. I’m gonna go see Ms. North real quick while you have your coffee, Dad” Flora answered, getting up, and tossing her laptop in her backpack. Hal gave her a quick hug before stealing her seat.

“See you, Flor. I’ll try and see if I can stop by if I have any away games near Freedom City”

“I’d like that, Hal, good luck”

It was weird to think this was the last time she’d see her kitchen or even her house for a couple of months. Her small old house where she had grown up, the town of Danby, Vermont: her home. She walked over to the next small house, her second home, where Ms. North stood at her porch, anticipating Flora’s arrival. She had a mug of tea for herself and coco for Flora. The two didn’t really say anything as they sat on the steps of the porch looking out to the forests and mountains beyond. Finally Ms. North broke the silence.

“As much as I will miss having an extra set of hands, this is a very good thing Flora. I feel it” Ms. North said with a confidence Flora always envied.

“…Well, I guess you know best” Flora said, slightly teasing but still nervous “I know I keep saying it but…thank you for helping me get this scholarship, I don’t k-“

“You don’t, instead you know that you are going, and it will be difficult but rewarding. Don’t hide, Flora”

“I won’t” I can’t, she thought looking down at the now near empty mug, held by her gloved hands, watching the threads wriggling across her fingertips underneath. She put the mug down, and hugged Ms. North tightly before she heard her dad come out. They let go and stood up, Ms. North taking both mugs and looking towards her father.

“You’ll have a safe trip, so I won’t bother saying that, just have fun you two. Be sure to call, dear”

“I will! Bye, Ms. North!” Flora said waving a bit as she joined her father in the old Madison truck, letting out a breath as she buckled herself in. She gave her father a nod, and the truck sputtered before revving up and just like that, they were off.

It was a fairly long and quiet car ride; scenic views and old back roads before finally they got to more “civilized” highways. The radio was settled on a classic rock station, only interrupted by brief conversations by her dad trying to be encouraging. Flora knew he was nervous, more about her being away and not safe. Yet this was the only option, her family had done everything they could think of to help and nothing was working.

Finally they came up on Claremont Academy, school for the gifted. There were helpful signs and volunteers that directed the Madisons to the junior dormitory. Flora didn’t have a lot of stuff; honestly she didn’t need her Dad to carry anything with her strength. Still she let him grab a couple of boxes as she grabbed everything else with ease. They came to her room, and she opened it with her new key.
A small, white room with only one window, desk, chair, bed and wardrobe greeted them. Her dad let out a whistle to break the silence before putting down the boxes.

“It’s not terrible. Better than Hal’s freshman dorm” He said with a small chuckle, and Flora nodded a bit in agreement.

“Yeah, I’m sure it will look a lot better after we do some unpacking” Flora said, trying to be positive and excited. Her stomach was still a ball of nerves. Her dad set up her desk and sewing machine, while Flora worked on her wardrobe and the bed. It didn’t take as long as either of them would hope, and soon the cardboard was broken down, suitcase empty and a slightly cozier room was before them. Her father wrapped an arm around her and looked around, pleased with the effort. Unintentionally their gazes landed on the family picture on her desk; the one with all four of the Madisons.

“You know she would be so excited for you, probably would handle this better than I can” Her dad paused, trying to take a breath “ I know this has been a lot, but you’re going to make us all proud, and I don’t need Ms. North here to know that. Also, no matter what, you can call me. No questions asked, I’ll come”

They both shared a look, eyes wet, before Flora gave her dad the biggest hug she could without breaking his spine. “Thanks, Dad. I love you”

“I love you too. Now I should go, let you start making new friends, and get settled” He said, finally letting go, patting her on the shoulder one more time, giving her one more hug, before finally heading out the door. Flora watched him leave, waiting until she couldn’t see the old truck any more.

Then it was just her, all alone, in a state, city and school that was all brand new to her. She wanted to do nothing more than to hide. The thoughts interrupted as a flyer slid under her door. Cautiously, she took off her gloves, before letting her threads sling across the room, picking up the paper and pulling it back to her. She read about a beach clean-up project, still looking for volunteers.

“I guess I’ve never seen the beach before”

No more hiding, this was a new start.

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Summer "vacation"
Travel to distant places. Meet interesting people. Collect magical artifacts.

June 1, 2018

Aaron flattened out a large, wide sheet of paper, covered in carefully done measurements, schematics, perfectly drawn sigils and hastily jotted notes. “At the end of summer, before you go back to school, I’m applying for membership in a new Order” he said, imitating his Master as petulant teenagers imitate adults. “And that means you’re applying too. Here’s what they’ll expect…no, demand. This isn’t an assignment, this is an audition.” Considering he couldn’t get started on the actual piece yet, he might as well practice the presentation. “Esteemed Masters of the Circle, my name is Aaron Blake, and this is my work.”

A scene materializes, a forest clearing in a roiling thunderstorm. A lone oak tree stands alone as the sky blazes white and a lone hooded figure is briefly illuminated.

“I began with a conduit, a medium through which nature’s power passed between earth and air. A centuries-old oak, who had borne children and grandchildren, was split by lightning. From the heart of this tree, destruction bore creation.”

Another scene, early July. Three people stand impossibly close to a river of lava in Hawaii, their arms extended as if they were warming their hands at a campfire.

“Fire of the purest vintage, from the fresh blood of the earth, shaped steel. Fire destroys indiscriminately, as it has for ages. Carefully applied, fire tempers metal to impervious strength.”

One final scene, an astral form levitating in midair above a violent ocean. Winds and torrents of rain swirl a mile in either direction, but this area is calm. A softly glowing sphere of blue energy gathers between the astral practitioner’s palms.

“But when this realm truly wants to show its ire, it sends its greatest weapon: water. The liquid that nourishes all life can slowly carve a canyon or swiftly erase a coastline. The only variable is time.”

Aaron now stands in a darkened chamber, his arm outstretched. A staff hovers midway between a waist-high pillar and his open hand, slowing spinning on its long axis. It is an auspicious number of inches in length, close to six feet. The haft is hardened polished oak, and a darkened steel head holds a golf-ball sized glowing blue sphere. Seven robed men and women regard his words and the artifact with equal interest.

“From destruction, creation. A gentle unstoppable flow, a tremendously powerful flash, and a forceful torrent bound as one. Fire, air, and water all from earth. Nature’s weapons gave the elements to create this focus, a symbol of what unlimited power can achieve, a reminder that this power can be used to noble ends.

The assembled masters murmured among themselves. One particularly deep-voiced man spoke up, “Does this artifact have a name?”

Aaron gave a bowing nod. “My guiding principle in the practice of the Art and in life: Balance.”

The collected scholars whispered among themselves again. A higher, but somehow firmer voice spoke this time. “Thank you, Student Blake. Return to your chamber while we deliberate. You will be summoned when necessary. In the meantime, turn your mind to the word ‘apprentice’ and all it entails.”

Man, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ready to be back in school already.

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Bitter Sweet Melodies
The Winter Formal

He tapped his pen along the edge of the note pad in a slow melodic beat. It was a habit he had acquired quite recently. Whenever he found himself deep in thought or pouring over notes he would start tapping. The pen in his hand following the rhythm of his index finger and thumb. It was like listening to the musings of a conductor about to bring his orchestra to life in beautiful harmony. Except the music never came. Just the slow dull sound. Tap, tap-tap. Tap, tap-tap.

Usually this habit didn’t effect his concentration but tonight there was something off about the beat. Subtle at first then louder, and louder still. He paused gazing up from his notes, pen now motionless in his hand and yet the tapping grew louder. The man was sitting in his office behind a plane mahogany desk. An organized clutter of papers, folders, and forums scattered in front of him. As he took in his surroundings, as if noticing them for the first time that evening, he realized the sound of the off beat tapping was coming from his door. He wasn’t expecting anyone tonight and that alone peeked his curiosity. “Come in.” He said with an air of confidence.

The door swung away from the threshold leaving a pale young man in it’s place. He stepped into the office unsure of him self, questioning if he should even be there. “Ah, Mr. Knowles correct?” The older man addressed his visitor warmly. “I was wondering when you’d come to see me.” Daniel stood there awkwardly only a foot from the open door. “You were?” “Well yes. It’s my job as head counselor to keep an eye out for any students that might seek my assistance.” The older man slowly began the task of putting away his notes and folders slipping them back into his desk drawer for later use. “It’s a little late, and I was just about to leave, but I’m pleased to see you. Please close the door and make your self comfortable.”

The boy looked at the open door as if contemplating his escape route. For a moment he considered just walking out and forgetting any of this happened. However the moment was fleeting. Daniel reluctantly closed the door behind him and took a seat. The older man smiled approvingly at this folding his hands in front of him. “Pleasure to finally meet you Mr. Knowles. I’m Mr. Marquez. How may I help you this evening?” The boy slouched in the chair across from the counselor’ quietly fidgeting with the hem of his sleeve. His eyes focused on the grain of the mahogany desk in an effort to avoid eye contact.

A few stray words muttered from his mouth. “I don’t know.” Marquez was not deterred by this. The warm expression on his features did not waver for even a moment. “That’s ok, you don’t have to know. At least you’re taking a first step and that’s more then most can say.” Marquez took a moment to study Daniel as he noted the time. “I can’t help but notice you’re in your casual clothes. The Winter Formal is tonight. Were you planning to attend?” The boy shook his head. His gaze still focused on the mahogany. “Hm, how are things here at school? Enjoying your classes, made any friends?”

Daniel took in a slow breath. His eyes finally shifting away from the desk. “Uh.. Kind of. I like science, but I hate math..” “Mrs. Harcourt is a great teacher. We’re lucky to have her. Are there any other classes you enjoy? I think I saw your name posted for the Theater Club.” Marquez’s questions were starting to feel more like an interrogation to Daniel. He stroked at the length of his sleeve pinching the fabric between his index and thumb. Marquez took special note of the nervous habit subtly jotting it down on a pad of sticky notes. “Kuzkin is nice…” The boy managed to force the words out in time to avoid the awkward silence.

Switching gears Marquez turned the conversation back to friends. “And what about the other students Mr. Knowles? Have you made any friends?” He thought that over for a moment because he genuinely didn’t know the answer. “Victor I guess.” “Mr. Baleful?” Daniel nodded. “Interesting how do you two know each other?” Something about this didn’t feel natural to Daniel. He didn’t like to talk about himself that often. “He’s my roommate.” The counselor’s expression turned from warm to concerned. “Any trouble with any students?” Daniels body visibly tensed at that. He found it was getting harder to form words. “Brian…” This caught the head counselor off guard. “Mr. Warner? I thought he was a very nice young man. Did something happen between you two?”

“He didn’t like the way I dress. He said I should join Elysian if I want to dress like a… A villain.” Marquez listened intently before offering some words of wisdom. “You’re both still young and you’re going through a lot at this time in your life. More then most young people are at your age. People make mistakes Mr. Knowles but they must learn from them not dwell on them. He’s not the first person to judge a book by it’s cover and he will likely not be the last. Just be patient and If that doesn’t work then ignore him and his opinions. Don’t let anyone tell you who you’re meant to be.” After hearing this the boy seemed to deflate. His body language grew more relaxed and he even stopped fidgeting. Marquez was exceedingly good at his job.

The counselor was glad to see this change in Daniel so he pressed the advantage. “I also seem to recall there was a :Love rehabilitation club formed quite recently. This club helped many students deal with their addiction to the game including Noah Garcia. Whatever mastermind came up with that club has the faculties’ gratitude.” He smiled knowingly at the student. Daniel glanced at the door feeling embarrassed by the praise. “Of course I’ve also been made aware of the efforts made to stop Otaku. It was no easy task and many student’s risked their lives. In the end the city was saved. Not by the Freedom League but by students like you. That’s something to be proud of. You should be celebrating at the winter formal.”

For the first time in a long time Daniel felt good about himself but the moment was fleeting. As soon as the counselor mentioned the winter formal his heart sunk like a rock. “Mr. Knowles why aren’t you going?” His hand moved back to his sleeve instinctively. “No one asked me.” Marquez gave a quiet sigh. “You don’t have to go with anyone, you could meet someone there.” The boy shook his head defiantly this time. “No. I’ve seen Stranger Things. I’m not going to end up like Dustin at the end of season two.” Marquez was slightly taken back by this. “I’m sorry you’ve lost me..” “Dustin got all dressed up. He was full of confidence after helping save the world. He changed his look and he went to the school dance. And he was rejected by everyone. He ended up on the bleachers alone crying his eyes out.” Again the counselor made an audible sigh. “And you think that’s what’s going to happen to you?”

Daniel kicked his feet forward causing the chair to slide back a few inches. He pushed off the arm rests with his palms and stood up. A quiet anger was growing inside of him and he knew it was time for this therapy session to end. “I know it’s not going to happen to me. Because I’m not going!” Marquez remained cool and collective with his hands folded on the desk in front of him. “I understand. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. No one is saying you have to. But indulge my curiosity if you could Mr. Knowles. If someone did ask you to the formal would you go?” He said nothing. The anger growing inside of him was diminished, replaced by sadness. Marquez saw this and chose his next words carefully. “It’s ok you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to but it might make you feel better to talk about it.” He waited as Daniel stood awkwardly in the middle of his office slowly losing the will to storm out.

The head counselor took another deep breath and asked in as gentle a tone he could muster. “Is there someone you wanted to take?” “Yes.” the boy said quietly. “Could you tell me who?” A tiny spark of anger flickered in the corner of his eye. “It doesn’t matter. She took someone else. She barely knows that I exist.” “Well I’m sure she knows but Mr. Knowles sometimes you have to put in a little effort to be noticed.” With that Daniels fists clinched. He marched to the door and swung it open. His body paused at the threshold as if blocked by some invisible force. Looking back at the counselor he spoke bitterly. “Why aren’t YOU at the winter formal Marquez?” The counselor turned from his desk tapping at his side. For the first time Daniel saw that Mr. Marquez was sitting in a wheel chair. A plaid blanket tucked around his lap. “As you can clearly see I’m not much for dancing these days.” He replied calmly.

Daniel was immediately filled with regret. He swallowed his pride and bowed his head in shame. “I- I’m sorry I didn’t-” “It’s alright Daniel.” Marquez interrupted. It was the first time he had refereed to the student by his first name. “Like I said before we all make mistakes. That’s part of life I’m afraid. I’m sorry for upsetting you, but I’d really like to see you again. There’s more we can talk about. And maybe someday you’ll trust me enough to tell me who she is.” Daniel offered a small nod of agreement. “Good night Mr. Marquez.” “Good night Mr. Knowles.” He watched as the student closed the door behind him. Marquez turned to his desk grabbing the stack of sticky notes. He jotted down the students name and a few quick words. Self loathing, mood swings, lacks confidence, depressed. He thought for a moment rewinding the conversation in his mind. Pen tapping slowly along the edge of the sticky note. Tap, tap-tap. Finally he made one last memo, just two words. Possible trauma. The counselor put away his notes and locked up the office for the night. As he headed home he contemplated Knowles hoping he could help the young man. His finger tip settled at the arm rest of his wheel chair. As he thought on the young student his finger began a slow melodic beat. Tap tap-tap. Tap tap-tap.

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A Crack in the Facade

The lights in the hallway flickered on as Gabriel Marquez began to turn the corner from the main hallway and head down to his office. It was early, but it was also nearing the holiday season at Claremont. A lot would be happening between now and the New Year. The Winter Formal was coming up, graduating students were applying for colleges, not-graduating students were signing up for the next semester, and there was simply not enough time left in the day anymore.

As the double doors opened in front of him, his head tilted slightly and his eyes narrowed as he noticed someone standing, leaning aginst the wall next to his office door. With a brief pause, he focused his eyes on the blond boy for a moment before nodding with recognition of Mr. Suffolk. Proceeding down the hall, he smiled as the boy turned toward the noise of the doors closing behind Gabriel.

Sorrel inhaled deeply as a smile came across his face. He turned towards Mr. Marquez and bent slightly forward, offering a handshake.

Upon the initiation of the handshake, Sorrel immediately began.

“Good morning, sir. I apologize for troubling you so early this morning, but I have a matter of particular concern and I hoped to be able to speak with you before classes began today.” Sorrel said, his hand over his heart, as if to pledge his apologies.

“I appreciate your consideration, Mr. Suffolk, but it is five o’clock in the morning. Classes don’t begin until eight o’clock.” Gabriel said with a nervous smile as he released Sorrel’s hand.

“Yes, and again, I am so sorry to trouble you. I wasn’t truly expecting you here just yet, but I also did not know when I should expect your arrival. So I thought it best to show up at four o’clock in the morning, when I wouldn’t expect you to be here, and just wait patiently.” he said with another slight bow.

“Well, we are both here now. Come in and sit down and we can discuss whatever it is that brings you here.” Gabriel said as he opened the office door.

“Again, I must apologize. You see, as I did not expect anyone here I did take the liberty of brewing a pot of coffee in the Faculty Lounge. I know that students are not permitted there, but it was half-past four and I did not expect anyone to be here so soon. It would be inconsiderate to leave most of a pot unattended without leaving a note that it was made fresh this morning. It would be a waste to have it thrown out.” Sorrel said as he nervously turned across the hallway. “I will be just one solitary moment. Would you like a cup, sir?” he continued.

The young man was gone through the door before his last word finished and Gabriel shook his head as he began to get situated at his desk.

“It is my own that I brought from home, you see, so I only used the school’s water and one filter out of turn.” Sorrel said as he turned the corner back into the office, two cups of coffee in hand. “Unsure if you took sugar or cream, I brought both” he continues, removing individually packaged versions of both from his jacket pocket.

“We don’t have these in the lounge.” Gabriel began.

Sorrel immediately responded, “Yes, again, I had no intention of using any school property intended for the faculty out of turn.”

“Well, O…k… then.” Marquez said as he opened a still chilled pouch of creamer. He gave a slight shrug and shake of the head before continuing, “So, Mr. Suffolk, what is it that brings you here today. Looking forward to next semester already? From the looks of it, you are doing quite well so far this year.”

“Unfortunately, no. This is an issue of more personal significance. This is about my powers.” He trailed off at the end, growing a touch quieter as his gaze dropped to Mr. Marquez’s desk.

Mr. Marquez stared back at the young man for a moment. For the most part, the faculty was aware of students’ powers, but Mr. Suffolk was a slightly differnet case. His powers were, for a long while, unknown. Aside from the teleportation incident at the Science fair a month or so back, no one from the faculty had really witnessed Sorrel’s powers or even knew much about what his true capability was.

“Okay. Okay, so tell me a little more about what is going on. Is this a new power or is one of your others acting up?” Gabriel said, a look of concern in his eyes.

“Oh no, nothing new, and not really acting up. It’s just the same as it has always been. I just need some help.” he said nervously. “You see, I have been working with Ms. Cruz on honing one of my powers. You see, I tend to make some people uncomfortable regardless of my intention. It is simply something that is a part of me, but I want to be able to control it, to focus it, and to be able to spend a moment outside of my home without having to constantly worry about who may have just walked up behind me, or behind someone else, or on the other side of a display.”

Sorrel released his protection from Marquez for a moment and waited until the counselor bristled a bit, the hair on his arms visibly standing on end. Immediately releasing the effect from Marquez, he continued “So as you can see, it makes life a living hell and basically keeps me from being able to relax, which for a fifteen year old, is pretty terrible, as you can imagine.”

“Okay, so how are things going with Ms. Cruz?” Marques replied.

“That’s the thing. She’s hooked on the game. And that game and what it is doing scares me. It scares me to the point that I can’t bring myself to work on this with her anymore right now because I know that what we work on is going straight to Otaku.” Sorrel’s tone had grown stronger and more intense. “How am I supposed to stop him if he knows everything that I have up my sleeve, you know?” Sorrel continued. “Look, I know that you have been helping out Aaron with his poor luck around electronics and was just hoping that maybe you could help me out as well. I can go over everything that Nina and myself have been able to accomplish so far and maybe, just maybe, we can beat this son of a-. Well, you understand.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll see what I can do. Just never do that around me again.”

“Duly noted, sir. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you.”

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Chop Shop

“6,402 anomalies detected.”
Brian turned from the workstation, fuming. It ate at him, that something looking for redemption could be so ill-used, turned upon itself and others. The plan in the short term was simple: free the bot, fix the bot, get the bot to help. He knew it had information that would be useful in taking down Otaku. If he could just get the blasted cpu to boot up.
“4,756 anomalies detected.”
Otaku. Every time he thought about him. Every time he thought about how he had vouched for him. Standing between him and the Freedom League, no less. It made him sick. He could barely look at the bot’s face as he soldered pieces of it back together.
“2,237 anomalies detected.”
Brian sighed, and rubbed his eyes. Some of the others thought he was crazy for trying to fix it. In a way, it was fixing his own mistakes. He should have known that the villain was still a villain. When he caught up with Otaku…. Well, he was of two minds about it. He wanted to free the innocent people trapped by Otaku’s programming, bring him in, throw him behind bars.
“48 anomalies detected.”
But the voice of his father, so quietly, whispered for him to destroy his enemy so he could not rise again.
“Reconstruction complete. Boot process enabled.”
Brian shook the thought off, consigning it to the past, and turned back to the workstation.

“Okay, Doc. Now lemme show you how real science is done.”

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