New Guard

Evelyn The Fallen Angel
Student Play

(So I’ve been debating if I should even put in the effort to make this post. I haven’t felt like I’m part of the group for a while now and it’s really disappointing when the only answers to your pleas are “Oh well.” That said here it is. Happy New Year.)

Evelyn: The Fallen Angel

Directed by Daniel Knowles

Costume Design by Flora Madison

Set Design by Cybersoul

Music and effects by MC

Choreography by Demetrius Kuzkin

Staring:

Charlene Hart as Evelyn.

Simone Waughner as Lucia.

Reggie Weeks as King Zenith.

Eggy Ignacio as Nadir “The Devil.”

Deaglan Dickinson as Kaiden, leader of the Lost.

Robert Cooper as Morgan, keeper of the Lost.

Aaron Blake as Gabriel, High General of Heaven’s Army.

Jeff Mauer as Marius, right hand of Zenith and head of Heaven’s Counsil.

Act One, Scene One

Our scene opens with music over a closed curtain. Evelyn enters stage right followed by King Zenith stage left. The two meet in the middle already engaged in a conversation. Evelyn seems distraught. Zenith does his best to console her. We can not hear their conversation over the music but it is resolved with a reluctant Evelyn. She dons her armor and begins her song.

( https://youtu.be/NEILkplF9oo Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

Several other angels join her on stage including General Gabriel. It is clear they are gearing up for battle. Once they are armed to the teeth the angels spread their wings and prepare to take flight. It’s a hauntingly beautiful sight as the sun set colors of Heaven beam thorugh their wings only to fade away just as quickly. There is a sense that something about this is wrong but nothing more is said.

As the music reaches it’s height and the guitars blast the curtains draw back to reveal a village already in flames. The angels draw swords and begin to slaughter the villagers. Peasants scream in terror running in all directions. They are helpless against the might of the angels.

As the song winds down a single child remains center stage crouched over the body of her mother. The angels circle around her. Evelyn approaches the child who is frozen in fear. Witnessing the tragedy of war first hand Evelyn drops to her knees and hugs the child. The angels sing in somber moans awaiting the child’s fate. Evelyn takes in one last shaking breath then snaps the child’s neck. She stands up as the angel’s exit stage left. Evelyn grabs her face to hold back her tears.

Curtain falls.

Act One. Scene Two

King Zenith appears in the audience strolling slowly through the aisle towards the stage. He holds his arm out towards the stage and addresses the audience directly as his song begins.

( https://youtu.be/_QUSGY7bg5c Lead Vocals: Reggie Weeks, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

The Curtains rise revealing a council chamber in the style of the old Roman Empire. In the center on the floor is Evelyn now chained and bound. Several Councilors sit on their thrones debating the actions of Evelyn.

During the song it is revealed, through dialogue between Gabriel and Marius, that Zenith gave Evelyn no orders to slaughter the village in the first scene. The audience of course knows this is a lie but it’s not clear if Gabriel and Marius are in on this yet.

King Zenith passes judgment on Evelyn and proceeds to cut her wings off. As a final insult Zenith tosses Evelyn off the edge of the stage himself. Evelyn tumbles into the depths of Hell.

Set changes.

Act One, Scene Three

The council chamber fades away. The stage transforms into a dark tunnel of fire and stone with numerous passages. Evelyn struggles to free her self from her chains. Just then a demon crawls into view. It looks at Evelyn and tries it’s luck. Evelyn wraps the chains around the demons neck killing it. She uses it’s teeth to break the chains.

Alone in Hell, Evelyn begins to weigh her options.

( https://youtu.be/bGCGSFzzMvg Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart)

Midway though her solo Evelyn bursts into tears. She rips her armor off and curls into a ball. After a moment she regains her composure. She has to because more demons are coming. She grabs her broken chains as a weapon and exits stage left.

Act One, Scene Four

Enter stage right a large caravan of wondering souls. All of them in tattered shabby robes. A small wagon dragging behind them. Kaiden and Morgan remain with the wagon keeping order with the lost souls. Leading the way is Lucia, a dark skinned black winged creature like an Angel that’s been corrupted. A large blade held in her hand. A single demon crawls onto the stage but Lucia quickly dispatches it. The Caravan inches forward circling the edge of the stage as Lucia continues to slay demons who try to wander too close. Any demon that passes Lucia is quickly dealt with by Kaiden and Morgan.

( https://youtu.be/zaF42BrBK2s Lead Vocals: Simone Waughner)

Lucia is busy protecting the caravan from the demons of hell when they run into Evelyn stage left. The two lock eyes for a moment sizing each other up and the battle begins. Lucia and Evelyn fight toe to toe neither willing to give up an inch of ground.

As the song grows quiet and somber Evelyn gains the upper hand. Evelyn is about to strike the final blow when a small child runs from the caravan and holds Lucia to protect her. Evelyn stops dead in her tracks. This is the same girl she killed in scene one.

The tempo speeds up and now both Evelyn and Lucia are fighting side by side slaying demons as they go. Once all is clear Lucis keeps her guard up around Evelyn. The Caravan is revealed to me a mixture of young and old alike with only a few soldiers to keep them safe.

Kaiden approaches declaring himself the leader of the Lost as they call them. Lost souls trapped in hell. He explains that it’s not just the wicked that go to hell but anyone that disobeys the will of Zenith and his authoritarian dogma. Not praying enough, not sacrificing enough, going to the wrong temples, loving the wrong people. All these things can land you in hell. Yet, he continued, sinners, murderers, psychopaths got a free pass to heaven so long as they did everything perfect and worshiped Zenith in just the right way. So now the Lost wander through hell just trying to survive in the hopes that one day they will be free. Those that lose hope often lose their minds becoming savage eventually turning into demons. Lucia and Morgan very nearly turned into a demons themselves before Kaiden saved them.

Act One, Scene Five

We return to Heaven in the council chambers. Word of discontent has reached Gabriel. Many angels have expressed concern with leadership. They question the recent actions taken against Evelyn and whether or not it was just. Gabriel brings these concerns to Marius who ensured him they will be addressed.

Just then Zenith enters center stage already aware of growing concern. A tense moment passes between Gabriel and Zenith as Zenith prods his General to test his loyalties. Satisfied for now the three embark on a montage of interrogating angels and punishing those that pose a threat to the crown. This results in several angels having their ranks stripped, their bodies tortured or even worse, their wings ripped clean off and exiled. All the while Zenith sings happily as he rules through fear.

( https://youtu.be/MjwttGizNEs Lead Vocals: Reggie Weeks, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

Act One, Scene Six

Set change and the audience is back in hell. Evelyn has spent some time with the Lost when she mentions the devil. Morgan laughs telling her the devil is nothing like they say he is. Kaiden reveals that they’re actually on their way to see the Devil. Once they arrive they are greeted by another group of Lost as well as a sleek and handsome Nadir. Brother of Zenith cast out of Heaven centuries ago. Evelyn having lived in Heaven her whole life has many preconceptions about Nadir. Nadir makes sure to set her straight.

( https://youtu.be/bPoCzRk5mN4 Lead Vocals: Eggy Ignacio, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

After the song Nadir, Kaiden and Morgan start talking about escape plans. They had tried for years to find a way out of hell but each attempt failed. Lucia mentions how strong Evelyn was and that she’s not suffered the long term effects of hell yet. In an effort to convince a reluctant Evelyn that she could be their best chance Kaiden steps up to the plate with his solo.

(https://youtu.be/eFIlStd5y9c Lead Vocals: Deaglan Dickinson, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

Curtain Fall.

Intermission.

Act Two, Scene One

Curtain rises on a lone Evelyn in Hell debating with her self about what was just asked of her.

( https://youtu.be/voIlgyiANUE Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart)

Curtain falls.

Act Two, Scene Two

Gabriel appears in the audience stage right. He is talking to Marius about the current situation with more and more angels questioning Zeniths actions. Marius informs Gabriel that Zenith is concerned about Evelyn. That she had made contact with Nadir and they may be planning a rebellion. Gabriel is ordered to quell their uprising by any means necessary.

Curtain rises to show the Lost have set up camp for the night. Gabriel and his angels sneak into the camp and start to murder the Lost in their sleep. As Gabriel watches what they’ve been ordered to do he comments that his soldiers have been reduced to common cut throats. He feels powerless to act against Zenith however and can do nothing but watch.

( https://youtu.be/1nb13x-4×4Q Lead Vocals: Aaron Blake)

Kaiden enters stage right. He draws his sword and charges the angels to defend the Lost. The battle awakens the camp allowing many Lost to flee to safety. Lucia, and Morgan defend their exit in an effort to save as many Lost as they can. In the chaos they lose track of Kaiden. Lucia and Morgan are willing to give their lives to find him but Nadir appears just in the nick of time and wisps them away to safety. Kaiden is a competent fighter but he is quickly overwhelmed. Heaven’s Army surrounds him and moments later his head is removed from his shoulders. His body falls to the floor cold and lifeless.

Curtain falls.

Act Two, Scene Three

Evelyn stands off stage left feeling gloomy and brooding. She’s still unsure of what to do. Morgan enters stage right panting heavily. He pleads for Evelyn’s help and the two rush off stage right.

Curtain rises revealing a camp torn to pieces, riddled with dead bodies. The air is filled with the the quiet sobs and gut wrenching cries of the Lost as they pick through the rubble finding their loved one’s remains.

It was an ambush, they explain to Evelyn. Heaven was sending them a message. Morgan screams in terror as he finds the severed head of Kaiden. Lucia follows close behind him. The two cradle Kaiden’s head struck with pain and grief. Nadir looks on with Evelyn. He tells her they won’t stop until Zenith is satisfied. Being his brother, Nadir knows Zenith will never be satisfied.

Evelyn turns to stone as she sees something in the rubble. “No!” She exclaims as she drops to her knees. The world around her becomes silent. Nadir says something but no sound comes to Evelyn’s ears. The audience experiences the deafening silence that has struck Evelyn. Slowly she picks up the body of the little girl. The same girl she killed in act one. The same girl that saved Lucia and caused Evelyn to pause.

The room is filled with white noise. A harsh static that thumps with the slow steady undertone of a heart beat. Evelyn lays the child down and closes her eyes. As she stands the world comes back into focus. “Evelyn did you hear me? We have to move.” Nadir’s words can finally be heard. Her body tenses. Her face is stern.

( https://youtu.be/D7FltCPCbLo Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

As she begins to rally the Lost it’s clear they are too few in number to take on Heaven’s Army. So Evelyn turns to the savage demons. She kills those that threaten her and forces the others to submit to her will. She will raise an army. Heaven be warned.

She’s coming..

Curtain falls.

Act Two, Scene Four

Curtain rises on a new scene. Pearly white gates surrounded by beautiful sun set clouds. Angels guard the gates with their lives. They are covered from head to toe in plate male wielding massive spears. In the shadows bellow Heaven’s gate enter Lucia. She appears in the audience sneaking slowly through the aisle towards the gate. Lost and demons alike follow her as they approach. The angels are clueless as to what they’re about to face.

The assault begins as the music plays. Lucia starts off with the first verse. Morgan picks up on the second. Evelyn closes on the final just before the hook. Once the gates have fallen they raise their swords in victory. With one unified voice they shout. “Raise Hell In Heaven!”

(https://youtu.be/l-BPv7GKK00 Lead Vocals: Simone Waughner, Robert Cooper, Charlene Hart, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast.)

Act Two, Scene Five

The scene changes. We’re back in the council chambers only this time it is filled to the brim with soldiers. Our heroes storm into the chamber driving back Heaven’s Army. Lucia and Morgan hold the chamber allowing Evelyn and Nadir to reach the throne room.

(https://youtu.be/5qqHq_tcraQ Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart )

In the Throne room Evelyn ad Nadir face off with Zenith, Marius, Gabriel and a host of soldiers. They send in their demons first then use the chaos to gain the upper hand. They cut down Heaven’s greatest warriors. Marius is slain during the conflict. Evelyn turns her attention to Zenith. She taunts him at the edge of her sword. Just as she’s about to land the killing blow. Nadir grabs a fallen spear and rams it through Evelyn’s back.

Act Two, Scene Six

Lucia and Morgan rush into the throne room only to see Evelyn impaled on the spear. She stumbles and falls into their arms.

(https://youtu.be/GBQZgthDGuM Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

Zenith praises Nadir for his bravery against the terrorist. He rewards Nadir by welcoming him back to Heaven and granting him a place on the council. This was Zenith’s and Nadir’s plan all along. To start an uprising in order to paint Nadir as a brave and noble hero in the defense of Heaven.

Zenith orders the remaining demons and Lost to be executed immediately. Lucia charges at Nadir ready to take his life for his betrayal. Gabriel meets her with his own blade and the two square off. Angels surround Lucia insuring strength in numbers. Still Lucia screams in defiance. She’s willing to die to see justice done. Gabriel disarms her and places his hand on her shoulder. He shakes his head then turns to Evelyn’s body.

Zenith commands Gabriel again to fulfill his duty to his king and slay the intruders. To his soldiers surprise this order is ignored. Gabriel picks up Evelyn’s body and asked Lucia for her help. Morgan joins them and together the three of them carry Evelyn out of the throne room.

(https://youtu.be/XONbZgr7RdA Lead Vocals: Aaron Blake, Simone Waughner, Robert Cooper, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

Enraged Zenith orders Heaven’s Army to consider Gabriel a traitor and slay him. The soldiers are slow to act but some of them hold their spears to Gabriel. Then slowly they drop their weapons and help the three carry Evelyn. Several others pick up the dead or dying and carry them slowly out of the throne room.

Zenith can not believe what he’s seeing. He tries to use his power to stop them but he is drained from the battle. With each angel that turns away from him he loses more and more of his strength. The faith that has fueled him all these years is now draining from him rapidly.

Act Two, Scene Seven

We return to the gates where all of heaven is leaving. Demon and angel walk side by side turning their backs on Zenith and his failed throne. Their faith no longer in a tyrant in hope that they will be rewarded for their suffering or their loyalty. From now on their faith is in each other. It is this faith that turned the tide. Just then Evelyn’s body begins to glow like golden light. She floats above the crowd and vanishes into thin air. Moments later she appears above them reborn as a god.

(https://youtu.be/s_GOM_MwSlk Lead Vocals: Charlene Hart, Background Vocals: Supporting Cast)

She taunts Zenith and Nadir one last time before kicking them out of Heaven. Then with her newly found power she resurrects the victims of the war, both demon, Lost, and angel alike. Our play ends with Evelyn taking the throne.

Curtain Falls.

Curtain Call

The cast come to greet the audience and thank them for their attendance as Deaglan Dickinson and Eggy Ignacio sing Shopping for a Savior.

(https://youtu.be/eFIlStd5y9c Lead Vocals: Deaglan Dickinson, Eggy Ignacio, Background Vocals: Entire Cast)

View
A flickering candle amidst the gale
Cybersoul spends a quiet evening with their friends

Cybersoul was adrift in nothingness. They couldn’t feel their chassis around them- couldn’t sense anything around them at all. Even time, which they had always known, seemed hazy and… wrong, or not, or some other word Cybersoul couldn’t find. Moments seemed to flash by out of order. They were showing Max their new formalwear – playing hyperchess with Otakubot as they waited to find out of Schism’s family would be let go – washing their face after Noah’s prank at orientation. They saw Wutherfield alone at a computer and knew, somehow, that he was talking to them. Or what they used to be. It was that day, they realized, the day everything changed. They felt the fire inside them flare, the chains tighten, a sudden clarity.

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Quarterly Report 01 Jul. 2013
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: The Division is pleased to announce the successful launch of Project OTTO on 13 May, 2013. With Departmental clearance, the Division hired Dr. James Wutherfield as a consultant to finalize remote sensing integration. The consultant has signed a non-disclosure agreement (enclosed below). OTTO has been running for 11 days and has presented no problems so far.
Full Text: OTTO was launched 11 days ago. Thus far, he has… [Read More]

~~

The student lounge at Claremont was suspiciously empty for a Friday night. When Cybersoul, Noah, Max, Nina, and Otakubot walked inside, they were surprised to find the tv turned off and the foosball table unattended. In fact, there was nobody here at all – and hadn’t been for some time, if Cybersoul’s analysis of the room’s dust patterns was correct.
“Huh,” Noah said, teleporting up to a rafter to get a better look around, then back onto the floor in front of the tv. “This is weird. This place is usually packed. MC’s not throwing some kind of party without us, is she?”
“I am not aware of any party,” Cybersoul said, scanning back through their chatlogs with MC. No, nothing scheduled tonight. They switched over to the Next Gen Plus chat, noting a flurry of activity earlier that evening. All of it was vague, but from what Cybersoul could gather, most of the group had been sent on missions recently. Part of Cybersoul wondered why they hadn’t been selected to go along – and part of them thought they might know why – but mostly, they were glad not to have to back out on the evening their friends had planned.
“Finals are coming up,” Nina said, putting away her phone and looking sideways at Cybersoul. “Maybe everyone’s studying.”
“That is possible,” Cybersoul agreed. They didn’t have a stomach, but they still managed to feel vaguely nauseated as they said it. It wasn’t lying, but it wasn’t honest either, and Cybersoul hated keeping Next Gen Plus a secret from their friends.
“Well,” Noah said, interrupting Cybersoul’s thoughts, “no studying for us. We die like heroes: fighting valiantly against an enemy for which we are in no way prepared. C’mon, let’s get this movie set up.” Cybersoul and Max led Otakubot to the couch as Noah pulled up the documentary they had been watching for the past week.
“This is the one with the turtles, correct?” Cybersoul asked, as Noah turned on Episode 8: Coasts.

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Quarterly Report 09 Oct. 2014
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: The Division is pleased to announce that OTTO is a self-aware being as of 18:06:24, 20 Aug, 2014. OTTO’s regular functions have been temporarily suspended while software developers aid him through the transition to sentience. Suspension is expected to last for three weeks. The Division again recommends the addition of one full-time software engineer and one full-time machine learning expert to be employed for no less than three months, in order to monitor OTTO’s functioning as a sentient being.
Full Text: At 18:06:24, 7 December, 2014, OTTO expressed the opinion that… [Read More]

~~

“Yup. Got the hatching grounds and everything,” Noah said, teleporting onto the arm of the couch. It was too tight for all five of them to sit together, so Noah usually found some odd perch. Cybersoul was tucked between Max and Otakubot, the pressure of them pleasant and familiar against their chassis. Touch had been the hardest thing to make sense of, at first. They had never been able to feel the world right up against them like that, hadn’t known it was possible, hadn’t wanted any part of it. It was still with a combination of awe and wariness that they approached the world of texture – but right now, they wouldn’t give it up for anything.
“It’s so beautiful,” Max said, as the film opened on a wide shot of crashing waves. “I’d love to do something like this. Going to amazing places and everything. And this kind of stuff is so important for people to learn about.”
The soaring aerial shots that the series used so often had been difficult to watch at first, but Cybersoul was used to them by now. Max was right: this was used to educate, to help the world. They were glad that tech like this could be used for such a purpose. Cybersoul smiled as Max rested her head against their shoulder. Otakubot tipped unsteadily over the arm of the couch, and Cybersoul guided him to lean on their other side. Then Noah toppled over onto Nina, who crashed into Max, and suddenly Cybersoul was the keystone in a small pile of friends. Happy codes flickered through their systems, making their chassis feel tingly and warm.

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Special Report 13 May 2015
Author: Marian dufresne
Abastract: The Division regrets to write this special report due to complications with Project OTTO. On 12 May 2015, OTTO refused to complete a mission on moral grounds.The Division knew of this possible complication, and response measures are taking place. OTTO has been placed on reserve power. After one week, he will be slowly reintegrated into normal Division functioning, beginning with a probationary period wherein he will be unable to disobey orders. The Division requests the addition of one AI expert to work with OTTO on a personal level and alleviate his moral anxieties.
Full Text: On 12 May, OTTO refused a mission with Drone 187…

~~

They stayed that way for some time, watching the tribulations of coast-dwelling animals, until suddenly Noah sat up in excitement. “Oh! This is it,” he said, turning the volume up a few notches.
”Another beach, another continent, and a very special night…”
Cybersoul leaned forward on the couch, entranced, as on screen thousands of Ridley turtles arrived to lay eggs on the Costa Rican beach where almost the entire species had hatched. Cybersoul knew, based on when the documentary was filmed, that none of the hatchlings crawling over each other on the beach was The Riddler. But any one of them could have been his ancestor. “Can you pause it?” they asked. Noah obliged, stopping on a shot full of baby turtles.
Max pointed at a hatchling towards the bottom of the screen. “I think that one looks like him,” she said.
Noah raised an eyebrow at her. “They’re turtles,” he said. “How can you tell the difference?”
But Max shook her head. “No, it looks just like him! I bet it’s his grandma.”
“You’re crazy.”
Otakubot piped up for the first time that evening. “Th-that one has… a s-s-similar skeletal ir-irregularity to The Ridder. It could be r-related.”
Max grinned at Otakubot and leaned over Cybersoul for a high five, which he returned after a few tries.”Totally his grandma,” she said.
“I’m on team grandma, too,” Nina agreed, giving Noah a teasing grin.
Noah huffed in mock disapproval. “I see I’m outvoted,” he said. “Grandma Riddles it is.”

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Quarterly Report Oct. 2015
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: OTTO has experienced no complications since the “hiccup” last may. However, he has resumed his full functionality only after threats that disobedience would lead to the project’s discontinuation. The effect of such threats on his psychology is unclear, as OTTO has ceased communication with Division members outside of necessary reports. The Division strongly suggests the addition of an AI expert to act as a “counselor.”
Full Text: OTTO has completed 14 missions this quarter, a record high…

~~

Cybersoul found themself smiling involuntarily, looking around at their friends. A year ago, they hadn’t known moments like this existed. “I think we should go to winter formal together,” they said.
“Huh?” Max sat back to look at Cybersoul.
“I would like for us to go to winter formal together. All five of us, if this is amenable to each of you.” Cybersoul had been thinking about this for a while, and internally they pulled up the sources they had been consulting. “I understand it is customary to bring a ‘date’ to a winter formal event. The term ‘date’ implies a relationship classified as #romantic, a term which… still eludes my comprehension. However,” they went on, “I believe a ‘group date’ can be carried out between friends. As a group, we regularly engage in date activities, such as attending meals together, or watching movies.” They gestured towards Grandma Riddles.”I would enjoy going to the formal as a group, as well.”
“Huh. That’s-” Noah started, but he was cut off by the sound of an explosion. His eyes went wide. “What the-”
The five of them rushed outside, Cybersoul and Max leading Otakubot again. Cybersoul was relieved to see the other members of Next Gen Plus were congregating as well. More concerning, though, was the fire burning in the distance. Cybersoul needed to find out what was going on, but before they could move, a voice rang out over the chaos.
“What did you DO?!

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Final Report 8 November 2016
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: The Division regrets to report the end of Project OTTO after the AI’s disappearance from MI-6 Facilities. Searches through OTTO’s remaining logs indicate encrypted correspondence with consultant James Wutherfield, of which the Division was unaware. The Division recommends that Wutherfield be found as quickly as possible, as his plans for OTTO are unknown. Further, the Division regretfully recommends that OTTO be shut down permanently once he is found.
Full Text: At 04:30:11 AM on 7 November 2016, OTTO’s chassis was…

~~

“-Kind of a cool idea,” Noah was saying. He was lounged on the arm of the couch, and Cybersoul was seated between Otakubot and Max. What had they been doing?
Oh. Right. Asking their friends out. This was fine. Everything was fine.
Whether everything would continue to be fine was in question.
“Yeah,” Max was saying. She took Cybersoul’s hand. “I would like that. Are you in?” She asked Otakubot, who nodded.
“We’re decided, then,” Nina said, reaching over Max to ruffle Cybersoul’s hair. “Team Wasn’t Us does winter formal.”
“Oh, heck yeah.” Noah had teleported back into the rafters in excitement. “This is gonna be awesome. But in the meantime-” he jumped back to the couch and scooped up the remote- “turtles.”
Cybersoul sat back as Noah started the documentary again. They were with their friends, and soon they would all go to winter formal together. They were happy, and safe, for the moment.

Everything was fine.

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A Walk Down Memory Fragment Lane, Part II
Positive Reinforcement

A big thanks to Justin for revealing an alternate choice!


Deaglan swerved right, seizing the dark reflection of himself.

He shattered and the world fell away. There was a bridging moment between the past and the future, and he was his future self. The smell of rot around him was muted by the icy cold as he made his way through the cemetery just passed the undermountain gates of his Unseelie fortress.

There was a rush of wind, and he was in the human world again, treading upon his secret paths. Secret words were said and he disappeared from mortal eyes. He didn’t want to scare anyone with his grim form.

The cart behind him creaked in the cold mists. His life was lonely, but, he took comfort in knowing that he was on the side of good. His eyes no longer saw the world like he once did, now that he chose the path of faerie, but, the Unseelie court was considered a scary force of good. His memories drifted back to Halloweentown from when Reggie had shown him Nightmare Before Christmas.

Deaglan stopped the cart. Before him was a simple home. He saw it as where the magic of the still earth met the magic of hearth and home. The windows opened for him as he looked inside. He couldn’t see photographs or similar things anymore, but, he assumed it was there.

“Philip Marlowe,” Deaglan whispered, throwing back his hood, unveiling his crown. “I’ve come to escort you to your new home.”

Slowly, the man’s spirit stepped up, and left his mortal remains behind, shuffling toward Deaglan’s cart. As the door of the house opened, predator spirits of sorrow rose up. At the smell of them, Deaglan’s unseen hounds rushed forward, hungry. They tore the sorrow spirits to shreds within moments.

It was a colder life Deaglan lived, now that he was fully fae, but, he knew that this family at least, was better off with the choices he made.

Reality condensed in the cold air around Deaglan, leaving him shivering before the mirror. He was back on the carnival grounds, in the twisted hall of mirrors. He had a mission to complete. They had to rescue Alea. They had to be heroes. Could he really be a hero though, knowing his future? It hadn’t seemed as vile and evil as it appeared, but it was so… dreary. It wasn’t what a hero looked like.

“Deaglan, let’s go!”

He turned his head to see Jeff and Sorrel waving him further into the house of mirrors. He had to press on. He could reflect on it later.

When they found the center of the maze, they found Alea. She stood frozen before them, posed to strike at the mirror she was trapped in. Within moments, the hard work of the team released her from imprisonment. He could be a hero. They all could.

Whitestar, Alea’s mythical sword, popped back into her hands from nothingness, and she smote the entrapping mirror, shattering it and the merged realities of Avalon, Anwnn, and Earth.

He should be falling, but he wasn’t. He was next to Angel and across from him was Alea. It was a little over a year ago, and this was his first day making friends at Claremont. He had just come back from a puzzle room with other students

They, along with the rest of the students, had just been busted by Vice Principal Dugan for a late night party, despite MC hiding the party goers from sight.

“You have five minutes,” the Vice Principal stated sternly, before closing the door.

Someone muttered in the background after the door shut. “Man, if only we had more time.”

Angel looked between Deaglan and Alea, and proposed an idea; use the two of them as magic ‘batteries’, so their faerie magic could slow the five minutes into five hours.

They had to hold hands. Alea readily accepted Angel’s hand. Deaglan was hesitant, especially with the implication of the term ‘battery’. There was also a bit of contempt between him and Alea, as their first encounter was less than friendly.

“Angel, this isn’t going to work,” Alea stated matter-of-factly. “He’s Unseelie, why would he help others?”

The remark sparked Dealgan’s temper, yet it was quelled by a feeling of assurance. Alea’s previous remark to him rung out in his mind.

“Because at Claremont, we’re all heroes,” He stated matter-of-factly. “_That’s why_.” Deaglan took the girls hands, completing the circuit, and time condensed around them. He felt exhausted, but what’s more, he felt good. He wouldn’t let someone else dictate his being. He could be good. He could be normal, like everyone else… Maybe he would get one of those IDs… What did Noah call them? A Driver’s License?

As time folded around him, so did reality, and now he stood before a door. It was Coach Boomer’s office.

He knocked.

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If I could Turn Back Time...
... If I could find a way

“What did you do?!”

In that moment, something changed. Something fundamental. Jeff couldn’t place exactly what, but these thoughts of what was and what could be lingered just outside of his conscious thought, ready to rush to the foreground if given a chance.It reminded Jeff of a lecture on time as a fourth dimension, and how supers who could control time sometimes felt less moored to the moment, floating almost.

A familiar voice brought him out of the daze. Neural Co-Processors engaged. Sorting algorithm activated.

Within moments, the confusion gained some clarity. Thoughts sorted themselves into neat rows, and columns, forming a multi-dimensional matrix of possibility. Jeff took a moment to consider what this matrix meant. As he focused any one thought or memory floating in his HUD, he was back in that moment. He was able to relive past memories. They had this momentum, propelling the moment forward just as it had happened before, like a mix of VR and home videos.

And then he pushed.

It was a minor thing, a memory of knocking a glass of soda onto a stack of superhero tabloids and comics. Knowing what would happen, he instinctively reached out and grabbed the can.

It didn’t spill.

He had changed the memory. Or, had he done more?

He snapped back to to the possibility matrix, things shifting slightly around the point. Memories of re-reading those comics later replacing memories of searching for replacements at his favorite comic shop. He saw their addition to his memories of packing for Claremont.

It’s malleable! Jeff thought. The matrix was interconnected, sure, so altering any one piece would ripple through the rest. He had to be careful. While beautiful, the entire thing seem fragile. If he did anything to radical, it might rip itself apart.

Maybe I should leave it alone. he thought. What would be worth the risk?

Sure, Jeff had made some dumb decisions, but generally learned from them and moved forward. Nothing warranted changing, right?

The matrix parted and a singular moment came into view. Schism and Deaglan and the others were debating if they could make a bargain with the hydra when Jeff walked up and promised away a betrayer’s love to know what Aegis and Luke knew about him and his mom. At the time, it seemed worth the risk, but Jeff never thought Jason’s love would be what vanished.

I can undo that! he thought. He could see how that memory linked to other parts of the matrix, strong lines into the future, but weak lines in the present. He would have still gone to Luke to apologize. And he would have told Luke about what Schism discovered when she teleported Jason. The only thing that should change was that thick line leading into the future. The line was solid, there would be significant changes to his future. But he could undo that mistake, that moment where he chose what seemed like an easy out over facing Luke.

An itch told Jeff he could push again, go forward in the matrix and see where that thread took him. No. he thought. Going forward might be permanent. Or something worse. His thoughts drifted back to that same lecture on time theory, to a warning for the temporal kids if they used their powers to look too far forward. The lecturer’s dire warning stuck with Jeff.

His mind made up, Jeff snapped into the past. He was back at the docks, the hydra’s many mouths talking independently to all of them, trying to work a bargain before they could think it through. The event had inertia, going just as he remembered as long as he didn’t push. But he wasn’t here to relive the mistake. He was here to change it.

Push

“No Deal.” Jeff spat.

The single head talking to him recoiled into the body with a hiss. “What? Are you sure, so much information, such a little price.” it said, slithering back to try again.

“No Deal. Everything that leaves you mouth is venom and I won’t agree to let your pour it into my ears. I’m done here. In fact, we’re all done here. Guys, we have a mission, and this thing is just trying to delay us. Let’s go.”

The scene faded and Jeff watched the ripples move through the matrix. Something major shifted just out of sight in the future and the temptation to follow it grew stronger. Instead, he shut down the sorting algorithm and pushed those thoughts away.

Jeff’s mind cleared and he was back in the now, or at least that was the only way he knew to describe it. That feeling of inertia was absent and instead every choice felt real again.

Jeff was at the winter formal, dancing with Jason. Jeff’s tuxedo was something from a rental place, while Jason’s was clearly tailored to him. A romantic song is playing, and they were simply holding each other, neither speaking for the moment.

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Numb
Just a bit of vertigo

You’re forgetting something she told herself as she was now in the common area with Tel. The two were sitting on the couch; He was playing on his guitar, while she was making repairs on a shirt. She focused on the melody, and was just barely sensing his heartbeat. Flora didn’t know why she was trying to hold onto this moment, as she stopped and turned to Tel.

“…May I ask a question…?”

“Go for it”

“…We’re going to the dance…together…right?” The pounding in her heart reverberated throughout her. Her threads felt as if they would burst from underneath her skin.

“Of Course! Unless…you didn’t want to go toge-“

“N-No! I mean…I do want to go with you. I just didn’t want to assume I was that lucky”. It tore her apart to see his smile quickly fade as a commotion began outside. She followed his eyes to see Team Alpha and the Elysian headmistress outside her school. “Stay here; I’ll be right back…”

Something felt wrong as she left the room.

Moments seemed like they were moving past her; Scenes of running through labyrinths, going to the movies, the parade , Friendsgiving, the mall, being alone, holding down the Fear master, meeting Charlene, catching a car, and moving into Claremont. She felt less, and less except for the sense of becoming numb.

Flora found herself next to Hal as they looked at the tree she had pulled from its roots. She had been practicing non stop for a month and still could barely keep herself together. Hal was shaking slightly but trying to keep a neutral expression. She was horrified as she looked at her threads. “…You’re still practicing. You’ll get it real soon, Flor. You just have to keep trying” Hal said, and she was unsure if it was meant for her or for him.

“Just say it, Hal. I’m a disaster, all I’ll ever do is hurt people…” She said and her throat clenched like she was telling a lie.

She suddenly felt an immense pressure as her father was holding onto her tightly. He easily picked her off the ground. They were in her small home, in her room, hours after the threads had crawled from out of her. They both were crying, as her threads fell limp, threads that were many feet long. The weight of them felt unbearable.

Then why did she feel regret in this moment?

“Sweetie, please don’t do that again…”

“I-I-I just was trying to get them off. They won’t come off…” She tried to explain. She didn’t want them, she didn’t want her threads. She never would?

“I know, I know, I’m so sorry sweetie” Her Dad held her tighter “…and I know it’s hard right now. But, I love you, and…I just need you to hold on for right now. I need you to hold on for today. We’ll figure this out tomorrow. We always do…”

Flora felt like she was falling backwards for a moment…but she wasn’t. She was where she always was; sitting by herself in a classroom, always picked last, alone in a theater. The faces of her family were the only constant, but her father worked, her brother had his team and Ms. North had obligations. She felt herself growing more and more numb, empty before she felt like she was nothing.

That’s what she wanted though? Wasn’t It? She was a nobody. It was always better to be ignored and forgotten, because that meant there were very few people in her life she was afraid of losing.

Suddenly her perspective shifted, everything was bigger…than it ever had been? No…as it always was. Everything was always bigger than her. The immediate recognition was Ms. North, sitting in a rocking chair in a nursery, designed in soft greens, greys with a few touches of pink. It was a little simple, but clearly a lot of thought had been put in. She was a baby girl in a crib reaching out, trying to grab the little stuffed animals that spun from a mobile.

Then she came in.

She was so…short, but immediately seemed to be the biggest presence in the room. Long, wild blonde curls were barely tied back as she wore the expression of someone satisfied with a job well done.

“Mission Accomplished; Hal fought valiantly, but he was no match for me in the end and is finally asleep” she said with a grin, moving over to the crib “Thank you, Natalie. I have no clue what I would have done wi-“

“You don’t, but you know you have me a-“

“And that we can’t dwell on what wasn’t and only look forward. I know. How was she?”

“Quiet”.

Her Mom laughed; Flora had thought she had forgotten her laugh.How could she have forgotten her laugh? It was rich, filled with joy and a constant in her world. She leaned over the crib, and she felt her Mom’s finger as her hand wrapped around it. She squeezed tightly, as if this was the last chance she’d ever get to do so.

“Keith must be rubbing off on her. Or…does she have big plans? Maybe she’s quiet, but she’s always reaching and grabbing everything. Don’t stop, Flora. You give it your all and take all its worth. There’s so much I can’t wait to tell and show you…when you’re a little bigger though.”

It then Flora realized that Ms. North’s eyes had been staring at her. There seemed to be a shift in light, a glint in her eyes. The older woman rose before glancing to her Mom, still leaning over the crib.

“I should make us some tea. But…perhaps you should tell her now”

“Is this real good advice or omens to come?” She watched as her Mom’s playful expression hid some underlying worry.

“…Does it matter?” Ms. North asked before she left the room. She watched as her Mom stuck her tongue out, before her face grew a bit more serious. She looked back to Flora…and Flora felt herself internally screaming that she needed to remember this. This would be so important. She looked at her mother’s face and saw her expression; so clearly a mix of love, concern, hope and fear.

“I don’t know a lot about the future or omens, Flora. I love you, if nothing else; I want you to know that“. Flora felt herself crying, and held on tighter. The thought of losing her…again, no, at all terrified her. “This world is going to be harsh. I will do everything I can to protect us, but it may hurt you still. Don’t let that be an excuse to stop reaching out to people. Take it from me, you’re going to need all the help when…“

Her mother was gone, Flora lost her again. Suddenly a torrent of emotion ran through her, and she thought it would crush her.

She still was there though.

She felt something, and that was what she would focus on.

She faced upwards, lifting her hands, and then letting her threads extend, further and farther than they ever had. She focused hard on any other presence in this space, anyone she could even faintly recognize. Her threads grew and grew, spreading and searching. She let out a breath to focus her thoughts, to send out a message.

If any you are out there, I’m here. It’s me, Flora. I’m reaching out;I just need you to reach back…please?

It was then as if the wind had been completely knocked out of her.

Flora found herself in the hall outside of the common room, not sure what the heck had happened. As she tried to gather her thoughts and composure, she found her eyes wet with tears. Why was she crying?

She rubbed her face as she tried to shake the lingering feelings off. It must have been a spell of random vertigo…nothing more. Besides, she had nothing to cry over and now wasn’t the time to cry. She picked herself up and moved to head to the front of Claremont Academy. If Elysian thought they could mess with her friends or her school, they had another thing coming.

She wasn’t going to lose them.

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The Bat Signal
Schism and Yuna get Bobby out of a bad situation

Schism’s mind turned in the nothingness, and another flicker of regret pulled her back into the timeline.

“Hey chicky, is Bobby with you? I haven’t seen him around and…I dunno. Something just feels off.” Simone was texting Yuna as she slowly meandered from the cafeteria to her room. It was nice to just not quite be anywhere right now, taking a couple minutes to try to not think about the mystery with Adnan and the dead ends they’ve been running into there, but into that vacuum entered a new concern. She couldn’t quite place it, but something with Bobby has been hitting the back of her mind; a tension or frustration underlying his words—well, more than the usual frustration for him, at least. She felt her phone buzz in her hand and glanced down, expecting a response from Yuna. Instead, the number appearing had a Los Angeles area code. “Huh. That’s either a robo-text or a burner phone,” she muttered softly to herself. She opened the message and her eyes widened.

“Hey, it’s Twitch. We just got word on the street that a new guy is running with a local powered kid called Anvil. Lugnut is pretty sure it’s one of yours, says he’s never seen this one around here, and it looks like he might be in trouble. They were last seen on the corner of Bowdoin and Quincy. The rumor was that he was looking for drugs, but nobody believed that. Kind of skinny, dark hair, seems to have a bunch of extra shadows around him. Got a long leather jacket, like that old movie, Blade?”

“Shit.”

Simone rapidly texted him back to give her whatever updates he can and checked in with Yuna. The two girls met up outside the dorm, staring at each other in consternation.

“What the fuck is he doing, Yuna?”

“I don’t know! It doesn’t make any sense…” She trailed off, piecing things together from recent conversations with her boyfriend. “Oh, God. I know exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to help with Adnan, following up on the stuff in the Fens.”

“Oh no.”

Yuna’s hair, which had already starting sticking up at random angles, now looked like the fur of a cat in a thunderstorm. Her simple knit dress began darkening from a rose color to a dangerous crimson, and shadows began gathering where they oughtn’t.

“Simone, we have to help him…and then strangle him, but help him first. You’ve got contacts there, right?

“I do, and they’re keeping me updated. Look, I’m going to go right now, figure out what’s going on, and try to help him. Maybe he’s on to something…but yeah, nobody should be going in there without backup. What the hell, Bobby!” Simone paused, eyeing the other girl’s increasing level of dishabille with concern. “Yuna…would you be ok staying here unless I call you for help? Bobby’s tough, and I don’t think he’s in mortal danger, but he’s going to be really embarrassed if both of us show up to save the day. I’d say for you to go, but I’m guessing he wants to impress you more, and right now you’re a little…”

“I know, I know. I’m trying to hold on, I swear!” Yuna took a deep breath and unclenched her hands. Her eyes began returning to their regular color and the black leather gloves disappeared into the aether as quickly as they had arrived. She looked up at Simone and said, through gritted teeth, “Just go and get him. If you need a nuclear option you get me, you hear?”

“I hear.” Simone gave her friend a quick hug, avoiding the half-formed spiked shoulder pads, and disappeared.

Thirty interminable minutes later, and after Yuna confined her pacing to the woods behind the track to avoid terrifying another wandering freshman, her phone buzzed with the latest update.

“He’s ok, back in his room. Nothing broken, and he may have actually saved a kid from a really bad scenario. I’ll meet you in your room in a sec.”

Yuna breathed a sigh of relief, her hair finally returning to its demure state, and headed back to her dorm.

Ten minutes later, the two sat facing each other across the low table in the center of Yuna’s room. “So…this guy, Anvil. Lugnut and Twitch are sure they can get him out of that situation?”

“They’re not positive, but hopeful. Seems like he’s mostly trying to just make enough money to take care of his Grandma and his girlfriend who’s got a baby on the way. I’ve got a friend that’s getting him hooked up with that restaurant downtown that hires ex-cons to teach them culinary skills. Bobby actually did a pretty good job impressing him with his whole ‘Nightstalker’ schtick at first, which is what led to bringing him to this weirdo heist situation. Get this, though, the ‘big bad’ crime boss was a freaking slinky!”

Yuna raised an eyebrow, “Seriously? A…slinky?” Her hands make the interdimensionally-known “slinky” gesture.

Simone nodded. “Yeah, I know…I don’t get it, either. Maybe it was a leftover from that toy shop battle that happened back in our freshman year? Anyway, it was telling them that they needed to break some ‘Snakeskin’ guy out of a powered lockup and that the people who failed would get killed, so I think Anvil realized that this was way nastier than he’d thought it would be. Bobby never gave his real name or his superhero one, though, and he didn’t go full Twilight or…uh, the sparkly version, so hopefully, they won’t connect him to the hero who helped fight off the Power Corps last month.”

“Ok, so, not as bad as it could be, what a relief. That boy! So then how did they get out of…”

“Do you know that Lugnut can take out building support beams like nothing?”

“I’m listening.”

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A Little Help
Schism's friends help her family salvage their lives back home

“Thank you for responding so promptly, Mister…”

“You may simply call me Inspector, Principal Summers. In this capacity, my given name has no function.” The gray-skinned official, his taupe suit neatly pressed and his black hair precisely trimmed and brushed back over his pointed ears, smiled blandly at the Headmaster of Claremont, then at each of the students in turn. Schism felt a chill in her stomach at the man’s voice. He didn’t look familiar, but all Inspectors speak in that same cadence, the one she remembered so well and wished she didn’t. The man’s head turned towards her last, a subtle insult.

“Kenbish, I presume. Are you present here as a cultural liaison, or is this a confessional?” His bland smile was augmented with a bland laugh.

She felt the old storm rise up in her mind, but she kept it at bay with the memories of her family and the reminder that this was for them. The stutter code laced into her “latest report card” had gotten through to them, as hoped, though the answer was disappointing, if not unexpected. Her mother’s carefully penned words, obviously under the direction of Grandmother Viro, were decoded into a request to be able to return to their home and lives in that world instead of choosing freedom and exile here. But I’m here, too. Shouldn’t that count for anything? It wasn’t a fair thought, though; she knew they wanted only for her to be able to return to them. Safe. Non-threatening. As Kenbish. Not Simone, and definitely not Schism.

Kenbish means nobody. It was the government’s form of a warning wrapped in sarcasm. When she’d turned thirteen she lost the birth name given to her by her parents and was assigned her new one based on her expected role in society. “Nobody” was causing all this chaos and disruption, and “nobody” she’d remain until she learned her place.

She opened her mouth to make a safe, non-threatening reply, but Principal Summers had already stepped slightly in front of her, hand hard on his cane, and spoke with quiet authority. “She has no blame in this scenario. We are dealing with a situation in which she has offered her valuable assistance, as have these others.” Summers gestured toward Sorrel, adding, “We are taking this as an educational opportunity for our students, hence the number of students present; I hope you don’t mind. This young man will provide you with the specifics on how they ended up in your dimension, and what followed them there.”

Sorrel, in turn, stepped forward. His voice took on a smooth, professional tone, and he played the role with precision: exhaustive detail on seemingly important trivialities, an excised version of their battle with “forces of disorder” that somehow led to a rip between worlds, and finally, the presentation of the mock-Cybersoul chassis. Reggie, visibly gritting his teeth as he watched the Inspector’s eyes pass over Simone with deceptive dismissiveness, stepped forward in turn with Brian and Kirby to reassure the man that this mysterious entity posed no threat to anyone anymore, and that no, of course, there was no sign of any unauthorized intel retained in this husk. The real Cybersoul – after working diligently with the tech kids at the creation of this false being that needed to match their material makeup and electrical signatures – was waiting things out, along with Otakubot, in Aaron’s protected off-world room to make sure any scans would reveal nothing remotely like that simulacrum. Deaglan and MC were also missing from the lineup, but both remained stationed nearby to provide the supporting illusion and fae glamor on the chassis that could feasibly account for whatever strange readings the officials had picked up during the students’ time there.

Simone stayed quietly in the background, nodding when appropriate and speaking only when asked direct questions by the Inspector, which was thankfully rare. She felt a wave of gratitude for her friends here. Even Thad was present, wearing his trust-fundiest looking clothes and attitude, exuding the stability, class, complacent respectfulness that are hallmarks of the model citizens from her home world. Aramat and Flora didn’t have much to do, as it was unlikely their skills were going to come into play, but they insisted on being there as moral support. It was a surprisingly intense feeling, knowing that there were people here just to make sure she would have friends nearby. Yuna and Sebastian were present, too, and Simone was slightly suspicious that Casanova was assisting the performance in subtle ways. Bobby very much wanted to be there, but was rightly concerned about his connection to both Twilight Darkness and Cybersoul, so instead grudgingly agreed to keep out of sight.

Finally, all the forms were filled, the boxes checked, and official questions supplied with acceptable answers. The Inspector, continuing to display that mincing efficiency which made Simone want to commit violence to his person, blinked to clear the screens from his eyes. He then paused for a second before remembering to put his hand forward in a customary concluding gesture for humans. He once again offered a general smile to the group, nodding approvingly at Sorrel, Thad, and Reggie in particular. “Such a productive, respectful group of young people. I commend you, Principal Summers.”

Simone waited. It sounded like a bland, polite way of ending the meeting, and in fact the Inspector was already turning toward the portal that had begun to open the second he’d cleared his interrogation screens. They never pass up an opportunity, though, she thought to herself. True to form, just before he stepped through the portal, back to where her family waited anxiously to return to their lives, back to where fear and comfort are indistinguishable from each other, he looked directly at Simone for the first time.

“Really, Kenbish, it seems like they hardly have a use for someone like you at all. Do try to keep up with your classmates, won’t you? The sooner you learn your lessons here, the sooner you can come back home to us, where you belong.”

Storm raging, Schism looked back into his eyes with a demure smile.

“I intend to, sir.”

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Taking it Down a Mile
Schism talks to Noah

Simone teleports to Noah’s door and knocks at it, trying to hold her anger in check. Something odd is going on with everyone here; Tel was normally never that callous, especially not with a missing friend who’s been ripped from the world. Simone wonders what Miss Kitty’s cat was trying to tell them, or if he was just being an inscrutable cat. Her experiences with the species have been all over the place since coming to this dimension, so who knows? A minute passes with no answer, though she can hear that sound of a voice inside.

“Dammit, he’s probably got headphones on,” she mutters. A second later, she’s standing next to Noah as he lies half-sprawled on a bean bag, yelling at Mario Kart and, yep, with his headphones on. She taps one side of them and he jumps; fortunately, his car had just gone off the rainbow track into deep space, so nothing worse could happen to him there. It was up in the air what was going to happen to him in this world, possibly literally.

“AUGH! WHAT THE..Oh, uh, hi Simone. Why didn’t you knock?”

“I did. You were yelling at a racetrack and didn’t hear.”

“Uh, yeah. So…what’s up?” Noah takes a closer look at her face and puts down the controller. “Um, you look kind of pissed off.”

“Just a bit. Did you think it was funny to prank Donny while he was trying to research where Adnan went to?”

“Who? Oh, uh, Adnan! Yeah, c’mon, you didn’t think his stupid idea of moving statues was actually going to help, right? I just thought it’d be kind of funny…I was gonna tell him the truth when he got all excited about it, promise. It wasn’t actually hurting the search.”

Simone’s red eyes gain another level of rage at the look of him, still sprawled out, still glancing back at the TV screen, obviously caught in that gaming haze where nothing else seems nearly as important as the next chance to win.

“Do you have any fucking clue how Adnan got taken? Don’t bother answering; no, you don’t. We’re all guessing here, trying to gather information in bits and pieces. He could be dead, he could be trapped somewhere, he could be fucking running out of air to breathe as far as we know. So, here’s one thing you don’t do. MESS WITH ANYTHING, NO MATTER HOW DUMB YOU THINK IT IS, RELATED TO SAVING HIS LIFE.”

A final glance at the screen snaps her control, and the next second both of them are on top of the library, bracing against the chill winds that have been picking up all day. Noah stumbles for a second then crouches down, clutching his arms around his suddenly bare legs, his face turning bright red.

“Hey, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I promise! You didn’t need to leave my pants behind like that…look, get them back and I’ll go tell Donny right now, ok?”

For a second, Simone sees a double image: one of them both on the roof, another with them floating a mile in the air while she threatens him, bullies him, into capitulating. The second image, feeding into her rage, seems so tempting. But the memory of that act comes back to her with shame. You did that, and it didn’t feel so good, did it? You’re angry, but did you want to terrorize him? That’s the easy way, and it looks pretty ugly from here…

Simone draws a sharp breath inward, her anger first starting to leak away, then finding a new path. “Noah, that wasn’t me. What the hell?” She blinks back to his room and grabs the pants, then tries to return with them. They disappear from her hands as she rematerializes on the roof. “Someone pranked your pants to stay behind if you teleported. I can’t tell how, but maybe magic? Who else have you been pissing off lately?” She gestures to him and they both return to his room; Simone turns around until he finishes putting another pair of pants back on. Noah’s face stays red, though, and he mutters, almost to himself.

“I dunno. I’m not trying to hurt anyone, you know? I mean, yeah, that prank on Jeff with his power suit really pissed him off, and I guess it could’ve been really bad if something went wrong. I just like people to laugh, you know? I was always the class clown, and that’s why kids liked me. Used to like me.”

Simone blew out a breath of air, “I guess I can get that. But you’ve got to know when and how to do it. Teleporting Bobby’s underwear to the dorm roof, for example…”

“That wasn’t me, I swear! He keeps saying it is, but it isn’t! I didn’t put the giant statue of Devin in here, either…though that was a great prank.”

Simone gives him a hard look, sizing him up for a long minute. “Huh. I actually think you’re telling the truth about all that. Look, I get wanting people to like you, but this isn’t working. People don’t like what you’re doing. It’s coming across more as mean than funny, and people don’t usually like being the butts of jokes. And what’s going on with Adnan could literally be life and death.”

“What if I stop with the pranks during serious times? Only when it’s fun?”

“Do you know when that is?”

“Uhh…”

“Yeah. How about this. There’s a drama club here. I’m a part of it, and so are a bunch of people you want to maybe have not be pissed off at you. Why don’t you give it a shot for a month? You can take on the funny roles, and then people will laugh because you’re doing it all as part of a play, not in real life. How about that?”

“So, I’ll play pranks on the audience and the other actors, but it’ll be ok because it’s my character?”

“NO! I mean that you take on roles that are doing funny things according to the script, or what you agree to do with the other actors and the director. DO NOT ADD YOUR OWN PRANKS TO THE MIX. Trust me on this!”

Noah thinks for a while, going over how much things have been escalating without the happiness and attention he was hoping for. Well, there’s attention, but…

“Ok, Simone. I’ll try it. Maybe it can become the drama and comedy club, like the two masks, you know? And I’ll go tell Donny about the prank. It really wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. The pants things was actually pretty funny, so props to whoever did it; I think I’ll walk over there, though.”

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Mending Mistakes

The explosion. The Cracking. Pain and helplessness were all Reggie could feel. He thought of Tesla Girl in that moment…

Reggie had the syringe in his hand ready to spring forward and dose Tesla Girl to knock her out. Just as he was about to rush forward though he actually looked at her. Nine years old. Nine short years and she was already being manipulated to a life of evil. Reggie turned to look at Brian. Like he said, but hasn’t said yet, this could just as easily have been him. Reggie put the syringe away and then nodded toward Tesla Girl. Brian nodded and took his helmet off. They walked forward while Flora and Aramat hung back. MC began working her illusions on Princess Silverwing.

“Woah!” Tesla Girl shouted at them. “Woah woah woah. Who the heck are you guys? Beta team guard patrol. OFFICIAL patrol. Very important.” She holds up a tablet display with the official assignment from the vice principal.

“Hey! Tesla girl right? Man they’ve got you on patrol? Well I feel secure. Don’t you feel secure, D.V.?” Reggie says turning to Brian.

“The securest.” Brian says following Reggie’s lead.

“Wait…what’s up with the princess?” she says finishing with air quotes.

Silverwing seemed to be going on about an invading army and waving her sword around. MC’s illusions were working again.

“Pff. Probably living another one of her fantasies.” Reggie said dismissively.

“Probably why they put the Mistress of Mad Science in charge of patrol.” Brian added.

“I TOLD her I was in charge! Sheeee didn’t believe me though.”

“So is it true you’ve made a personal force field generator?” Brian asked keeping the attention on Tes’s tech.

She distrustingly looked him up and down. “See looking at your suit, you’re too worried about modernism. Future tech! Blah…you don’t get the intricacy of clockwork! You let the tech take the blows…I protect the tech. Your old brain is probably just set in its ways.”

Reggie busted out laughing.

“She’s got you there, D.V.”

“Now hold on a second…” Brian began to counter.

“What are you guys doing here anyway?” Tesla asked finally.

“Short cut. Missed dinner earlier. Gonna snag some ice cream. Want us to bring you some on the way back?” Reggie answered.

“2.5 scoops Rocky Road and 1 scoop strawberry. The bowl must be chilled.”

“Cool. Come on guys. They’re letting us through.” Reggie called to the rest. “Good doing business with ya Tesla Girl.”

“I liked that whole Mistress of Mad Science. Let’s stick with that.”

“Only fair. Watch your back with Silverwing though. She might be weird when she comes out of this one.” MC said as they all walked down the hall.

“Oh. Wow ok 5 of you. I’ll up the radius of my scanners. You better be glad I didn’t summon the spiderbots!”

Reggie and the team slipped into the Headmistress’s office while Tesla Girl was distracted with Princess Silverwing’s delusions.

He was back at the explosion. He’d never left. And he wasn’t alone. His friends were there beside him confronting Team Alpha.

He smiled.

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The Next Step

“He’ll be here, right?” Reggie’s voice had more worry to it than usual. So many parts that had to go right for this to work. This was important.

“He promised me he’d come, Reg. He’s 100% on board.” Lady Liberty put her arm around his shoulders and gave him a quick hug. “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.”

Reggie opened his duffel bag slightly to make sure the gift wrapped box was still in there and stood eagerly waiting on the steps of Freedom Hall. He could tell it was cold, which meant it was down right frigid out. The sun was trying to peek through the clouds, but kept getting swallowed back up. A few tourists started to show up and asked Lady Liberty for her autograph and a selfie, but there wasn’t much normal city traffic this early on a Sunday.

Which meant he didn’t have to wait long, as Principal Summers’s car pulled up moments later. Summers climbed out of the driver’s side front door and opened the back so Flora and Charlene could exit.

Charlene looked up and saw Reggie and Lady Liberty and smiled through her containment suit. She then put her fists on her hips and asked with mock annoyance “For the last time ya’ll, what is goin’ on here?”

Flora nervously laughed, jogged to the top of the stairs, and leaned over putting her hand to her mouth. She whispered, “Well, I got them here…it was a bit tricky, but I’m excited”

Reggie cracked a smile. He and Flora fist bumped.

Summers held out his arm and Charlene took it as they climbed the stairs to join the other three. She maintained her accusatory but curious stare on Reggie and Flora the whole way up.

“Mr. Weeks, I assume, given Ms. Madison’s uncharacteristically blunt insistence, that there’s a good reason you’ve brought all of us out here on such a lovely north eastern morning in the middle of December.” Charlene nodded as she patted Summers’s arm in agreement.

Reggie glanced at Lady Liberty and she nodded as he reached into his bag and pulled out the box wrapped in holiday gift wrapping with a large red bow on top. He held it out to Charlene and said “An early Christmas present.”

Charlene let go of Summers’s arm and took the box. She looked at it and then back at Reggie and Flora. “What on Earth is this?”

“Funny choice of words,” Reggie laughed as she began unwrapping the gift.

“So Jeff and Brian brought back some schematics from the alternate earth they went to…”

She opened the box and pulled out a pair of well made silver gauntlets. They were large. They looked like something that would fit Chump and not Charlene.. But they were seamless and each one had a curved touch screen display that form-fit the back of the wrist.

“Flora helped me with the design, so they would be functional but fashionable. The material is lightweight but durable and the circuitry, wires, and conduits run through the silver and carbon fiber mesh. They’re bulky but only as much as they need to be.”

“Yes they’re very impressive, thank you. But what are they?”

“Oh. Sorry, right. Well the schematics they brought back were for the Charlene on that world. They shunted her power into…blah. You know what, that’s not important. What is important is that given the research I’ve been working on the past couple years, and with the help of Brian and the Atom’s, I figured out how to modify them. Look, it’s easier to just show you. Put em on already!”

Charlene loaded one gauntlet at a time into the exchange port on her suit. They barely fit. She pulled her arms out of the sleeves and fumbled with them for a brief moment before slipping them on. “Oh wow they fit perfectly.”

Flora quickly pumped her gloved fist before nervously putting her arms back at her side and stifling a grin.

The displays came to life as soon as Charlene put the gloves on. The fog created by her toxins inside the suit immediately began to dissipate. The look of shock on both her and Principal Summers’s face was priceless.

“Reggie what did you do?” She said nervously, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

“Now hold on. Don’t get too excited. This isn’t a fix.”

“It certainly feels like one!”

“Go ahead and drop the suit.”

“What?!”

“Mr. Weeks, I trust your skills, but are you sure?” Summers said coolly.

“Tesla Atom checked behind him and helped test them, Duncan. They’re good” Lady Liberty answered.

Summers briefly looked like he was going to say something else but instead nodded and turned to Charlene expectantly.
Charlene took a deep breath and depressurized the suit. She slowly undid the clasps and seals and stepped out into the crisp cold air.

Nobody flinched.

The tears began flowing. Charlene ran up and grabbed Reggie and Flora and squeezed as hard as she could in a long emotional hug.

She stepped back sniffing. Flora handed her a tissue to wipe her eyes.

“Now like I said. This isn’t a fix. The way the gauntlets work is they allow you to control how you emit your powers. But the toxin will still build up over time. You’ll need to discharge them when they get full or…well don’t let them get over full. We’ll just say that for now.”

“Wait where do I discharge them? I can’t let this stuff out!”

Lady Liberty stepped forward and put a calming hand on one of the gauntlets. “There is a storage unit inside Freedom Hall. The Freedom League has agreed to house the toxin and keep it safe for now.”

“Which brings me to the next part.” Reggie said as he looked briefly at the sky. He smiled as the sun finally broke through the clouds and he saw a figure speeding toward them. “This isn’t a sustainable solution obviously. But me and Flora listened that day at the river. You felt alone. Like nobody could help or relate. Well there’s someone who wants to help you find a more permanent solution. Someone who’s been where you are right now. Someone who can help give you that choice of what you want to do with your life.”

Thunderbolt landed in the traditional superhero landing pose with a crack of thunder. He stood up and walked over to the three students, nodding to Lady Liberty. Still looking at the three students he extended his hand out to the side and shook hands with Summers. He looked at the gauntlets and then at Charlene.

“You must be Ms. Hart. I’m Thunderbolt and I’d like to help you.”


Charlene gave Flora and Reggie another big hug, wiping away tears.

“Thanks, ya’ll. Truly.” She looked Reggie in the eye. “You don’t know when to quit do you?”

Reggie smiled. “I don’t like letting my friends down. You’re important. Not just to me, but to a lot of people. And now you get to freakin’ study under Thunderbolt!”

“Yeah I don’t think that’s going to be all laughs and sunshine though, Reg.” She said looking over at Thunderbolt chatting with Summers and Lady Liberty.

“You’ll handle it. You’re strong.”

Thunderbolt broke away from the other two heroes after shaking their hands, and started walking toward Freedom Hall. “You coming, Ms. Hart? No time like the present to start.”

“Comin’!” She yelled to him after mouthing another thank you to Flora and Reggie. She ran to catch up with him giving one last wave as they entered the Hall.

Flora and Reggie fist bumped again and she went to join Summers for the ride back to Claremont. Lady Liberty walked over to Reggie, putting her hand on his arm. “You did goo…”

“Will you go to the Winter Formal with me?” he interrupted.

“What?”

“Yeah I…we did good today. I feel good. I feel like that’s going to be a more and more rare thing in the future. And I know I’m a bit young but I don’t really care. I feel good with you. I like feeling good and I like you. So I’d like to go to the Winter Formal with you and keep feeling good.”

A smirk crossed Lady Liberty’s face. She was about to rag on Reggie but then she saw the look in his eye. The smirk faltered, and a blush took its spot. She looked down for a second, and steeled herself. “People don’t…I’m a target for a lot of hate. You don’t want to be part of all of that.”

Reggie put one hand on her shoulder and looked her square in the eye. “I know. I’ve been online. I’m asking you after I’ve already seen it. Will you go to the Winter Formal with me?”

“Yes, Reggie. Yes.”

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