THE STANDS (Non-Sophomores)
Sitting beside Ellen in the stands, Jack watched as Martin entered, hand-in-hand with Tatjana. Martin paused slightly, nodding to Jack. Suddenly, he was taken back to the eighteen months that never were—a year and a half where he had lived with Martin in his head—a French Jiminy Cricket. Even after that odd-dressed boy had somehow healed his fractured mind, Jack struggled at times to separate his memories. There was the Martin who had irritated him this time last year and Mart, who had become a good friend on Pandora and the Elpis. He remembered all the times they had disagreed on how problems should be handled and he remembered all the times Mart had kept him sane.
Part of Jack felt like they were good friends and yet little more than acquaintances. It was something he wanted to change.
Returning Martin’s nod, Jack watched as the youth sat in the front row. Then his attention shifted to Kas slipping in—taking the empty seat not far from him. Kas was another person Jack wanted to talk with, since there hadn’t been much of a chance in the aftermath of Count Down’s latest attack. Kas had looked so wiped out from supporting the building with his powers. There hadn’t been much time to talk in the days since Kas’ miraculous return, but now was the best chance.
Giving Ellen’s hand a squeeze, Jack nodded towards the empty seats besides Kas and Ellen nodded. The two rose up and moved. As they made their way over, Jack saw Lex and Kirstie sit down behind Kas. Had it not been for Lex’s dad sitting behind him, he might have reconsidered. More so than that, Jack watched Nate sit with Roger.
Jack’s eyes read the emotions of the Murphy clan. Lex seemed agitated. Kirstie was happy. Roger was beaming with pride. Nate’s aura showed he was sad. It wasn’t hard to determine why: his eyes were on Kubichek, sitting as far away from him as she could. Jack remembered the couple from the Elpis. He remembered the day they came aboard. Unlike most, they had not been recruited from Pandora; rather, they were from a dimension the Armada raided. Nate had been part of the army that raided the ship—the army the Armada slaughtered. Nate surrendered—begged them for mercy. He told them he had a son. That he just wanted to go home. Locus laughed in his face—told him it wouldn’t matter if he lived or not, considering what the ship would do to Nate’s world. That’s when Nate asked to join them—to spare his girlfriend and son.
It didn’t look to Jack like Kubichek had ever forgiven Nate for saving them.
Jack and Ellen sat in front of Lex and Kirstie. As he turned to talk to Kas, Otso sat down behind Kas and leaned down to talk to Jack. “Hey, I could really use your help with something.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Got into a spot of trouble that can’t spread around too high up.”
Jack nodded to the Finnish teen, making a mental note to meet with him later.
“Und exactly what is the point uf this?” Kas asked no one in particular.
“In theory?” Lex answered. “Supposed to show off skills and build up experience, but in practice, it just causes conflict for no…” He trailed off as he looked over his shoulder to his father. “…damn reason.”
Kas nodded thoughtfully. “Mein sisters just manifested their powers, und while Gitta is older than I, und is attending university, Gudrun will be 15 next year und likely will be attending school at one of the academies. I haf no experience with this school tradition, so if I am to provide any guidance, I guess I must pay attention.
“I must admit, I am baffled as to what kind of challenge could be set forth that all these teams could compete in at anywhere close to equal footing. Two teams are completely devoid uf any combat firepower und any challenge uf sheer intellect favors Herta… assuming her ego does not cause issues.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Lex said flatly.
Still, Jack realized that Kas had a point. The revelation that Herta was Eru—Tabitha’s daughter meant that she very well could possess something akin to Jason’s level of intellect.
“If they’re smart it’s going to be a PVE event, with multiple tasks and goals,” Lex theorized. “One fighting, one rescue, one search, one obstacle course, one battle… y’know?” A sigh escaped his lips. “If they’re not, this is going to be a one-sided slug fest that’s going to end badly.”
Kas chuckled. “Perhaps it will be an Iron Chef
type competition or a Baccarat tournament. Even your broder would be on even footing then. Napoleon would certainly be at a disadvantage. I’m not sure his grade even knows what a kitchen even looks like.”
“Doubt it,” Lex said, “Nappy’s the flambe king.
“Wait, why is
Steven in this? Did his powers kick in while we were dead?”
“Nope,” answered his father from two rows back. “There was actually a meeting. Newton and Fisher wanted Steven to understand that he wasn’t being excluded for personal reasons. Steven said he didn’t want to be excluded. Your mother tried to argue why he shouldn’t be allowed in, but Steven said this was something he had to do.
“You ask me, Steven didn’t want to look weak to the school. He’s spent nearly a year running his mouth. How would he look if he just bowed out of this because he didn’t have any powers?”
“In all honesty,” Kas said, “given the team Beatrice chose, he is just as capable as any uf his teammates in most circumstances. Neither she, nor Astrid, made choices that make much sense from a tactical perspective.” Kas shrugged. “It looks like Astrid chose her team based on whether she knows und likes them, und Beatrice… Beatrice seems to haf chosen those nobody was apt to choose unless there was no other option.
“I suppose it makes sense given their history. Astrid lived on the streets und had few friends. To her, friendship is worth far more than power. Beatrice was pretty much ignored until Jack’s father und Herta tried to kill her family. She got involved with Otso, und proved her worth during the hunt for the Armada’s scout ships—fruitless though that was. Prior to that though, she was just the girl everyone overlooked. She wants her team to know that matter
… or that would be my guess.”
Jack grinned. Looking at her, he knew what she had up her sleeve. It had taken him by surprise when she entered the Wreck Room. He had been so absorbed in Ellen that he hadn’t seen her since returning to Vienna, but there it was. He wasn’t sure when or how it happened, but he imagined it was going to give her an edge that almost no one else here had.
No one but Dennis…
“Or she’s got something in mind,” Jack said, smirking. “Way I hear it, Beatrice changed while Otso was gone.” He looked back to Otso. The Finnish teen’s face gave nothing away. Did he not know? Had she not told him that she…? “I’d say it’s a safe bet just because he’s back now doesn’t mean she’s going back to being the gal she was.”
THE WRECK ROOM (All)
“Without further ado,” Fischer said, “this year’s Sophomore Blitz will be a race to see which team can bring down a single opponent first, and with the fewest casualties.”
Each team took their place and walls went up between them.
The ground shook as something in the distance stomped. Each of the slow, plodding footsteps shook the foliage in the distance. Then, the leaves parted, revealing the giant, feathered muzzle easily twelve feet over the ground.
Soon, the rest of it broke through. There was no mistaking that head or the tiny arms. Everyone here recognized the massive, lumbering legs the creature walked on, and the tail that brushed the trees behind it.
Before each of the five teams stood a roaring tyrannosaurus rex.
TEAM VIOLET (Dennis and Violet; NPCs: Derryl-731, Heidi, Sarah)
“Maybe we’re all fighting Jack? I heard he can clone himself.”
“He doesn’t generally do that,” Dennis said. “Given how lopsided the teams are, I’d think the teachers have something in mind other than a straight up fight.”
Violet shrugged. “I’m sure they had to program the Wreck Room for the Blitz well in advance and they couldn’t possible have known how the teams would be chosen, but since last year’s Blitz was a team fight, I don’t think they’re going to do the same thing this time.
“I do have a question, Derryl. I was hoping that your powers would be able to complement or enhance Sarah’s. Have you ever done anything to combine powers with someone else before?”
Derryl shook his head. “No, but I think I get the mechanics of it. The key would be knowing what she’s going to do. I mean, if she’s planning to unleash a scream to shatter everything, it won’t do for me to be in a lower octave, you know?”
“Huh?” asked a baffled Heidi.
“We need to be doing the same thing,” Derryl said.
“Without further ado,” came Doctor Fischer’s voice over the loud speakers, “this year’s Sophomore Blitz will be a race to see which team can bring down a single opponent first, and with the fewest casualties.”
Soon, a tyrannosaurus rex appeared before them and let loose a roar.
TEAM ASTRID (NPCs: Agnes, Astrid, Finn, Lena, Mike)
Map: https://www.dropbox.com/s/siqwif80uq1bu ... 2.jpg?dl=0
Everyone will begin behind the red line. The T-Rex is centered at E4 and occupies a 15’ x 15’ area.
The Order – Round One
- Dennis (20)
- Derryl (20)
- T-Rex (14 – E4)
- Heidi (5)
- Sarah (1)
Holding for Violet’s Initiative.
Finn took one look at the dinosaur, then looked to his team. “Well, we’re boned,” he said. “So, concede? That’s a viable tactic, right?”
“I’ve got this,” Mike said as he began walking forward, humming Puff the Magic Dragon. As the dinosaur charged for him, Mike stood his ground, trusting that the song would control the beast. Once it was within reach, the dinosaur moved to chomp down on Mike. The Frenchman jumped back, grazed by the creature’s snout.
TEAM HERTA (Tamati; NPCs: Herta, Mickie, Napoleon, Regina)
“We had something similar at my school,” Tamati said. “We ended up fighting a giant robot tank and the school screened it all on pay-per-view.”
Mickie raised an eyebrow at that. Regina looked to Herta to explain. “Really?” she asked.
“Hell if I know,” Herta said. “One year ago, you all were back in your own dimension and I part of a $&#^ing terrorist cell.” That only drew even more odd looks from her teammates. Herta figured it was widely circulated gossip around the school. The newest additions were bound to hear about her connection to Laputa eventually.
“Before this gets started,” she said, looking to Tamati, “I’m curious about something: change into your water form and wrap around me. I wanna see how much your weight slows me down. If it’s not much, I might be able to shuttle you into the action faster. Likewise, Napoleon?”
“Can you run while carrying Mickie or Regina? Not when they’ve transformed, of course, but…”
“&$#&. Anyone speak French?”
The others shook their heads, forcing Herta to resort to charades. She pointed to Napoleon, then to Regina. She mimed carrying her, then jogged in place.
Napoleon flashed a confused look to Regina.
The dark-haired girl sighed and stepped up closer to him. She slipped her arms around his neck and Napoleon leaned in to kiss her—an advance Regina quickly pushed away. “Vous devriez considérer que c'est un honneur que je considère comme un baiser, votre vache!” Napoleon snapped.
“Okay, His Royal $&@# is a lost cause.” Herta looked to Tamati. “You’re turn, Kiwi.”
“Don’t know if this will work, Herta, but here goes…” Changing into his water form, Tamati formed himself round Herta’s smaller body. It was different and he could feel Herta inside him as though she was tickling him on the inside. “Oops! Sorry, forgot you may want to breathe.” He slipped away from her face.
“No problem,” Herta said. “I’ve had worse.” She worked her arms and then her legs as if testing how it felt to move with another person encapsulating her. “It’s a bit heavier than I thought, but…” She took off at a run around the Wreck Room, stopping by her group. She was nowhere near her top speed, but still managed to break the sound barrier with Tamati coating her. “You’re slowing me down,” she said, “but it’s not bad. I can definitely move with you around me. We need to keep this in mind, Tamati. I could get you into position pretty fast… so long as Shelby doesn’t mind.”
She flashed the boy a smile. It was the first time he, or any of the others gathered here, had ever seen her do that. “If you’re okay with staying like this, I am. It’ll up our reaction time. If you’re not comfortable, though…”
Before he could decide whether or not to stay bonded to her, Doctor Fisher announced the start of the exercise. The group watched as a tyrannosaurus rex broke through the trees and roared at them.
A klaxon sounded and Herta was off like a shot; Napoleon was hot on her heels.
TEAM ROSE (NPCs: Derryl-333, Kelly, Melissa, Rose, Shelby)
At the sight of the dinosaur, Rose immediately leapt into action. She ran out into the closest bush. There, she threw out her arms and commanded the trees and bushes littering the field to grab at the creature. They grabbed for it, but as it lumbered forward, they grabbed feebly at the air.
Shelby took off, trying to get as far from the others as she could. She unleashed a scream--a scream which appeared to win her the ire of the dinosaur. As it chomped futilely at her, Derryl took off at a run, moving to help her.
TEAM BEATRICE (NPCs: Beatrice, Cassidy, Doug, Nicole, Steven)
Map: https://www.dropbox.com/s/siqwif80uq1bu ... 2.jpg?dl=0
Everyone will begin behind the red line. The T-Rex is centered at E-4 and occupies a 15’ x 15’ area.
The Order – Round One
- Rose (17 – C13)
- Shelby (15 – J4)
- T-Rex (7): Bruised
- Melissa (6)
- Derryl (6 – J7)
- Kelly (4)
Rose will move into a bush and try to snare the dinosaur. Thorn - Attack
: 1d20+6 13
That’s a miss.
Shelby will run up and scream, hitting only the dinosaur. So… hear me out here: sonic area burst, right? Reflex save to halve the damage. In my head, the way a character would do that is by covering their ears. A T-rex can’t exactly do that, so… I’m going to forgo the reflex save. T-Rex - Toughness - DC 23
: 1d20+14 19
The t-rex will turn to attack Shelby. T-Rex - Attack
: 1d20+12 14
That’s a hit. Shelby’s impervious ignores that damage.
Melissa will do nothing.
Derryl will double move and move to help Shelby’s sonic attacks.
Kelly’s doing nothing.
Doug nearly choked at the sight of the dinosaur. “Okay,” he said, looking to Beatrice, “what’s the plan?”
“Stand back,” she said as she swept her arms out to the sides. On both hands she crossed her middle and ring fingers, then rotated her shoulders to swing one up and the other down. “Leave everyzing to me.”
THREE MONTHS AGO…
Beatrice was puzzled. The trail was fresh. She had only just seen the woman turn the corner. Nothing else had crossed through her trail—there was no confusing it. Somehow, the woman had walked up between two buildings and vanished.
The girl studied the woman’s silhouette—how as she walked, she thrust her hand out in front of her. Her wrist seemed to rotate ever so slightly. It was as though she pushed on something unseen and had it give way for her. Beatrice stood back and practiced the motion, trying her best to figure out what the woman had done. After a few tries she realized she was pushing a door open—a door she didn’t need to unlatch…
A faint ringing brought her spinning around to see a man leaving the drug store next door. She watched him push the door and hold it back with his palm, letting his two adolescent daughters out before he released the door. Beatrice could see his every moment—even the movement of the door swinging and the bell bouncing on it.
She turned back to the seam where the two shops met—where the woman she’d been following had vanished. On faith, she put her arm out and pushed on the door that did not exist. She walked forward and suddenly found herself inside of a used book shop.
The woman she’d been following was leaning against a shelf of books. She looked up at Beatrice’s entrance and looked flabbergasted to see her. “Uh, guys?” she called towards the back of the shop. “I think we have a customer.”
Beatrice swallowed. She knew what was coming—knew what she was facing. “Excuse me,” she said, “you are a…” She waved her hands through the air comically. “Ze magic person, no?”
The others spilled out from the back room, only to fix her with the same startled look the woman in red leather had. “Please, you ‘ave to ‘elp me.”
“Who the hell are you?” one of them asked. He was an Asian man—very physically fit.
“B-Beatrice. Beatrice Marceau.”
“How did you get in here?”
Beatrice pointed to the youngest of their order. “I followed ‘er.”
“I swear to you, Chuck, I was careful!” spat the woman in red. “I didn’t see anyone following!”
“She did not,” Beatrice said. “I followed from a distance. My powers let me-”
“Powers?” asked the Asian man. “You’re from that school, aren’t you?” He swung his arm up and reached behind him.
The one the young woman had called Chuck threw an arm out—not to begin casting a spell, but to stop the transmuter from doing so. “No,” he said.
“But she saw-”
“She’s one girl. If this were an attack, she wouldn’t have come alone.” Chuck smiled fiendishly at Beatrice. “What do you want?”
Beatrice teared up. “I just want Otso to come home.”
“I’ve gone down this road twice before,” Chuck said. “First, with Tallemaja; then, with Jason. Why should I trust you?”
“Because I am desperate,” Beatrice said, drying her eyes on the backs of her hands. “I will do anyzing to bring ‘im ‘ome.”
“I say she’s crazy,” Dante grumbled. The man leaned against the wall to her left and folded his arms across his chest. “There’s no such thing as parallel worlds.”
“I am not crazy,” Beatrice said. “I ‘ave been to one.”
“It does explain the two other Earths that were in the sky last week,” offered Mikayla.
Beatrice nodded. “I do not know much about what happened. Ze ship did somezing. My friends—zey went aboard to stop it—to save ze ‘ole planet. Some of zem did not come back. Ze ‘eadmaster? ‘E says zey are still alive—just… somewhere else.” Again, she began to tear up. “One of zem is my boyfriend—Otso. I love ‘im. I cannot just do nozing.
“Can… Can magic bring ‘im back to me?”
Chuck looked over the rest of his group before meeting her hopeful gaze. “No spell that I know can… but perhaps one that we teach you will.”
Beatrice nodded. “Teach me. Please.”
“I don’t work for free,” the abjurer said. “If you want this—if you want him back—there is something you’re going to have to do for us.”
“Anyzing. Just tell me.”
“There are wards around the school. I need you to take them down.”
“Show me ‘ow.”
Beatrice clapped her hands together, then threaded her fingers together. She stabbed her thumbs upwards and raised her hands to cover her eyes. “Slenth brulgst.”
Her shoulders spasmed. Her upper arms began to twitch. Something was squirming underneath the sleeves of her uniform. Suddenly, her arms bulked out. Muscles bulged. Her back twitched then and her legs. Suddenly, her body seemed to expand ever so slightly. Vestige was covered in rippling muscle.
In the stands above the battlefield, Kirstie looked to Otso. “What—did she just…?”
The French girl swiftly went to work on casting yet another spell, swinging her arms through the somatic components. “Ecardera buenn.” Again, her body spasmed and increased ever so slightly. Beatrice had turned into a hulking brute.
Cassidy eyed her transformation with a raised eyebrow. Doug held a trembling Nicole close. Of the group, it was Steven alone who could bring himself to articulate what he was thinking. “What the hell was that?”
Map: https://www.dropbox.com/s/siqwif80uq1bu ... 2.jpg?dl=0
The Order – Round One
- T-Rex (16)
- Steven (15)
- Beatrice (10)
- Cassidy (9)
- Quail (6)
- Chameleon (5)
The dinosaur will move up.
Steven will hold.
Beatrice will cast, then surge to cast a second spell. Fiat to eliminate the fatigue. Hero points to everyone.
The others will hold.