Saturday, March 14, 2009
“Happy One-Month-Anniversary,” she said, guiding a forkful of cake to her date’s lips. Her jet black hair was pushed back by pink aviator goggles; matching electrical wire was wound around her long pigtails. Clad in a hot pink corset worn over a black dress that would have been more at home in the Victorian age than this one, she drew her share of stares from the people passing by.
For Armande, the more people stared at Venefica’s attire, the less they were staring at his eye. It was an eye he lost trying to escape Black Box, the paramilitary organization that had started imprisoning Neo-Sapiens for the crime of existing.
It was something Armande and Venefica had in common: back home, in America, they had both been chased by Black Box. The difference was someone had come to Venefica’s rescue. Armande’s parents had been killed in the struggle. He had been mutilated. He had been thrown into an extra-dimensional concentration camp. He had been rescued, taken to Canada, fled to Europe, joined up with a terrorist organization bent on fighting back against regimes like the one that had allowed the sort of madness he had seen, only to be defeated by an army of children his age.
Venefica had not known the sort of horrors he had, and for that, he was thankful.
“Just think,” she said, “one month ago, you took me on a pity date, and now here we are.”
Armande forced a smile. He hated her lack of confidence. To him, she was beautiful: her snow white skin, full lips, snub nose… Her breasts, her hips, her ass—the sight of her intoxicated him. Here he was a sophomore, dating a senior. Had he lived a normal life, this never would have happened—she never would have paid attention to a boy two years her junior—but Black Box had forced him to grow up fast, and that helped him over the maturity barrier.
He just wished she could see that he was the lucky one. “You’re the one who saved me from spending Valentine’s Day by myself,” he said. He didn’t say it—he didn’t think her confidence could take the truth—but the thought of staying at the school that night, while Pirjo went out with that boy Violet had introduced her to, drove him nuts. In a perfect world, Black Box wouldn’t have existed, but he still would have met Pirjo Tähti.
“After everything that happened with Dag and Mary, I’m surprised anyone would even talk to me.”
“I know a little bit about being the school pariah,” Armande explained. “I nearly took down half of them by myself. Fiore, Ellen, Mario… half the kids still won’t even talk to me. Hell, even that Matt kid treats me like crap, and he wasn’t even there! Stuck up pricks… If I didn’t have you, I’d probably snap.”
Venefica leaned over and kissed her boyfriend. It was a sensation that made Armande lament their decision to take things slow.
Was Pirjo taking things slow with that Austrian boy?
Suddenly, a half-man, half-lion covered in quills landed in the street. The people of Vienna gasped and recoiled as he simply sniffed the pavement and growled. “He came this way, Magnitude,” Manticore growled, covering one ear with his paw.
Immediately, Armande transformed: it was his Neo-Sapien power to change from flesh and bone to liquid rock. “Who are we after?” he asked as he rushed to join him. The half-Turkish, half-Scottish boy was more than Armande’s classmate: he was a former member of Laputa, the terrorist group Armande had served.
Manticore was one of the few people Armande felt treated him like a human being, and not piece of garbage.
“That guy we dealt with during Carnival a couple of weeks ago,” said the disembodied cloud of ice crystals. Armande knew him as Juozas Cahan, the senior codenamed Diamond Dust.
Magnitude descended, towing Maze, Eiron, and Verve with him. Though Manticore was a recent addition, having been exonerated for his part in Laputa’s schemes, the others had spent months acting as Vienna’s premier superhero team. They were gaining some degree of notoriety for it too: he had seen plenty of people wearing T-shirts adorned with the silhouette of Magnitude’s helmet.
He hoped Magnitude wasn’t seeing much off those shirts’ sales: Magnitude was the one who had ultimately bested him. He had taken down Vindicators and New Vindicators alike, and it was a blind boy who finally brought him down… after taking him up. The memory of that defeat left a sour taste in Armande’s mouth.
Now comes the inevitable shooting down my offer to help… Armande thought. “Need a hand?” he asked the blind boy.
NVAE: DAG’S ROOM
Five months ago, Dag Schenkenberg had almost died. Granted, everyone kept trying to convince him that he had died and come back from the dead, but Dag knew that was preposterous: he had been in a plane crash, and barely survived. The extent of his injuries left him comatose for a week, but once he woke up, it was like it had never happened.
His brush with death served to remind him of all the opportunities he had missed: for years, he had wanted to ask out Alina Amânar. When their senior year started, and the threat of graduation loomed overhead, he realized he was running out of chances to do it. Still, before he could, one of the new students swept in and stole her heart. When Emily Adler had come to the institute, he had considered asking her out, but Juozas moved in before he could work up the nerve.
After waking up from his coma, he decided life was too short to sit on the sidelines, and watch everyone else find happiness.
Cue Mary Ljungdhal, a fellow Swede, and the only one on campus who seemed disappointed that Martin and Tatjana were on the mend. Dag made himself available to Mary, to help her get over the boy she was never ever really in a relationship with.
There were certain privileges that came with dating a shapeshifter—and not the ones that initially come to mind. In light of the revelation that one of the freshmen was pregnant, new rules had been put into motion. No longer were the students trusted with co-ed dorms: the school had been remodeled, now with separate wings to divide the boys’ and girls’ dormitories. For Mary, it was hardly a challenge to disguise herself as Dag, and make her way to his room, undetected.
That lasted for almost three months, until the arrival of Venefica. Doctor Fisher had asked Mira to show the American girl around the campus. Two days later, he was out shopping for a gift for Mary, when he pumped into Venefica. She hadn’t said a word: she simply walked up to him, kissed him, and thus their tryst began.
When Mary found out, she had been furious. She attacked Venefica on the front quad—actions that forced the administration to explain how Venefica’s powers could be used to effect people. With the revelation that Venefica had been using him, Dag ended things with her, and Mary took him back.
Now, almost two months later, they were back into their normal rhythm. Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, Dag crawled back up the bed. His blonde head came out from under the covers to kiss her neck. Mary simply laid back, mouth agape, breathing slowly. “Wow,” was all she could articulate.
As his fingers walked up her stomach, a shrill klaxon rose up from beside the bed. “Dammit, Tantivy,” Dag said, recognizing the ringtone.
Mary smacked her boyfriend and flashed him a warning look. “Her name is Herta,” she insisted. She slid an arm over the edge of the mattress to fumble about for her cell phone.
Dag shifted to lay beside her. “She’s a psychopath that blew up part of the U.N. building, and killed-”
“She’s a scared little girl who was brainwashed-”
“She killed Alina.”
She sat up, holding the phone. “Jack Rexroth’s dad killed Alina.” Putting a finger over Dag’s mouth to silence him, she answered the phone. “Hi, Herta. What’s up?”
Dag sat up and kissed her shoulder.
Mary turned away, sitting on the edge of his bed. “She did what!?!” she roared. “Okay, slow—slow down, sweetie… Start from the beginning.”
Dag scooted over and sat behind her. He put his hands on her waist. As Mary patiently listened to Herta, he slipped one hand around and between her thighs.
Mary shuddered, and climbed out of bed. “Where was Anne during all this? She’s supposed to—yeah. Yeah, okay. Look, I can meet you in cafeteria in about ten minutes. Why don’t we talk about it there?”
Dag collapsed back onto his bed at the sight of Mary getting dressed. He knew they were done for tonight.
“I’ll see you soon,” Mary said, ending the call. “I’ve got to go.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yeah, I do. That bitch Mira mouthed off to Herta—blamed her for Alina’s death.”
“Because she’s to blame.”
Mary rounded on Dag with a fury. “No, she’s not! Jack’s dad—Therianthrope! He killed Alina, Dag! Not Herta…”
“She helped,” he grumbled.
“Do you know that next month, Herta turns fourteen? Right now, she’s only thirteen-years-old, Dag. Did you have all the answers when you were thirteen? Did you have it all together?
“Look at the closest thing to parents that girl has ever had: a man who, apparently, collects orphaned Neo-Sapiens and raises them with a healthy dose of brainwashing, to turn them into living weapons; an abusive drunk who was willing to slaughter anyone because his wife was possessed by her pre-teen step daughter.
“No one is disputing that Herta’s damaged, Dag, but she’s far from being a lost cause. Maybe with some love and basic human compassion, she could turn out to be the next Vindicator.”
Dag couldn’t help himself: he chortled.
“My dad was using me—turning me into a criminal… but then Otso and Jason and the others came and found me. What if they hadn’t, though? What if my father continued to use me that way? What if I came to this school the same way Herta did—in chains, reprimanded to the academy’s custody? Would you love me then, or would you just dismiss me the way you do her?”
Dag was quiet. He wanted to argue that Mary’s father’s crimes had not included manslaughter. He was tired of arguing it, though. Life was too short to argue.
Mary took his silence as a victory. She bent down and kissed him, then rose to finish dressing. “I don’t know how long I’ll be,” she said. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Dag simply nodded in agreement.
After a week, he still wasn’t used to the crutches. They were a necessity, though: a little more than a week ago, he had been hit by a car when he stepped out into oncoming traffic. He had escaped with nothing more than a broken leg.
He was disappointed.
His eyes skimmed the room rife with people close to his age. He was on a mission to find the biggest, most imposing figure in the room. Once he found him, he limped his way there. Even without the cast and crutches, people would have cleared the way for him: he couldn’t even remember the last time he had bathed. He only knew his last bath had coincided with the last time he had changed his clothes.
Tapping the strapping young man on the shoulder, a smirk came over the tall, brown-haired boy as his target turned. “Ich habe gehört, Sie gut Saugen Hahn sind,” Gaspar said.
The other boy’s nostrils flared.
The blow to his face caused Gaspar to spin around. He dropped one of his crutches; the other could hardly keep him upright. Gaspar tumbled back, cracking his forehead on the lowest rung of a stool.
The boy didn’t stop. He lunged for Gaspar and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. He pulled him up and punched him in the nose. The café was spinning, and Gaspar was laughing.
Someone separated them. The boy’s friends? People who didn’t want to see a cripple beat up? Gaspar didn’t know. He didn’t care. He was only upset that they had stepped in. “Kill me!” he snarled, spitting up blood. “Come on, you son of a bitch! Kill me!”
He felt hands under his arm—someone was trying to haul him to his feet. He grabbed his crutch and stabbed them with it. “Don’t touch me!” he railed. “Don’t you Goddamn touch me!” He scooted back into the bar, then used it and his crutch to slowly rise up.
Someone picked up his other crutch and tried to offer it to him; Gaspar snatched it away. Someone else took him by the arm—no doubt to try and lead him out. Gaspar stomped on their foot with the butt of his crutch, then swung his elbow into their face. “Come on!” he screamed. “Someone kill me!”
No one knew what to do: they all kept their distance, fixing him with a look of fear mingled with confusion.
Realizing there was no fight to be found here, Gaspar limped out of the café, into the rain. He made his way to the curb. Cars whizzed past. Hope was renewed. Letting go of his crutches, Gaspar moved to throw himself in front of another car, hoping for the best this time…
STUFF THAT'S TAKEN PLACE
- • Everyone was allowed to go to the Netherlands for Cornelis Noteboom’s funeral.
• Isaac Newton continued to try and block the services for Dag Schenkenberg, all without ever explaining himself. When Doctor Fisher ordered him restrained, he managed to coerce a small contingent of students into helping him postpone putting Dag in the ground. It was only when Dag woke up a week after his death that Newton explained himself: “I couldn’t hear him. After everything that happened, I tried to talk to Cornelis and Dag… but I couldn’t find Dag. He wasn’t in the afterlife. I had my suspicions, but I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, in case I was wrong…”
• Dag, despite being told that he had come back from the dead, refuses to accept this truth, and has become overly careful—taking great measures to avoid dying. While only believes that he “almost died”, Dag has also come to appreciate life, and is starting to make the most out of life. He begins dating Mary Ljungdhal.
• Without a word to anyone, Gaspar left the school. Given that he knows how Martin and Jack’s abilities work, he’s doing things to hide his scent/throw them off.
• Classes resume. However, following Laputa’s assault on Vienna, the Vindicators are still running rampant, putting out fire after fire one superpowered threat or another has started. In order to ensure their classes are being taught, new teachers are brought on: Mister Ashworth (mental duplication), Miss Graves (osmosis), and potentially the Murphy’s (depending on what Arkrite decides Lex’s folks did).
• Miss Graves’ is joined by her daughter, Rebecca. An 8th-grader, Rebecca is a normal human girl with no powers of her own. Her mother is an Esper, and thus possesses abilities that are mental, rather than genetic. Rebecca’s father, who is not in the picture, is human, and thus, so shall Rebecca stay… because this campaign world needs more people who are just people.
• An Asian man managed to slip past security and enter the school, only to run into Fiore, Eiron, and the Pachyderm. The man proceeded to fight them using a combination of martial arts and body-augmenting magic to best the trio, only to be defeated by Diamond Dust. Before escaping at lightning speeds, the man hissed, “Tallemaja has chosen her new protectorates wisely.”
• After reviewing their cases, Manticore, Felsic, Rheid, and Tantivy were released to the New Vindicators Academy of Europe. Each one has approached being absorbed into the student body differently: Manticore looks to be trying to prove his worth, while Felsic appears genuinely remorseful; Rheid is distant and angry, while Tantivy merely keeps to herself.
• At the school’s Christmas party, Doctor Fisher announced that Isaac Newton would be returning to his duties as co-administrator with the coming semester.
• During winter break, another magus made a move on the school: a crazed Russian man identified only as “Nicholas” arrived leading a giant, flaming skeleton towards the campus. He was put down by a contingent of students, and placed in custody, but so far has not provided the heroes much in the way of answers. Still, when asked what he was doing at the school, Nicholas replied, “Tallemaja.”
• A cell phone picture was recently snapped of an attack in Amsterdam: a massive, crocodile-like man attacked pedestrians on a street, only to be beaten back by a masked man you all know to be Prodigy.
• The student body grows with the arrival of Venefica, an American girl rescued from Black Box by the rogue Vindicators operating overseas. Not long after her arrival, Mary and Venefica have a scuffle on the front lawn, culminating with the faculty revealing that Venefica’s powers let her transmute one chemical into another, letting her use drugs to manipulate the minds of others.