A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "An Army of One"
You start lunch by making a circuit of the school, keeping an eye out for the various fakes. There's a lot of them in the school now. Not only you and Chelsea and Seth, but fake versions of George Mendoza, Joe Thomason, and Tanner Evans; imposters impersonating Kevin Hall and Andrea Varnsworth; and confused versions of Gordon Black, Dane Matthias, Caleb Johansson, and Will Prescott.
You spot Gordon in the cafeteria at a table with some football players—including Kevin Hall—laughing and making goofy faces, apparently without a care in the world. At the alpha table Chelsea Cooper sits wrapped inside the arm of Seth Javits, laughing and talking a mile a minute.
Outside, you peer into classrooms for those who don't have fourth period lunch. You spot three of them inside Mrs. Gladstone's classroom: Will Prescott, Caleb Johansson, and Andrea Varnsworth, all gazing attentively at the front of the room. So is Matthias when you scope out Walberg's room. Today's he's wearing a snazzy-looking sweater, taking him even more out of character.
You catch up briefly with Evans and Mendoza—the fake verions—behind the Music Annex. "Where's Thomason?" you ask, but they only shrug.
Fucker. He's the only one you haven't been able to track down. Is Andrea so freaked out by the body swap that she's skipping school? You hope not for her sake, or else you're going to have to do something about it. So you skip your bullshit fifth-period Marketing class to make another circuit, looking for her. It's for this reason that you happen upon a curious scene out at the portables.
There's a big cluster of students there, many you recognize. Losers and class-skippers like Spencer Osbourne and Brad Murphy and Kyle Kent. Scruffy artist types like Karl Hennepin and Tim Gerard. But there's also a lot of girls there, and even some sports guys like Noah Lepley and Nathan Cruz. And at the center of the group is Gordon Black.
He's blushing and laughing hard, his deep guffaw rolling out over the chattering laughs of the surrounding crowd. As you approach, drawn by curiosity, he raises a palm and shouts, "No! No, I can get it! Fuck you, I can get it!"
"Fuck you pleasant! Fuck you pleasant!" Spencer hoots at him.
"No! Shut up!" Gordon grabs Spencer by the neck and hurls him backward into the crowd with a laugh. "No, listen! Listen!"
An ear-splitting whistle rends the air. "Give him a chance!" an even deeper voice booms out, and the crowd settles down.
"I'm not the— What?" Gordon grabs his stomach and giggles hard.
"I'm not the pheasant plucker," prompts another voice.
"I'm not the pleasant fucker— Oh, shit!" Gordon exclaims as laughter engulfs the crowd again. "I'm not the pheasant plucker," Gordon begins again as his face blackens with suppressed hysterical laughter. "I'm the pheasant plucker's son," he continues in a choked voice. "I'm only— Only—!" A rising chatter of laughs threatens to drown him out. "I'm only fucking pleasants till the fucking peasants cum!" Gordon roars, and the whole crowd collapses in laughter.
It's quite a sight, seeing the normally mulish Gordon Black enjoying himself in a big crowd. But of course, it's really Dane Matthias disguised as Gordon.
You should pass on by, but decide instead to pull Gordon from the crowd and use him as your test subject.
So when Gordon glances in your direction, you catch his eye with a nod of the head, and hold up one of the joints you're carrying around for sale.
His eyes widen, and with a vast grin he stands and puts his hands out for it. For the first time, you get a good look at the belly that Dane has been adding to Gordon's waistline. If he keeps eating that way, he's going to wind up as wide as he is tall.
The crowd scoots and scatters as the grinning Gordon shambles at you with his arms out, like Frankenstein's monster. You jog backwards, drawing him to follow.
Then your eye is caught by two figures who have stood up in the middle of the crowd.
The taller of the pair has dark hair and dark eyes set in a pale, watchful face. He stares at you hard—or is it Gordon he's watching?—with an unfriendly look. The other, shorter one is blonde, and his eyes and smile are very bright, so that you feel yourself impaled as though on a sharp spear. He restrains the dark-haired one as the other takes a step forward.
It's not until later that you realize why you noticed them, and were bothered by them. You've never seen them before, but they were wearing Westside letterman jackets.
* * * * *
Gordon wants the joint, of course, but you murmur that he can't have it unless he follows you back to your Jeep. "It's a freebie, but I need to talk to you," you tell him.
"Talk about what?"
"Tell you when we get there. What was going on back there?" you ask as you jog along behind the school toward the parking lot.
"Just hanging out."
"No, that pheasant fucker stuff."
"Oh." He laughs. "Just a tongue twister some guys were trying to get me to try out."
You doubt Dane Matthias could get a simple tongue-twister out while sober. Stoned, he wouldn't have a hope. No wonder "they" were trying to get him to repeat a really rude one.
You direct him to get in your Jeep, and he's hardly gotten himself settledbefore you lean over to grab at his face. "What the—? Shit!" he yells as you grapple at his brow. But then you have it between your fingers, and you are muttering an arcane phrase from between gritted teeth, and pulling. Something tears loose, and then you have a bone-like mask in your hand, and Dane Matthias is passed out in the seat beneath you.
From your backpack you dig out the brain-band you made, and press it onto his forehead. His head lolls, as though he is sinking into a deeper sleep. You settle back with a sigh into the driver's seat, jam a key into the ignition, and rocket out of the parking lot toward town. You park behind the first strip center you come to for the privacy, and wait for the brain-band to finish copying Dane's mind and memories.
It's a two-fer experiment you're running, both to test out the new rockbot paste you made, and the mixing and matching of bodies and brains. First, you want to confirm that the paste, if put into a mask and set onto a person, will turn them into an obedient rockbot. Second, you want to test that you can mix the bodies and minds of different people into a single mask. If both experiments are successful, then not only should you be able to make fembots that combine minds and new bodies, you'll be able to use the masks to enslave and hide anyone you want. If not ... Well, that's why you picked the Dane-ified Gordon. He's such a goofball that no one will pay attention to him anyway, and he won't care what you did to him.
You brought all the materials that you want and need, so after the brain band has fallen out of Dane (with his name, THOR DANE MATTHIAS—Jesus, really? you think—blazing across it), you glue it into the Gordon mask, then coat it with the raw, pitch-like rockbot paste. Into the mask you burn some more of your native hair (you snipped off a good quantity this morning, while prepping stuff for school) and return the mask to Dane's face. Gordon appears where Dane had been, and his head rolls as he raises it. His eyes go wide, and he says, "G'duh?" when he sees you.
"What's your name?" you ask him.
He blinks hard. "Uh ... Dane. I think." He blinks again, then with a gasp claps his hands to his face, to pull and squeeze the flesh.
You sigh. "No, your name is Gordon Black. Remember?"
His brow furrows. "Uh ... I guess. If you say so. Oh!" He looks over his arms and hands and body. "Right. I am Gordon. Now." He giggles. "I'm a pleasant fucker's son!"
"Who's the boss of you?"
"You are," he says, without seeming to realize what he's said, for he's too busy plucking at his shirt in a wondering way. "Oh wow. Yeah!" He looks around. "Where are we?"
"Never mind. Punch yourself in the balls."
For just a moment he doesn't react, as though he didn't hear you or the words didn't register. Then, he bunches up a meaty fist and punches his groin. "Unh!" he gasps. "The hell?"
It would be tedious to give him further tests, so you take that as proof that the rockbot paste is working as advertised.
"Okay," you tell him. "Remember, you're Gordon Black. You've always been Gordon Black if anyone asks. Forget you were ever anyone else."
"When was I someone else?"
"Exactly. What's your name?"
"Gordon Black," he says without hesitating, and there's no giggle behind the reply.
"Okay, I'm taking you back to school," you say as you start up the Jeep.
"Ah, fuck. Bummer."
"And if anyone asks, you came with me because I promised you one of these." You dig out the joint again and show it to him.
He snatches at it, but you pull it away. "What's your name? What's your name? What's your name?" you ask, and he answers correctly each time. "I thought you were Dane Matthias."
"The fuck are you talking about?" he demands, and he sounds annoyed.
Just fucking excellent, you think to yourself.
* * * * *
You were always worried that Dane would say something compromising while stoned, but now you feel pretty sure he's no longer any kind of danger to you.
But someone still is. It occurred to you last night, as you worked, that with the rockbot paste you can finally get out from under that cocksucker's thumb.
Next: "Chens and Chelseabots"