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by SVT
Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2217502
Remedial students at a superhero academy.
[Introduction] Dear Parents/Guardians:

This letter is to inform you that your child has failed the Team Tactics I course in the fall semester. We strive to train young men and women to go beyond their expectations and become the hero(in)es that they were destined to become. As part of our continued drive to improve academic performance and secure better life chances for our students, we have provided your child with a remediation course to be completed over the upcoming Spring semester.

As this subject is required for graduation, this remediation course will allow your child to graduate in a timely fashion. The course is scheduled as follows:

Team Tactics I Remediation Course (Spring Semester)
Scheduled for Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 1400
Teacher: Mr. Jameson/Gravitas


We appreciate your understanding and hope to work with you to create the most beneficial educational environment for your child. Please contact us with any questions and/or concerns.

Regards,

Dr. Clark W. Gable, M.A., Ed.D
Dean of Students
Aegis Academy

***


RULES:

1) The premise is based around a high school-level remedial course at a superhero academy that unravels a super-villain conspiracy involving their faculty. Each player character is a student who failed Team Tactics I [a required team-based strategic course involving simulations (similar to the Danger Room from X-Men)] in the Fall semester and has been unwittingly registered for this remedial course. Please provide BIO in the first addition based on the sample below.

2) Rating is 13+; please limit to content as appropriate for that rating.

3) DO NOT KILL OTHER PLAYER CHARACTERS!

4) Try to complete your addition in 1 week; otherwise, you will be skipped.


FORMAT/SAMPLE

NAME/Alias (optional): Jonah Jameson/Gravitas

AGE: 35 [Characters should be high-school age but can be younger/older if able to explain how they would be enrolled in a high school course]

SPECIES: Human/Demon

ARCHETYPE: Energy Projector [For reference]  

POWER(S): Can change the gravitational force on an object, making it heavier/lighter. [Limit to 2].

ORIGIN: As a teenager, Jonah was heavily involved in occult worship; he, unfortunately, got involved in a cult ritual, leading to ultimate possession by Azazel granting his abilities. After a five-year career as a supervillain under the control of the demon, Jonah was sent to prison. He eventually regained control over the demon. Due to his relatively low-level offender status and good behavior, he was released on parole with gainful employment at Aegis Academy. [Limit to less than 100 words].

REASON FOR FAILURE: Non-applicable/Teacher [Include why they failed the Team Tactics course]

PERSONALITY: Mr. Jameson is highly devoted to redemption for his past failures as a supervillain; he has lived a hardened life but is certainly reticent generally not proud of himself. He has no educational experience but hopes to draw these students toward more successful career paths. By contrast, Azazel wishes to lead these students to the path of villainy and show them how “cool” evil can be with a love for brute force.

EXTRACURRICULARS: Non-applicable [Include whatever sports, clubs, or organizations your character is significantly involved in]
Dean Gable led me down the dark hallway. Ambient light from the window behind us illuminated the green lockers lined on both white walls. The air smelt crisp and fresh from the floor wax. The only noises were our footsteps and the hum of the air conditioning. It was exciting to imagine what this place would look like once school was in session tomorrow.

“I understand this will be a unique experience,” Dr. Gable said.

“Yes, sir,” I said. “But I am looking forward to it.” I tried not to outpace his methodical steps.

“I always love the ambiance before the chaos all starts,” he said, gazing at the multiple posters for extracurricular activities and policies. “You cannot imagine how hard it is dealing with hormonal teenagers with superpowers.” He chuckled. I laughed following his gaze.

“But you need to lay down the law!” he said, glaring at me. I shut up immediately. “These students all failed this course before and we can’t have them fail again. The turnover rate for this position was high.” He turned back to the walls. “I believe that your background will aid you in helping these students become their best selves.”

“I understand, Sir. I will try my best.”

“That’s all I ask,” he responded. He smiled weakly “Go Firebirds.”

“Go Firebirds,” I said, watching him trot down the hall back to his office.
Name: Fang Johnson Alias: Fireball Original Name: K-9 # 006

Age: 15

Species: Mutant Domestic Dog: Specific Breed: Shiba Inu

Archetype: Energy Projector

Powers: Pyrokinesis, can generate fire from any part of her body, can set her entire body aflame which she does for flight ALA The Human Torch, frequently likes to 'breathe fire' shooting flames out her mouth because she thinks its cool even though it often leaves her thirsty afterward.

Origin: An experimental animal, after learning they could Bio-Engineer Animals into Anthropomorphic Humanoids with the intelligence of Humans, the Scientists wanted to go the extra step and create Mutant Animals with actual superpowers, Fang, back then known as K-9 # 006 was once an ordinary puppy who was Bio-Engineered into an Anthro with the ability to generate fire, not long into her development, however, a sympathetic scientist took pity on her, took her away from the Lab, gave her an actual name (Her last name being the Scientist's name and raised her as her own, still her time in the lab still traumatized her and she has a lot of Survivor's Guilt remembering the Animals she left behind in the Lab

Reason for failure: Because of her Animal origins she has a massive chip on her shoulder regarding humans and humanoids and feels they are constantly judging her for being born a Non-Sapient Animal this led to her not being a team player.

Extracurricular: None she did, however, hang out with any other Animalistic Students she could find and they would hang out under the bleachers, drink soda, eat snacks and talk about their struggles living in a world designed for humans (Wearing clothes over an insulating layer of fur, feathers or blubber, shedding issues, coming into heat)
It was 7:30 am on the first day of school. I sat in the classroom trying to collect my thoughts. My heart soared with the dreams of my future students and how they would act. I probably watched too many inspirational movies but I was wondering how I’d phrase my speech about how they taught me more than I taught them.

Dr. Gable didn’t believe in us enough to give us an actual classroom. It was a repurposed storage closet we had. But it was fairly roomy; I managed to fit 10 desks inside. I even tried to decorate with posters I had to pay good money to print out. One read “Every failure is a chance to try again” with an image of a cyclist sweating profusely on his bike. Another read “Hang in there” with a cute yellow cat on a tree branch. I tried to liven the place up. Without my efforts, the dank, cold grey concrete walls would ring hollow. Between this dour, windowless room and the simulation arena, any student could get depressed easily.

Exciting times, isn’t it, pal? Azazel reared his ugly head.

“We’re gonna help these students as best we can,” I said in the empty room.

We can help them by getting them outta this chump school, he echoed in my mind. Remember Reno? Wasn’t that fun?

“I’m working to forget it actually,” I said. If Dr. Gable walked past the door, he’d probably have me committed. “And these kids want to be better than I was.”

A little arson never hurt anyone. Besides, you need to “lay down the law”, right? Maybe we can get a sequel today. His horrendous laughter made my teeth rattle.

I decided to look over my lesson plans. We were going to do some lectures on team dynamics and strategy but Wednesdays would be devoted to the simulation center with videography and feedback. I got really lucky to use some old slideshows from the last semester but reading the textbook was such a bore. Hopefully, these students weren’t too hard to work with.

I tried to look over the roster again which wasn’t too long. I had to resist any urge inside me to research these students beforehand because I didn’t want to bias my perception of them. I dealt with that a lot in my job search; they didn’t deserve the same treatment.

The first one who talks back gets a taste of the stratosphere, Azazel said with an audible smile.

The bell couldn’t come soon enough. Not by a long shot.
I was having the most pleasant dream about eating a Kraft Mac & Cheese Sandwich (I'm sure that would be disgusting in real life, but it was good in my dream) when I heard a knocking on my door, my ear twitched, Dad peeked in, "Fang...Please get up or you'll be late for school."

I sighed and yawned...I hated school...I felt overwhelmed being surrounded by so many humans and things that were similar to humans...Too many times my dreams were haunted by the Cubs that were left behind in the Lab, Why did Dad only choose me and not any of the others? Was it because I was a Dog? Something he felt he could manage? After Dad left, I sat up, stretched and began to get dressed, comb my fur and brush my teeth and once again begin another day of school...I felt sick to my stomach, to sick for any kind of breakfast I told Dad I would get something at school.
It was very quaint meandering the empty storied halls of the academy. Each classroom door had a tight rectangular window that I could peer through to see the empty desks; I would be able to spy on the teachers typing behind their desks. Many of them I had only had cursory encounters with. They were a very diverse crowd; we had robots, aliens, vampires, mutants and some regular humans with advanced technology. I would see many of them typing away behind their computers, dressed in their work-appropriate attires with their button-up shirts/blouses, dress pants/skirts.

"Can I help you?" I heard a sharp female voice while I was snooping. I straightened out. There stood a tall green alien woman with two antennae on her head ending in stumps with yellow light. She stood in dress pants and a white button-up blouse with her arms crossed over her chest, a stern look on her face. I vaguely remember her as another teacher there during orientation.

"Hello, I don't believe we formally met," I said as politely as I could muster, realizing how creepy I looked. "I'm Mr. Jameson. I'm the new Team Tactics Remedial teacher." I reached out my hand. She huffed, looking me up and down.

"I am Ms. Klorvac," she said through a piercing gaze. "I am a Combat teacher at this school."

"Remind me to never get on your bad side," I said with a laugh. She rebuffed it completely.

"Do you have any identification, Mr. Jameson?" she said. I quickly reached into my pocket and revealed my badge with my name and picture as well as my role as a teacher. She examined it carefully before handing it back to me. "You are required to wear it above your belt to avoid this situation." She pointed to her badge festooned on her collar. I sheepishly followed suit. "We'll let it slide today, but later on, further violations of your contract can lead to administrative action." She turned and sauntered off.

I tried shaking off that encounter and continued to explore the halls. I eventually reached the balcony overlooking the entrance atrium and marveled at the architecture. They spared no expense on this portion of the building. The doors were ornate emerald green with molten gold aligning each mullion and diamond-encrusted doorknobs. The floor of the atrium was lined with white marble. The centerpiece with a grand golden statue of our mascot: Ivan the Great Firebird captured in mid-flight with flames lashing off of his outstretched wings. The atrium was lined with two staircases on either side leading up to this aforementioned balcony.

The air was fresh and sterile. I leaned over the golden handrail to soak it all in. It was very calm and serene being here.

Within a few minutes, the door officially opened leading to a swarm of incoming students. The first day of the Spring Semester has officially begun.
I sighed as I marched with the other students, none of the other Animal Students at the school I could find at the moment, when I sniffed I could only catch the faintest hints of their scents on the wind...I made my way to my new classroom.

One of the Human Students I particularly disliked, a blond, blue-eyed boy whose Shtick was some kind of super armor, roller-skated by backward (Oh yeah, his armor has built-in roller skates) and winked flirtatiously at me, I bared my teeth at him, I hated that he kept flirting with me! But then he crashed into the lockers, which made me smile.
It was getting to be too much. Watching all of the students happily arriving at school to see their friends. They were so many different species entering the atrium from robots to humans to very anthropomorphic aliens. Some were flying high above the balcony; some were riding skateboards; some were just running incredibly quickly. All were wearing their traditional uniform with green blazers, green ties, and khaki pants/plaid skirts along with their badges. The most disorienting thing was the cacophony of discussion, laughter, and chit-chat. I eyed the crowd and caught many sideways glances at me along with giggles. I could not make any coherent thoughts with the volume. This all brought flashbacks to my high school experiences. I remembered being bullied mercilessly by my peers; I remembered crying on the inside of the locker I was shoved inside; I remembered receiving repeated "Kick Me" signs and insults. All of which occurred while faculty did nothing.

You can end it all right here, right now, he showed up again my head. I closed my eyes and furrowed my brow while rubbing the bridge of my nose. Sweat droplets trickled down my forehead.

Not today. I walked over to the nearest bathroom and swung into the handicap stall. I leaned over the sink. I splashed water over his face, much of it dribbling down my beard and onto my collar. I grabbed both edges of the ceramic sink and stared at my moistened face in the mirror. Hollow eyes stared back at me. What have I become?

"Did I take my meds?" I asked myself gazing at the floor despondently. I remembered having breakfast, ironing my clothes and rushing out the door.

All you need to do is let me out, I heard the devilish whisper. I reached into my pants pocket and grabbed the bottle of lithium; I missed my morning dose. I rattled the one pill into my outstretched palm and gulped it down with a handful of sink water.

"Let's start this year off right," I said to the man in the mirror. I wiped my face and beard. I opened the door to the stall to find a frail human freshman in a wheelchair waiting patiently outside. He most likely heard everything. I groaned and hurried past him. Back to the classroom.
I hope I'm not the only student in a remedial class, have other authors signed up.

I stop by the cafeteria for something, I drop a coin in a vending machine and get a Diet Coke, it is the only thing my stomach can handle at the moment...I take a moment to slowly sip my soda as I make my way to my first class.

Along the way I have a glance at one of the few other Mutant Animal Students, He's also a Dog like me, but a Mongrel Dog, a Think he's a mix of Labrador Retriever and some kind of Terrier, He's mostly brown with a cream underside with a scruffy muzzle and a short, stumpy tail, He's the mind of 'Martial Artist' Superhero nothing overtly Supernatural he's just good at fighting, I like him.

As I approach the classroom...Wait...Isn't this supposed to be where they keep the supplies?
NAME/Alias: Cameron Cotton/Codex

AGE: 15

SPECIES: Alien Robot/Android

ARCHETYPE: Mystic

POWER(S): Cameron can read/write/speak/communicate in any language. This initially made him a polyglot, but he quickly discovered that it can extend to body language, sign language, programming languages, mystic runes, Ley lines, archaic languages, etc. He quickly became entrenched in the mystic arts and strived to learn more about them. Due to his android skin, he also has enhanced durability.

ORIGIN: Cameron was discovered after a sting operation at a black market alien lab producing weaponized androids. He was taken in by the intergalactic hero leading the operation, Starman, who brought Cameron to Earth to be adopted by a Kansas household.

REASON FOR FAILURE: Between his relationship with his parents and Starman, Cameron feels a lot of pressure to perform well in school and become a superhero. This pressure coupled with his uncanny ability to detect patterns railroaded any attempt for teamwork during the course, and he often challenging the team strategy as well as whatever leader was in place for each simulation.

PERSONALITY: Cameron is highly intelligent and analytical with a strong perfectionist streak. Between his android species and his abilities, Cameron is very adept at determining differences in patterns, body language, and social interactions. He is incredibly social/talkative but has no real friends as many of his acquaintances have poor things to say about him behind his back.

EXTRACURRICULARS: Cameron is the President of the Mystic Society and the Vice-President of the AV Club.
The opening bell had finally rung and I was seated at my desk awaiting all the stragglers. We had a fairly good-sized class. There were a human, an alien, an Android and even a Shiba Inu (which I wasn’t sure if it was a student or a stray that just wandered in). It appeared that we just had 4 students in the class, which was lower than my roster. were stealing glances at the walls of the cold dank classroom while others were staring me down as the culprit stealing their sleep. It was not a fun experience to be fair.

“Hello, students,” I stood up and began. All eyes turned toward me. “Welcome to Team Tactics I. I am going to be your new teacher this semester, Mr. Jameson. But you can call me Mr. J., J-man, J-dawg.” I sauntering over to the human student who frowned. “Whatever you want to call me.” They all just stared blankly without any noteworthy response. The silence was deafening. A student coughed. I picked up whatever was left of my ego to continue.

“Anyway, I understand that this isn’t your first time taking this course, but it is required for graduation,” I continued, making eye contact with as many of them as I could. “The course is very rigorous but necessary for the career that you all are striving for. And I’ll try my best to make this a positive experience for you. But it’s a two-way street; you gotta communicate what you need and I’ll help as best I can. But we’ll go through the same lectures and even have simulations on Wednesdays in the sim lab. And we’ll get through this together.” Again, dead silence. You could almost hear a pin drop.

You’re crushing it, Azazel chimed. They love you.

“Shut up,” I yelled, sharply twisted my head to the right. Now, I had all of their attention. It was a performance art piece: watch a crazy ex-con lose it in front of teenagers. 0/10, would not recommend it. I needed an escape.

“But first, let me get to know each of you. We’re a fairly tiny class, so when I call your name, just get up and tell me a little bit about yourself.” I said, darting toward my desk and grabbing the roster sheet. “Fang Johnson,” I read before looking up eagerly.
'Oh great...' I thought to myself the Blond Blue Eyed Human with the Super Armour was here in the Remedial Class with me! I stood up and said "I'm Fang Johnson, I'm one of the few students here who is a Mutant Animal, I was created by genetic engineering; besides the ability to walk upright, speaking a human language and having hands with opposable thumbs I also have pyrokinesis hence the name 'Fireball'
My stomach gurgled I suddenly wished I had, had more than a soda I sat back down
"OK, thank you, Fang!" the teacher said, before returning to his roster. "Cameron Cotton." I stood up following my cue.

"I'm Cameron Cotton," I said. "My alias is Codex. I'm an android and my power is to translate languages." I prepared to sit down.

"What's that on your shoulder?" some blonde blue-eyed tool in super armor piped up. I touched the Starman sticker on my jacket. "Is that Starman?" he said, barely able to hold his laughter. "I thought he was dead."

"He's very much alive!" I said eyeing him closely. He had a weak toothy grin with hollow but piercing blue eyes. "More alive than your parents." I retorted.

"What did you say to me?" he said, getting up and readying his armor. He furrowed his brow, fighting back tears. I clearly touched a nerve.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," the teacher stepped in. "We don't need to resort to violence." He turned to me with a glance. "You just need to apologize."

"Whatever," I said, heading toward the door. I left that storage closet they called a classroom. It was bad enough that I had to take the dumbest class ever, but I also had to deal with more irrational humans who can't have a simple conversation without getting their emotions involved.
This day was going swimmingly. I barely even started and already got two students trying to fight each other. And I was barely able to help them. One of them even stormed out. I had to weigh each option. What Would A Good Teacher Do? So naturally, I followed Cameron outside. The android was stomping down the hall, obviously very frustrated.

Then, I remembered if Dr. Gable saw him in the halls, he'd likely fire me on the spot. So, I hurried after him.

"Cameron, wait up," I called. He turned and glowered. "Now, I'm not going to pretend I fully understand what you're going through. Starman is an amazing hero and definitely someone worth looking up to." He was at least listening to me, so that was good, I guess. "But you have no hope of even getting close to where he is if you don't graduate." I was trying my best to channel every single inspirational teacher speech I've ever heard. Hilary Swank would be proud. "I know you don't like your team, but it's the team you got." He looked me in the eye and wordlessly returned back to his seat. I followed him back and closed the door behind me.

There's a darkness in that boy, Azazel said. I can taste it.

"I'm sorry for what I said," Cameron said without even bothering to look at the blonde human whose name I am struggling to remember.

"Whatever," the blonde rolled his eyes.

"Moving on," I said, grabbing my roll sheet again. "Blaine Foster." The blonde finally stood with a huff.

"My name is Blaine Foster," he said. His voice sounded like a trust fund piggy bank. "I clearly don't belong here."

"I'll say," Cameron mumbled.

"Blaine!" I said. The demon in me must've gazed into his soul because he immediately straightened up.

"I am a human student and I have this awesome piece of armor which lets me fly, shoot lasers from my hands and lift heavy objects while protecting me. It's pretty sick!" He said, winking at Fang who growled.

"I imagine it is," I said. He sat down. "And last but not least..." I said turning to the alien in the room. She was a tall humanoid alien with light purple skin. Her eyes were huge, dark blue and beady. Her head was completely bald. Her hands both ended with three fingers which each ended at stubs. "Serebella Taenia." She stood up to an unearthly height of over 7' tall.

"My name is Serebella Taenia," she said with darting eyes. "You can call me Sere for short. I am an Amnid PRINCESS." She emphasized that word while staring daggers into me. "And I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE HERE!" I had to struggle not to roll my eyes. "My species can shapeshift into whatever we want." She said immediately shapeshifting into Dr. Gable's paunch middle-aged form. "And if you fail me again, I will have you fired!" She eerily mirrored his voice and mannerisms. She then took her seat and gestured for me to continue.

"OK, well that was something," I said, gulping harder than I should have. "Now, let's all just go over the syllabus real quickly." I handed everyone a copy of the syllabus which Sere snatched out of my hand quite rudely.

We went over what they all needed to graduate; all of the various lectures that we had to re-do and how many simulations we would undergo. These simulations were initially designed for at least six students so I wasn't exactly sure how we would manage.

The rest of the class went without incident and after receiving their Team Dynamics & Cooperation 5th Edition textbooks, all of the students went on to their next classes. I had to breathe a sigh of relief as I survived.

On the first day, one of the students hates me a little bit, but another hates me with the fire of a thousand suns. This was going to be one hell of a semester.
I didn't know this Serebella before (Then again I hardly knew any of the Aliens) but she was SCARY! I sighed, for all my grouchiness I think I may have been the kid with the least emotional issues in this class, or at least I was the least volatile student which was new for a change.

As I stopped at a water fountain for a drink, I have greeted my the Mongrel Martial Artist, his first name was Mike, I didn't know his last name.

"Hey, Fang." He said quietly as I finished my drink of water

"Hey, Mike," I said

"So...I heard you were put in the remedial class...Sorry about that..." He said bashfully

"You don't know the half of it..." I sighed "..I wish I could work on a team of other Animals, but I always put on a team of humans and humanoids."

"Fang, there are only four Mutant Animal students in this entire school." aid Mike

"Only four students in the remedial class," I said

"But the rest of us don't have a beef against Humanoids," Mike replied

"Humans never mistreated you?" I cocked my head

"I wasn't Mutated by an experiment." He said. "I wandered through some glowing slime as a puppy and this old guy who owned a Dojo, found me, raised me and taught me martial arts."
I collected my things and tried to stand up when the back of my head hit really hard metal. I landed back in my seat.

"Watch where you're going, Starboy!" Blaine said, making the most insufferable kissy-face at me. I seethed in my chair but I did nothing. I had the power to dismantle that tin-can and him inside it. I eventually managed to make it to Chemistry, but could not shake my first class out of my head.

I had to find out what I could about Blaine Forrest as well as the other classmates. I accessed the Internet through my mental computer. Automatically, the web browser Homepage flashed in my field of vision. I just decided to type his name in and found a whole variety of information. From junior varsity football stats to multiple relationship status changes on social media to the obituary of his father who was roasted alive in the very suit that he now wore, his entire life was my oyster and his privacy settings were garbage. I had more than enough ammo to take him down. Mr. Jameson was also a very puzzling character, but I found a very sordid history of arson in Reno among other places as well as his prisoner identification number.

"Cameron Cotton," my name shot out like an alarm. I closed every open tab and cued my visual sensors toward my Chemistry teacher. She was a human wearing thick glasses with an attached string of pink pearls looped around her neck and her graying hair in a tight bun

"Present," I said. I took the opportunity to look at my new class. I did not recognize any of the other students except for her. Maggie was a gorgeous Fae with a cute button-nose, glorious strawberry blonde curls, and a bookish demeanor. I've had a deadly crush on her since I met her last semester in Pre-Calculus. She turned to me and her smile broke my soul into a million pieces before rending it all together. Her eyes were the hazel hue of a crisp autumn Saturday where both of us could cuddle in bed and watch a movie on my laptop. Her mouth opened and words came out.

"Hey," she said, appearing concerned. Her voice had a beautiful rasp to it. "Cam," She shocked me back to reality. "Do you want to be my partner? I don't know anyone else here." I could barely believe she was even acknowledging my presence, let alone asking me to work with her.

"Ye-- of course," I said with word vomit coming out of my mouth.

"Awesome," she replied. She stuck out her hand and I shook it. Her handshake seemed weak. Her eyes and smile appeared fairly vacant on repeat analysis. I wanted to learn as much as I could about her and help as best I could.

"How long was your brother in a coma?" I asked as a jumping-off point. She stared at me in shock and abject horror. Those hazel pools in her eyes started to overflow and her lip quivered considerably. She rushed out of the room in front of the entire class. Everyone just stared at me. I folded my arms on my desk and tucked my head into them. What is it with me and emotional outbursts today?
Wednesday rolled around and our class was based in the sim lab in the basement. I was in the observation deck overlooking the students in the simulation lab. The area was somehow even colder and darker than our "classroom". The deck was a small, dark cubicle where I could not even stand without bumping my head into the ceiling. The air was harsh and cold. This room was not meant for comfort. The only things in the room were a stiff chair and a panel full of blinking lights, levers, and buttons which were the controls for the sim lab with a wide one-way mirror through which I could watch. The lab was a 300 ft x 160 ft x 120 ft expanse. The entire room was lined with rectangular white panels each filled with Kreludorian holographic technology except for the one-way mirror and metallic dilating door. From the orientation, I learned that this technology could create an environment with combatants and civilians all while looking, feeling, sounding and even smelling real. The top panels were emitting a soft white light to illuminate the arena where the students were standing.

Sere, Codex, and Fireball were standing in their school-approved green spandex suits designed for all sorts of superpowers. During orientation, the designers of the suits went into a 30-minute diatribe about how the suits were bullet-proof, the student who died during the simulation was "clearly on drugs", and any word otherwise was a smear campaign against the school. Blaine was also in the room, but he was wearing his carbon-composite based steel mesh armor with repulsors in each palm, a multifunctional uni-beam projector in the chest along with heat-seeking missile launchers, pulse cannon, and retractable weapon pods all located on its back; the whole set was a ghastly neon yellow which was a personal choice by his father who built it.

The only problem was that I was the one in control of the simulation, but I barely understood how to use the controls; you'd think with how much tuition was, they could hire someone to do this, but it's always the teacher's job. It was me and my trusty Aegis Academy-approved Simulation Center Operation Manual. I at least knew how to turn the intercom on.

"Could we get on with it?" Sere said with a British lilt in her voice. I could hear her voice through the microphones that were built-in various parts of the lab.

"Today will be a practice run," I said pushing the intercom button. "This won't be for a grade; it will be to check how well you can handle yourselves in a stressful environment." I started to read out of my manual. "Please treat any simulation as you would a real-life emergency. Engage all enemies and protect as many civilians as you can. In case of any medical emergency, please alert your instructor over the microphones present throughout the arena. After the simulation is complete, there will be a debriefing session with a discussion about the case." I turned up from the page. "Let's get started. This simulation will take place in a superstore where armed mobsters are holding the customers and staff hostage. Your team was immediately dispatched to this location," I turned knobs, flipped switches and pulled levers as instructed by the manual to create the scenario.

The control center purred to life as the simulation center hummed before producing cerulean outlines for each person and object. Then, there was a blinding flash of light before they were all transported to a generic big-box superstore. The students were at the entrance. There was a produce aisle with various fruits and vegetables stacked on top of each other to their right. Aisles and aisles of foodstuffs were beyond that aisle. Clothing was to the left of those aisles in the center of the building with racks lined with various clothes grouped into departments based on demographics. To their immediate left were the checkout lines with numbered light strewn above each cashier, conveyor belts to move the products and a cash register in each line. However, the cashiers were not at their stations. Each of them huddled on the ground along with every other employee and customer. The only ones standing were 1930's mobsters in fedoras, suit jackets with dress shirts and ties underneath, well-pressed dress pants and black loafers. Each was holding an automatic rifle aloft in the air; they were either canvassing the checkout lines or scrounging in the cash registers.

This scenario was not at all realistic but easy to make. I sat back, grabbed some popcorn and prepared for the train-wreck that was about to unfold.
That was enough to make me cock my head, Prohibition-era Gangsters? In a Wal-Mart?

I began warming up are fire abilities ready to blast any gangsters I could but then Codex said something I could barely understand through all the technobabble. Blaine, however, gave a whooping howl, he flew up and blasted several blasts from the lasers in his hands.

Once again it seemed like another simulation where I didn't get to do anything because all the show-off Humanoids did everything before I got a chance to do something...
“We are outnumbered and likely outgunned,” I started. “We need to engage in guerrilla tactics. Case every aisle. Sere, you can—” I turned around to see no one.

Blaine was flying in the air and carpet-bombed two cashier lines. Bullets bounced off his armor in orange streaks.

Fireball dashed down an aisle covered in flames. She pounced a mobster.

My tongue unfurled in an archaic language and I flicked my wrists. I released a Pentagram under three mobsters locking them in place. My back stung with gunfire. I turned around, ducked and tackled my assailant. I punched him in the face.

Blaine was blasting mobsters while flying backward. He hit a wall and dropped like a rock. Mobsters surrounded him with their guns cocked. I rushed to him. My shoulder ricochets more gunfire. I ran back to the mobster and slipped. My nose crashed against the cold hard floor. My Pentagram shattered.

Bullets stung my back, shoulders, arms, and head. I turned to see Fireball doused with a fire extinguisher before being smacking in the nose with it. She whimpered terribly.

Where was Cere?

The next minute felt like an eternity. Surrounded, defeated, and humiliated.

“Did not expect that they would have a Starbucks here,” Cere’s pseudo-British accent piped. She came in carrying a cup and immediately had multiple guns aimed at her.

Good thing this wasn’t graded.
I had a twinge of pride, to be honest. I'm not a psychic by any means, but I did call it. If this job doesn't work out, I might even sell my services to any gullible rubes. But as an educator, I needed to feign concern for their progress. A 'teachable moment' is when you're 'an ass for educational purposes'.

I stood outside the debriefing room waiting for my first session. We have to speak with each student alone to avoid humiliating any of them. The hallway was long and encased in steel with various metal dilating doors lined on either side with badge touchpads next to each, like the door leading to the simulation lab proper. The technology in this basement was light-years beyond the technology present on any other floor. There were even smart, touch-sensitive bulletin boards in this hallway compared to the cork-boards present elsewhere. I understood tuition was expensive, but it was interesting to see where the money went (I wasn't getting it).

I stood and marveled at one of these bulletin boards. Various widgets were advertising different club meetings, sports tryouts, and various internships available to students. One widget caught my eye.

MISSING PERSON, the headline screamed in bold white text on a red banner. Underneath was a picture of a young vampire boy with spiked brown hair, sullen red eyes, sunken cheeks with palpable cheekbones, and fangs protruding down his lower lips. His name was Edwin Bloodstone. I wondered how often that poor kid got bullied by his peers. He was last seen 2 weeks ago outside a movie theater. I had to turn away to not get depressed thinking about it.

I stepped toward the debriefing room touchpad. Cere would be my first session. I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath. I tapped the pad with my badge and the door curled open.

The room was completely white, almost ethereal and clinical. The only furniture in the room was two separate metal chairs lined across from each other. In clear contrast against the heavenly backdrop was Cere, seated in a nice fancy mink coat overlaying her uniform. Her knees angled at 90 degrees. She did not even acknowledge my entrance examining her nails.

I walked over to the chair and sat down. I pulled a notepad and pen from my coat pocket.

"So what do you think went wrong?" I asked. Her eyes did not move off her hands.

"The entire exercise was pointless," she said with her ever-prominent accent. "First, I would rather die than step foot in a Wal-Mart so jot that down." She nodded toward my notepad without making eye contact. "Second, those mobsters were not from the same time as the environment; I'm not even from this dreadful planet and even I knew that. Third, the entire simulation was fabricated and held no correlation to real-world scenarios. Fourth, the coffee tasted horrible." Her eyes beamed at me with otherworldly awe.

"Regardless of how realistic the simulation was, your behavior in the scenario has very strong correlates to your behavior in real-world scenarios," I said. "And you weren't even there." She sneered at that reminder. "Even if you ignore that, this course is required for your graduation like it or not. You need to work with me to complete it whether you like me or not." She turned her gaze toward the floor; her lips tightened. "How would you have handled the situation if it were real?"

"I would still have Blaine shoot at them to draw their fire," she started keeping her eyes fixated on the ground. "Once enough of them were focused on him and away from hostages, either Fireball or Codex could create a barrier between the mobsters and the hostages. I would pretend to be a mobster or a hostage to get close to any remaining combatants near the hostages and take them out before joining the other three to finish the job." I knew she was the daughter of an intergalactic conqueror but I was not expecting that. She turned up to see my stunned expression. "But Starbucks was more pressing at the moment."
After I got a talking-to from the teacher, he asked me what I thought I did wrong and I admitted I rarely knew what to do in these team exercises, He seemed genuinely stunned by that and asked me if I had ever been tested for a learning disability like Autism.

Then something even stranger happened at lunch!

Lunch. The best time of the day, one thing I do appreciate about Aegis Academy is the food is a lot better than most school, I got my usual lunch, a cheeseburger, and fries, however, I forgot to say, 'No pickles' and that got of took it down a notch because even after I remove the pickles the burger still has that pickle flavor, but I was too hungry, I sat by myself at the table in the corner, at a nearby table I saw Cissy another Mutant Animal student the only other female beside me, she was a Mutant Bonobo AKA Pygmy Chimpanzee and she was also a Lab Animal, the Scientists had been experimenting on Simians to see the limits they could push the brain, the result was a Bonobo with Empath Psychic abilities able to sense the emotions of others, Cissy was talking to some Fae girl who seemed upset about something, I decided not to pry and continued with my lunch, that's when I noticed by my lunch tray was a tiny black ant, I was grossed out and about to squish it with my thumb when I heard a voice in my head screaming ^WAIT!^

Author's Note: I'm using ^ the differentiate telepathy or 'thought speech' from regular speech like in the Animorphs books

My ears folded back against my head and my eyes shut, when I opened my eyes again the Ant seemed to be standing on its hind legs and waving its forelegs at me

^Don't squish me!^ I heard a squeaky but feminine voice in my head ^I am an intelligent being like yourself!^

I blinked at this ant ^You're a Mutant...^

^Hey! Hey! Hey!^ The Ant said quickly ^Better to think your responses with me, otherwise, others will notice you're talking to your table, we're trying to keep a low profile here.^

^Sorry.^ I responded in thought ^Are you a student here?^

^No.^ Replied the Ant ^We are living like ordinary Ants in an Anthill outside in the schoolyard but our Queen noticed you and thought we should approach you, you do seem to be having some troubles here aren't you?^

^Yeah...^ Is all I can reply

^We Ants travel all over the school and see and hear all kinds of things, things you should know...By the way...Could you spare something to eat? Traveling up this table tends to work up an appetite..."

^Um...You want my pickles?^ I hand over a pickle slice ^I never eat these anyway.^

The Ant took a bite of the pickle slice ^MMMmm Briny!^ Says the Ant ^I'm Ant 86 by the way...^
"So what do you think went wrong?" Mr. Jameson asked. His eyes had pretty severe bags under them. The others must've tired him out. Also, the blinding color of the room was rather disorienting. No matter how many times I was in here with teachers, it was always awful.


"I mean, I know how many civilians casualties would have occurred if this were real," I slouched in my chair with my elbows on my knees. "Blaine was so reckless. He wouldn't listen to me and then he smashed into the wall."


"Why are you only upset about him?" he said. "None of your team seemed to care about the hostages. Everyone was only focused on defeating the mobsters. Yourself included. Also, no one else listened to what you had to say, so why are you only singling him out?" I dreaded watching him jot into his notebook.


"He doesn't deserve to be here or have that suit," I said. "And he's such a jerk. And you know why I hate him." I leaned as far back into my stiff metal chair as I could.


"What would you do differently?" he said.


"I would have controlled his mind and made him follow my lead," I said. I realized that he was going to write me up and set me up with the guidance counselor for a talk. And sure enough, the human dolt followed suit.


"Do you have any plans to hurt Blaine or yourself?" he said, putting the notepad down. His eyebrows slanted downward, his pupils dilated, and one corner of his lip tightened.


'No, not at all," I said. "I don't like him at all. But why would I hurt him? Starman definitely wouldn't." He breathed a sigh of relief. They let anyone teach.


***



I walked down the hall toward my second period. There she was again. The Fey of my dreams standing near the lockers next to the door talking to some friends.


"Maggie!" I called from across the hallway. Her mesh of red hair shifted to reveal her face toward me. The second she saw me, her neck and jaw tightened. "I wanted to apologize. I just got nervous talking to you. I hope you can forgive me."


"It's okay," she said, quieter than the grave. "But we shouldn't be partners anymore." A sharp sting hit me in the chest. My shoulders dropped. "It's that I'm not comfortable with you right now." I wanted to try to change her mind, but a familiar voice stopped me.


"She said, beat it, Starboy!" a very familiar voice said. I turned to see the blonde of my nightmares grinning at me while leaning against a locker. Heat poured through my face and body. I clenched my fist and my back stiffened. Who does he think he is? He can't just kill civilians; now, he has to kill my love life too.


"You're working with HIM?!?" I yelled louder than I should have. I walked off; fighting him would get me in trouble. I needed to calm down and take care of him later.


"No, not at all," she said. "He's not even in this class." It didn't matter. Nothing mattered at all.
"So what do you think went wrong?" I said for the final time. I was so exhausted from saying those words. At least this was my last student.

"Absolutely nothing," Blaine said, beaming at me. "It was so epic, my guy! I was all like BOOM, BOOM, BOOM" He punched his open palm and vibrated his lips three times."There was fire everywhere, but I kept hitting them. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! I owned them so hard!" He leaned back into his chair and gleamed up at the ceiling.

"You killed 10 people," I said trying to hide my absolute shock.

"Awesome!"

"Seven of them were civilians," I continued. That gave him pause. His smile dipped and the light in his eyes dimmed a little. Not that killing mobsters was necessarily a good thing, but I needed an in with him.

"But if we recorded it and put it online, we'd get so many views," he said. His pupils widened as did the corners of his mouth. "They'd be honored to die for something so great."

I had my work cut out for me.

***


I was sitting in this teacher's lounge eating my lunch. It was just some Ramen I got from the store; I never claimed to be fancy. The lounge was filled with multiple wooden tables, a kitchen sink, a fridge, and a coffee machine. There were three other teachers I had never encountered before; they were having a quiet conversation that I couldn't hear. Ironically, a lot of the teachers at this academy were very cliquish. I have only had a handful of interactions with other faculty and half of those were with Dr. Gable. But it seemed like it was about to change.

"Hey there," A strong hand clasped my shoulder. I turned around to see a grey stone man. He was like a giant cinderblock minus the holes; he was exceptionally tall, wide, and buff with arms larger than my entire body. He had a red Firebirds letterman jacket opened with a white t-shirt underneath, a whistle dangling from his neck and a cap with the school logo on it. "I don't believe we've formally met; I'm Coach Rocksteady." His flat stiff face split to reveal his gaping maw. I had many questions. "I'm the Firebirds' football coach." He let go of my shoulder. Then, he glomped toward a chair at my table and took a seat. I peered at the chair waiting for it to break, but it did not to my bewilderment. "How are you settling in?"

"I'm doing alright," I said. "I got a relatively good understanding of the material and my students are doing alright so far."

"Yeah, it's such a dilemma people like us end up in while working here," he said with his eyes pointing toward the gossiping posse behind him.

"People like us?"

"Ex-cons," he said. "Y'know monsters."

"I wouldn't necessarily call myself a monster."

"Yeah, me neither," he said, winking at me. "But we gotta stick together and have each other's backs. Because no one else does." He again indicated the posse behind him. "And we have a student in common: Blaine Foster. Our team needs him to finish out the season. I wanted to let you know. Anyway, I got Gym to prep for, but nice talking to you." He got up, patted my shoulder again, and glomped out of the room leaving me to finish my meal.
After school I went out to the Yard under the familiar bleachers where I would hang out with the other Animal Students, which no longer happened since I had begun the remedial classes, I found the Anthill, Ants were marching to and fro some carrying bits of food for the colony.

I thought my greeting ^Hi, I'm here.^

The Smaller Ants made way as a larger Ant poked her head out of the hole

^Greetings.^ The Larger Ant said ^I am the Queen of this Colony, you can call me Queenie if you like.^

^OK.^ I replied ^Hi Queenie^

^We feel there are some things you should know as we sense you're...Not always the most observant creature...^ Queenie said
My alarm bell rang at 6:30 am. I tumbled out of my charging dock and headed downstairs. Heather was in the kitchen scrambling eggs when I got there. She was a brunette human woman in her mid-40s wearing a little blue dress with an apron wrapped around her waist. She was beating yolk in a bowl with a whisk, twirling her wrists.

"Good morning, Heather," I said, catching her by surprise. I know it bothered her that I called her that, but I didn't care enough to change it.

"G' morning, Cam," she answered in her hushed, hokey Midwestern accent. "How did ya sleep?"

"I slept alright," I said. I hated these dumb pleasantries. "Where's Hank at?"

"He's working at the ER," she said. "He'll be home 'round 7. Want some breakfast?" I don't know why she goes through the trouble of cooking all this. Hank is rarely home and I'm an android.

"Sure," I grabbed a plate, got some bacon and toast which I spread cream cheese on top of. I poured myself a glass of orange juice from the fridge. The entire time I could feel her watchful gaze; I almost spilled my OJ. I took a deep breath. "What?" I don't mean to be an ass, but I wish she was more direct.

"Hear about that girl at your school?" she trotted over to me carrying the morning paper.

"There are a lot of girls at my school," I said. I started stuffing my face to avoid this inane conversation.

"I mean, the Faerie girl who went missing," she said. My heart dropped and I'm not even sure if I had one. My fork hit my plate with a sharp clang. I grabbed the paper and scanned it with my sensors. Please not her. Please let it be someone else. Sure enough, the name 'Margaret Miller' flashed in my vision.

"Did you know her?"

"Shut up," I said. Then, I looked at her and saw her lip quiver while she grabbed her right elbow with her left hand. "I'm sorry. I've been going through a lot lately. Yes, I did know her very well. We were good friends."

"Golly gee," she said. "I'm so sorry to hear that." She paused for a couple of seconds. "Do we need to have... the talk? I don't know how this works."

"Jesus!" I said. She clutched her chest after I took the Lord's name in vain. "No! I don't even know if I can do that!"

"I'm just asking," she said. "But you can tell me whatever. I got books, videos, gadgets we can mess with--"

"No, I know everything I need to know," I said. I tried to scan the article again. She was last seen at the Saint Thorin Medical Center ICU visiting her brother last evening. This was the fifth disappearance we've had this school year. Something serious might be going on.

"Pornography portrays unrealistic expectations for men and women," her accent kept emphasizing the wrong syllable. "They rarely show safe sexual practices and--"

"Heather!" I cut her off. "I have the literal Internet in my brain. If I have any questions, I'll ask them." She simmered down. "Would Hank know anything?"

"He doesn't work in the ICU, so I doubt it but you can ask him after school," she said. "C'mon, get dressed." I forgot I had to go to school; I rolled my eyes at the thought. I'd have to slip away before the opening bell. No way in Hell was I going to school today, not when she's missing.

"Thank you, Heather," I said before rushing back to my room. "I know I don't say it enough and I've very grateful that you and Hank took me in. I don't know what I would have done if it weren't for your kindness."

"Oh, sport," she said. Her mouth curved into a soft smile. "We love having you around and we're grateful to have you here. Now, get ready or we'll be late." I dashed up the stairs. My mind ran circles wondering if she was in some creep's basement or lying in a ditch half-dead. I shook my head to try not to ruminate on it. I ran into my room, grabbed my backpack and put on my uniform. I probably would not be able to find her, but at least I had to try.
Orange streetlights pierced through the blinds of my window and danced along the carpet floor. Empty soda cans and water bottles littered the floor, countertops, and bed in a clumped distribution like a herd of Sumatran elephants. A crisp hint of sweat lingered in the air emanating from the clothes gushing out of the hamper. Occasional scurrying taps broke through the dull hum of the refrigerator. This studio apartment needed a makeover.

I had rolled out of bed and was pretending I didn't have to work in a couple of hours. Even though I did not have classes today, I still needed to be on-site for planning. I forced myself out of bed. My tired muscles sagged, and sharp. Tiny sandbags gripped my eyelids almost closed but I shook my head.

My fatigued ass blundered into the ‘kitchen’ like a blind bear on the run. The musk of mildew blended with the pungent decay of unwashed dishes in the sink. Mechanical grinding produced the black elixir that I swallowed scalding my tongue. It was that kind of morning.

Love what you’ve done with the place, a familiar voice rose in me. I almost thought I shut him up for good.

“Had it been up to you, this would’ve been a drug den,” I retorted.

What difference would it have made?

I flicked on the light and tried to ignore the swoop of flies as I grabbed the morning paper. The first page was “Police probe starts after fifth academy student goes missing”. Well, that got my attention. I skimmed the page as far as I could. It was a Faerie girl, Margaret something, who I did not know. But it was very weird that this was the fifth one this year. It is a superhero school, so students going missing is par for the course. Besides, none of these students were last seen at the academy, so what difference did it make?

***


“Hello, Mr. Jameson,” Dean Gable accosted me on the way to my ‘classroom’. There was a black woman in a long trenchcoat standing with him. “I hope you are settling in OK.”

Look at that suit, I bet he’s loaded, Azazel gleamed. Take him out and you can get a better place.

"It's a big change, but I'll get used to it," I said with the toothiest grin I could muster.

"That's good to hear," he said with the least enthusiasm possible. "This is Detective Worrel. She had a couple of questions for you before we start the school day. I'll leave you to it." He sauntered off.

"Hello," The woman turned to me after he left. "As Dr. Gable informed you, I'm Detective Worrel with the Paragon Park Police Department. I had a couple of questions for you about this missing student."

"I doubt I'll be much help with your case," I said. "I never met that girl in my life."

"But two of your students have were seen with her on the day of her disappearance. One of them was reported to have yelled at her that day."

"Which two students?"

"Blaine Foster and Cameron Cotton," she said. That response gave me pause. I hope those two weren't wrapped up in whatever was going on. "I have a couple of questions and then you can get on with your day." We walked into my 'classroom' and sat down at two separate chairs. "This is cozy," she said with a giggle.

"Yeah, it is," I said, rolling my eyes. "Can we get on with this? I have a busy day ahead of me."

"OK, what is your relationship with Cameron Cotton?" she said. Then, her pupils disappeared and her sclera glowed lavender. The psionic force slammed my chest as my nostrils flared with soreness. I sat at my childhood dining table, a lit '3' candle haphazardly placed in the center of a soggy chocolate pie. My mother draped over a brown wingchair nursing a cigarette near the window as she watched my dad pack his bags. The psionic energy hit me again and this middle-aged white man crawled toward me, blood pouring down his forehead.

"Son, please," he cried. I whirled my hand and he dropped to the ground, his ribs snapping from the weight. The psionic force hit me again.

"Do you have any plans to hurt Blaine or yourself?" and "You killed 10 people" came out of my mouth to Cameron and Blaine, respectively. The psionic force hit me again and I was back to the classroom. My eyes were wide, my mouth was agape in horror.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" I said as a tear rolled down my cheek. "Is that even legal?"

"I have everything I need, Mr. Jameson," she said standing up and turning toward the door. "Have a nice day."
I had learned from the Ants yesterday that one Animal Student had gone missing, the 4th Student Eru, he was perhaps the rarest of all, a Mutant Dinosaur!

Actually he was technically classed as a 'Chimera' a Hybrid of T-Rex and Human, see the scientists found Dinosaur DNA and unlike Jurassic Park instead of filling in the gaps in the DNA with that of a Frog they filled in with that of a Human, the result was a T-Rex with longer, larger arms with more fingers, and more upright posture, since the particular T-Rex was native to the colder parts of the Southern Hemisphere Eru was kind of a 'Polar T-Rex' covered with white feathers, he was a nice guy but not very bright, he had tried out for the football team but every time the other students saw a T-Rex charging down the field their instincts took over and they ran away, also Eru was pretty superstitious, he believed he couldn't do anything without his 'Lucky Rock' which he had named 'Cornelius'

In Palladium's RPG 'Heroes Unlimited' one of the metal 'instabilities' a PC can have is believing his/her powers are dependent on a 'security blanket' something that can be either carried of worn like a coin, toy, article of clothing or accessory
“Have a good day at school, hon!” Heather called from the blue SUV as I walked toward the academy entrance.

“Thanks, you too!” I said, turning back. Then, I mentally kicked myself for the faux pas.

I walked through the entrance and beelined through the atrium into a bathroom on the first floor. With my luck, there was a line forming at the door. So, I continued walking down a corner and searched both sides of the hallway before finding a storage closet that I snuck into. The space was cramped but I managed to squeeze myself between the shelves of liquid cleaning supplies and the empty grey trashcan. I needed to get to that hospital.

I closed my eyes and cracked my wrists. Two tiny green pentagrams of magical energy appeared at my wrists.

त्यजति,” I closed my eyes and the Sanskrit rolled off my tongue as I shifted Ley lines toward myself. My legs tingled with warm electricity which traveled up my abdomen, chest, arms, and head. When it was over, I opened my eyes to find myself in the corner of a room with wooden tables, 3 plastic chairs per table, a stainless-steel fridge in one corner opposite me, and a countertop holding a microwave, coffeemaker and a sink.

I breathed a sigh of relief. The spell worked; I got to the breakroom in the emergency department. Fortunately for me, I spent a good chunk of my first year on this planet at this hospital and Hank worked here too, so I knew this place like the back of my hand. No one else was in the room, so I attempted to make my exit to the ICU.

“Cameron!” A sharp Bronx accent stopped me in my tracks. “What the fuck are you doing here?” I turned around to see the ED physician himself. Dr. Henry “Hank” Cotton, M.D. “I’m almost done with my shift; I don’t have time for whatever the fuck you’re trying to pull.” The middle-aged Caucasian male in dark-blue scrubs gestured me back into the breakroom. Rebelling has never been worth it, so I obeyed with my downtrodden eyes and lips puckered.

“Hank!” I said. “A girl from my school disappeared! She was last seen in the ICU; I just need to case the area and see if I can find anything!” His eyebrows remained in a straight line as the creases of his forehead deepened. His face had many liver spots. His hair was a greying brown with a very prominent bald spot at the top; he was too busy to even worry about combing it over. His arms remained crossed over his chest.

“So what?!” He interjected. “Let the police handle it!” His expression lightened at that thought; from his upbringing in New York, his trust for law enforcement was minimal.

“I’m in love with her, Hank!” I said.

“Try harder!”

“I can do things they can’t!”

“You think so?” His arms tightened around his chest and he leaned his torso backward slightly.

“I know so,” I said. “Remember the time I found Heather’s inhaler when she was having an attack. Or when I ran away and got to Chicago for free. Or when I stopped us from getting on the F train and it ended up crashing!” He relaxed his shoulders at that.

“You have 1 hour, then straight to school!” he said. “You go to the ICU, check the area with your vision or whatever, and straight to school! Let them call me and I’ll make something up! If I don’t get that call in an hour, even Starman can’t stop what I’ll do to you!”

“Thank you!” I said with my eyes welling. I gave him a tight hug. He wrapped his arms around me,

“Now, go!” he ordered. “You have an hour!”
I was on a warpath as I stormed toward that office. Blood and warmth rushed into my head, shoulders, and clenched fists. I could feel my pulse in my ears. I pushed the mahogany door open to reveal the wooden desk in front of Dr. Gable's office. Behind it sat a bespectacled android in a nice black suit with a dress shirt and navy tie underneath.

"Dr. Gable is unavailable right now---," he tried to stop me. I twisted the doorknob and yanked it open. Dr. Gable sat behind his desk. He was filling out some paperwork with a fountain pen that probably cost more than my rent.

"What the fuck, Clark?!?" I yelled at him. "You set me up!"

"Now, Mr. Jameson," He said in the mellow tone that only a six-figure salary could provide. "We merely complied with police as best we could. If you have a complaint with their tactics, you need to take it up with the precinct."

"Those are good kids!" I yelled gesturing with an outstretched arm. "There is no way they're wrapped up in this! If she did that to me, what the fuck will she do to them?!" He put down his pen and folded his hands on the desk.

"Mr. Jameson, if you have an issue with my leadership, you can return to your former employment with the State of Nevada Department of Corrections," he said furrowing his brow. "Otherwise, you will speak to me in a respectful tone, and you will do as I say." My jaw clenched but I closed my mouth. He had me there. That experience was awful but not nearly as bad as prison. "Also, you will address me as Doctor. If you would be so kind as to shut the door on your way out." I left with my tail between my legs. Something was rotten in the state of Aegis.

How dare he speak to you like that? Azazel growled. Drive his car into his office and say it was an accident. And for a second, I almost agreed.
During the night I had a dream...I dreamed I was with Eru in an otherwise place of complete darkness. I tried to speak with him but all he did was stare at me with a completely blank expression on his face.

Then from the ground beneath my feet, black, slimy hands, like hands made of tar, grabbed me and pulled me under, slime was being poured in my mouth, down my throat, I couldn't breathe!

Then I wake up, Dad is telling me to wake up

"Oh...Dad..." I moan trying my best to sound ill "I don't think I can go to school today!"

Not sure if I understand what happened to the Teacher when he was being grilled so I'm not sure I can accurately write it, so here I'm having Fang play hookey
I strutted down the hall in my new swanky commandeered red scrubs with my reversed (also commandeered) nametag swinging with each step. Nothing to see here, just another CNA on his way to check on a patient.
The crisp sterile hallways were bustling with people. Nurses, residents, lab techs, respiratory therapists and other staff members draped in a rainbow of scrubs and personal protective equipment.

I trotted past the nurse's stations, giving a polite half-smile to each person who glanced at me. I passed by many patients on mechanical ventilation or pressers before I reached room 3108.

The resemblance was uncanny. Mike Miller had strawberry-blonde hair, small brown freckles, and impossible cheekbones. The endotracheal tube jutting out of his gaping mouth only served to highlight the serenity of his features. He was Fey, through and through. I walked up to his bed and examined him closely. He had IV lines running through both arms as well as a central line running from his neck. It seemed like he was on three pressers; I wondered if I could get ahold of his medical record and find out what's going on with him.

But alas, I had to search the room. The gentle hum of the ventilator protruded through my thoughts and I examined the machine. I mirrored the tracing with my finger as a moronic archaeologist would a cave painting. I shook my head and glanced around at the jungle of wires, the bed, and the walls for any sign of a struggle. And found nothing. Nothing. The room was a sterile hospital room.

What even was the point of coming here? It's only the last place she was seen. That doesn't mean she went missing from here. This entire event was pointless. Why was I even here?

I sighed, closing my eyes and speaking the accursed runic language. When I opened my eyes again, I saw the auras polluting the room from every single person in the unit. A vague haze of fuchsia, aqua, teal, and olive coalesced into a fleeting mirage of color and beauty, coating every wall, IV pole, machine and chair in the sterile negative pressure room. A rustic jade wave of light and energy emanated from Mike's soon-to-be corpse. I scoured the rest of the room. As I suspected, being here was an exercise in futility. Then, a streak of lavender resonance broke through the haze from the opposite end of the room. I hurried around the bed, past the dangling IV lines, and the IV pole with a steady roll.

The vibration of light emanated from underneath a chair. I scooted that chair out of the way and grabbed the small and vitreous object. I then returned my gaze to normal light and my visual sensors noted the sharp, salmon-colored crystal in my palm. I had my first clue.
Sometimes I swear I can get my body to comply with my wishes...Sometimes I think it might be an Animal thing like that one story about the Panda in a zoo in China who was able to trick the zookeepers into thinking she was pregnant by thickening the walls of her uterus. So anyway Dad took my temperature and said "You do appear to be warmer than usual...You should rest for the day..."

So I got breakfast in bed of bacon and eggs, as I drank the last of my glass of milk I realized I had to communicate what I've learned to my fellow Animal students, what remained of them...
I didn’t want to be here. I doubt anyone else did either. But here we were again.

The three of us stood in the arena again for yet another dumb “team-building” exercise. Blaine was rolling his shoulders and doing cross-body shoulder stretches. Like the worst person at the gym. He winked at me, taunting me. Maggie went missing the day he was with her. That could not have been a coincidence. And there was nothing I could do about it.

“Can we hurry this up?” a British voice lit up my sensors. I turned to see the 7-foot-tall Amazon herself, examining her nails with curled fingers. She was one of the few terrifying people at this school. The married teacher who failed her in Team Tactics was found having an affair with a student and fired in disgrace a week after the final grades came out. I’m not saying she had anything to do with that, but I’m not denying it either.

Of course, Fireball was conveniently missing. Mr. Miller told us she was out sick, but part of me was worried she was #6.

Anyway, within an instant, the sea of white light surrounding our sorry trio was wafted away pixel-by-pixel. And we stood in the middle of what appeared to be Death Valley. The floor was rough orange sand baked by the heat of the sun. The dawn sun was drawn in by racing lines of pink and purple, decorating the sky. The horizon was lined with various mountains and foothills with not a soul in sight. Many cacti were present in the distance.

I whirled my head to see the gas station behind me. A massive “Chug-N-Go” sign lined in red cursive on a white background lit up the area. There were four pump machines with an empty service center behind them. Next to the station was a paved gravel road leading off into the distance.

On the other side of the road stood our four opponents. There was a giant ovoid metal creature with flat arms and legs as well as hollow white eyes. Next to it “stood” a mobile wave of black goo, almost like an inkblot with sentience. Next to that was a green haze of mist with a vague silhouette of a man inside. On the far right of them stood a tall thin woman in a dark scarlet ninja costume with a sash around her waist. The only opening between in the scarlet gi, gloves, and shoes was a horizontal opening in the headpiece where light green skin and eyes pierced through.

Blaine gave me a thumbs-up with one hand while the other one latched his helmet over his shit-eating grin. What a prick. Then he shot up 20 feet into the air readying his arm blasters.

Cere furled her wrists together with an audible crack and tilted her neck to both sides. Then, her skin grew fur, black claws popped out of her manicured nails, her body grew considerably bigger until a brown bear was standing next to me.
Blaine shot a whirring beam at the metal creature, who shielded itself with its pancake arm. Its tiny feet tried shuffling toward him but were ineffectual. Cere ambled for the inkblot, chomped her teeth inside of it, it flowed down her jaws and nose, dropping her to the ground.

The man in green haze floated toward me, I readied my hands, it enveloped me, and I dropped to my knees. My skin ached, my eyes stung, my knees buckled on the hard sand. Then, I was lifted off the ground by the haze. I glided through the air, my arms and legs listlessly flopping. Sharp glass bore into my skin as I fell through the window into the inside of the gas station. I smashed into the inside wall with a thud. The silhouette man hovered toward the station from outside. I scoured the tiny room for anything I could use. The aisle was lined with chips, soda, gum, alcohol, and… cigarette lighters. I rushed down the aisle, grabbed one of the lighters, and raced toward a far corner of the store. I didn’t even know if this fucker was flammable but I was gonna find out.

The gas shifted inside of the building, the silhouette inside stepped down the aisles toward me, two green hands reached toward me. I flicked the spark wheel and tossed the lighter into the mist. It hit the ground with a disappointing clank. Dammit. The hands tossed me into the ceiling, part of it caved under my weight, I dropped to the ground with a ceiling tile. I lied on the ground, dazed and confused. Then I thought, how can a gas touch me?

The gas hovered over me, green hands clasped my throat, my circuitry was compromised. My vision was hazy, blipping in and out. I looked for anything I could use. Then, I saw a sharp shard of glass from the window. I slid my hand toward it and grabbed it. Here goes nothing. I sliced the arm of the silhouette leaving a gash of red blood guzzling down his arm onto my torso. He howled in pain and the mist disappeared. Now there was a human man in a green skinsuit keeled over me holding his spurting wound. I slammed my metal fist into his squishy, organic face, and he landed on the ground.

I hobbled out of that gas station and smashed the door open with a ding. The battle raged outside. The metal creature held Blaine’s power armor over its head and threw him into a gas pump, flames licked his yellow husk. That’s what you get, I thought to myself. Cere grappled with the fluid as it almost encased her. She rolled with the fluid toward the flames and tossed a clawful at the fire, the mass shrieked. We were almost winning.

Then a harsh force slammed against my back. I tumbled.

“Cameron Cotton,” A familiar voice echoed. “You have something I want.”
What the actual fuck?! I was 95% sure I set for there to be three opponents for this challenge. It was supposed to be simple. Solid, liquid, and gas; the three basic states of matter. If I had to make a plasma one, I'm sure it would be more awesome than a random ninja.

I had to get them out of there. I pored over the Instruction Manual. I had to find out how to stop it.

As luck would have it, I had to hit the big red button labeled "EMERGENCY STOP".

I raced out of the control center and down the hall to the Simulation Center door. I opened the dilator door with a swish. The steam clouded my vision but it evaporated to reveal my three students all the floor surrounded by the sea of white light from the Kreludorian panels.

“That was epic!” Blaine screamed with a thumbs-up from the ground. I could only sigh.

“I have to leave,” Cameron got up and rushed out of the room. I had no idea where he would go, but I had to agree.

***


After the class was over, I spent the rest of my evening at home on my laptop, lounged up on my futon next to the week-old laundry that I didn’t bother to do. Something was going on at that school, and I don’t know how but those missing students were all involved. I scrouged through news websites, Aegis Academy club/team rosters, and even conspiracy theory forums looking for what I could find.

I had to first start off by figuring out who these students were.

The fifth student, Margaret Miller, was the one I knew the most about. She was a Fae teenager who went missing within the past week from the Saint Thorin Medical Center ICU while she was visiting her brother. She was very academically-successful; she was in Mu Alpha Theta and made the National Science Fair Finals. The Fae were notorious for their isolationism, so one student going to our school was almost a miracle. If a student as rare as she went missing, it could be a trafficking operation they’re pulling.

The fourth student, Eru Evans, was a Chimera between a human teenager and T-rex which was rare; from my research, he was one of four on the planet. He seemed like a nice kid with long gangly arms covered almost head to toe in white feathers. He actually managed to join the football team but had to struggle with bias from other players. He went missing from the mall 3 months ago. It could probably be a trafficking operation if someone as rare as him went missing.

The third student, Edwin Bloodstone, was the vampire I saw the ad about before who went missing three weeks ago from the movie theater. He was involved in theater, even playing Puck in the school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Vampires as a dime a dozen, so why would he specifically be kidnapped?

The second student, Gex Hussi, was an agender alien student and clearly a troublemaker. The image I got was a hefty insectoid creature with compound eyes, thin papery wings, and four beefy arms wrapped in a leather jacket. They had many counts of aggravated assault, vandalism, and truancy (). They went missing in the middle of the Fall Semester from the local skatepark.

The first student, Janey Briggs, was a regular human mutant. I was not able to determine what her powers were, but she was very well-known for her paintings. I saw a picture of her in stained overalls standing next to a painting of a tulip which was hung in City Hall. She went missing from her house which was not too far from the school during the first week of the Fall Semester.

I had no idea what connection any of these students had with each other. They were different genders, different species, involved in completely different clubs/organizations. This was going to be harder than I anticipated.
I stayed in bed to keep up the appearances of being sick as I tried to think of a plan, Dad poked his head in and asked if I wanted anything I said "Could I just have a soda to cool me down? It's hot enough under this fur as it is..."

Dad obliged and brought me a cold can of Diet Coke, I knew I had to wait until after school to call my fellow Animal students, couldn't disturb them while they were having class, when I knew the school day was over, I reached over to phone on the table next to my bed and called Mike and Cissy

"This is important..." I said to both of them "...Have any of you even asked where Eru was?"

Silence from both of them for a brief moment
I ran up the porch past the various plants and couches present there. The wind chimes rang in my presence. I knocked on the mahogany door. While I was waiting, I looked around the place. It was very neat and rustic. Most of the furniture was wooden giving a cabin-like feel.

The door opened to reveal a man in his mid-50s in an unbuttoned polo shirt with khaki shorts along with socks and sandals. His bespectacled face also held red locks of hair on his head along with a red beard both of which were speckled with the occasional gray.

“Hello, there,” he said.

“Hi,” I said trying to squeeze my way inside. “Is Fang here?” Now was not the time for niceties.

“Yes,” he said, crossing his arms. “And you are…”

“Cameron,” I said, rubbing my hand against the back of my neck. “I’m one of her classmates in Team Tactics. We have a project together and she said we could work together.”

“Hmmm,” he said, stroking his chin. “Fang has been going through a lot at school, so you’ll have to come back at another time.”

“Can I please just talk to her?” I said. “It’s for both of our grades; if we don’t do it well, we might not graduate on time.”

“Fang, there’s someone down here to see you,” he called up to a white staircase behind him leading to a clear hallway.

“What?!” the Shiba Inu poked out her head down the upstairs hall.

***


“I know why you’ve been skipping class,” I said sitting on the edge of her bed across from her. Her thin black eye peered back at me. She looked so mystical sprawled on the bed, her laptop and cellphone placed haphazardly to her side. “I know about the missing students.”

Her eyes narrowed and her ears flattened.

“Whatever you think you know,” she said, snarling her teeth. “Tread carefully.” I can’t imagine how much discrimination she’s experienced from humans thinking she was lesser. I had to back off.

“I mean, I was concerned since you weren’t showing up to class for the past couple days,” I said, trying to relent. “I wasn’t sure if something happened to you.”

“Well, I’m doing well, clearly,” she said, not changing her expression.

“I can see that,” I said, turning to look at the orange leaves falling past the window. I had to do better; then I remembered that I’m an omniglot. ^I know about Eru.^ Her teeth bared further.

“What do you know?” she said.
Cameron told me what he knew I sighed

"I spent the previous days calling the Animal Students who are still left I was planning a meeting with them..." Then an idea struck me

"You're a polyglot right?" I said "Did you ever notice telepathy coming from...Random ants?"

I told him about my meeting with the intelligent ants. "They try to masquerade as regular ants, but they offered to be my eyes and ears for everything that happens around the school because...They sensed I might need help..."

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