Trust 15-06 (Summus Proelium)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

“Cassidy Evans. Like, the billionaire princess of Detroit, perfect daughter of their lord high majesties the queen and king of the city, Elena and Sterling? They who own half the buildings in this fucking city, and probably three-quarters of the government? That Cassidy Evans?” 

That was the new girl, of course. I had just introduced myself the moment Mrs. Donnelley had walked away, leading her to give me a double-take before blurting that whole thing out. She was staring at me as though I’d just told her I was really Abraham Lincoln, raised up from the grave and set to run for another election with her on the ticket as vice-president. 

Opening my mouth, then shutting it as a blush settled across my face, I settled on a weak, “Just Cassidy is fine, we don’t usually go with the rest of the title unless it’s a really special occasion.” 

The other girl shook her head at me, insisting, “You ain’t exactly what I was expecting.” 

Coughing, I offered a slight shrug. “Yeah, I get that a lot. My parents don’t exactly encourage a lot of paparazzi photos or anything, so most people who don’t actually know us or look into it basically assume I’m like…” Scanning the front lawn of the school, I gestured to a crowd of gorgeous cheerleaders heading inside together while laughing at something. “One of them.” 

Giving a side-glance that way, the girl nodded. “Yeah, something like that. You uhh, you sure you’re not like a body-double or something? You know, someone to pull threats away from the real Cassidy Evans?” Even as she said it, I saw a grimace cross the girl’s face. “Sorry. That sounded less shitty in my head.” 

“It’s okay, I get it,” I assured her. “And if I was a body-double, I’m doing a pretty shitty job. I mean, look at me. You were told I was Cassidy Evans and you’re having trouble believing it. How many assassins are gonna take a look through a scope and be like, ‘yeah, she looks like a billionaire’s kid, let’s do this?’”

For a moment, the two of us squinted at each other, before I managed, “We’re both trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, aren’t we?” 

Dani (that was her name, I finally remembered) laughed and shook her head. “If you’re really her, probably a good thing. Keep those assassins guessing.” 

“Damn straight.” Grinning despite myself, I tried to ask why I felt so casual with this chick. We met like thirty seconds earlier, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like… weird. Weirdly comfortable. Maybe it was still just a result of me finally being able to talk to Izzy about my family? Maybe I was just still incredibly relaxed and comfortable because I’d expressed all that stuff I had been bottling up for so long, and it was spilling over into my interaction with this new girl. That was probably it, right? It made sense. 

Either way, I gestured. “Come on, I’ll show you around. We’ll stay low in case the assassins think you’re a better candidate for Cassidy Evans than I am.” 

“I’m black,” she pointed out mildly before starting to follow. 

“I said what I said.” With that, I began to guide the new girl through the school, showing her where the main office was, where various sections of the school were, the library, study hall, the indoor tennis and basketball courts (she seemed confused about those being entirely separate rooms), our theater and auditoriums (again with the confusion), and the pools. 

“Pools,” she echoed once we turned away from that door. “As in plural. Multiple indoor pools at school.” 

“Oh, there’s a couple outdoor ones too,” I quickly assured her. “If you go around the back and head…” Trailing off, I glanced toward the girl and grimaced. “And that is totally not the point you were making, was it?” Flushing a little, I asked, “You’re really not used to this private school stuff. Did your parents win the lottery or something? I mean–I don’t mean to sound like–I don’t–you’re just obviously not used to this stuff.” 

Her eyes rolled as she gestured to the clearly very stiff and not-very-used uniform. “What gave it away? I blend in so well.” Snorting, the girl added, “No, my folks didn’t win the lottery. They ahh, took off. Well, Mom died so long ago I don’t remember anything about her. Dad vamanosed with some chick awhile ago. I got bounced through foster homes for awhile, then they found some great-aunt or something. She lives in Europe, but apparently felt just bad enough to put me up in one of her apartments with a babysitter and have me go to school here.” 

It was weird. On the surface of it, every part of that story was logical and made sense. But I had this insistent little thought that it wasn’t true. It was this little voice in the back of my head that kept poking me and insisting that there was something wrong with that story and I couldn’t figure out why. Honestly, it was probably just my paranoia. I didn’t know anything about this girl, and  certainly didn’t have any reason to doubt what she was saying. Aside from… well,  everything in my life. Yeah, I did have reason to be suspicious about new people with uncertain backgrounds that popped into my orbit, especially with the whole biolem thing going on. And it wasn’t like I could just ask if she was a real person or some biological android being.

Yeah, paranoid. Absolutely and completely paranoid. This poor girl didn’t deserve that kind of shit, especially when she was walking into this brand new situation. So, I shoved all those thoughts down, locked them in a box in the back of my mind, and chucked it away for the time being. I could be paranoid later. Right now, I was just going to stick to this being a normal school thing. For fuck’s sake, I had enough problems without my brain inventing a whole new one about some random girl who just needed to be shown around for a few minutes. 

So, with a cough, I nodded. “Sorry about your dad taking off, and–uhh, all that. Sounds shitty. Decent apartment anyway?” 

She shrugged. “Entire place is probably about the size of your bedroom, Princess. But it’s good enough for me.” 

Somehow, I didn’t think informing the girl that she was probably exaggerating the size of her apartment rather than the size of my bedroom was exactly the right move. So, I snorted and nudged her as we made our way back around toward the front of the building. “Well, at least you’ve got a good school. Especially if you have any interest in swimming, inside or out!” 

“What’s this about going swimming?” It was San Francisco, the boy popping up out of nowhere, wearing his ill-fitting school uniform that was clearly a size too big for him despite his husky frame. “And who, might I ask, is your lovely new friend, Miss Evans?” He made a (very awkward) show of bowing. 

Rolling my eyes, I gestured back and forth between them. “San, this is Dani, she’s new. Dani, this is San Francisco and don’t look at me like that San, she was gonna find out your name eventually.” 

“Yeah, eventually, man. As in after I had time to make her get to know me,” the boy complained, shooting me a dirty look before turning back to the other girl. “Don’t let my parents being weird as fuck distract you from the magic fingers.” As he said it, San was holding both hands up, wiggling said fingers rapidly. 

For just a moment, I felt like slapping my own face. Instead, once the brief awkward silence had gone on long enough, I kicked San in the foot and hissed in a stage whisper, “Dude, you might wanna explain what you mean before she switches from mentally filling out a restraining order to physically doing it.” 

Poor San’s eyes had widened as he realized what he’d said, and he’d gone from wiggling his fingers to quickly holding his hands out in a stopping motion. “N-no, no, not like, I mean–piano! I play piano! Keyboard, whatever you need. That’s all I meant, you know, magic fingers, piano. I’m really good. Uh, at the piano.” 

Deciding to throw the guy a bone, I nodded while chirping, “He’s not lying about that. He is really good with the–what do they call it, tickling the ivory?” 

“As long as the ivory is part of the piano, he can tickle it all he wants,” Dani retorted before giving the boy another look. “Please stop wiggling your fingers at me.” 

“Yeah, that’s fair,” San agreed, shoving his hands behind his back. “Anyway, that was a really long and awkward way of saying, suuuuuuup girl?” 

“She’s new,” I put in quickly, before Dani had to respond to… well, that. “Obviously. I was just showing her around. She just umm, her great-aunt…” I trailed off, glancing that way since I wasn’t sure if she wanted me babbling about her own personal history and situation. 

Dani, however, seemed not to care. She offered a shrug. “Rich great-aunt, dead mom, missing dad, get to come to school here cuz of guilt or something. Who knows. I’m not sticking my head in that wooden horse. But for the record, your flirting is barking up the wrong sapphic tree.” 

San, in turn, blinked once. “Wrong sapphic–ohhh, you mean you’re–right. Have you met my friend Cassidy here?” 

My eyes rolled. “San, how many times do I have to tell you, I’m not gay?” 

“But you’d be such a good one,” he insisted teasingly, before gasping as I lightly kicked his shin. “Ow, look, I just–oh there we go. Amber!” 

Sure enough, Amber was passing by, turning our way at San’s words. She approached, asking, “Have you guys seen Paige anywhere? I don’t–um. Hi.” 

San gestured back and forth between them. “Amber, Dani. Dani, Amber. You two should do breakfast, you’ve got a lot in common. But hey, look at the time. Let’s go, Cass, we’ve got that thing at the place.” 

Before I could protest or say anything else, he was pulling me away, leaving the two girls there staring at each other. As he pulled me to the school entrance, I snorted while yanking my arm free. “Did anyone ever tell you it’s weird that you’re the one who keeps trying to set everyone up?” 

“Hey, man, being a lover of romance doesn’t mean only wanting it for yourself,” he informed me. “I just want everyone to be happy, that’s all. Is that a crime? And ahh, on a totally unrelated subject, how’s everything going with Tomas?” 

As my face turned pink, I grabbed the door and pulled it open to step inside. “Nothing’s going with Tomas. Nothing. We’re just friends, that’s it.” 

Following me, San sounded unconvinced. “Uh huh. Sure, babe, whatever you say.” He gave me a knowing look before gesturing. “I gotta head for class, but if you wanna go be ‘just friends’ with Tomas some more, I think he’s hanging in the music room auditioning people for his band.” 

With that, he headed off, and I turned to look back the way we’d come. Amber and Dani were still standing there. It looked like they were talking. Weirdly, I felt like that was a good thing. And familiar, somehow. 

Eesh, I really had to stop paying attention to San. He was clearly a bad influence. Shaking that off, I turned to head for my own locker. On the way, I glanced over to where I knew Paige’s was. Amber’s question rang in my ears. 

Yeah, I’d seen Paige. I knew where she was. I’d even taken the time to call the school from my Touched phone, using the voice changer to pose as the other girl’s adopted ‘father’ to say they were taking her out of town for a little while. The receptionist had tried to say something about signing a form, and I told her to fax it over to the number on the sheet, then hung up. I figured I’d deal with that later. After all, the least I could do was try to help make sure Paige had a life to come back here to if–when we managed to wake her up. 

Now all I had to worry about was how the hell we were going to pull that off.

********

A few hours later, in my math class before lunch, I was poring over the set of problems we’d been given to keep us busy for the last half of the period. At the same time, thoughts of what we might be able to do about Paige’s situation kept intruding, making it hard to concentrate. Normally I didn’t mind math so much, but right then I just couldn’t make my mind focus. 

That problem was very quickly made worse as a voice came over the intercom, drawing everyone’s attention that way. “Attention students and faculty,” the voice of one of the office secretaries announced, “due to altercations between members of the Easy Eight and Ninety-Niner criminal organizations taking place several blocks away, the authorities have asked that this school enter lockdown procedures. Rest assured, this action is purely taken as a measure of extreme caution, and there is no reason to believe the altercation will make its way this far. You should continue your scheduled work and lessons as planned, as class is still considered to be in session. Now, remain in your rooms and step away from all doors and windows as lockdown is initiated in five… four… three… two… one.” 

The moment the countdown finished, while all the people around me were already chattering excitedly, lockdown started. In our case, that meant steel shutters closing around all the windows, along with a larger one closing around our classroom door. It was a safety procedure. Now all the classrooms, as well as the various entrances into the school itself, would be completely shielded. 

Which meant I couldn’t go out to see what was happening in this ‘altercation’ between those two Fell-Gangs even if I wanted to. There was no way I’d be able to, say, ask the teacher if I could possibly use the restroom for twenty minutes or so just to nip out and take a peek.

Yeah, so right now I was stuck here the same as everyone else. Obviously, despite what the receptionist had requested, nobody was focused on math anymore. Not even our teacher. Everyone was chattering about what was going on down the street, trying to find details on their phones, and speculating about which gang would win the fight. 

Meanwhile, I… well, I was basically in the same position. I was trying to find out the truth about what was going on out there. Not that knowing would’ve helped me. I was stuck here in this room the same as everyone else. No rushing out to help deal with the situation for me. 

Sighing, I turned to look toward Jae, who sat behind me. Her gaze was locked intently on the nearby steel-covered window, looking almost as though she wanted to bore her way through it. Was she claustrophobic or something? It just looked like she really didn’t want to be trapped in here. 

“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?” I spoke up, trying to distract her. As the pale girl’s pink eyes blinked to me with confusion, I added, “The fighting between those gangs. The news said they’ve really started going after each other lately. Now they’re fighting close enough to get the school locked down?” 

There was a brief pause before Jae gave a slight nod, her voice quiet. “I hope someone stops them.” 

Ouch. Yeah, someone should be out there stopping them. For a moment, I wondered how much of this my parents were going to allow to happen. After all, there was no way this whole war would’ve gone on this long or escalated like this if they weren’t allowing it. Obviously, they’d signed off on Blackjack getting his revenge or whatever against the Ninety-Niners and Oscuro for trying to stop him from getting the vials to save his daughter. As for the Easy Eights, maybe he and Deicide had come to some kind of arrangement as part of the favor he owed her for giving back the vial she had? 

I wasn’t sure. Either way, it was two Fell-gangs versus two other Fell-gangs, and my parents were allowing it to go on. So how much damage was enough for them? How many people would be hurt or killed while they allowed the fighting to continue? Did they give a shit about any of those people? 

“Cassidy.” Jae’s quiet voice pulled me back, and I realized she had been staring at me with a look of concern. “Are you okay?” 

Right, apparently there’d been something in my expression while I’d thought about my family. Quickly, I nodded. “Sorry, yeah. Just thinking about how long we’re gonna be stuck in here.” Biting my lip, I glanced to the girl. “Are you okay?” 

Again, the other girl paused momentarily before admitting, “I don’t like being trapped.” 

Listening to the buzz of conversation from the rest of the class around us, I grimaced. “Yeah, I know what you mean. But hopefully it won’t be too long. I mean, the authorities should break it up soon enough, right?” 

Jae’s response to that was a noncommittal noise, before we were interrupted by the sound of our teacher getting the television in the corner of the room tuned to the right station. Abruptly, everyone saw the scene going on just a few blocks away. It looked like something out of an action movie. Cars were overturned in the middle of the street as various Prev members of either gang used them for cover while taking shots at one another. Fell-Touched were there too, like Angel Dust, Juice, and Skadi on the Easy Eights side, and Sandon and Jailtime on the Ninety-Niners side, along with some other guy I didn’t recognize, who was dressed like an old west cowboy with a demon mask.

The news was right, it was a warzone. There were people lying in the middle of the street, clearly injured or worse. The news chopper doing its best to stay above the action and out of the way while still giving a good view of what was going on. Which allowed us to see more people huddled behind buildings or in any cover they could find, just trying to stay out of the way. Seeing the people out there, clearly terrified and trapped, made me bristle. Fuck. I wanted to be out there. I wanted to go help them, but I couldn’t. I was as trapped in this room as those people were trapped where they were. 

How long would my parents let this go on? I had no idea. But I was pretty sure of one thing. 

This war was probably going to get a lot worse before it got better.

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

15 comments

  1. Hey, there’s another chapter! And it looks like this gang war is really heating up. I guess we’ll see how that goes? And hey, make sure you guys head to the Patreon page on Saturday if you’re a donator of any level, or on Sunday if not, because that’s when the December Non-Canon chapters will be out! I will post a link to them in the Monday chapter, of course, but if you check on Sunday you will be able to read them even if you aren’t a Patreon member.

    But for now, thanks so much for reading and sticking around! If you would like to show just how awesome you are by boosting this story on Top Web Fiction, you can go to of this page and click the button int the top right! The tags today are: A Full-Scale Panic Room Shield Over The Entire School? My Old School Didn’t Even Have Doors On The Bathroom Stalls!, Amber O’Connell, Cassidy Evans, Damn It Cass Stay There And Eavesdrop On The Dani And Amber Conversation! Shippers Need Their Fuel!, Dani Kalvers, Jae Baek, San Francisco Cavers, Somehow Cassidy Resisted The Urge To Tell Dani That Her Parents Probably Have A Standing Employment Contract For All Assassins Within A Few Hundred Miles.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yo long time lurker, my one annoyance is how much each time Cassidy meets one of the minorities without knowing she has a feeling but push’s it to the side. She then is completely blind to a number of signs that somethings not right. Love the story otherwise!

    Like

    1. Hey, glad you’ve been generally enjoying it! That said, could you let me know if you specifically object to the way it’s written/repeated statements for similar scenes, the fact that Cassidy isn’t pursuing those feelings, or something else related to that?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Probably both but now starting to lean towards the repeating part as it continues… repeating…

        As a lone super hero she has to develop the skill of knowing when to listen to ones instincts and dig, when to put it on a back shelf with a note for future digging, and when to mostly let it go. As a person who feels, somewhat realistically, that a large chunk of the world, “good” and “bad”, might well be against her knowingly or unknowingly she should be honing those instincts to a razors edge on the sharpening stone of her experiences. Normally she wouldn’t have a lot of experiences to draw from for a while but with her being thrown into the deep end of the pool she has had tons of experiences thrown at her rapid fire with the need to sink or swim (or more literally Do or DIE… ) forcing her to gert gurd quick!

        For the sake of fun in the story I personally am willing to overlook some of this obvious gimmick with not realizing she is increasingly being surrounded by the secret identities of her nighttime play pals while she herself is desperately trying to hide her identity from them at night. IT IS FUN. It is a good gimmick. But at the same time you seem to be making some effort at making the made up physics mildly realistic and the reactions of the characters seem like something a person with their background/intelligence/personality/etc… MIGHT actually do. So I can see how readers focusing on that second thing (realism) might get upset at the first (fun gimmick of funness) when it stretches into a running gag on par with the cabbage merchant from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

        Though I did love me the heck out of that cabbage cart wielding bastard and the reference to him in the second series. Avatar managed to walk that razors edge between silliness and gags/running gags and realism in cause/effect and psychology to satisfy the bulk of their audience. But then their INTENDED audience was probably a bit younger than the audience they ended up with (not to mention they kept watching it into adulthood! and beyond with the next series) and that teen or older audience knew they were watching something for a younger audience and so intentionally told themselves to chill and laugh with it when silly bugs bunny style gags happened in the middle of their emotional epic adventure. Your audience probably assumes you intended this story for at LEAST teens and most probably a bit older/adult. So you aren’t getting that intentional self chilling effect that people do when they choose to watch something for younger audiences?

        Anyway, I’m cool with it for now but I thought I’d throw some thoughts in the ring for you to chew on in case the OP doesn’t respond. Writers need feedback and all that.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Thanks for the thoughtful response! The way I’ve been looking at the whole thing is that she’s quite distracted and under a lot of pressure, and while she has a sense of familiarity about these people, most of them also use things like voice alterations, physical changes, etc to help her dismiss that sense. Like with Amber, her voice is somewhat different, her hair is a different color, and her facial features are shifted just a little bit, so it’s easy for her subconscious to go ‘that person seems familiar somehow, but I can’t connect it to anyone.’ Yet it keeps happening so her brain keeps trying to work out why there’s that familiarity. Also, I try to make sure it only really gets noted once for each person unless something really triggers it. In this case, it was her *first time* talking to Dani in civilian mode, and Dani has the least protecting her identity. So it made sense to acknowledge it, while making Cassidy still not get it because automatically realizing isn’t nearly as fun narratively AND for the earlier noted reasons.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Sure. I saw some of you and others chatting about why she might dismiss these feelings/thoughts and it came down to what you have said here. And I’m fine with that. It is… possible and it is more fun. I could just also see why it might seem strange to others in a realistic setting since completely ignoring such a strong insight would lead to someone living on the seat of their pants in a dog eat dog world like Cassidy has been thrown into having a failure of the most egregious variety in short order.

        If she was part of a team this whole time or hadn’t been tested by constant threats of death to herself or others for makings too many mistakes of any kind from physical performance to mental it might be easier to assume she could expect to casually ignore such things as ordinary folks do in casual mode. But her life is anything but casual and if she did similar things in other areas she would probably not have made it this far on anything but luck and I’d expect that luck to fail her soon.

        That said you have made it possible to believe this happened if I wanted to. And as it happens I DO want to believe this is what happened cause it will be more fun and allow some more interesting twists and turns in the plot and character development to unfurl nice and slowly in the fullness of time.

        But if someone DIDN’T want those things more than realism I could see their point. It strains realism when someone who’s learned the hard knock lessons she has, with the properly fearful/suspicious mindset she has, repeatedly does this.

        Then again it would probably be more realistic that she didn’t make it this far one way or the other and that wouldn’t be any fun at all! 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dani is lucky Cassidy is so cool – her opening comments could have been taken with offense or embarrassment and then if Cassidy was someone like Paige’s public persona she would have made an enemy on her first day of school. Maybe she doesn’t care and was going to be all tough and prickly to compensate for being around all the rich kids. But Cassidy without even thinking managed to make it casual and joky instead and now Dani’s off on the right foot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Dani’s kind of not accustomed to any of this. She hasn’t even gone to public school for awhile at this point, so… that could’ve gone badly for her. 😉

      Like

  4. So Cassidy, Amber, Jae, and Dani… with Page taking a “health break”, are all the touched that are attending this school or have I missed one?

    Like

      1. Good thought! Eits, however, does not actually go to this school. Or any school. He’s considered emancipated and an early graduate (of public school). And the other one you were thinking of is Damarko/Syndicate, who also does not go to this school. He just claims to know Amber because of work they did together over the summer and has to be introduced to Cassidy when they meet in 7-02. I can totally see why you’d think that both go there though. Cassidy did meet Damarko at the school, he was just there with his car to pick up Amber and Jae. And I haven’t actually detailed Eits’ school situation.

        Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s