Please note, the following is the beginning of a 6-chapter Interlude Arc focusing on Roxa’s old team as they investigate Flick and that whole situation. We will be taking a brief break from our main character to see what’s going on over here. Flick will be back after this arc.
Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 (Five days before Flick and company confronted Fahsteth and Flick’s house was attacked by werewolves)
Most of the people at the Crossroads Academy believed that Gordon Kuhn had no sense of humor. That wasn’t exactly true, since there were things that he found amusing. But he had goals, goals that could only be accomplished if he took his training seriously, and didn’t squander the opportunity.
That, and he also didn’t particularly relish the idea of spending a bunch of time laughing alongside the very same people who would cheerfully murder him if they knew what he really was.
Because while Gordon’s mother was a Heretic just as everyone thought, his father was something altogether different. His father wasn’t human.
Most of the people at Cossroads, if they knew what Gordon really was, what his father was, would want him dead. There were only a couple of people that he could trust with his secret. And one of those people, the person who had recruited Gordon into the school to begin with while knowing what he was, had been murdered a couple of days into the school year. Professor Pericles, one of the very few people that Gordon knew without a doubt he could trust, had been murdered.
So was it really any wonder that he didn’t tend to have much of a sense of humor?
“Gordo!” That was Isaac, his roommate. The two were so dissimilar, with Isaac’s refusal to take anything seriously at all, that Gordon was at least half convinced that their entire life as roommates together was being a broadcast as some kind of Odd Couple reality show for the easily amused.
“You ready, man?” Isaac asked from his place at the door into their room. “The others are already waiting for us, but if you need a minute to make yourself pretty…” he trailed off, grinning widely.
Yeah, Gordon thought, and just how fast would you try to kill me the second you found out what my father is, Mr. Comedian? Out loud, he simply announced, “Ready,” while heading for the door.
The rest of the team was waiting for them on the roof of the boy’s dorm when they climbed the ladder to get up there. Douglas, Jasmine, Paul, and Rudolph all looked up as the two boys came over the edge of the roof to join them.
“It’s about time you guys made it,” Jasmine announced. “You know we couldn’t wait much longer. Doug’s power was pretty damn specific.”
Douglas had used his power to get an answer or at least directions toward an answer once per day in order to find the right time for them to do this.
Isaac was bobbing his head. “Sure man, but you know how Professor Kuhn over here is. We had to get every last bit of that project for Nimbles done before he’d even consider coming out.”
“We’re still five minutes early,” Gordon pointed out flatly. “There was no sense in abandoning our work to come up here before it was time. Now the project’s done, and we don’t have to worry about it later.”
Plus, it had given him a little more time to think about what he was going to do if their theory about Felicity Chambers paid off today. And more specifically, how he was going to get her away from the rest of his team in order to ask her the things that he really needed to ask her.
Paul, ever the peacemaker, raised a hand. “All right, well we’re all here now, so let’s get busy.” He looked toward Rudolph, who stood at the edge of the roof. “You seen where Flick and Avalon went?”
The other boy gestured idly, his voice making it clear that he was trying not to yawn. He had never been very invested in this, and had made his own doubts clear. Yet he didn’t go against what any of them said, and never refused to help. “They went down to the beach about ten minutes ago. Shiori was with them.”
Jasmine smirked knowingly at that, “Well, at least someone around here is getting some action today.” Seeing the others looking at her, she shrugged.”What? She may or may not be an evil bitch, but you gotta admit, she’s got game.”
“Okay, dude,” Isaac muttered. “Really trying to focus right now, and that’s not helping.” Visibly shaking it off, he focused on Jasmine. “You first, since it’s safest for you. Make sure it’s clear?”
She nodded, holding both arms out cockily as she stood in front of him. “Well, beam me over, Scotty.”
Obligingly, Isaac reached out to put a hand on her arm, before looking over toward the roof of the girl’s dorm, across the way. A moment later, Jasmine disappeared from where she was standing, and reappeared almost immediately on the other roof.
That was one of the powers that Isaac had inherited during one of their fights over the past few months. At any point, he could transport himself, and/or anyone he was physically touching to any place within his line of sight. Unfortunately, he couldn’t transport through solid objects, even if he could see through them, like glass or bars. Plus, he could only do a maximum of one person other than himself at the same time. Which meant they had to do this slowly.
After taking a moment to look around and make sure the roof of the dorm was clear, Jasmine raised a hand to wave over at the rest of them.
“Right then,” Paul announced while looking to Douglas. “You’re next. Remember, keep your head down. We don’t need this to go to shit this early.”
Clearly unable to help himself, or unwilling to try, Isaac blurted, “So it’s okay if it goes to shit later?”
To his credit, while Gordon would have given the boy an annoyed look, Paul didn’t miss a beat. “Sure, as long as you’re the only one who gets screwed by it.”
Douglas took his place and was transported over to the roof with Jasmine. He was followed by Rudolph, then Gordon took his turn, with Isaac transporting himself and Paul over last.
Finally, they were all on the roof of the girls dorm, with the boys crouched down to avoid being seen as much as possible. Jasmine was keeping an eye out over the edge of the roof to make sure they weren’t interrupted by anyone climbing up.
“Okay then,” Paul whispered. “We’re kind of exposed here, so do your thing, Gordon.”
Without a word, Gordon stepped over and took a knee around the middle of the roof. Holding his hand out with his index finger and thumb apart in the shape of an almost-closed circle, he peered down through the space between the fingers at the roof. After a moment of focus, the image of the roof itself, as seen between his thumb and index finger, changed to show the inside of the room directly below. It was the kitchenette of an apartment for one of the older students.
It was a power that he had gained from the same creature that Isaac had taken his teleportation from. In the Stranger itself, both powers worked together, allowing it to see through solid objects and then teleport itself beyond. But in Gordon’s case, the x-ray vision only worked between his fingers like that (making it obvious when he was using it), and only within a short distance.
Moving his hand around to scan the entire apartment below, Gordon finally nodded. “It’s clear.”
“Great,” Paul announced before looking to Jasmine. “Guess that means you’re up, Jazz.”
The girl took her place next to Gordon then. Kneeling down, she touched her hand against the roof and slowly ran it along the surface. Everywhere her hand touched, the roof turned squiggly and almost see-through, like a very thick liquid. The room below was almost visible.
Jasmine had inherited the third and final portion of the power of the Stranger that Gordon and Isaac had also gotten part of. In her case, she could turn things intangible with a touch. The full power of the Strangers that the three of them had killed allowed it to see through solid objects, render those solid objects intangible (at a distance in its case), and then teleport through.
Once she’d altered enough of the roof, Jasmine gestured. “So who’s first, you big burly men?”
As it turned out, Paul was first that time. Stepping to the shimmering, liquid-like portion of roof, their team leader took a breath before dropping in. Through the space between his fingers, Gordon watched as the other boy cautiously looked around before gesturing for them to follow.
“Next,” Gordon passed the message along, watching as Isaac, Douglas, and then Rudolph went through. He went just before Jasmine, the altered roof material feeling a bit like moving through gelatin before he dropped the rest of the way to land on the floor of the apartment’s kitchenette.
Once they’d all made it into the room, Gordon checked the apartment below the one they were in. An instant later, he dropped his hand, head shaking. His voice was flat. “It’s occupied.”
Wincing, Paul looked around for a moment before pointing to the wall connecting the apartment they were in to the one next door. “Okay, try that one. Maybe we’ll get a little more lucky.”
They did. Between Gordon and Jasmine’s powers, they continued on their semi-roundabout path. First they had to go to the apartment next door, then down one, then over three more apartments before finding one below that was unoccupied. After that, the team had to work their way over until they were directly above their actual target: Flick and Avalon’s dorm room.
From there, once they had made sure that the coast was clear (which they spent at least twice as long on as they had for any other room), Gordon and the others eventually dropped down inside the belly of the beast.
“You know,” Douglas whispered once they were all in the room and his gaze had moved over to where Jasmine was. “You could’ve just like, waited outside the room for us to let you in. I mean, you’re allowed inside the girl’s dorm. You didn’t have to go through all that.”
“And let you boys have all the fun?” Jasmine scoffed with a wave of her hand. “Don’t be selfish.”
Isaac opened his mouth to say something, but before he could get anything out, Paul interrupted with a stage-whisper. “Okay, guys, let’s get busy. Doug’s power might’ve said that now is the best time to search this place, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got all day before they come back.” He looked toward Gordon then, gesturing to the door. “Keep a lookout, just in case?”
Gordon nodded once and stepped that way. Setting his fingers up, he put himself in a position where he could see through into the hallway and toward the main entrance. Hopefully, it would give them enough of a warning if Flick and Avalon returned before they were done searching.
He stood there, listening to his teammates carefully and thoroughly search the entire room behind him while he kept watch. Before they got too involved, however, Gordon spoke up. “Remember to put everything back exactly the way it was,” he pointed out. “You never know what they might notice being out of place. And don’t touch that box.” Without looking, he pointed toward the object in question in the corner of the room. “That’s where Flick keeps the mice.” He knew that much from his thorough examination of the room before they’d dropped inside.
“Dude.” Isaac’s hand was on his arm. “Seriously, don’t be such a worrywart, Gordo. We’ve got this. We’ll find proof that Avalon and Flick are some kind of Eden’s Garden spies, take it to the Headmistress, and she’ll make them tell us what really happened to Roxa. Easy peasy.”
Closing his eyes, Gordon took a deep breath before grunting through gritted teeth. “Stop cursing everything, stop distracting me, stop calling me Gordo, stop touching me, and keep looking.”
He’d made his aversion to being touched quite clear from the beginning. It was already hard enough to make sure he didn’t lose control and accidentally use the power that he’d inherited from his father without being able to explain where it came from. Part of Gordon felt like he should make an excuse about having killed something while he was on a family trip to explain it away. But he was afraid that would just lead to having to answer more than he wanted to. Better to keep his hybrid abilities secret, for now.
Still, it meant that every time one of his teammates touched him unexpectedly, it just reminded Gordon again that as much as he might (usually) like them (well enough), he couldn’t actually trust any of them. Not if they ever found out what he was. If they ever touched him while he wasn’t paying attention and keeping his skin the right temperature, their fingers would instantly freeze, likely to the point of shattering. And that… well, that would probably raise a few questions that he couldn’t answer very easily.
Fifteen minutes later, Isaac cursed while turning in a circle in the middle of the room. “Okay, there’s nothing here. No letters from her handlers back at Eden’s Garden, no vials of poison, no extra cell phones, no maps of secret entrances, nothing.”
“First of all, she does have more than one cell phone,” Jasmine informed him. “Believe me, I’ve seen her using two different ones. And we did find something. These.” Extending her hand, she showed a cloth bag that was meant to hold marbles. This one was full of quarters.
Douglas raised an eyebrow at that from where he was sitting at Flick’s desk, in front of her computer. “Money for the laundromat?” he guessed with a shrug.
“Money for the–” Jasmine echoed incredulously before shaking her head. “Boys. I’m surrounded by boys.” Gordon had a feeling that she was substituting ‘morons’ in her head. “They’re enchanted coins. I’ve seen them use this stuff before, right before they have a completely boring and inconsequential conversation. Which means…” she trailed off, looking around hopefully.
“The coins must be hiding what they’re really saying,” Gordon calmly finished for her.
“Put ‘em back where they were,” Paul instructed. “If they’re that important, she’ll notice if they’re out of place. Wait, take one of them. It’s a bagful, she probably won’t notice one missing. We’ll see if we can find a way to counter the spell on it so we can hear what they’re really talking about.” To Douglas, he added, “You find a way into that thing yet?”
The other boy nodded then, fingers moving on the keyboard. “Got it. I’ve been looking at her e-mail. Nothing too exciting. Normal, boring messages. It’s so boring and ordinary, in fact, that there’s gotta be code here. No one really talks about stuff this boring over e-mail.”
A figure entered Gordon’s vision through his x-ray power then, just coming through the main door. He turned, interrupting in a flat, calm voice. “Chambers is coming.”
“Crap,” Paul announced succinctly before gesturing. “Come on, come on, contingency plan. That side, go, go go. Put the computer back the way it was. Move, move.” His stage whisper was almost frantic as he waved his hands, ushering everyone into one of the room’s corners.
Once they were there, Jasmine whispered, “Being the only girl on the team, I hate to give you boys this kind of ammunition, but… everyone touch me.”
They did, the whole team crowding in to put their hands on the dark-skinned girl’s offered arms and shoulders. As they did so, the doorknob on the other side of the room started to turn. Jasmine quickly knit her brow in concentration, before she and the rest of the team instantly faded from sight.
That was the other major power that Jasmine had gained. As long as she was either standing still or moving incredibly slowly, she could make herself and anyone (or anything) directly touching her completely invisible. If they stayed very still and didn’t make any noise, Flick wouldn’t know they were there.
When Flick came through the open door, she was on the phone, already speaking. “Yeah, one second.” She crossed over to her desk, reaching under it to flip on the privacy screen. The black shield that popped up around the girl’s side of the room should have left her with complete secrecy. Except for the fact that Gordon, Jasmine, and the rest of the team were inside the effect of the screen. So they could still hear Flick just fine as the girl flopped onto her bed while talking.
“We just have to get that choker on Roxa. If we do that, she can come back here and no one’ll know anything’s different. … Yeah, we can figure out the rest later, after we deal with the Roxa problem. … I dunno, do werewolves and vampires really have that whole rivalry thing? … Oh gee, Miss Asenath, you tell me. Why would I think you know anything about that? … Right, I’ll alert the media.”
There was a little more conversation after that, enough to let them know that this ‘Asenath’ was staying with Flick’s father. It sounded like some kind of bodyguard position. Eventually, however, Flick checked the time and informed the person on the phone that she had to go.
Gordon didn’t know about anyone else, but he barely breathed until several moments after the blonde girl had left the room and it was clear that she wasn’t coming right back.
Finally, however, he exhaled and stepped away from the others as Jasmine released her invisibility. They came back into view, everyone looking at each other.
“Choker?” Douglas demanded. “They have to get a choker onto Roxa before they can bring her back here? What, for some kind of mind control shit?”
“Obviously,” Jasmine confirmed, folding her arms “What else could it be? You–”
“She said Asenath.” That was Isaac, who uncharacteristically looked incredibly serious, even dour as he repeated himself. “She said Asenath.”
Blinking, Paul nodded slowly, looking at Gordon and then back to Isaac. “Uh, yeah. Why, you know the name?”
“My Edge vision,” Isaac replied. “Back when we went through the lighthouse, it was… it was the first real thing I saw with all this Heretic stuff. The first real fight, I mean. One of my ancestors, I think he was my great, great granduncle or something, he was on this hunt, and they were ambushed by a vampire that killed him and his entire group. Her name was Asenath.”
The rest of the team looked at each other. Paul shook his head. “Asenath’s a pretty rare name. I mean, it’s not proof or anything, but…” he trailed off, frowning. “Close enough. Wait–wait, that’s it.”
“What?” Jasmine prompted. “What’s it?”
Holding up his hand to forestall more questions for a moment, Paul was silent while obviously thinking. Then he straightened. “Do we have an address in here somewhere?”
“Sure.” Isaac held up a box. “From her dad, supposedly. I think it was more clothes or something. Anyway, there’s a return address.”
“But it’s gotta be fake, right?” Douglas put in. “I mean, if she’s really from Eden’s Garden, why would she have a house somewhere in–what was it?”
“Wyoming,” Isaac supplied. “Laramie Falls, Wyoming.”
“Wyoming,” Douglas finished. “Right, why would she have a house somewhere in Wyoming?”
It was Gordon’s turn to speak up. “As a cover. If they check her backstory, she needs a house and at least one parent. Too suspicious otherwise.”
Paul was nodding. “Yeah. But this is our chance. It sounds like this Asenath is living there, probably some kind of servant bodyguard for the guy posing as her dad. Or maybe he is her dad. I dunno. The point is, all we have to do is get there and get a look at this Asenath. If she’s a vampire, we’ll know. And if Flick has a vampire living in her house, that’s proof that she’s actually working with Eden’s Garden, right? We prove there’s a vampire living there.”
“Before they use that choker to brainwash Roxa, or whatever they’re doing?” Douglas demanded.
Nodding firmly, Paul replied, “Yeah, before they go that far. We have to prove she’s a threat first. Otherwise… they won’t believe us. We get the proof that she’s got a vampire living in her house and we take that to Headmistress Sinclaire.”
“If we can trust her,” Jasmine muttered disbelievingly before adding, “And how do we get to Wyoming?”
Paul smiled slightly. “You leave that part to me. I’ve got an idea. But uh, that’s gonna take a couple days. So first, let’s get out of here.” He looked to Douglas. “You got that part?”
The boy nodded, tugging his pen out. A moment later, he’d used it to summon a simple ladder, leading back up to the room they had come down from.
After Gordon took a moment to check that the space above them was still clear, the others set about leaving the room. They’d retrace their steps, back to the roof and then to the other dorm.
From there, they’d continue finding a way to prove their theory about Flick and Eden’s Garden. And meanwhile, Gordon would continue to try to think of a way to get Flick alone, away from anyone else. Because if she was from Eden’s Garden, there was a very important question he had to ask her.
Where does Eden’s Garden keep their enslaved Hrimthurs? Because one of them is my father, and I will burn both of these goddamn schools to the ground if that’s what it takes to free him.