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Sunderland College [2.5 – The Spider’s Web]

MONDAY

 

“Excited for Testfire Club this week?” asks Cassandra. Jackson turns to her as they finish their maths work; starting the week with General Studies is always quite boring, so Jackson is pleased to have something exciting to talk about.

“Yeah, definitely. What kind of clothing do you think we’ll see today?”

“I dunno.” Cassandra replies. “Probably nothing as cool as the Chillbringer, but I’d love to see more scarf-type things. Did you see Eiden’s new clothing?”

“Oh, that snood thing he keeps banging on about? Yeah, it looks pretty interesting.” Jackson replies. “Oh, yes, what did you get for question 2h?”

“Uh, 25%.” Cassandra says, peering at her work. “Are you only up to 2h?”

“Hey, maths isn’t my strong suit. I prefer english and science… though I’d prefer not having General Studies at all, to be honest.” Jackson replies. Cassandra chuckles.

“I can agree with you there. I’m already up to 4d.” Cassandra says, pointing at the book.

Jackson smirks. “Nerd.”

At the back of the classroom, Boo overhears the conversation and looks down at her own work. She’s finished all 6 questions, parts a-h, and has moved on to the next exercise already. Feeling self-conscious, she lowers her head and gets on with her work.

 

*

 

Over lunch, Donovan, Cassandra, Ten and Jackson are chatting about this and that, but Donovan seems to have his mind elsewhere. Cassandra turns to him.

“Hey, Don, you alright? You seem out of it.”

“Oh, sorry!” Donovan replies. “I was just thinking about… well, it doesn’t matter. The forces of darkness will never reveal their inner thoughts!”

“Of course.” Ten grins. “Anyway, Jackson, don’t you have places to be?”

“Damn, I forgot.” Jackson says, spotting Eiden sitting at a table nearby. “One sec. Thanks for reminding me, Ten.”

Jackson hurries over, carrying his bag of notes and designs, and greets Eiden.

“Hey!”

“Oh, hi. I didn’t want to disturb your conversation.” Eiden says. “Do you, uh…?”

“Of course, let’s get to work!” 

They continue designing Eiden’s mask, exploring the different possibilities of how to work Original Cloth into the mask whilst retaining the life-supporting capabilities. As Jackson explains the ins and outs of design to Eiden, he realises that some of his private designs have been taken out by mistake. He nervously stuffs them into his bag before Eiden can properly see them, and continues with the design of the mask.

“So, if we keep this tank here, we could wrap cloth around, then get a few strands across here like… that.” Eiden says. Jackson studies the design carefully, making minor, but crucial adjustments.

“Remember that we want the flow of power through the clothing to be completely even. You should add some strands here and weave them through like this, then… you see?”

“Oh, it connects on both ends now, perfect.” Eiden says. “Yeah, I get it. Thank you!”

The pair continue designing the mask, and soon, they have a solid idea for how it will work.

“What next?” Eiden says, as he gets ready to leave. “It looks pretty finished.”

“Next? We go to Textiles tomorrow and start testing the design itself. Then if it works, we take the prototype to Romein, and convince him to make it for us. And if that all works out, we can test out a brand-new piece of Battle Clothing.” Jackson says.

“Damn… we’re making history here.” Eiden muses. He gives a faint smile behind the mask.

“Yep. I look forward to it.” Jackson grins.

 

*

 

There are a number of other students who are using the lunchtime to work on the Practise Model Competition. Zaphod and Anastasia are discussing it whilst they eat.

Zaphod looks over the ten or eleven sketches that Anastasia presents.

“Huh… you did this all over the weekend?”

“Yeah!” Anastasia replies, a little sheepishly. “I, uh, got really into it. So, I redesigned your Rocket Heels a little, and I came up with some possibilities of an outfit that would match the heels like so… don’t mind that one. That’s shit.”

Zaphod chuckles, putting the paper to one side. “I’ll take your word for it. This is truly excellent, you know! How am I supposed to choose just one design?”

“Well, these aren’t finished sketches.” Anastasia explains. “We can take elements from different pieces and put them together. Just let me know what you like, what you think would look cool, and all that.”

Over the next twenty minutes, they sort through sketches and begin to plan out a full outfit revolving around the Rocket Heels, so that they can show them off to their full potential.

“Hey,” Anastasia says, whilst she draws. “I was just wondering if I could have some advice. I wanna talk to Aubree more, but I don’t know how to go about it.”

“Oh, Aubree?” Zaphod answers, nodding. “Yeah, I can do that. The best way is to appeal to what you both love – why not show her some of your designs? Perhaps she’ll even have some advice for them, and I’m sure she’ll be excited to see your drawings.”

“I guess so.” Anastasia replies. “I didn’t think of that.”

Time continues to tick by, but before Anastasia can finish the full design for the outfit, the bell rings and students begin to flock out of the lunchroom.

“Oh, damn, it’s the end of lunch.” Zaphod sighs. Anastasia looks at him with a conspiratorial grin.

“We could just… skip General Studies.”

Zaphod chuckles, and begins to pack away the designs. “I’d really love to, Anastasia… I’d love to. Come on, we’re gonna be late.”

 

*

 

In their free period during the afternoon, Eiden and Aubree get a coffee and begin to discuss their battle plan and designs for the Practise Model Competition.

“So, do you have any ideas?”

“Yeah!” Aubree says excitedly. She begins to explain what she’s learnt. “So, I asked about the competition. So, the outfit theme is pretty open for this one, you can do what you like! I guess that’s why Simon never mentioned it.”

“Makes sense for the Practise Competition.” Eiden says.

“Yeah, so we can do what we like, and we only have to do one outfit. Apparently professional competitions have a “finale outfit”, which you change into when you make it to the finals, but we won’t be learning about outfits until term 2 in Performing Arts, so…”

“I see.” Eiden replies. “Alright, then, let’s get to designing an outfit! What were your ideas?”

“You’re sticking with the Spider Snood, right?” asks Aubree. Eiden nods. “Great! OK, so I wanted to go all dark and mysterious, since it would fit the Snood and your mask. I had a couple of design ideas inspired by desert wanderers or something like that…”

As Aubree talks, she begins to sketch, doodling little ideas and trying to get across to Eiden what she means.

“Or we could do a caped vigilante idea, maybe inspired by the kind of stuff Dexter Duvoir used to wear.”

“Yeah, that could be interesting. I want something cool and classy, but also steampunk, kinda?” Eiden says, then looks at his current clothing. “…You probably guessed that.”

“I had an inkling.” giggles Aubree. “Is it because of that new comic you’re reading?”

“Probably. But you don’t understand.” Eiden says, getting out the graphic novel from his bag and riffling through it. “This guy, Guts, is super cool. He has so many moments where he should just die and… he just doesn’t. His desire to live overcomes all opposition. Also his armour is awesome.”

“It sure is.” Aubree replies, peering at a picture of the manga’s protagonist. “I don’t think I can design something like that, though… sorry.”

“No worries.” Eiden replies. “Let’s get on with this design. I like this cloak-coat thing you have going on, what can we do with this?”

The pair continue to chat as they develop the design.

 

*

 

As the sun sets on another day, a group of students stand outside in the cold, watching as Tessa Valleja comes up to start another session of Testfire Club. She’s carrying a plastic bag with her, and as she arrives, she places it on the floor next to the students.

“Alright guys, feel free to put these on. We’re going to be trying out the Marching Sandals today!” Tessa says. Everyone gets a pair of sandals and begins to try them on.

“What do they do?” asks Eiden.

Tessa stands in front of them, without moving, then lifts her hand and a spear materialises out of the ground near the shoe and shoots into her grasp. She hefts it and points it towards the group, then gives a radiant smile.

“The Marching Sandals are styled after Roman sandals, and as such, they let you draw various types of Roman weaponry from the ground! This, for example, is the hasta, a six-foot spear used by most soldiers.”

“No way.” Eiden breathes.

“OK, this is pretty cool.” Cassandra admits with a wry smile. “The Romans had those little swords, right? The gladius?”

As she says the word, a short sword materialises from the ground and shoots up. In surprise, Cassandra misses it, and Aubree catches it.

“Here you go!”

“Thanks.” Cassandra replies, looking at the knife carefully.

“Now then, you guys can’t train with each other, since we don’t have a combat referee on hand. Be careful, alright, I don’t wanna get in trouble because somebody got stabbed…”

The group begin to materialise weapons and play around with them. As like last week, Tessa walks around and explains the ins and outs of the weapon.

“As you can see, there’s a number of weaknesses to this type of Battle Clothing. Firstly, you can only summon one kind of weapon at a time, and you have to dematerialise the old one before you can get a new one… of course, you also can’t summon something you don’t know about. Those more familiar with Roman weaponry will get more out of the Marching Sandals!”

Anastasia brings up a short knife and begins to whirl around; it’s heavier and thicker than the knives from the Garrote Garter, and she finds it quite interesting to try out. Cassandra and Aubree are having fun summoning different weapons, as they both have moderate knowledge of medieval weaponry.

“Yes, yes, that’s good, Jackson. Nice pugio!” Tessa says, clapping. “Please also be aware that the real limit of this Battle Clothing is that it does not give you any skill with the weapon at all. What’s the use of being able to summon any number of weapons if you don’t know how they work? So, if you do choose to go with this piece of Battle Clothing, make sure to practise in PE; you’ll need to be strong and fit to wield these to the best of your ability!”

“I wouldn’t try summoning a crossbow, Eiden; you can’t summon ammo for ranged weaponry, and it’s not like crossbow bolts are easy to find. Nice job, though.”

“The Marching Sandals are supposed to be heavy-duty soldier’s sandals, as well, so I wouldn’t worry about them being damaged. They can withstand a lot, which is a nice bonus! A lot of designers make the Marching Sandals more pretty and less durable, so do take care with what style of sandal you’d want to have. Looks, or strength?”

Eventually, the Testfire Club draws to a close, and all the students excitedly discuss the fun they had playing around with medieval weapons. Tessa waves them off as she gathers the sandals back up.

“Remember, come see me or Romein if you want us to whip you up some Marching Sandals!”

 

TUESDAY

 

Tuesday brings with it the first true sunlight of the winter; not bright, not warm, but present. Feeling slightly less cold and in higher spirits, the students begin the day positively. In the gym, Xilog and Eiden are lifting weights.

“Hey, P.”

“Mm?” Xilog replies, grunting as he tries to lift a weight a little too heavy for him.

“What was that book you were reading yesterday? Looked super interesting.”

Patchworking: A Historic Craft. Yes, it’s been most interesting. There’s a lot of limits to Patchworking, and even in a book as informative as this, the practice is shrouded in secrecy.” Xilog says. He puts down the dumbbell and stops for a drink. Eiden continues to lift his weights.

“Mind if I borrow it at some point?”

“I can give it to you at the end of the day, if you would like.” Xilog says. “I am almost finished. Though, being finished with a book is never when you have finished reading it. A truly good book continues to exist in your mind, dabbing your consciousness with questions that continue to whet the appetite, nay, the thirst of knowledge.”

“Sounds interesting.” says Eiden, who has become used to Xilog’s peculiar manner of speech. “I wanna know all I can about the limits and variations of Battle Clothing.”

 

*

 

The registration for Form A is quite uneventful, but as everyone files out of the classroom, Xilog hangs back.

“Do you need something?” Simon asks, looking up at the boy’s strange glare.

“I was just wondering…” Xilog murmurs. He shrugs. “You were highly effective during the Knock ‘Em Dead Club. It made me think… what could someone do if they wore three patches?”

“Three patches, hm? Well, as you know, your bodies currently cannot handle more than one patch. If you wore another, it’d destroy you, or at the very least be catastrophic to your body. As you grow, adults become capable of wearing two. Three, however, is pretty much a no-go.”

“What about Dampened Patches?” Xilog presses.

Simon gestures as he tries to explain the situation. “Dampened Patches weaken the power of Battle Clothing, yes… but they limit the power of the clothing, not the power drain on your body. It’s still just as painful to wear three Dampened Patches as with any other kind of patch. However…”

Xilog, about to speak, falls silent as Simon muses.

“You know how all clothing has bits of Original Cloth in it?”

“Yes.” Xilog replies.

“Well,” Simon explains. “It’s said that the Egyptians often experimented with making clothing entirely out of Original Cloth. Applying a patch to 100% Original Cloth has… interesting results. The three patches, when applied to Original Cloth, create three legendary pieces of Battle Clothing.”

“What are they?” Xilog asks, with an air of desperation in his voice.

“The Power Patch, applied to Original Cloth, creates the Effervescent Wear.” Simon says. “It increases the user’s bodily strength; increasing it just enough so that the user can wear three pieces of Battle Clothing simultaneously.”

“That’s incredible.” Xilog replies. “Why, I must ask, do we not have these legendary pieces of clothing made in bulk?”

Simon laughs aloud. “I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that, Xilog. You see, weaving too much Original Cloth together – remembering how vitriolic the stuff is – causes it to react violently. There’s almost nobody in the world familiar enough with the cloth to weave it properly. The two remaining pieces of Original Cloth we know of were woven centuries ago, and have become dormant over a long period of time. They’re museum pieces, if I remember correctly.”

“I see.” Xilog murmurs, deep in thought, his brow furrowed. He looks at Simon evenly. “Thank you for informing me.”

“No problem. But aren’t you late for something?”

“Clothing History.” Xilog replies. “Time is but a construct. My lateness does not belie my attitude, and therefore I do not mind. But yes, I shall be off.”

“Yeah, sure.” Simon says, watching Xilog walk away, slightly confused by the young man’s conversation as always.

 

*

 

Xilog makes it to Clothing History before the lesson has properly started, and sits down. As Bradley Wallace puts some notes on the board and everyone begins to copy them down, Xilog fumbles with his jacket.

“Curious. I thought I had a pencil in here…”

Boo sees the opportunity to attempt conversation, and sidles over. “Um…”

Xilog looks at her, and she shrinks away, but presses on.

“Um, I was wondering, if you needed a, uh, well, if you wanted to go for a pencil sometime. Oh! I mean, no, I meant do you need a, uh… pencil. I have one. I mean! I have two, but I have a spare one, that’s, uh, what I meant…”

“It’s fine.” Xilog replies, removing his hand from his jacket. “I found mine. Thank you for the offer, though.”

Blushing hotly with shame and on the verge of tears, Boo sits back down and remains silent for the rest of the lesson, taking her notes carefully, not making eye contact with anyone.

At the back of the class, Phillis and Clocksworth have taken relatively inoffensive notes, nothing in particular detail, and are lounging around. Clocksworth rubs her trousers and releases a tiny shockwave of sound, giggling.

“Man, these Vibe Bottoms are fucking hilarious.”

“They’re gaudy as hell.” mutters Phillis.

“I like gaudy.” Clocksworth replies. “Gotta have a little bit of style, right? Though I suppose following fashion isn’t much use for you…”

“Not really, no.” Phillis says.

Near the front of the class, Aubree looks over at Anastasia’s work.

“Oh, I didn’t know the inventor of the Berserk Armour was a piece of Battle Clothing.” she says, grinning. Anastasia sighs.

“Yeah, alright, you caught me doodling. I’m meeting Zaphod at lunch again, and I wanted to try and finish this design… oh, um, what do you think?”

“Oh, cool…” Aubree says, fawning over the designs. “I like it! The cape is a super neat touch, I cannot wait to see what it’ll be like with the Rocket Heels.”

“Thank you!” Anastasia replies. “Do you think this design is gonna look flashy on Zaphod?”

“Definitely.” Aubree giggles. “I can see it already!”

“Excuse me…” says Bradley, sat at the front of the classroom reading whilst the group are taking notes. “If we’re finished with the notes on Berserk Armour, move on to the next section, please.”

“Sorry!” squeaks Aubree. Anastasia grins at her, and the girls try to stifle their laughs as they continue to share design ideas in complete silence.

 

*

 

Marion Summer, teacher of Combat Training, gathers Form B and begins to arrange the combatants into groups. Nobody is particularly awake, and Marion decides to try and wake them up with some tough fights. Standing to one side is Mike Manilow, the combat referee for the day, also struggling to keep his eyes open.

“Alright, to start things off today, we’ll have a match between… hm… Zaphod! And… hmm… Anastasia!”

Zaphod and Anastasia stand in the arena, and Anastasia prepares the Garrote Garter, drawing a long knife, whilst Zaphod charges up the Rocket Heels.

“Go!”

 Zaphod immediately launches himself at Anastasia, but she dodges out of the way, trying to slash at him. He moves past her too quickly, and has to land just on the edge of the arena, just within the bounds. Anastasia, pushing herself harder due to her poor recent performances, immediately follows up on the offensive by launching a knife and forcing Zaphod to dodge. As he does, she charges into him and sends him sprawling to the floor outside the bounds of the arena.

“Nice work, Anastasia! Excellent punishment of weakness.” Marion says, nodding with approval. “Zaphod, you’re strong and you have good movement with the Rocket Heels, but remember that you need to learn precision – if you’re going to be risky and launch yourself right at someone, you need a backup plan in case you miss. Alright?”

“Alright.” Zaphod says, standing up and brushing himself down. He isn’t too disheartened by the loss, and excitedly starts chattering to Anastasia about possible ways that he could change his battle strategy.

“Next up, Phillis and Eiden!”

Eiden steps onto the field, still using the Spider Snood, and Phillis walks on with quiet confidence, wearing nothing as usual.

“Begin!” Marion calls. Like that, Eiden comes to life, skittering across the field using the eight tendrils of the Spider Snood, before leaping at Phillis and wrapping two tendrils around each of his arms. Phillis grins, and uses his brute strength to whirl Eiden around, almost forcing him out of the arena.

Eiden pushes himself forward to avoid being dragged out, but comes into range of Phillis, who grabs him by the neck and slams him into the floor; the force of the blow confuses Eiden briefly, and the spidery tendrils around Phillis’ arms loosen and drop away. Phillis leans back to deliver a punch, but Eiden comes to his senses and grabs Phillis’ stomach with six of his tendrils, using the other two to push the bigger figure over, sending him crashing to the ground.

To follow up, Eiden begins to pummel Phillis, hoping to knock him unconscious rather than drag his hefty form out of the arena. Phillis is unfazed by the light punches of the snood’s tentacles, and reaches out towards Eiden with victory in his eyes. He begins to pull on a small part of the Spider Snood, where a tiny patch is woven into the fabric.

Eiden’s scream echoes through the grounds of the college, and as Phillis pulls, Eiden continues to writhe in pain; the Spider Snood is fluctuating wildly between active and inactive, and Eiden is trying desperately to escape from Phillis’ grasp.

Marion’s face goes white.

“He’s going for the patch… my god. Mike! Mike!”

Mike immediately acts, launching a grappling hook at Phillis and dragging him away from the smaller boy, who lies on the floor, his manic clothing still fluctuating and shifting as he cries out in pain. Marion walks over to Phillis, issuing commands.

“Class, stay here and talk amongst yourselves! Mike, get Eiden to the nurse immediately, he might suffer permanent damage if we don’t act fast. And Phillis.” she says, giving him a glare of such righteous fury that it would make a strong man cower. “You’re coming with me.”

The class are left in a stunned silence as Eiden is carried away by Mike, and Marion and Phillis disappear into the halls of the college.

“What… what was that?” Aubree whispers.

“Marking.” Clocksworth says, tilting his head and keeping his eyes downcast. “If your patch is destroyed or removed whilst you’re wearing clothes, it’ll cause serious damage along your body and make you Marked. If you’re Marked, you can never wear Battle Clothing or use its powers again.”

With a horrified glance towards the college, where Eiden is somewhere being treated, everyone thinks on the dire consequences of becoming Marked.

 

*

 

“In! Go!” Marion says furiously, shoving Phillis towards a foreboding office. Phillis sighs, and opens the door, to reveal the kindly face and smart tuxedo of Maxwell Pinnacle.

“Ah, Phillis Singen-Stevens, isn’t it?” Pinnacle asks. Phillis sits down and nods, somewhat surprised by the fact that the headmaster knows his name and isn’t fazed by his nudity. “Yes, I thought you would be visiting here sooner or later. I’m sorry to hear about your father.”

“We weren’t close.” Phillis replies, looking away.

“That does not ease your pain, though.” Pinnacle says. “I must ask, though, that you do not release your anger over the weekend’s news on our students.”

“…Ngh.” Phillis grunts. Pinnacle nods understandingly.

“I know a little of your recent history. You are fighting a battle that nobody here will ever understand, and I know that it will be a difficult one. But the students here are also fighting battles. We must support one another, not tear each other apart.”

Phillis remains silent.

“Would the world be a better place if everyone was Marked?”

Silence.

“If everyone could wear whatever clothing they wanted, and none of it gave you special powers? Is that a world that you would want to create?”

“I… don’t know.” Phillis says. “Maybe. I’ll… I’ll go apologise to him, alright?”

“That would be a good idea. If you have indeed made him Marked, you will have ruined his life. I would not wish a severe punishment on a student with as difficult a life as you, but… I would have to act.”

Phillis stares at the floor. 

“However, given the nature of your situation, I have elected not to inform the authorities. We shall sort this out in-house. Now then… let us see to him.”

“…Alright.” Phillis mutters. Following Pinnacle’s lead, he walks out of the room.

 

*

 

“Eiden!” Cassandra exclaims as she seems him walk into Book Club. “I was so worried, did-”

“I’m fine.” Eiden says. “They stabilised the patch easily enough, and I wasn’t in any real danger of being Marked. The headmaster and Phillis came to apologise, too.”

“Really?” Xilog murmurs. “What did he say?”

“That’s between me and him.” Eiden replies. “Now then… let’s talk about the book.”

“Excellent idea.” Bradley says, smiling. “What did we think?”

“I’ll start. I absolutely loved it, and I read every word!” Zaphod says, getting out the book and flicking through the pages. “The bit with the Viscount Hereford and his treacherous maid, and then the Curse Silhouette monster? The history was so cool, and I had no idea!”

Bradley chuckles. “Yes, I thought you might enjoy it.”

“Absolutely fascinating. I hope June Sunderland comes to visit!” Zaphod says.

“Oh, yeah, she seems awesome! I had no idea that she was so involved with the college, though I’d heard the name.” Eiden replies.

“I… found it interesting. I must confess that I was unable to finish it.” Xilog says. “I did find the mention of the secret classroom most curious.”

“Oh, yeah, what’s that about?” Cassandra asks. “I did a lot of research on this book; it was important that I checked a few details. But I never found much of a mention of the secret classroom of Barrett.”

“It is a widely-believed thing.” Bradley says. “That said, not many have ever found it. Lenore never explained where it was after it was sealed up, and in fact, most people who did know about it were sworn to some kind of secrecy. We are unsure why.”

“Intriguing.” murmurs Xilog.

“However, you will be interested to hear that every Hallowe’en, there’s a little hunt for it.” Bradley continues, beaming at the students. “The students get together and look all over the school, trying to find this hidden classroom. We always promise a reward to those who locate it, but… it has not been found.”

Over the next hour, the group discuss the book at length, before Bradley ends the Book Club by holding up another book, which looks a little thicker and sports a beautiful cover.

“Next week, we’ll be discussing the next book – Patches For Gods: Folklore From Around The World. I think you’ll like it a lot. See you all then!”

The group file out, chatting about the new book and wondering what stories it will tell. Cassandra remains behind, and walks up to Bradley.

“Could I talk to you? About the book?”

“Of course.” Bradley replies. “Ah. We spoke on the taster day, didn’t we?”

“Yes.” Cassandra replies. “Elizabeth… she won the ICBC. That helped her become a Bombardier, right?”

“You wish to follow in her footsteps? Taking inspiration from past Bombardiers is certainly a good idea.”

“I thought so.” Cassandra replies. “I researched Estelle and Simon, too.”

“Hm… well, yes. I taught Elizabeth, as it happens.”

“You did?” Cassandra asks, trying to make her excitement less obvious. “Should I enter the ICBC this year? What was she like?”

“In terms of the ICBC, I would wait and see. It takes place after exams, so I would make sure that you pass your exams. If you pass them well enough, you may be eligible for entry. And Elizabeth herself..? Well, she was fiercely protective. She met a boy named Charles in her second term, and they became fast friends.”

Cassandra listens quietly.

“He was nervous, and unsure of himself. Elizabeth was incredibly strong-willed and defended him whenever people would make fun of him. Eventually she grew his confidence to the point that he became truly able to handle himself on the battlefield, and as such, he would end up passing his first-year exams and joining her on the Bombardier course in his second year. They were inseparable, and eventually… well, I’m sure you can imagine.”

“Mm.” Cassandra replies, nodding. “Did you teach Simon as well?”

“I did.” chuckles Bradley. “Unfortunately, my dear, I have to attend to some matters in my office before I finish for the day. Perhaps we can continue this conversation another time.”

“Of course.” Cassandra says.

Bradley begins to walk away, leaving Cassandra to muse on the Bombardiers that came before her, wondering whether she will ever match up to them.

 

WEDNESDAY

 

In the gym, early on Wednesday morning, Cassandra and Phillis are doing their usual routine. Phillis is feeling unusual after the events of the previous day, and listening to Cassandra talk about gossip and nothing in particular is beginning to ease his mind as he strains his body.

“That history book… you really should give it a read.”

“Mm?” Phillis grunts.

“The book!” Cassandra replies. “It has some interesting details on Silhouette Patch monsters, I thought you might be interested to read about it. Uh… maybe not.”

“Maybe not.” mutters Phillis, continuing to exercise. Cassandra senses a tension in the room and wisely decides to remain quiet.

 

*

 

Form B are waiting for Mia, and Aubree turns to Clocksworth as the class make conversation.

“Hey, Clocksworth, I was wondering…” she says.

“Oh, uh, what?” Clocksworth mutters. He looks nervous.

“You were so flamboyant and confident at Dance Club last week.” Aubree says, her eyes shining with admiration. “I want to get better at dancing and performing, so I was wondering if you could give me a bit of advice on that some time? Maybe next Dance Club?”

“Oh.” Clocksworth says. “Yeah. Yeah, I could do that.”

“Thank you!” Aubree replies. “I mean, I’m a designer for this competition, so I need to focus on that, but I thought I should also train my performing skills.”

“Designing will be tough.” Clocksworth says, shrugging. His tone indicates that he doesn’t want to continue conversation, so Aubree turns to Zaphod, Eiden and Anastasia to discuss all the homework they’ve yet to do and their burgeoning plans for the Practice Model Competition.

After Mia arrives and performs registration, the class exit, ready to face their day, but Clocksworth walks up to Mia with a casual strut.

“Heya.” she says.

“What do you need?” Mia asks, smiling.

“I was just wondering if you were, like, free over the next few weeks. I wanna enter the Model Competition, but I’d rather not work with a designer I don’t know, and everyone kinda paired off already. You want to get together sometime and… work out some designs?”

“Oh.” Mia says, slightly taken aback. “Well, Clocksworth, I would certainly be happy to help you out. I can’t promise I’m the best designer; haven’t done it since I was in college myself, but sure. I can’t meet you out of college time, though, you understand?”

“I hear ya loud and clear,” Clocksworth replies, pointing finger guns at her as he begins to walk away. “See you at lunch!”

“Oh, heavens…” Mia murmurs as she walks away. “Need to keep my eye on that one.”

Walking down the corridor to get a coffee, Clocksworth encounters Donovan.

“Hey there, meister of evil.” she says, winking.

“Ah, it’s you!” Donovan replies. “Tell me, temptress, what are you doing at lunch? I have… a mighty urge to conquer.”

“Conquer?” asks Clocksworth.

“You own a Phantom Overcoat, correct? Even if you aren’t wearing it now.”

“Yup.” Clocksworth says, shrugging.

Donovan punches the air. “Yes! My plan is coming into place! I wish to defeat Simon in the Knock ‘Em Dead Club come Friday, but I must practise against the Phantom Overcoat to do so. Do you wish to be the agent who provides this crucial piece of the puzzle?”

“Sure, I can probably manage that.” Clocksworth replies. “Busy at lunch, but I’m free in the afternoon.”

“Excellent!” Donovan crows. “Excellent indeed, my young protégé! I shall see you then!”

“This afternoon, yeah?”

“Sounds good!” Donovan says. “Bring your strongest spirit, for I shall be trying my utmost to crush it for good!”

 

*

 

In their free period, Zaphod and Anastasia decide to head to the library to work on their designs in a more quiet environment. They eventually settle on a solid design and begin to plan it out, and by the middle of the period, Zaphod has fully decided on what he wants Anastasia to make.

“I guess we can get started in Textiles Club, then.” Anastasia replies, staring at the designs and trying to imagine how the fabric will work in a 3D space.

“I’m pleased that we’re making such fast progress!” Zaphod replies. “It only befits my status as a winner, really.”

“Sure.” Anastasia smirks. “Let’s get a coffee, shall we? I’m pretty tired out after that.”

Upstairs, in the lunchroom, Cassandra spots Boo sat on her own doing some work, and decides to go over to her.

“Hey.” she says. Boo looks up nervously.

“Uh. Hi.” she replies. She quickly goes back to her work.

Cassandra sits beside her and looks over. “Oh, you’re finishing the physics homework for General Studies.”

“Yeah.”

There’s a moment of silence. Cassandra realises that a conversation is not going to be made so easily, and she shrugs. “Uh, I got you a coffee. I don’t know if you drink coffee?”

“I do.” Boo says. “Um, thank you.”

She takes the coffee and sips it appreciatively, then continues her work. However, she doesn’t seem entirely unopposed to having Cassandra’s company, and for the rest of the free period, the pair sit in a mildly comfortable silence.

 

*

 

The Physical Education group gather outside, shivering in their shorts as Andy Yates, their Physical Education teacher, grins confidently at them.

“Alright, everyone. I know Combat Training’s been tough this week, so we’re gonna have a bit more of a relaxed lesson today. Twenty minutes of jogging outside and exercise, and then I’ll give you forty minutes in the gym to do whatever you want, alright?”

“Sounds good to me!” Ten grins.

“Right then! The faster you lap this college and do your exercise, the faster we can all be inside in the warm!” Andy says, and he points in the direction he wants them to run. With surprising vigour for a cold Wednesday morning, the group set off dashing. As usual, Boo and Cassandra pull out ahead of the pack, whilst Donovan, Clocksworth and Jackson busily try not to fall behind the rest of the class.

Clocksworth narrows his eyes. “There’s something wrong…” he mutters.

Moments later, there’s a loud crash, and the students turn to see three ominous figures get blasted over the high outer wall of the college. Two of the figures run off, but one of them remains standing in front of the class. He’s tall and imposing, and he grins at the group.

“Well, hello.” he says. “We’re sorry to intrude! Now, if you’ll just line up against the wall and stay there until I’ve finished my work, that’d be excellent.”

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” Andy says, running to catch up with the class.

The man shoots finger guns. “Well, I can’t speak for my compatriots, but my name is Carlton Drugi, one of the top three agents of Aranea.”

This reveal brings a chilling silence with it, and Carlton gives a soulless smile to the shocked class members. He brings a small device out of his pocket, with several wires hanging loosely from it, and holds it aloft.

“Don’t worry, we’re not here to kill you or anything like that. Just here to cause a little chaos, scare a few parents, and blow up the college. Simple, really.”

 

*

 

A thunderous kick sends the door to the Performing Arts room flying open, and a woman walks in. She lifts her hand, and fabric pinned on the walls of the room, in the drawers and stored in cupboards bursts to life and begins to constrict every student where they stand. With another push of her hand, the students wrapped in fabric are forced to the opposite wall, unable to escape their bonds, with Aubree amongst them. Louisa Lefay stares in horror at the figure.

The woman gives the classroom a disinterested glance.

“Corrine Primero. Aranea Agent 01. I was… informed, that you, Ms. Lefay, are one of the more troublesome teachers here. I have been ordered to stop you. The children will not be harmed… unless they do something to irritate me.”

Louisa, in panic, looks at her students, trapped in their bonds of fabric and turns back to Corrine in worry.

“I’m sure the news has already spread.” Corrine says. “Someone will have called the Peacekeepers. But they take on average… seven minutes to arrive on the scene. We will be… long gone by then, our mission complete.”

“Absolutely not.” Louisa says, standing her ground.

 

*

 

“Well, hello, students!” comes a cry from the middle of the lunchroom. Xilog, Jackson, Zaphod, Eiden and Anastasia are just in the middle of a coffee when they see an unknown figure beginning to laugh maniacally as the students around her are forced to bow.

“Absolutely not.” Eiden mutters, leaping towards the woman. With a laugh, however, she lifts a hand and Eiden’s body stops, completely out of his control.

“Oh, you really did try. Bless you. But everyone in this room is my puppet now.” the woman laughs, and Xilog, Jackson and Anastasia are forced to bow alongside Eiden. “Don’t worry, though! I’m not here to hurt you unless you happen to hurt me. I’m just gonna place a little device on this here wall, wait about three minutes, and maybe your parents will think twice about letting you attend a school for Battle Clothing.”

“Who are you?” a student asks. The woman laughs.

“My name, huh? I’m Cecille Tertium, the third agent of Aranea. I’m sure you’ve heard of our work.” Cecille says, walking to the nearest table and standing on it, smiling in awe as she sees a room full of students under her control.

“Wh… what’s happening?” Xilog forces out, struggling against Cecille’s control. Jackson has gone white.

“The Blood-Pact Bloomers.” he murmurs. “It has to be. They… let you control blood. And therefore… us.”

“How are we supposed… to beat that, when she can literally puppeteer our blood?” Eiden says. Jackson sighs.

“I… don’t know.” he replies. “I can’t remember what the weakness of the Blood-Pact Bloomers are. Come on, brain, come on…”

Zaphod stares at his friends, and kneels beside them, but it is willingly. He is not under Cecille’s control, but he goes along with it as not to draw attention to himself yet. Wracking his brain, he tries to think of a way to defeat the Aranea agent, currently strutting with satisfaction on the table.

 

New Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 082] Marching Sandals

Formation: Sandals + Power Patch

Effect: Allows user to draw Roman weaponry and use it

Drawback: Grants user no skill, they must learn to use the weapons themselves

 

[No. 054] Command Jeans

Formation: Jeans + Augment Patch

Effect: User can control normal clothing and fabric

Drawback: Clothing being worn can only be controlled with wearer’s permission

 

[No. 091] Blood-Pact Bloomers

Formation: Knickers + Power Patch

Effect: Allows user to control and manipulate blood

Drawback: Cannot control own blood or blood that matches user’s blood type

Sunderland College [2.4 - A Date with Dance]
Sunderland College [2.6 - Demands From Aranea]

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