Rss

  • youtube

Sunderland College [4.5 – Gascoine’s Playthings]

“We’ll let you know if we see anything, officer.” says Eiden after a moment. “Do you know what they look like?”

“We have brief physical descriptions. We’re familiar with the teachers of this college, so we’ll know if anybody stands out.” Mustang says.

“Right.” Eiden says, mentally cursing – he was going to use their lack of knowledge against them, but they’ve come quite well-informed. “Well, we’ll get going.”

“Yes, we should do that.” Xilog replies. The pair back away slowly, then begin to stroll away as fast as possible.

Mustang and Magnum look at one another.

“That was odd.” remarks Mustang.

“We probably scared ‘em.” Magnum says. “They seem on edge, and obviously they know something about the intruders. Let’s follow ‘em.”

“Standard procedure, Ruby. We need to secure the area first. Check the other ground floor entrances.” Mustang admonishes. “I called ahead, too; we need to meet with the most senior adult here, which is the principal’s assistant at the moment. Come on.”

“With you, chief.”

Xilog and Eiden race around the college, trying to find their compatriots in the darkness. Eventually, they gather the crew in an empty classroom on the second floor.

“Lucas, Elysia, you gotta go. The police are here.”

“What? The police?” asks Lucas.

“I heard someone mention that two police officers arrived.” Jackson says.

“Yes, we spoke to them.” Xilog replies. “They received an anonymous tip-off that two people were planning to gain unlawful access to the college. Those two people? Lucas Gloom and Elysia Prim.”

It dawns on everyone there what this means as the statement hangs awkwardly in the air.

“My god. We’re idiots.” Lucas mutters. “How did I not see this coming?!”

“What?” Eiden asks. “Did Ellis turn you two in?”

“Eiden! Who do you think my mother is?” snaps Aubree. She’s unhappy at the accusation, especially against someone who isn’t there to defend themselves.

“No, come on; it’s more obvious than that.” Xilog replies, looking at Elysia and Lucas. “The tip-off is likely to have been Axis himself.”

“Absolutely. Blast!” says Lucas.

“How fun.” sighs Lee.

“It all seems so tiresomely predictable, looking at it now.” Elysia sighs. “Gascoine knows that Hallowe’en is an important date for all of us, due to what happened in our past on that date. We guessed that he would attack the college on this date due to its significance.”

“But no, he wouldn’t, because he’s aware that we would predict it. We know it’s significant – he knew it’d be the one night where we’d be on our guards the most.” Lucas says.

“Of course.” Aubree murmurs. “If he wants to succeed, what he really wants to do is attack on a random day, when we can’t predict his arrival.”

“So he’s not coming tonight?” Eiden asks.

“Very unlikely, if he’s pulled this stunt with the police. Thanks to your advance warning, though, we can still get away without being caught. Still… I don’t like this. We can’t enter the college generally due to increased security, but if we don’t know when Gascoine is going to attack, then…”

“It’s up to us.” Anastasia says.

“That’s the long and the short of it, yes.” Elysia says. “You’re always in the college, and you’re all pretty competent kids. At the very least, you should be able to hold Gascoine off long enough for either us or the Peacekeepers to arrive.”

“Elysia, we can’t ask them to-”

“We don’t have a choice.” says Elysia fiercely, shutting Lucas up with a glare.

“…I suppose not. Can we ask this task of you all? If Axis Gascoine ever attacks this college, can you defend it?”

“Of course.” say Aubree and Eiden without hesitation. Lee just shrugs. Xilog nods, as does Jackson. Anastasia nods after everyone else.

“Thank you. Now then, we’d better go. It seems we’ll be wanted shortly.” Lucas says.

“Wait, can we get your mobile numbers?” Eiden asks. “Might be handy to keep in contact in case he does show up tonight, and for any events in the future.”

“Elysia doesn’t have a phone,” Lucas says, proffering his. “But you can take my number.”

Soon, the numbers have been exchanged, and Lucas and Elysia exit the classroom, planning their escape. The rest of the students sit in the room in stunned silence.

“What now?” Lee asks.

“I have absolutely no idea.” Eiden mutters.

 

*

 

Cassandra sighs and leans on her faux hammer.

“Ugh, we’re finding nothing.”

“What did you expect? Nobody’s ever found it. I’d be surprised to find it doesn’t exist, honestly. Still a good excuse for a party though.” Ten replies.

“We must continue our search, though! We shall be the ones destined to find the classroom!” Donovan says.

Phillis, lurking in the shadows nearby, watches the conversation.

“Say,” Cassandra replies. “The principal’s office is locked, right?”

“Yeah. Pinnacle probably doesn’t want the students going through all of his documents.” Ten says.

“But what about the window? Could we get through that way?”

“Isn’t the window on the outside of the building? One floor up? That’s quite a conundrum, even for students as competent as us!” Donovan says.

Cassandra nods, but then points at a group of students walking down the corridor.

“I’m not thinking us. I’m thinking Zaphod.”

“Hey, Zaphod!” Ten calls. Zaphod turns and walks over to them.

“Heya, chums! I was looking for Anastasia, but I’ve really no idea where she got to. What do you need?”

“We’re thinking that your Rocket Heels can let us ascend to the window of Pinnacle’s office and find the secrets hidden within. Will you join us in a dark pact?” Donovan asks.

Zaphod shrugs blithely. “Yeah, sure. Happy to help!”

“Didn’t even faze him.” smirks Phillis to himself. “He really is the male equivalent of a blonde bimbo.”

It doesn’t take long for Cassandra’s party to make their way outside the building, round to the side where the window leading to Pinnacle’s office can be seen.

“I can only jump, like, a couple of times. That’s one jump to open the window, then a few more to lift people up to it.” Zaphod explains as he looks at the window. “So! Who’s going up?”

“Well, if I dissipate my clones, I’ll lose the excellent costumes.” Donovan muses. “I must stay behind!”

“Me and Cass should go.” Phillis says. “I’ve been inside the office before, I can find my way in the dark. And it was Cassandra’s idea.”

“I suppose.” Ten replies, shrugging. “How are you two going to get back down?”

“Uh, I hadn’t thought about that.” Zaphod says.

“We’ll exit out the door.” Phillis replies. “It locks from the inside, so we can just open it and let ourselves out.”

“Alright, sounds good.” Zaphod replies. “Let’s do it!”

Several minutes later, after some scary jumps from Zaphod’s grasp to the window ledge, Cassandra and Phillis are inside the office of Maxwell Pinnacle.

“I’ve never seen this place.” whispers Cassandra, looking around and investigating anything remotely suspicious. “When did you come here?

“It was after that incident with Eiden.”

“Ah. That.” Cassandra replies. “Yeah, I remember that. I’m surprised we didn’t get in equal trouble for that sixty-foot ice thing.”

“The terrorists were probably more of a priority.” says Phillis, shrugging. “Besides, nobody could even explain how we did that, let alone punish us for it.”

“True. It was pretty incredible – we can do that consistently, right?”

“Pretty sure we can. What is it, our fucking special move?” replies Phillis, picking up a photograph of a woman and girl on Pinnacle’s desk, then putting it down again.

“Heh. Sounds like the kind of move a Bombardier would have – most of them do come up with their own finishers or whatever, don’t they?”

“Permafrost Overdrive.” Phillis suggests sarcastically, but Cassandra chooses to ignore the sarcasm.

“Sounds good to me.” she says, smirking. “It’s a hell of a finisher, I’ll give you that.”

“Let’s just keep looking.” Phillis sighs.

 

*

 

Finding nothing of use in his exploration, Donovan sighs and gets bored. It’s no fun without friends to play off, and Donovan is feeling lonely, despite the three clones following him around. Eventually, he dissipates the clones and continues to search fruitlessly, wondering when Cassandra and Phillis will be done in the office.

A pang of jealously hits him as he thinks about Phillis.

“She can’t… not him, surely?” he murmurs to himself. “He’s an animal! He doesn’t even believe in Battle Clothing! And yet…”

With a sick feeling settling in his stomach, Donovan dissipates his clones so he can walk alone. He’s just about to start brooding when Zaphod appears behind him.

“Hey friend! How’s it going?”

“Oh, Zaphod.” Donovan says morosely. “The force of evil are at work in this college, I can tell you that.”

The pair continue to walk as Zaphod listens to Donovan’s woes.

 

*

 

Magnum and Mustang spot two figures moving around in Pinnacle’s office.

“Suspicious. It’s supposed to be locked.” Mustang says.

“We can’t take that chance, chief. The intruders could be anywhere – we at least have to verify identity.”

“You’re right, Ruby. Move in as you will. You can handle it yourself, I assume?”

“What kinda backwater copper do you take me for? I’ll handle this just fine alone, as I’ve always been.” Magnum says, readying her clothing.

Mustang nods. “Right. I’ll see if I can find out anything from the teachers.”

He walks off, and Magnum approaches the office.

“Anyone in there?”

Cassandra and Phillis freeze on the other side of the door.

“A teacher?” whispers Cassandra.

“Do you recognise that voice?” hisses Phillis. “That’s someone else entirely.”

Magnum knocks on the door. “I’m coming in unless you reveal yourselves. Police!”

“Police?!” says Cassandra quietly.

“Don’t trust them. I don’t like this.”

“I’m coming in!” shouts Magnum. The shout alerts Ten, who just arrived on the first floor. She watches in horror as Magnum kicks Pinnacle’s door, and a gigantic blast of ice thunders out of the room, coupled with the yell, “Permafrost Overdrive!”

“Oh, they fucked up.” Ten mutters, watching the infuriated Inspector Magnum struggle vainly against the ice. She runs up to the officer. “So sorry, officer. It looks like you ended up being the target.”

Cassandra and Phillis exit the office, clambering past the spear of ice.

“Target?” asks Magnum. Ten nods.

“I believe my friends here were gonna prank me when I went past the office. You got there first though, so…”

“Friggin’ anklebiters.” sighs Magnum, watching as a sheepish Cassandra dissipates the ice slowly. “I’ll overlook it this once, but be more careful with your ‘pranks’ in future. I have work to be doing.”

Magnum stalks off haughtily the moment the ice is gone, and Cassandra breathes a long sigh of relief. “Thanks, Ten. That was almost really bad.”

“No kidding.” sighs Ten. “Did you find anything?”

Phillis shrugs. “No. Let’s look elsewhere.”

 

*

 

As Eiden and Aubree’s group walk through the college, Xilog looks up and taps Aubree on the shoulder, having realised something important.

“…Does your mother know where the hidden classroom is?” Xilog asks.

Aubree turns to him. “No. Nobody’s found it in all these years, after all…”

“What are you getting at, Xilog?” Eiden asks.

“Well, it seems unreasonable to assume that the piece of clothing your mother wanted to protect is hidden in the hidden classroom. After all, she can’t hide it in there if she doesn’t know where it is.”

“That’s a surprisingly good point.” Lee says, nodding. “I mean, clothing isn’t very hard to hide if you’re well-connected. Get a Patchworker to take the patch off and hey presto, ordinary clothing.”

Eiden looks up, eyes widening. “Lee, that’s it. That’s it! That’s why Ellis hid it in Sunderland – it wasn’t because of the hidden classroom, but because of Romein!”

“What?” Jackson asks.

“Lee and Xilog, you just made me realise: Ellis simply got Romein to remove the Patch! All you’re left with is a piece of Original Cloth, which can easily be hidden literally anywhere!”

“Of course!” Aubree yelps, leaping up and hugging Eiden. “You did it! Of course, if it is hidden like that, it explains why my mother said it was impossible to find.”

Xilog walks away, slipping into the darkness as the group consider their finding.

“No wonder I couldn’t sense Ra’s Toga.” Lee sighs. “Because it wasn’t here: the components were. God damn, gotta give props for ingenuity.”

“Right.” Eiden says. “Now we’re confident that we know how it’s been hidden, let’s see if we can find it!”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” replies Aubree. “My mum said it was safe, and it seems pretty safe to me. Even if this Gascoine guy gets in, he’s not gonna find it. Let’s just leave it!”

“Come on, Eiden. If we find the Original Cloth and patch it to become Ra’s Toga, we’re just helping Gascoine at that point. He’s played with us enough for today – let’s just leave it.” Jackson replies. “Besides, we’re here to find the secret classroom, to be fair.”

Eiden relents for now. “At least it’s safe. I’ll let Lucas and Elysia know.”

“And for the rest of the evening, let’s actually relax, OK?” Anastasia says. “Let’s check around for any hidden switches on the first floor. Maybe we can even get into the basement if we’re sneaky!”

 

*

 

Xilog spots Boo and heads over to her.

“Hey, Boo.”

“Ahh!” Boo yelps. “Oh, sorry… you startled me.”

“I’m not even in costume.” Xilog sighs. “Anyway, I’ve been… thinking, lately. About what we talked about.”

“Oh. That.” Boo murmurs.

“The hunt and the confusion of this evening has shown me the uncertainty in my own mind. I don’t think it would be morally acceptable for me to engage in a relationship with you when I haven’t dealt with my demons. I want to be friends with you. But to bare my soul any further than that… it’ll require time.” Xilog says, choosing his words very carefully.

“I see.”

“Can we still be friends?”

“…Yes.” Boo says quietly, glad that the ghost costume is hiding the tears bubbling up in her eyes. “I’ll wait, P.”

“I’ll do what I can.” Xilog replies. He nods, then turns to walk away. “…Thank you, Boo.”

Boo watches Xilog go, and for the first time, feels a pain in her chest, constricting and tightening. She breathes in and out, leans against a wall, and tries not to cry.

She does not succeed.

 

*

 

Cassandra, Ten and Phillis run into Eiden and Aubree’s group later, and the group decide to pool their efforts.

“The basement? Sounds interesting. Let’s see if a few of us can sneak down!” Cassandra says.

“Hey, Jackson. Thanks for your help tonight.” Eiden says as they walk. Jackson nods.

“No worries. We’re friends, right?”

“Right.” Eiden replies. “I’d like to get to know you more, though.”

“Well, ask away.” Jackson says, with a quick smile.

“One thing I was wondering, actually… you’re an excellent designer and an even better model. Which of the two do you plan to become in the future?”

“I was wondering that too!” Aubree says, joining the group. Jackson nods.

“It’s a valid enough question. Well, design is the most important thing to me.” he replies. “I model because I don’t have the money to hire my own models yet. But once I earn some money by winning some modelling competitions, and get recognised for my designs, I’m going to start my own brand.”

“Your own brand? You’re thinking big, huh?” Eiden replies. “Challenging the greats?”

“Exactly that.”

“I want to do the same!” Aubree says excitedly, getting quite into Jackson’s face. “Lindsey Stunne is… so dull and tired. I want to topple her fashion monopoly, if I can, with clothing that’s unique and interesting!”

Jackson is somewhat surprised by Aubree’s determination.

“Huh. Perhaps we’ll end up being business rivals.”

“Or partners!” Aubree replies, winking. Eiden pretends not to hear her.

“I mean, the next competition is coming up soon.” Jackson says. “I’m entering alone again. You two gonna be a pair?”

“I…” Aubree mutters, her face falling. “I actually wanted to compete this time.”

“Ah, I see.” Eiden says. He reacts quite well. “I mean, you two are competent enough that you can enter for both model and designer. If I want to compete though, I need a designer.”

“Mm.” Jackson replies. “I mean, there’s no shortage of students willing to help, really.”

“I was going to say, second years are allowed this time round.” Lee replies, turning around after overhearing the conversation. “I’m not Louisa’s favourite for nothin’. If you wanna win, I’m happy to design you something.”

“I think we all need a bit more time to think about it. We still have a week before we have to submit applications, of course.” Eiden replies. “But I’ll be intrigued to see how many of us enter!”

Boo, listening in on the conversation as she walks at the front with Cassandra, wonders if she can convince anyone to be her designer. She’s too nervous to speak up, however, and continues walking.

“Hey, Phillis.” Ten says, speeding up her gait to walk alongside the naked figure.

“Mm?”

“That ice thing you did with Cassandra… do you still not know how you can do that?”

“I don’t.” Phillis replies.

“How did you know to do it the first time?”

“It was… a distant memory.” Phillis says. For a moment, he wonders why he’s sharing something so deep and personal, but for some reason, he feels like he can trust Ten. “Not a mental memory. More like… muscle memory, I guess. It was instinct, to grab her, and give her my power.”

“Huh. That’s kind of interesting, from a psychological perspective. So the tattoo, is that the source of it?”

“No.” Phillis replies. “It just helps me focus that energy, I think. When I went to the tattoo place, I was intending to get a skull and crossbones… and then the minute they asked me what I wanted, I blurted out ‘Power Patch’. No idea why.”

“I see. Those dragon tattoos, too, are they something to do with it?”

“Not particularly. You ever heard of them?” Phillis says, holding out his arms so Ten can see the flexing blue dragon and the flaming red dragon. The blue one is faintly glowing.

“Nope.”

“They’re the Dragon Guardians of China. There’s a couple of legends about ‘em. It’s said that in the past, when China was in danger, the Dragon Guardians would show up and use incredible power to stop their foes. The dragon of ice, Novis Dragonhaze, and the dragon of fire, Ragnis Dragonsmoke.”

“That’s pretty cool.” murmurs Ten, staring at the tattoos. “And here I thought all your tattoos were useless garish bullshit. Not bad.”

“Mm.” Phillis grunts. The way he turns to face the basement and his serious expression shows that he has decided that the conversation is over for now.

After a fruitless half an hour, the students can’t think of a way to distract Chrissie, who seems to be on careful guard. Eventually, they decide to give up, and kill the rest of their time relaxing in a classroom, chatting.

A bell rings out, signalling the arrival of one o’clock in the morning, and the end of the hunt.

“There it is.” sighs Cassandra, slumping against a wall. “I don’t think we were even close.”

“We’ll have to plan ahead for how to get into the basement next year.” Anastasia replies.

“I guess it’s time to get going.” Jackson says. “Boy, we’re all gonna be tired tomorrow.”

“At least everyone’s safe.” Aubree replies.

“Yeah, but seems like Gascoine could attack at any time. We have to be on our guard every day for the rest of the year…” Eiden muses.

“Let’s not worry for now. Get some rest, and I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?” Jackson says.

“Yeah, see you tomorrow.” Eiden says. “We’re close to the exit, anyway. Let’s leave before the rest of the students come down here.”

“Good plan, let’s beat the crowd. Later, everyone.” Cassandra replies, still put out that she couldn’t find the classroom.

“Hey, Eiden. This was pretty fun. Thanks for letting me tag along.” Lee says as she walks by. Eiden is taken aback, but nods.

“Uh, glad you liked it.”

“See you Tuesday lunchtime, we’ll do some more design stuff. I’ll teach you some tricks.”

“Sounds good.” Eiden says. “See you then, Lee.”

“Later.”

 

*

 

“You unpatched it.” Aubree says as she gets into the car. Her mother, tired out, nods.

“So, you figured it out. Your group is too clever for your own good, you know.”

Ellis begins to drive back, yawning.

“You didn’t have to come pick me up. I can walk home.” Aubree mutters, staring out of the window.

“After you got attacked? I’m not letting you walk home after midnight, Aubree. It’s too dangerous.”

“I suppose.” she says. “So… I figured out who the man is.”

“The man who was supposed to attack tonight?”

“Yeah.” Aubree replies. “Lucas and Elysia told me. Axis Gascoine is alive.”

Ellis grips the wheel tightly as she turns to Aubree. “What?”

“Axis. He’s alive, according to those two.”

“…Huh.” Ellis says. “That’s not too surprising, knowing how strong he was. But that’s… is that really true? Can he be alive?”

Ellis is lost in thought, and doesn’t respond to anything else Aubree says for the rest of the car ride home. In a hotel room not too far away, Lucas Gloom and Elysia Prim also sit and consider their options. Somewhere, on the other side of town, a heavyset man wearing a suit and a sash of linen material observes the skyline, wondering how things went.

“Not long to wait now.” he mutters. “Linette… Peter… our family will be back together before you know it.”

 

*

 

6th July, 1989

 

Four men sit around a table in a well-lit room; one sits at the head of the table – evidently the boss – and the other three, two scientists and a man in an apron, are looking nervously at him.

“Well, gentlemen? How is the Born Different Initiative progressing?”

“In theory, it works.” says one scientist. “Battle Clothing transforms when powered by human energy, and what it transforms into it affected by the shape and style of the clothes it is made into. This much is simple Patchworking theory.”

“Continue.”

“You suggested that interweaving Original Cloth into a human body would let the human supercharge any Battle Clothing they wore.” the man continues.

“Correct. How did you progress with the theory, Dr. Vonheim?”

Dr. Arrick Vonheim looks directly at the man opposite him with a strange grimace. “It works, to an extent. We believe the Interwoven – the name we have given to these proto-humans made with Original Cloth – can push their Battle Clothing to the limits.”

“That’s what we believe the tests will show.” the other scientist replies. “However, we also theorised that an Interwoven can do the same for other people, too. By drawing Patches on their own body, they can act as a super-Patch that provides short bursts of immense power whenever they make contact with someone else.”

“Most intriguing.” the boss replies. “This is why you requested our Patchworker’s services, then?”

“Y-yes.” the Patchworker says nervously. “I can tattoo symbols that look like different kinds of Patches to allow the Interwoven to focus their power on others.”

“And what do we believe we’ll find?”

“Well, we believe that simple touches will increase the effects of a piece of clothing, which will lead to incredibly powerful, if brief, spikes of power. We believe it might even be possible to alter the effects of transformative clothing.” the Patchworker replies.

“That is truly remarkable. With all of this research, I can see that creating an Interwoven is going to be a very profitable enterprise. So, gentlemen, I must ask…”

The men around the table begin to sweat.

“…Just what is the hold up?”

“I, uh…” the scientist gabbles.

Vonheim sighs. “The infants that we’ve tried to operate on have all died during the Original Cloth surgery. We can’t test anything until one survives the process of inserting Original Cloth into their body.”

There’s silence for a moment.

“Oh. Is that all?” asks the boss silkily. “It’s not like there’s a shortage of newborns. After all, Dr. Stevens and Mr. Clocksworth… don’t you both have newborn children?”

Dr. Cazzo Stevens and Patchworker Clocksworth Clocksworth the 1st stare at each other, then the boss, in mute terror.

“Well, I’ll let you decide amongst yourselves which child to operate on. I’d like to see results in a month’s time. It’s already been a month since the Born Different Initiative was set up, and I hate not seeing results, gentlemen.”

The boss stands up from the table, and gives the room a dry, humourless smile.

“I look forward to hearing from you all very soon.”

Sunderland College [4.4 - The Hallowe'en Search Begins]
Sunderland College [4.6 - The Regrettable Pursuit of Power]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.