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Scion: Living Legends - [Scion: LL] After School Special


Dave ST
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After School Special

The summer had come and gone in Salem, Massachusetts; the autumn weather had already begun to set in and the summer heat was fading away. Eighty degrees had given way to seventy, but still the autumn breeze was fresh and clean, almost as if it was spring all over again. On the first day of a new school year, students, friends, rivals and faculty milled about the grounds, all waiting for that special time when the first bell would ring. Cars blared music in the parking lot as all the school buses let out their young cargo to wander.

Freshman meandered about half paying attention while they studied their class schedules, dazedly wondering how to get to their first class. Sophomores, now thankful that they weren't Freshman anymore, took one of two universal paths: they either helped the froshes out, or they sat there snickering as the poor sods wandered aimlessly. It was the same every year. The bell hadn't even rung yet and the cliques from last year were already reforming: the popular guys, popular girls, jocks, preps, troublemakers, peacemakers, math nerds, science nerds, popular wannabes, goths, punks, skateboarders, band geeks, ghetto wannabes... you name it, there was a clique for it.

Eric Donner was out by his old GTO where he could always be found with every other jock, tossing the pigskin around before class. The guy was the poster boy for athleticism: chiseled, handsome, attractive, and his family was pretty well off. The guy was just perfect at everything, like he was Captain Awesome's first-born or something. Mercedes Rhodes was close by; she was never far from Eric's side, since they were the most popular people in school and thus had an obligation to be seen together. When it came to Mercedes only two phrases came to mind: "Smoking hot" was the first. "Bitch" was the second. She was the typical 'most popular girl' stereotype from her rich parents to her perfect looks and amazing body (thanks to a $12k boob job for her sweet sixteen) and she seemed to have acquired her social graces by turning 'Mean Girls' into a religious experience. The girl delighted in treating others like crap out of spite; ever since her twin brother Donnie was allowed to go to school in Europe, she'd decided to make everyone's life as miserable as hers.

Brigitte De La Croix laughed loudly across the street with several of her friends. She never waited on school grounds since Sheriff Farrow busted her for smoking on school grounds last year. If the school had an official 'slut' it was the cocoa skinned beauty, and she wore the mantle proudly. While no one was sure whether any of her reputation was earned, she never did anything to deny any allegation that was tossed in her direction. Larceny, promiscuity, violence... she never denied any of it. Violence was a given, nearly half the school saw her get into a fight her freshman year, and she didn't lose, not by a long shot. Brigitte was not the sort of girl who pulled hair, oh no. With clenched fists she pummeled her opponent for everyone to see until the poor girl's hands didn't have the strength to hold Brigitte's hair anymore and fell limp to the pavement. Since then, people would talk shit about Brigitte, just never to her face.

The list went on... but four particular students were all that mattered today.

Gabe
Just another year. After already surviving two in this place it just didn't seem like it held any more surprises from him. With a smirk he scanned the crowds forming and, sure enough, he could pinpoint the same people hanging out with the same crowds they did last year. Gabe was part of the 'nerd' crowd, and he always had been, but thankfully his years of high school had been kind to him and most of the bullies left him alone. Most. Sure he had his fair share of harassment now and again, but he always reminded himself that one day those same thugs would be delivering pizza to his half-million dollar home on the east coast.

Eye on the prize, right?

"Gabe!" The voice came from inside the foyer of the school and within moments one of Gabe's best friends came running out to meet him. Devenne Bronikowski had been Gabe's friend since freshman year. They had similar interests... nerdy stuff. If there was such a thing as a 'hot nerd' Devenne could easily wear the crown. She was a lovely brunette who tended not to wear make-up with the exception of some eyeliner from time to time. Gabe didn't mind, she didn't need make-up to be gorgeous. She brushed her brown hair behind her ear, letting it tuck under the temple of her glasses. She was in jeans and a t-shirt with a green mushroom on it that read 'Get a Life'.

"Hey, I took a peek at the student roster..." She paused for dramatic tension, before squealing, "We both got Mr. Farrow for history!" She seemed genuinely happy and it was moments like these that made Gabe wonder why she liked him so much. He was just, Gabe... there nothing particularly exciting about him aside from good grades. Sometimes he wondered if he should take the risk and ask her her out, but if she said no, things might get weird and mess up a good thing. "And we have Dr. Tigrillo for Biology, and Ms. Elliot for Art." She didn't seem too thrilled about the artistic portion of her curriculum.

"So..." She suddenly seemed a loss for words. Looking up at him, Devenne grinned and he could tell she was thinking of a segue. "How's your morning been so far?"

Ian
Vice Principal Kane Taoka quirked his brow as he perused the contents of Ian Goldberg's school record. He inhaled and sighed heavily as his eyes scanned back and forth across the pages of one very impressively troubled past. While he read, Ian was like any other teen, not quite worried (what were they gonna do, kick him out his first day?) but still he was fidgety. His palms were sweating, mostly because this vice principal had shoulders like a line-backer and looked like he worked out regularly. That usually meant the guy was the no nonsense type who would be more of a bully than a role model. His office was decorated with several pictures of his family. Considering VP Taoka looked Asian (Japanese if Ian had to guess), it didn't surprise him to see a few pictures of him and a man who must have been his father. It didn't seem like the VP had a family of his own, since he didn't notice any pictures of a wife or children.

A pair of katana were mounted on each wall on either side of his desk; one pair was black, the other white. Ian thought of Yin and Yang, although he knew it was a Chinese philosophy: the black on one side, white on the other, and there was Mr. Taoka sitting quietly in the center. Wow, that was pretty deep for Ian, at least this early in the morning.

Finally, Mr. Taoka closed the thick folder and laced his fingers together, resting his hands on the 'tome' of Ian's academic history. "Very... impressive, Mr. Goldberg. My sympathies for your uncle, I'm sure you've been through a lot this summer. I'll not lie, Ian, I have no magic words to make all the problems you've had go away. I know you're dealing with a lot: your loss, a foster family, a new school with new faces. For a young man your age," Ian had to admit, he partially thankful Mr. Taoka referred to him as a 'young man', not a 'boy' or 'kid'. "A transition like this must be difficult. If you need anything please do not hesitate to come to me, especially if someone gives you any trouble." Yeah, right. Everyone knew school was like prison: snitches get stitches.

"What concerns me the most, Mr. Goldberg, is that I won't get any trouble out of you." Man, this guy's glare was serious as the grave, but his tone was so cordial Ian couldn't really bring himself to feel intimidated. "I'm sure you'll do me the honor of keeping your head above water here, won't you?"

Just to the left of Mr. Taoka Ian saw them: way out through the large windows in his office, across the parking lot and on other side of the fence, there they were. Two tall men wearing black suits, white shirts and black Ray Bans stared at him from over fifty yards away as if they could see him as clear as day. One of them raised his wrist and spoke into his cufflink.

"Mr. Goldberg?"

Moonbaby
Salem wasn't so bad. It had history, and Nadya could respect that. It could be worse... she could have ended up in New Jersey. The first bell of the year hadn't even rung yet and she'd already sold seven mix CDs, four Riot Points Cards she'd pickpocketed from guys coming out of GameStop, several packs of smokes and a Twix bar (long story). Lunch was covered and she'd have a bit left over for something later. Everything was going good until she rounded the corner and came face to face with her worst nightmare...

Coach Fingers. Victor Fingers, coach and head of the physical education department (which was PC-speak for 'Gym Teacher') stood in her path along the side of the school as she made her way to the entrance. Gods she hated this guy... he was like Eric Donner, all muscly and broad shouldered with his military crew cut and Dolph Lungren scowl. She expected him to lean in and mumble 'I must break you.' At least that would have been borderline awesome. Instead he scowled (on top of his pre-existing scowl, like, seriously, this guy could double scowl), and grabbed her as she tried to move past him.

"Not so fast, Moonbaby!" He couldn't pronounce her name last year and had been calling her Moonbaby ever since. His voice was stern and he sounded like a Drill Sergeant. "Last I checked it was against the policies of this institution for you to be opening up shop on this property! Explain yourself Backdoor Barbie, or Taoka's gonna have your ass."

Nadya had enough crap just dealing with Mercedes and her bruised ego, Fingers though... man this guy either had a serious crush on her and this was his twisted way of flirting, or he was born to hate her with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. She made a mental note to hate Mercedes a little more, thanks to her half the school thought she was a slut... the other half kept spamming her socials for a 'good time'. She stood stunned for a moment, as any normal teen would in the face of this level of aggression. The 'WTF' look didn't quite clear from her face fast enough and he pounced like a lion smelling blood. "Ears not working, Jezebel? E-X-P-L-A-I-N. Sound off like you got a pair!"

"Um, Mr. Fingers..." A quiet, yet lovely voice rose up from behind the enraged behemoth. The coach spun about face so fast Nadya could feel the breeze. "Um, Mr. Appleton was just looking for you. Something about how wonderful communism is, I didn't understand him. Who's Ronald Reagan?"

If the coach could have turned any redder he would have passed for an apple on steroids. He stomped off like an ogre. "Commie bastard..." He mumbled. He spun around just long enough to glare at Nadya. "Fourth block, Moonbaby. Your ass is mine."

Great. She knew what he'd do; extra push ups and sit ups until everything she had ached, and probably a few things she didn't even know she had. Finally though, she was was able to see her rescuer. Marie Glapion greeted her with nothing more than a prideful smile that wasn't very well hidden under her pursed lips. She had short, auburn hair almond eyes and as far Nadya knew, wasn't much of a talker. She'd always been a shy one and despite her good looks, guys tended to ignore her due to a certain 'creep factor'.

"Hey," she said softly. "Sorry, didn't mean to butt in, but he's been acting like a dick all morning. Hope you don't mind..."

Erika
Forty five minutes. That's how long it took for Mr. Guiler, the school's new Guidance Councilor, to eat a pop tart, call about picking up his basketball tickets, send some texts and browse Carfacts about an Impala he had his eye on over the weekend. He'd taken over this year after Mr. Pinkerton had a complete nervous breakdown over the summer. Everyone knew about it, in a small town like Salem, it was hard not to know. Apparently he'd been caught firing off his shotgun in the wee hours of the morning one night screaming that his garden was infested with a giant, man eating worm. Poor Mr. Pinkerton, he'd be missed.

His replacement was a man in his late twenties to early thirties with impeccable fashion sense. The suit, Erika could tell, was tailored and a bit outside the price range for a school councilor, but hey, he probably just wanted to look good for his first day. He was handsome but in that impish kind of way with a roguish grin and well groomed strawberry blonde hair. All the while Erika sat there, her new school supplies clutched tightly to her chest, wondering what exactly was taking him so long to get to the point of why he had called her in here, first thing. Finally, after all of that he leaned back in his chair, clipped off the tip of a stogie, and fired it up, filling his office with a plume of low budget tobacco funk.

With a 'you've got to be kidding' look on her face Erika pointed to the "No Smoking" sign that was large as life on his own wall. He rolled his eyes and put it out gently as if to say she was seriously inconveniencing him. He asked puzzled, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. "Who're you again?"

"Erika Clark." She said, slightly irritated. "I've been waiting forty five minutes."

"The Hel you do that for? Damn, I'd have left after ten minutes." He reached into his desk and pulled out a folder. "Alright, says here you're a smart kid. Congratulations, daddy must be proud..." He skimmed a few more lines. "Yadda, yadda... okay grades... yadda... foster kid. Foster kid? Wow, that has to suck. So, I guess the daddy comment's probably lost on you, duly noted. How's that working out for you? You're obviously a complete mess, kid. So... you wanna talk about something? Your loneliness in this sea of strangers... no one understands your pain... what about suicide? Though about it lately? Do you, uh... own any trench coats?"

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Ian stiffened when he saw the Men in Black, a cold sweat breaking out of his skin immediately. You should have run. It wasn’t the first time Ian had thought that since his great-uncle had the Big One that had landed him in a nursing home and it probably wouldn’t be the last time. He didn’t mean running right now; the jaws had closed on that trap months ago. No, he meant that the moment he’d found Uncle Oster on the floor, clutching his arm and struggling to breathe, he should have grabbed the emergency stash of money and fled. If he had, he wouldn’t be in the system. Yeah, he’d be on his own, but Ian could take care of himself. Instead, he’d let himself get sentimental over the old man. Instead, he’d gotten himself trapped.

,,

He could still run, and he’d entertained the thought more than once. He had just enough money to survive a week or so on his own, then he’d have to suck cock or something to make bank. The idea of slurping down another dude’s man-gravy just to eat had kept him from running away. He kept telling himself he’d run as soon as he had a plan together but he knew the truth: he was afraid.

,,

“Mr. Goldberg?”

,,

Ian’s attention snapped back to Yojimbo. “Yeah, sure,” he said dismissively. “I ain’t here to cause trouble. I just want to do my time and GTFO.” Mr. Taoka’s expression shifted slightly; if he’d had any hope that Ian was looking to turn over a new leaf, that hope had just been roughly removed. “So… we done here?”

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"It's okay." Gabe shrugged and simply said. The schedule sounded reasonable, though he shared Devenne's distaste for Art and Ms. Orlanda Elliot. Gabe was a creative person, but in writing and amateur dabbling in drama. The very physical 'crafting' arts were not in his spheres of interest at all - and Ms. Elliot was said to fairly define the stereotype of artists being eccentric and peculiar.

,,

Something had gotten messed up in his scheduling in that case, so Gabe would have to see the registrar later about correcting that. But Horace Farrow made history fun - and Gabe already considered history an enjoyable topic to begin with. And Dr. Trigrillo had not seemed a problematic teacher at least, so all things considered... school was looking good, academically.

,,

And speaking of things looking good, and MUSHROOMS. NO! Bad brain, lay off the hormone production. Gabe felt the impulse towards asking her out, but internally it was a strange will he or won't? After all, she might not feel the same way, and even despite the growing adolescent desires, his own natural preferences to a quieter, less demanding personal/social bubble made the prospect of a relationship an anxiety provoking concept anyway.

,,

So he held off. "So... yours?"

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Was this guy for real? Erika blinked owlishly across the desk at the new guidance counselor.

,,

"This is obviously your first day, and I get that you're supposed to make an effort to get to know the students, but I don't really-"

,,

"Feel comfortable talking about family problems with a complete stranger?" he helpfully supplied, cutting her off. "Nah, it's cool. I get it. I mean, we've all got daddy issues, right? Hel, I didn't even know who my dad was most of my life."

,,

Erika leaned forward in the plastic seat, her pale blue eyes both curious and keenly interested. "Really? So, how do you feel about that? Finding out about a father you never knew, I mean."

,,

Mr. Guiler tipped his chair back and peered at the ceiling tiles, crossing his feet as he rested what looked like expensive shoes on the corner of the desk. "Honestly, kid, I really resented him at first. Being ignored, dismissed, and then suddenly he shows up with these unrealistic standards and expectations? What was I supposed to think? How am I supposed to-" He paused suddenly and pointed a finger in her direction as he swung his feet down again, a shrewd grin stealing across his lips. "Nice try, kid. But we were talking about your daddy issues, not mine." She shrugged her narrow shoulders, as if to say, 'Can't blame me for trying.' "So, seriously. Trench coats?"

,,

"Ugh." Her eyes darted disparagingly, dramatically toward the ceiling, and Erika shook her head. "No. I don't own any trench coats, I don't think about killing myself, and I haven't written any manifestos in animal blood. What is this about, anyway?"

,,

Guiler dropped the manila folder containing her records onto the desk and smiled as he scribbled something on a small notepad. "I should probably get goin' kid. I've got a mani-pedi in 45, and you're already late to your first class. History, Mr. Farrow. Here ya go." He handed her a hall pass and rose, patting his pockets distractedly. "Hey. You got any cash on you?"

,,

"Got any... What?" she replied dazedly as she took the slip of paper and got to her feet.

,,

"A ten-spot should be good. I was thinking about picking up some lunch on the way back, and I must've forgotten my wallet. Come on, I'm good for it." He grinned, shrugging. "It's not like you don't know where to find me."

,,

"Uhhh..." Erika rummaged through the pockets of her jeans, producing a $5 bill and assorted coins. "All I've got is a five, but I need that for lun-"

,,

"Thanks, kid. I appreciate it," he cut in again, almost managing to sound grateful as he smiled again and took the crumpled bill from her hand. "Better get to class, now. Good talk, good talk. We'll have to do it again soon, yeah?"

,,

He all but swept out of the office, leaving her staring at the place he'd been standing behind his desk, with only a few miserable coins left in her open palm. A moment passed, and her dazed expression morphed into one of impotent anger as the sophomore kicked herself mentally.

,,

"Sonofa..." The hall pass crinkled in her grip as she stormed out, hurrying down the hall to her first class.

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Loo-Nah-Less-Skew, how hard is that? Moonbaby! Douchebag.

,,

Nadya gave Coach Finger a glare of her own - after making sure his back was turned - then turned to Marie with a wide grin. She gave the other girl a friendly slap on the back, then hitched her satchel up on her shoulder.

,,

"Mind?!" Nadya snorted. "Are you kidding me, Marie? That was sweet! You did me a big favour there with Coach grabby-Fingers. I owe ya one." The slight, young woman pointed at herself with a thumb and a boastful grin. "If you need anything, I can hook you up."

,,

Her grin faded as she scrunched up her nose, lips skewing into an annoyed moue as she looked back the way Coach Fingers had gone. She suppressed a disgusted shiver. She hoped the Coach wasn't macking on her - sure, older guys could be yum, but Coach Fingers had to be at least, like, thirty or something. Another thing I've got to pay Mercedes back for...

,,

"What crawled up Fingers' ass and... well, judging by his face, didn't die?" Nadya commented to Marie as the two of them started into school, trying to make home-room before the bell rang.

,,

"Who knows?" Marie replied with a shrug that suggested you can't explain the chaotic faculties of the faculty. She gave Nadya a once-over, faint frown marring an otherwise shuttered expression. "They won't let you wear those boots in school, you know."

,,

"Maybe not yet, but they will. I've got a plan," Nadya said, twisting the knee-high laced boots with the thick soles and chunky heels this way and that to show them off. "Aren't they totally witchin' kicks?"

,,

Marie dutifully gave the completely inappropriate boots a glance, face neutral as she wondered how much of Nadya's Mercedes-influenced reputation was really fabricated. "Um, yes. Witching. Totally. My first class is actually this way. Later."

,,

"Seeya 'round."

,,

Nadya gave Marie as wave over her shoulder as she clomped down the halls towards her home-room, bracelets rattling softly, plans and fantasies swirling around inside her head.

,,

Might have to put Operation: These Boots Are Made For Strutting on hold and go full bore on Operation: Shank a Skank. What the hell is Mercedes' deal? It's not like I knew it was her father's car, and he got it back with hardly a - three, four, seven - scratches. Probably her who set Fingers on me too. Someone has to bring her down a peg or six. What I really want to do is deflate her big, round-

,,

"Ms. Lunălescu!"

,,

"Tires!" Nadya squealed, spinning around to see Mrs. Williams watching her disapprovingly. "I totally meant her tires - I mean her ego! What?"

,,

Mrs. Williams, arms folded, nodded down at Nadya's boots in exasperation. Nadya's preferences in footwear were well-known, but pushing - crossing - the limit on the first day was a bit much. "Your boots."

,,

Nadya followed the Chemistry teacher's gaze, then flashed her a smile as she made a well-known gesture. "These aren't the boots you're looking for."

,,

Mrs. Williams' disapproving look grew disapprovinger. "They certainly are not the boots I was expecting."

,,

Nadya sighed. "You have no comedic timing, Mrs. Double-You. What you should have said was: These are not the boots-"

,,

"They are the boots I'm looking at. And there do not meet the guidelines set under the school dress-code."

,,

"Would you believe they are authentic Witch...ian? Footwear?"

,,

"Whereas I have no doubt people in 1692 would believe anyone able to navigate in heels like those was a witch, I sincerely doubt our school mascot is considered a protected culture of its own."

,,

"Authentic Romani Footwear?"

,,

"No. You've lived in Salem longer than I have, Nadya. And even then, not a valid reason for an exemption. Enough excuses." If you spent as effort on your homework as you did on avoiding it and these types of shenanigans, you might have graduated already... "Change your boots for more appropriate footwear, or you will get detention-" Just then the warning bell rang, "- in addition to a possible tardy note on your first day back."

,,

"Shit! Yes, Mrs. Williams," Nadya relented, in apparent defeat, shoulders slumping, as she twisted around to hustle off to her first class.

,,

"Oh, and Ms. Lunălescu? Don't forget..." Nadya glanced over her shoulder to see Mrs. Williams tapping the side of her nose.

,,

"Dammit!"

,,

Not exactly what I planned, but first steps of Operation: These Boots Are Made For Strutting are in motion. Anything else I wear will look tame in comparison... I just had to throw a little dignity out the window.

,,

Nadya raced through the halls, cursing in Romanian as she hopped from foot to foot, trying to pull off her boots, fish her gym shoes from her satchel, and take out her nose-stud, all the while trying to make it to home-room on time and not land flat on her face.

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Ian


Ian’s attention snapped back to Yojimbo. “Yeah, sure,” he said dismissively. “I ain’t here to cause trouble. I just want to do my time and GTFO.” Mr. Taoka’s expression shifted slightly; if he’d had any hope that Ian was looking to turn over a new leaf, that hope had just been roughly removed. “So… we done here?”

"I know what GTFO means Mr. Goldberg," Mr. Taoka smirked and stood from his desk and walked around it. He leaned against it like people with desks do before motioning for Ian to stand and leading him towards the door. "The use of that sort of language, or implying the use of that language via an acronym, is not something I want to hear from you again. You're better than that. Try to see this whole situation, whether you asked for it or not, as an opportunity. We're here if you need us."

He opened the door for Ian and offered one last reassuring smile before looking back out trough the office. With a harsh tone that was laced with frustration he pointed to the next on his list. "Black. Get your butt in here."

Ian never had a slow motion moment before, he had to admit it was kinda cool. 'Black' stood up and walked past Ian, giving his half-length leather jacket one of those Batman swooshes like it was a cape. Like Ian the kid didn't look all that remarkable. Black hair, leather coat, jeans and boots, but as they passed one another and the world seemed to slow like it would do in the movies. They met eyes and just offered glare at each other as he moved past Ian and into the office. Ian knew the deal; chances are this 'Black' guy was one of the schools punks. Either way it wasn't his problem, he had a class to get to.

Gabe
"Eh, not too bad." She gave him a look and smiled a bit. "So, we still on for Coffee Time after school? Baked goods and oodles of caffeine will do wonders for our first day insanity."

Like two peas in a pod they walked through the halls, stopping by their new lockers to drop off a few things before moving on to their first period. On their way they passed a few of the cliques, steered clear of Mercedes Rhodes and her gaggle of rich friends. That was the last thing either of them needed was to put up with one of Mercedes's 'Nerd Herd' jokes that she thought was ever so clever.

Moonbaby
"Well, at least you're consistent, Ms. Lunălescu." The name rolled off of Mr. Farrow's tongue like he was born to her culture. "I believe you made it a point to be late for your first day of class last year as well..." How did he remember that? Nadya barely remembered what she did over the weekend, let alone something from last year.

"She got busted by Mrs. Williams, Mr. Farrow." Lexus, one of Mercedes' friends chimed up. The snotty tone in her voice was evident. Nadya braced for impact. "Apparently Nadya didn't get the memo that we're here to learn and not turn tricks. Did your hooker boots even fit in your locker?" The entire class laughed at Nadya, once again one of Mercedes' lackeys made her look like a fool.

"Knock it off." Mr. Farrow said. "Lexus, shut it. Nadya, sit." The Latin American teacher went on with his first day lecture like nothing had happened.

Erika
Nothing like being hustled your first day by the new guidance councilor, huh? As Erika mentally chastised herself she made her way to class. She passed by Eric and his band of jocks and for a moment she had herself her own slow motion moment, although not as cool as Ian's, it was the same one she had every year. Problem was, handsome guys like Eric generally didn't notice the shy and intelligent types like like her. She managed a weak smile as she passed him but, once again, he didn't notice.

As she entered class, only a few minutes late, Mr. Farrow accepted her hall pass with a nod and politely excused her from being reprimanded. Quietly she took her seat, having already missed the exchange between Lexus and Nadya, and prepared for class.

*****

The remainder of the day was all the same. During P.E. Coach Fingers was so hard on Nadya that it border lined harassment. At one point he kept his foot on her back while she did push-ups, making them harder for her but he did for what he claimed was to 'improve her posture'. Nadya was left walking... rather limping away after that class. It was hard not to feel sorry for her, but what was she going to do?

The last class of the day was Ms. Venti. No one could explain it but there always seemed like the air conditioner was on in her room, or a fan. A slight breeze always swept through the room, keeping everyone comfortable in the warmer months and sometimes making it chilly during the winter. Ms. Venti, an English teacher, was lovely woman with sparkling blue eyes and flowing blonde hair. She looked like she should be modeling instead of teaching so needless to say every guy in the class sat there slack jawed like idiots. It was a pretty common occurrence, every year the guys would spend most of the day talking about when they could finally get to Ms. Venti's class. If the girls of Salem had any competition from an older woman, it was her, especially since each year it seemed like her skirts got shorter, her heels got higher and her ample bosom got perkier. Maybe it was just their imagination though.

The bell rang and everyone was gathering their tings when Ms. Venti spoke over the commotion. "Okay, hold up everyone! I need the following students to meet me, please. Ian Goldburg, Erika Clarke, Gabriel Meadow and Nadya Lunar... Lune... uh... Nadya! Could you four meet me at my desk please?"

The four strangers quickly knew who each other were, since they were soon the only one's left looking around the room wondering what was up. 'Strangers' was a bit of a misnomer, hel, with the exception of Ian, the remaining three students knew each other, if only in passing. It's not like they'd ever sat down for coffee at the Coffee Time bakery on the pier, but they, at the very least, knew each other by reputation. Gabriel was a very smart nerdy type, Nadya was a klepto who'd slept with half the school for money (thank you Mercedes), and Erika was an art geek who generally kept to herself. Aside from maybe the occasional 'hi' in the hallway... these guys had no real reason to associate with the others until this moment.

"Hey guys, real quick," she said with the bubbly cheer in her voice that was borderline nauseous. Erika rolled her eyes when she noticed the Ian's eyes hadn't made it above Ms. Venti's cleavage. Meanwhile Nadya wondered how Ms. Venti was able to subvert the dress code. When she giggled her breasts giggled and suddenly it all made sense to the teenage Romani. "Mr. Syracuse wants the four of you to meet him in the library. He said it would only take a few moments. Would you guys be darlings and help Ian find his way?"

Mr. Syracuse was a bit eccentric but he was way cool. Last year to prove a point in a lesson he had everyone standing on the tables in the library and was screaming orders to simulate what it would be like for Washington to cross the Delaware. He wore a chiton for an entire week for what was dubbed 'Greek Week', complete with laurels and the Greek accent. You didn't listen to Mr. Syracuse, you learned by doing. Too bad he was just a librarian and not an actual teacher. Some would argue he was the best one in the school.

For simplicity's sake, all of you have the same class schedule. So if I mention that something happens in a particular period to one of you, the others should be aware of it also. Keep in mind I won't always address all of you at once, especially if something is going on that only involves on of you. Gabe, Devenne shares about half of your schedule, so your Band-mates should get to be pretty familiar with her.



I'm going to leave the floor open for a bit as your characters walk to the library. Take a moment for introductions, or not, as the case maybe. I'll post again when it looks like you guys are done or one of you tells me "We're ready to move forward."
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The funny thing about Gabe and Coffee Time, was that he didn't drink coffee. Pastries, he would happily eat, and drink water, tea, hot chocolate - anything but coffee beverages. The answer to any such questions about it, Gabe always explained, was that he'd tried coffee twice. Once accidentally trying coffee without knowing you had to put milk and cream in it to balance out the bitterness, and the second time with milk and cream in place.

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Both times, he insisted, the coffee tasted extremely bitter and distasteful either way. He didn't like coffee, and that was that. Also what he didn't like, was the use of his first name in full. Sure, he'd put it on official documents and the like when needed, but Gabe always was quick to make clear he preferred Gabe, not Gabriel.

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Which pitted him, naturally, against all things Venti. Both her habit of somehow not remembering to call him Gabe and the overuse of verbal saccharine gave him a burst of irritation enough to cover the critical moments it took for his eyes to focus on her face and male hormones to be barred from the cognitive premises.

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"Okay then." Gabe assented, if it indeed wouldn't be long. He liked Mr. Syracuse, but he didn't want to keep Devenne waiting too long for him.

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When they had set out, the three class acquaintances leading their new classmate in the library's direction, Gabe turned while he was walking to look at Nadya. Regardless of how much her reputation might be true, Gabe did not consider Mercedes Rhodes and her assorted n'er do-wells of well means trustworthy sources.

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And also, he had a habit of nitpicking, and something in that room triggered Gabe now. "Seriously? Your last name is not that hard to pronounce. Luna-les-cu. It's not rocket science. Why do people act like it's so hard?"

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The school day had gone exactly how he’d thought it would: shitty. He hated the classes, hated the fact that he was a seventeen-year-old sophomore due to his lack of book learning. Fuck book learning! That shit didn’t help you in the real world at all. His uncle had taught him all he needed to know to survive anyway.

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The men in black outside Yojimbo’s window hadn’t helped him either. Getting back on the grid had allowed them to find him; he could almost feel the implant in his neck itching. He’d have to be careful going home tonight. Maybe he could use all the other students as a shield against being seen on his way out the door. Those thoughts occupied him all day. By the second to last class, he was pretty sure he had his route set in his mind.

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The one compensation was English class. From the moment he’d seen Ms. Venti, he couldn’t take his eyes off her body. Her breasts, her ass, her legs – he barely knew what to stare at first. Sadly, that presented a problem all of its own, though by the end of class, he had that more or less under control.

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He tensed when she called his name at the end of class, wondering what the fuck she had on him. This was a goddamned ploy to ruin his plans. He stared at Ms. Venti’s breasts, trying to think of a way to get around this mess.

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He stalked through the halls, considering ditching his guides and going the fuck home. The memory of Yojimbo’s swords on the wall stopped him. Not that he seriously thought the dude would use them. It just seemed prudent to not out-and-out defy the authority on the first day. Besides, all he had to look forward to at home was his foster sister prancing around in her tiny shorts and tight baby-doll tees. While it was nice to watch, a man could only watch for so long before he wanted to act. Sabrina was definitely not someone he could act with, sadly.

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He rolled his eyes at Gabe’s blatant attempts to suck up to the school whore. She was hot, but she looked like a damn freak. Guy was clearly aiming to score without ponying up the cash. Shaking his head, he dug out his earphones and cranked up the cheap mp3 player a couple of notches. You’re Going Down roared into his ears and he felt his shoulders relax a touch.

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http://youtu.be/liW-kWFiXtQ

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Or Grooveshark, if you prefer: http://grooveshark.com/s/You+re+Going+Down/4z30wx?src=5

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The boys weren't the only ones thinking about Ms. Venti's breasts. Though in Nadya's case, it wasn't because of hormonal lust. She just wished she could magically swipe a few cup sizes from Ms. Venti - she certainly had enough to spare - and add them to her own modest bustline. It's not like she wanted them all - if she had as much up front as Ms. Venti did, she'd tip tits over heels - just enough to get the profs to overlook her preference in footwear and fashion. And maybe get Coach Fingers off her ass.

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Speaking of which, Nadya straightened with a groan, feeling vertebrae pop as she shuffled along next to the other students - she hurt everywhere, even her teeth hurt, but heading off to the library with a newb was better than detention the first day. She glanced over at Gabe and rolled her green eyes with exasperated annoyance.

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"I know right? Less-scu," Nadya corrected with a tight grin, emphasizing the last syllable, but giving Gabe a nod, "but that was better than most. People see a funny little curve over the 'a' and letters arranged in a way that looks a bit foreign, and suddenly they lose their shit and the name in unpronounceable." Nadya gave a disdainful sniff. "But I think Coach Fingers and Ms. Venti's problem is one is a colossal dick and the other is just too blonde."

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The slight and wiry young woman didn't miss the way Erika's and the new kid's eyes slid over her and she gritted her teeth, once again wishing she couldn wrap her hands around Mercedes' throat. One day back, and already Nadya was almost wishing she really been turning tricks. Everybody already believed she had, but at least that way, she'd have the money to show for it.

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Something to show for it... Hmm, if I can make everyone believe I 'caught' a certain something thanks to all my 'whoring' around, maybe I can get the asshats to retract their claims on their own...

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Nadya pulled out her iPhone, sighed when she saw all the notifications from her email and facebook accounts, and opened her browser for a bit of research, and started drafting an update. Gotta get a doctor's script. Details give a con more verisimilitude. Motherfuckers! Let's see how they react when they think they might have chlamydia or the clap.

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Nadya opened her mouth to tell the others the tales of her sexual exploits were thanks to terminological inexactitude, but closed it with a snap without saying a word, scowling at her phone. Denials were quicksand - the more you claimed something was a lie, the more people tended to believe it.

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I'm surrounded by assholes, Erika sighed inwardly. It was their first day back, and already she'd gotten ripped off by the new guidance counselor and stuck with a smarmy brain and a goth-Barbie. She'd heard plenty of rumors about Nadya's sticky fingers and general shenanigans, and whether or not they were true, she certainly hadn't done much to dispel them. The new kid had the right idea; she wished she'd had a way to drown it out, too. Still, she felt bad just letting them badmouth Ms. Venti, who'd always been one of the most pleasant, easy-going teachers in the school.

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"Or," Erika cut in quietly, her eyes fixed on the hallway ahead of them, "it could be that you're both being seriously disrespectful for no reason other than to make yourselves seem 'cool.' It isn't exactly a common name, and unless someone's actually heard the correct pronunciation of a new word, it's obviously going to take them a few tries to get it right. Try being a decent freaking person and, I don't know, maybe explain politely how to say it, instead of talking crap behind somebody's back. If it really bothers you that much, do something about it." Exhaling sharply, the blue-eyed teen shifted the weight of the backpack on her shoulder and forced herself to stop there. She just wanted to get through the rest of the day, and it wasn't like it really mattered what these two did or said, so why did it bother her so much? Why the heck did she feel so compelled to put them in their places? Maybe she was still ticked off about not having money for lunch, or about what Mr. Guiler had said about being adopted, or... Ugh. She didn't know, and trying to figure out why she'd just mouthed off to people she'd never even met before would probably give her a massive headache.

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Kind of like the one she was starting to get anyway. Great.

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"Since I'm still wearing Fingers' boot-print on my ass and I spent a semester last year trying to teach him how to say my name, I'm gonna go with him being a colossal dick," Nadya retorted with a scowl.

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Since her real problem with Ms. Venti was that she wanted her shoes and some of her boobs, Nadya didn't mention her again, pretended she hadn't mentioned her at all. Actually, her real problem was Mercedes. The crap that bitch was raining down on her was tinting everything with shit-brown, just making everything seem worse than it was.

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"Relax, Van Gogh," Nadya teased, "we're just blowing off steam after a rough first day back, right? Right?" Not getting immediate agreement from the others, Nadya just shrugged, but seeing Erika was still tense and far from mollified, her tone slid into something that could have been either sincere or sarcastic. "Okay, then. Well, if you need a Mido or somethingl, just ask, 'kay? I'll hook you up."

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Having enough of a surly Art Geek and a Nerd who may or may not have been angling to get in her pants - since it seemed like half the school did, maybe he thought he had a chance too - Nadya hustled up a step or three, and gave the new kid a sidelong glance. He was kinda cute, maybe, in a sort of asshole-ish way. He didn't seem to be paying attention to them at all, but his shoulders were set in habitual suspicion - he'd be a harder mark... unless she gave his suspicion something else to latch onto. Not that she was planning anything of course, nothing of the sort, it was just an idle thought exercise...

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"Hey! New guy. Hey!" When it seemed her calls couldn't penetrate the music blaring from his ear-buds, Nadya snapped her fingers in front of his face, then walked backwards, looking up at Ian with a bright grin on her lips until he finally stopped and plucked an ear-bud from his ear with a look of annoyance. Nadya might have been accused of many things - most of them unjustly to hear her say it - but shyness wasn't one of them.

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"Hey! Ian, right? I'm Nadya. Haven't seen you 'round town before. How'd you end up in Salem?" Her grin edged into a smirk as she added, "I'd ask if you mind me asking, but if you do, then that just makes your story more interesting."

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God, first the aliens, now this bitch. Was he just a freak-magnet? Ian was taller than her and he peered down his nose at her with faint disdain. What could he use to repel a freak? The answer came to him suddenly.

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His face brightened up quickly and he beamed a million gigawatt smile at her. Ian was capable of being charming, when he tried and now he was doing his best to seem honest and forthright. “Why my daddy fell in love with this place when he was on his mission trip. So he moved us all over here. Would you like to hear about the teachings of Joseph Smith?”

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Nadya quirked a dark brow, lips turning down in a frown before she managed to wrangle back into an engaging - if forced - grin. "You don't say? I'd like to hear more. Do you really have magic underwear. You are the ones with magic underwear, right?"

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Ian put a hand on his stomach and laughed heartily. “Oh, my, no. It’s not magical . It’s sacred. It’s an outward expression of our inward commitment to follow Jesus Christ. But it’s also only for those worthy enough of Endowment and I’m not there—yet.” The first rule of spewing bullshit: know what you’re going to be spewing. The second rule: know what your average person was most likely to believe. Hence the ready response with the magical underwear crap. He grinned and added, “It’s a work in progress, but aren’t we all?”

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"Or," Erika cut in quietly, her eyes fixed on the hallway ahead of them, "it could be that you're both being seriously disrespectful for no reason other than to make yourselves seem 'cool.' It isn't exactly a common name, and unless someone's actually heard the correct pronunciation of a new word, it's obviously going to take them a few tries to get it right. Try being a decent freaking person and, I don't know, maybe explain politely how to say it, instead of talking crap behind somebody's back. If it really bothers you that much, do something about it."

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Gabe gave Erika an affronted look of annoyance and mild frustration. "I personally thought it a legitimate question." He was being honest, for what it was worth. And after Nadya's semester with Mr. Fingers addition, he felt quite certain in his position. "...And for the record? Considering the word 'cool' as people around here define it, I'm about the furthest thing from it, and not interesting in becoming it."

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“Why my daddy fell in love with this place when he was on his mission trip. So he moved us all over here. Would you like to hear about the teachings of Joseph Smith?”

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Nadya quirked a dark brow, lips turning down in a frown before she managed to wrangle back into an engaging - if forced - grin. "You don't say? I'd like to hear more. Do you really have magic underwear. You are the ones with magic underwear, right?"

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Ian put a hand on his stomach and laughed heartily. “Oh, my, no. It’s not magical . It’s sacred. It’s an outward expression of our inward commitment to follow Jesus Christ. But it’s also only for those worthy enough of Endowment and I’m not there—yet.” The first rule of spewing bullshit: know what you’re going to be spewing. The second rule: know what your average person was most likely to believe. Hence the ready response with the magical underwear crap. He grinned and added, “It’s a work in progress, but aren’t we all?”

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Unnoticed by the others, Gabe's left hand reached up, forefinger, middle finger and thumb rubbing the top of his nose's bridge to try and mitigate more of the annoyance being provoked. First an unnecessarily indignant art student, and now this newly arrived other boy - who just promptly decided to claim being a Mormon while being a blatant caricature.

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Gabe was atheistic, reason over blind faith, but he'd had his interest in studying the world, and yes, religions as they interacted with said world. Including Jon Kraukauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, about the Mormon and Fundementalist Mormon faiths and history. He also hated obvious stupidity, and Ian was so rank with it at this moment as an unwashed pig with a monthly stay at the spa and its mud.

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"But you also make sure to honor Moroni annually, right?" He asked, trying to feign going along with Ian's ridiculous charade.

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"Oh!" Ian smiled widely, looking pleased. "Are you of the faith, too?"

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Okay, not that stupid. Gabe simply had a thin smile as he replied, "No. Just have a lot of interests and read a lot. I have a fair sense of things from Nephi and Lamman to John Taylor." He just let the more obscure names hang there and just 'chat.' "So your move went well then? Where'd you come from?"

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"Moved here from Vegas." Ian shrugged easily and said, "It was a move. It wasn't fun but it's over, right?"

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Gabe decided to let it go at last. He did give Ian an arch look at the reference to Las Vegas. "That's pretty much a city of Kryptonite for the Latter-day Saints, I would think. Then again, you did move away."

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“What? Kryptonite? What’s that?” Ian thought it was some comic book thing, but to be honest, he didn’t pay attention to nerdling crap like that.

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“Deadly green crystal, kills flying aliens.” Gabe said it with a straight face – a little too straight.

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Still, Ian hadn’t heard of anything like that and there were things beyond his knowledge; a few hours of research on the web still turned up plenty of thing he’d never learned. Ian narrowed his eyes slightly and frowned, asking, “Aliens? Are you making fun of me?”

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Gabe looked at Ian curiously. “And why would I be doing that, exactly?”

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“I don’t know.” Ian shrugged and let his expression become downcast, as if he were sad. “People are mean all the time, sometimes because they hurt. Are you hurting, Gabe?”

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Gabe blinked, looking lost. “I don’t process any of what you are saying. At all.”

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Ian sighed softly. “That’s okay. Though honestly, Vegas isn’t that bad. Yes, the Strip has a lot of vice on it, but there’s a temple in town. There’s a thriving religious community. Besides, if we only good where things are good, how can we ever defeat evil?” Like the evil U.S. government, he wanted to say but didn’t. Instead he kept his mouth shut.

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He was on a roll and feeling good when he glanced down a hallway and saw, though the doors to the exterior, two more men in black. “Shit!” The expletive was out of his mouth before he could stop it, just as he couldn’t stop himself from dodging to the side of the hallway and out of sight of the two men. “Shit, shit, shit!”

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As the others stared at him, instead of at the fucking danger, he gathered his courage. When he peered around the corner, the two were gone. “Fuck me!” he hissed, looking around for them, as if he expected them to get into the school and find him.

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"They're gone." Nadya observed. "Whoever they were. Friends of yours?"

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"Something like that." Ian evaded, looking about a bit nervously.

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"Well, they left." Gabe looked around too. Like the other three he wasn't really sure what he was looking for, but he played look out anyway. "Try and relax, okay?"

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Ian sighed and regulated his breathing. A panic attack would only compound his problems, he needed to remain focused, in control. "Relax? Easy for you to say."

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"Not really. We're the ones standing next to a complete stranger who seems like he's about to go postal." Erika's tone had all the charm and tact of Wednesday Addams. "'Relaxed' is a pretty distant dream at the moment."

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Nadya arched a single brow at Erika, then to Ian, silently saying 'she has a point, you seem nuts'. "Fair enough," Ian conceded. He straightened his coat and composed himself.

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The walk to the library was some of the finest espionage work high schoolers had done in quite some time. They weren't sure why thy were looking around, but Ian wasn't very forthcoming any info, after all the less they knew, the safer they were right? Meanwhile, if someone was going to show up and abduct or fill Ian full of government issued munitions, Gabe, Nadya, and Erika were pretty sure they didn't want to be caught off guard (or in the way). Hey, it was cruel, sure, but he was the new kid, it's not like thy knew him anyway. They didn't say it, but they were all thinking it...

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Whomever they were, the Men in Black didn't show up again and before they knew it Gabe was swinging open the doors of the library allowing the ladies and the new guy to enter. It was huge, with a large ceiling to accommodate a second floor walkway that was lined with book shelves. The entire room, was the shape of an old fashioned key hole, roughly a large rectangle that ended in a huge circular reading chamber at the end complete with several tables for reading and a large domed ceiling that was cut into wedges. The twelve wedges alternated. One would be a skylight that beamed rays of sunlight down into the reading chamber while the others depicted paintings of legendary events in mythology. Heracles (Mr. Syracuse never used the Roman spelling of his name) battling the hydra. Baron Samedi greeting the souls of the dead as they arrived at Ville au Camp from the Crossroads. Tyr, Thor, Loki and Odin all standing around a massive wolf tied to the ground by miles of thin golden chain. Susan-O battling the multi-headed earth dragon Yamata-no Orochi. Above a modern depiction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Horus rides his Sun Chariot across the Egyptian sky. Atop a majestic Aztec pyramid a priest makes an offering to a massive feathered serpent whose coils wrap around the base of the structure, he looks down upon the priest with a benevolent, yet hungry, look in its eyes.

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As they entered, to their left they immediately noticed Mr. Syracuse. He was leaning against the front of his desk, his arms folded and one leg casually crossed over the other. He was speaking to 'Black'. Ian remembered the kid's name from earlier that morning. The three senior students knew him more as Corbin Black. He was a trouble maker and last year alone managed to break into the school three times and steal the answered to exams. He was selling them for ten bucks apiece, cutting into Nadya's profits. She never figured how he got into the school, bypassing the silent alarm on the doors and windows was not something an average teen knew how to do, but he'd done it, twice. He refused to talk to people, exuded attitude and didn't really belong to any clique. The dude had 'loner' down to a science but he wasn't a bully. He ignored anyone wanting to fight him, didn't show up when people challenged him and didn't care what the school thought of him. Honestly, aside from the petty thievery, the guy was pretty well adjusted for a maladjusted teenager with authority issues.

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Supposedly he practiced black magic and would eat the face meat of anyone who made eye contact with him, he was allergic to silver and picked up a pint of pigs blood from the market every day after school... that's how he sustained his immortal body you see... he was a vampiric, werewolf warlock... ah, high school rumors. Like everything on the internet, they had to be true, right? What was worse... the kid didn't even have a Facebook account. Freak. The fact that he was having a conversation with Mr. Syracuse that didn't seem to involve disciplinary action against him, seemed well outside the scope of the rumors they'd heard about him.

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"...and you're sure?" Mr. Syracuse was asking him.

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Corbin sighed like he was bored that he was being questioned. "Of course I'm sure. I've done this before, you know."

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"I'm not doubting you, boy." Mr. Syracuse offered. The guy was always calm and had this way of just being the awesome father figure you always wish you had. "It's just if what you say is true, then this is bad. Very bad. We need to know what they're planning, do you mind?"

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"Not at all." He seemed quite polite although his voice didn't seem to express anything but neutrality. "I'll scout Hangman's Hill this evening and see what I can conjure up."

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"Do be careful. Perhaps you should invite Eric or Brigitte with you this evening, you can't walk alone forever. I know you don't get along, but the enemy of your enemy-"

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"Is just another person in my way." Corbin casually cut him off. "I'll be tired tomorrow, cover for me?"

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"Sure." Mr. Syracuse nodded an empathic pain seemed to be hiding well behind his eyes.

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Corbin turned to leave and didn't at all seem surprised at the sight of the four new arrivals. He walked passed them, sharing another strange slow motion moment with Ian as the made eye contact.

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"Ah!" Mr. Syracuse noticed them as well, also apparently unconcerned with them hearing the conversation. "Thank you for coming, please sit down, I have a few things I'd like to go over with you."

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He ushered them over to the reading area and they sat under the dome with the afternoon sun beaming down on them like they were in the spotlights of a Broadway show. "Well, I suppose I should get right to it." Ian, who had never seen the library couldn't help but look up at the awesome artwork above him, his three companions, no matter how often they'd seen it, couldn't help but look up either. It was just cool, really cool. Like every time they looked at it, they noticed something in one of the wedges they didn't notice before. The color of the Baron's eyes, the details in the scales of the hydra... always something.

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When they pried their eyes off the ceiling there was a 24 oz. bottle of coke and a plate with two slices of pizza on it adorned with the toppings that each considered their favorites. Mr. Syracuse hadn't moved from where he was leaning against one of the tables like he did his desk a few moments ago... so... where'd it come from? He smacked his hands together and began. "First, none of you are in any sort of trouble, in the modern sense, anyway. I'll begin with what I know, and please understand this is usually the hardest part of my job, so, work with me a bit. First, I know all about the four of you, and before you run out of here calling me crazy, try to understand that everything I'm about to tell you is true."

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He took a deep breath and pushed off the table, walking in front of them as he decided where to start. "Ian Goldberg, which is not your real name." He winked at him. "Life was good on your buffalo farm until your family mysteriously went missing one evening. You never found them, but you never stopped looking. Nadezhda Lunălescu," His pronunciation was perfect. So perfect Nadya was mildly spooked. "You moved to America when your father was shot twice while stealing from the Russian Mafia, you never met your mother. Erika Clarke adopted from a young age, never met either parent, and every time things began going well for you you were shipped off somewhere else to begin again, no reason, no explanation given. Gabriel Meadow..." He paused like he wasn't sure how to put the next part. "...ideal life. Loving mother, wonderful dad, caring sister and a small, noisy dog. By the gods boy, how do you deal with the boredom?"

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"Before you think this is some secret CIA recruiting tactic, I must warn you: first, it's way cooler than the CIA, and second, far more dangerous." He stopped and was now facing all of them. "Like Corbin, who just left, you are the children of Gods. Like the Greek myths of yore, Heracles, Theseus, Castor and Pollux, you are mortals infused with the divine power of Gods. They couldn't come here personaly to perform this visitation, as they have other matters they are attending to, but they assure me that they will be meeting with all of you soon enough." He clapped his hands together and smiled wide. "Now, this is where you panic, think me crazy, and storm out of here as swiftly as possible... so in closing, I offer you answers as to why your lives have been so rotten, except for you Gabriel, you lucky dog you..."

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"Life is about choices," He folded his arms for only moment before standing aside and sweeping on arm towards the entrance. "There's the exit. Which color pill interests you the most, the red, or the blue, hmm?"

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"What."

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The one-word sentence that Gabe uttered wasn't even a question. It lacked that ending sound, being flatter than a sheet of paper appeared to be. Mr. Syracuse was fond of evocative activities - which Gabe generally liked, but this... Saying that he and the other students sitting here were demigods, with all manner of serious was, as Mr. Syracuse had calmly acknowledged - crazy.

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Too crazy to be true, and yet - the way Mr. Syracuse said it made it all sound too crazy not to be true. Finally, he raised a hand. "Hate to be the potential Cypher, Mr. Morpheus, but - don't you think you should be clarifying this a bit more? There are too many obvious questions to be asked."

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"Clarity? Did Alice recieve all the answers? No. She had to jump down the rabbit hole, she had to eat the cake, drink the potion, play the game. I've been sent by your divine parents to help prepare you for what lies ahead, but I can not force this change upon you, or, rather, I'd prefer not to."

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Gabe slumped, planting his chin on the table at this display of reluctance. Ok, seriously. Aside from the extremity of it all, Mr. Syracuse considered abandoned, dark, lonely childhoods de rigeur for young demigods, and his happy home a rarity. What, was his parents and home not as it seemed? Come on.

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Then a little voice seemed to whisper inside his head. What's the worst? Stick around. You love mythology. If he's right, it's real and you get to be in the thick of it. The heartbeat of Gabe's seemed to punctuate that voice. If he's wrong - just a few harmless minutes before Devenne. Nothing to LOSE.

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Gabe lifted his head up, looking at the images he viewed so often on the ceiling. "Fine. Red's my favorite color, but I'll stay here."

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A single incredulously-arched brow was Erika's initial, external response, followed by a short bark of choked laughter that she quickly stifled by clapping a hand over her mouth as an embarrassed flush of crimson suffused her cheeks. He's lost it. It was the only logical explanation. Gods? Seriously?! She felt the urge to laugh rising again, and quickly bit her lip to prevent it escaping. Clearly, Mr. Syracuse had spent entirely too much time surrounded by fantastic mythological murals and popular juvenile fiction.

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Still... She had gotten conned out of her lunch money by the new guidance counselor (jerkface), he was offering free food, and she was pretty hungry...

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"Fine," she replied, attempting to affect an air of insouciance as she shrugged and dropped her backpack into a chair. "You have until I finish my pizza. I can't promise anything after that, though." As long as all he planned to do was wax poetic about old stories and demonstrate the sad progression of early senility, she was willing to endure it if it meant her stomach would stop its insistent growling.

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Ian was never stable at the best of times. He had a bevy of psychological issues which he’d hidden to this point. They were going to come out; even before Mr. Syracuse had punched an emotional hole through Ian’s brick wall of fortitude, they had been started to show. He had enough triggers that it was only a matter of time. Unfortunately, the situation from his childhood was his worst trigger.

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“Ian Goldberg, which is not your real name. Life was good on your buffalo farm until your family mysteriously went missing one evening. You never found them, but you never stopped looking…”

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The rest of what Mr. Syracuse said was lost to young Ian; he was trapped in his childhood, to the night when it all went wrong. To his father picking up the flashlight and rifle. To his mother screaming. To the night when Ian crawled behind the deep freeze, into the little hiding place there. To the night when the house went so still that all he could hear was the pounding of his heart while things crawled on the inside of the farmhouse walls.

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The teenage boy didn’t respond to the librarian’s offer. Instead he huddled into his coat and struggled to breathe normally. The panic attack swept through him and all he could do was pray for it to end.

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With an enviously quick metabolism that kept her thin and clear of skin regardless of what she ate - it was a curse, really - Nadya was already digging into the pizza with hardly a thought of where it came from beyond thinking she'd never have believed Mr. Syracuse was that good at slight of hand - she hadn't even seen him move. But the revelations that followed made her pale features go stark white.

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Nadya was hardly aware of the mention of gods and myths with Mr. Syracuse seeming to know about the two biggest secrets of her life. One was her name. He had pronounced it too well, with the faintest pause before the beginning that you would only notice if you had a clue it might be there. Somehow, Mr. Syracuse knew her Other Name - the name known only to her and her father - a Romani tradition to keep illness and disease away.

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The other was why she and her father had moved to America in the first place. Over the years, Nadya had made lots of claims of why they had moved, each more outrageous than the last. None were true, and by now, none were believed, and Nadya was fine with that. But Mr. Syracuse knew the Bratva Brotherhood was after them, and that meant others knew too, and it had nothing to do with myth, legend, and folktales, which were just stories and sometimes tools to help the Romani pull the wool over the eyes of the Gadjo.

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Gabe and Erika seemed to humouring the eccentric librarian, Ian was having another panic attack, but Nadya had to know what Mr. Syracuse knew, so she could warn her father. Nadya forced pizza gone to tasteless paste down with a sip of coke, then flicked her hair back with a toss of her head and plastered a wry smirk on her face.

,,

"I'd hardly call my father a God," Nadya commented dryly. "Just a humble pawn-shop owner who had an adventurous youth, from how he tells it. And don't see why he'd have to visit here, I'll see him at the shop after school anyway."

,,

"I'm not talking about your father, Nadya," Mr. Syracuse said with an enigmatic grin that suggested he knew very well what she was trying to pull, yet it was sympathetic too.

,,

If Mr. Syracuse wanted to believe she really cared who her mother was, she wasn't going to disabuse him. She'd be lying if she hadn't wondered from time to time, but her Mother had left her on her father's doorstep, and he had been the one who had raised her on his own - he was more than enough and all she needed. She'd stick around to hear what Mr. Syracuse had to say while she tried to find out what she really wanted to know.

,,

Nadya rolled her eyes then finished her coke with a long, wet slurp through the straw. She leaned back, crossing her arms and balanced her chair on its rear legs as she watched Mr. Syracuse from beneath lowered brows. "Gimme the red pill, Mr. S."

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Mr. Syracuse let Ian have his panic attack. He didn't run for the door or get up to leave, so to him that was confirmation of him being interested enough to stay. "My name is Archibald Syracuse, or 'Archie' for short. At least, that's what I've been using for the last two-hundred years. My real name is Archimedes of Syracuse and I'm over three thousand years old. My father is Hephaestus and I'm a member of a society of deities known as The Keepers, or Keepers of the World if you like the long version."

,,

"History lesson. In the begining, yadda, yadda... you know the stories I've taught about how the gods imprisoned the Titans. That was the end of last great era of man. For nearly eight thousand years we, as a species have been evolving and harnessing the insights of great leaders, engineers, philosophers," He smiled and pointed to himself. "Arithmeticians and inventors. All of this was made possible by the gods keeping the Titans imprisoned, and we have thrived. A couple centuries ago, they broke out of that prison and the gods have been at war with the Titans and each other. They're good at squabbling."

,,

He paced explaining all this using his arms and gestures to accent various points. "I know this sounds ludicrous, I've given this speech several times throughout the millennia and it never sounds any saner than last time I pitched it. Fact remains, I am a God. You are demigods, and now that I've revealed your true nature to you, your caul will weaken and the spawn of the Titans will no doubt be picking up your scent."

,,

"Caul?" Gabriel asked.

,,

"Yes, Mr. Meadow. Mortals are surrounded by a caul, a sort of mystical membrane that encases them and protects their fragile minds from the census of reality. You kids and your Dungeons & Dragons where elves are throwing balls of flame from their hands. You believe in the fantasy, but your mind wraps around the logic that people can not actually do those sorts of things. That magic and the fantastic isn't real. You deny the simplest answer for the most logical one." He picked a few books up from one of the few carts sitting about and slid a couple books onto a few of the closest shelves, like he knew where every book went with nothing more than a casual glance. He approached them again, picking up a chair setting it down right in front of them. He sat and crossed his legs, resting his hands on his knee. "I'm here to warn you and prepare you for the fact that those two things, magic and the fantastic do exist. The Titans use the caul to their advantage by hiding in plain sight, as do most lesser immortals. Right now, out there, are giants, monsters and much worse and they're all right in front of you and you've no idea."

,,

"Now, I'm not at liberty to explain who your divine parents are, they would like the honor of meeting you in person themselves. However, the Fates granted me the honor of lifting your cauls, awakening your ichor, and warning you enough to get you on your way."

,,

"What?" Erika asked with as much doubt as she muster while savoring the pizza. "They off fighting that war right now?"

,,

"No," Mr. Syracuse said matter of factly. "Wine tasting at The Rhône Valley Vineyard, in France this weekend. It's a big deal, they go every year. I wanted to go myself, but I told them I'd handle this little bit of business for them."

,,

Nadya grunted with disdain. "Wait... there's a war going on and they're sipping wine? Something doesn't jive."

,,

Archimedes laughed softly. "They and the Titans are immortal, Nadya. You'll learn soon enough that they are incredibly slow. After all, they have all the time in the World. They take holidays, sojourns to the World, vacations, and sometimes they come here in Avatar from to, well, make children and then dip out on the child support."

,,

"How many of 'us' are there?" Nadya asked.

,,

"In the World, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Here in this school are several as a matter of fact. Secretly they train to battle the Titans and defend mortal society. Eric Donnar, the Rhodes twins, Brigitte De La Croix... all of them demigods. Even Corbin who you saw leaving moments ago and several others. While you've been here attending classes, they've been keeping you safe." He sighed and stood up, replacing the chair to where he got it. "So there you have it, the long and the short of it. Of course there's a million things to go over, but all that is explained in time. Now knowing what you know, you are required to do very few things, least of all believe anything I've said. The truth will find you soon enough and it doesn't care what you believe. Nadya, your mother is a wonderful woman and I know she's looking forward to meeting you very soon. Gabriel, your situation is bit, awkward but your mother is also an incredible woman and you're in good hands from what I understand. Erika, your father..." He just stifled a smirk and waggled a finger at her. "Oh... you father. We'll leave it at that. Ian, your father doesn't expect you to buy any of this crap but he knows you want answers and said he'll give them to you. I've located certain individuals that can assist us locating your missing family and I've given your father my word I will help you find them... if you're interested."

,,

He left it at that, not wanting to agitate Ian any further. "So, the die is cast, and the floor is open. Try not to be too long, Agents of Shield is on tonight and I forgot to set the DVR this morning."

,,

At this point your Virtues are active which means a slight tug in your gut is helping you rewrite your manner of thinking and moral compass (since mortals don't use Virtues). While your Epic Attributes are

technically active, you have no idea how to really harness their power, so consider them off limits until I cover that in another post. ,,

Your Legend has been declared and your destinies decided by the Fates. At this point your mortal caul has been yanked and you now see the World as it really is. The process will be slow, however, not all at once and I will also cover this transition in a future post as well.

,,

'Caul' was a term I decided to use since giants walking around saying "so-and-so has no Legend Score, so they can't see us" just sounds lame. Homer called it 'The Mist', Haitians call it a caul, and the Aesir have referred it as several things... I just liked 'caul'.

,,

...basically, what I'm saying is you guys just got all your cool shit (except Birthrights, your parents are bringing those)... you just can't use any of it yet (nor do you have any reason to).

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Awkward, now? Did Mr. 'Archimedes' just say that in this fantastic tale that because Gabe had the best life out of all present, he had to really get it in the shorts? Poetically, of course it would. Gabe just rolled his eyes and continued to play along. Honestly, as a role-play kind of scenario it was perfect, actually. So yes, he decided he needed to get into the mood.

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Gabe leaned forward, presenting a look of pure faux-intrigued... but still a tad skeptical. "So.... how do we, as students with likely no combat training or equipment go up against the Hydra, or a Cyclops? Check that - how have Corbin, and all these reputed fellow demigods made it through so far?"

,,

Gabe passed a sly glance to Nadya. "Especially since you're saying Mercedes Rhodes has been keeping us safe. I think you lost Nadya at that point."

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"Hydrae, thankfully, tend to prefer the southern swamps of Louisiana, so you needn't worry, Mr. Meadow." Archimedes smirked and winked at him. "And you have more combat training than you think. You're demigods, it's in your blood to battle the Titans, their spawn, and protect the World. Each of you possess reflexes and instincts that will help you should find yourselves in a bind. What we will do in the coming week is cultivate those instincts and teach you how to harness them until they become less instinct and more muscle memory. In short, Gabriel, we will train you."

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"Tell an Aesir that you're weak and they will tell you to get stronger. The logic is simple, and sound." He addressed them all but stayed focused on Gabriel for the most part. "Corbin and the rest have been at this a bit longer. I will talk with them about helping you acclimate."

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"Because Corbin sounds like such a people person." Nayda chimed up with an expressive eye roll.

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"He's been through a lot." His voice had a sense of finality to it, that 'give them a break' tone that Nadya understood. "They all have. So, in the future, Gabriel, the next time you feel you've 'gotten it in the shorts', take a look at the lives of those around you; the other three in this room have hardly had it easy by comparison to you. You'd do well to remember that."

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Gabriel suddenly felt the three pairs of eyes on him while Archimedes simply looked at him expressionlessly. "Yes, Mr. Meadow. I can read your thoughts. I'm looking for the simplest, and most embarrassing ways, to prove to you that I'm serious. Let me know when you're convinced."

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“Fuck you.” Those were the first words that Ian had spoken since getting into the library. He lifted his head off the desk, his panic attack having receded enough for him to react without embarrassing himself. As it was, his face bore the unmistakable appearance of tears. He couldn’t even really enjoy getting to curse at a teacher (after all, if that teacher complained to Taoka, Ian had the best ammunition to fire back with). “Fuck all of you. I expect this harassment from kids, but from a fucking teacher? You all blow ass.”

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Ian grabbed his bag and stormed for the door. This school was a fucking joke. This whole situation was. Fuck this noise, he should just go home, steal what money he could find and take off tonight. The people in this town were shitbags.

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Gabe seemed in temporary mental freeze-up, caught between the whipsaw of Mr. Syracuse's inexplicable recognition and claim, and Ian's sudden breakdown and disappearance from the room. He made no effort to stop Ian, seeing as he hadn't the ability to look into others' heads and get the context that would explain what the hell was going on with him.

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In the meantime, he refocused on something he could consider: whether 'Archimedes' really was reading his mind. A quick rapid-fire pair of questions were pondered, as a test.

,,

The square root of 25 is __?

I Before E, Except After __?

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"Five, and C, Mr. Meadow." Mr. Syracuse answered, with no pause or respite. "I said I was serious."

,,

Gabe's mouth creaked a tad agape with the confirmation... "Serious isn't the word--- this... really... ancient mythology... isn't..."

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"Seriously." Erika had scarcely said a word as the bizarre and somewhat sad glimpse into the fantasies of their aging librarian devolved into schmaltzy teen melodrama, but Ian's outburst and Gabe's blatant attempts to curry favor with Nadya and the delusional bibliophile left a bilious taste in her mouth that no amount of grease and tomato sauce could overshadow.

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"Look out," she called after the retreating teen, pitching her voice to carry without being forced to shout. "We've got ourselves a certified bad-ass, here, people. Yelling insults and running away. Is that how it worked in Vegas? Cry, yell, stomp your feet? Maybe you could scream about how nobody understands you and they're not the boss of you for bonus points. Way to go, new guy!" the slim, soft-spoken girl spat with as much derision as she could muster. It made her feel awful, being so mean; even the cursing, just once, made her cringe inwardly. Oddly, though, it was somehow cathartic. She'd seen that kind of desperation before, that gut-wrenching terror that always, always manifested as rage. It was just easier to turn it outward than in, and much less painful.

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It was also weak, and she hated it because she knew exactly how it felt- and if this guy didn't learn pretty quickly that running away from everything that sucked only made your life suck that much harder, somebody was going to come along and teach him the hard way. The headache she'd been battling was beginning to set off warning fireworks behind her eyes.

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"You're officially the coolest guy in second grade."

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She pursed her lips until a fine white line appeared around them and then suddenly threw up her hands as inspiration blazed into life, briefly outstripping the burgeoning agony in her skull.

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"You know what? Go ahead. Run away. Go! Go back into the hall. I'm sure your friends in the suits would just love to catch you alone. They seemed pretty important, with those fancy earpieces. Hope you're faster than you look!"

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Grabbing her cup, she downed the sticky-sweet soda, praying the caffeine might stave off the migraine long enough to get through all this crazy.

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"What I want to know, Mr. Syracuse, is why my- why our parents," she corrected, "basically ditched us. I mean, sure, one of us apparently got to lead a charmed life and thinks 'awkward' equates to having it rough, but if you really know all this, tell me. They're supposed to be gods, right? And they just now decided it'd be a great idea to have a family reunion? Ohh, and the perfect time, by the way, to tell us, after abandoning us our whole lives, that we're supposed to go fight monsters and go save the world or something?!" She laughed, but it was a choked, angry sound that seemed somehow alien coming from the previously withdrawn girl. "Explain that, please, because I'd just love to hear how that works."

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Her hand trembled as she carefully replaced the plastic cup on the table, ice rattling within as she did so. She didn't know what was going on, but Mr. Syracuse clearly believed what he was saying. ...And, even if the other three students were already giving her serious doubts about the judgment of these supposedly divine parents, the idea that her real father was, one, a freaking god, and two, had bailed on her for, oh, pretty much her entire existence? That. That was just the icing on the cake. Exhausted, she slumped back in her chair; this was already the weirdest day of her life, and she hadn't even made it back home yet.

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Ian’s only answer to Erika was an extended middle finger, lofted over his shoulder and aimed backwards. Her lame attempt to get him to stay and take more abuse was just par for the course. He thought about throwing some scathing remark after her but the only thing that came to mind was another variant on “fuck you” with an added side of “bitch”. Honestly, the middle finger said it all anyway. Verbalizing it was just repetitive.

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As he hit the doors, his MP3 player scrolled up Beastie Boys’ Hey Fuck You. He couldn’t have picked a better song if he’d tried and the music soothed him as he stalked down the hall. The music also blocked Erika’s reminder about the men in black. His mind was full of other things anyway, namely that his uncle had been right to keep him out of the system. The system sucked.

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It wasn’t yet dark as he left the building. The latch clicking behind him brought him up a little short, coming as it did in a pause between songs. Smack My Bitch Up started as he hunched his shoulders down and started for home.

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As walks went, it wasn’t far. The Oxleys had a house about twelve blocks from the school. Sabrina had a car, not that she ever gave him rides. Her words had been something along the lines of “I’d rather see you drop dead than set foot in my car, creep.” That was the first day they’d met and he quickly figured out that his foster sister didn’t share her family’s open door policy with their foster kids.

,,

Never before had twelve blocks seemed so far. Ian drew in a deep breath, released it, and started for the place he lived.

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"I'm not gonna fuck you - Sorry, Archie - I mean, sleep with you, Gabe!" Nadya snapped, but it was an absent retort.

,,

She was frozen to the spot, uncharacteristically speechless and barely aware of Ian leaving and Erika bitching him out as her thoughts scattered in a thousand directions. Mr. Syracuse's claims were utterly ludicrous, but he delivered them with such unpretentious conviction that Nadya found it hard to completely scoff at them. She had witnessed some inspired con-jobs in her sixteen years, by her father and others - mostly back in the Old Country. The trick was, as you were spinning your lies, at that moment, you had to fully believe them yourself - the marks could pick up on it and fall for the 'genuine' honesty.

,,

If the self-proclaimed Archimedes was just running a con on them, he was the best Nadya had ever heard of. On the other hand, If what he said was true... Nadya gulped trying to think of every incriminating thought she had ever had around Mr. Syracuse and what she may have had inadvertently revealed... Then promptly tried to stop, concerned she might start thinking about things she hadn't before around Mr. Syracuse, which would let him read them now. But how do you just stop thinking about...

,,

Other students at Salem High were X-men/demigods/whatevers. Supposedly. The surly loner Corbin Black. I bet that's how he's sneaking into school after hours - cheater! Mercedes Fucking Rhodes, bitch level: divine, literally. The idea the Queen Bitch of Salem High was keeping them safe, herself especially, was the biggest joke ever. Did she really get implants over the summer, or get them from the whole god-parent thing? The girls in comic books are always stacked... Nadya glanced down at her modest endowments. Short and wiry, she wouldn't have minded a few more inches to her bust and height-

,,

Nadya glanced up, pale cheeks flushing pink and green eyes wide, suddenly recalling that Archie may or may not be able to be reading her mind right now! Catching up on what Erika was saying about their deadbeat parents - well, theirs, not Gabe's - Nadya finally noticed Ian was gone.

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Nadya was seriously considering following him, even going so far as to sling her satchel over her shoulder. She was rather apathetic about who her mother really was, god or no god, claims to how great a woman she really was aside. She'd gotten along (mostly) fine without a mother for close to seventeen years, she didn't need one now. On the other hand...

,,

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, immortal parents with all the time in the world for wine tasting and none for us. Totally wanna see this episode on Maury Povich," Nayda said in poorly feigned agreement with Erika as she stood up and leaned over, hands braced on the table. "What I really want to know is... do we have superpowers?"

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Gabe blinked, wondering how this perception of him existed. "How did you come by that idea? One joke, one shared dismay at teachers - I don't listen to whatever the Rhodes legion thinks is gospel. And I'm not interested in you anyway - so put it to rest then." Great. Being told he might be - and now genuinely wondering if there was some fire beneath all that smoke - a demigod needed to save the world, and now partnered with three - or perhaps two now, fellow students he didn't understand, and vice versa.

,,

The only thing he could do is sigh and let Mr. Syracuse answer Erika's question, which was worth asking. Why wait this whole time? Why bring this all to roost now? And Nadya's too, which could actually help maybe establish the validity of this whole talk.

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"What I want to know, Mr. Syracuse, is why my- why our parents," she corrected, "basically ditched us. I mean, sure, one of us apparently got to lead a charmed life and thinks 'awkward' equates to having it rough, but if you really know all this, tell me. They're supposed to be gods, right? And they just now decided it'd be a great idea to have a family reunion? Ohh, and the perfect time, by the way, to tell us, after abandoning us our whole lives, that we're supposed to go fight monsters and go save the world or something?!" She laughed, but it was a choked, angry sound that seemed somehow alien coming from the previously withdrawn girl. "Explain that, please, because I'd just love to hear how that works."

"I'm afraid I can't," he replied calmly. "Your patrons- that's what they prefer as a title instead of 'parent'- should be along to explain that part. Their reasons are theirs and honestly, Erika, would you rather hear it from me or them? I know you well enough, Erika, to know you like to stare down your demons, to go to the source. I encourage all of you to be patient, I know this a very rough time."

,,

"I came from an era where news like this was commonplace and it was the greatest honor any man or woman could ask for." He was so calm and poised, it was hard to forget that he could quite possibly be nuttier than a squirrel turd. Still, he tried his best to alleviate their fears and assure them that neither he, nor they, were in any way insane. "I can't promise you an easy time of things, but I will help and counsel you however I can."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, immortal parents with all the time in the world for wine tasting and none for us. Totally wanna see this episode on Maury Povich," Nayda said in poorly feigned agreement with Erika as she stood up and leaned over, hands braced on the table. "What I really want to know is... do we have superpowers?"

,,

He sighed as Nadya broke the erudite mood with... well, Nadya-speak. With a roll of his eyes he stood up and groaned. Apparently this was not the part of the conversation he liked, but it came up rather often with the newer generation. "Yes, in a manner of speaking. The divine ichor in your blood allows you several opportunities to feel 'super', Nadya. First among them is your body itself. Comprised of mortal flesh and divine blood, you are essentially gods in compact mortal frames: limited by divine standards, but no mortal could ever compare to you. You are stronger, faster, smarter. In the coming days you will come to acclimate yourself to what I've unlocked within you today. The mortal frame struggles to lift two-hundred and fifty pounds; you'll find that five hundred is the standard for demigods." He winked with a smirk. Under all the intellect he was still a son of Hephaestus and strength along with intellect were keyed into his very being.

,,

"Aside from that there are what we have taken to calling 'purviews,' the portfolios of power that the gods have commanded since ancient times."

,,

"Like Zeus or Thor throwing lightning bolts?" Gabe asked.

,,

"Precisely."

,,

"Sweet!" Nadya chimed up, happy as a clam.

,,

Mr. Syracuse cleared his throat while Erika gave her one of those infamous 'I'm trying to listen' scowls. "Everything from animals, to darkness, to the sky and the sun are divine purviews and you will command a fraction of that power." At that very moment his hand burst into flame and he held it up palm upward. There the flame twisted about until it took on a tiny, vaguely human form and began dancing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet there in his hand. Had they not seen it with their own eyes, they'd never believe it.

,,

Erika recovered her senses first and asked, dryly, "So, do we get some 'with great power, comes great responsibility' speech?"

,,

The dancing fire woman spun about and collapsed in apparent exhaustion, fading away in a puff of smoke. "No. No speeches, no rules to follow aside from the basic four that are told to all Scions. Your powers are yours to use as you see fit. Before you ask, the four rules are simple. As Scions your duty is as follows: First, prevent the Titans from destroying all that exists. Second, promote given agendas within human society. Third, ensure your pantheon's survival. And, finally, thwart the plans of rival Gods."

,,

He clapped his hands together and then held them wide. "That's it. As Corbin eloquently put it: "Kick titan butt, keep the mortals safe, don't burn down the house and keep the neighbor's kids off the lawn."

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"Why the kids?" Gabriel asked, puzzled. "How can we contend with gods?"

,,

"Excellent question, Gabe." Mr Syracuse replied proudly. "You can't, but they can't really interfere too much with you either. You see, long ago the Gods forged a pact that none of them could ever usurp another's power directly. Simply put, the Gods can not directly battle one another and steal their throne."

,,

"But their children are fair game," Erika speculated.

,,

"Precisely."

,,

"So, they can use Scions to mess with the plans of their rivals and their rivals' only recourse is to use their own Scions against the offenders, since the Gods can't interfere directly without looking guilty as all hell and exposing themselves and their plans." Gabe and Erika looked back at Nadya, visibly puzzled that something so intelligent and logical just came from her general direction, somewhere from her brain and mouth region. She shrugged. "What? It's basic 'how not to get caught' 101. Use patsies, blame them when sh-... crap all starts to roll down hill."

,,

Meanwhile... on the Ian side of things...

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Ian wasn't doing so hot. As Mr. Syracuse spoke with the others he was showing them things, talking to them and opening their minds up, slowly, to the myriad of possibilities all around them. For Ian it was sensory overload. He didn't have the benefit of a gradual introduction, as the others did. The music helped his focus, but barely. The world seemed brighter, as if someone had suddenly yanked a pair of cheap sunglasses from his eyes and shown him what color truly was. Everything seemed more vibrant, if a bit blurred around the edges, like the frayed ones around his already threadbare sanity.

,,

Normal mortals appeared perfect, without any fuzziness or smudging, while a myriad of lesser immortals and spirits (not ghosts) looked like so much smeared paint across a vibrant canvas; their mortal seemings and immortal disguises fluctuated constantly. Ian would never have guessed that so many regular people would be spirits in disguise living among regular people. Although disorienting, nothing about them seemed dangerous or apocalypse-inducing. If these were the feared 'Titanspawn' Ian was pretty sure the world was safe from the guy in the hardware store or the grain spirit over at the cafe enjoying her latte.

,,

The Men in Black were still at his heels, however, and as his disoriented mind reeled to take it all in he noticed they were slowly growing in number. He leaned against a telephone pole to squint hard and try to shake off the dizziness when he noticed, finally that they were up to almost five: two behind him, one ahead of him and one on each of his flanks doing their best to 'hide'.

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"Hey," a soothing voice from behind him called. He barely caught it over the music but only one ear bud was in at the moment. A hand touched his shoulder and Ian spun about, more out of shock than fear. The girl was beautiful (App 5) and about his age, with long auburn hair, a perfect smile and eyes that reminded him he was a sixteen year old boy with no current girlfriend. "Ian right? We have last period together, Brittany, remember?"

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She showed up 'normal' on his 'radar' by comparison to the rest of the world, and he wasn't a genius, but one thing Ian was good at was quick thinking to stay alive and survive. He did remember her from earlier, and why a girl so hot was talking to him... he had no idea. "Are... are you okay? You're sweating?"

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Well, this confirmed one of two things. Either they were sharing a mass hallucination, or indeed they were indeed clinched as demigods. And Nadya's observations on the nature of conniving and plotting awoke recollections of various tales from Bulfinch's Mythology.

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"Hera tormenting Zeus' lovers and extra-marital offspring," He groaned as the pieces came together. "Apollo tricking Artemis into shooting Orion. Soap Opera Suprema, just with the Greek pantheon alone. So... it's possible that our parents might maneuver us against each other."

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"It's possible." Mr. Syracuse allowed honestly.

,,

Gabe let out a part sigh, part exhalation of breath thinly from his mouth. At this rate, he'd have to call Devenne to cancel their plans. "Can we get a time estimate on our... patrons arriving?"

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“What?” Ian dragged his fingers over his forehead to see them come away wet. He was momentarily mortified to be a sweating mess for no good reason in front of a hot girl, right until he remembered she couldn’t be a hot girl because they didn’t talk to him. He was the kind of guy you failed Biology rather than finish a joint assignment with, because he was a creep. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

,,

“Excuse me?” Blue-green eyes – his favorite – widened in something that was possibly hurt. Not that he cared she had feelings to hurt, not at the moment. Maybe he’d care if she’d been sucking his cock. Otherwise, he had bigger problems, like why she was talking to him. Though that meant she’d have even less reason to suck his cock—

,,

Ian suddenly realized his brain was in overload, assessing threat after threat in a cascade of paranoia that should have been overwhelming him. Instead, it left him mostly cranky because while he was sure that the old lady and her dog across the street weren’t a threat, they could be and his fucking head wouldn’t shut up about it while the girl in front of him was the real threat. Or the men in black. Or Mr. Syracuse. Nadya. Gabe. Corbin. All of them were potential threats: betrayers, liars, backstabbers—

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With effort, he focused on the girl, lips drawing back in a shaky grimace of impatience. “What the fuck do you want? English! Do you speak it?”

,,

He’d always wanted to use that line. Too bad the world had just gone insane and he couldn’t enjoy his SLJ moment.

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Nadya had watched the fiery dancer in rapt attention, green eyes reflecting the ruddy light. When a con was at risk, you could try to cover up with the (highly edited) truth, or use even more lies to distract the fuzz. In either case, you had to adapt to the situation, instead of clinging to the old plan.

,,

Fine then! I'm a demigod! Nadya felt a rush like tricking a mark out of his last buck and a rising orgasm combined. The nerds may read comic books, but she was the one who was a goddamned X-man - along with others, which unfortunately seems to include that cow Mercedes! I wonder what powers I have?

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Surreptitiously, the sleek young woman pulled up a sleeve and glanced at her tensed bicep. She looked for any sign of being up to bench-press five hundred pounds, but her slender, toned arm - thanks to years of dance and an interest in gymnastics - looked the same as it ever did.

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Undeterred - in comic books, a girl's visible strength hardly had any bearing on her actual might - Nadya pressed her hands to the underside of the massive hardwood table they were sitting at and tried to lift it, but no bones.

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She tried to will herself taller and curvier, but she stayed resolutely short and svelte. While Gabe droned and groaned over Greek myths - though Nadya would admit Brad Pitt was totally dreamy in Troy - she tried to Force Choke him, but he didn't stop talking. She cupped a hand and tried to summon her own flame-wrought ballerina, but nothing. It was only when she raised her arms above her head, wrists pressed together and palms spread wide, an intense expression on her face that Mr. Syracuse finally made note of it.

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"Nadya, please stop trying to Hadoken the stained glass dome - it is quite irreplaceable," Archimedes said with wry amusement. "The ichor in your veins is just beginning to stir, it'll still be some time before it fully awakens. Have a bit of patience."

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"What? No, no, I was just raising my hand to ask a question," Nadya bluffed, mildly embarrassed surprise shifting into a wide, entirely too earnest grin as she kept one arm raised and the other slid down to brace it at the elbow.

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"Which is?" Archie's lips twitched suspiciously.

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"Oh? Right! What happens if we don't play by the rules?" Though she seemed at ease, there was a challenging light in her very green eyes. "Our par - our patrons - haven't been in our lives 'til now. Why should we continue the family feud just because our patrons had a snit several millennia back when one of them borrowed the family goat to cut the grass and never returned it?"

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Ian's departure didn't go unnoticed by the blue-eyed teen, but any further efforts would have been pointless; not only that, it would have implied that she cared. And, of course, she didn't. Even if she felt a little bad that he had to deal with all this on his first day. And even if she could maybe understand how he was feeling...

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With an exasperated sigh that clearly expressed her frustration and skepticism, Erika picked up her backpack. For all that she was a confirmed "art freak," she took great pride in her intellect and her academic pursuits; she felt mingled scorn and pity for her creatively-inclined peers who spent their time getting high in the bathrooms and stairwells in search of "inspiration" and "expanded horizons." How did any of them expect to get into a good school and actually pursue their dreams? Her family certainly wouldn't be footing the bill for tuition, even if they could afford it with two older kids who'd be going to college first. Her research into the lives of artists had yielded a wealth of information on hallucinogens and intoxicants, and she didn't bother disguising the heavenward roll of her eyes as Gabe and Nadya's too-credulous reactions flew in the face of logic and good sense. The goth-girl, with her sketchy reputation, she could understand, but... wasn't Gabriel supposed to be some sort of genius?

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Any number of chemicals, discreetly applied to their food or drink could easily have made them more open to suggestion or hallucination; the dawning realization elicited a shudder as she tried to remember how much she'd eaten, and how many cups of soda she'd had. It hadn't tasted odd, but, then, that didn't necessarily mean anything. She allowed herself a moment of uncharacteristically bitter reflection on all the homes she'd grown up in, and almost smiled; nothing, she knew, was ever as it seemed. Well, if they wanted to be the first to have their tickets punched for the Crazy Train, let them. For all she knew, whatever the pitiable Mr. Syracuse had dosed them with inspired Gabe to speak his thoughts aloud for the librarian to repeat, and the dancing flame in his hand was nothing more than an open Zippo. Maybe the other two students had their own reasons for wanting to believe- personal insecurities, wish-fulfillment, whatever- but a single semester last year of Psych/Soc didn't qualify the sophomore to analyze them, even if she'd had the inclination.

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Pursing her lips as she hitched the strap of her backpack over her shoulder, the coltish young girl wondered whether the administration had any idea about the mild-mannered librarian's antics. If he had drugged them, there was a good chance it had happened before, or would happen again; he seemed harmless enough, sure, but if students were at risk... Ugh. And even if he hadn't, and just happened to be a huge David Blaine fan, was it really okay for him to try to convince people they were the children of gods?

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The part of Erika that just wanted to forget about this whole, stupid, messed-up day waged a silent war against the part that begged her to be responsible and do the right thing... and then that part was ambushed by the one that railed about snitches getting stitches, supported by a mental chorus of voices that helpfully suggested that if he was doing anything wrong he'd get caught eventually without her involvement, and who were these people to her, anyway? She hadn't worked so hard, put so much blood, sweat, and tears into her art and her grades to get sidelined by some fairy tale, had she?

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No.

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Without realizing it, she shook her head, her back stiffening with resolve. She'd always been careful, made good decisions, invested her time and energy in building a future for herself, in earning-

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"Miss Clarke?"

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Startled, Erika blinked at Mr. Syracuse, suddenly painfully aware that she'd just been standing there for... how long? Her cheeks burned with embarrassment, and she shook her head again, managing something like an abashed smile. "Oh, sorry. I'm done with my pizza. Thanks for the food, but I'm pretty sure the buses are gone already, and I need to get home."

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"A valid question, Nadya, very good." The educator in him fully rose to the surface and he stood up in that tell-tale moment right before a teacher started to pace as they explained something. Sure enough, he started to pace. "Try to understand that these are not petty feuds, well not all of them, anyway. Most issues the Gods handle on their own amongst themselves but on occasion when those decisions affect the World and your patron feels it's a particularly poor decision, there is a god chance they'll ask you to intervene on their behalf since they are not permitted to directly intervene themselves."

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"There are those Scions who 'rebel'," the way he air quoted didn't sit comfortably with anyone, like no god took rebelling seriously. "But more often then not they realize the importance of having the gods on their side after all, they can not intervene directly in mortal lives but they can intervene indirectly. Abuse your power too much however and it can consume you. There are numerous tragedies of how demigods have fallen prey to their dark urges and forsaken humanity entirely. Try to keep in mind Nadya that you've just been promoted to a protector of the World and you should strive to use your abilities to help and not to exploit those less fortunate then yourself." He lectured like a concerned father figure but they all knew (strangely enough) he couldn't makethem do anything they didn't want to do. The only definite seemed that they were 'demigods' now, aside from that he'd evaded most definitive answers.

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"And, to answer your question Gabriel, they do have a lot of things to discuss with you, so I would assume you could expect them within a week or so." He replied to Gabriel. When Erika stood and collected her things Mr. Syracuse didn't make any motion to stop her. When she explained that she needed to be getting he offered an understand smile and a friendly gesture that indicated she was welcome to leave. "By all means, in fact, we're done here and if any of you have previous engagements I apologize for keeping you from them. Just, try to mull over what I've said with an open mind. In the mean time, should you need me, I'll be here."

,,

Ian

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"...and imagine my shock to find out that you're single," the girl mumbled her sarcasm, accented with a roll of the eyes, at Captain Suave's barrage of charm. "I'm Allison and I'm trying to be nice to you, asshat. Could you quit being a dick for five seconds? You looked like you might need a hand, c'mon, let me help you out."

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Strangely enough the anger and suspicion never left Ian, but he didn't argue anymore, he did exactly as she asked. He thought it strange to have full control over his emotions, but not his actions. He wanted to ignore the girl and walk away but every time he told himself to do just that his body just let her lead him on. His adrenaline seemed like it was cranked to twelve, which explained the sweat. His heart thumped at a speed that even knew should have caused it to implode nearly five minutes ago. Everything in his mind screamed for him to run, fight, claw, kick, punch scratch, whatever was necessary to escape this chick but despite his best efforts the more he screamed at his mind to 'go the other way!' the more his mind said 'follow her? Okay'. I suddenly found himself in a scary position of helplessness.

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She made small talk as they walked. Her names was Allison Patel, not that he cared, and when she saw him struggling with coherency she thought she'd lend a hand. The rub was that Ian knew she was sincere. He wasn't sure why, but Allison seemed like a really nice girl (how did he know that, anyway, he didn't care... did he?). A part of him wondered if she even knew he was following her blindly, hell he couldn't bring himself to reply to her questions, but still, his hand in her she walked on chatting him up. He knew it was a bad idea, but she was gorgeous and he'd follow her anywhere...

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...wait, no... fuck this bitch... this was on a creep level he didn't want to deal with right now!

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...she sure was pretty. "Mrs. Carlson up at the book store has a phone, I'm sure she'll let us use it and you can call someone to come pick you up. Seriously, you are just not looking well. You looked okay in fifth period," she flushed a bit. "Not that I was staring or anything, I just noticed, is all. I'm not a creepster or anything..." As if on cue the Gods decided Ian's day wasn't weird enough.

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They were cutting through the alley way that lead from the Chinese place to Mr.s Carlson's books store one block over when she suddenly clenched her gut with one hand, still holding on to Ian's hand with her other. He heard her stomach growl at the same moment her attitude shifted and she let go of his hand suddenly and pushed him up against the wall, hard. He had to be hallucinating, but she changed in front of him. Her skin became dry and withered shifting into fine bright green scales, like the skin of a garter snake. Her eyes shifted from a lovely molted green pattern to a golden amber, her pupil expanded vertically into a slit. Her teeth sharpened into fangs, he literally watched them fold down from the roof of her mouth and her other teeth made room for them. Finally he fingernails grew into two inch long talons and took on the metallic gleam of golden bronze.

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Completely freaked out by whatever Mr. Syracuse slipped in his pizza Ian's mind didn't quite collect everything right away. By the time he had the sense to get the hell out of there she was already looking right at him, he tried not to think about how she was still kinda cute despite all the drugs in his system... they were drugs right? He met her gaze for one last 'piss of, I'm gone' one liner as he prepared a right hook... but found he couldn't move. His legs were locked in place, his arms wouldn't move, nothing! This wasn't some sort of fear (that much he knew), her gaze had somehow paralyzed him. "Gods, Ian... I'm so sorry... the pain..." Allison shuddered from pangs deep in her gut. Ian knew hunger, he knew what the dry heaving pangs of starvation looked like and this girl, fucked up as she was, was legit in the hungry department.

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"I don't want to do this..." She whimpered, pressing him up against the wall. On his left shoulder her talons dug deep, his warm blood swiftly trailed down her fingers in small streams. She hungrily inhaled the scent of his ichor. It hurt like hell. He tried to cry out but his voice wouldn't work. He managed a low grunt and winced in pain, despite closing his eyes the paralysis didn't subside, once she had him, he was stuck apparently. "I... I don't know what is wrong with me..." Her eyes watered up, she looked like she was about to cry. "I'm so hungry.... and you... you smell..."

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Her eyes shifted back to something that looked human, like she was suddenly having a moment of clarity. She back away swiftly, in a panic. Her features remained horrific, but her eyes were her own. "No... I can't do this... I can't... Ian I don't.... I'm not this person..."

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*click*

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Ian knew the sound of a hammer being drawn back. Allison looked down the alleyway, down the way her and Ian were just walking moments before and there were five men all with Desert Eagles pointed at her. They were dressed in black suits, mirrored shades, and matte black .50AE Desert Eagles that appeared to have some strange luminescent blue runes engraved on the sides of each gun. In couldn't move, yet, but he could pan his eyes around.

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"Allow me to illuminate you to the options available in this rather precarious situation you find yourself in." One of the men spoke. The rest remained motionless, holding the guns up like they were weightless in their hands. "Given our liege's current, rather mute status, you find yourself lucky. Without his command, we can not slay you yet we can act in defense. Your options are thus: attack us or him so we can scatter your memory in a fine, rose colored, yet legendary mist all over the wall. I assure you, it will be a fantastic death. Or ruin our day by running away."

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As the men slid their guns inside their coats Allison was already ten paces away and gaining speed. She may have been ugly, but apparently not stupid. The man who delivered ultimatums in a manner that made even Ian a bit concerned for the future of the world's youth approached him. "Sir." He nodded calmly. "The paralysis should be wearing off soon, a few minutes at the most. We're from A.S.G.A.R.D. Your father assigned us to keep you safe, he sends his regards. We'll be around. Good day, sir. Stay out of trouble. If you need us, just call." He tucked a card in Ian's coat pocket.

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The men left, Allison was probably half way Indonesia judging by her pace, and Ian eventually regained control over his body. He slipped the card out of his pocket and it read:

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Agent Smith

Aesir Surveillance Guardianship And Reconnaissance Division

Problem Child Sector

"We saw that."

Fuck.

,,

This.

,,

Day.

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It took Ian fifteen minutes to stop crying and dry-heaving. The only reason he allowed himself to do either was because he was alone in a dark alley. His day had gone from awful to fucked up to really fucked up and all he could do was break down in a sniveling heap.

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Fortunately, he soon had a plan. When it hit him, he straightened and wiped his eyes and nose. There was one solid way to confirm or deny this bullshit. He was prepared to believe that a bunch of the shittier students and one really shitty teacher were teaming up to make his life hell. He was also willing to believe that, like most people, they weren’t fully committed to their lies. He might be surprised, but frankly, Nadya seemed to forget something the second you waved a cock in front of her, Erica was too busy being your angry brooding teen girl to think about shit and Gabe didn’t really believe that other people had thoughts.

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Ian, of course, was without fault. Well, he admitted to himself, not completely without fault. He was a little too awesome for these shitheads.

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The perfect teen swung his backpack up higher on his shoulder, musing through the plan. After a few more minutes of gathering his courage by boldly lying to himself about his god-like (pun intended) status, he headed out of the alley.

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He knew what he should do: he should call Jordan and have his foster caretaker – Ian refused to call him Dad – come and pick him up. He should then go home, do homework, break into Jordan’s liquor cabinet, get shitfaced, fall out a window, break his arm, and end the evening on a high note.

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Instead, he was going to verify this shit right now. Jaw set in a grim line, Ian stalked off into the night. They might think they could pull a fast one on him but even a newcomer to Salem knew where Hangman’s Hill was.

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Nadya stood slowly and gathered her things, mulling over what Mr. Syracuse had said. Being a Demigod was starting to sound like being a thief, at least a little. Not the whole protector-of-humanity-junk, but the abuse of things-you-can-do-but-others-can't-stuff. There was a long tradition in folklore of the Romani taking advantage of the stupidity of the Gadjo, but stealing from those who had nothing was something else altogether.

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"Thanks for the four-one-one, Mr. Syracuse, but I gotta get running too," Nadya said, following Erika out the door.

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Yeah, Archie had told them things, revealed things they'd never even ever expected, but he'd evaded questions too, and they still had a week before their respective patrons decided to have face-to-face. She wasn't sure when or even if she going to confront her father about who her mother was, but Nadya wanted another source of info, and conveniently enough, she knew where to find one.

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Corbin was hardly the forthcoming sort, but he was infinitely better than Mercedes. She'd rather hump a piece of splintered balsa wood than ask that skank for help. So, it was off to Hangman's Hill for her.

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Maybe with a small detour... or a partner, to make sure I'm not totally nuts for starting to believe this shit... Nadya thought as she caught up to Erika in the hallway. Besides, having a favour or two forthcoming was always handy.

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"Hey, Erika, heard what you said 'bout the bus," Nadya said, sliding into step next to other girl and flashing her a quick, friendly grin and rolling her eyes the way they had come, as if to say: Can you believe all that bullshit we just got shoveled? "I gotta car, I can give you a lift if you want."

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"Hey, Erika, heard what you said 'bout the bus," Nadya said, sliding into step next to other girl and flashing her a quick, friendly grin and rolling her eyes the way they had come, as if to say: Can you believe all that bullshit we just got shoveled? "I gotta car, I can give you a lift if you want."

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Erika grimaced as the neo-goth girl chirped in her ear. Today had been the most singluarly fu- messed up day she'd had since moving to Salem with her newest parents: her guidance counselor had ripped her off, their librarian was probably crazy, her "classmates"... well, despite her instinctive dislike of the other students, her opinion was decidedly uncharitable enough that she forcibly cut off that line of thought before it progressed further. Better to just assume the events of the day had gotten everyone off on the wrong foot and she hadn't seen them at their best; the alternative was too depressing to consider. And her head... Ugh. She was actually glad she'd missed the schoolbus, since the endless chattering and stifling proximity would probably have made her violently ill at this point. Getting into a car with Nadya, though?

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She sighed and shook her head, immediately regretting the decision as bright, angry spots swam before her eyes and her stomach lurched. "No, I'm good," the brunette replied sharply. "I can walk. Thanks, though." It was true, mostly; if she stared at the sidewalk, the late afternoon sun didn't shoot beams of searing, orange-red agony behind her eyes. With a half-hearted wave meant to be at least minimally polite and stave off further conversation, Erika headed for the house she shared with her contractually-obligated family.

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It took her the better part of an hour, even after cutting through the neat yards of suburban cul-de-sacs and bypassing the busier parts of the city, and by the time she got home, she was completely exhausted. The smells and sounds of dinner flooded the house; ignoring them, she trudged upstairs, dropped her backpack at the foot of her bed, and collapsed onto the comforter.

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Please, just let today be over already.

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