Legion of Lawndale Heroes
Chapter 13.7 - 'Express Yourself'
Legion of Lawndale Heroes created by James Bowman
"Meetings — If you're new to the business world, you might mistakenly think that meetings are a boring, sadistic hell, populated by galactic-level morons. I had that same misperception when I joined the working world. Now I understand that meetings are a type of performance art, with each actor taking on one of these challenging roles: Master of the Obvious; Well-Intentioned Sadist; Whining Martyr; Rambling Men; Sleeper."
-Douglas Adams, from The Dilbert Principle
All you do to me is talk, talk...
-from 'Talk Talk', by Talk Talk
"I had never envisioned any sort of code names for Legionnaires," Daria Morgendorffer said, leaning forward in her chair as she spoke to the other Legionnaires in the conference room. "I don't think there's much of a point. Why would anyone call me 'Mnemosyne' when you can just say 'hey, Daria?' Why 'Polaris' when you can call her 'Jane?'"
Daria shook her head. "They don't even work as "code" names, since most of the names are strong hints as to what our powers are."
Charles Ruttheimer raised his index finger. "My dear Miss Morgendorffer - do you know why Wednesday is such an important day for those who consider themselves as aficionados of the graphic novel, or as you would call them - comic book geeks?"
Everyone except Stacy Rowe (and strangely enough, Colonel Kyle Armalin) looked over to the red-haired young man who had totally relaxed his powers, so that the tiny twin antennae on his forehead were visible - with looks of curiosity mixed with disbelief. "Pity," Charles continued. "If you don't know the basics... "
He looked around the room as he spoke. "At the Academy, we did not fight Rafael, Maryann, David Allen and Zoey – we engaged in battle with 'Fortune', 'Tempest', 'Esper Prime' and 'Victory'. There are reasons for code-names. First, it keeps you focused on the job. It keeps you professional – and do you really want people to be calling you by your name in some situations? In the heat of battle, calling someone by their first name gives off a level of familiarity that wouldn't be appropriate – and could also signal to our opponents just who to concentrate their efforts upon."
Charles turned to face Armalin. "In the service, you can tell how close you are to someone by the name you use for them, right?"
The Marine nodded. "I don't want to think of how many memorials I've attended where it was the first time I had ever hears a person's full name spoken aloud."
Charles turned back to face Daria. "Second – there is power in a name. If your code-name gives the good people out there an idea of what you can do – so much the better! People know that the 'Justice Guild' is a group of people banded together to serve justice; they know that 'Ratboy' is dangerous, skulking and capable of surviving any circumstances – like a rat – while 'Soul Power' is a suave, street-savvy African-American gentleman!" Charles shrugged. "They might also think that the gentleman possesses mystical powers at first, too. Such mistakes could prove to be an extra layer of defense, because the miscreants we may face may prove to be ill-prepared for our initial encounters with them."
Stacy Rowe piped up. "If we go public someday, people will start treating us like superheroes on TV and in the movies, anyway!" she said, dovetailing Charles' comments nicely. "They'll ask us what our superhero names are so often that they'll puke, and we'll have to come up with names just to stop them from making the first thing out of their mouths 'What are your superhero names, anyway?' Besides – having a 'superhero name' is cool!"
Daria sighed. "Hey, they know pretty much every damn thing about us anyway," she said, remembering how she went online to the Legion Fan Forum (after the Gold Team's return from West Texas and their dealings with the Network) and finding the links to the web site entitled 'Queen of the Legion'. (It was named that because of Daria's name meaning 'Queen' in Persian.)
The site had things on it that Daria had long since forgotten; articles she had written as Fashion Editor during her freshman year at Highland High - not to mention a video of an interview someone had done with two boys that she had gone to school with... Daria shuddered as she watched the interview, amazed that the two idiots had made it to eighteen, and that the blond-haired one was still doing the sthick of wearing underwear on his head as he chased the cameraman, shrieking 'I need TP for my bunghole!'
There were also (of course) high-definition downloads of the photos from the Grace Island shoot for Val magazine, along with more details on her figure than she ever wanted to know (How did they figure out exactly that I wear a 34C cup? Daria wondered. God – someone's got far too much time on their hands-!), and even the recipe for the 'Garbage' pizza that she and Jane loved so much... along with photos of the two friends in a booth at Pizza King.
Damn, she thought. At least I haven't heard the Ping of Death in a long while – not even while dealing with Lance and the rest of those jerks, or with the Planesrangers. I guess being here's counted for something.
Daria continued. "Maybe giving Sandi a name like 'Triad' will frighten people away - 'Oh hell, I have to fight three of her'."
Sandi Griffin sat up straight at Daria's words, a huge smile going across her face as she let thoughts roll through her mind. "Triad,'" she said, trying out the word. "I like that. I want to use that name."
"Besides – if we don't, the public will," Mack Mackenzie spoke up from the end of the table. "Ever watch that 'Danny Phantom' cartoon that came on a few years back? The people in the city he lived in called him 'Inviso-Bill' for almost half the series!"
"Sounds like you've come up with a code-name for yourself, Mack," Julia Carlyle said, turning to face him as she spoke.
"Inferno," he replied. "'Nova' just sounds too feminine, and nobody's calling me 'Sun Boy'. "
Quinn Morgendorffer, sitting at the head of the table, spoke up. "Well, if we're doing names – anybody else got one that they want to throw out, for themselves or someone else?"
Daria looked around the table before speaking up. "Well, after the little adventure that Charles and I had in another dimension-"
Jane Lane tossed a slightly cross look at both Mack and Tom Sloane. "Not to cut you off, amiga – but just how many of us here have gone off into some dimension or other?"
Tom Sloane (who still appeared under-the-weather as he sat in his chair on the other side of Mack) winced under his former girlfriend's glare as Jane continued to speak. "I mean, it seems like that's our specialty – 'we go to other dimensions instead of helping people here in our own town?' Can we have a show of hands?"
Tom and Mack's hands went up, as did Daria and Charles' hands; Jane wasn't surprised to see Julia's hand go up – but everyone was surprised to see Tiffany Blum-Deckler's hand rise into the air, followed by both Stacy Rowe's hand, and then Fran Lawrence's.
"Really?" Jane said, noticing how even Armalin was startled by the news. "Spill!"
"I can't tell you anything about it, except to tell you I can't tell you anything about it," Stacy said, almost falling back to the hyperventilating manner of speech that she had for years before.
Quinn was about to speak, but Sandi's falcon gaze fell upon Stacy as Sandi asked imperiously, "Really, Stacy? And just WHO or WHAT is so important that you can't tell US about it?"
Stacy mumbled out a mouthful of word salad. "tntefbrlepbineduqbrtate..."
"What did you say, Stacy?" Quinn snapped. "Spit it out!"
For the first time in the meeting, Armalin spoke up. "Rowe-"
Stacy reverted fully back to the girl she was before the Legion. "Temporal Prime Directive!" she cried out, before putting her head down.
The room went silent. "Oh," Jane said, her eyes wide as she turned from Stacy to Julia. "Is this classified government stuff, or can I ask about it?"
"Good news and bad news, Lane," Julia told her. "Good news is that it's 'need-to-know'."
Jane blinked hard. "That's 'good news'?"
The redhead's face went solemn as she nodded. "Yeah. The bad news, Lane – someday, the Legion may have a need to know."
Everyone turned to face Tiffany. "Well?" Quinn said.
"All... I... can... say... is... you'll... all... find... out... in ... a... day... or... two...," the Asian Legionnaire said.
Jane shook her head in disbelief. "And you can't talk because...?"
Everyone's attention turned to Fran, and the petite young woman – her face now healed by an application of a single tear from Julia Carlyle, and the healing factor within – shrank slightly – literally – under their combined gazes.
The way my power's healed her is unbelievable, Julia marveled. Even though her own powers keep the healing from being permanent, it's way better than that formula she's been taking – Jodie thinks that even a single drop will work for over twenty-four hours - and she doesn't have to have it injected into her neck.
Fran returned to normal size, and Julia watched as the girl picked at the huge banana nut muffin in front of her.
Maybe it's a good thing that it's not permanent, Julia thought. They briefed me on her medical situation – thank God I had to sit the Academy's Level One Healer boards – so I know that if she's ever fully healed, she'll need some serious psych and nutritional therapy, not to mention some a good exercise program, to make sure that she doesn't blow up like a balloon.
Fran spoke up, focusing the tall redhead's attention as she answered Jane's question."I can't say. It's a prohibition set down by – certain people - in the Nova Valdris Accords. It's better to agree and go along with not talking, than to – what's the word they used-"
"A 'temporal reset'," Mack finished for her; Daria's head jerked around at those words as Mack nodded. "Tom and me were gone for roughly a year from here – eight or so months playing zombie killers, and four where the two of us did... other stuff. I've seen some of the stuff – I know what that is. Let's move on."
Jane shook her head. "Do I want to ask if anyone else has had any other strange experiences that aren't connected with time travel or other dimensions?"
She soon got her answer. Jane almost wanted to scream when Quinn, Mack, Charles, Julia, Tiffany, Stacy – and even Trent – all raised their hands at the same time.
"WHAT?" Jane shouted. "Somebody had better start talking!"
Quinn turned to Jane. "Jane, as Legion Leader-"
Jane pointed towards her own face. "See this look on my face? This is a little something we call 'I'm the First Legionnaire, and I'm pulling rank!' New rule! Anybody who ends up going into action ANYWHERE, even if it's beating up muggers in a parking lot after a shopping spree-"
Jane stared daggers at Sandi and Stacy and even the normally imperious Sandi was cowed by her angry glare. "-You make some kind of report within an hour of your getting back here to the Tower! Colonel," she said, addresing Armalin,"we're going to need digital recorders for every Legionnaire, and anyone who doesn't make a report in a timely manner without a good reason after coming back from something crazy happening is getting fined – half of their weekly stipend for every time it happens!"
Managing not to smile amid the sudden arrival of grumbling from the Legionnaires, Armalin snapped off, "Yes, ma'am," as Jane turned to Trent.
"You, too? Trent-" Jane began.
Trent peeled himself off the wall, speaking for the first time. "Whoa, Janey, hold up," Trent said. "I was going to talk to you – I've got things to show you, but -"
"Now's good," she said curtly. "Now."
Trent shrugged, pointed at the glass of water on the table in front of his sister – and Jane didn't even blink as a thin, silver-white stream of cold flowed from his hand to not only freeze the ice in the glass solid, but formed ice around the glass that he shaped into a rough statuette of Jane... if one were being very, very charitable.
"Yeah, we're going to be talking about this later, big brother," Jane growled. "Now, it seems that you and everybody on the Blue Team have had some sort of little adventure together-"
"No matter what you say or do, Jane, it can't be as bad as being a character in a Disney Channel Original Series, with everything you say just popping out of your mouth as if someone else is writing the words for you," Mack said.
"Or having the Jonas Brothers doing the theme song," Charles echoed, shuddering at the memory.
"What are you two complaining about?" Julia snapped out. "At least you didn't have to go around in the title sequence primping like a fashion-crazed red-haired teen bimbo with powers as I'm about to go out on yet another date, as if there's nothing else I'm capable of doing-"
Julia looked over to see electricity actually burning inside Quinn's irises.
"Hmm," she continued, noticing that Quinn's appearance strongly resembled the effect that all of the powerful telepaths she knew generated in their eyes. 'Burning major mana' - that's what they call it when they use their powers at very high levels. Quinn carries herself like Amorette, too.
"Maybe I could rephrase that.." Julia finished.
"Maybe you should," Quinn said, her voice dangerously calm as she stared at Julia.
Julia rolled her eyes as she swung her chair around to face Quinn head-on. Trying to play nice with the other children and roll back an untoward comment is one thing, she thought, but nobody plays their bitch card on me in public.
"Listen up, coppertop," the scarlet-haired woman hissed. "This isn't Sweet Valley High – and I've been whomping on walking batteries before you bought your first smiley-face pink baby-tee. You try playing 'Taser Girl' with me, and I'll flip your switch to the 'off' position in a heartbeat."
Quinn's reply came out in a growl. "You're the last person who should make comments about wearing pink tops! At least I own a bra-!"
Julia stretched herself and took a slow, deep breath that emphasized her own bosom before glancing back at Quinn. "Why?"
"What is this – sophomore year? Put it in your reports!" Jane growled. "In the meanwhile, you two behave and say you're sorry!"
Accepting the grumbled apologies from the two redheads, Jane turned to her brother. "You got anything else to say?"
Trent shuffled his feet for a moment. "Yeah... as long as you guys are doing 'code-names'..."
He pointed to Mack. "Inferno."
His finger went to Stacy. "Wildcat."
Trent pointed to Charles next. "Chameleon."
Quinn shrugged as she was pointed out. "Lightning Lass."
Julia nodded as Trent pointed to her. "Archangel."
Tiffany looked up from her banana-nut muffin as Trent motioned in her direction. "Phantom."
Jane's eyes widened as he pointed to himself. He was done.
"Frost," he said, indicating himself. "Those were the names we used – there."
"Wait a minute – you're going to be a Legionnaire?" Daria asked. "Don't we get a say in the matter?"
"I don't have a problem with it," Julia said, running a finger over her lower lip. "He looks good in the uniform."
The redhead all but threw her next thought in Daria's direction. And I didn't think that you'd have any problem with him being - closer. Doesn't he make your blood pressure go down and your skirt fly up?
"I thought that you liked your guys more in the 'arrogant jerk' category," Daria said offhandedly. Daria knew all about Julia and David Allen Farrington, and Daria thought Farrington qualified for the position.
"Same as you," Julia replied cooly, glancing over at Tom, and preparing for a comparison. "The only differences I see here are types of powers, skin color, my being honest about it and the fact that you've only taken advantage of chances to kiss one of them. That Bastard. Oh, and the person you're talking about might be an 'arrogant jerk' – but I've never doubted that he's capable of caring about anyone else besides himself. In case nobody bothered to tell you, Daria – the only reason Tom's alive today is because of that 'arrogant jerk'. You never bothered to mention that to anyone, did you, Sloane?"
Jane whirled in her chair towards Tom. "I was wondering how you were managing to switch your powers so quickly... maybe it was because you didn't have to, hmm?"
Charles sat back in his chair and looked Tom over. "That would explain a lot – including why our lovely telepath's surly counterpart in The Alliance was hard-pressed to stop you in the fight – especially considering all of the sour grapes-laden commentary on the 'uber-nature of his powers' on the Academy's intranet afterwards - and how you managed to survive our lovely guest with the excellent taste in jewelry..."
Tom looked away from Charles quickly – wondering briefly why Quinn's expression was suddenly colder than before as she looked his way – as Julia turned her gaze back from Tom, to Daria. "Aside from that," she continued, "I wonder what else there is about the two of them that make them so very much alike-?"
Julia swiveled away, her expression – and the way that Tom's face went white – speaking volumes about what immediately went through Daria's mind: She knows about what happened in West Texas, about the Elite, the Network – oh, my God.
Daria felt her throat go dry. David Allen's Elite, too? Jeez, they're everywhere!
Julia finished her comment. "Maybe there are other questions you should be asking certain people."
"Whatever you two are going on about, we'll talk about it with the Colonel - later." Jane's tone focused everyone immediately.
"You can count on that," Armalin said, his eyes narrow as he looked in Tom's direction.
Jane took back the floor. "Back to codenames. Julia – you're not using 'Star Angel?"
"That's my family name – my 'Alliance' name," she said bluntly. "Besides – for what I'll be doing here, 'Archangel' is more appropriate."
"Okay." Jane looked around the room. "Brittany?"
"Cover Girl!" the perky blonde chirped, the first time that she also had spoken during the meeting. "Okay, like, camouflage is a kind of cover, right? I always wanted to be a model, too-"
Brittany never noticed – and was the only one who didn't – the look of disbelief and slight revulsion that crossed the faces of the ex-Fashion Club members as the words 'always wanted to be a model' spilled from the former cheerleader's mouth. "-And I always watched 'G.I. Joe' when I was little, and they had a 'Cover Girl', too!"
"I always liked 'Lady Jaye', myself," Armalin thought aloud, and then straightened up as he saw a roomful of young eyes staring at him. "Oh, Sorry, Pay no attention to the Marine officer in the corner – the one who puts together your fitness training regimen, and chooses the specific materials and topics for discussion in your Human Sexuality classes."
"Moving on," Quinn said quickly, taking back the reins of the meeting. "Now, if that's the name you want, Brittany-"
"I wouldn't have minded that name," Sandi said; as she did, Daria shook her head.
Daria rolled her eyes as she looked in Sandi's direction. If I had my way, we'd name you 'Cerberus' – the three-headed bitch that guards the entrance to the underworld, she thought very loudly. How else would you describe the cliques back at LHS, and with your powers, the name is surprisingly appropriate...
Daria somehow knew that Armalin's throat being cleared over in the corner was directed at her.
"-I say run with it!" Quinn continued. "Now, let's see – Tom! Any idea for a code-name for yourself?"
"How about 'Butt Monkey'?"
The room exploded with female laughter; Tom's cheeks burned with embarassment as the words escaped from Jane's lips while Mack and Charles had the good grace to say nothing, and Armalin shot the raven-haired young woman a look of warning. "Sorry," said Jane, "it just slipped out."
Daria looked at her best friend and actually believed her as Quinn turned to face Jane. "Gawd, Jane!" said Quinn. "Don't you know that after you have a bad breakup with some guy, you don't act all mean and bitter towards him – you go shopping, do stuff that makes you feel better, and find some totally hot guy who's nothing like the jerk you dumped to hang on your every word, take you to all sorts of fancy places and remind you what it's like to be kissed right!"
"Actually, I never knew that," said Jane. "Silly me." Jane said it so dryly that Daria couldn't tell whether Jane meant it or not.
Mack made a show of covering his eyes. "Dang, Tom," he said, as Charles chuckled and Tom felt his face burn. "If you were Black, we'd have to revoke your 'ghetto pass' over that one."
Tom slunk down in his chair as Quinn turned to face him. "No offense. I mean, you couldn't have been all that great as a boyfriend if you were sniffing all around Daria and not even feeling guilty enough about it to make up for being a world-class jerk by taking Jane to all sorts of expensive places, buying her all sorts of really nice things – like that red jacket you bought her was supposed to be something special, like, really!" Quinn gave him a look that reminded everyone of how it felt to see a pet urinate on the furniture. "So, how many pieces of jewelry have you bought Jane, hmm? When's the last time you took Jane on your family jet to Japan, or Jamaica, or France – seeing how much Jane loves art, I know that you took her to France for a special tour of that Lube museum, right?"
Daria turned an especially festive shade of red as her eyes met Tom's for the briefest of moments, Charles rubbed his left temple as if to ward off an especially painful headache, and Armalin twitched in a manner that suggested that he was trying especially hard not to laugh as Quinn kept going.
"Before we got into the Legion," Quinn continued, "Jane always had to bum rides or walk everywhere – you got her a car, right? Probably not something fancy, but some old car that she could do all of her fancy painting on because she does that kind of stuff, right? You bought her lots of paint supplies all of the time and let her paint you, didn't you? Gawd, Tom – you're, like... you're like, the worst rich boyfriend of all time. You don't get her things, you're not, like, doing it, and you always check out her best friend – it's like the only reason that she was staying with you after all of this is because she loved you or something..."
Quinn's eyes widened as her voice trailed away; she used her peripheral vision to see how Jane was staring down at the table, her expression blank. "Oh, Jane..."
Tom sat up, a stern look on his face; he had had more than enough of being talked down to because of his falling-out with Jane."That's it, Quinn. That's enough – In fact, that's more than enough. I'm tired of talking to anyone about my private life, and I'm not going to be lectured on it by you. I'm not going to defend myself because of what happened between me and Jane-"
He sat back immediately, as if he were pinned back to his seat by Quinn's pointed finger as the girl whirled back around to face him, her eyes, nostrils and mouth now literally ablaze with electricity that flowed outward from her! The Legionnaires sitting next to her gasped and moved backwards from the table; Stacy almost leapt into the opposite corner of the room.
"No, that's what you are going to do and by me, because now I'm NOT talking to you as Jane's friend - I'm talking to you as the Leader of the Legion," Quinn said. Anyone who knew Helen Morgendorffer would have had no doubt been seeing her in Quinn at this moment. "You want to have a private life, Tom? Okay – but when people around the world know about it because you have a fight in the front yard that affects the entire planet-! Then, it's not so private, right?" She shook her head. "If you're going to be a dick – or just think with it-"
She shot a quick look in her sister's general direction. "-At least do it with people who aren't on the team, okay? We all have to work together – and even in the Fashion Club, we all knew better to go after a guy after one of the other girls had landed him. There's better ways to cause trouble."
Quinn took a sip from her glass of water; Tom opened his mouth to reply, but the soulless look Sandi gave him – and the way she had her right hand dropped below the table – convinced him to remain silent as Quinn continued. "And that's the last time this will ever be brought up in a meeting, all right? Back to code-names. Do you have an idea of one for yourself? Tom?"
Still fuming, Tom opened his mouth to speak, but Mack's voice sounded through the room. "How about we just go ahead and go with 'Ultra?'"
Quinn turned to Mack. "It's the Latin word for 'beyond', and that's basically what his powers are – they give him physical abilities beyond normal humans," he explained to her. "It fits."
"Ultra'," Tom said, trying the word out, letting it roll off his tongue. "Ultra.' I can work with that."
Tom eased himself back into his chair – and found his eyes locked with Trent's cold gaze. Oh, hell. And now - he has powers, too...
"Well, I guess Daria's already come up with our names," Jane said, reaching out to get a chocolate cake doughnut from one of the platters on the table. "Polaris' works for me."
"Wait a minute – Daria, you were serious?" Tom sat up. "You actually want us to call you Mnemosyne?" He pronounced it 'Nem-Oh-Soon-Ey', and said it with such a practiced elan that the other Legionnaires strained to hear it, with no one sure about the correct pronunciation.
"Over the last two years, I've had a few – experiences – where I've come across images of the planet Saturn – and after everything that happened when Upchu- Charles and I were with the Planesrangers, there's got to be some important meaning behind it," Daria said. "That's why I'm naming myself after one of Saturn's moons; I think that using the name of the Titan 'Mnemosyne' is a good match."
"Uh, Daria – how do you spell that?" Jane asked; she raised her right eyebrow as she saw the word that Daria quickly scrawled upon a piece of Legion letterhead and passeddown to her. "Whoa. This is one of the Muses; I recognize the name from a art class. I thought it was pronounced 'My-Moss-In-Me.'"
Daria skewered Jane with her glare.
"My-Moss-In-Me?'" Brittany said, twirling a lock of her hair around a slender finger. "Gosh, Daria, that sounds like one of those serious womanly problems! You should get that checked! Does it hurt much?"
Daria turned her glare on the former cheerleader as the entire room rolled with tittering and barely suppressed laughter.
"I'm not sure that's a good choice for a code-name, Daria," Tom managed to cough out without laughing – although she had clearly heard the mental ten-count he made as he held his breath before he spoke. "After all, isn't she most famous for sleeping with Zeus for over a week, and each day giving birth to one of the Muses? I don't think that you want to have the same name as the head concubine to the King of the Gods!"
Daria's annoyance flared. "You absolute-"
"Well, that's enough of that, " Colonel Armalin said, cutting Daria's angry retort off in mid-reply as he rose from his chair. "Morgendorffer - this might be of some use to you."
He dropped a thick, loose-leaf folder in front of Daria, who looked at the title on the cover: Project Fast Forward: Metahuman Power Sequestration for Public Consumption (Briefing 0026/Psionic Operatives) - Project Summary and Objectives, Focus Group Overview and Recommended Operations Protocols.
She looked back up at the Colonel. "What's this?"
"Required reading for all telepathic individuals trained in countries that are signatories to the Bowman Acts," he told her. "It's a 'how-to' manual on how telepaths can operate effectively in public, with other metahumans and covertly, as well as how to get along with others when you're a psi. Turn to Chapter Two and read it over – it talks about the perceptions select groups have of telepaths, and how to effectively counter, alleviate or take advantage of those perceptions. It might help you out in choosing a code-name – and while your choice is a mouthful, it does fit the recommendations listed here."
"Is that Briefing Twenty-Six?" Julia said, leaning forward. "Oh, it is."
Daria focused her attention on Julia. "You've read this before?"
"With all of the telepaths in my year? Required reading!" Julia told her. "Over seventy percent of the Class of 2008 is psi-active in one way or another, and more than half are full telepaths! You should see 'Banding Day' - that's for Cadets Third Year, when they're issued their first Mark 30 augmentors – and the faculity tries to keep all of the little brats on their psychic leashes while they get used to them. There aren't than many things worse than thirteen- and fourteen-year-old telepaths with a bit of control of their powers - but not their hormones. Oh, the thoughts they broadcast ..."
"Yeah yeah yeah," muttered Quinn. "We're so learned at our Geeky Academy, we're so much better than the Legion, blah blah blah." Quinn said it in the almost inaudible words that only teenagers use.
Julia was taken aback for a few seconds, then said, just as inaudibly, "My mama said that jealousy turns your blue eyes green." Every woman understood the conversation completely; the males only caught ten percent of it.
Julia brushed her thick, dark scarlet hair back, shuddering from the memories. "Anyway, horny little bastards... but yes, I've read that before. The Alliance also used it when we came up with all of our code names. David Allen was coming up with some... interesting names before Maryann suggested that he go with 'Esper Prime', once he got the rank as a First Year. 'Mnemosyne' is better than what he came up with – far, far better."
"I've got one!" Stacy piped up. "Your mind-powers link us all together, right – so why don't we call you 'Network?'"
A shriek of pure terror rang out through the air; Stacy leaped fully out of her seat as Daria, Jane, Brittany, Sandi and Tom all exclaimed with one voice – "NO!" – and disappeared through the door of the conference room before anyone could react.
"She's got better speed than I thought," Armalin thought aloud, noting that the only way he could follow the young woman's movement at super-speed was with his enhanced senses. "Does anyone want to tell me why the five of you reacted that way?"
"Cell-phone service can freak you out in these parts, Colonel," Trent said, watching as Stacy slinked back into the conference room and curled up in her chair. "Disconnect fees... oh, man."
Daria couldn't help but smile as Jane mock-punched her brother; Quinn, seeing her sister happy, smiled as well – She'll never see this coming. "I still think that your name is too geeky and weird," she said, siting back to watch the reaction. "You're trying to show everyone that you're so serious and everything – but all that says is 'Oooh, look at me – I'm better than you!"
The younger Morgendorffer cracked a smile as she continued. "Besides, after those Alaska photos, no guy is ever going to be one bit concerned about your name, anyway."
"This from 'Lightning Lass?'" Daria snarked back. "How long has it been since you got back from May of 1963?"
Quinn brushed her hair from her eyes. "My name sounds 'retro' – you name sounds 'old and moldy.'"
"I've got an idea!" Brittany squeaked up. "Why don't you name each other? Daria can give Quinn a name that she thinks sounds modern, and Quinn can give Daria one that normal people can say!"
Sandi spoke up before the Morgendorffer sisters could get a word of protest. "I move that we go with that idea!"
Jodie was right on her heels. "I second that nomination – all in favor?"
Every hand but Daria and Quinn's went up. "All opposed?" Sandi said, her PFT in hand. "Whatever! The motion is carried by majority vote! Torment each other like sisters are supposed to when it comes to silly things!"
"Well, I guess that I can live with that," the Legion Leader spoke up, brandishing the evil little smirk that Daria had grown up dearly loathing; it meant that the wily Quinn was working that tiny brain of hers - and was up to no damn good. "Since everyone has a code-name – if you're happy with the one you have- and Daria and I have to work on ours-"
"Do I get one, too?"
Fran's gentle voice caught Quinn by surprise. "I was – I was thinking, and I was wondering if I could – I mean-"
Quinn waited until Fran's voice trailed off. "New order of business. We have the tabled matter of Legion membership to consider for-"
She turned to Daria, who spoke up. "Frances Irene Lawrence - code-name... 'Micron'."
Daria turned to Fran. "It sounds better than something tiny and overly girly. It has power behind it."
Fran nodded. "I like it."
The luminous look on Fran's undamaged face, highlighted by the tiny, perfect smile that appeared as Daria spoke, would have made every Legionnaire present wonder what was going on between the two of them – if they all hadn't remembered how Daria acted around Martin Peters at the Academy... or if they hadn't always noticed the way she acted around Trent Lane.
Quinn continued. "Frances Irene Lawrence – 'Micron'... and I want to also make a motion to enter, for consideration of membership into the National Legion - Chapter Number One, Lawndale, Maryland - the name of Trent Ethan Lane – 'Frost'." She waved off the stares. "I know how you're supposed to say things in a meeting, everyone. Vice-President of the Fashion Club – remember?"
All of the Legionnaires turned to face Trent, who blinked, wide-eyed, as his name was spoken aloud. "Whoa. I can't be a Legionnaire. That was just on that weird techno-Jabba's whacked-out space-network, right? That didn't actually count - does it?"
"He... thought... it... did," Tiffany spoke up. "I'll... vote... for... you..."
"I'll vote for you, too!" Stacy piped up. We need more cute guys, anyway!"
"You already fought alongside us," Mack spoke up. "I'm okay with it."
Julia finished. "I second the motions on membership for both members – pending the approval of the Committee on Standing Matter's waiver for Trent on the age requirement. They've both already demonstrated a distinct power that no other Legionnaire possesses, and with him standing up with us against a Ringbearer and her telling us about a clear and present danger not only to us, but to national security, circumstances show that both of them are possessed of good character."
The room was very quiet. "I am able to say nice things about people," Julia huffed. "I move that the members of the Committee on Standing Matters deliver a summary decision on the matter before them without adjourning into executive session or tabling the matter until the next scheduled meeting."
Daria, Jane and Quinn all turned towards Stacy, who whimpered once and put her head down – yet again.
"Don't blame her – I learned the Legion Constitution and all extant Legion operations protocols before I came here," Julia continued. "It's part of OFS, anyway."
"Uh, Janey?" Jane turned to face Trent as he spoke. "Look – it's cool that you guys are thinking about me being in this and everything – but I can't. It's not fair to you."
Jane blinked hard at her brother's words. "What? How's it not fair to me?"
"Like, the Legion's your thing," Trent continued. "You're the one that jumped in this first, and you were the first leader – it's not cool for me to come in and just horn in on your thing. I'll hand around and do stuff like I've been doing, Janey – but you gotta go your own way without feeling like somebody's looking over your shoulder. Family does that for family."
"Daria and Quinn don't have that problem," Jane protested.
"That's because Daria doesn't usually do anything worth watching," Quinn quipped, and promptly took a banana-nut mini-muffin to the right temple. "OW!"
" 'Sweets for the sweet'," Daria said, smiling sweetly in response to Quinn's annoyed glance. "Trent, maybe you should-"
"Consider other options," Armalin spoke, his voice carrying across the room. "We'll talk later."
Jane was about to protest, but Quinn, rubbing her head, looked back to Julia. "What did you say about learning all about us before you came here?" A flashing red light had blinked on earlier in Quinn's head as Julia was speaking, and she wanted to know what her teammate was talking about. "What's 'OFS'?"
Julia took a deep breath. "Okaayyyy... almost as soon as you guys left 'the Axe', 'Opposition Force Studies' – we just call it 'Legionnaires 101' - became a very popular elective course. They started it this fall, using all of The Alliance's files, psych evaluations and individual combat simulations that we put together on everyone in the Legion - and a world of other people and things the Professor prepped us for - in the initial classes."
The redhead looked around the room as she continued. "We had to study everything Legion - as I mentioned earlier, even the Legion Constitution. And we thought our Honor Code was strict."
The room was suddenly full of surprised rumbling as Julia continued to speak. "After you guys did so well in VR, a lot of noise started about just how well-trained you all were – a lot of noise, from high up the ladder. People wanted to know how such a large group of meta-actives could become so well trained and do so well against Academy cadets – not to blow our horns, but USAES is one of the best places to train – and after TPTB realized that the only reason that The Alliance did so well against you-"
Julia turned to look Daria right in the eye. "And let's be honest – despite what you guys think about some of the cadets, the Legion is so powerful and well-trained that 2996 was the only Academy cadre who could have stood up against you in a full-power simulation -"
Quinn's eyes were narrow as Julia turned back to her. "-That when they did the formal investigation – yes, there was one - they determined out that Professor Blumenburg was right all along in the way he trained us," Julia told them. "Military-oriented Special Powers Training and the mindset it brings didn't allow us to keep up with you - it was the Professor's special training. He wanted superheroes, too. They're actually starting a new academic concentration for the school along those lines – the Metahuman Special Operations Track. It's been flooded with Cadets First and Second Years, and Cadets Fifth Class who want to be just like Legionnaires."
For the first time in the meeting, Tom actually smiled, and Sandi glanced in his direction. "Tom thought that's what The Alliance was all about," she said, motioning towards Tom. "He studied their files, and was the one who came up with the idea for the things that me and Mack we did in the VR thing."
Armalin shifted slightly in his seat; a glimmer of what might have been approval was visible for a moment as he looked over at Tom.
Quinn whirled around to face Tiffany. "Oh Emm Eff Gee!" she exclaimed. "Why am I just hearing this right now? Those...Axeheads... are doing a class that tells them all about us and how to fight us? Tiffany – why didn't you say anything?"
"I... thought... that... it... was... a... stupid...class," the Asian beauty said. "I... didn't... take... it..."
Daria felt her head start to hurt. The stupid, it burns...!
"I... know... about... all... of... you... and... I... don't... want... to... fight... you..."
Sandi put her head in her hands; Daria and Armalin could clearly hear her thoughts as she began counting backwards from one thousand, hoping her anger would pass before she decided to draw her PFT, telescope the weapon into its fighting-staff mode, and whack Tiffany soundly over the head several times with it.
"I guess that means we have several other things to discuss besides code-names and Appleton," Quinn said, finally calming down enough to trust that she could speak again and not have the words You stupid bitch! leap out.
Charles turned his attention to Quinn. "With all due respect, our lovely leader is correct," he said. "We do have things to discuss, if we're going to speak on the Academy and combat – let's talk about the incredible blunder of our leader insultng the opposition's big gun just before we fight them, ensuring that he's coming in with something to prove."
Quinn's head snapped around. "Are you trying to say that that jackass acting like he's Black Majesty on a sugar rush was my fault?"
"If the stylish yet tasteful glass slipper fits," Charles said, unruffled by Quinn's angry tone as he turned to Tiffany. "Along those lines, my dear Miss Blum-Deckler – our opposition's fetching counterpart to Miss Griffin uses a weapon that can defeat your powers, and in a most painful manner – yet you feel that your enchanting appearance is so important that when someone makes an illusion of you appearing overweight and allows you to see yourself as such, you launch yourself into a blood feud with them."
Charles took a breath, and continued on. "You don't seem concerned that a weapon exists that can defeat your powers, embarrassed that you were beaten so easily by it or even care that people are being trained on how to use that weapon to specifically stop or even kill you – but when you feel that your looks are in jeopardy, it's then that you go insane with anger?"
The redhaired teen took a blueberry cake doughnut, and tossed a knowing glance in Tom's direction as he broke it in half before returning his gaze to Tiffany. "I'm just noting that there's a history of Legionnaires provoking unnecessary confrontations, or exacerbating conflicts beyond the point that they would have reached on their own - and you, Miss Blum-Deckler, are on the verge of making the Legion an enemy out of a potential friend and ally because of your own personal vanity. With all due respect – you are not that attractive."
Tiffany turned, anger filling her eyes – anger which drained away quickly as he saw Charles vibrate the index finger on his right hand through the doughnut in his left.
"It looks like time in another dimension changes people," Jodie Landon commented, seeing how the expression on Charles' face never wavered as spoke. "I think I like it."
Mack's eyes went wide as he snapped about and looked at his former girlfriend in total surprise – an action aped by all Legionnaires, save those with darker red hair.
Jane shook her head clear. "Yeah. Could someone call down to the cafeteria and have them bring up some lunch things and stuff to drink? We're going to be in here a while."
"I'll make a call," Armalin said, rising from his chair. "I need to take care of other matters, anyway. Also, your uniform fittings are scheduled for three hours from now, and you know what – he's – like. Carlyle, Griffin, Morgendorffer – the three of you need to be downstairs first. Something about the special modifications to your uniforms."
After Armalin left and the doors closed once again, Quinn turned back to the gathered Legionnaires. "All right," she said, tossing Julia an evil glare as she spoke, "We still have planning to handle for tonight. Fran – tell us everything you know about Appleton's place."
TO BE CONTINUED