The Little Drummer Girl
A Legion of Lawndale Heroes 'Mini', by Brother Grimace
Legion of Lawndale Heroes created by James Bowman
(Continuity note: This Mini takes place during the events of LLH 13:5 and 13:6.)
"Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away..."
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854
Maybe it was meant to be like this all along.
From what I understand, Mr. Stark didn't want the Colonel to make us into soldiers – he just wanted us to get some help in learning to protect ourselves – especially after everything that happened. That freaky Cypher guy with the crystal in his chest, those three that caught almost everybody, if it hadn't been for Upchuck, that Black Majesty guy, and when Sandi got stabbed in the bottom...
Let anybody try that on her now.
Let anybody try that on me now.
They said that they couldn't help me learn like the others at Legion Tower, so when Julia was offered a spot with the Legion, they offered me a chance to go to the Academy.
Maybe I could do better there.
Maybe I could be a soldier.
I've been here at the Academy for just over five months. I went back to Lawndale with the others, and came back a week later.
The teaching group at the Tower couldn't help me, but here - I'm getting better. My grades are a bit better, and they're always asking what you're reading – not assignments, but just... stuff. Around here, they like reading – I mean, they like it, like I like going shopping.
One of the nice things is that they don't push you hard – just enough to get you moving – and I think that they do that so that I won't quit. I won't quit, no matter how hard they push. I have to prove that I can make it here.
In the meanwhile, it's nice here in the fall. It's the middle of October now, and it's starting to cool off here, but nobody's had to start wearing coats or stuff. I found a stone garden that somebody built just off the main path through the Academy forest; it's peaceful here. I like coming out here when I need to study, or just when I want to be alone for a while-
"Dawgs on a snack run!"
Tiffany looked up from her copy of China: Its Most Scenic Places as a large energy bubble appeared on the path in front of her. "Let's jet, T!"
When you start off here, they put you in what they call a 'cadre' – a group of between six to ten kids – and you all go through the First Academy together. I asked one of the instructors why we had to do it, and she said, "Because your cadre is the best thing about the Academy – it's a group of boys and girls who are just like your brothers and sisters!"
I caught her by surprise when I said, "But then, what's the worst thing about the Academy? Is it being forced to constantly be with a bunch of other boys and girls who are just like my brothers and sisters? Who says that is a good thing? Have you met my brothers and sisters?"
I don't have any brothers or sisters, but still.
The woman sat and looked at me for a good minute – and then, just got up and walked away.
Now I know how Quinn's sister feels when she talks to most people who think that they're in charge – and how both she and Quinn must have felt when somebody threw the other up in their face.
Sometimes – you just have to go with it.
Tiffany simply sighed, not even bothering to move as the bubble expanded out to engulf her – and then, simply disappeared.
Ten minutes later, the energy bubble re-appeared; Tiffany, a Styrofoam container in her hands, found herself standing behind the stone bench. "Oh, stop stressing, T!"
Her eyes momentarily narrowed as Eileen Reynolds ruffled her hair, and then, Tiffany relaxed. "See? You only thought about dragging me down into the ground and letting go! You are lightening up!"
The superbly-fit, athletic girl whose pale complexion, short-cropped red hair (a brighter shade of red than Quinn Morgendorffer's carrot-top, but nowhere near the brilliant scarlet of Julia Carlyle's mane) and Boston accent screamed out her Irish heritage punched the Asian girl lightly in the shoulder. "Keep this up, and we'll have to see about letting you loose on the townies again... not to mention that I know a really cute geology major up at Notre Dame, and he has lots of friends just as good-looking as he is."
That could be fun. Hanging out with the others is fun, even if Kaliq's the only one interested in fashion... and the thing is - he's not gay. Oh, God, is he not gay. He's faster than Skyler Feldman ever dreamed of being – the guys we Fashion Club girls dated before everything happened were never as smooth as he is – and the wardrobe he has back at home in Dearborn...
Eileen – a Cadet Second Year, just like Tiffany and the others - sat down on the stone bench, unwrapping her five-cheese and lettuce sub sandwich as three more cadets – a tall, very handsome boy of Arabic descent and a girl with dark blonde hair (unlike most USAES cadets, she wore her hair in a shower over her shoulders), both slightly younger than her, and a very tall, slender boy with whitish-blond hair – stepped out of the energy bubble.
Kaliq Murat held out the drumstick-sized piece of blue-green crystal he held in his left hand, and the energy bubble flowed back into it with a distinctive CRACK! "And that - is that," the Arab-American cadet mused, speaking to no one in particular in an accent-free voice as the crystal in his hand faded away. "Another successful escape from the boredom of campus life – courtesy of 'Crystal Ventures, Incorporated'."
"Even if I wasn't a telepath, I could tell that all you're thinking about is how much money you'll make with your 'Gateway To Adventure' ideas," the blond-haired boy scoffed, his cultured English accent capturing Tiffany's attention. "Remember, Kal – you own six to ten years of servitude to your friendly Uncle Samuel before you're allowed to make money transporting bored, wealthy persons all over the world for 'extreme vacations'..."
Tiffany yawned; after five months with her cadre, she knew that even though Kaliq and Zachary Butler – the blond-haired boy - both had psychic powers, each was slightly jealous of the other's unusual twists on their abilities – and both were just a little bit too competitive. Kal can generate all sorts of other powers – even ones that aren't psychic – with his crystals, and Zachary is just more of a 'real psychic', because he doesn't have to send his powers through something to use them.
Kaliq stepped around Tiffany to stand over Zachary Butler. "Perhaps, Zachary – but I won't be working 'outside the government – beyond the police'...!"
The handsome young British telepath cocked his head back to look up at his teammate, and blew a wayward lock of whitish-blonde hair out of his eyes. "True - but in order to do so, you had to give up your lifelong dream of flying for a country that operates its Air Force out of a carpet shop."
"Put your telepathic probes back in your pants and save it for later, both of you," Eileen said, her voice holding the no-nonsense tone that Tiffany learned early on meant 'stop playing around – NOW'. "Your food's getting cold. That's why we snuck out, right – to get some non-Academy-approved chow?"
The two male cadets followed Eileen's pointed finger to a spot on the grass, and as they sat down, Tiffany looked down at the container in her hands. "Come on, T – dig in!" Eileen urged, before biting into her sandwich. "It's kosher – Jeffrey Brace and all of the Jewish cadets love that hotel in New Orleans! Not only do they have The Club - and you can get anything to eat there - but you can see all sorts of celebrities hanging out on the Fourth Floor!"
"Wow, look at that sky," Katherine McKay said, walking past the others with eyes scanning the swirling clouds building overhead. "If I were back at home, I'd be worried about snow – but this is October and Indiana..."
The blonde-haired girl looked into the sky; she took a waver-thin digital camera from the left-breast pocket of her uniform shirt, and snapped several photos. "This is weird."
Tiffany felt a slight shudder pass through her; she had seen how Katharine's power to bring to life anything she wanted, from any source (television, film, magazines, photographs, sidewalk graffiti, sketchings, digital billboards; even cave drawings and – on one memorable occasion, a 'Lite-Brite' toy) – and with all the abilities, and just as powerful, as the originals. "You're... not... going... to... make... it... rain... inside... again...are... you...?"
Katherine looked back at Tiffany, and smiled a coy smile. "I hope that doesn't still bother you, T. The weather-warpers – most of them - they're almost as stuck up as, well, some other types I could mention around these parts."
In perfect unison, Kaliq and Zachary looked over to give the blonde identical looks of annoyance, and Katherine winked at Tiffany. "In any event - I won't have to cue up a Weather Channel tape of Hurricane Katrina anytime soon around here. Oh, yeah – boys? Just remember; when you're thinking about me naked – and I know that you do - Bro Code Rule 34 still applies. "
As identical looks of undiluted disgust marred the faces of the two telepaths, Tiffany sat down besides Eileen, and looked over the hot beef sandwich bought for her with what Eileen called 'their road trip fund'. A little collection of cash they put together for emergencies, quick trips, or for 'things that might suddenly come up'. They've got something like thirty thousand dollars in that stuffed owl, and they didn't mind telling me about it...
I'm one of them. Eileen helps me with my studies. It helps that we're roommates, and that she's very, very smart. She's smart like Charles, and that Sherrie girl that Jane's brother has been dating all summer. I wonder what Quinn's sister will say when she finds out about that – or even if she cares, from the way she would look at Tom every now and then. Still – Sherrie's cute, but not as pretty as Quinn's sister – as pretty as Daria could be if she'd stop hiding it, like when they put her photos in VAL Magazine.
The boy cadets still ask if I can set them up with Daria – all the time. Funny; they don't ask as much about getting fixed up with Quinn anymore. I wonder why...?
A trio of male cadets ran past on the trail, and Eileen nudged Tiffany to make sure she saw how the three were each looking Tiffany over...
Tiffany nodded and focused back on her food, but kept looking up to gaze at the members of her cadre.
Zachary takes extra time to work with me – on the target range and with hand-to-hand practice – and he doesn't even try to cop a feel, even though he's has all sorts of chances. Kaliq always tries to help me with extra computer lessons and whatever else I need – and he goes out of his way to step on anyone who tries to make fun of me. The 8x10s that Katherine's shot of me are good enough to use for my portfolio when I try out for modeling, and with her powers, I can have anything I've ever seen anywhere to wear on a date. Clothes, shoes, jewelry...and if I ever told her about some of the... other things I've gotten to do because of Katherine's powers, Sandi would faint!
They don't make fun of me – well, any more than they would anyone else. They don't get mad when I take too long to figure out something, and they don't get mad when I- when I get someone in VR training.
They like it. They say it's sneaky – and that it's a good thing.
They like me for who I am.
The members of Training Cadre 3872 made themselves comfortable in the shaded area – and Tiffany growled as one of the thick slices from her hot beef sandwich began to slowly move on its own towards the edge of the container...
"Leave... my... stuff... alooonnneee..."
Eileen glanced off to her left as she saw the beef slice stop moving; she took a bite off the end of her crusty bread, tilted her head towards Zachary - and a sharp 'OW!' rang out through the woods as the blond-haired boy flew backwards a good three feet.
"Oh, come on, Eileen!" Zachary hissed, wincing as he rubbed the spot where Eileen had spat the chunk of bread with her super-breath. "It's just a little piece of meat-HEY! I wasn't bringing up that song! I wasn't making fun of you!"
The blond-haired telepath's eyes went wide as he scrambled back further; Eileen's eyes glowed red for several seconds as she glared at him, but then, returned to normal. "My word!" Zachary screeched, ignoring Kaliq's laughter as he scrambled to his feet. "You spend all this time trying to keep 'T' from ghosting everything and everyone that she believes crossed her, but then you nearly give me the bloody 'evil eye' and roast me like an ill-tended brisket!"
Zachary quickly turned to Katherine, who snickered between bites of her fish and chips. "Oh, and your corn-fed Saskatchewan humor is very tiresome, Katherine," he said, sitting back up. "Thoughts like that are annoying – and by the way, entirely inaccurate."
"I'm from Manitoba – and that's 'wheat-fed', thank you very much," Katherine snorted. "You must spend a lot of time in the TIDE-pools, then, because from what I've seen-"
Zachary straightened his uniform slacks. "Really? Well, have you seen-"
"You don't have to prove it!"
Zachary grimaced at the combined shouts from everyone – even Tiffany – as his hand drifted towards the zipper of his slacks. "Just kidding," he said, wincing as Eileen's glare weighed down on him. "I wasn't going to – I'm eating, already."
Eileen winked at Tiffany. "See? That's one of the best things about being a 'flying brick', T. Your powers might be simple and far from glamorous – strength, speed, flight and invulnerability of a sort - but smart-ass Englishmen know enough to behave when you tell them to. Right, boys?"
The two male voices spoke as one. "Right, Boss."
Tiffany smiled as Eileen's gaze stayed on Zachary and Kaliq, even after the former sat down next to his fellow telepath, and they began sprinkling lots of black pepper over their large orders of biscuits and sausage gravy. Yeah. That's one benefit of having a 'flying brick' as your roommate – if you two get along, nobody meddles with you much, she thought, as Eileen nudged her and smiled. She's got the same powers as Tom and Maryann Lyter – except they're just a little weaker, but all of her powers are on. She can still throw supertankers at people – weird, how that's the way the big guns measure things.
She noticed how the boys got very quiet, concentrating on their food. What is it with all the telepaths around here, that they act as if that's the best food in the world? she wondered. I wonder if Daria's started eating that, now that she's spent some time around here.
She took a bite of her sandwich, surprised at how good it was. My parents aren't worried about being observant, and even though I'm not, either, it's nice that people are concerned about me.
People besides the Fashion Club, or the Legionnaires.
Tiffany swallowed, took another, larger bite – and watched the others as they ate and made small talk, surprised by how- comfortable – she felt around them.
Kal's got cute brown eyes – even cuter than Zachary's blue ones, although you can't tell Zachary anything, not with his swollen head... just because he looks like a male supermodel, has that cool British accent and that perfect hair that you want to run your fingers through...
UGH! Look at the way he's smiling – you know that he just heard what I was thinking! Jerk! Well, guess what – Eileen told me how to find out if you're 'listening in' on us...
"That's disgusting!" Zachary bellowed, almost choking on a drink of ice water as he set his container down and started to pace, trying to both clear his throat and shake clear the images he had seen in Tiffany's surface thoughts – Thank God he has to make an effort to probe anyone's deeper thoughts, she said, letting another barrage of debauchery cross her mind, and can only pick what you're directly thinking of. "How can – where did you see – I will not be able to eat fresh pineapple for months!"
"Serves you right, you Union Jack-ass," Eileen laughed, her Boston accent flavoring her speech. "That's right – I'm Irish, and I went there! Hey, Kal? You want to throw down a spike, so we can all eat in peace and quiet?"
The Arabic cadet held his right hand out; a pencil-sized length of purple crystal formed in his palm and he slammed it into the ground next to where he sat, where it began to grow until it reached a meter in height and the thickness of a soda can. "Now, Zachary – you and your probing mind-fingers will behave themselves for the next hour or so – or until I remove that crystal," he said, humor in his voice. "Let her tell you what's on her mind. Most Western women can't wait to do that."
"Oh, stop it," Katherine sniped in. "While you're playing with your jewels – why don't you show another episode of Tiffany and her friends in action?"
Tiffany's head snapped up. Quinn and the others thought it was cool when that Martin guy who liked Qui- Daria – fixed the TV so we could see stuff about us that never really happened to us, but to the other ones that like us – that are us, but not us – It makes my head hurt to think about it. I don't like it. I don't like that Kal can do it. I don't want to know any more about the Legion Gold Team, or the other me and the rest of them in the Legion Blue Team – even though the Jonas Brothers do the music at the beginning and the show me talking to three cute Marines when the alarm goes off and we have to go. Why do people care about all of the other 'thems' out there – wherever - and not just pay attention to just themselves? If bad things happen to them, then you worry if it could happen to you, and then you're not thinking about the bad things that could happen to you and not them, and then, the bad things happen to you, and then – what if there's another you that's watching you like we were watching them, and they're watching to see if bad things are going to happen to you co they can know if they can make sure that they won't happen to them-
"Later for that, Kat," Eileen said, noticing the look of extreme stress on Tiffany's face – something she had learned to recognize after a very difficult summer. "T's not into that."
Katherine glanced at Tiffany with an apologetic expression. "Sorry, T."
Tiffany smiled back at her. "That's... okay."
Eileen could almost feel the relief flow from Tiffany. "In case all of you were wondering why I said 'okay' to spending our free afternoon out here just hanging out – it's because I've got some news..."
Tiffany tensed just a bit, but relaxed as Zachary spun around to look directly into Eileen's eyes – and let exasperation pour from him. "Oh, sticks!" he spat out. "This is just... ugh!"
Kaliq and Katherine began laughing as the English teen directed his glare from Eileen to the crystal spike. "You brought it upon yourself," Kaliq commented. "What news?"
If there's one thing that bothers me about Eileen, it's that she likes making people wait for good news. It balances out – because if there's bad news, she just tells you outright. I guess that's part of how we all woke up one morning and started following her lead.
Eileen set her sandwich – what was left of it – aside. God, can she eat! Tiffany thought, her gaze traveling from the sandwich to Eileen. Where does it all go-?
"Well, you know how we were scheduled to run a Level Five VR sequence on Friday – one of the short-duration, basic-acclimation scenarios?"
Kaliq smiled that smile we all learned to fear – the one that usually ends up with a visit the next day to the dorms by Cadet Commander Vargas (He really is cute, and makes those uniforms work), Cadet Major Reynolds (she's still just as pretty as she was when we were here in the spring – she's in charge of the students who work with machines), or one of the other seniors – I mean, Cadets First Year.
Usually, they just send Farrington.
I'm still going to get him.
He peeked into our heads to find out stuff about us. Kal and Zachary can do that – but they always ask. Even when Zachary does it – that sur-face stuff – by accident, he isn't trying to be mean.
He did it to get us.
He told that Zoey girl stuff so she could hurt me – and Sandi.
He tried to hurt Stacy.
He hurt Quinn.
He made me FAT.
I'm...going... to... GET... him.
"I'm going to pretend that you didn't write another SPECTRE program, Kal," Eileen said, shaking her head. "Of course, we all know that you probably did, and hacked your way into the VR systems through an Iphone... Looks like Jackie's got a case of measles and passed it around to everyone in her cadre – not to mention half of Cocking Hall."
A quick chorus of snorts and giggles made a frown appear on the redhead's face. "Grow up," Eileen snapped. "Anyway, they're going to be out of it until at least next week, so I jumped in and got their time added to ours. That gives us a full hour in VR, if we want it – and if we have an hour, we can-"
"Combat training," Zachary cut in, his eyes shining. "Oh, yes. Who do we get to go up against?"
Tiffany felt anticipation begin building inside her as Eileen glanced at her before speaking to the others. "We get a choice," she told them. "We can take either Blond Ambition and their translator-"
The Asian girl rolled her eyes at the mention of 'Blonde Ambition' – the nickname that had been foisted upon Training Cadre 3000. All of those REALLY attractive blondes, and Sherrie Klein, Tiffany thought, and she's probably smarter and more dangerous than all of them put together. She also has the hottest guys chasing after her, even though she's dating Trent – HEY!
Tiffany and Eileen shrieked in unison as a pretty girl with very light brown skin, huge brown eyes hidden behind a generic pair of glasses, and a mass of shaggy brown hair appeared just over their heads, and walked down a series of small, glowing disks to the ground before.
Oh, look, Tiffany said, her eyes going narrow as the girl - dressed in a uniform skirt instead of slacks like the others - did a textbook-proper courtesy, and all but skipped over to Katherine, who had a Styrofoam container waiting for her. It's today's meeting of the 'We love David Allen Farrington Society.'
Tiffany watched as the very tall Susanna Featherstone - who towered over even Zachary, she recalled with a slight touch of jealousy - ignored the way that Zachary glanced over at her long legs as she sat down next to Katherine, dug into a huge meat loaf sandwich, and made girlish squeals of delight as Katherine took her digital camera out to show her photos of David Allen working out with free weights.
EWWWWWWW. Those two have got it bad for the jerk – ask either of them, and they can go on and on about the things he's done, where he went to school, how many awards he has, the planes he flew, his family's company...Ew. I bet they think that just because Julia and me have traded places, that they have a shot at him. As if!
I don't see what a girl that looks like Julia would want with a guy like him anyway. After all, both Julia's and David Allen's families have lots and lots of money...
Glancing over at Zachary, Susanna turned back to give Katherine a smirk as she snapped her fingers - and Zachary yelped as a fluffy white rabbit appeared in his lap! He brushed the animal off, and glared at Susanna as the rabbit scampered off into the woods. "Stop that!"
Oh, yeah. She's REALLY big into magic – illusions and stuff - and her powers make her good at it. She does shows for the kids at the hospitals – and the way she made that cargo plane disappear at the Agency talent show back at the beginning of the year...
"Hello, Susanna," Eileen said, still annoyed by her appearance. "Glad you could finally pull yourself out of a hat and join us."
Tiffany marveled at just how much Susanna reminded her of Quinn Morgendorffer as the girl smiled, shrugged, and continued to eat her sandwich. "As I was saying," Eileen continued, "We can either be the Red Team against Training Cadre 3000-"
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to that," Katherine said. "Playing punching dummies for the beach warriors. I'd rather spend an entire summer-"
The girl's twisted with disgust as she seemed to recall a particularly hideous memory. "Detasseling corn. Pass."
As the others echoed Katherine's sentiments, Eileen's smile grew wider as she turned to face Tiffany. "The other option we have is to play 'capture the flag' - against Training Cadre 2996."
Tiffany felt herself blush as the others turned to her with huge smiles on their faces. "If we do this, what'll it be – fourteen straight wins in a row?" Zachary laughed, sitting up. "Even though they're all better trained than up – so far – all we have to do is hold them up long enough for T to slip right through and take it from them!"
I wonder... "Are we allowed to use weapons?" Tiffany asked; the moment the question cleared her lips, the others started to laugh.
"That's our girl!" Katherine said, giving her a 'thumbs-up' as stuck her other hand out and started collecting dollar bills from the other cadets.
Tiffany saw Eileen pull a dollar from her pocket and pass it over to the Canadian girl. "What's so funny?" she asked.
"Thinking about the looks on their faces if we let you take that – thing into VR with us!" Eileen snorted – an unusual sound coming from her, Tiffany thought. "People around here will forever rue the day that you saw that meteor hammer in Kill Bill, Part One and found out that you could learn how to use something like it!"
"Especially since you can," Zachary rang in, remembering just how fast Tiffany had taken to the Manriki-gusari – especially in terms of learning how to channel her power through it. Just how many people has she brained, lassoed or just yanked screaming through a wall, tree or down through the ground with that thing in VR or live-fire – my word, I've stopped counting.
She's a walking PFT, that one – no, she's something straight out of one of those horror films from the Eighties . Thank God she's on our side. She damn well terrifies most of the other people that might have to go up against her.
"Remember how ticked off those two Phantom Eagles were when she got them through the toilet stall back in August – hmm?" Katharine began to speak, but was cut off by the sound of beeping; all of the cadets pulled their Academy-issue cell-phones out to see that a text message had come across on every phone:
>>Training Cadre 3872 – report to Cocking Hall
I wonder what that's all about?
"Picnic's over," Eileen said, rising to her feet.
"Before it even began," Zachary groused, as he also rose. "I haven't even had a chance to make out with anyone – what about you, T? Care to take a moment and help the Empire rise again?"
Faster than Zachary expected, Tiffany reached out and raked his body from chin to crotch in one violent movement; even Eileen nodded with approval as the young telepath's clothing – except for his boxer shorts - fell away from him like water, placed in momentary phase by her power. "Keep your mouth closed and put your clothes on," the redhead said. "Nice work, T. You're really improved on selective phasing – and leaving him his shorts was a nice touch.
It always feels good when Eileen gives me a compliment. She's honest, and tells you when you're doing it right.
Ugh. What does he want-?
Tiffany and the other members of her cadre stopped in unison as they saw Cadet First Class David Allen Farrington – the Deputy Cadet Commander of Corps, and the current ranking cadet telepath – as he sat in the spacious lounge area of Cocking Hall.
Several young telepathic cadets – Sixth and Fifth Class, from their insignia and the copper Greek letter 'Psi' on their lapels, Tiffany noticed, sat on the couches across from David Allen, their eyes wide (and irises glowing electric blue, as were his) as they all spoke telepathically.
Zachary began smoothing out his hair and uniform, quickly checking his reflection, but stopped when Tiffany stared at him.
David Allen Farrington is not that special, Zachary, Tiffany thought, scowling as she turned to see Kaliq checking to see if his uniform was in proper order. He's – okay to look at, if you don't have anybody else that's really good-looking around. All of the other boys in The Alliance are MUCH better looking than him – I don't see why a girl like Julia Carlyle - or any reasonably good-looking girl would crush on him, or want to do anything with him. I see how Julia looks at him whenever she comes back here and they all do stuff together.
I don't get why Julia wants to be bothered with him – she's got her own money – lots of it - and even if she didn't, money isn't THAT important. After all, if you're going to date someone, the important thing is that it's someone that you can be seen out in public with.
He doesn't even dress nice, even when he doesn't have to wear a uniform – I remember when his brother came to visit on Bowman Day and I knew it had to be his twin, because HE looks good, and has real clothes, and knows how you're supposed to treat a girl.
Tiffany looked back at Zachary, and just shook her head.
If I ever said this out loud, it would make your head swell up bigger than it is now, she thought very loudly, but I don't see what any of you think is so special about him – and especially you, Zachary, because not only are you super-hot, but you're, like, British royalty or something-
Tiffany almost jumped out of her shoes as Zachary's psi-voice rang out clearly in her mind:
*Show a little respect for the Prime, T. He took down Daria Morgendorffer – and from what I heard, there's probably only three or four telepaths here who could stand up to her. Amorette could do it – if they were linked, Jeanette and Jacquelyn could stand up to her - and as long as he could keep himself awake, Jefferson could block her powers out. In a head-to-head, though, he'd be lucky if all she did was ghost him-*
Her eyes became angry slits as a second, equally familiar voice also reverberated in her mind.
[She has leave to think whatever she wants about me, Zachary – and stop thinking about Combat Psi for the moment. You're at least a full year away from being ready for that – and you need to work on building up your telekinesis. Even with that, with your Martial Supremacy ability...]
Tiffany turned to see David Allen walking towards them. [In the meantime – you rats need to go and get your next dose of 'flush' before your afternoon sessions. Heather, all of us had to take the pills – it's only been seven weeks, you'll get used to it, and you're not supposed to scan people without a reason, you know that. You know that too, Zachary – even surface thoughts. Dean, Leo – stop skipping doses so you can astral project over to the EA dorms. Christine, Amorette, Jacquelyn and Jeanette are all going to be on the lookout for you – and if Amorette catches you snooping... Evaporate, small people!]
As the young cadets scattered, Tiffany noticed the different colors of the Psi symbol on their uniforms-
*The copper is for 'newbies' – the young sprouts who don't have full control yet, T*, Zachary thought-cast to her. *Lads like me sport bronze – old enough to have control, but not trained yet. You get silver when you get your Mark 30 and start serious brain-training, gold after you get at least one Level One certification – and platinum for the combat-actives like Prime-*
Sorry, Prime – David Allen. Force of habit. That's what everyone else calls you-*
[You are not 'everyone else', Zachary. You are a telepath. Never forget that. You should remember that as well, Kaliq.]
Tiffany almost jumped as Kaliq's voice suddenly flowed through her mind like a cool, refreshing drink of water. ===Yes, sir – and thank you, T. That was a beautiful comparison.===
[I need to speak to Tiffany – actually speak to her. I figured that one of you would have her in tow. You're dismissed-]
David Allen spoke aloud. "Cadre - you are dismissed. Cadet Reynolds – Get in touch with Cadet Field. She'll go over the details of the VR session with you. Cadet Blum-Deckler – a moment, please?"
The other cadets left – Katherine and Susanna giggling as they kept throwing glances back at David Allen, who shook his head as they left - but only going as far as the lounge, where they sat and watched Tiffany and David Allen without even trying to hide it. "I spoke to Morgendorffer about ten minutes ago," he said without preamble. "They've got some things going on back at Legion Tower, and I thought that you might want to go back and lend your friends in the Legion a hand."
"When... do... we... go...?"
"Cadet Reynolds will be here in a few minutes," was the reply. "People who aren't used to teleporting with me... well, it's not pleasant. We'll wait for her to take you along. It's just as fast."
They both stood silently, not looking at each other, until David Allen turned to her. "Look, Tiffany – it's been five months since the whole VR thing," he blurted out. "I've said that I'm sorry constantly, you've got the letter of apology I wrote-"
Framed, she thought very loudly, not even bothering to look at him.
"Isn't it time that we made peace?"
David didn't flinch as Tiffany looked him directly in the eye.
"I'm... going... to... get... you... back," she said, her voice almost a hiss.
The Deputy Cadet Commander of Corps took a deep breath, held it several seconds and then, spoke up. "Look – you got to see me wearing a compliance band for weeks on end. You got to see me walking around in constant pain. Isn't that enough?"
Tiffany didn't flinch as she held his gaze. "Nooooo..."
David Allen nodded. "Tiffany, we're both on the same side. From what we've discovered, The Alliance and the Legion are both parts of the same plan – shouldn't we be working together, learning to deal with what's out there instead of trying to 'get back' at one another?"
The Legionnaire gave him a look that passed contempt by a wide margin. "I... owe... youuuuu."
Over in the lounge, Zachary chuckled sadly and Kaliq shook his head in disbelief; the sound of footsteps caused Tiffany to look around and see at least forty young cadets – all telepaths, it looked like – moving quickly for the exits. "Then let me put it a different way," David Allen said, his voice becoming cold. "I'm not about to spend my last year at the Academy living in fear, or dodging shadows. I'm not going to get into a pissing contest with the Legionnaires because you have anger-control issues, and I'm not about to tank my military career because you don't have any idea about the meaning of the phrase 'let it go.'"
Tiffany actually felt a sharp twinge of fear as he looked her directly in the eye. "I'm putting you on notice. You screw with me - or anyone else because you've suddenly developed a grudge that you don't have the common sense to 'walk it off', or just get even and let things go – and I'll have you brought up on charges. I'll go to the Disciplinary Board and have them table a full cadet tribunal – or if you really screw it up, I'll speak to the Commandant and ask to bring you before a Board of Review for possible violations of the Bowman Acts."
The Legionnaire let her response out as a laugh. "So?"
"So – that means you'll be tossed out of here – if you're lucky," David Allen continued. "That means that you're not considered a government asset. What that means, Miss Blum-Deckler, is that if you continue on with the attitude of not letting go, you'll still come after me – and when you do..."
David Allen's pupils seemed to ignite with electric-blue fire as he stood before her as if he were guarding the Gates of Heaven themselves. "When the day comes that you decide to pull pin and throw on me, Legionnaire, you'd best be prepared to make a choice; walk away and set an example - or step up, and become one. It's entirely up to you."
In the lounge, Eileen – who had been listening in on their conversation with her super-hearing – rose to her feet and started over, but was stopped by Zachary and Kaliq.
David Allen glanced over to Tiffany's cadre, locking eyes with Eileen, and then, looked back to the Legionnaire. "You have people who like you for what you are. You've got friends. Don't make them sad."
[I'm just getting my point across, Amorette.]
#And scaring almost all of the sprouts on campus. I'm good at this kind of intimidation but when you try it, people for miles around think the place is about to become Ground Zero.#
Tiffany saw Tainn Reynolds (the sultry Native American cadet that had been Stacy Rowe's roommate) – and a slender French-Canadian beauty in the uniform of the Phantom Eagles - as they came into the foyer. #If it's too much trouble for you to give her a lift to Maryland, I can drop her off. Of course, that means that you probably won't get to see Julia until that Halloween costume ball they're having-#
David Allen's eyes narrowed. [You know, I haven't talked to Blake yet about not being scared of you, and asking you out because you're a spinner from Quebec-]
Amorette Molyneux walked up to David Allen, ignoring Tiffany as she focused on her fellow Cadet First Class. #Anyone else would be angry about that word, David Allen. You know that I like it.#
The two cadets stared at one another, neither backing down; finally, David Allen smiled. [Yes, you do.]
Amorette ran her eyes over her fellow telepath in a suggestive manner, knowing how much her doing that annoyed him. #Anyway, take her home – well, play pathfinder, and tell him that I do like poutine. I don't care if it's a stereotype, I like it – and that I can take him anywhere he wants for a first date. The South Pacific has some nice islands, and the Mediterranean's always good – has he ever been to Corsica? Sailing the Aegean's is so much fun-!#
*If you're looking for a good date, the Highlands are very nice – and there are beautiful forests all over the Isles. Besides, why would you want to date the walking zoo-*
#Call me when you turn eighteen in April, Zachary. I do not date little boys.#
[I'm out of here.]
David Allen disappeared in a flash of light as Amorette looked up to Tiffany. "You know, there are better ways of getting even with a man, especially if you feel that he has wounded you," the tall French-Canadian said (at five-nine, she almost towered over Tiffany) as she gave the Asian girl a once-over with a smile. "If you ever choose to get real payback – the kind that will not get you in trouble, but will strike the young man exactly where he lives – call me."
Every guy in the area watched, slightly punch-drunk, as the uncomfortably lovely telepath walked slowly out of the foyer, absolutely aware that every eye in the place was on her.
She is so much like Quinn that it's not funny, Tiffany thought. I bet Sandi would hate her – Oh! I should take Sandi a little present-
Tiffany felt something smooth and cool pressed into her hands, and she looked down to see Kaliq standing there. "She's your friend – I think that she'll like this," he said. "We'll see you when you return."
Tainn's cell phone rang as Tiffany gazed at the beautiful crystal form of a cheetah; the figurine was incredibly lifelike, with the animal crouched as is prepared to spring after its unseen prey, perfect in every detail-
"Hurry back," Eileen said, as Tainn tapped Tiffany on the shoulder and then grasped her upper arm. "If you need us – call, okay?"
Tiffany smiled as she looked at her friends. "I'll... be... back..."
Tainn and Tiffany disappeared into thin air, and Zachary looked at the other members of the cadre. "Told you before," he said with a smile. "Our resident bird of prey's developing a sense of humor."