August 1, 2016 by Lyn
The fifth Friday of the Fourth Year of the Addergoole School.
Dr. Regine stood up in front of the Dining Hall before dinner began Friday with her customary lack of ceremony and complete command of the student body’s attention. Mabina, somewhat inured to the effect, noticed the look on the faces of the Fourth Cohorts in her crew: Oh, shit, now what? All things considered, it was a reasonable reaction, especially for Taro, but she couldn’t think of any more anvils that would be dropping, not this early in the year.
“I am happy to announce,” which was silly, she was never happy, “the first field trip of the year.”
Ooh. At that, Mabina sat up a little straighter; Cassidy noted with amusement the ears-perked-forward expressions of the Fourths. Poor things, they were still thinking they could escape.
“Dr. Valerian will be taking a small group to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The two crews who average the highest scores on their history quizzes for the next two weeks will accompany Dr. Valerian on this four-day trip. Hotel accommodations, flights, and all other concerns will be taken care of by the school, assuming, of course, that permissions slips are properly filled out.
Permissions, Cassidy chuckled.
“If your crew desires to take part in this field trip, please see Hayley before the end of the day Sunday to register the current membership of your crew. As always, understand that cheating, if caught, will disqualify your entire crew from this contest.”
She sat down, releasing her hold on their attention, and the Dining Hall began buzzing. Conrad leaned eagerly forward, both fists on the table. “So,” he said, eyes sparkling, “we’re going to compete, right? I mean come on, the Smithsonian! If I can’t get lost there…”
“You can’t get lost there,” Cassidy shut him down before Vlad had to break it to him. “With the forms they make you sign to get out of here, you can hardly piss without permission… sorry, ladies.”
He wasn’t sorry, but he wasn’t talking to Mabina, either. Megan wrinkled her nose at him in what she clearly thought was being prim; ‘Lisha, as usual, glowered. Mabina wished, not for the first time, that Vlad had picked any other girl to pursue; as pretty as this little bitch might be, she was going to be fifteen headaches.
Sixteen. “Forms?” she whined, cutting over whatever Conrad had been going to say. “What kind of form makes you ask permission to pee?”
“He’s exaggerating a little,” Vlad said quickly. “The forms aren’t all that bad.”
“Heh,” Cassidy snorted. Easy for Vlad to say. Easy for them to say, too, when they had no real impetus to leave. But Conrad and Taro –
Taro was doing his best to not look interested, but the boy had all the subtlety of a Mack Truck, and Conrad – if his Becoming had given him perky ears like some had, they’d be drooping right now. In lieu of that, his tail was down and his smile was all twitchy at the edges.
You can’t bring him home with us, no matter how kicked-puppy he looks.
Oh, all right.
But while they were studying him, he’d perked back up again. “So, we’re going to compete, right? Vlad’s great at history, you guys are pretty good, right, ‘Lisha will kick ass – don’t look at me like that, I saw your last test score!” Inexplicably, the girl blushed at that. Conrad winked at her, and picked up his train of thought. “And… we can get Megan and Taro through fine. Right?”
Taro looked as if he really, really wanted to take offense at that, but Megan shrugged, her hand on his thigh. “Relax, honey,” she murmured, in a poisonously sweet way that made Cassidy/Mabina want to slap her, and Taro, deflated, relaxed. She turned her sweetness on Conrad. “I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, it’s the Smithsonian. Big whoop.”
Conrad and Vlad both started in on her at the same time, a cacophonous blend of “Just because you don’t like it…” and “’Big whoop? Are you brain-addled?”
‘Lisha, always helpful, cut through with a sharp little sweetness of her own. “Oh, you can’t expect her to be interested in things like that, boys, she’s go much more important things to worry about, don’t you, Meggie?”
Megan blinked at her, as always, not quite sure which side ‘Lisha was on.
It was time for drastic measures. “Megan,” Mabina cut in, “if we win this contest – yes, Conrad, we’re going to try – if we win, and, more importantly, if you put in your best effort towards helping us win – you and Taro – then I’ll make your dress for the next dance.”
“Really?” She bounced, clearly distracted. “And the shoes?”
“And the shoes.” Cassidy did the shoes, actually, but it came down to the same thing.
“How cute.” The voice came from directly behind them; they turned in synch to glare at the speaker. “Do you really think you have a chance to win?”
Shadrach, six and a half feet of pure evil, leered down at them, and, so very like him, he had his raven-haired new girlfriend – if you could call her that – snuggled up against him, rubbing Megan’s face in the situation. And she would – yep, Megan pulled Taro up against her, utterly transparent.
Before the four of them could get in a pissing match – or, rather, the two of them, with Taro and Shadrach’s new girlfriend dragged along willy-nilly – Cassidy cut across the conversation in a bored drawl.
“A chance? Well, hell, if the competition is your little playgroup, I don’t think we have a problem. What, the six of you?” He shook his head, letting amusement cross his face. “I suppose Joff has a chance. Do you think he can carry the rest of you?”
Shadrach’s face darkened; more interestingly, the girl beside him glowered angrily but said nothing. Short temper, touchy about her intelligence – or about Shad’s, but probably her own – but silent about it. Fascinating.
“You’ve got to carry sheggie-Meggie here and her rockheaded boy toy. I think we’re fine,” Shad sneered.
“Ooh, are we playing?” The childlike voice chirping viciously from somewhere around Shad’s waistline had to be Agatha. No-one else could sound so much like a horror-movie doll.
“We are,” Shadrach said ungraciously, stepping to one side, so that his back wasn’t to either Mabina’s crew or Agatha’s, dragging his girlfriend with him. She moved like a rag doll, but her face was tense and ready for trouble. “I don’t know what your little freak club is doing.”
“Freak club,” she pouted, “that’s not nice, Shad. We’re no freakier than anyone else here.” Behind her, her bat-winged golden-skinned boy toy glowered pointedly. “But we are smarter. Especially Rowan.” From the looks of things, Rowan was the woods-nymph-sort leaning against Dysmas with a slightly hazy expression. Did tree sap sustain vampires? Apparently, with Ellehemaei trees and Ellehemaei vampires, it did.
“We’re all freaks here,” Cassidy said easily.