Experiences May Vary...
Location: Stark Academy, Paying Boys Residential Hall
Timeline: 11, 18. 2011, 0337 AM local
As it was, the volunteers from the orphans to watch the Payers at night when faculty took a break ended up being Maus and Brann and Cat and Angel. Since none of the four of them were known to be particularly problematic, Jericho seemed fine to allow it and had given her permission. Thus, at just past three-thirty in the morning, they were there when several of the Payers erupted from their rooms and charged Donnal and Theodore’s room, getting into the door (though it appeared the two had arranged something heavy against the door just against this sort of thing) and they had to put a lot of effort into it.
Brann started to yell at the Payers but then he quickly remembered the plan. He needed to let this play out enough to find out what was going on. He cast a quick glance at Maus to check what he was doing and then back to make sure the girls heard the racket. He made sure not to attract the attention of the Payers rushing Donnal and Theodore's room. He crept close, listened, and watched what happened.
Cat heard the commotion and gestured at Angel, they needed to keep an ear open for someone trying the same shit that the boys were aiming for at Threnody. Then again the girl's room mate could probably be causing just as much trouble as the boys bursting through that door. Tomorrow she would talk to Jericho about getting the three of them put somewhere together and safer than this hall. When no one seemed to be heading toward Threnody Cat started to creep towards the boys. She had waited too long for the ban to be lifted and her not to get a few good licks in.
Angel signed to Cat, ~I'll catch up. Going to listen,~ she gestured to Threnody's room, obviously thinking along the same lines as Cat about the other girl's roommate. She walked with the silence of a hunter, or the hunted as she crept to the door and put her ear close, not actually touching the door.
At Threnody's Door
What Angel heard was probably not what she expected because, if she was right, some was on the other side of the door whining softly, muffled somehow.
Angel snapped her fingers softly to get Cat's attention and signed, ~Somethings hinky going on in there, you go ahead I am going to go out and check on them.~
Cat shook her head. There was no way in hell she was leaving Angel to face whatever was going on alone. The boys were tough and could take care of themselves fairly handily. ~You know the drill. Nobody does anything stupid alone.~ Cat signed and smiled at Angel. ~We both go check it out, then we can go help the boys finish mopping the floor.~
Angel nodded, taking Cat's hand and leading them outside, "I'll climb, you keep watch." She didn't wait for an answer just cracked her knuckles, shucked her hoodie and started to climb.
Back at Donnal and Theodore's
Maus and Brann stopped as they heard crashing furniture and grunts and the clear sounds of impacts on flesh. What they were not prepared for was a football player to come flying out to land on his chest and slide, face first, into the opposite wall, moaning!
Two more boys followed, one cartwheeling in free fall, Maus signing to Brann the throw that did that and then another one flew out backwards to land on the cartwheeler who had fetched up against the football player. Three more boys were in the room with the two and the lights were out but there was a sort of change in air pressure that made the two boy's ears pop before the remaining three flew out and the door slammed behind them, leaving all six attackers in the hallway dazed, unconscious and very likely bleeding.
Brann gave Maus a look that matched his hand signal, "What the fuck?"
He heard nothing useful during the scuffle but seeing that two skinny boys tossed around six muscle-bound bruisers like they were rag dolls spoke volumes. Brann checked the topmost unconscious would-be thug to make sure he was safe to pull off the pile. Meanwhile he popped his ear with the cup of his hand and gestured to the moaning pile of boys, signaling Maus, ~"What was that with the air and who's hunting who?~
~I smell a rat~ Maus signed back.
About that time the school nurse, Summer, came skipping around the corner followed by Hulga and Olathe Ten-Men, the Navajo that taught survival and military sciences. "Oh my," she breathed as she skipped over and leaped, landing on both feet with her arms to the sides just like a girl of six or seven would have. The fact that she seemed to hang in the air just a little too long before gracefully and lightly dropping to the stone floor like a feather was probably not noticed since her "barely there'" night-shirt showed her Hello Kitty panties quite clearly. She bent at the waist and peered down at the boys curiously then looked up at Maus and Brann. "It looks like they fell into the wall doesn't it?" she commented and nudged one with the tip of her bare toes.
That she wore hardly anything, a diaphanous tie-dyed shift in layers that had probably been in fashion in the seventies that did little to hide her body and nothing for her long pale legs. "Tsk," she clicked and smiled at the two guards, making Maus beam instantly as his world turned into rainbows of approval and Brann got hugs for his loyalty. "Why don't you two go talk to your friends," she used her eyes to point at the closed door the six thugs had come flying out of, "while we take these meat-bags to my office and see what's broken, m'kay?"
"Yes, ma'am," Brann flashed a grin at Summer. She had a way of bringing cheer to any moment, even to something as fucked up as this.
Olathe was grinning at Summer and Hulga patted both of the boys on the head affectionately before they each bent down and lifted three of the two-hundred-plus pound boys up and carried them like firewood.
Brann turned to Maus and hitched his head toward the door. "You heard the lady, let's find out what's going on." He then paused. "Wait, where are Cat and Angel?"
~Getting into trouble?~ Maus replied innocently.
~Duh,~ Brann leveled a dry look.
Outside, beneath the Paying girl's residential wing
There was a foot of snow on the ground and the drifts on the side of the castle were a good three feet think and covered with ice. That was thick enough to support Angel's weight if she was careful and the stones, stacked and mortared, were rough but no use for a normal climber. But Angel was an orphan and she'd been free-climbing these walls in survival classes in all kinds of weather since she was a "toddle" and they posed little difficulty for her to scamper up two stories.
When she got the window, which was wider than theirs and easier to see into, she saw inside easily because the nightlight was on. Threnody was snuggled into her bottom bunk all comfy, curled on her side, face burrows into her shaggy three-eyed monster plushy bunny. The room looked like it was in a slight disarray, as if something had happened and then things had been put back mostly as they had been. Threnody's roommate, Jacquelle McCray, a girl from Chicago who largely ignored her quieter bookish plain-dressing roommate sat on the floor, leaning up against the door, dozing.
It took Angel a moment to figure out what was so weird about that -aside from why Jacquelle would be on the floor when she should be in bed- until she realized the larger black girl was tied up, gagged and sat leaning against the door like a doorstop and had a comforter thrown over her.
Angel climbed back down, laughing softly, "She's fine, Thery's sleeping, Jackie's tied up on the floor."
"Jackie's tied up on the floor?" Cat said looking slightly confused before shaking her head. "The boy's wing quieted down but I think we might wanna check on Maus and Brann. See if their night has been half as hinky as ours."
Angel and Cat returned from their romp outside, Angel shivering a little while Cat was, as usual, unfazed over much. They got to see Hulga and Olathe carrying the two cords of boys down the hall towards the nurses office while Summer skipped along ahead like a precocious six year old wearing hardly anything at all, as innocently unselfconscious as a child as well. The boys were peering down the hallway towards them and Maus gestured for them to come down.
Cat followed the procession down the hall before turning back to Maus and Brann. "Couldn't save any for us?" She asked with a smirk.
"Ask them," Brann nodded toward Donnal and Theodore's door. "They did this, all on their own."
"Seriously?" Cat raised a brow and looked over at Angel. "Hinky abounds."
"Anything you want to share?" Maus asked interested.
"Jackie's currently tied up in her room." Cat shrugged and chuckled as she look between the boys.
"Maybe we can trade her in for a discount on Cat's tat?" Brann smirked.
"She doesn't deserve that much fun," Angel signed with a laugh.
"Yeah," Brann nodded in agreement. "She's trussed already. Toss her in with the other sows."
"Ahem," Maus looked at the closed door expectantly.
"Time to get some answers," Brann knocked on the door. "Donnal, Theordore, open up. We're the hall monitors."
Donnal opened the door a crack, eyed them and then opened it just far enough to let them in. The room was a bit of a wreck but it looked like anything valuable had been stowed, as if they expected to be jumped. Both of them were dressed in heavy normal clothes, not in pajamas, along with heavy thick-solved boots that looked like they'd hurt to get kicked with. There were a couple of holes and dents in the drywall.
Luckily the window hadn't been busted out.
"So, you boys have any fun tonight?" Cat asked leaning against the wall as she looked at the two teens. This whole situation had her radar so far off the map that she didn't even know where to begin.
Donnal and Theodore looked at each other for a long moment and then Donnal went to the door and cocked his head, as if listening. For a split second, to the others, his ears elongated inhumanly and wavy darker markings seemed to bleed out of his curly red hair and pull his hair with them, changing his hairline. His hair seemed to get brighter, to move as if in a breeze and then.... it was gone and he turned back towards them. ~Nobody's there~ he signed at them ~still, its probably better to use the silent tongue~
Brann fell back a step in stunned silence. He stood on the precipice between wonder and anger. So many strange things had happened over the course of a few days and he had no answers. He rocked back on one hip and signed in a conversational manner. ~What was that all about?~ He signed. ~How do you know our code? How is it I've seen you around and never once paid attention to you and by the way; what's with the Lodoss Wars ears and Gaga hair?~
Donnal didn't answer immediately but glared at Theodore who just shrugged and then chuckled. He signed ~Better you than me I think~
~Ass hat~ Donnal signed at Theodore and turned to Brann ~We know how to use this because we're like you, orphans, that've been training at a different Guardianship~ He held up a hand before he could get drilled on that ~Which is to say a private institution, not exactly run like this one, where we were put to hide us between twelve and eighteen years ago. As for the rest...~
The door opened and Jericho stepped in and signed ~As for the rest, it will have to wait. You two~ she indicated Donnal and Theodore ~go get his twin and go to my office and wait for me. You four stay~
Cat's brows rose so high that they could have been trying to make a break for her hair line. She looked over at Angel, Brann and Maus with a curious frown. Something was going on and Cat had no idea what it was but she was hoping that Jericho was going to explain.
Brann watched as Donnal and Theodore left with a look of cheated bewilderment. He signed, ~With all due respect, Headmistress what is going on? What is this about another Guardianship, a private institution not run like this one? They said they were Orphans, like us, and yet they were here as Payers. I saw Donnal change right in front of me. If we're like him, what does that make us?~
~How long have you been seeing things?~ she asked and when no answer was forthcoming, sighed, rolled her eyes and added ~If you make me spank you there will be video and a public forum~
"A week!" Maus squeaked out, slapped a hand over his mouth and then signed quickly ~We say stuff when you went postal and I've seen some other stuff for a few days before that~
She bowed her head and sighed and then sighed almost mechanically ~You might've noticed that you're in puberty and things are changing with your bodies. You've got hair in new places and cravings- ~she looked up.
~ Ma'am, we went through all this in health class.~ Cat said looking around at her siblings.
~Um, yeah,~ Brann cast a sheepish look at Maus. ~WAY past hair and shaving, ma'am.~
~Little late for the birds and the bees,~ Angel signed.
She glared and continued ~As I was signing, you might've noticed cravings for unusual things to eat and had some very unusual sensations, visions and oddness in skin texture, hairiness, seeing things that are there one moment and then not there a moment later. You are to tell me, or Summer or one of the faculty but you are not to act on any of these impulses on your own or it could be serious trouble. I need you to keep trusting me until the Paying students are gone and we can have a proper chat.~
~What about those three?~ Maus said, gesturing off towards the departed boys and Threnody.
~That depends on their Headmaster~ Jericho seemed somewhere between bemused and disgusted. ~I'm all for putting apples in their mouths and roasting them for Thanksgiving but then I imagine that might be unpopular with some of you.~
~I'm not eating Payer for dinner.~ Cat signed and made a face of disgust. ~Then again now I might not eat anything, for a week."
~You can slop Jackie at the pig pen tomorrow,~ Brann offered helpfully. ~That should fix things right up.~
~I'm not touching that with someone else's ten foot pole.~ Cat signed with a snort. ~I mean seriously, ewwwwwww.~
~Are you finished?~ Jericho asked them, looking bored.
~Why have we never heard of other orphans, Ma'am?~ Brann arched an eyebrow in curiosity as he moved his fingers. ~Why did Donnal, Theodore, and Threnody feel they had to hide?~
~Because they were sent here to blend in with the Payer crowd and to see how we're doing~ Jericho replied ~As for why, well that goes back to why you're all in orphanages in the first place I would say~
~Because our parents didn't want us.~ Cat said with a careless shrug. ~Why else would we be in an orphanage?~
Angel sighed then signed, ~Because we were left here and you don't turn away infants that need care.~
~Because you parents wanted you to be safe~ Jericho replied ~But I need you to wait until the Payers leave before we continue that conversation~
Cat frowned, she knew that there were Orphans who like Angel believed that their parents wanted them, that they even loved them, but Cat wasn't one of them. She didn't see any reason to believe any other way. Her parents hadn't wanted her and she didn't want them. She shrugged again before hooking her arm around Angel. ~So we have to wait for the garbage men to come and take away the refuse.~
Jericho smirked slightly, ~Exactly.~
Brann didn't like waiting. Something big was going on and it involved the three new orphans. Clearly the Headmistress did not want to talk about it and Brann agreed standing in a Payer room in the middle of the night was a bad time but that led him back to their original reason for being here.
~Seven Payers jumped Donnal, Theodore, and Threnody. That seems excessive for asking for hot water. Something else must have driven those payers to jump them~
Angel kept quiet at this point, much had happened and she knew from looking that they wouldn't get more information out of the headmistress at this point. She would ask her questions elsewhere.
~I'd guess the other Payers thought they were going to out them to Headmistress~ Maus pointed out thoughtfully ~Which means those seven were probably involved~
~That's good deduction Maus~ Jericho smiled at him and put her hand on top of his head gently in a caress and she looked at the others ~And he's right, they were. Passions are running high and reason very low, so these animals are jumping at shadows and turning on each other left, right and center, as planned. I suspect we're not going to have to wait all week for someone to step forward while they're sweating out their options and we're grinding away their resistance. Plus, being stuck in here with nobody but each other is making them prickly.~
~They thought the new orphans might rat them out.~ Brann pondered as he signed. ~If that's true then the new orphans know details about who's involved and how. It makes sense since they're here to watch us.~ He paused a moment before adding, ~The orphans might have known their cover was blown, so they put on a big, public display to draw as much attention to them as possible.~ He looked up. ~They goad the Payers into this fight, the Headmistress takes them into custody, and now the rest will panic because they expect the orphans are squealing to save their necks.~ He leveled an uncertain gaze on Jericho. ~By goading the Payers into this fight and putting you in a position to yank them out, the orphans' true identities stay safe and the whole thing looks like a clever stunt to rat out the Payers.~
~Well trained aren't they?~ she signed, with a slightly sour look.
~Wait, you mean I'm right?~ Brann cast a suggestive smile at Maus as he drew the signs with his fingers. ~You're rubbing off on me.~
~Well let's head back to the auditorium~ Jericho signed to them. ~I have a surprise and, of course, I have some work in my office first. Your relief is on the hall anyway.~
Cat nodded and headed toward the door. The information on the surprise caused Cat by the curiosity and she shot a look at the other Orphans. Her brow raised and she looked back at Jericho for an instant.
Maus shrugged and smiled with a little encouragement.
Brann fell in silently at Maus' side. He pondered this 'surprise' the Headmistress mentioned and organized his thoughts. He and Maus had a lot of talking to do later outside the prying of ears.
As they were about to exit, following her, Jericho stopped them and signed quickly ~And I already know who did the deed. They need to learn what happens when they go too far.~ she added vehemently and then turned and headed out into the hall. Heads ducked back into rooms as she turned to look, doors quietly closing. Ras seemed to emerge from a shadow at the end of the hall like he had been part of it a moment before and as Jericho looked the other way, Victor, the Maths and Science and German teacher revealed he was standing on a crossbeam above the corridor with a small friendly wave of his hand. Emberline, the Performing Arts teacher and considered slightly nuttier than Summer, did a graceful pirouette below him barefoot, in jeans and a tank top with her strawberry blonde hair flying around her loose, long and fluttering like streamers. She ended in a graceful pose, one hand up and one down, her left leg dragging behind her and all the world looking like a ballerina zombie as she wiggled her fingers at Jericho without looking up.
Jericho split off from them and headed towards her office and the waiting orphans from the other Academy with a brief wave and a sign to ~Enjoy~
Cat smiled as she looked over at them and and headed back towards the auditorium. She could wait to see what the surprise was that Jericho had come up with for them.
Brann gaped, wondering how Victor got up on the crossbeam without a ladder. He then smiled at Ras and Emberline, who seemed freer than before. It felt a little like being part of a circus hidden for years inside a normal school and now everyone put on their costumes and put on their shows.
Once past the residential and down the corridor to the auditorium, they found dim lights on in the large space and space heaters were up, warming the space a good fifteen degrees more than the rest of the school. Also, their floor pallets had turned into twin-sized portable futon beds with quilts on them. Most of the other orphans were awake, watching an old black-and-white blob movie and munching popcorn and cocoa and giggling at the humans on the screen screaming and running away.
Cat gasped and looked to the spot where her and Angel had set up their pallets and saw that their beds made up. Grinning over at her friend she grabbed a bowl of popcorn and two mugs of cocoa. Handing one to Angel she sat on her bed and looked over at her siblings. ~Brann, Maus, sit and watch the movie with us.~ She signed gesturing to the bed beside her.
~Reeses M&M's!~ Maus crowed in sign and went over and started to put together a tray with a cocoa thermos, extra mugs, popcorn and a bag of his treasured candies.
~YES!~ Brann signed with joy. He joined Maus and stacked his tray with snacks, sweets, and cocoa. He sat beside Maus and stole one of his M&M's with a mischievous grin. Meanwhile, on the TV the Blob oozed out of an old-style theater, sucking hapless victims into its mass while survivors ran screaming in every direction. Whatever problems plagued the school could wait for the night. This was fun time.
Unseen int he shadows in the back, the elders of the Academy watched, their forms invisible to the as-yet Slumbering children they had watched over and cared for as their own. They cherished this time for, as all good things, the time would come when it must end.