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The Big Reveal

Posted on Sun Aug 5th, 2012 @ 9:17pm by Fae of Sky Maus & Zumbe Jericho Stark & Fae of Fire Cat Random & Celestial Angel & Guardian Brann Connolly & Mystic Zachary Craft & Unknown Draco Sandrino

Mission: Sinister Whispers...
Location: Stark Academy, Residential Student Level aka The Dungeons
Timeline: 11.24.2011, 0710PM

After a sumptuous dinner in which the Kitchen Pigs had been kicked out of the dining hall by the faculty and made to go wait at the now only single entrance between the main level and the dungeons below, Jericho had approached the door that would not budge. Before, there hadn’t been a door at all. Now, there was a big heavy one with iron bound oaken timbers like a medieval vault. In addition, it wouldn’t budge even with several of them trying, though Pike hadn’t tried because he didn’t want to damage anything and as there was no keyhole or lock that they could see, it was sort of a conundrum how to get it open.

Jericho approached and smiled and pulled out a small box with which she pressed the single button on it and after a short pause, there was an audible (click!) and the door seemed to release slightly and moved inward a few millimeters.

Maus scowled at her. “Magnetic lock?”

“Yes,” she smiled beatifically, “but you and the faculty are the only ones that can get down there.”

"But how?" Angel asked as she pulled one glove off with her teeth.

"How long until the door resets?" asked Zach

“Because I had you chipped when you were toddles,” she replied breezily and stepped past them to push open the door and step out onto the wide landing that led down the shallow stone steps to the lower level.

Zach was nervous as he always was when things were changed dramatically and without warning. He knew the symptoms of a panic attack and quickly and quietly moved to the back of the crowd allowing everyone to move forward a head of him. He knew he could not force himself to go in. He would know when he was ready and so he waited until that moment arrived.

"Zach, you want me to wait with you?" Cat asked recognizing that the young man was moving towards a panic attack.

Pike came up and slipped his hand in Zach's and Summer took his other. "We can wait together," Pike declared.

Cat nodded and followed the rest of the Orphans into the Dungeon.

Angel trailed in behind her.

Brann entered the winding stairwell and made his way down in a series of slow, shallow steps. Two things caught his attention immediately. "Feel that," his voice carried as if in a hollow well. "The air is warmer, dryer; less musty." He frowned. "It's comfortable but it's harder to mask scents."

He reached the bottom and planted his hands on his hips. The ceiling lamps still looked like they came from a Parisian sewer and while they still cast firefly shadows the skillful knew to use effectively, the glow spread evenly, making amateur attempts at stealth -- like those of clumsy Payers -- much more difficult. The rest of the place seemed as they left it save something nagged at Brann. The closer he looked the more he saw.

"It's bigger down here," he pointed to the far ends. He then brushed his fingers across the cool surface of a door as he made his way toward his room at the end of the hall. "Nameplates," he voiced in mild curiosity as he brushed past the same worn, green, corroded brass hinges until he reached his door. He paused to wait for Maus.

As Maus joined him, their door clicked and released, floating inward a few millimeters. Maus quirked an eyebrow and smirked.

Cat turned and looked at the room under the stairs that had belonged to her and Angel for as long as she could remember. She turned and looked at Angel and smiled.

Brann smirked at Maus in reply and pushed the door open to their room. He saw new, sturdier full-sized bunk beds and across from that desks sat side-by-side with, "Nice, laptops!"

Maus walked over to the desk and pulled out the top drawers and in one, found another ultrabook just like one of the one's on the desk. He picked them up and put them to the side, booting one up and producing a key ring full of ram-sticks. He grinned at Brann, "NOW I feel better."

Brann cheered with glee as he opened a strange new cupboard, "Check out the mini-fridge and microwave!" He then grabbed a bag of M&M's and clutched them to his chest with a moan of delight. "Popcorn, snacks, soup, your candy too. We're loaded. Wait..." He caught sight of clothing peeking from a gap in the wardrobe door and drew it open. He gasped. "It's all here. They replaced everything I lost."

“Faaaag,” Maus teased him.

"Says one," Brann hugged Maus from behind, slipped hands under his shirt, and placed a kiss in his hair.

Cat walked over to their door, and looked over towards Angel. "You ready for this?" She asked as she reached to open the door. She saw the built in beds and grinned at Angel. They were sturdier than the old ones but Cat still missed the old ones. She looked around she took the rug and flipped it up to see if their biggest hidey hole was still there. Even though there were locks now she would feel much better with their hidey holes still there.

Angel let out a little squeak before sprinting into the room and clambering up to the top bunk without even a hint of an issue with her long dress. She flopped down on the bed with a happy little kick and laugh. "DIBS!" she called as she flopped over to look out over the room, "Oooo, check under the rug see if they kept our hidey hole inside a hidey hole!

"Angel," Cat said looking up at the top bunk and frowning at her roommate. "Look at this." She finished flipping the rug back all the way so that Angel could see the floor safe. She could tell there were magnetic locks along with a numeric keypad. "And why do you always get the top bunk?" She pouted playfully.

"Because you're the tank and I'm the archer, duh!" Angel said.

"And when we were four?" Cat said putting her fist on her waist and cocking her hip out.

"I'm faster and a better climber," Angel said sticking her tongue out.

Cat blew a raspberry as she knelt back down and tried to open the safe, she knew it was stupid but this had been where she had always hidden her VooDoo Bunny. It clicked and in sequence lit up, showing her the code: B-L-1-T-2-K-R-I-3-6. Even though most of the girls had simply ignored them once they had hit puberty Cat had always loved the offbeat stuffed animal, she had slept with hers every night since the day it had been given to her until the day the Payers had destroyed it. She didn't know what she was looking for in the safe, even if the staff had replaced it it wouldn't be the same but at the same time she was hoping that the hidey hole still had the familiar stuffed face gazing back up at her.

And there is was, at the bottom, complete with the wooden knitting needles and the little heart was VooDoo Bunny. There was the spot she’s gotten on it and tried to clean off when she was little; chocolate. There was the tear she had asked Summer to “fix” at the infirmary with the bright green yard “stitches”. It was all very, very close but it wasn’t the same. But it spoke of someone lovingly trying to reproduce what she had lost. A little note was tied to VDB’s heart, where the focus was supposed to go for the beginning voodoo practitioner. Opening it she saw inside in flowing elegant script, “This was my fault. I can only apologize and try to make amends. J”

Even though it wasn't the same doll the fact that Jericho and all the rest of them had taken the time to try and recreate her VooDoo Bunny brought tears to Cat's eyes. Carefully she pulled the doll from the safe and wrapped her arms around it. The knitting needles and note she would put in her lockbox later, for the moment they sat in the safe as Cat hugged her VooDoo Bunny close.

Angel smiled, she liked her VooDoo bunny, she kept it safe, but it wasn't as dear to her as Cat's had been. She did a flip off the bunk and turned her back to Cat, "Unzip me?"

Cat looked up and gave Angel a watery smile. "Sure." She walked over and unzipped Angel's dress, not bothering to check to see if the door was still open. Once she had Angel starting to get undressed she walked over to the wardrobe and let out a small laugh as she opened it to see her clothes tucked neatly into the closet. All her favorites, the t-shirts that she had torn the hems off so that she could wear them once they had gotten holes in the bottom, they even had the bottom half torn off just like she liked them.

The door had already swung shut on its own.

Angel stepped out of the dress and picked it up to put it on a hanger. From a drawer, right where she expected it to be, she pulled out her favorite nightgown a creamy green Grecian style gown that fell just past her knees. Only then did she pull the pins from her hair and let out a sigh of relief as the heavy curls fell around her shoulders and down her back. She was giving Cat the time and space she needed as she began folding her curls into a loose braid then pulled on the robe that matched her nightgown.

After a few minutes Cat got out of her own outfit and into her standard sleeping clothes. She wore a tank top, that actually covered her stomach and a pair of boyshorts, short panties both in a dark heather grey. Then she began the process of unbraiding her hair. "You think we should check on Maus and Brann?" She asked Angel with a curious head tilt. "It's ages til lights out so they shouldn't be doing anything too naughty." She ran both her hands through her hair as she spoke finger combing the riot of waves that hours of drying in braids had turned her hair into.

~~~~~~~

Zach had squeezed both Pike’s and Ms Summer’s hand tightly despite no reaction otherwise. While Zach as very adaptive to most situations he had avoided a lot of the catastrophe of Hell week and had been kept very occupied with exams to the point he was not overcome by staying in the auditorium. But when faced with this it caught up to him unexpectedly and if he could display his thankfulness to his best friend and Summer he would have hugged them both. Alas, a squeezed hand was all he could manage.

Zach waited a minute or two as the last of the orphans vanished into the down stairs. In his mind he ran over the last sparring session he had with Brann. Recounting every move in perfect detail in his head and soon he could feel his pulse not race so much. Not long after he had gotten to the end of the recalled fight where Brann had managed to fend him off long enough for Zach to get tired and sloppy, Zach was ready to enter the wide open door. “Okay,” was all he said and he let go of both their hands and headed in.

They silently exchanged a smile behind him and followed.

It was warmer than he remembered but not humid as well. The lighting had not changed much but orphans had learned early the usefulness of shadows and stealth. The floor plan had not seemed to change and despite the differences of the hallways he found his room easy enough. Zach stopped and looked at two doors that did not belong to him. He was not sure but they seemed wider a part. He looked at Ms Summer and asked, “How do you move doors and make them bigger but show no signs of new mortar or stonework? Even the brass hinges are the same.”

“Magic,” she said and shrugged.

Zach replied which only Pike would know to be sarcasm, "What class is that taught in?"

"Monsters with good hearts one-oh-one," she replied blithely, as if she was perfectly serious and saying it as an aside as she was looking at something else to one side. "Hmm, have to fix that later." She was looking, as far as he could tell, at a blank wall of stone same as it had always been.

Zach approached what should be his door and as he noticed a brass plate with Pike’s and his name on it a small click was heard and the door moved inward the slightest bit. Zach stood for a moment staring at the door. Would his room be dramatically different? Would it cause him to panic? One part of him hoped it was not different but exactly the same. Another part of him dreamed it was.

Pike walked up and put his hand on Zach’s back, between his shoulder blades and held it there, steady and supportive. There was strength in that meaty paw and Pike held it there as if it were a feather.

Zach opened the door and took in the every detail. Larger bunks, new desk with lap tops. He noticed one was a little bit bigger and seemed to be of stronger material than the other, clearly intended for Pike. Despite the changes to the room it still felt like the home he had before and his shoulders visible slouched a bit and relaxed. Muscles became unclenched and fist turned to open palms. He quickly leapt up to his bunk and when to his hidey hole in the ceiling. It was still there but replaced by small safe that would hold the only thing he ever kept in there, his journal of weapon designs and martial sciences. He jumped back down and opened what he thought was his closet. His simple clothes were in there, spaced and ordered just like he had left them two weeks ago. Camo pants, blue jeans, on pair of slacks, one color shirt, and plethora t-shirts he seemed to favor. Zach looked over at Pike with a big smile and simply said “Home”.

Pike was pulling out the desk drawers and grinned, picking up something and showing it to Zack. It was a digital-pad with a drawing wand and usb ports for PC docking and gig-sticks. “Look, a tool to help you with your designs and colors. I bet this has that three-dee modeling software Maus was talking about that let’s you created smaller images in exact scale and reproduce real design blueprints and patterns.” He turned it over and looked at it curiously, how it was wrapped in a textured hard rubber-like covering, “I wonder if this is heat retardant?”

Zach stared at Pike and replied, "Fires are not allowed inside, Pike. "

"But you could take it to the forge," Pike replied with a half-smile, "where you could use it to display what you needed to work on right?"

"Good Idea," Zach replied.

"Wow these beds are pretty stout," Zach looked at Pike and with a small smirk "Do you think it will hold a boulder, with moss?"

"It better," he said and jumped lightly up halfway on the ladder and scrambled the rest of the way into the upper bunk.

It didn't even creak or sway.

It looked like wood, it held like steel.

Zach started stripping out of his new formal clothes. Preferring nudity when he could be he hung everything up exactly as it had been and put the top hat in the cubby at the top. He pulled up a pair of cotton shorts that were snug in the right places and sat down in front of his new laptop to start puttering around.

After everyone had been in their rooms for about fifteen minutes or so, there was a soft bell that rang twice in the inspection pattern. This was a call to bring the Residentials out into the hall to stand against the wall next to their doors so faculty could inspect and make sure things were spic and span. Summer went to gather up the younger middle-school kids while Jericho waited at the eastern end of the high-school hall and once everyone was outside, she smiled and called softly, "Come along, this isn't all of it."

Brann perked up at that and gave Maus an eyebrow arched with curiosity. "Not all of it? Let's find out."

"Heh," Maus smirked and scrambled out with Brann.

Drake stood at the back of the group, behind even Zach, holding his sister's hand. They'd always been in the are for tuition students so didn't know where to go now. They followed the others but he sat at the bottom of the stairs, pulling Bennie into his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him close and putting her head on his shoulder as she let her eyes close. Both felt heavy and full from the long day and the good meal.

Brann saw Drake sitting with his sister on the bottom step and stepped over, offering a hand up. "Here, I'm one of the RA's for the older Residentials. I'll help you get situated. Stand in line with the rest of us like so."

He drew Drake to how the others lined up outside their rooms. "We'll put you on the end of the line until they sort your rooms. Normally, Bennedette would stand with the other podlings but I think Headmistress might make an exception for tonight." He paused, "I hope."

"Its holiday Brann so they can spend as much time together as they like," Emberline said as she strode up. "She can stay up late, sleep late and hang out but she's not allowed to sleep in Draco's room unless his roommate is okay with it."

"Yes, ma'am," Brann stood to offer Emberline a smile and deferential nod. "We need to ask Draco's roommate."

"He's rooming with Mitchel," she pointed to the room right next to Brann and Maus' at the end of the corridor. "Mitchel's roommate was on the young side so now that Bishop is old enough, they're going to room and Mitchel and Drake can room together."

Drake murmured, "Thank you," to Brann as he got to his feet, setting Bennie on hers. Then he looked at his new roommate, Mitchel was a good looking guy, swarthy, some mix of African and Latin with bright honey colored eyes and strong facial features, his blond hair in neat dreads. He didn't was to ask Mitchel for permission for Bennie to stay the night with him in front of all the other students and decided he would wait until the others were busy with something else.

Bennedette had no such qualms, she walked up to Mitchel and did a sweet little curtsy then looked up at him with big brown eyes, "Please, can I stay the night in my brother's room with him? Our parents just died and I don't want to sleep alone."

Drake rolled his eyes and hurried to add, "When she had nightmares as a little kid she'd crawl into my bed so I could keep the monsters away while she slept. I slew zombies and demons, in particular, I was known for my ability to thwart closet monsters." He nodded sagely then added in an undertone, "It's okay to say no, not everyone is comfortable with an eight year old girl bunking with them even for just a night."

Mitchell squatted down and looked her in the eyes seriously, his eyes searching hers for several heartbeats. "I think I can find a place to crash to make room for you Bennedette. If you need a few days, until yer bro grows some stones, just let me know aight?" he smiled and held out his fist for her to punch, "Hit me girl."

Bennie bumped her fist against his and managed to dig up a smile, "Thank you."

"You don't have to leave," Drake said, he was frowning, he'd been trying to be polite and apparently that made one ball-deficient... he was going to need lessons on how to be a resident student or he was going to get walked all over, "If my things are still here somewhere, I have a sleeping bag and can crash on the floor."

"Mitchel would rather sleep in another bed tonight and you're making it awkward. That's not very nice." Brann leveled a steady gaze on Draco.

Drake shook his head realigning the world in that new light. That made a lot more sense but he just hadn't been thinking in those terms. Lessons, he was definitely going to need lessons. He leaned over to Brann and asked in a hushed tone, "Safe to assume an apology would only make things worse?"

"Just bump fists with the handsome young man and thank him for letting your little sister sleep over," Brann whispered back, knowing at least a third of the Orphans nearby had sharp enough ears to eavesdrop.

Indeed, devilishly sharp ears were pricked and it was quite silent in the immediate area so people could overhear. 'Silence is your friend', was the orphan motto, 'invisibility is your BEST friend', was another followed by, 'Curiosity and Awareness are your right and left hands'.

Cat raised a brow from where she stood by her door with Angel. With her hair wild around her head and her thin tank and underwear she looked like she had just rolled out of bed. She didn't even really notice how well her lack of outfit showed off her long tan legs or that running her fingers through her hair didn't give her a less freshly bedded appearance. Things were going to be rough for Drake and Bennie, the residents tended to root for the monsters not slay them. However his question and willingness to learn did earn him points in Cat's book.

Zach padded by everyone looking into the showers naked with a towel over his shoulder. Walking past the students and staff as natural he can get he looked at Ms Jericho and said, "Shower time at 7:30pm." He walked up to a shower head with his soap on a rope and turned on the cold water and started showering.

"Zach," Brann, as one of the RA's for the older students called him back. "We're on holiday schedule and Headmistress Jericho called us to inspection." He smiled inwardly but kept a forthright tone and expression. "Assume your place, you know what happens when we keep her waiting."

Zach stared at Brann with a blank face for a moment. He eventually shrugged and fell into line and stood there as calm as a mountain lake, naked and a off white towel over his shoulder. He quietly traced over his tattoo with his head tilted slightly to the right as if thinking about something a million miles away.

Meanwhile, Drake just shook himself and did as he was told, bumping Mitchel's fist and thanking him in a hushed tone. When Zach walked by he had a quick instinct to cover Bennie's eyes but glanced around and noticed that no one else was reacting so he relaxed and let things happen.

But Bennie had been distracted from everything else by a much more pressing matter, she looked up at Brann and cocked her head to the side, "Why are you dressed like a lady?"

Brann squatted until he and Bennedette looked eye-to-eye. He gave her a solemn look, "I'll tell you but you have to promise never, ever, to tell any paying student."

Bennie thought about this for a moment before she answered, she never made promises she didn't intend to keep so she thought it through before she nodded, "I won't tell."

"Good," Brann nodded with an expression of growing pride. "You know how babies are born either boys or girls? I was born special, I'm boy and girl. I dress like both because it's proper, like how you dress like a girl." He lowered his gaze sadly, pondering his next words before once more looking Bennedette in the eyes. "Most paying students don't understand. They think there should be only boys and girls. I dress like a boy around them so their heads don't hurt." His lips curled at an inward thought before he finished. "Everybody here knows and it's okay to talk to them about it but don't let Payers overhear you. I'm sharing a very special secret. I trust you to keep it."

"I'm very good at keeping secrets, just ask Drake I haven't told anyone about his-" She cut off as Draco put his hand over her mouth.

"That's enough," Drake said with a laugh, "she really is good with secrets, she's just messing around."

Bennie smiled in that brilliant, 'who me?!' way.

"She's smart," Brann gave Bennie a knowing wink and climbed to his feet. "Okay, let's get you in the inspection line." He got them sorted and turned to face Jericho, "Sorry for the wait, Ma'am."

"I run an Academy full of children Brann," she smiled slightly, "I'd have to be a true masochist if I didn't like children to be doing this for a living." She turned and made gathering gestures with both arms, "If you'll all follow me, I have things to show you only Residentials should know and things only you will have. And Zachary darling, please put on some shorts won't you?"

Zach without thinking nodded quietly and sped off toward his room and quickly put on gray sport shorts. He hopped into some ankle socks and tennis shoes too.

She walked them down the hall to just past Brann and Maus' room to the fold in the wall and facing the wall their door was on she placed a hand on a stone, turned to make sure they all saw what she was doing, but didn't speak. She pushed gently with her fingertips and the stone slid inward with a click. She moved to another one up and to the right and pushed it in and then one to the left and one the same level as the second and did likewise until it too clicked.

Then an entire section of the wall slid back and to the right, revealing a landing and stairs down.

Cat moved forward, her VooDoo bunny still tucked under her arm, completely at odds with the rumpled look of her hair and the revealing nature of her clothes. "Ma'am? What is this? Where does it lead?" Like normal Cat let her curiosity grab a hold and lead her along. She had watched avidly as Jericho had moved the stones, marking and remembering which stones to push and in which order with a practiced ease.

Angel did up the ties of her robe so that she looked sweet and demure, the exact opposite of her roommate, though in truth they played the reverse rolls.

Brann sniffed the air in the tunnel and grimaced, "It's faint but I can't miss the stables."

"This tunnel comes out on the other side of the stables in the cliff," Jericho explained. "The far side opening is hidden and sometime this holiday, ask Kyort to show you how to access it from the outside. This is a secret tunnel for getting out or into the castle unseen, if you need to. Do you all understand?" she asked, standing up and looking around.

Nodding Cat looked around at the other Orphans, wondering how the other members of their family were going to take the newest new revelation. She wondered if the tunnel had been designed to allow them to escape something or if it was simply so that they could come and go.

"If we need to," Brann repeated Jericho, casting her an inquiring look. "That sounds like an emergency exit."

Zach nodded. He was bothered by several details of what he had seen so far but as of yet was waiting to understand more.

Maus scrutinized it with that blank look when the gears were cranking too fast to keep his body acting normally. He blinked and returned to normal a moment later and glanced at Brann with a look so blank it bordered fearful or hostile.

Brann knew better than to interrupt, he only offered Maus' hand a comforting squeeze to anchor him in the moment. It dawned on him a moment later that perhaps he needed the comforting because when Maus phased out like that his brain mapped far reaching and potentially disturbing probabilities. Brann also noted that the Headmistress blithely ignored his comment that it was an escape tunnel. Something was up and it was big. Brann fished for more information, "How do we close the tunnel, in case we have to?"

"To close it, simply turn one of the key-stones counter-clockwise like so," she reached out and did as she was stating and all three stones clicked, slid back out and the hidden door slid back into place now completely indistinguishable from the rest of the wall. She gestured over her shoulder, "Come along please," she said and gestured to the expanded tower room a few yards beyond. A bit like a Victorian sitting room, still it was quite large, had windows all the way around the tower near the ceiling and there were potted plants and herbs helping relieve some of the must. A small heater cleverly disguised as a fireplace was central to the back wall and had a mantle with a wood and brass clock on it and there were books shelves with the classics on them all around the room, interspersed by chairs and wall seat cleverly built into the shelves. "This is the drawing room," Jericho announced. "It has excellent daytime lighting and it's relatively quiet even though it's on the hall and situated between the bathrooms for the high schoolers," she gestured the way they have come from, "and the middle schoolers," she gestured the corridor ahead of them.

"Convenient for homework after getting in from chores," Brann flicked his gaze to Maus. He offered casual comments openly but inwardly he saw deeper, more serious implications for these changes.

"Or a rally point?" Zach whispered to himself.

"If necessary," Summer whispered in his ear, "yes."

Maus nodded thoughtfully but said nothing, keeping his blank expression. Jericho noticed it with a flick of her eyes. She glanced at Emberline and Summer and then continued.

She turned in place and stepped to the blank wall that was one of four blank stacked stone walls that formed the central foundation of the castle. She looked to the sides and made sure that they were all watching and said quite clearly, "Monster with a soul," and a large section of the wall receded a half foot and split, the sides sliding apart. Then she took one step inside and lights came on inside the space, a huge space that one would take several steps down into to find couches and tables and a wide projection screen on the far side. The appointments were modern, very modern and hip like the inside of a nightclub and there was a stereo with an mp3 dock. There was also a barista, coffee beans in bags, cocoa and a wide selection of teas. "This is the family room where I hope my family," she turned to regard them with a somewhat contained smile, "will enjoy themselves."

Cat looked over at Brann, she had seen and heard the exchange he had had with Maus before the reveal. She gave him a broad grin. "See we can have movie night all the time now." She said with a soft chuckle.

"SWEET!" Angel crowed, then fell silent eyes going wide.

"James Bond meets Tim Burton," Brann commented idly, taking in the room with wheels of possibilities turning in his mind.

Zach just stood thinking about the whole thing. Zach without thought turned to Ms Summer and asked pointedly "I need to talk to you or Ms. Jericho, in private, please ma'am."

"After the presentation I'll be available," Summer replied with a soft smile. "Jericho may be busy with Maus just then."

Brann turned a calculating eye to the headmistress. "I understand the magnetic locks and our safes but why do we have a secret tunnel and a break room hidden behind a secret wall?"

"I'm with Brann ma'am. This is all great and amazing and I'd love to know how you all did it but at the same point in time this strikes me as more of a bunker. A really nicely appointed bunker but still it seems like you're planning for something big and bad to happen. More so than what the Payers already did to us." Cat spoke softly but she looked over at Jericho with curiosity burning in her eyes but also fear, not for her but fear for her family and what could be coming that could make the normally unflappable Jericho set things up like this.

"Because we want to be prepared," Jericho said gently. "And because there may be reason for you all to have a safe place to get to in case of storm or a natural disaster or whatever. I'm willing to be paranoid, and clothe it in fun and prettiness, to keep you all safe as long as I have a say in it."

Zach chimed in, "And what do you fear from us?" asked Zach realizing that some of his peers had come to the same conclusion, Zach felt no need to be discreet about his questions.

"Only that if I ever said 'If a payer raises a hand against you, you can fight back' you would," she replied blithely, "and the consequences of that would be catastrophic."

Cat narrowed her eyes as she looked hard at Jericho. There was something going on here, something that had to do with the repeated promises of 'we'll discuss it over break,' and the fact that the Payers had escalated to such an extreme level. Add in what Hulga had told and shown her and she didn't buy it. "Ma'am, I hate to say this but I'm not sure I completely believe you. It feels like there is more to this than you're saying, there's something much bigger going on and you're prepping for it."

Brann breathed a sigh. He thought the same thing. No doubt they all wondered and Cat gave it voice. They all hated asking after all the wonderful things Jericho showed them but she raised them to ask hard questions when such was called for. These gifts reeked of another, more serious purpose and it was such that Maus zoned out over it. He waited and watched for Jericho's reply.

"There is always another purpose to anything someone does," she pointed out. "You all know that. I'm proud you listened and I'm proud you're suspicious, as you've been trained to be. But now is not the time for that kind of a discussion, trust only that I have always looked after and loved you all and I will continue to do so until you decide to no longer allow it."

"I understand ma'am." Cat said with a small nod. Jericho was right but Cat really had never been one to keep silent when the safety of her family was concerned. She worried that something was happening, some storm was coming. She wanted to make sure that Jericho knew she knew that this was more than just to protect them from the Payers.

Brann nodded in acceptance. Jericho led Cat exactly along the line of thinking he hoped for. Jericho approved how everyone took notice, she stated a secondary purpose, and stressed "now was not the time." Each and every orphan grew up reading clue words into every sentence and Jericho shouted hers from the rooftop loudly enough for toddles to read it. She intended for them all to read it and that meant she expected them to approach her at a more appropriate time. Knowing Maus and his friends among the eldest, that time would be first thing tomorrow morning. Brann intended to be there with them.

Zach nodded in compliance.

 

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