Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 2: Potential

Session One

Despite the fact that the hound had now dug its teeth into his arm, Donovan admired its aggressiveness. It had very sharp teeth; the bite was very painful. Donovan was impressed by anything that could inflict pain so easily. We can just be impressed that the hound somehow managed to avoid puncturing an artery, as killing off a major character this early is rarely good for a story.

“You will make an excellent companion. But first I must tame you,” Donovan told the hound, pulling his arm away from its jaws. This action tore off a substantial portion of flesh off of his arm, adding to the severity of the injury.

Donovan either didn't notice or didn't care about the flesh wound. Instead, he placed his palms down and brought them around in a wide circle.

“Behold my magic!” he shouted.

After a few false starts, he was able to generate his glowing sphere of light.

“Illumitorium,” he chanted as it glimmered into the hound's eyes.

After its eyes adjusted, the hound looked at the ball curiously. It sniffed the ball, poking it with its nose a couple times.

“You understand that my powers are too great to be trifled with,” Donovan said.

The hound's jaw snapped open as it promptly ate the magic ball of light. Its mouth glowed brightly as it chewed and swallowed.

Donovan grinned. “Yes... taste my raw power.”

Having finished its appetizer, the hound leaped forward and tackled Donovan to the ground.


“Troy, you're making it sound like this is some sort of storybook romance that is supposed to defy all boundaries,” Renee said. As promised, Troy was following her like a stray dog and pleading his case from a distance. It wasn't working. “Don't get too carried away here.”

“Yeah, I'm taking this seriously,” he replied, now a good seven yards behind her. “But why is that a problem? You want to end this just because Molly says no?”

Renee stopped and spun around. “That's a perfectly good reason to end this. Keep in mind that I have to live with her.”

Troy was forced to stop as well, lest he get too close and be perceived as walking with her. “But do you always have to listen to her? If there's anybody who could stand up to Molly, I always imagined that it would be you.”

“I'll pass. She is my sister and despite what you would believe we have a pretty good relationship.”

Troy shook his head as she walked away. “But it's like she's the only reason to stop this. We were having a good time. I just want you to explain why Molly should have anything to do with this.”

Renee stopped again, but didn't turn around. If she had, Troy would have seen the sad look in her eyes. “You don't know Molly at all. She has reasons for everything she does. Whether or not I agree with them doesn't matter. I had a good time, but it's best if we just move on.”

For a long time, Troy stood there and took it. As much as he had longed for Renee's opinion, he wasn't happy with what he got. Being an average kid without any ridiculously abnormal problems, letdowns of this magnitude were rare. He didn't know how to react here: he had grown far too accustomed to accepting the routine ups and downs of life that this splashdown at the bottom was leaving him rather sunk.

By the time he realized that he had to make a decision, Renee was half a block away. He ran after her, hoping he'd think of something to say on the way.

He did, just as he reached his five-yard threshold: “But if you always listen to Molly, you're under her control just like everybody else in the school.”

Renee stopped suddenly; Troy again had to put on the brakes to keep his distance. This time, Renee stood still, with no evidence that she was planning to reply any time soon.

Troy regretted saying it immediately. He turned around, bit his lip, and added, “I'm sorry. But that's the impression I'm getting.”

If Troy had meant to strike a chord, it certainly did. As admired as she was at school, Renee had never given much thought into why this was. If she ever did, she would never hear something as damaging as being considered a slave to her sister. She had never considered the possibility. She had always assumed that her popularity was simply due to her possessing the usual M.O. that defined the “chosen ones” of high school- accessible personality, good looks, special talents, etc. But under Molly's control? Renee struggled to control herself half the time.

Troy continued to face away, not wanting to know if Renee would storm off in anger or merely yell at him. He was surprised when she suddenly clutched him tightly under his arms. Had she come around? Did she actually see things his way and come running back to him?

Apparently not, as she shouted, “Oh my God, what is that thing?!”

He turned toward the street and saw a giant black dog feasting on top of Donovan. It had been snacking on Donovan's arm, but Renee's shout apparently drew its attention to her and Troy. It growled once, then approached them.


Session Two

Half the fun of being a demonic animal is inflicting pain. This particular hound had done a very good job of causing Donovan physical harm, but was left unsatisfied. Instead of howling in agony and trying desperately to shake himself away like most other victims, Donovan just lied there and stared at the animal. The look in most victims' eyes say 'somebody help me for the love of God!' Donovan's eyes said 'aren't you finished yet?'

That look, oddly enough, was directly responsible for making the dog stop. Not because it was intimidating; the hound just got bored. Fortunately, it spotted Troy and Renee, looking positively mortified at its presence. Certainly these two would play the role of helpless victim more convincingly.

Having no appreciation for a demonic animal's thinking process, Troy and Renee could only wonder where the dog had come from and what it wanted with them.

Donovan was just glad the damn thing was off of him. He didn't bother noticing Troy or Renee. He did notice that he had just been mauled by a dog, and that his arm certainly needed immediate first aid.

“Bryce,” muttered Donovan.

“Sir,” replied Bryce.

Donovan lifted his wounded arm slowly to show his minion. Then he passed out.

“Sir?” Bryce repeated, a little more concerned. He looked up and saw the hell hound, and the blood dripping from its mouth. Bryce correctly presumed it was Donovan's.

“Uh oh,” said Bryce, now more than a little concerned. He saw the creature's next target- Troy and Renee, clutching each other and frozen in panic.

“Not good!” Bryce squeaked. At this point, little had no business being in the same sentence as his concern.

As any good minion would, Bryce charged after the hound. On the way, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small ivory crystal tied to a string.

Most average minions did not have magical crystals tied to strings. Bryce was not an average minion. Clutching the string in his right hand he raised the crystal and swung it around in a circle, still approaching the demon. He dropped his arm and used the crystal to strike the asphalt directly behind the hound. Bursts of light shot out in two directions, circling around the animal before colliding with each other in front of it.

As soon as the circle was completed, the asphalt inside it started to bubble. Before the hound could leave the circle, its paws were trapped in a pool of tar.

While the hound wailed in a futile effort to free itself, Bryce sighed in relief. The threat was effectively neutralized and Bryce could now take his time to determine the best way to eliminate it. 'Very nice, Bryce. Clutch performance,' he thought as he circled around the circle and met the trapped animal face-to-face.

Bryce held the crystal up again. With a circle already in place, an eradication spell would be a breeze. As he swung the crystal around a second time, it began to emit a low hum while the air around it started to crackle.

He heard a whimper from behind and quickly put his hand down. Bryce spun around and pathetically hid the crystal behind his back. Troy and Renee were still clutching each other in fear. Now they were staring at Bryce.

Bryce darted his eyes back and forth between the hound and the pair of onlookers. Discharging magic in public was considered anywhere between a minor faux pas and an act of treason punishable by crucifixion, depending on the district. The binding spell was manageable; Bryce knew that the phenomenon of an isolated section of asphalt suddenly turning to tar could be explained (there were streets in L. B. Gould, Ohio in worse shape). BS'ing the physics behind smiting a demon creature via magic crystal? That was iffy.

Therefore, Bryce took the proper precautions. “Uh... could you two turn around please?” he asked Troy and Renee.

Troy and Renee nervously obliged. They still clutched each other in fear, only now they were staring in the opposite direction.

With that problem resolved, Bryce let loose with the crystal. By holding it overhead and swinging it around, he could gather all the magic energy he could muster and use it all to drive a focused attack into the circle.

Which he did. Troy and Renee didn't see it, but did hear the crackling and humming grow louder, before the attack itself whooshed through the circle. This was followed by the sounds of a muted explosion, a puppy yelping in surprise and the shattering of several glass windows- in no particular order.

“All clear,” Bryce said, trying to resist the urge to blow imaginary smoke from the crystal. He pocketed it as Troy and Renee turned around.

They were no longer clutching each other in fear. Now they were staring at Bryce with a certain “WTF?” look on their faces.

Bryce glanced down and rubbed a bit of circle residue off the now-restored pavement. “So uh... how's it going guys?”

“Who are you?” Renee asked.

Bryce looked back up and forced a cheesy grin. “I'm Bryce, one of Donovan's minions. Troy and Renee, right? Donovan's told me all about you two.” Donovan actually despised both of them, but Bryce decided that that was best left unsaid.

Troy raised an eyebrow. “Donovan never told me his minions knew magic.”

“Oh, Donovan doesn't know about our magical abilities,” replied Bryce, his grin growing even larger. He leaned in and winked. “It's a secret. We can't tell anybody.”

Troy backed away nervously. Renee raised a finger and smiled. “Which is why you made us turn around!”

“Exactly!” Bryce pointed at Renee, nodding in affirmation.

With that crisis well-in-hand, Bryce turned around and headed off to give Donovan the medical attention that he had needed five minutes ago.

Bryce managed exactly three steps before he realized his error. He stopped and slumped his shoulders.

“Oh shoot...” Now his level of concern was off the charts.

“Oh no,” Renee said, almost in unison, “Do you have to erase our memories now?”

“Does he what?!” Troy exclaimed.

Renee turned to Troy and explained, “Don't you understand, Troy? Bryce is probably part of some secret group that uses magic to protect us ignorant masses from evil monsters.” She turned towards Bryce. “Right?”

Dumbfounded, Bryce was about to say 'pretty much,' but a thought struck him and he said something even more stupid: “Did Molly already tell you about all this?”

“MOLLY?!” Troy and Renee cried.

“You mean she's involved?” added Troy.

Bryce cringed and squeaked out an “uh huh.”

“So what, there really is a secret group and stuff?” Renee asked.

This time, Bryce did answer, “Pretty much.” His curiosity got the better of him and he added, “How did you know?”

“I didn't!” Renee looked away and rubbed her neck, suddenly bashful. “I just read a lot of fantasy novels.”

“Well, whatever's going on, if Molly's involved, I don't want to be,” Troy declared, then walked two paces north.

Molly Pearson herself was marching towards them.


Session Three

Victimized by the 'errant' soccer ball, Molly already had a splitting headache when she stormed in on Troy and Renee. Furthermore, Troy's boundary between 'walking with' and 'following' was rendered useless as Renee was standing right next to him.

If there were any signs of a battle between magic minion and demon dog, Molly ignored them as she approached Troy. Bryce quickly darted off to treat Donovan's flesh wound.

“What the hell is-”

“I can explain!” Dashing to Troy's rescue, Kathryn jogged in behind Molly and pleaded, “Don't blame Troy for-”

Molly gave Kathryn the glare.

“It was all Troy's idea; he's blackmailing me,” Kathryn said.

With Kathryn neutralized, Molly turned her attention right back to Troy. “What on Earth is going on here?”

Before Molly could force Troy to confess to sins he did and/or didn't commit, Renee interposed herself. “We should be asking you the same thing! First a giant dog attacks us, then one of Donovan's minions defeats it with some sort of magic spell, and then-”

“Magic spell?!” Molly was still visibly angry, but judging by the look she shot Bryce, her rage had found a new target.

Molly turned back to Renee and pointed at Bryce. “He cast a magic spell in front of you two?”

“Yeah! Well...” Renee stopped and looked at Troy before clarifying, “He did ask us to turn around first.”

“So you didn't see it but...”

“We definitely heard him do something.”

“Sounded pretty cool,” Troy murmured.

Renee nodded and smiled, “Yeah, sounded awesome!”

Molly narrowed her eyes. “Excuse me,” she muttered as she walked towards Bryce.

Bryce was attempting to bandage Donovan's wound. Donovan had already come to, marveling at how much blood he was losing. Molly dragged Bryce away by the ear.

“I need to borrow him,” Molly said.

Donovan watched Molly take his minion away, then calmly said, “Blaine.”

“Sir!” Blaine replied, resuming the first aid.

Out of Donovan's earshot, Molly folded her arms as Bryce attempted to defend himself: “After it was done with Donovan, it went after your sister and Troy. What else could I do?”

“There are ways to engage a demon without anyone noticing,” Molly replied bitterly.

“But that would involve-”

“Better than...” Molly stopped as she noticed something over Bryce's shoulder. A little ball of light sitting atop Donovan's palms. Her eyebrows elevated as Donovan stared at the ball, before finally putting it into his mouth. As he sucked on it, he summoned another one.

“This would be much easier if you held still,” Blaine said, attempting to bandage one of Donovan's arms.

Bryce had noticed too, and his eyebrows matched Molly's, at least until Molly lifted him up by the collar, her face scrunched up in fury.

“You taught him a light spell?!”

“I didn't! I swear!” Bryce pleaded, before turning to Blaine. “Blaine??”

As Blaine turned around, he felt the deadly eyes of Molly Pearson upon him and threw his hands up. “It was an accident! How was I to know his trigger gesture is so close to mine?!”

Molly threw Bryce to the ground and moved instead to hoist Blaine up. Frantic, Blaine turned to Bryce. “I'm serious! Bryce, help me!”

After picking himself up off the ground, Bryce shook his head. “Hey, you're on your own, man. I'm just trying to cover my own ass.” With that, he vanished.

As Blaine quivered in fear in the hands of Molly, he attempted to say something resembling a coherent sentence, but it failed to sway her. He looked down at Donovan, who was too busy taste-testing magical spheres of light to help. With no other hope of escape, Blaine sought the last refuge of the truly desperate- a distraction.

Thankfully for him, Molly spotted Troy and Kathryn tip-toeing away from the scene, hands behind their backs and Kathryn whistling nonchalantly. Molly turned and shouted, “I'm not done with you two!”

They froze immediately. Unfortunately unbalanced on one foot, Troy fell over.
Molly looked up at Blaine, before dropping him to the sidewalk. She continued to glare at him as she muttered, “We need to discuss something.”


In the closing years of the 20th century, when the internet was going through puberty, a brilliant young computer programmer from Cincinnati created a website. It was a magnificently brilliant website designed to encourage social interaction throughout the world (or at least the select parts of the world that had the internet at the time). Boasting high-powered chat rooms, the ability to upload and download home movies, and emoticons as far as the : can see, the programmer's site finally united technology's early-adapters, extroverted fun-seekers and reclusive perverts. It wasn't long before a giant conglomerate noticed, and gave the programmer a ridiculous sum of money for control of this website.

Once under corporate control, it soon became obvious that the site was far ahead of its time- the chat rooms were populated by inane AOL users, the lack of high-speed connections prevented anyone from actually accessing the video content, and mankind at that point in history had only invented five emoticons- none of which were all that clever. Due to these factors, and a couple unflattering Dateline specials, the site closed down six weeks later. But by that time, the check had cleared and a now-wealthy programmer had already moved his wife and two daughters into relative obscurity in L. B. Gould, Ohio.

For those who either lack the attention span to read the above paragraphs or lack the logistical brainpower to make the obvious connection: the Pearsons were loaded.

Kathryn and Donovan soon discovered this as Molly led them, Troy, and Renee to the family residence- a large estate occupying most of a small hill. Though only a two-story, the ashlar stonework exterior and expanded four-car garage impressed Kathryn. As for the others, Troy had seen it before, Donovan didn't care much for architecture, and the garage only served to remind Molly that she had left her car back at school. Molly grumbled it off and led the whole group into her abode.

Inside, Kathryn was even more impressed with the expansive foyer and living room. The space was mostly due to neither parent being a collector of kitschy crap, but it didn't stop Kathryn from nudging Troy, saying, “You didn't tell me Renee was rich; nice pick!”

Molly coughed and shooed everybody down the stairs into the study. Once again there was no kitschy crap to be found; this was genuine luxury crap- from the Salvador Dali painting hanging on the wall to the Meiji-period Japanese swords on display to the giant $32,000 Olmec Indian head in the corner. Donovan chose the seat facing that.

Troy and Kathryn shared a hideously-upholstered teal couch lining the side wall. Renee sat in front of the room's centerpiece- four-and-a-half computer towers flanking a desk that held a laptop and a pair of monitors. Her father called it his secret basement laboratory. Renee wasted no time firing it up to log onto her Hotmail account.

“Don't get too comfortable,” Molly told the group. As they already were, she turned around and went upstairs, muttering, “This is going to be quick and painful.”


Session Four

Following such incidents, MST Guardians had exact procedures to follow in order to mitigate any problems. Renee's assumptions about erasing memories were true in many circumstances, although given the propensity for causing long-term brain damage, memory removal was now only handled by skilled MST doctors. Thankfully for Troy and company, this was not one of those circumstances. Instead, Molly was to follow a more drastic course of action, one that made her want to include killing Blaine and Bryce to the list.

First, however, she raided the medicine cabinet to battle her ever-growing headache. After the soccer ball to the face, Molly didn't think it would get worse. Molly was wrong.

After taking her drugs, Molly retreated to her room and placed four blank sheets of paper on her bed. She then retrieved a small white briefcase from the bottom drawer of her desk. Inside was a large booklet, at the center of which was a detachable page reading “Introductory Statement to Future MST Students- To Be Read Aloud.” She pulled out that page and placed it next to the blank sheets. Slowly and deliberately, Molly waved her finger up and down across the introduction. Once finished, all it took was four jabbing motions with her finger: exact replicas of the page instantly appeared on the four blank sheets.

Molly clutched her head; the medicine hadn't kicked in yet and image duplication was a moderately difficult and mentally strenuous spell. “We really need a Xerox machine,” she muttered as she loaded both the pages and booklet into the briefcase and took it downstairs.

In the basement, she saw that Bryce had returned. With the cat out of the bag, he was no longer shy about his abilities: he used his crystal to magically heal Donovan's arm as Troy and Kathryn watched him with interest.

“Stop that!” Molly shouted, startling Bryce enough to make him drop the crystal. It bounced harmlessly on the carpet. “You've shown them enough already,” she added.

As she opened the briefcase on the table at the end of the room, Bryce said, “You know, I did save your sister's life. Doesn't that count for anything?”

Molly narrowed her eyes at him. She considered arguing that saving Troy's life canceled out saving Renee's, but even Molly wasn't that cruel.

“I suppose,” she conceded.

Bryce relaxed for a moment, but felt that familiar twinge of fear when Donovan said, “Are you saying you saved them... without my permission?”

Tensing up once more, Bryce replied, “Sorry sir! Won't happen again!”

Molly cleared her throat. As conditioned, everybody gave her their full attention as she said, “Let's get right to the point: Bryce, Blaine and I know how to use magic.”

“Illumitorium!” Donovan chanted as he summoned a ball of light.

Molly rolled her eyes. “Donovan knows a basic, unimpressive, and until now nameless light spell.” Glaring at him, she added, “'Illumitorium?' Where the hell did you get that from?”

“Hey Molly, why am I here?” Kathryn asked, “Troy said something about some dog attack, but I didn't see a thing involving magic. This is none of my business, so you can do your cover-up without me.”

“This isn't a cover-up,” Molly replied bitterly, “You, Renee, Donovan...” she paused and sighed before adding, “and Troy... will someday be enlisted into the Magical Security Taskforce.”

“What's that?”

Her patience already running on fumes, Molly replied, “I'm getting there.”

She stood and began passing out the papers from her briefcase. “This should cover the essen... Renee are you paying attention?!” Her sudden shout drew Renee away from the computer.

Renee smiled stupidly. “Sorry, just updating my Myspace page. Suppose I should leave the hound attack out of my journal, huh?”

With an angry glare, Molly wordlessly handed her sister one of the pages.

Introductory Statement to Future MST Students- To Be Read Aloud.

Please emphasize Key Points as rehearsed. Hold all questions until conclusion.
Afterwards, refer to “Frequently Asked Questions” on pp. 28-34.

There exists two types of forces in the world: natural forces that can be consistently explained through the sciences of physics, and unpredictable supernatural forces which introduce elements of chaos that cannot be explained. Under the right circumstances, these supernatural forces can be harnessed and controlled for purposes both constructive and destructive, (pause) good and evil. This process is known as magic.

Since the dawn of civilization, shamans, clerics and priests have either used or created the impression of using magic to better their communities. For just as long, magic has also been used for foul purposes- personal gain, conquest and any number of trespasses. Eventually, like-minded individuals banded together for purposes of global corruption. These powerful demon factions threaten the well-being of every human on Earth.

Kathryn looked up, wondering if she was supposed to take this seriously. Troy and Donovan were quietly reading their pages, and she couldn't glean any opinion off their faces. Renee was nodding along. Molly massaged her temples. Kathryn sighed and continued reading.

As the demons organized and bolstered their numbers, the effort to combat them did the same. Magi across the globe united to form the Magical Security Taskforce- dedicated to preventing the demons from using magic for their evil purposes. You (insert number) have been selected because the MST has recognized your potential to wield strong magical powers.

“Renee!!” Molly shouted, startling everybody except Renee, who calmly looked back from the computer.

“Just playing some online cribbage,” she replied sweetly.

“Did you read any of that?” Molly asked through clenched teeth.

Renee turned back to the screen. “Yeah, I finished it. Sounds like fun. Hey, take a look at this hand and tell me what cards to throw.”

Troy and Kathryn looked at each other, shrugged, and finished reading:

I have been appointed to the rank of Guardian, meaning I have the responsibility of supervising your progress. I have been training for this day for several years, and with me you will learn the secrets of magic that will help you serve the MST well in the years to come. This is not an opportunity many are presented with, so use it well and your future will be in good hands.


Session Five

Troy finished at about the same time as Kathryn and Donovan. He looked at both of them to get their thoughts. Kathryn looked back and shook her head. Donovan glared at Troy, who instinctively turned away to Molly. She glared back as well, then stood up and addressed the room.

“Any questions?” asked Molly, flipping to pages 28-34 in her booklet.

“Nope, I'm going to pass if it's all the same to you,” Kathryn replied, “I don't know where you got the impression that I'd be any good at this kind of thing. I'm kind of an idiot jock, you know?”

“You're not an idiot,” Troy replied reassuringly.

“Shut up, Troy,” Kathryn shot back. 'Idiot jock' was one of the few nasty labels she was prone to in school. True or not, she found that it had an upside in some situations.

Kathryn stood and continued, “I mean, I'm not really into this magic stuff.” She started toward the door. “You'll have to do a lot better than a little light ball and a story about some demonic dog because - ------ ---'- -----...” She stopped and gasped. Suddenly finding herself mute, Kathryn turned around and clutched her throat. She was pushing air through her windpipe, her larynx vibrated, but nothing was coming out. Then she noticed that Molly had a finger pointed at her.

“---- --- ----?! --- --- --- ----- ----?!” Kathryn attempted to shout, “---- ----! --- ---...” Molly set her arm down. “-uck is nothing coming...”

Molly cracked a smug smile as Kathryn took her seat.

“Nobody likes a showoff,” Kathryn muttered.

“Fact is, you see magic all the time,” Molly explained, “It just doesn't register as such. Besides the obvious light balls and whatever the hell Bryce did to that hound, there is also more subtle magic. For example, I just ingested a small red pill ten minutes ago and suddenly my headache has subsided considerably. Tell me that's not magic.”

“You're saying that medicine is magic?” Renee asked, not turning away from the computer.

“Magic and medicine have been together since the days of the local apothecaries and alchemists. The MST has been firmly in control of the pharmaceutical industry for centuries.”

“So why are drug costs are so high?” Kathryn asked.

“How do you think this is funded? Money doesn't appear out of nowhere.”

With his head facing the floor, Troy said, “I guess we don't speak for Renee and Donovan...” He glanced at Donovan, who still glared at Troy. Troy's eyes turned back to the floor. “But I think what Kathryn's getting at is that we don't really seem like the magic type. I suppose my grades are okay, but I'm not a wizard or anything. I mean...”

He looked nervously at Renee, but she didn't seem to be listening: she had stepped into the World of Warcraft and could legally be considered out of the room.

Troy turned to Molly and confessed, “...I watch NASCAR.”

Molly scoffed. “If it makes you feel any better, I don't think you have any talent either.” As Troy's head sunk, Molly went on, “Truth is, however, everybody can use magic, whether they realize it or not. Some are naturally better than others, which is how the MST decides whom to recruit. But most will never realize that they can use magic, because they will never discover their trigger.”

“You mean... as I have?” Donovan boasted, summoning another light ball.

Molly sighed. “Yes. Everyone has their own gesture which lets them cast magic. The trigger also dictates how easy spellcasting is for them, as well as what class of magic they are likely to excel in. Most learn their triggers at the academy, but discovering it on one's own is another way to virtually guarantee recruitment into the... Renee!!”

Everybody looked at Renee, who didn't bother to look away from the screen. “I'm listening, I'm listening! I'm also slaying a spider demon,” she said, “It's called multitasking.”

“The other, less common, method of recruitment is being involved in an overt attack by a demonic force,” Molly added.

“Such as the hound...” Donovan said, darkly, “So the powers of evil are leading me down this path...”

Molly shook her head. “Whatever the reasons for that attack, three of you have been exposed. Where most students don't attend the academy until after graduating high school, there is a possibility that this incident will result in the MST asking that all four of you start attending immediately, starting with the next session in July.”

“Wait... July?!” Kathryn blurted, “You mean I have to spend summer break in school?!”

“To be fair, it is a magic school. You will be learning-”

Kathryn raised a hand. “Stop right there, Pearson. Summer plus school plus learn equals NO!”

Feeling that headache flaring up again, magic medicine or not, Molly leaned forward on her desk and shouted, “You know you, Renee and Troy are really annoying me!”

Shocked, Troy looked around. “What did I say? How am I annoying you?”

Molly glared at him, and replied in her best sinister tone, “Your mere presence is annoying me.”

The room fell silent as all but two eyes fell on Troy. He sunk down on the couch, looking around nervously. Nobody peeped... except for the occasional digitized sword-clanging from the computer speakers.

“Hmm... I hope that academy has online access, because my guild's really active in July,” Renee thought aloud.


Session Six

“Seriously though,” Kathryn said, “Why us? If we're all annoying the crap out of you, why are you picking us for this?”

Molly looked down and took a breath to calm herself. “It's not my decision. I don't choose who goes in. That decision is made elsewhere. Whoever does it obviously doesn't know you too well.”

Kathryn narrowed her eyes. “What do they go by? It's not like any of us have used magic before.”

“Illumi-” Donovan began his motions.

Kathryn waved him off. “Give it a rest!”

For a sincere-sounding question, Molly gave a sincere-sounding answer. “There's too many factors that go into the selection process. Genetics are important, I suppose, but even then it's unpredictable. Offspring of two established magi are good sources, but none of us fall in that category. Siblings tend to be reliable, though. Renee was certainly chosen because of me.”

“Woo hoo!” Renee quietly exclaimed, not turning from her game.

“And if Donovan can cast a spell by mimicking Blaine, that has to indicate some talent.”

Donovan smirked. Everyone ignored him.

“As for you, Kathryn, you certainly hold many skills. No reason to think magic shouldn't be one of them.”

“We'll see about that,” Kathryn answered with a chuckle.

Intentionally skipping Troy, Molly continued, “The MST also groups recruits in units- one guardian, four students. Since units train together, the MST prefers to have them all living in the same vicinity for logistical purposes. In other words, somebody with a level of potential equal to, say, Renee could be passed over if there are no other candidates around. Even with the ability, this is a rare opportunity.”

She looked around the room. Renee was off her game and lurking on some forum. Kathryn stared back, her narrowed eyes still oozing skepticism. Troy was debating whether or not to mention that Molly had skipped him; Molly didn't give him the chance. Donovan and Bryce were idle in the corner until Donovan leaned forward and brought his hands together.

“Blaine,” he mumbled.

“Sir!” replied Blaine. Molly didn't bother asking where he had come from.

“Get me something to drink,” Donovan commanded.

“There's soda in the fridge,” Renee offered, eyes still on the screen.

Blaine sighed. “Bryce is right here; can't he do it?”

“Your turn,” Bryce replied with a smile.

Before Blaine could give up and head for the fridge, Troy stood and extended a hand toward the two minions. “Wait a minute! What's up with those two?”

Blaine and Bryce turned to Troy, dumbfounded.

“What? Something wrong?” Bryce asked.

“Yeah, where do Thing 1 and Thing 2 fit into all this?” Kathryn asked Molly.

“That's...” Molly began, then pondered it for a while before looking over at the pair. “That's a really good question.”

“What? You didn't know these two knew magic?”

“No, of course I knew... I just never really gave it much thought.”

Troy went directly to the sources. “So where did you two learn about this?”

“I forbid you from answering,” interrupted Donovan.

Blaine and Bryce looked at Donovan, then each other, then Troy, then shrugged.

“Sorry,” Blaine answered.

Troy sighed. “Look, you don't have to listen to Donovan all the time. In fact, why do you listen to him at all?”

“I forbid you from answering,” interrupted Donovan again.

Kathryn rolled her eyes and stared at the ceiling. “How about this one- boxers or briefs?”

“I order you to answer,” Donovan said, leaning back.

Everybody (except Renee) stared at Donovan. Donovan looked away, then jolted his head at someone dramatically, hoping to startle someone with his glare. Unfortunately, he picked Molly, who glared right back, hardly amused.

“And this is why it's normally reserved for college students,” she said, her mouth forming a snarl, “Obviously none of you can grasp what's going on here. With any luck, the magi in charge will be smart enough to ignore what happened today and come back to you once you're ready to handle it.”

“Does that mean we can leave?” Kathryn asked.

“Please do.”

Donovan rose from his seat. He silently sauntered out the door, stopping once. “My drink?” he reminded Blaine.

Blaine stumbled, then yelped, “Right! Yes!”

The fridge Renee had mentioned was tucked into the corner near the exit, next to a closet/pantry. As Blaine hustled towards it, Molly furrowed her eyebrows. She waved her finger up and down quickly, then pointed at the fridge. The magical blockade she created lasted just long enough for Blaine to slam into it.


He got the message and ran off to join Donovan and Bryce.

Kathryn shot off a quick laugh, then said, “Come on, Troy. Time to head back to reality.”

She and Troy stood up and walked out, passing Renee en route.

“I'll see you tomorrow,” Troy whispered to her.

“No. You. Won't,” Molly declared, her words hitting Troy harder than any blockade could. She walked up to them, glaring at Troy as he retreated up the stairs.

“Fools,” she spat, shaking her head as she heard the front door slam. “NASCAR...” she said with a scoff.

“I know, I know,” Renee said pleasantly, “Just one of his things. I don't really watch it anymore- not after they redid the points system anyway. Too much math now; keep it simple, guys,” she added quickly.

“Unbelievable,” Molly muttered, falling into the hideously-upholstered couch.

“Yeah...” Renee stopped typing and swiveled around to meet Molly face-to-face. “But I think I can handle it.”

Molly managed a faint smile. “I don't doubt that. You'd do fine. Kathryn too. She may not realize it, but we need someone like her. It's Troy and Donovan that are problematic.”

“As always.” Renee giggled and turned back around. “You have to admit though, he's pretty brave to even try to go after me. Very few others have. Even fewer survived.”

“That's the problem,” Molly mumbled to herself. Her reputation in school had managed to keep everybody in line. Attempting to initiate a relationship with either Molly or Renee was akin to suicide. The notion of dating Renee was one thing, however; Molly would let someone through had he met her high standards. It was true that she deemed Troy Monroe unfit for her, but that wasn't his worst offense. One more thing also provoked Molly's wrath: he was Troy Monroe.





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