Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 6: Central Academy

Session One

The academy may have been able to move everyone's luggage (at least with an 80 percent success rate), but the actual labor of unpacking was still left up to the student. Troy, Kathryn and Donovan did so without much hassle. Only Renee had the additional burden of gathering everything that had been strewn across her room and re-strewing it in a manner that she could find acceptable. She didn't make much progress in the first fifteen minutes. Everything was everywhere, from inside the dressers to under the bed to hung from the ceiling. After managing to retrieve the t-shirt dangling out the window, she sighed in exasperation.

Just then, the sound of an intense power chord rippled through the unit, followed by a guitar solo that was silenced before it ever really started. Using it as an excuse to leave the room, Renee found Kathryn holding the headphones for Troy's MP3 player at arm's length, while the other hand clutched her ear in pain. Apparently Molly had not deactivated the sound amplification spell. Molly did so now, doing her best to mask the sheepish look on her face.

“Sorry,” she mumbled to Kathryn.

“What?” Kathryn cried, louder than she should have. She walked into the bathroom to find some pain relievers, rubbing her ears along the way.

“Molly? Are you sure you can't help me sort everything out?” Renee pleaded.

“Day one is hell for guardians. I am exceedingly busy.”

Taking a step toward them, Troy said, “I can-,” before he was interrupted by the glare. He froze in his tracks, spun around, and went back into his room, closing the door behind him.

Renee sighed and looked at the closed door leading to Donovan's room. “Well, maybe I can borrow one of Donovan's minions.” Slowly approaching the door, she added, “That's what minions are for, right?”

“Unfortunately, that's not possible either,” Molly replied, “Teleporting short distances the way they do is fairly easy. Doing so across hundreds of miles is prohibitively difficult for even the strongest of magi.”

Donovan's door opened and Bryce stuck his head out. “Anyone got any picture nails?” he asked the room.

Molly didn't look at him. She just folded her arms and sulked.

“Anyone?” Bryce repeated.

“You can't put nails into the dormitory walls. It's against academy rules,” Molly announced angrily.

“Never mind, Bryce, I found some!” Blaine called from inside the room and Bryce shut the door. Seconds later, Molly and Renee heard him pounding nails into the dormitory walls.

Before either sister could re-enter their room, the front door opened. Kurt stood in the doorway and smiled at them.

“How are things so far?” he asked.

Renee pointed at the door. “Isn't that only supposed to open for us?”

Kurt looked at the door handle. “Oh yeah...” He turned to Molly. “Might want to get that fixed.”

As Molly shook her head and went into her room to fill out a repair requisition, Kurt stepped into the unit and let the door shut behind him. He held up a dress in a dry cleaning bag and asked, “Is this yours, Renee?”

Renee took it from him and needed only a second to identify it. “Yes, it is! Where did you get this?”

“Found it in my room. Had the name Pearson on the tag and it's too cute to be Molly's.” He laughed and added, “They must have the interns moving us in today.”

While Renee returned it to her closet, Troy opened his door and saw Kurt.

“Kurt!” Troy said, exchanging a high-five with him. “When did you get here?”

“I've been here all day helping kids move in. I'm over in 209, by the way.”

“Good to know you're nearby.”

“I think they did that on purpose. Why else would they put you in D?”

Molly entered the commons again. “Kurt, while you're here, you might as well show them around the campus.”

Kurt narrowed his eyes. “Isn't that the guardian's job?”

Molly narrowed hers right back. “Aren't you trying to become a guardian?”

Kathryn emerged from the bathroom. “Come on, Kurt. I need to get out and do something. Troy's iPod almost killed me.”

She smiled at Kurt. Kurt relented. “Sure, I guess it's not a big deal. I need to grab some dinner anyway.”

“Kurt,” Molly began, sternly enough to command his full attention, “I do ask that you do not, under any circumstances, tell them about a certain somebody.”

Her emphasis on 'certain somebody' suggested that Kurt would immediately know who it was, but he just stared back blankly. “Who?”

“You know who,” was Molly's reply.

Kurt thought for a minute, then chuckled mischievously. “Oh- you mean Reggie.”

“Do not utter his name in this unit!” Molly commanded.

“Understood,” Kurt said with an obedient nod. “So just these two?”

“Yes. Renee needs to finish unpacking and I don't want to know what Donovan's doing in there.”

“Sounds good.” Kurt turned around and opened the door. “C'mon kids!”

As Kurt led Troy and Kathryn out, Renee ran after them. “Wait up! I need a break so I'll go with!”

Before Molly could protest, the four of them were out the door. Kurt, Kathryn, Renee... and Troy. And Molly wasn't lying; she was exceedingly busy. Too busy to do anything but grumble and wish that Claude could have piggy-backed with Blaine and Bryce. It was going to be a long three weeks without him.


Session Two

The original layout of Central Academy had been plotted very deliberately, with special care towards enriching the presence of magic on the grounds. This was most evident in the overhead map of the academy upon its inception. Mystical symbols representing diverse religions and philosophies seemed to jump out from the carefully calculated placement of Central's buildings and walkways. East and west intertwined while pagan beliefs merged with the more stuffy religions in perfect harmony.

Of course, the ensuing constructions, expansions, renovations and demolitions had since rendered the whole thing a disorienting mess. The only religious experience that could be gleaned from looking at the modern campus map was a frustrated cry of 'what the hell?' Still, Kurt managed to lead Kathryn, Troy and Renee through the jungle to at least give them a fair chance of knowing where the important structures were.

“There's the clinic. Very good to know,” Kurt said, pointing out the medical facility in between bites of his chicken sandwich. Kurt had already gone through one of the dining halls, as all four of them considered that the most important stop on the tour.

Behind the clinic, Kathryn pointed out a large, flat field with a small set of bleachers. “What's that field for?”

“There's a lot of physical training involved, so it's used for class a lot,” Kurt answered. Smiling at her, he added, “But when it's open, feel free to get a soccer game going.”

Kathryn smiled back. “Nice. I certainly will.”

A couple steps behind them, Renee tried to stay positive, but she was still holding out for something magical about this magic academy. An empty field wasn't quite it.

“What's wrong?” Renee was surprised to see Troy actually talking to her, and even more surprised that he had noticed her disappointment. Now that she was at the academy and beginning to comprehend the reality of it, she thought she was repressing her inner fangirl fairly well.

She sighed and carefully answered. “Nothing. Just not quite what you'd expect, you know?”

Troy shrugged. “I didn't really know what to expect. What's there to compare this to?” He looked around wistfully, not noticing the incredulous look Renee was giving him. She wasn't sure if he was being open-minded about the experience or just ignorant. “Enjoy it for what it is, I guess,” he added. As he turned her way, she smiled involuntarily- partially because she didn't want him catching that look she gave him, and partially because that kind of resigned optimism was what drew her to him in the first place.

“I guess you're right,” she replied, drawing a big smile from his face. She glanced aside and caught sight of the northeastern edge of the campus. There was no fence or road marking it, but the empty field gave way suddenly to a thick forest in the distance. Even with the descending sun shining right into it, Renee saw only darkness beyond the woods. As such, her imagination ran with it, especially when she could make out a slight gap in the trees that could almost be mistaken for an entrance.

Continuing her talk with Troy, she said, “I guess I just pictured things a bit differently. That's pretty easy to do here. Take those woods over there.” She lightly brushed against his arm (to get his full, undivided attention) and pointed to her 'entrance,' “I mean I'm picturing all sorts of wild stuff in there. Monsters, demons... maybe a centaur or something.” She sighed and added, “But the scariest thing in there is probably some guy's deer stand.”

“What?” Kurt, who along with Kathryn had been in earshot the whole time, looked back at her, then at the woods. “You mean the Forest of Unspeakable Peril?”

“Unspeakable Peril?” Renee said with about as much unbounded joy as one could give to those words, “Now we're getting somewhere!”

Kurt nodded, not too excited about it. “Yeah, there's a bunch of crazy things running around in there. It's part of the curriculum. Every academy has to have one, you know.”

“And they call it the Forest of Unspeakable Peril?” Troy said uncertainly.

“Well... we all call it the FUP,” Kurt said, smiling coolly.

“I take it we don't go in after hours?”

“No, it's a great make-out spot actually. Get in there, a couple imps find you, try to scare up some trouble... oh, you're gonna score.”

Kurt made sure to look at Kathryn. She was smiling. He raised his eyebrows in an overwhelmingly poor attempt at subtlety. She burst out laughing.

Jovially, she said, “See this is the kind of thing we don't get from Molly. You make this sound like it could actually be fun.”

“Well yeah, it's mostly college students here. Plus this whole magic thing leaves us pretty detached from reality. It's a three-week party, especially in our dorm.”

“Nice. And I bet you have all the connections,” Kathryn said, nudging shoulders with him.

Kurt nodded, still carrying that boastful smile. “Oh yeah. My brothers told me all the hot spots and my parents are in with the faculty. I'm a good friend to have.”

“That has to be nice to have family in the system,” Renee said, partially to remind Kurt that there were others in the group besides Kathryn, “Too bad we all have normal parents.”

With a sudden stop, Kurt turned to Renee. The all-wise insider became just another clueless student for a moment. Only a moment though, as his bewildered look vanished instantly.

“Oh yeah,” he reminded himself. “You guys wouldn't know about Troy's dad.”

With that mystery solved, he resumed his confident stride. That is, until he realized that none of the other three had moved. He stopped again and felt six eyes staring at him. Then, suddenly, only two eyes. Finally realizing that this was, perhaps, a major plot point, he turned around; Renee and Kathryn were looking at Troy. Troy's eyes, of course, were fixed right on Kurt's.

“What's this about Troy's dad now?” Troy said, folding his arms.


Session Three

Everything suddenly became quiet in their corner of the campus. A cold wind swept past Troy, Kurt, Kathryn and Renee. Students walking past them froze and stared at them before dashing away, deciding they didn't want to be involved. Professors in the nearby faculty building closed and shuttered the windows of their offices. The sun hid behind a large cloud.

Actually, only the last bit with the sun happened, but the timing of it was eerie enough to fool Troy into thinking the world had stopped.

“Well, first thing's first,” Kurt said to Troy, “If you're wondering where's he's been all this time, I don't know either.”

Troy began to say, “What do you-” before he was rudely interrupted.

“Ohmigod!” Renee exclaimed, bounding in front of Kurt and beaming with irrepressible joy. Her inner fangirl could be contained no longer. “What happened to him? Did he die nobly to save the world? Left on a perilous mission and was never heard from again?”

She glanced at Troy for a moment before turning back and suggesting, with far too much pleasure, “Went to the dark side??”

Kurt and Kathryn were too stunned to respond. Heck, as much as Troy was infatuated with her, he was pretty freaked out too. But not enough to deny her an answer.

“My parents got divorced,” he said, somewhat irritated. Then, downright offended, he added, “What do you mean 'went to the dark side?'”

Renee sighed and calmed herself down before smiling at him and replying, “Sorry. Those are all the missing dad clichés I could think of.”

“I didn't even know he was missing.”

“So the whole story of him getting a divorce doesn't bother you at all?” Kurt asked, narrowing an eye at Troy.

Troy shrugged. “Well, yeah, it took some time to deal with. But I got over it. Pretty well, I think.” He turned to Kathryn. “Right?”

Kathryn nodded and cracked a smile. “Yeah, you went emo for a few weeks, but you got better.”

“And it's not a story,” Troy said to Kurt, “Dad's still paying alimony and everything.”

Despite the way the subject was introduced, now Kurt was the one asking Troy the questions. “When was the last time you heard from him?”

After some thought, Troy answered, “Sent me a card for my birthday. Had fifty bucks in it.”

“A fifty? Nice!” Kathryn replied.

Kurt continued, “Let me rephrase that: when was the last time you saw him in person?”

The more Troy thought about the answer, the more he frowned. He had never given it much thought before, and it suddenly seemed like his father wanted it that way.

“A couple months after the divorce, he took me to Bristol,” he said, eyes to the ground. “I was eleven. Has it really been four years since then?”

The trip had been the first, and only, father-son outing since the divorce. Certainly the trip to watch forty insanely fast cars race around an insanely minuscule track was an experience of unparalleled awesome for Troy. The event had established in Troy's mind that future get-togethers with Dad were to be treated as rare and special occasions. So rare, as it turned out, that they never occurred again.

Kurt took a moment to let Troy question everything he thought he had known about his upbringing, then made the (rather obvious) revelation: “Our dads were in the same unit here. I guess they made a good team. That's why Dad wanted me to look out for you.”

“Where are you from anyway?” Kathryn asked, “If you're whole family's in this, does that mean you're not from this world or something?”

“Sort of. I grew up in Milwaukee.”

At this revelation, a surprised Renee asked, “Wait, are you saying you go to our school just to keep an eye on us?”

Pointing to Renee, Kurt looked at Troy curiously. “You didn't tell her about all that?”

“I wasn't allowed to talk to her, remember?” Troy replied. Then he turned and said to Renee, “Say, is all that on hold while we're here?”

“I don't think so,” Renee replied- more curious than sympathetic. Before anyone could dispute, protest or lament that statement, she had forgotten about it and started walking toward the dorm. “We should be getting back so I can finish unpacking.”

Masking a contemptuous look, Kathryn watched Renee go by, then followed.

Troy stayed behind with Kurt. When everything was laid out before him, Troy understandably felt a tad bitter over the whole thing. Not so much towards his father, who seemed to go out of his way to sever ties as cleanly as possible... and treat Troy to one hell of a show on the way out. Troy was upset because this news uncovered questions that he should have already been asking. When some of the answers were 'because Daddy knows magic and fights demons for a living,' Troy couldn't help but feel like an idiot thinking it was all normal family behavior and not worth questioning.

That ended here. He looked Kurt squarely in the eyes and asked the question that should have been on his mind since that weekend in Bristol: “Where's Dad now?”

Kurt scoffed. “I told you, I don't know! I don't spend all my time looking up other people's relatives.”


Session Four

Two events highlighted the first Sunday for most of the freshmen at the academy. First was the collective hangover from the wild opening night party on the first floor of Hall D. Thanks to Molly (and the whole 'under 18' taboo), our heroes in room 202 didn't participate- they were merely kept awake most of the night by the revelers. The second event, often made more excruciating because of the first, was the examination to determine each new student's trigger. As Troy and Donovan had already stumbled upon their gestures, they were allowed to pass on this event as well. Renee and Kathryn, on the other hand, were right on time for their 11:18 appointments.

Since the clinic was too small to accommodate such a massive undertaking, the examinations were held in the library. This location had another advantage: although Renee and Kathryn had arrived on time, the practitioners were quite behind schedule and the library stacks made for a well-stocked waiting room. Renee browsed the aisles and thumbed through various ancient tomes and grimoires. Kathryn settled for the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.

Just as Renee had settled into a chair to check out the Cliffs Notes for the Voynich manuscript, a young man approached them.

“Are you from D-202?” he asked.

Although he didn't look much older than any of the other students, he wore a lab coat and that made him important. Kathryn and Renee nodded.

“I can see Troy now.”

“I didn't think he needed to go in. He knows his trigger,” Renee replied, setting her book down.

“Oh,” he said pleasantly. He pulled a PDA out of the coat's front pocket and happily stabbed at it with a stylus. “How about Donovan?”


He raised his eyebrows at the girls. “Really? Two in one unit? I've never seen that before.” He sounded genuinely impressed, but equally relieved that he could knock them off the list.

“We're ready to go,” Kathryn said.

The examiner looked at Kathryn before nervously turning back to his PDA, mumbling, “Uh...”

“C'mon, we've been waiting for twenty minutes.”

“I guess it's okay...”

“Can you do both of us at the same time?” Renee asked.

He fidgeted with the PDA. Still uncomfortable, he returned it to his pocket and said, “We are behind schedule, so sure. This way, please.”

The examiner, who introduced himself as Joe, was not a doctor. In fact, all the practitioners were the MST equivalents of premeds. Joe led Renee and Kathryn to one of the isolated study rooms in the library. It was small and private and served nicely as an examination room.

“So how do you find our trigger?” Kathryn asked.

“First thing- take off your shirts,” Joe replied, trying not to make the procedure sound as awkward as it was. He failed, but Renee and Kathryn nervously complied. From a tray in the corner, Joe retrieved what appeared to be a round brush, about one inch in diameter, with thick two-inch-long bristles.

As Joe approached Renee with it, she asked, “It this going to tickle?”

“Probably,” he said as he planted the brush on her chest, just above her heart. The other end of the instrument had a small eyepiece. Joe looked into through this enescope.

“Try to relax, okay?” The situation made that very difficult.

The enescope led Joe towards Renee's right side and toward the shoulder. Once he reached that, he carefully took Renee's upper arm and began to lift it gradually. After pushing the arm up and down twice, he finally froze it at a downward angle.

“Hold your arm there,” he instructed. Renee did as Joe moved the enescope down to her elbow. He repeated the process with her lower arm, rising and lowering it to see which position drew the greatest flow of energy. He positioned her elbow at a right angle and again told her to hold it there.

“Starting to feel it now?”

“Yeah,” Renee replied, astounded that it was true- she did feel an energy flow.

He moved up to her hand and examined Renee's palm and each finger carefully, before concluding that every finger but the thumb should remain outstretched. This established the trigger point. The second stage was the gesture. After some further observation through the enescope, Joe brought her arm forward and her hand downward in a slow swiping motion.

Returning her arm to its trigger point, Joe said, “Now close your eyes and picture generating a ball of light.”

She did and Joe repeated the swiping gesture. As her arm swung across her body, light formed in her hands, grew into a ball... and promptly fell onto the floor.

Joe smiled. “And next time hang onto it and you're all set!”

Renee looked at her right hand, in awe. “That's amazing... can I put my shirt on now?”

“Yes,” Joe replied, turning to Kathryn. “Your turn.”

Kathryn held her arms out. “Go easy. It's my first time.”

It was not easy, however. While the procedure for Renee was fairly typical, Joe had a much harder time identifying Kathryn's flow. After a few excruciating minutes nosing the enescope around her upper body, making Kathryn all the more uncomfortable in the process, he raised her right arm, balled her hand into a fist, and pulled the arm down like a slot machine. Nothing happened.

“Hmm... according to the readings, that was it, but the energy flow is barely distinguishable,” Joe said, concerned, “Just a moment.”

He walked over to the far corner of the small room and pinched his ear. A moment later, Joe started talking, presumably with a supervisor on the other end of his telepathy. From the conversation, Kathryn figured out that her magical energy didn't flow towards her trigger point as readily as Renee's, which was apparently a problem. After a brief discussion, Joe wrote something down on a pad of paper, tore the top sheet off and gave it to Kathryn.

“Take this to the bookstore. They'll know what to do.”

Kathryn found the writing completely indecipherable. Truly, Joe was well on his way to becoming a successful doctor.


As Molly had to explain to Renee, wands and other such magic items were not normally handed out to students. The MST considered the raw ability to master one's trigger far more important than the additional power gained from a focus item. They were like calculators and spell-checkers: useful at saving time and energy, but frequently crutches leading to laziness and over-dependence. Molly made it clear that any students resorted to using them were, to put it nicely, 'special.'

So, naturally, when Joe's prescription for Kathryn turned out to be for a shiny bronze staff, Renee was both elated and totally jealous. Even Kathryn liked the idea of being required, per doctor's orders, to carry a large stick with her for the next three weeks.

Grasping it with both hands, Kathryn swung it up and down like a samurai sword. “You know, forget magic. One of them hounds show up again, I'm just gonna bash its head in.”

“Well, at least it's over and we can cast spells with the boys now,” Renee said, extending her arm to demonstrate. She swiped her arm forward, this time remembering to hang on to the light ball and even saying “Illumitorium” for good measure. She happily looked over her creation, adding, “I can see how Donovan is so amused by this.”

Kathryn ran up about thirty feet, stopped, and smiled. “Okay, Renee, you got a ball and I got a stick. Let's see if your pitching got any better.”

As Kathryn crouched into her batting stance, Renee gripped her light ball, nodded, returned the smile, and whirled an underhanded pitch at the 'plate.' Kathryn swung, connected and sent the sucker flying.

“Jeez... I got all of that one,” Kathryn remarked as the ball refused to consider falling, even as it traveled 300 feet. They watched as the light ball, somehow growing ever brighter, kept going until about the 500 foot mark. At that point, one of the windows of Hall A sacrificed itself to finally halt the ball's progress.

By the time the occupant of that unit looked out his window for the perpetrators, Kathryn and Renee were both in full sprint back to their dorm.


Session Five

There wasn't a party downstairs that night, but an excited Renee still had trouble sleeping. Thankfully, her first class wasn't until ten on Monday, so she patiently waited the hours out until her excitement was finally subdued by the sleeping pill she had taken.

When she woke up the next morning, her eagerness to begin her training picked up right where it left off. She selected her outfit carefully: while Molly had told her that the campus's casual atmosphere permitted any attire beyond pajamas and bathing suits, she wanted her appearance to send a clear message that she would not be coasting through this academy.

First off, however, she needed to freshen up and take a shower. Crossing her fingers in hopes that she could sneak into the bathroom with no one catching sight of her extra-tousled bed head, Renee creaked open the door and saw only Molly reading a newspaper on the couch. Renee dashed across the commons to the bathroom, where she found the door locked.

“Kathryn beat you to it,” Molly said without looking up and without much sympathy. “Sounds like she'll be out soon.”

Indeed, the water had stopped, so Renee stood by the door. “Are the boys up yet?”

“Troy had to be at his physical training course at eight, and another class immediately afterwards. We won't be seeing him for the rest of the day.”

“Physical training at eight in the morning?” Renee cringed at the thought. From the course description, physical training basically took all the worst P.E. activities ever subjected to a student throughout school, then combined them into a single three-week regimen and capped with a magic version of dodgeball that allegedly made it all fun. “He ended up with a rough schedule, didn't he?” she observed.

Molly suppressed an evil smirk. “Yes... funny how that worked out.” One of her favorite responsibilities as guardian was setting schedules for her recruits; she was especially proud of the nightmare she had envisioned for Troy.

“Is Donovan up?”

Frowning, Molly glanced at Donovan's door, which to her knowledge hadn't been opened since the day they arrived. She aimed her finger in that direction, executed her trigger, and listened for the sonic boom emanating from his room.

“He is now,” she answered coldly before going back to her newspaper.

Renee smiled. This kind of cruel mischief was one of the big reasons she was so fond of learning magic. She was continually impressed with how scary Molly was when she performed it so casually.

Suddenly, Kathryn screamed from inside the bathroom. The door flew open and she stormed out, securing the towel wrapped around her hair and removing the toothbrush in her mouth.

“Okay, that is not cool,” she cried, walking halfway to her room before stopping and turning back at the bathroom. She and Renee briefly caught a glimpse of Donovan before he slammed the door.

“Did he just...” Renee began, but she couldn't fathom the idea enough to continue.

“Yeah, bastard just popped in while I was brushing my teeth. Thank God I had clothes on.” Kathryn turned to Molly, still irate. “You gonna do something about that?”

Molly already was. Quietly, she stood up and walked into her room, no expression on her face. She emerged moments later with a marker. Renee and Kathryn silently watched on as Molly drew a circle on Donovan's door, then filled it in with seemingly-random arcane symbols. She capped the marker, pocketed it, then silently cast a spell, striking the circle with her finger. The circle glowed for a second, then vanished.

“That will suffice,” Molly said, returning to the couch and her paper.

Nothing happened. Kathryn folded her arms and stewed while Renee tapped her foot impatiently outside the bathroom door. “Nice hair,” Kathryn said to Renee, who grumbled unhappily, but said nothing in response.

Finally, a loud click designated the bathroom door unlocked. “Incoming,” muttered Molly as the circle on Donovan's door reappeared, glowing once more.

With a mighty thud, Donovan appeared in front of his room. Or, more precisely, on the floor in front of his room, on his back, and seemingly in some pain.

“Bathroom's yours, Renee,” Molly said, calmly. She stood and approached Donovan.

“What was that?” Kathryn asked.

“Anti-teleportation seal. Bathroom will have one by the end of the day.” She leaned over Donovan and looked him in the eye. “Now that you know that countering a teleportation spell is incredibly simple, perhaps you'll learn to walk like a normal person?”

Donovan glowered at Molly, but Molly simply returned to the couch without another word. He picked himself up off the floor and retreated to his room. At least he tried to, anyway.

“The door seems to be locked,” he said.

“So it does,” Molly replied, not looking up. She didn't need to remind herself that he was wearing a loose Ninja Turtles t-shirt and bright blue boxers.

“Have a lovely day at school,” she added.


Although Donovan appeared self-conscious about wearing his bedclothes to school (more due to their composition than the concept of it), it turned out that the disparity between his attire and Renee's represented a fair cross-sample of the student body. Several of their peers were dressed tastefully, while plenty of others looked like they had crawled out of bed five minutes ago. In fact, while nobody gave a second glance to Kathryn and Renee's clothes, Donovan did receive a couple shouts of “yeah, Turtle Power!” on the way to the first class. He did not appreciate the revelry.

The first class for the three was an introduction to the Weaving classification of magic. As it was required for all freshmen, the lecture hall was filled to capacity. Kathryn and Donovan voted down Renee's choice and they sat as far back as they could. As they did, Bryce appeared and handed Donovan a black t-shirt and a pair of pants.

As Donovan chided Bryce for his lateness, Renee sighed, “I so need minions.”

The class started a little late because of a malfunction of the sound system: it was incompatible with the professor. Prof. Tabitha Melrose may have been an expert mage, but audio technology was a totally different beast. She was a professor with a soft voice that resounded on the words spoken instead of the tenor of them. She was a professor with the kind of dedication that always kept her pursuing new facets of her field of study, never taking time away from her research. Finally, she was a professor with a large cadre of teaching assistants who did all of the actual lecturing for her since she wasn't a strong speaker and spent all her time researching. As a result, she may not be mentioned in this story again.

Today, however, was the first day of class and Professor Melrose felt obligated to at least make an appearance. Once her TA had fixed the sound system, she leaned in close to the microphone and attempted to summarize what they would be studying for the next three weeks. As she mumbled a lot and the concept of Weaving was quite abstract, she failed miserably. The idea was that MST newcomers took a course in each of the schools to get a basic grasp for what they were and learn the essential spells in each, which in turn would help establish which one each student specialized in. Professor Melrose made none of that clear.

As other students desperately tried to decipher what she had just said, Donovan emitted a low chuckle. “What?” Kathryn asked, clutching her staff. “And keep in mind I'm holding a stick.”

“Soon I will exert my supremacy over all of these inferiors!” Donovan boasted. “For they come in clueless neophytes while I possess the powers of light and teleportation!”

Kathryn shook her head, annoyed, and attempted to see what was going on at the lectern. Apparently Professor Melrose, defeated, left the podium to her assistant.

“Hi, I guess I'll be running the show here,” she said with perfect clarity, “Basically, we'll be going over the basics of Weaving and teaching the fundamental spells that everyone should know- light, flight, teleportation and energy transfer. We'll definitely hit the light ball today, and you guys always ask us to teach teleportation right away.” As an aside, she added, “Yeah, I know the campus is too big, especially the parking lot.”

The TA paused to wait out a round of laughter that neither Kathryn, Renee nor Donovan heard. The TA continued, “So yeah, light ball today and hopefully a primer on teleporting if we have time. If not, then we'll get to it Wednesday, I promise.”

Donovan narrowed his eyebrows at the TA. Renee leaned in next to him and teased, “All that work and you're a whole week ahead. Isn't that great?”

He grumbled. His path to conquest was perhaps a little steeper than he had planned. One that would even involve taking notes in class. This was a troubling development indeed.





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