Magical Security Taskforce

 FULL ARCHIVE

VOLUME: 2

CHAPTER: 7

1 2 3 4 5 6

Chapter 16: Reggie's Room


Session One

Under the moderately-caring watch of MST agents, things settled down in L. B. Gould and December returned to its routine of prolonged holiday stress punctured by banal music. Of course, Christmas anxiety wasn't a major concern for Molly's unit. They were all high school kids and hadn't yet realized how frustrating the season of goodwill can get. Besides, any grief over what to get for whom and where to execute the transaction was a trifle compared to what they had just been through.

Still, the only one who earnestly enjoyed it was Kathryn. For her, it was a reminder of the important things- family, friends and not screwing around with magic. It was humdrum or worse for everyone else. Renee had fun at her family's big gatherings, but nothing substantial came out of it and she forgot every conversation she had with every relative within minutes. Molly didn't bother having conversations; uncles and aunts had long since dubbed her 'the quiet one' and she was happy to keep the myth alive.

Donovan made it a point to remind anyone fool enough to ask that he did not celebrate Christmas. Even traditional pagan or wiccan holidays were too mainstream for him. Instead, he honored the awakening of an obscure dark lord named Urzelbak that had risen to terrorize the world centuries ago. This wasn't as foolish as it sounds; Urzelbak (now retired from his reign of destruction) threw some killer birthday parties that were major events for MST socialites. The problem was that he had actually risen in May.

Troy's holiday wasn't any more eventful than any other year, but he was eager for Christmas to come. Not for the anticipated bounty of presents and cash- that was a given. But rather the inherent role of family in the season. This would be the first time hearing from his father since enrolling at Central.

Even if Troy hadn't seen his dad since the divorce, his father had always sent a card for Christmas and birthdays. Troy had never paid much attention to what was in the card besides the generous cash gift. To the best Troy could remember, there had never been anything particularly insightful about his father's messages- just a line or two hoping Troy enjoys the holiday. But now that the secret was out, he reckoned that this year might be different.

The card arrived on the 22nd. The red envelope bore Frank Monroe's handwriting, not that Troy could tell what defined it as such. He just knew. The address was legible, but the four-lined return address was smudged and indecipherable. Troy made sure to leave that intact as he opened the envelope; further investigation would be necessary.

Inside, Troy found the same card that he had picked out for his grandmother the day before. A generic Christmas card with a generic message that was available in every generic drug store. Troy opened it, pocketed the fifty-dollar bill, read the inscription and frowned.

“Hope things are going well, and get even better next year. You know I'm proud of you. Love, Dad.”

Troy felt like we wanted his money back, forgetting that he was actually up fifty bucks. For all he knew, this was the exact same card, message and currency Frank had sent the year before. Suddenly it wasn't enough.

“How much did you get?” his mother asked from the kitchen.

“Fifty,” Troy replied, slumping into the couch.

Ellen walked in, puzzled at Troy's disappointment with what should have been a small fortune for someone his age. “Can't complain about fifty dollars. I'm sure he had to work hard to get that to you.”

“Dad didn't say a whole lot. I would have thought he'd write more.”

Shrugging, Ellen held back a smile. “That's Frank for you. He never was good at staying in touch. Why, did you think this year would be different or something?”

Troy tried to think of a way to say 'yes' without giving too much away. “I guess I'm starting to wonder what he's been doing. I haven't seen him since he took me to Bristol.”

“I know what you mean. But I'm sure wherever he is, he's doing important work.”

“But you don't know where he is?”

She sat next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. There was a conflicted look in her eyes, which never faced Troy. She never did like talking about it, hence the great pains she and Frank had taken to assure Troy that such things were a normal part of life and they would all have to move on. Even without giving any details away, Troy's questions had demonstrated that he knew that something else was going on.

“I don't,” she answered. “All I know is that we didn't belong there.”

“Why not?” Troy wasn't so naive as to think they were talking about moving to a different city or state. Kurt's parents were in another realm entirely, hence Kurt's insistence on saying they were 'abroad.' Troy thought the same of his father, but any additional clues were helpful, even if his mother had no knowledge of the MST.

“He was very vague about what exactly he was doing, but it didn't seem like a life I wanted for us.”

His mother stood up suddenly, leaving Troy to sit there and ponder her words and question the lack of his father's. Her answer seemed just as hollow as his generic greeting. He wanted specifics- places, dates, job descriptions and Ellen's points of contention with the three. Certainly, she had to have inquired about all this. Around the time of the divorce, Troy may have been naive and stupid but his mother was an adult. She would have had to ask where he was going and what he would be doing. And if she did, did Frank really accept divorce papers over giving an honest answer?

For all of these thoughts, framing them into a coherent question was beyond Troy. Thankfully, before his mother left the room, she stopped and turned around. Although Troy was still working on his bombshell question, she could see the gears turning in his eyes. She knew he was trying to come up with something to get more information. Rather than wait and see what came out, Ellen elected to drop all pretense and give some straight advice:

“Troy, if you do go through with all of this, don't marry outside the MST.”

Troy was so busy conjuring his question that he almost didn't hear it. It took a moment to sink in, at which point his question-forming skills failed him and he asked, “Wait, what do you mean?”

Ellen smiled. “Marie's a nice girl. Don't get her dragged into all of that.”

“No, I mean... you... know?” Not quite as eloquent as he wanted it, but he had gotten it out all the same.

“Right. I'm not supposed to tell you I know about it, but now that you're in it I don't see the harm. And I know you're not supposed to tell me about it, but I just got your permission slip from the academy. It says you're going on a three-week trip to learn the ins and outs of RV sales. I really don't want to hear your stories from that when you get back and I don't think you want to tell them. So we might as well get it out in the open.”

Troy's mouth still hung open, but he nodded.

She nodded back. “Good. I'm starting dinner- what do you have a taste for?”

 

Session Two

Ellen's decision to tell Troy about her knowledge of the MST turned out to be one made solely out of pragmatism. The mother/child bonding moment never quite came to pass. Just because she knew about it didn't mean she was excited by it. Besides a couple token questions about what he had learned so far, she didn't probe into his exploits. Or even the circumstances about his early enrollment. Troy was surprised that his mother was so ambivalent to the whole thing. As if his involvement was like his enthusiasm for cars: she supported the idea of him having a hobby, but had little interest in the actual details.

This wasn't entirely bad. For all she knew, he was following the normal road of an MST trainee. She probably would have been a little more concerned had she known about the battles with Kendrick and the Zukoni. If she had, she might not have been keen on the idea of keeping him enrolled. For whatever reason, Ellen didn't see the MST as anything special; the inherent danger wouldn't improve her perception of it. So for now, Troy decided to keep quiet about all that.

To clarify- Ellen did not actually know magic, nor was she ever interested in discovering her trigger. To do so would qualify her for enrollment in the academy or a memory recalibration, neither of which she found at all enticing. For convenience, upon graduation from the academy, magi are permitted to reveal the truth to primary family members- provided all parties involved are legal adults. Hence Frank explaining his job to Ellen and not Troy.

At least she was supportive enough to give him a ride to Molly's when the next term at Central started. A bitter cold front blew through town that weekend and Troy wanted to be outside as little as possible. In fact, as soon as Ellen pulled up to the house to drop Troy off, Kathryn jumped into the back seat, shivering.

Ellen furrowed her eyebrows at Kathryn, but tried to be polite. “Um... Kathryn, dear, you do know I'm dropping off, not picking up, right?”

“Gotta warm up... they won't let us in,” Kathryn replied, rubbing her gloved hands together.

Troy smiled and opened his door. “Can you get the trunk?” he requested. Ellen did, letting Troy retrieve his bags. As he did, Ellen turned to Kathryn once again. This time, she carried a more inquisitive look.

“You're in the MST too?”

Kathryn froze... now figuratively as much as she had literally. After the moment of shock passed, she replied, “He told you about this?”

“Oh no... Frank was in it too. I've known the whole time,” she explained. “I got sick of playing along.”

“Gotcha,” Kathryn said with a nod. “Yep... I got dragged into this too.”

Ellen hummed a “Hmm,” trying to conceal a trace of chagrin. “That... surprises me.”

Initially, Kathryn took offense, but the way Ellen had said it didn't suggest that Kathryn wasn't right for the MST. Ellen thought highly of Kathryn and Kathryn knew it. She almost felt like Ellen was uneasy about the whole thing- that perhaps the MST wasn't right for Kathryn.

Kathryn understood that sentiment all too well, and replied, “Yeah... me too.”

With his bags out of the car, Troy pulled Kathryn out and said goodbye to his mommy. Ellen drove off, leaving Troy to face the elements. He didn't enjoy the cold any more than Kathryn did.

“Lucky you. I hate lying to my folks about this,” Kathryn said.

“Well, she doesn't know about the demon attacks, so I'm not being totally honest either.” Troy looked around. They were the only ones at the curb. “Where's Yuki and Donovan?”

“Yuki went with Molly to get the car,” Kathryn answered, letting an air of disapproval sneak through. She was still a bit leery of Yuki's sudden fondness for Molly. “Donovan went inside.”

Troy looked at Kathryn, puzzled. “Renee let Donovan in and not you?”

“Donovan let himself in. One of those teleportation spells.”

His mouth hung open in shock. Donovan had barged into someone's house? The audacity! The nerve! The insulation... the electric heating...

“That's...” Troy stared at the house, then at his trigger finger. “...Actually not such a bad idea.”

The front door opened and Renee and Donovan exited together. Renee was laughing and smiling at him, so apparently no harm had been done. They reached Troy and Kathryn, to whom Renee jubilantly announced, “Did you see what Donovan did?”

Kathryn nodded, not nearly as amused.

“At least he picked the basement this time.” Still cheery, Renee pointed an accusing finger at Donovan. “No more bathrooms, got that?”

“Can't say I blame you,” Troy said to Donovan as another shiver rippled through.

“I know!” Renee concurred, hopping in place to keep her legs warm. Magic academy or not, she was already having second thoughts about wearing a skirt.

Thankfully, Molly pulled up in the Caravan. Everybody knew the drill and put their bags in a nice pile so she could beam them to Indiana. Everybody except Renee, who piled her baggage into the little crevice in the van's rear that served as the trunk.

“Not this time,” she explained. Molly nodded in understanding and did her thing to the other luggage. As she did, Troy, Kathryn and Donovan jumped into the van to warm up.

This time, Kathryn found two additional passengers in the back seat. One was expected... one not so much.

“Good morning,” said both Yuki and Blaine.

Kathryn sat down next to them. The only reason she chose the back seat to begin with was to stretch out and take a nap. She didn't mind sharing with Yuki... but Blaine?

Between him, Renee's luggage and the seventeen-inch TV wedged in the back, she was suddenly cramped.

“Why are you here?” she asked Blaine.

“Heater's broken,” answered Molly, re-entering the vehicle and pulling out amid the loud groans.

The loudest was from Blaine, the designated replacement. Conjuring a wave of heated air, he said, “Just letting you know I'm not very good with fire spells. So uh-”

“Silence, Blaine!” Donovan commanded.

“Yeah, save your energy. It's a long trip,” Molly added.

Blaine obeyed. Kathryn and Yuki held their hands over the warm air he generated.

 

Session Three

“Whatcha got there?” Renee asked Troy. As she was leaning towards the center of the van to catch more of Blaine the Human Heat Duct, she figured she may as well make small talk with the passenger across the aisle.

“Christmas card from my dad,” Troy replied. He had brought it to investigate further at the academy. Despite the news about his mom being in the know, it still didn't answer anything about Frank.

Molly coughed in disapproval. “It's okay, I'm curious,” Renee told her sister. “What's it say?”

Troy handed it over. Renee read the card and could not come up with a response. Even a patronizing 'oh, that's nice' seemed exciting for such a dull message.

Eventually she said, “Not much of a talker.”

“I know. I was hoping I could at least find out where it was sent from but...” He trailed off as she was already looking at the return address on the envelope.

“I see. I can't make out anything.”

“Let me try!” Yuki announced.

As Renee passed it back, Molly asked, “Lucidrol works on bad handwriting too?”

“Yep!” And it was true; Yuki's communication drug also worked to decipher thick accents, poor penmanship, and grammatical atrocities borne from netspeak.

One look at the envelope, however, and she bent over, clutching her head in pain. She cried out, wincing as the smudged ink and hurried scribbles inflamed into a migraine.

“Please don't throw up, please don't throw up, please don't throw up,” mumbled Blaine, watching her uneasily while maintaining his heat spell.

Once Yuki took her eyes off the offending return address, her headache subsided enough for her to hand it back to Troy. “Sorry, all I can make out is the zip code- 46195. The rest is too painful to look at.”

“46195? That's an Indiana zip code,” Renee said.

“You know that off hand?” Kathryn asked.

Smiling, Renee replied, “Sure. Doesn't everybody?”

“Well, that doesn't help me,” Troy said, returning the envelope and card to his bag.

Kathryn turned to Yuki. “You gonna be okay?”

Yuki sighed. “I think so. As long as nobody says anything tricky for awhile.”

On cue, Donovan turned around and stared at the girl. His mouth opened and, in a low voice, started mumbling in a sharp demonic tongue. Yuki's eyes widened as he continued, growing louder with more complex tones. Renee and Troy watched him, helpless to stop the onslaught of evil verbiage from penetrating Yuki's ears. Well, they could have stopped him, but wanted to see if Yuki would translate... or have a seizure.

She did neither: “Random noises don't count, Donovan. Even a demon language has a sentence structure and parts of speech.”

A thought struck Renee. “Hey, Molly,” she said. “What about Donovan's parents?” Troy, Kathryn and Yuki stared at her, as did Molly through the rear-view mirror. The sudden change of subject was a typical habit of Renee's; they were more surprised that someone had taken an interest in Donovan's family life.

“I mean, Troy's Dad's in the MST and Yuki and Kurt are pure-bloods, but us and Kathryn are Mu-”

“Say it and you're walking home,” Molly blurted.

Undeterred, Renee continued, “But what about Donovan?”

“My mother is blind to the dark arts. I have no father,” Donovan replied.

“You live just with your Mom too?” Troy asked.

Donovan turned around to glare at Troy. His seatbelt only let him get so far. “No... there never was a father. My birth is shrouded in mystery. Priests from across the land have attempted to-”

“So what's really going on with Donovan?” Troy asked Molly.

“Actually, as far as we can tell, he's right,” Molly said. Hearing it from Molly shocked the rest of the van far more than when Donovan had said it. “Nobody has ever provided satisfactory evidence that Donovan has a father.”

Everyone turned back to Donovan, frightened at first but annoyed once they saw the satisfied smirk on his face.

“Not that anyone's really delved into it,” Molly added. The MST had been a little curious ever since Molly listed Donovan's father as 'Not Applicable' on his enrollment paperwork. But to her knowledge, nothing more than a casual inquiry had been made to confirm the existence and identity of the baby-daddy. All the priests Molly knew were far too busy to deal with that kind of crap.

 

Session Four

For the second term, arrival at Central Academy went far more smoothly than the first time. The group could now teleport clear across the parking lot to Hall D on the other end of campus. From there, it was just up a flight of stairs to room 202... except for Renee, who needed to wait fifteen minutes for an elevator to get all of her bags up. But she did, and there were no other issues with the luggage delivery.

Plus now they had a TV. Renee turned it on, “just to test it out,” she said. Within five minutes, she had settled into the couch flipping between a decade-old movie, playoff football and whatever was on the History Channel. Kathryn and Troy would have sat down for the football if Renee wasn't such a quick-draw with the remote. Instead, Molly sent the two, along with Yuki, out to get needed supplies from the bookstore. She would have sent Donovan (or Blaine, more likely), but he had already locked himself into his room.

Renee's couch potato phase lasted about half an hour, at which point her stomach took over and demanded tribute. She turned the TV off, but with the three sociable tenants gone, she was left with few options to accompany her to dinner. And like hell was she going to eat alone.

“Molly?” she asked, simultaneously knocking and opening her sister's door.

Molly was at her desk, flipping through a binder with class timetables and blank schedules. “Yes?” she replied, not looking up.

“Want to get some dinner?”

“Can't. Trying to finalize these class assignments. Weatherstone is still trying to get you into a Thrusting program.”

With a sigh, Renee said, “Well... I suppose I can go with Troy when he gets back.” She suppressed a laugh: this wasn't an effort at rebellion against or manipulation of Molly. No, Renee had said it just to see the look on her sister's face.

She was rewarded with a good one. Molly paused, her fingers locking up mid-flip. She turned her head, and only her head, at Renee. One eye narrowed, one eye widened, and neither eyebrow budged. Renee couldn't contain herself and let the giggles erupt.

Molly looked away and closed the binder, trying not to chuckle herself. She had to acknowledge Renee's tactic: had she been serious, Molly would have been terrified.

The giggles stopped suddenly as Renee suddenly turned inquisitive. A red envelope had been hiding under the binder. “Hey, that envelope looks just like-”

“You know, on second thought, I could use a break,” Molly interrupted, sliding the envelope and whatever was inside back under the binder. All Renee could gather was that it was addressed to Molly and the return address included five digits that looked an awful lot like '46195.'

Before Renee could ponder it any further, Molly was on her feet and halfway to her coat. Dinner was on, and Renee forgot about the card immediately.

During each July term, the first night of arrival meant an unbearably crowded dining hall. Once through unpacking, everybody wanted food and nobody wanted to work for it. Many students realized the battle for a hot meal and an unclaimed seat was more of a hassle than cooking something themselves or eating off campus, and avoided the cafeteria on the first night of the January term.

So many students, in fact, that the place was only half-full when Molly and Renee arrived. This, of course, would lead to the belief that the initial rush was only a fluke, setting up another mob scene next July. Molly was one of just a handful to figure out the cycle, and she was rewarded with a peaceful and calm dinner where she and Renee could sit down and just be sisters for an hour.

The hour was shortened to five minutes by Yuki's shrill cry of, “Molly! Renee!” She had discovered them, and sat down beside Molly. Worse yet, she turned and yelled, “Over here!” This brought Troy and Kathryn over. Kathryn sat next to Yuki; Troy slid his tray next to Renee's. He paused for a moment, waiting for Molly's protest, but she didn't bother.

“Good thing you got us some of those books a few months ago,” Yuki said, “I don't think we could have carried them all back if you hadn't.”

Molly didn't reply. She just looked at Renee unhappily. Renee shrugged and laughed.

“That's for picking up the load,” Renee said. “Anything fun happen?”

“We picked up books and hauled them back. Sorry you missed the adventure.” Kathryn replied.

Troy chuckled a bit, just to affirm his place in the conversation. But his mind was more interested in the newspaper he was reading.

“Don't bother looking for anything interesting in there,” Molly told him. Like many school papers, The Centrist was a lowly-regarded compilation of poorly-written fluff pieces and questionable editing. Free copies rested in bins at the bookstore and dining hall, most undisturbed through the entire term.

“I want to see if there's anything about the Zukoni attack,” Troy said.

Molly scoffed. For actual news, the paper relied solely on press releases from various PR departments around the organization, with no actual investigative work involved. “I doubt the academy would want to let on that students were attacked,” she said. Troy nodded, but continued reading. A few moments later, Molly thought about joking that mentioning it in The Centrist would be a good way to ensure that the student body ignored it, but the moment had passed. She never was apt at comedic timing.

“Hey, here it is!” Troy declared, discovering a small article wedged in the middle of page eleven. The headline read “Zukoni Roundup in Ohio.” The story focused solely on the crack team of agents led by Richard Herman apprehending Kaz and his gang of evildoers. Nowhere did it mention Molly's unit or the provocation leading to Kaz's arrest. Troy frowned and said as much.

“As I said, they don't want students to think they're going to get attacked or anything,” Molly said.

“I guess I understand that. Would be nice to get some credit for all that though.”

Molly wanted to dismiss any notion of a student receiving acclaim for any off-campus activities, and scold Troy for even desiring it, but she dropped the subject. Crushing Troy's spirits just didn't seem that fun at the moment. She had signed up for a quiet dinner with Renee; she did not want to be shoved into Guardian mode like this and wasn't feeling as confrontational as usual.

“So these kids don't know what they signed up for either?” Kathryn asked.

Sighing, Molly answered, “I'll grant you that the MST isn't exactly forthwith about the danger involved, but it's not as severe as it sounds. They mitigate the risk for most field work when it's anticipated. Occupational safety laws and all that.”

 

Session Five

The new term finally included a couple specialty classes for each of the three schools. Thrusters like Troy got an introduction on their emphasized elements- in his case water. One of the concepts he learned was temperature change. Just as Blaine had warmed his air spells to heat up the Caravan, Troy could internally freeze his water spells to shoot ice instead. Now he had an attack that could deal some physical damage, and doing the reverse and scalding an adversary was another option.

Shame Troy had to suffer through two class periods outside in the January cold to get all that down. After the second, he holed up back in the commons, huddling under two blankets as he attempted to study at the table. He wasn't having any luck; the constant ice spell practice had rendered his right hand completely numb. Also, Yuki sitting across from him. With her knack for ill-timed chemical explosions, he tried to keep a constant eye on her. Only now, she was looking back at him with a bemused face.

“What?” Troy asked, suppressing a sneeze.

“Shame we don't have a kotatsu,” she replied.

“What's that?”

“If I told you, you'd feel even more lousy.”

“I don't think that's possible,” he said, turning just as the sneeze forced itself out. Troy moaned, his head falling back against his chair. “I don't want to be sick here! Can't I be sick at normal school instead?”

Since he was looking at the ceiling, he wasn't ready for Yuki's next explosion, which sent a puff of blue smoke into his face and triggered a fit of coughing. When he recovered, he saw her holding a vial up with an apologetic look on her face. Troy told himself that if she wasn't polite enough to warn him that a potion was nearing completion, he'd stop turning his head when he coughed or sneezed.

“Here, try this. It's a cold potion I saw in my book,” she said, handing it to him.

Troy took it, but paused. “You know how to make potions for colds?”

Yuki giggled. “Surprising, isn't it? But it was in the book, so I figure I'd try it. I hope it works!”

So did Troy. He took a deep breath, gulped it down and immediately regretted it. While nothing compared to her energy booster during the Zukoni battle, this concoction left the taste, sensation and pain of chugging a spearmint-flavored Slushie. Troy fell over and clutched his chest as he felt what he thought was his stomach acid freezing over. Yuki didn't notice this at first. She was consulting her book to make sure she had read it right: now that Troy had mentioned it, curing the common cold did seem pretty complex fare for a second-term Crafter. “Oh, I see! It makes you cold! Sorry!” When she turned to face him, she saw him on the floor, gasping for warm air.

“Uh... you okay?” Yuki asked, already standing up and backing into her room for more blankets. She threw them on, but didn't see any improvement in Troy's condition. As his labored breathing continued, so did her fretting. She leaned over him, clasping his hands and holding them close to her body. Just as she was tempted to summon help, the front door opened.

“Oh, thank God, I think-” she said, stopping when she realized that it was Donovan.

He saw Troy, a bunch of blankets, and Yuki laying on top of him. He raised an eyebrow. “What is this?”

“I tried to fix his cold and I think I gave him hypothermia,” she cried.

Donovan paused and looked at Troy once more. Troy did seem to be in some serious trouble. With a snicker, Donovan said, “Well done.” He went into his room, shutting the door behind him.

With him gone, the panic resumed. “Maybe I can make something,” Yuki said.

Troy saw her return to her chemistry set and mumbled, “No more potions.” Even his words seemed to freeze the inside of his mouth. Yuki stopped and looked at him for a better idea. He tilted his head towards the kitchen area.

“Oh... right!” Even she could make hot chocolate, and it didn't even require an explosion! Thankfully, they had mix on hand and a way to heat water naturally. She combined the two into a mug and ran it to Troy.

Troy somehow secured it in his hands and felt the heat under his nose. That felt good, but as cold as he was he had no desire to burn his tongue off. Troy blew the drink to cool it off a bit. The top layer froze. He drank it anyway.

“Little better,” he said, sitting up.

Yuki looked at him nervously. Troy was still a bit pale. “Uh... maybe I'll make some soup just to be safe.”

Troy nodded. He was back to being simply uncomfortable rather than on the brink of death- an improvement that was hard to appreciate under the circumstances. Yuki started heating a can of soup over a hot plate and returned to the table. After a few moments of silence and some awkward fidgeting, she returned to her homework.

All these months and Troy still hadn't gotten used to Yuki. Yes, she attended L. B. Gould High, but Troy never had to deal with her much in Ohio. They didn't share any classes, so the only times they were together were outside of school. Then, Kathryn was always around to keep Yuki occupied and upbeat. Troy had no problems with her then: she was an outgoing, cheerful girl that at worst was like someone's little sister tagging along.

Here, however, Yuki's true nature emerged and it wasn't pretty. Apparently, given her lineage, she had always been coddled as a natural at magic. Yuki, and her roommates, quickly learned that this was not the case. This was something she had trouble accepting and it led to longer and more explosive study sessions in the dorm, in hopes that she could at least keep up with her elder classmates. Molly had not divulged anyone's actual grades, so nobody knew quite where Yuki actually stood. But Crafting was not coming easily to her, which led to more frustration, more practice and more explosions.

It wasn't long before Yuki was back at it, trying to create another mixture of unknown purpose. Double-checking her textbook several times, she poured ingredients in carefully. Troy glanced away from her and saw a lot of steam rising above the pot of soup.

“Uh... how's the soup?” he said.

“Oh, right!” she shouted, running back into the kitchen. Yuki turned the hot plate off and sighed in relief. As she looked for a bowl to serve it in, Troy noticed that Yuki's potion had been left unattended. And it was starting to smoke.

Growing pensive, Troy said, “Um... Yuki?”

“Just a sec. Almost ready!”

The potion, which had once been a clear liquid, turned brown. Worse yet, there was no stopper on the vial and however the contents responded to open air, they were doing so quite loudly. Troy pushed his chair back to get away, only to have the chair's back legs catch against a blanket. The thing blew, Troy fell backwards and a startled Yuki dropped the bowl of soup.

“Whoops!” she shouted. “That wasn't supposed to happen.”

It never was. Although now that he was on his back, now focused more on the pain than the cold, Troy had a much better idea of what needed to be done with Yuki. Ignoring her apologies and offers to help him, Troy crawled into his room and locked the door. Burying himself under his blankets, he swore that once he woke up from his long nap, he would take action.

 

Session Six

Step one of Troy's plan to handle the Yuki situation involved Kurt. Although the nap warmed him and delayed if not deterred any cold bug, he was still feeling that post-illness hangover as he knocked on room 209.

Kurt opened the door, saw the irritated look on Troy's face and wasn't sure if he was supposed to smile or not.

Holding Yuki by the collar, Troy pushed her towards Kurt. “Got room for a twelve-year-old Crafter? She's going cheap.”

“I said I was sorry,” Yuki whined.

Kurt laughed. “Got a couple Crafters in my study group. I know what it's like.”

“No, you don't,” Troy insisted. “I just had a near-death experience thanks to her.”

“Near-death? What happened?”

“Turns out the cold potion in my book doesn't treat colds,” Yuki said, sheepishly.

“Well yeah, you can't cure colds. Everyone knows that,” Kurt said.

Troy sighed. “Isn't there something we can do? She's driving us crazy!”

Yuki looked up at Kurt pleadingly. “Most of my potions are turning out okay, so I'm getting by in class. But I'm always having problems mixing everything together. I have to wear earplugs because they keep exploding on me... even the successful ones!”

Kurt scratched his chin. “Oh... well, if it's a technique thing, I know somebody who can help. Don't know if Molly would approve.”

“Molly was okay with me giving her to you,” said Troy.

“That's not what I mean.” Kurt shook his head. “You guys don't know about Reggie, do you?”

Troy and Yuki looked at each other, both shocked that the name had come up. It was a name often whispered about campus- a living legend so infamous that everybody seemed to know it, but nobody would explain it. Molly absolutely refused to discuss it, banning all references to Reggie when inside the perimeter of room 202.

All of them had heard other kids allude to visiting 'Reggie's room,' a term that came up so often and with such gleeful deviousness that Troy had assumed it was a reference to some illicit activity. A couple days prior, a boy had asked Kathryn to go with him to Reggie's room. Even without knowing what it was, she had turned him down and was tempted to slap him.

“No, I don't think we're supposed to know about Reggie,” Troy replied. The name seemed so taboo and sinful that he didn't want to risk sacrificing his youthful innocence to know about Reggie.

Someone down the hall shouted, “Whoo! Reggie!” He walked away without bothering to infer the context of the conversation.

“Well, he's the only one I know who can help Yuki,” Kurt said. “Come on, kid.”

Yuki followed him, looking back nervously at Troy. Troy followed, tentative but willing to see Kurt through if it meant fixing Yuki. At the bottom of the staircase, instead of the going outside, Kurt led the two down the first floor hallway to room 111.

“This is Reggie's room?” Troy asked. It seemed like a typical dorm. Besides the identifying numerals, the only thing on the door was a markerboard, almost completely covered with messages and scribbles- some with permanent marker.

“Seems pretty quiet right now. Good,” Kurt said, knocking on the door. “Don't want to ruin Yuki too much.”

Yuki eeped and tried to backed away. Troy grabbed her collar again and clutched it until the door opened.

On the other side was the most beautiful woman Troy had seen, at least behind Renee. Her curly brown hair, which hung down to her shoulders, was wet. More importantly, she wore nothing but a towel held up only by her breasts, each plentiful enough to carry the load. Troy felt a rush of blood to his face and even Yuki blushed.

Kurt didn't seem to notice. “Hey, Candace, is Reggie in?”

“Oh, Kurt!” Candace said, cheerful. “Reggie's in the shower.”

“Shoot.” Kurt shook his head. After a second of thought, taking his eyes off Candice even, he said, “How about Crystal? Isn't she a Crafter?”

“She's in the shower too.” Troy and Yuki blushed even more.

Candice continued, “She also a Crafter? Huh. 'Course, I don't even remember what I am.” She turned away, checking something in the dorm. In doing so, her towel dipped down an inch or so. Not enough to reveal anything, but Troy damn near fainted.

“Actually... I think he just got out,” Candice said.

“Does he have clothes on?” Yuki squeaked.

Nobody heard her. Thankfully, Reggie did- a pair of boxer shorts and an extra-large t-shirt from some bar in Cabo San Lucas. This was no kid plucked fresh out of high school: Reggie was undeniably in his mid-twenties, with a mess of uncontrolled black hair reaching to his shoulders and a chin of days-old stubble. He smiled at Kurt.

“Kurt! Been a few days! How's things with Marlowe?”

Kurt looked away and frowned. “Long story short, still no progress. I think I'm at the point where I should start worrying.”

Despite what sounded like bad news, Reggie's smile broadened. “That why you're here?”

“Nah, Yuki here needs to learn some technique.”

Reggie's smile faded as he looked at Yuki. Yuki's blush did not. “She looks pretty young,” Reggie said.

“Crafting!” Kurt blurted. “I mean she needs help with her potion technique!”

“Yeah, she's pretty young.” Reggie raised an eyebrow at Kurt. “What did you think I meant?”

“Never mind. Will you help her?”

“Guess I can. If she can put up with a few distractions, I'm game.”

Yuki looked at Kurt and Troy. The former nodded; the latter, still looking at Candice, wobbled and almost fell down. “I suppose I should learn to handle distractions anyway,” Yuki said. “What kind of distractions?”

Reggie laughed and swung the door open, leading Yuki inside. This left only Candice, who eyed both Kurt and Troy. “Coming in, Kurt?”

“Nah, not in the mood,” Kurt replied.

“How about you?” she turned to Troy, adding a sly smile.

At this moment, Troy snapped back to life. Inside was either a nasty temptation ready to taint him forever, or more of Yuki's potion practice.

“I probably shouldn't. I've got a girlfriend,” he said. Kurt laughed.

“So do I,” Candice replied instantly. “What's your point? She can come too.”

She opened the door, took his hand, and gently tugged. When they made contact, he lost all desire to resist, and followed her. He could make out nothing of the commons area until he crossed the threshold into Reggie's room. Once across...

 

Two hours later, Renee, Kathryn and Donovan were all in the commons of room 202. In light of their busy study schedules and rigorous magic training, the three were parked on the couch watching cartoons when Troy came in.

“Troy, where've you been?” Kathryn asked. She didn't look at him, so she didn't see the deliriously happy look on his face.

“The greatest, most magical place in the world,” he said. Now Kathryn and Renee looked at him. “Oh, you guys would love it,” he added.

Before the joy emanating from Troy could fully engulf the room, Molly's door slammed open. “Donovan, I just got a message from Professor Melrose. When a TA demonstrates a shielding spell, would you please stop testing its solidity with a-”

Molly stopped when she saw the look on Troy's face. The blissful, satisfied, 'all is right with the world' look on Troy's face. It sickened her.

She narrowed her eyes. “Kurt took you to Reggie's room, didn't he?”

Troy nodded. Even Molly couldn't change his mood.

“Goddamn it, I'm gonna kill him. Now you guys will never get anything done.” She teleported away, presumably to follow through on her threat. And Renee and Kathryn gathered round Troy to hear of the wonderful place called Reggie's room.


 FULL ARCHIVE

VOLUME: 2

CHAPTER: 7

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