Magical Security Taskforce




1 2 3 4 5

Chapter 46: Return To Abnormality

Session One

Yuki's first official order of business as Student Council President was giving Molly a full pardon for all crimes against humanity. The uproar was fierce, but she just smiled cutely and said, “I know she did some bad things, but it's all over now. She can't hurt us anymore. So don't worry about all that stuff when we can have a whole Molly-free year ahead of us!” The waves calmed.

“You're so good at this, it's starting to scare me,” Molly said in what was now Yuki's office. The tide of goodwill led to a rush of volunteers to come in on Saturday to clean the place up and give it a new paint job with bright, happy colors befitting a thirteen-year-old government official. It sickened Molly, but Yuki was right at home.

Yuki stopped spinning around in her new chair. “Hey, I was serious about not interfering too much. Just enough to keep the peace!” She reached into her desk drawer. “By the way, here's your transcript.”

Molly took the papers and looked through her grades for all eight semesters of classes- seven she didn't actually take and one that was only a month old. “What's with all the Bs?”

“It's set up so that you'll be third in the class. That way you won't have to give a graduation speech as valedictorian or salutatorian.”

Cracking a smile, Molly nodded in approval. “Not that I plan on attending the ceremony anyway. I may spend the rest of the semester downstairs. It's kind of pleasant.”

“Actually, uh...” Nervously, Yuki continued, “I'd like you to attend a couple classes for the rest of the semester.” She turned her head, ready for the glare.

By the blank expression on Molly's face, it was clear she wasn't thrilled with the idea. Still, she didn't lash out like Yuki was afraid of. She just asked, “Why?”

“Well, I'm trying to make it look like your reign is over. Wouldn't it make sense for you to pretend to act like a normal high school student? One or two classes and lunch in the cafeteria with Renee would do the job. I've still got most of my normal schedule too.”

Molly huffed. “I suppose. This isn't quite what I was banking on when we set up this puppet government.”

Yuki smiled brightly. “You didn't tell me it was going to be a puppet government.”

“That was the idea. So I guess I should ask what classes you'd like me to take.”

“Are lit and history okay? Those should be up your alley. First and fourth periods starting tomorrow?”

“Very well. If you need anything else, I'll be downstairs trying to figure how to get you access to the elevator system.”

Molly teleported away and sighed. Even if the power was safe in Yuki's hands, Molly still didn't have it. It was proving to be harder for her to acclimate than she had expected.

Perhaps it was a sign of her own weariness that she let all this transpire without much of a fight, doing only the bare minimum to avoid disaster. She wasn't sick of being president, but she may have gotten bored with indulging in the job and didn't abuse the position the way she had in past years. Now she was stuck pretending to be a normal student at the school, in many ways a pawn to Yuki's transition plan. Although Molly had developed the idea of putting Yuki in control under the 'small government' guise and would need help succeeding, it still didn't sit right.

The next day demonstrated why. She arrived early and killed time in the office out of habit, but that walk down the hall to her first class felt like a death march. Everyone still stiffened up and watched her in silence as she passed by. That wasn't unusual. The difference was that now they weren't afraid of her. Surprised at her presence and curious at her mood, perhaps, but she couldn't feel the same sense of intimidation. She had lost them. Worst of all, she had to continue to look stone-faced, as if none of this affected her.

Molly was not the first to reach her literature class, and she instinctively narrowed an eye at the several who had beaten her. Their eyes widened and their conversations stopped. So did the teacher's, in fact.

“Miss Pearson! Is something wrong?” she asked.

“No. I'm here for class. I've always been in this class.” Her stark tone made even the most blatant of lies seem legitimate. “Remind me what book we are currently studying.”

The teacher averted her eyes, quickly pulling a novel from her desk before Molly could see it. “The Scarlet Letter.”

One of the other students protested. “Wait, Ms. Cohen! We stopped that halfway through last week because you wanted to switch to Animal Farm.”

Harried, Ms. Cohen cried, “I did no such thing! I would never teach Orwell!”

Molly raised an eyebrow. Her ban on George Orwell had been both a private arrangement with the English department and one of her earliest restrictions. Can't have all the kids learning where she got her ideas, after all. Judging by the books on the desks, however, Ms. Cohen's eagerness to teach it in her absence, then deny it, was troubling.

As politely as she could muster, Molly said, “If you have already begun Animal Farm, I see no reason not to continue. You will have to contact the new administration regarding that current facet of your curriculum. I have no say in the matter.” Huffing, she added, “At least not after last week's Snowball fight.”

She looked around. Everybody was staring back, most of them not sure if they were supposed to laugh and some surprised that Molly Pearson had made a joke making such a distinct parallel to the text and the revolution. One kid whispered, “Dude, there was a snowball fight last week?” Molly rolled her eyes and sat down. This was going to be even harder than she had thought. She had to deal with the idiots now.


Session Two

Molly hadn't read Animal Farm in years, but her fondness for the book (Napoleon in particular) let her not only keep up with the discussion, but lead it. This bothered her: she hadn't been to a class all semester, yet jumped to the head of it in forty minutes. It shouldn't have been that easy. Worse yet, this was one of the classes randomly designated as one of Molly's B grades.

Her second class was more of the same. During a discussion of the Punic Wars, Molly revealed who won, which was taken as an unwanted spoiler by her classmates. They were still on the part with the elephants. Again, she learned nothing and resented it.

At least Renee was sympathetic at lunch. “You'll get used to it. It happens to me all the time.”

“It's just that I haven't read this material in years and I remember more of it than kids who read it last week,” Molly replied, bitter. “It's hard to stay quiet amid all that stupidity.”

Two girls walked by and noticed Renee. One of them smiled at her. “Hey, Renee! It's been a while since we've talked! Mind if we join you?”

“Sure!” Renee replied, as if she knew who they were.

Then they saw Molly. “Um... actually, we'll catch you some other time.” And they were gone.

Molly sighed and returned to her lunch. Renee frowned. She knew Molly would never say anything, but that had to at least hurt a little. Although her plan to retain power, at least subversively, went off without a hitch, she was still demoted and defeated. While she didn't look terribly affected by it, Renee knew it was killing her.

“Don't worry about them. It just takes some time to-”

“I don't even know who they were. I don't even have the pictures of them getting drunk at a college party last year. I have no need for them anyway.”

Renee shook her head. “The other kids need to get used to this too. The only way you can help is to try to act normal.”

“You aren't normal. Yet you seem to have the social interaction element down.”

“You know what I mean. Just play along for a couple hours a day.” She smiled. “It's high school. Everyone else feels awkward. Now it's your turn. Just try to enjoy it and make some friends or something.”

“It's a little late to start making friends now.”

Glancing over Molly's shoulder, Renee saw options. “We could sit with Troy and Kathryn.”

Molly's eyes narrowed. “Forget it.”

Renee shrugged. “Well, if you don't plan on being social and you can't stand your classes, then why did you agree to do this?”

“It fits well into our plans.” Molly looked down at her tray. “If they see me like this and think I'm powerless, they'll think everything I achieved is gone. Then they forget about it. It makes it easier for Yuki and I to rebuild it. Once I graduate, Yuki will have no trouble walking on her hind legs.” Molly caught herself and made a mental note to have Yuki reinstate the ban on Orwell.

Leaning back, Renee was awed. “Is that really what Yuki was thinking when she suggested it?”

“Absolutely. Before the year's out, she'll be more powerful than I was. I'll see to that.”

Renee found that hard to believe, and she certainly didn't want to discuss it further. Her aim was to cheer up her sister, not hear how calculated the whole situation had been.

Conceding that cheering Molly up was probably impossible, she instead changed the subject to something else entirely. Something Molly was used to being angry about: “Any word from the MST about our field assignment?”

Molly shook her head. “I doubt we'll hear back from them for a while. It's usually a summer thing, and there's no guarantee it'll be this summer. Probably waiting for something nobody else wants.”

That conversation didn't last long. Renee slumped her shoulders. There had to be something she could talk about to keep Molly occupied.

While she was thinking, Molly volunteered. “What I'm waiting for now is the official report of the kidnapping and rescue. That should be up in another week or so.”

Renee chuckled. If nothing else, her sister was a reader. “But isn't that just going to have everything we already knew? What else could it tell us?”

“The MST's perspective of the whole thing in cold detail. Shows what they actually think of all this. It also fills in a few of the blanks.”

“Like what?”

“Like how the hell Troy got to you. Or what happened between Kathryn and Kamila. Have they told you anything?”

“No. I don't think Kathryn likes talking about it.”

“That's understandable, but I still need to know what happened.” Molly replied. “And we have no idea why Kendrick intervened.”

Lost for a moment, Renee's eyes lit up. “Oh, jeez! I completely forgot about that. What happened again?”

“No idea. We only heard it from Claude, remember? It's exactly what I was talking about. That's the biggest mystery to all of this, and if not for these reports, it would fall through the cracks.”


Session Three

Suddenly, Troy's lunchroom ensemble had gotten much smaller. At its peak it was a group of six. Then Kurt graduated, Kamila attacked, Marie betrayed and Yuki got promoted. Now, it was just him and Kathryn. It was just like freshman year, yet it felt lonelier.

For the first few days, it wasn't so bad. They were able to talk about the election, whether Yuki or Molly was really in charge, whether it mattered, and how nice it was that they hadn't been attacked in three whole weeks. Kathryn had also gotten back into basketball, providing enough sufficient distraction for them. But hearing stories from practice and games had gotten dull without Kamila to banter and rib back. In time, Troy lost interest and the conversations subsided.

That left things awfully quiet over the next several days. After everything they'd been through, Troy and Kathryn were closer than they had ever been. Yet it didn't leave them with any conversation topics. They didn't want to talk about their mission or their punishment, and Kathryn hated talking about the MST in general. Since school was only starting to return to a normal routine, there wasn't much on that end either. It was only a matter of time before one of them snapped.

“Seriously, are you okay?” Troy asked.

Kathryn looked up from her food, interrupted in her quest to figure out what it was. “What? What do you mean? I didn't say anything.”

“Exactly. You haven't been saying anything lately.”

Annoyed, she replied. “That's because whenever I talk about the team, you get bored.”

“Is that all you can talk about? What about everything else?”

She looked down. “Seems like that's all there is now.”

Troy paused, the nodded in concession. “Suppose after everything we've been through, it's all pretty dull.”

Kathryn sneered back. “That's not what I mean. I like the dull parts. I want them back.”

“So do it,” Troy said. “Hang out with people. Go to parties.” Somewhat bitter, he added, “Get laid.”

“I know, I know, I should but...” Her head fell. “I don't feel like just hanging out and goofing off just to kill time anymore. I want friends. Like... real ones.”

Troy nodded. “Like Kurt was?”

“And Marie. You know I loved her too. I could really talk to her.” Kathryn shook her head. “Nothing's come out of this except our friends end up either dead or... well, wherever Marie is. Doubt we'll ever see her again.”

Turning away, all Troy could say was, “Yeah?”

“Admit it, Troy. You miss her too. Renee's been making eyes at you since we got back and you haven't jumped at her. Marie's gotta have something to do with that.”

“Look, you didn't see her actually getting in our way. If it weren't for her, we all would have gotten out.”

“I know, but don't tell me you don't miss her. Hell, I kinda miss Kamila, and you know what she did. And what I did!” She chuckled at it all. “Jeez, that's messed up.”

Troy leaned back, unsure how to respond. He wished she hadn't brought up Kamila or Marie. As far as he was concerned, the matter was over. He and Kathryn had done what they had to and reminiscing about the good times with their victims didn't help.

Carefully, he said, “I guess after what the last one put us through, I'm not sure if I want another girlfriend right now.”

“That's not really fair to Marie, but...” Kathryn looked to her right, catching Renee staring back at them. Busted, Renee turned away. “...I guess I can understand that.”

Shrugging, Kathryn added, “At least Claude's gone. You can go get her whenever you want.”

Troy nodded. That was good to know at least. “Speaking of Claude being gone, have you noticed that they've been serving different stuff for lunch since everything went down?”

Kathryn looked down at her tray. Several of the sections were still full of food, namely the odd red balls of bread that was allegedly the main course. “Yeah. I heard that with nobody supervising, the cooks threw in a bunch of home recipes and stuff they wanted to try out. I thought the food got better, so I wasn't complaining.” She poked at one of the balls with her fork and had trouble removing it. “But I thought it said we were having plain old tacos today.” She picked it up and stared at it. “The hell is this?”

“It kinda tastes like fish, but doesn't feel like fish. Just a sec...”

Troy stood up and checked a menu on the wall. He returned and shrugged. “Takoyaki.”

“The 'yucky' I'll buy, but it still isn't a taco.”

“No, it was spelled with a 'k.'” Troy took another bite. “It might be something Asian.”

Kathryn narrowed her eyes. “Like Japanese maybe?”


Frowning, Kathryn peered over at Molly. Less than a week in and the new president was already throwing her weight around. “You know, maybe we need to have a word with our new administration.”


Session Four

Having disposed of her lunch, Kathryn headed for the student council office. She didn't oppose the idea of having Yuki in charge. It was certainly better than any alternative. But not if she was going to pull the same abuses as Molly. This early in the term, Kathryn knew she had the chance to keep Yuki under control.

Not today, however, as the office was closed and locked. This was a little jarring: it had always seemed like either Molly or Claude were inside when they were in charge. Not that the doors were always open, but at least the lights were on.

Instead, Kathryn found Molly eating with Renee. “Hey, where's the prez?” Kathryn asked.

“In class,” Molly replied. “New concept she's bringing to the position.”

The student council president being a student? That made sense, except for one thing: “She doesn't have class now. She always ate with us.”

Molly smirked. “Yuki changed her schedule so that she has class throughout everybody's lunch periods. The office hours she promised are when everybody's in class. Thus, she doesn't have to listen to nearly as many kids.” She turned to Kathryn. “Her idea. Wish I'd thought of it.”

“You never listened to anyone anyway,” Renee pointed out.

Ignoring her sister, Molly asked, “Did you need her for something?”

Kathryn frowned. “Yeah, what's up with the menu? Isn't it a bit early for her to start pulling crap like this?”

“What? I love takoyaki!” Renee replied.

Molly didn't seem concerned. “Yuki wanted to introduce a little ethnic cuisine into the menu. It's not like she's blacklisting entrees.”

“Didn't you use to do that?” Kathryn asked.

“Perhaps,” Molly said unabashedly. “I don't remember.”

“Well, anyway, it sucks that she changed her schedule like that” After looking around, Kathryn ducked into the empty chair next to Renee. “I miss hanging out.”

“Saw your table,” Renee said, nodding. “Looks pretty empty now.”

Molly held back a grin. “It's what happens when you hang out with a pair of demons.”

Kathryn wasn't amused. “We didn't know they were demons. They sure didn't act like it.” Backtracking, she said, “Well, Kamila, maybe, but how were we to know?”

“Nobody's blaming you for it. Besides, unless you or Monroe told them anything about the MST... and that would be bad even if they were civilians...” Molly shrugged. “...I doubt they learned much through socializing anyway.”

Renee furrowed her eyebrows. “Wait, you don't think being our friends helped them?”

“Personality traits, perhaps. Your physical and mental states, maybe. And perhaps they may have thought that befriending you would make it harder to fight them. Other than that, any information could be gathered without you being aware of their existence.”

Kathryn leaned forward. “So you're saying Marie actually liked Troy? That she wasn't faking it or anything?”

Molly nodded. “She was only lying to Monroe to the extent that he was lying to her. And the consequences of being caught were far more disastrous.”

“How so?”

“Marie knew he was in the MST. Had he accidentally told her, he would have received a scolding, but we would have taken her in for recalibration, almost certainly exposing her. Had she told him she was a demon... we wouldn't have been so lenient. I doubt they asked too many questions about you two disappearing for your academy trips.”

“So other than sizing us up and hoping we might not kill them in a fight, they really liked us and wanted to hang out with us?”

“Yes.” Molly gestured to Kathryn. “Especially since the 'not killing them in a fight' part didn't work out for one of them.”

Kathryn shuddered. That seemed like a low blow.

“Although Troy let Marie go when they ran into each other,” Renee observed.

“I suppose,” Molly said, flippant. She noticed that Kathryn had gotten very quiet. “Something wrong?”

Kathryn shook her head. “You know, it's weird. With Kamila, I keep trying to convince myself that she was pure evil. That she only got close to us so she could turn on us later. It helps me live with the fact that I killed her.” She looked up, straight into Molly's eyes. “But for some reason, it's different with Marie. I don't want to think of her as a demon. I want to think that everything she had with me and Troy was for real. I can't stand thinking that it was all a setup.”

With a faint smile, Renee answered, “It wasn't.” Kathryn looked over. Renee put a hand on her shoulder. “It's true about both of them. I didn't like Kamila much even before she turned on us. And Marie... she didn't want any of this. She really did care about you guys. In the end, I think she even started to care about me.” Chuckling, she added, “Which is something when you think about it.”

Slowly, Kathryn started to nod. “I guess I can live with that. You should tell that to Troy.”

“Or not,” Molly mumbled.

“I already did.” Renee turned to his table, but he wasn't there. She frowned. “I don't know. For some reason, he didn't seem to believe me.”

“This better not be the new administration,” said Troy, startling Renee.

Kathryn looked up and chuckled. “Sorry, got caught up talking about other crap. I'll have to chat with Yuki after school or something. Hope she's not too busy for us then.”

“In the meantime, maybe you two should sit with us!” Renee suggested.

Raising her eyebrows, Kathryn said, “Actually, that's not a bad-”

“No,” said both Troy and Molly, equally firm.

The bell ended that conversation. Troy, Kathryn and Renee headed back to class. Rather than kill time at the student council bunker, Molly went straight home. She had plenty of socializing for one day.


Session Five

A couple weeks ago, Donovan had joined a band of rebels in order to invade an enemy territory against orders from their superiors. He was, at least in his opinion, the big hero. After all, in the process of their attack, he avenged two lost comrades in brilliant fashion, eliminating his opponent just as his defenses seemed impenetrable.

When framed that way, it sounded remarkably awesome. The best part was that it was indisputable truth. There had been witnesses to his heroics: Giles and Meg seemed to respect him immensely and wondered why none of his teammates did.

Days later, he survived another trial with his memory intact. What fools would dare punish his after all his brave deeds? Once again, while the rest of room 202 mourned the light scolding they received, the other units were there to celebrate. Donovan joined in eagerly. He did not celebrate often, but with generations soon to learn of his bravery through the epic poem that would inevitably be written about the deed, it was worthy of a cheer.

Reality sank in soon afterward. Back in L. B. Gould, the only ones who knew what he had done didn't care. His legend hadn't spread the way he had hoped. There was no epic poem in the works. Nobody wrote epic poems anymore and Bryce's first draft lacked a consistent rhythm.

Even his usual persona was ignored. The chaos from the council wars overshadowed the chaos Donovan tried to instill on a daily basis. By the time the dust had settled and the school had put an underage foreigner in charge, Donovan just didn't seem so weird anymore. He was part of the establishment, and not even a respected one. In the beginning, he was the weird kid everyone tried to stay away from. Now he was just another kid everyone ignored.

Despite the return of a normal class schedule, Donovan continued to ignore it. He felt no desire to resume normality. Sometimes he would attend class, sometimes he would skip. Other times, he'd go to the wrong class or leave one halfway through. Anything to be unpredictable. He needed to be unpredictable.

One day in science class, he enjoyed dissecting an earthworm. The problem was that it was a chemistry class and he was supposed to be finding the boiling points of various liquids. Donovan glowered, boiled the earthworm, and walked out of the lab.

He headed back to the dark room, although even it was no longer able to occupy him the way it had before. His triumphs had been so grand that it was no longer an adequate escape from the loathsome realities he was left to deal with. Still, he opened the door, hoping something inside would be able to turn things around.

“Hello, Donovan.”

His eyes bulged as he heard a distinct voice calling his name. Yet the room was empty. Donovan shut the door, summoned a light ball and looked around the room. The voice was a high, crackly tenor. It didn't seem human. Therefore Donovan investigated the floor carefully. Perhaps one of his old failed chimera experiments had gained sentience, netting him a nice evil familiar.

The voice said, “You are alone.”

“Show yourself!” Donovan shouted. Nothing replied. He couldn't sense anything else in the room- human, animal or demon. That was the problem: the place felt lifeless.

Angrily, Donovan gave up and sat down. It was likely all in his head, a product of his need for something different. Perhaps he wouldn't have been so startled if it hadn't been for the timing.

As much as he had loathed Kendrick, Donovan couldn't help but dwell on his departure, especially in moments like these. The opportunity Kendrick had always presented was never a strong one. The Hokoni faction was stuffy, conservative and too elitist for Donovan to feel comfortable. In fact, none of the five factions Donovan had been exposed to met his lofty standards for evil. That and hope of recovering the grimoire were the only reasons Donovan remained loyal to the MST.

At the same time, Kendrick's presence alone had implied a sense of rebellion. He kept the MST on their toes and made it clear that Donovan was not an automaton, always assessing his options and choosing the one most beneficial to him. Whether it had any impact on the MST's decision-making, at least Donovan could enjoy messing with them and instilling doubts about his loyalty.

That was gone now, and Donovan was stuck with less happy thoughts such as everyone's complete ignorance of Kendrick's sacrifice. He never told Troy or Kathryn about it, as that would have implied that he needed help to escape. They could never have the satisfaction of knowing that. But during their layover in Indiana, they frequently discussed their former companions with a sense of shock that their seemingly decent friends could be demons.

It all came back to their first impression of a demon, and how Kendrick was the model of pure evil. Any demon that proved to be otherwise was startling. Was Kendrick's alignment in doubt as well? Perhaps not, as Donovan knew Kendrick's actions were purely for some selfish purpose. Still, it complicated things, and made Donovan wonder how evil any of the factions really were. It disappointed him: if you were going to choose a path of evil, why not go all in?

The reminders of the Hageshoni attack were still all around him. Blaine and Bryce had cleaned up most of the damage, but Donovan lost most of what made the dark room the dark room. It was sparse and unfamiliar now. And the big mark that had powered Sho and Kamila still left a shadow on the wall. That was gone too, and without them or Kendrick around, he knew it could be a long time before he encountered a demon again.

“Why wait for hell?” he heard the strange voice again. “Make it happen!”

Donovan looked around again, but saw nothing. Again, he dismissed it as another voice in his head and hoped it would go away. He wanted to stew in peace.





Previous Chapter

Next Chapter