Tansy Running High
An (Alternate) Whateley Universe Story

True-love-lies-bleeding, with the hearts-at-ease,
And golden rods, and tansy running high,
That o'er the pale-tops smiled on passers-by.

- John Clare

Disclaimer: I do not own Whateley Academy, the Whateley Universe or any associated intellectual properties, which are the collective property of the official writers of the setting. I do strongly recommend that my readers read those stories as well. Any resemblence of persons depicted in these stories to actual people is purely coincidental (although if your life is anything like theirs I'd be impressed). This story is a not-for-profit creation written as part of National Novel Writing Month.

Thank you to the creators of the Whateley Universe, to everyone who has given feedback on the story and to the West Yorkshire (Leeds) NaNoWriMo community.

Chapter 1: Back to School

Woe is me, all summer long I was happy and free.
Save my soul, the board of education took away my parole.
I gotta go back, back, back to school again.

- Back to School Again, Grease 2

New Hampshire
4 September 2006

The peaceful New Hampshire countryside did nothing to calm the panic inside Tansy Walcutt as one of her family's limousines wound its way up the roads into the Presidential Mountains.

The irony was not lost on her when she had left school the previous summer she had been looking forward greatly to returning as one of the mighty upperclassmen. Everyone knew that seniors were for the most part engaged in finishing their studies and looking ahead to college, which meant that the junior class of which she was one could spread their wings and have a good chance of ruling the roost.

There were certainly students who might look upon school as something to be dreaded but Tansy bore all the hallmarks of high school's elite caste: blonde, shapely and rich. Had she a modicum of talent and she did then she could have been guaranteed a place on the cheerleading team in any normal high school. Of course, Whateley didn't participate in inter-scholastic sports with other schools and had no need of cheerleaders (which wasn't quite the same as not having them), a fact that deprived them of a certain prestige and their leader, Patty Horton, was a sometime rival to Tansy. The other girl had scored certain points by boarding in the prestigious Melville Cottage but Tansy had trumped that the previous year when she was admitted to the Alphas, Whateley's most prestigious student society.

These were the spoils that she should be enjoying this year: a place in the company of the uncrowned Alpha's Alpha, Sebastiano Lorenz Valensuera y Ramierz, and perhaps even the opportunity to dethrone his female counterpart Kallista Thesselarean and sit at his side herself as the uncrowned queen of the campus, answerable only to the headmistress. The two European students were juniors, like Tansy, but had somehow managed to push aside the expected leadership of the group this year, raising the heady possibility of dominating Whateley for two years.

There was a crackling noise that sounded almost like a chuckle and Tansy flinched as she received a static shock from the seat. If it wasn't for the noise she might have ascribed it to chance but there was no doubt in her mind that it was a deliberate attack by her new worst enemy: a bĂȘte noir that she had to grown used to over the summer.

_That's not funny,_ she wailed inside her mind.

She could feel the spirit's amusement. _Nor is most of what you do, brat, but what you think is hilarious. Try raising your goals a little._

"The Alphas are important," she said aloud.


Tansy blinked and then waved her hand dismissively as the chauffeur looked back at her. "Nothing." Focusing her mind for a moment she waited until his eyes were back on the road and then blurred the memory slightly. She couldn't quite erase it but she could reduce its importance. There was no way that she wanted to risk anyone learning that she was talking to a voice inside her head. Not that they'd lock her away for it no small number of students at Whateley were spirit-ridden and the staff were well aware that the voices the teens were talking to were all too real but it would betray that she had new powers and that was an edge she would rather keep to herself as long as she could.

_The Alphas are important,_ she repeated although she knew it had heard her speak. _I can't just walk away._

The determination in the reply was unyielding: _You shall. For your own sake._

She shivered at the implication of those words. Truly, to play host to the spirit was the lesser of the two horrors.


Walcutt Estate
17 July 2006

Tansy cowered in the dirt, tears running down her face and urine down her thighs.

It was only the second time that she had been to the 'special spot' that the groundskeepers spoke of. A little waterfall and pond not much to look at. The first time she'd been a fat, ugly little girl just looking for somewhere to get away from her father and his latest wife. She knew now that what she'd found had been a hallow the home of a minor nature spirit.

Her first clue that she really was something special, the way she'd always hoped, had been the spirit being sucked into her. But the powers it could offer her were ridiculous! Serenity? The ability to call peaceful animals around her? The older Tansy could imagine the reaction she'd have had if she'd arrived at Whateley Academy with powers like that and even then she'd been sure that she was getting short-changed.

The spirit had struggled to get away but Tansy had never been sure until now if it had succeeded... or if her fury had torn it to shreds. All she'd known was that it was gone. And then, almost a year later she had gained the powers she was supposed to have, blossoming into who she was now.

She wasn't supposed to feel that she was that same fat, ugly little cow again, getting bullied by Heather Goodkind (now there was a joke of a name) at junior high. She had power now, she was the one who dealt out that treatment...

Lightning crackled across the hallow and Tansy screamed as it arced through her into the ground.

"You are the one who did this," boomed the spirit that stood upon the surface of the pool.

It towered over Tansy, easily twice her height, but gaunt beneath its fur in comparison to some she had seen. Cody Wyatt, perhaps the most powerful Avatar among the student body would have made two of it when he called upon the Bear that possessed his body. However there was a fanaticism that burned in this creature's eyes, something that dwarfed that of even the campus Ragers in its intensity for this was no wild and uncontrollable fury.

The spirit drew back its wings, which were white feathered in an incongruously angelic manner. But perhaps not incongruous, Tansy thought, her mind turning up the phrase 'Angel of Judgement' from long ago Sunday school. Oh god, was it going to throw her into hell?

"You were offered the peace and sanctuary that you desired." The growl was disgusted. "And in return you gave brutal violence and brought hatred into this place. How typical of your kind."

"i didn't know," she pled in a small voice.

Another bolt of lightning lashed across the hallow from the creature's weapon, a crude looking sledgehammer and Tansy screamed in pain.

"Lies have a very distinctive scent," the spirit cautioned her. "Though that you know no better may have some truth." It lowered the hammer and Tansy sobbed in relief. "Either you have poor teachers, or you have paid them little heed."

"She is very young."

Tansy looked up and saw a second spirit now stand at the first's side. They were much alike at first glance, with the same grey-brown fur and lean, bony frames. But then she met this one's eyes and what looked back was madness. "She can be salvaged..." the second spirit offered. "Uuuussseeed."

"One does not blame the cub for their mentor's faults..." a third voice advised. The girl was not surprised to see another winged wolfman now. This one was somewhat smaller and its fur darker and she thought that the voice was somehow feminine.

"She is hardly a cub."

"She has but sixteen years. That is not adulthood as it is reckoned here."

"And yet she has done murder." Her accuser's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Younger then, but what has changed in her since? I see little."

"I can change!" Tansy hated to hear her voice tremble but she could sense the tide of the conversation going against her. "I promise, I can!" Anything to get away from this place, from these spirits.

Two eyebrows rose sceptically. "Oh, can you?"

"I'm sorry!"

He laughed, harshly and without pity. "You are sorry that you face consequences, little human. Not for your sin itself." But there was no bolt of lightning. No further cascade of pain.

"Perhaps," the smaller of the three spirits suggested. "She could be changed. She has... potential."

"A petty mindwalker? I don't see this potential."

Almost, Tansy reared up in indignation. She was a Telepath and an Exemplar! What was this spirit suggesting she was deficient in? Then she remembered the hammer and decided that this was a moment for feminine wiles, not wrath. "I'll do it! Whatever it is you want from me, I'll do it!"

There was a long moment as the three spirits examined her. And then the first nodded slowly. "Very well. But understand this, human. The weregild that you offer..."

"No take backs!" laughed the second.

The first of the spirits raised his sledgehammer once more and Tansy cringed. Lightning crackled up the tool once more but this time it did not descend upon her. Instead the spirit seemed to draw it out of the hammer until electricity cascaded back and forth between his hand and the hammerhead. To her surprise the lightning coalesced into a shape, almost wolf-like, the size of her head.

"Fenryk, you have served me well as my weapon. Now I offer you the chance to mentor our newest servant "

"Servant!" Tansy squeaked. Then she saw the three spririts' expressions. They were all smiling, exposing long jaws full of sharp teeth. "Servant... fine. Just as long as Daddy never hears about this."

The little lightning wolf looked at Tansy sceptically.

"She's in dire need of guidance," conceded the smaller of the servants.

'Fenryk' as the creature was apparently called, bounded over and sniffed at her disdainfully. Then it raised its paw and offered it to Tansy. She looked up in the spirits in question.

"The choice is yours." The mad spirit assumed a solemn demeanour. "Accept a painful, demeaning and extended punishment... or share the fate of your victim." All three of them loomed over her, menacingly.

Tansy gulped... and reached out to accept the hand of Fenryk.


Whateley Academy
4 September 2006

Tansy looked out the window and saw the gates of Whateley Academy ahead. The two pillars were topped by gargoyles, in true spooky New England style but considering what lay beyond them, the two statues paled in comparison.

The driveway into the school snaked on for a up through the wooded hills that screened the peaceful village of Dunwich and its various lovecraftian denizens (Tansy had never stopped there, always going on to the slightly more bearable environs of rustic Berlin, located about ten miles to the south, but she had heard stories) from the depredations of six hundred or so teenagers. Eventually it came around a curve displaying the Tudor-styled Kirby Hall where Tansy took her Psychic Arts classes.

Remembering the route from previously, the chauffeur took a right after passing the ugly concrete monstrosity known as Dunn Hall. Tansy's fond memories of the Dunn Hall centred upon the Venus Inc. clubroom there but she'd have much preferred it if the club was based in one of the more attractive school buildings. Behind Dunn Hall lay Dickinson Cottage, where Tansy lived during term.

The chauffeur drew up the limousine not far from the doors, bringing the car neatly into a parking space that had just been vacated by another car. "We've arrived Miss Walcutt."

"Thank you," Tansy replied automatically. She saw a trace of surprise in the man's face at the courtesy. It wasn't as if she wanted to be bowing and scraping to all her father's flunkies, but Fenryk among his other intrusions into her life seemed intent on zapping her with electricity until she dropped a please or thank you into almost everything she said.

"I'll go see which room I'm in," she added and then emphasised the new word to keep her spirit happy. "Please get the trunks out while I do that." She'd have to humour the damn critter until she could con someone in the Mystic Arts programme to exorcise it.

Fenryk laughed confidently in her head. _The seeds of a good idea there, my young padawan._

_I should never have watched Star Wars at summer camp,_ Tansy noted.

_Sign yourself up to one of those classes yourself! You don't have to embarrass yourself getting someone to fail to get rid of me if you can fail miserably yourself._

_Hate you sooo much,_ Tansy thought as she walked into the lobby of Dickinson to the accompaniment of his mockery. There was a poster-sized piece of paper pinned neatly across the noticeboard, with names scribbled on it in a variety of handwritings. Judging by the strings pinned to the board pens had been provided but unsurprisingly none were now in evidence.

Tansy was fishing a pen out of her blazer pocket, having come prepared after the last two years when Mrs. Nelson bustled. "Oh, Solange dear. I've pencilled you down to room with Sahar this year since you get on so well."


_Semi-something Vezzieman,_ Tansy explained to Fenryk. _She's a bit creepy but she's easier to get along with than most of the other girls here._

_And you don't even know her name for sure?_

"That'll be fine, Mrs. Nelson." _Which should tell you everything about the other girls here. They're all jealous of me._ Tansy noted her room number fourth floor with the other Juniors and any Seniors who hadn't managed to get one of the four top-floor doubles or move into Melville for their final year and on the south side of the cottage where the rooms were warmer and turned back towards the door. Now to find a suitable patsie.

She spotted her soon: a good looking but unfamiliar girl carting around a trunk with far too much ease for her frame. Tansy had learned her lesson from her sophomore year: froshes were a resource that older students who were smart got their claws into at the earliest opportunity. She'd already had to deal with substandard housekeeping from one of last year's indigent students so it was clearly time to start making contacts and see if a replacement was be available.

"Welcome to Whateley," she greeted the girl. "Just getting settled in?"

"Yeah." The girl shifted her load a bit and then offered her hand. "Barbara Sheldon."

Gracefully, the older girl accepted the hand and shook. "Tansy Walcutt. Listen," she lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Would you be interested in picking up a little spare change? I could do with some help."

"Depends what you have in mind," Barbara replied bluntly.

Tansy waved to the driver, who was bringing her trunk inside. "Well I need to run over to admin but I haven't got all my luggage into my room yet. You don't seem to have any trouble with that, so could you help my chauffeur with that. I'll make it worth your while."

She could practically see the cash register chiming as the freshman registered the word 'chauffeur'. "I guess I don't have other plans until the tour later. What's it worth to you?"

"How does twenty dollars sound?" offered Tansy. It wasn't even a noticeable expense for her, but then it shouldn't be more than a few minutes' work for Barbara.

"Sounds okay, but I don't want to miss out on settling in." Barbara looked thoughtful. "How about you give me the expert's tour of the school later as well. All the things that the official tour doesn't tell you."

Tansy smiled as she recognised the gambit: the girl considered herself a player and wanted the details on the local power politics. Well that might work out nicely: association with an Alpha would give Barbara a leg up...

Then she recalled what she was going to be doing at admin. Yeah, that wasn't going to go so well for Barbara. Still, not her problem. "Then we have a deal. I'll have him give you the twenty when everything's up there. Look me up for the tour... after all, you'll know where I live."


Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
4 September 2006

Schuster was another red-brick building from the original Whateley Academy, dating back to the nineteenth century. The geodesic dome on the back that contained the school canteen only dated back twenty years or so though.

_You know, that summer camp place didn't have one of those._

_Well duh, that's just some second rate college that makes cash between spring and autumn terms by renting out their classrooms and dorms to the summer camp organisation. This, on the other hand, is one of the most exclusive boarding schools in the country._

Fenryk's voice was curious. _So your room wasn't used by some random senior who failed her junior year and has to retake the classes to move up a year?_

_Shut up!_ That cover story, explaining why she was taking Junior-level classes at the summer camp, had been quite an embarrassment for her since it slapped her with the 'dumb blonde' label automatically. _I don't know why you insisted I waste my summer taking all those classes._

_Because it completes all your mandatory classes for the year,_ the spirit explained patiently. _So instead of clogging your schedule with French, Maths and whatnot, you can actually study the useful classes that you can't learn elsewhere. This school is our oyster and I intend to enjoy it._

_But you took up my whole summer!_ Tansy whined as she walked through the main doors into Schuster's main hall. Mrs. Linford was showing some new freshmen into the trophy room but Tansy breezed past them and up the stairs to the administration rooms above.

_You're being punished, remember?_

Tansy knocked on the door to Mrs. Hawkins' room briskly.

"Come in." The elderly student counsellor looked up from her computer and smiled as Tansy walked in. "Ah, Miss Walcutt. What can I do for you?" They had gotten along well since Tansy's freshman year, to no small extent because Tansy had made sure to make sure she was sent something tasteful for her birthday. It wasn't bribery... exactly. Just maintaining god relations by greasing the wheels of the administration a little.

"I took some courses over the summer, Mrs. Hawkins," Tansy explained, prompted by a little shock as her hand left the door handle. "Reading ahead, you know how it is... I was wondering if I might be able to get credit for them on my transcript."

Mrs. Hawkins accepted the little folder and examined the contents. "My, you have been busy. English III, Maths III, French III and a general sciences course... I don't think that the last one is really up to Whateley standards, do you dear?"

Tansy nodded. "I gathered it was more of a basis for a broader course," she admitted. _Just file it and get it out of my way. I'm not one of those Devisors and Gadgets, why would I need a science class?_

_Temper, temper,_ cautioned Fenryk. _Now tell her that you're more interested in going back and picking up so basic Mystic courses to broaden your horizons._

"Actually I was hoping to take one of the Mystic Arts classes this term, Mrs. Hawkins, to broaden my horizons." Tansy frowned as if in thought. "I know that Hektate you know, Kallista Thesselarean, says she gets a great deal out of the Psychic Arts programme even though she's mostly studying magic so turning that around..."

Hawkins brightened at the mention of the queen of the Alphas. "Oh yes. Well, I'll see what I can do. The other three all look very good though and they should leave you quite a lot of space in your schedule this year." She tapped at her keyboard. "There, I've entered the credits here for the core courses so do you have any ideas what you would like to take?"

"Well the magic classes of course."

"That's fine, I can pencil you in for Introduction to Magical Arts and Principles of Magic, although you'll have to take them with the Freshman class."

Tansy would have grimaced at that, but it would place her in contact with more of the Freshmen which would give her someone to fall back on when she dropped out of the Alphas. That was going to suck, but perhaps there would be some people worth talking to among them.

_And now the rest,_ Fenryk ordered.

_Aw, come on, why do I have to -_ Tansy shuddered sharply as an electric shock hammered into her nervous system. She froze up, barely holding back a cry of pain.

The spirit's voice was cold as ice. _Know your place, girl. You wanted a chance to redeem yourself, now earn it."

"Miss Walcutt, are you alright?" asked Mrs. Hawkins in concern and Tansy realised she had been frozen, leaning slightly on the back of the chair facing Mrs. Hawkins.

"I'm sorry, the drive must have caught up with me for a moment." She didn't even notice the courteous apology at the beginning of the excuse. "The other courses I'm interested in taking are Flight I, the Defensive Driving course and Superpower Law I." She smiled weakly. "Family pressure on the last one, but it'll probably be useful don't you think?"

"We do have space for you in those classes," the counsellor agreed after a moment. "That would leave your third and fifth periods free for other classes."

Tansy laughed lightly. "I don't know what else I'd like to do yet, I didn't know what I'd have to give up to get those courses. Perhaps I can get back to you in a day or two, once you've had a chance to see what the Freshmen need to take and have an idea what's left open."

Mrs. Hawkins smiled. "That's very considerate of you, Miss Walcutt. Why don't you go back to Dickinson and have a nap before dinner?"


Dickinson Cottage, Whateley Academy
4 September 2006

Back at the cottage, Tansy saw that the limousine had gone. No real surprise there, the chauffeur wouldn't have any reason to stay once everything was unloaded. Tansy slipped past those still arriving and slipped into the line of people mostly carrying trunks up to the fourth floor. It took a while for the line to open up, with girls and their parents setting off into the freshman and sophomore floors, to the point that Tansy could thread her way up the rest of the stairs.

The room was about what she had expected: twelve feet wide and twenty deep. The furnishings were typically spare: two beds, two desks and two wardrobes, against the side walls, a standing bureau presumably to be shared and a small fridge. They were in slightly better condition than the ones provided the floor below a result of the previous inhabitants having been in better control of their powers than they had been as underclassmen no doubt. Still, it was a dump compared to her rooms at home. Not that she'd seen much of them over the summer.

The room was also occupied: Sahar had arrived and was unpacking her single bag. Tansy recalled that the other girl was some kind of refugee from the middle-east, so she didn't have much in the way of possessions even after two years in the United States.


"Solange," the other girl replied in a neutral tone.

Tansy grimaced slightly. She'd picked the codename believing that it meant precious jewel. Fenryk hadn't believed that for one moment though and when she'd tried to prove it using Google she'd discovered her mistake. Getting that changed would take forever.

And she couldn't even start until she picked a new name. Fenryk was no help of course. Who wanted to be called Fenryksdottir?

Right now there were more pressing things to do. "Have you put anything in the fridge?"

Sahar shook her head.

"Good, I've a much better one from last year that I left in storage. I'll have someone bring it up."

"Fine." The other girl didn't even look at her.

_What is her damage,_ Tansy thought irritably.

_Well basically, you're being a bit of a bitch. Did you ever consider asking her if it was alright for you to swap the fridge out?_

_Why wouldn't she be alright with it?_

Fenryk chuckled, a tingle of lightning not the cruel touch that she had learned to hate, but a stimulating caress touching her back for a moment. _It's not about the merits of changing it. It's about respecting her. This is her room too._

The conversation had taken place in the flickering of an eyelid and Tansy took a second to look over Sahar. _Great. She's sulking. What do I do now?_

_Ask her if she wants to make any changes to the room,_ suggested the spirit. _Maybe ask how her summer was. You know, be friendly?_

_Good idea._ Tansy cleared her throat. "Semire-rain -"

"Semiramis," the other girl corrected her.

"Sorry. Semiramis. Do you want to change anything in the room. Put the beds in bunks or something?"

The Arabic girl looked at Tansy in surprise. "I suppose there would be more room. But who would have the bottom bunk?"

"Which would you rather have?" asked Tansy. She'd never slept in a bunkbed before and hadn't been serious about the suggestion. Did it make a difference? There would probably be more headroom on top but also she would be further from the floor.

Sahar shrugged. "Top." Then she smirked. "Always on top."

Tansy couldn't help but flinch at the reminder that Sahar had been fairly openly romancing Zenith, one of the girls in Poe Cottage up until Spring Break last year. _Oh god, I'm sharing a room with a lez. That's so disgusting._

_You... don't feel disgusted._

_Of course I'm disgusted. I don't even want to think about... them touching each other..._ Of course now she couldn't help but think about Zenith's perfect hands touching Sahar's dusky skin and...

_Well, I'm not an expert on humans,_ Fenryk interrupted her. _But maybe you should stop drooling and get back to talking to her._

_What!?_ Tansy quickly refocused on the room and subtly checked her lips. No drool, thankfully. "Fine, you have the top bunk then. I'll get someone to stack then and do whatever link thing holds them together."

Then she started looking through her trunks, hiding her flaming cheeks. Unpacking for herself was such a chore.


Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
4 September 2006

Elizabeth Carson, headmistress of Whateley Academy, looked up when she heard the door to her office swing open. "Amelia?"

Her assistant was holding an envelope, one that from the bulge contained something more than paper, with disdain. "I think you might want to read this."

With a frown Carson accepted the envelope and then placed a sheet of paper from hr printer onto her desk before spilling the contents onto the desk. An Alpha pin, signifying membership of that particular clique, fell out first and then when she shook the envelope a letter followed it. She unfolded it and then one blonde eyebrow arched. "Interesting."

"I can't say that I ever considered Solange to be an ornament to the Alphas." Amelia Hartford reflexively touched the Alpha pin she herself wore as a former student of Whateley and former member of the society. "But that's precisely why I wouldn't expect her to simply resign, particularly in such... strong terms."

Carson pursed her lips. "We've all had suspicions regarding Cavalier and Skybolt's sudden change of hearts last Christmas, but without any sign of psychic or magical tampering our hands are tied. Do you think she's come across any evidence. The part where she says she has no concrete evidence, protesting too much? Afraid that someone tied up in this will read it."

"I wouldn't credit her with that much sense," Hartford snorted. "She must know we've checked and really, if we haven't found anything it's not likely that Solange of all people would."

The headmistress decided it wasn't worth pointing out that from the tone of the letter it was obvious that Solange considered Hartford, the Alpha's faculty sponsor to be at best tolerant of and at worse complicit in the Alpha's activities. The former was, perhaps half-true. No one except Hartford in the senior staff really believed that the Alphas were innocent of the bullying that had been ascribed to them, but unfortunately the current crop were far too good at covering their tracks. Even Hartford herself agreed that they weren't the most desirable examples for the other students, but suspicions were not proof and Whateley's position of neutrality within the superhuman community demanded scrupulous attention to the laws of evidence.

"I have to wonder what has happened to her over the summer," she said instead. "The Solange I remember wouldn't be objecting to such practises unless they were being directly aimed at her. Was there a falling out at the end of the year?"

"Not that I've heard. She was trying to push past Hekate for Sebastiano's affections, such as they are, but without notable success. Sour grapes would be natural perhaps."

"Perhaps." Carson though back on the words on the page, her flawless memory making it unnecessary to look a second time. "Or perhaps she is genuinely frightened. See what you can find out, Amelia. I suspect that Miss Walcutt has gotten in far over her head."

Hartford nodded and made a gesture to collect the letter and pin before backing off when Carson shook her head slightly. For now they were going to be kept in her control as evidence, however circumstantial. For now the headmistress would have to give the Alphas their freedom, no matter how much it pained her. The obligations to the school and the obscure advice of a precognitive talent demanded no less. Yes, she would give them rope...

...enough that they would hang themselves.


Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
4 September 2006

The great dome was very much Whateley Academy's trademark and Tansy would admit to a certain sly satisfaction watching the Dickinson freshthings gawping at it like country rubes. It wasn't very much satisfaction but it was about as much as she was getting at the moment. Fenryk didn't seem to object at least.

She wasn't just giving this little explanation to Barbara as word had got out and now she had a dozen or so of the younger girls hanging on her words as they ate their dinner along one of the quieter tables at the edge of the Hall. She'd had a few surprised looks from passing Alphas but no suspicions yet. No one seemed to have noticed that she wasn't wearing her Alpha pin - except possibly Blue Jay and if so then the enigmatic teleporter had kept his own counsel, as was usually the case.

"I guess you got the official story on Whateley from someone earlier," she told them between bites of a really terrible lasagne that was being served. If the information she'd got from Paul Goodkind earlier was correct then his brother Trevor was attending as a freshman... well, fresh girl. Mutations could be a funny thing sometimes. She'd shed her ugly past to become who she was now and smug little Trevor was now some kind of intersexed freak of nature. The Goodkinds must have thrown a fit: the family were backing every anti-mutant programme they could find and now they had one in the nest. Knowing that Trevor manic epicurean that he was would get a little extra suffering through having to eat canteen food was another bright moment.

_You know, this Trevor might be desperate enough to consider you an ally," Fenryk suggested thoughtfully.

_Ugh, no._ The very thought turned Tansy's stomach and she focused on her lecture to distract herself from it. "So you heard all about how Whateley was set up as neutral ground between superheroes and supervillains to have a safe neutral ground where they could raise their children and share information to give those children the best possible chance of surviving as mutants."

There were nods from all down the table. They were not, Tansy had to admit, exactly a substitute for the Alphas, but they were what she had for now. Bombshell was acceptable by that standards and if Tansy absolutely had to be honest, even the slightly bucktoothed girl who'd shyly admitted to being Avatar of a Squirrel spirit would have excited envy in her three or four years ago. Quite a number managed to be pudgy or otherwise plain though.

"Now does anyone really believe that they trust each other?" Tansy raised her eyebrows and then directed sceptical looks at a couple of girls who looked likely to raise their hands. "Of course not. So while they all agreed not to meddle they all made sure that there were students or staff sending them reports just in case one of the others did decide to try to press their luck. It's a proud tradition that still lives on."

"Really?" asked the squirrel-girl. "But how come the police don't arrest the ones who work for the supervillains?"

"What for?" asked Tansy and let her think about it for a moment. "They're not breaking the rules, they mostly have genuine reasons to be here and they're probably not doing anything more incriminating than writing letters home to their friends and family. Except the US Government of course, they just flood the campus with recruiters every now and then. Very annoying but not illegal. Incidentally, if the recruiters bother you too much on a green flag day feel free to give them a firsthand sample of what you can dish out: as long as you don't do anything permanent to them, security will laugh it off and you might make a good impression and get a job offer when you graduate."

"How much is too much?" asked Bombshell.

Tansy beamed at being considered an authority figure. "Unless they make physical contact, it's good form to give them a warning first. Some of them are smart enough to back off. Don't go chasing after them, that will get Security on your case, but if they touch you without your permission or obstruct you unduly then you're covered on self-defence grounds. But whatever you do, if security isn't there when you're done then call them in afterwards. If you don't then the recruiters can tell their story first and who knows what they'd tell them."

"Anyway, besides recruiters, there are a lot of superheroes who have children here some of them were students themselves. They've been known to drop by either on business or just for old time's sake. Champion spent a whole day touring the school the year before I came here you'd have to ask a senior if you want a firsthand account. Supervillains can't really come by personally in the same way but they do send their kids here."

Tansy pointed at the table where Jadis Diabolik was holding court. "They're known as the Bad Seeds and as you can see they tend to group together. Whether it's for self-defence against would-be superheroes or to pool resources for diabolical plans depends on who you talk to. Just remember that most of them haven't been caught doing anything illegal yet and the ones who did managed to get out of trouble. Plus if you go after them you might make an enemy of their families and while you're safe here, the moment you graduate... well, does anyone want Doctor Diabolik to make a point of targeting their hometown?"

There was general agreement that this would be a bad thing but, "Is there a group for superheroes' kids too?" asked squirrel girl, practically vibrating in excitement.

"Not that at the moment, uh, Ann was it?"

"Anna Parsons," she squeaked and then sunk in herself in embarrassment

Tansy felt a warning spark from Fenryk. "But they might be keeping quiet to protect their parent's secret identities, Anna. Who knows, there could be anyone in the freshman class. Are you keeping a secret?"

"Um, no." She blushed. "I'm no one special."

_Could the girl make herself more of a target?_ Tansy thought, seeing Barbara smirking. "But isn't that exactly what someone would say if they were protecting a secret identity?" she teased. "Not that my parents are superheroes either. Then again, I don't think Pendragon's a second-generation superhero and he's running the Cape Squad."

"What are they? A bunch of superhero wannabes?"

"Precisely," Tansy agreed with Barbara. She pointed over to the appropriate table. "There's Pendragon now, I think his real name's Arthur Smith." There was a wave of sighs from the girls as they saw the handsome senior sitting at the end of the table. "Hands off, girls, the blonde next to him is Gloriana and they've been going steady since they were about your age. The official name of their group is the Future Superheroes of America and in fairness they've been around just about since Whateley got started and I understand that they do turn out quite a crop of superheroes. Remember Falcon, who used to work with the Minutemen in New York? He's an alumni of the Capes."

"What's with the codenames?" "So they're like the football team and cheerleaders combined?" The two questions came at once.

"I suppose that's about right," Tansy agreed. "Mrs. Carson isn't going to turn loose a football squad of mutants against a team from an ordinary prep school, so the Capes are as close as we get." She thought a moment. "I'll get back to the codenames in a minute, hun. Good question, have a cottage point."

"We get cottage points?" Eyes went wide and Anna started hyperventilating.

Good grief, what would the girl be like if Tansy gave her a little brain zap? Then again, it might snap her out of it. "No. This isn't Hogwarts, darlings. The only points we score are off of people." She considered pointing out that Mrs. Nelson would be only too happy if points were being scored off of girls from Whitman but decided that that might make them sound like the snakey house from the Harry Potter movies. Although she was only one letter away from having the same first name as Tom Felton's character's girlfriend so maybe that wouldn't be so bad.


"Where was I. Oh, the Capes. Right. Well you know how at any school there are some people at the top? The sports teams, the rich kids and anyone who succeeds in hanging out with them? And they tend to... throw their weight around." This was going to be the hardsell on her new position in the school. "Well I mentioned the Capes already and there are two other groups who sort of fill the role of 'pick of the school'. First, you have the Golden Kids. About half the rich kids on campus are members. Great if you want to network and talk about money and if nothing else it's something to fall back on if you aren't part of another clique. On the other hand, they're very political the reason they only have half the rich kids as members is that the others were either blackballed by more connected members or didn't want to associate with the family of business rivals."

"Are you a member?" asked Barbara.

Tansy shook her head. "I was, but I spend more time with the Venus Inc. club these days... girls who want to dress up on the catwalk. Quite a bit more fun than talking stocks and shares in my opinion. And then there's another group. The Alphas." She paused dramatically.

_Dun, dun, dun_ Fenryk observed sardonically.

_Stop it, I'm being dramatic._

_I can tell._

"The Alphas are a club made up of the leaders of the student body. That covers a lot of ground and as far as I can tell, they've gone from one extreme to the other over the forty-odd years the school's been going. You might expect it to be prefect types and the best the school has... and on paper that's what they are. Unofficially, at least while I've been here, it's a dominance contest. The dominant Alphas currently Don Sebastiano and Hekate make the rules and everyone else tries to work themselves into their favour with the eventual goal of dragging them down and taking them over. It's a vicious little circle and I spent a good part of the last year trying to hack my way to the top."

I could practically see my net worth get slashed in the eyes of Barbara. "So what happened?"

"I looked in a mirror." Tansy had practised the line dozens of times in front of a bathroom mirror until it looked sincere. "Being an Alpha means you get 'hazed' by everyone above you in their status games and you take it out on everyone below you. And everyone not an Alpha is by that logic beneath the Alphas. Bullying in other words. And the mark of an Alpha is that they get away with it." She spread her hands. "Not something to be proud of. So I walked away. Ugly story isn't it?"

Barbara's face suggested that she had a rather different take on it, although the other girls seems split between dismay at what Tansy was telling them and sympathy for her plight. Then all eyes flicked up past Tansy.

"Tansy, can we have a word?"

Tansy half-turned in her chair. "I've always got time for you, Nancy."

Nancy Coolidge, codenamed Flicker, was standing behind Tansy and her usual companion Hayley Kleish, known as Fade, was right behind her. The two girls had been Tansy's minions for most of the last two years and she felt a pang at seeing the Alpha pins on their chests. "Hi Hayley, how was your summer?"

"Um, it was okay." Hayley looked down at Tansy with a confused expression. "Nancy said she heard you say you weren't an Alpha any more, Tans'."

"I can't believe you'd say something like that, Tansy." Nancy's expression was pleasant but her eyes betrayed her fury. "It's a joke, right?"

Tansy rose to her feet. "No, I'm not joking Nancy." She turned back to the table. "I'll be back in a moment," she promised. "Why not go back for seconds if you're still hungry."

As she stepped away from the table with Nancy, Tansy saw Barbara take the opportunity to buttonhole Hayley. Well that confirmed that the freshman had found the description of the Alphas more intriguing than horrifying. Tansy felt for a moment envy at the prospect of making a fresh start at Whateley without past baggage to weigh her down... but more than that she was probably going to lose access to Barbara's brute strength. Now who would move the fridge and fix the beds as bunkbeds for her?

"You can't just leave the Alphas!"

_She's more worried about her own position that yours,_ Fenryk observed.

Tansy's response was a caustic: _You think?_ She'd never had any doubts that Nancy was essentially self-interested. Their friendship had worked out well for them both after all: the other junior roomed in Melville Cottage, the best of the student accommodation and since somehow the Walcutt money had not sufficed to arrange a place there for Tansy, she'd needed a source of information inside the cottage. In return Nancy got the fringe benefits of hanging around with one of the Walcutts and was able to get into the Alphas as a package deal with Tansy.

Of course, if Tansy with her deep pockets and more than acceptable looks was no longer an Alpha, then why would Don Sebsatiano and Hekate put up with she and Hayley? The latter already had her own minions: Conjure and Spellbinder, that she shared magic classes with. The former... well, when he had the pick of the Exemplar girls with their Hollywood starlet levels of beauty, why would he settle for conventionally pretty girls like the two of them?

"I can and I have," she told Nancy. "I strongly suggest that you get out too they're rotten to the core and I've no doubt that Carson will stamp on them vigorously the moment she has evidence. I don't plan on being caught under her high heels when it happens and you'd be wise to avoid it too."

"You can't be serious!"

Tansy groaned inside. If it was just Hayley then she was fairly sure that she could have talked her round but Nancy had always had ideas of her own and the two girls, being room-mates, were closer to each other than either was to Tansy. It looked as if she'd have to write them off at least for now. _Damn you, Fenryk. You're destroying my life!_

_Less literally than you did to your own victim,_ the unrepentant spirit replied. _She'll come crawling back if she needs you, the worm._

Reaching into her pocket, Tansy produced a draft of the letter she'd had delivered to Ms. Hartford. There was no danger in circulating it more widely: Hartford would no doubt share the contents with the Don soon enough, and the knowledge would probably hit the rumour circuit soon enough. "Well if you're not going to take the opportunity then I can at least offer you some means of maintaining your position: this is a copy of my resignation letter from the Alphas. I gave it to Hartford earlier but it probably hasn't reached the Alphas yet. Kodiak will probably arrange for you to deliver it to Donny-boy if you ask nicely, or you could try Aries. Those two are your best chance of a sponsor within the Inner Circle, such as it is."

Nancy pouted slightly. "Tansy, if they don't have the letter yet then couldn't you take it back? Leaving the Alphas is a social death sentence."

_Not leaving the Alphas is a real death sentence,_ Tansy thought bitterly. She laughed slightly, maintaining the illusion for those around them that it was an ordinary conversation. "Given what I wrote in it... no, I don't think Ms. Hartford would let me take it back. It's not a very complimentary letter."

The other girl snatched the letter and read it quickly, her face paling. "They'll kill you, Tansy. You can't say this sort of thing about the Alphas."

"Evidently I can." Tansy turned back towards the table. "Good luck Nancy. I think you'll need it."

By the time that Tansy had seated herself most of the girls who had taken the opportunity to reload their trays were back. Barbara wasn't one of them and a quick look around saw her trailing after Nancy and Hayley. So much for her. Tansy looked around the table and nodded to a thin girl who looked rather embarrassed. "There's nothing wrong with eating heartily if you're an Energizer or a Exemplar, in fact it might be unhealthy not to."

"I'm both," the girl mumbled between bites.

"Around here fainting from hunger is not just an expression." Tansy picked up an apple from her tray and took a bite. "So, now that the drama is over, where was I?"

"Codenames?" asked Anna.

"Oh yes. Thank you." Tansy thought a moment. "Okay, everyone here will need to pick a codename. Not immediately, but soon. All the school's files on your powers will be recorded under that codename, not your real name. Can you guess why?"

A girl sat next to Anna raised her hand.

"This isn't a class, just speak up."

"I-I-Is it b-because of the, um, the s-spies?" the girl asked, shrinking in on herself as everyone looked at her.

"Yes, that's right. You see any of us might decide on a career where having a secret identity is required. One of the compromises made when Whateley was set up was that the school would help to protect those identities. Now if, let's say, some legal firm took a case to sue Falcon for some property damage and wanted to find out about him they can probably access records on Whateley students and pick him out quite easily. They know what his powers do, and he would have used the same codename while he was here. But what they can't do is find out his real name from that information."

"But "

"But you don't want to be a superhero?"

Anna nodded nervously.

"You're not the only one. But people have been known to change their minds, and it would be quite a difficult decision to join the Capes in your Junior year, say, if you knew that by doing so you'd be putting your name and by extension the names of all your family into the hands of lawyers - or worse, Humanity First. Whateley sometimes gets some blame for teaching supervillains how to be more effective, but they also help superheroes. That's what neutrality means."

Tansy looked around the table. "Well that's enough of me for a few minutes. Why don't you tell us all about each other while I finish my lasagne." Maybe one of them is a PK brick like Barbara...


Dickinson Cottage
5 September 2006

Anna heard Tansy shout "No way!" in an angry voice from halfway up the stairs and paused, half-tempted to run away. Tansy had seemed nice the day before, but she'd admitted herself that she'd used to be a bit of a bully and Anna didn't want to be bullied by someone that had been here for two years and probably had much better powers than she did.

Then a door slammed open and Tansy appeared at the top of the stairs, pausing as she saw Anna shrink back.

"Ah." The older girl looked surprised for a moment and then shook her head. "Of course, thank you for coming. I was reading my emails and lost track of time."

"It's okay." Anna paused. "Um. If you have had bad news, I can come back later."

Tansy shook her head. "No, I'd better sort this out with you now. Running down to administration as angry as I am right now wouldn't go well."

"What happened? Um... if it's okay to ask?"

"It's my class choices," the Junior explained. "I'd agreed with my Counsellor that I wouldn't have to take a science course this term but she's been overruled and I've been put down for Physics in fourth period, which clashes with one of the courses I really wanted to take."

"Oh that's too bad," Anna sympathised as they walked back to Tansy's room. "Can't you take it at another time or is it too late?"

Tansy laughed harshly. "Oh, my 'good friend' in administration has already thought of that. You see what I want to take is Introduction to Mystic Concepts and there is an evening class for that, which I could take. But because I already have an early morning class that would mean taking eight classes a day instead of six or seven so 'for my own good' I've been put down for Basic Mystic Concepts in the evenings instead."

"Is that bad?"

Tansy glared ferociously at the computer as she entered the room. "It's the class for Junior High students who want to be Mages. So it's not going to be anything like as useful in fact I'll probably have to take Introduction to Mystic Concepts anyway, but later in the year, taking up another class." She paused. "Damn, the Alphas work fast."

Anna's jaw dropped. "You think they could do that?"

"There's at least one of their alumni in administration. Which... ugh... probably means that I can't do anything about this," Tansy admitted. "They do have the authority to decide student's courses for them if they think it's in their best interests."

Sahar looked up from where she was lying on her bed as they entered. "That was quick."

"Change of plan." Tansy gestured towards the bed. "Do you mind sitting at your desk for a moment while Anna moves the bed?"

Sahar scrambled out of the bed and Anna examined the beds for a moment and then started unscrewing the ornamental heads from the bed posts on Sahar's bed. "Okay, when these are off, there should be holes in the bed legs that the poles fit into."

"That's great," Sahar pointed out blandly, "But my bed is going on top."


Working together Anna and Tansy removed the bedpost ornaments and then the Freshman lifted Sahar's bed up, mattress and all, carrying it across the room and placing it on top of Tansy's, with the Junior guiding the legs.

"Thank you," Tansy said when it was done. "I couldn't have done that myself."

"Oh it was nothing." Anna blushed. "It wasn't all that heavy."

"Heavier than either of us could manage," Tansy pointed out. "At least without a lot of grunting and sweating and isn't that what boys are for?"

Anna blushed. "Um, shall we go and get your fridge?"

"Right, good work ethic. Very important." They left Sahar to get settled again on her repositioned bed and went down the stairs, Anna carrying the older fridge to give to Mrs. Nelson for storage. "So you're taking... Let me guess, Powers Theory, Power Lab, Avatar I and... hmm, Survival I?"

"I'm not in any of those," Anna told her. "I'm going to take Basic Martial Arts instead of Survival. Was that a mistake?" she asked urgently.

"No, no. I took Survival myself and I've wondered for a while if it might be worth going back and taking some Martial Arts as well. You should tell me how it goes so I know if it would help. But no Avatar class? I thought that admin always wanted to have Avatars take that, even if you're not in Power Theory. I'd have thought that your counsellor would insist."

"Mrs. Hawkins told me that it wouldn't matter very much when I took that."

Tansy frowned. "Mrs. Hawkins is my counsellor too." She said nothing as they went down the next flight of stairs. "I'd suggest talking to an Avatar and seeing if they thought it was a good class to take. They might have a different idea, although I'm not sure who I'd recommend. Kodiak's an Alpha, I'm not sure if Thunderbird is really an Avatar... Arachne's probably your best bet but sending a freshman over to Whitman... not very wise."

"You don't have to go to all this trouble for me," Anna protested. Had she made some terrible mistake? _Ohmigod, what if I could turn into a squirrel and I can't stop it because I didn't take the right class. I'm so stupid!_

Tansy patted her on the shoulder. "Don't panic. I may be completely wrong."

"I'm not panicking."

"Then why are you breathing twice as fast as I am?"

Anna paused and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "I'm not. See?"

Tansy smiled slightly. "So do you feel better now?"

"Do you think I should take the Avatar class?"

There was a long pause. "Probably. Mrs. Hawkins might be right that it can wait, but it couldn't hurt for you to ask around and get another opinion. So what else are you taking?"

"Well I've put my name down for the Introduction to Criminology and Police Procedures. It's probably not as interesting as CSI makes it look but..."

Mrs. Nelson came out of her office when Tansy knocked on the door and unlocked the storeroom for the two of them. After putting the mini-fridge away alongside a dozen or so that were apparently being kept as spares, Tansy started wrestling with the packaging around her own fridge.

Anna found herself pulled aside by Mrs. Nelson. "I see you've made friends with Solange, Anna."

"Do you think so?" She hadn't thought that Tansy considered her a friend, she'd just been first to accept when Tansy offered to pay for someone to help her move the furniture around. Why would a cool Junior want a mousey little Freshman as a friend. "I thought she just hired me to move some furniture?"

"Ah." Mrs. Nelson shook her head slightly. "She really should put jobs like that out through the administration office. How much is she going to pay you?"

"Twenty bucks for moving the bed and the fridge. It's good money for half an hour's work, Mrs. Nelson."

"Well I suppose that that's alright, but make sure you don't let her talk you into doing anything regularly without running it past administration."


Whateley Academy
5 September 2006

_So what do you suggest I do about the magic class?_ asked Tansy as she wandered aimlessly along the paths that circled the core of the campus. Usually by now she'd be hooking up with the Alphas but without that to entertain her she felt as if she was at something of a loose end.

_Why do anything? If you look at this the right way, Hartford did you a favour._

The girl shook her head. "How is putting me in a class with pre-teens doing me a favour?" she asked out loud.

_How many students do you think are in the class usually?_

"I don't know, a dozen maybe?"

Fenryk sounded satisfied. _But there's not usually even that many children that age at Whateley, and not all of them will be in the Mystic Arts programme. So you'll have much more attention from the teachers than usual._

_And that's a good thing?_ she asked quietly as they passed an group of boys from Emerson or Twain, on their way towards the Crystal Hall.

_Oh it is. Just think how far you've come with my undivided attention._

The scary thing was, Tansy thought, he sounded completely serious. _So I just let her steamroll me?_

_Is it really steamrolling if she's actually offering you something better than you were going to get to begin with. In fact, I think you should thank her._

"Thank her!?" exclaimed Tansy.

_Of course. Nothing would infuriate her more._

Tansy couldn't help but agree, and pulled out her cellphone.

_What are you doing?_

_If something's worth saying, it's worth saying with flowers._ Once the connection came through she cut off the prepared spiel by the salesperson at the other end. "This is Ms. Tansy Walcutt, I have an account." She recited the code number and password to confirm to the florists that she was the same person who'd ordered from them before. "I'd like a bouquet, heavy on the bellflowers, delivered to Ms. Amelia Hartford at Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy, Dunwich. The card should read: 'With sincere gratitude for your help and support'."

Fenryk laughed, the thoughts tingling all their way along Tansy's spine. _Well done._

She nodded her acceptance of the compliment and glanced up the hill south of the campus. Melville Cottage was on top of it, but behind the hill were two more cottages: Poe and Hawthorne. It was the first of those two that was on her mind. _Trevor's probably up there now. The little perv is must be using his change to get into the girls' bathroom._

_I like him already._

"You would." Tansy started walking in that direction. _I really ought to make sure the girls there know what they're dealing with._ She froze in mid-step as she felt a pressure rising, almost like the first pre-cursor of a storm.

_You may be right about this Trevor who you think about so much -_

"I do not!" she hissed, face flushed.

_- but you may be wrong. I strongly suggest that you find out before your reckless behaviour causes me to rein you in._

Tansy's face set in a scowl. _What is he to you, Fenryk?_

_Less than nothing. But his effect on you is something that I cannot ignore._

She turned around. _Fine then. I'll leave him alone._ Lightning played briefly around Tansy and she fell to her hands and knees in pain. "What!? I said -"

_I didn't say to leave him alone. I told you to investigate," the spirit told her testily.

_Fine, whatever._

Tansy spent the walk fighting down the scowl that wanted to dominate her face. She wasn't obsessed with the stupid little preppy Goodkind. He'd just been a convenient way to get back at his sisters after they'd left Chilton. She didn't care about him, any more than she had about his brother Paul when she ran into him at a party, one of the few that she'd manage to fit in around the summer camp that Fenryk had insisted on. It had been fun skimming his thoughts for dirt and the spirit hadn't objected at all with her doing that for her father's benefit but she hadn't enjoyed it any more than she had doing the same to any of the other young men at the party.

Okay, the dirt Paul Goodkind had inadvertently divulged had been delicious. Not only did the mutant-hating Goodkinds have a mutant in the family, but the long missing Greg Goodkind was apparently living as a transsexual in Los Angeles. The Goodkinds had managed to annoy quite a few slightly younger 'old money' families with their claims of liberalism but mutants had been their critical weak spot since the 1970s and finding out that Bruce Goodkind's carefully groomed son had kicked over the traces so spectacularly was the sort of scandal that would get a lot of traction in the right circles.

It didn't occur to Tansy to wonder if her father would be as quick to set her aside if she were to have a similarly embarrassing revelation. It wasn't even remotely in doubt that Giles Walcutt would do everything in his power to avoid being embarrassed in such a way.

Poe Cottage was laid out the same way as Dickinson so Tansy knew that Trevor or was he calling himself something else now? was going to be somewhere on the second floor with the other freshmen. Of course what she didn't know was which room it would be, and of course the House Mother would probably not let her go up and start knocking on doors at random.

Reluctant to beard Mrs. Horton in her den Poe's House Mother had a fearsome reputation for defending her charges Tansy was relieved to see a small girl about to leave the Cottage. Perhaps she could satisfy the monkey on her back by asking some questions here instead of going into Poe.

"Excuse me," Tansy called, stopping well short of the girl who was small enough that she might be one of the Junior High programme so that she wouldn't appear to be towering over her menacingly. "Could you help me?"

The girl stopped and bowed slightly. She was Chinese or something like that, Tansy noticed. _Oh please tell me she at least speaks English!_

"I will do my best," she beamed. To Tansy's relief, her English was completely fluent with a mid-western accent.

"Thank goodness," she said. "I'm trying to find someone at Poe, but I think they changed their name when they came here."

The girl looked concerned. "Do you mean like in a witness protection programme? Because if they did then I shouldn't tell anyone."

Tansy nodded. "I don't think it's for that reason but I promise that I'm not going to expose them to the school as a mutant."

The girl giggled at the joke and Tansy laughed as well. "My name's Solange," she introduced herself. It was technically true, she was just omitting to mention that it was her code name.

"I'm Jade."

"Please to meet you, Jade." Good, ice broken, now to get to grips. "The thing is that I can't even tell you what they look like it's been two years since we last met and I know I've changed a lot because of manifesting. So he might look completely different and I only know his old name, which I probably shouldn't tell you just in case it is dangerous.."

"Wow, that's going to be really difficult," her new informant admitted nervously. "There are lots of boys in Poe. Can you tell me anything else to help narrow it down a bit?"

"Well, he or she now, if what I heard is right - would be a freshman this year," Tansy revealed. "He was from a wealthy family but I don't know how they took his being a mutant, so that might not be obvious." It would be terribly satisfying if poor Trevor was here on a scholarship, having to scrimp and save for every spare cent. "We met at another boarding school, called Chilton."

Jade nodded a little more confidently. "Okay, I can ask around and see what I find out. How can I get in touch with you?"

"Oh thank you," Tansy said. "I really want to speak to them again."

"You must have been really good friends," Jade said a little wistfully.

The Junior had to bite back a laugh at that. "Do you miss your friends from home?"

"I didn't have many," the asian girl said, raising her chin bravely. "But now I've made friends here!"

"Good for you." Tansy patted her on the shoulder. "I'm in Dickinson Cottage. If you don't want to go all the way there, you could give me a call." She pulled out her cellphone to get her number.

Jade blushed. "I don't have a phone."

"Oh." How impoverished could the girl be? "Well, you're very welcome to come over. Or when you get your school laptop, you can send me an email." Tansy recited her email address for Jade who noted it down conscientiously. "I'll owe you a big favour if you can find him for me."