Hi, welcome to the Meek, the Sweet, and the Slightly Insane! I hope you all like it, and review, review, REVIEW!


Gemma Glenden was never the top student at Dogbert A. Johnson Middle School. Then again, she was never at the bottom of the class either. She was always in the middle, and because her father was extremely competitive and always urged her to beat everyone else in the class, she had retreated into herself. Inside, she didn't need to worry about getting yelled at by her father. Inside, she didn't need to fret about being bullied by Dora Flinnely. Inside, she could create her own worlds and live in them. Inside, she could put herself into her favorite stories. She had created characters for herself in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Artemis Fowl, Discworld...so many she had lost count. Her personas were everything Gemma had never thought she was: they were beautiful, smart, powerful, and popular. Everyone loved them. They went around beating the bad guys and saving their friends. Gemma wanted to be one of her characters more than almost anything else in the world.

Dogbert A. Johnson Middle School was a good school. Or at least a good school by the standards of tiny public schools in the middle of Nebraska. Nebraska is not a state famed for producing academic geniuses, but Dogbert A. Johnson was doing its best to rectify that. But no school can keep the level of bullying at an absolute zero, and that was why Gemma got teased almost constantly.

"Hey, look, girls! It's Cinderella!" shouted Dora Flinnely as Gemma crossed the yard, a pile of books in her arms, "It seems that since she insists on playing the wronged princess, we better be the evil stepsisters! Come on, Glenden, introduce us to your fairy godmother!"

Gemma tried to ignore Dora and her friends, but it wasn't easy, especially since Dora was pretty and popular, and if she were only nice she would have been the sort of person Gemma worshipped. But since Dora wasn't nice, Gemma didn't understand why everyone else liked her. Gemma was too socially awkward to understand that nobody actually did.

Making a half-hearted effort to dodge the snowballs thrown at her, Gemma crossed the yard and quietly opened the door to her classroom. Her favorite teacher, Ms. Donner, looked up as Gemma entered. She nodded a good morning, and went back to her grading. Gemma slipped into her seat next to the window, and while she waited for Home Economics to start, buried herself in her book.

Noel spun around, she read, but it was too late. The flicker in her peripheral vision was gone. She tapped her cheek sensor, and whispered into the mike that she had a lock on the rogue's position. Blasted traitor, she thought! Why would anyone betray the very society that had fed and provisioned them? Why would anyone attempt to remove their machinery and become human again, instead of a supernaturally enhanced cyborg?

What Gemma wouldn't give to live in that world! The mystery, the adventure, the thrill of it all! But here was Noel, the epitome of who she wanted to be, chasing a rogue cyborg, someone who had defied the law of their land and claimed the freedom that they had sacrificed in becoming something more than human. What was wrong with this government that someone would do that? She buried herself in her book again.

"Hello, class!" called Ms. Donner, startling Gemma out of the world of courageous heroines and into the world of cookies, houseplants, and child care, "This is Melbourne Corely, and she will be joining our class for today, and staying at this school if she likes it. Could you tell us a little about yourself, Melbourne?" she turned to the girl,

and small, petite thing in sweat-pants and a "No pegasi were harmed in the making of this shirt" tee, with cropped black hair and dark skin. Melbourne smiled and said:

"I'm fourteen. I come from Alaska, where I lived until I was twelve, when I moved to Manhattan. I'm happy to be in Nebraska, since I don't like big cities. I like Grateful Dead and U2."

"Thank you, Melbourne! Now, class, today we are going to be replanting flowers, may I please have a volunteer to pass out the plants? Ah, thank you, Christopher..." said Ms. Donner as Melbourne slipped into the seat next to Gemma's. Gemma smiled timidly at her, and Melbourne returned the smile with a wide grin.

No one had smiled like that at Gemma before. It made her feel good.

The next hour-and-a-half passed like lightning for Gemma. While her classmates struggled with the task of transferring the baby plant to the earthenware pot, Gemma had finished her own and was now helping Melbourne, who didn't seem to understand that plants can't feed themselves if their roots have been ripped off.

"Thanks," said Melbourne as the two girls worked, "You seem pretty nice compared to the blonde who was giving me the evil eye while Ms. Donner was making me talk."

Gemma giggled. Melbourne seemed to be the only person who shared her opinion of Dora.

"So..." said Melbourne, "You're pretty good at potting plants. Are you good at Home Economics in general?"

Gemma shook her head. "I'm not really good at anything. This is the first time we've done something with plants. The only other time I did really well was when we mixed our own cereal. That was a lot of fun." She looked up, surprised that she had told this girl she had only met half an hour ago as much as she had. If Melbourne saw her expression, she didn't say anything, just nodded.

"I had the same problem in Alaska. I couldn't do anything until I moved to Manhattan, and I found out I was really good at basketball. Who knew? Maybe you'll be a botanist when you grow up."

Gemma smiled. A botanist... she certainly liked plants. They didn't yell at her, which could be said for almost nothing else in her life.

"Do you have plants in your back yard?" asked Melbourne, and when Gemma nodded, said: "How quickly do they grow compared to other plants?"

"I don't know. I've never seen any other plants but them."

"Good point. Let me rephrase that: how long do the sprouts take to come up after you planted the seed?

"A while. Ten minutes at least."

"Ten minutes?! Ten?! That's amazing, Gemma! For most of us plants can take a couple of days! It seems that you, my friend, have a green thumb. A very green thumb."

"Cool," Gemma gave a small smile, "Am I really your friend?"

"Well, you're nice, so why not?" A warm feeling was enveloping Gemma. Someone liked her. Wanted to be her friend! That hadn't happened since preschool.

"Class dismissed!" called Ms. Donner as the bell rang, "Remember, I want you to take pictures of the growth of your plant over the break! Got it? Right. Merry Christimas, everyone!"

Gemma and the rest of her class shuffled out. At the door, a boy Gemma had never seen before stopped her and Melbourne.

"Hi, I'm new," he said, "Could I have a word with you?"

Gemma glanced around. Ms. Donner was gone. So were her other classmates except for Melbourne, who was glaring at the boy.

Before she could answer, her new friend cut in. "No! Absolutely not! Don't you dare come near her!"

"Woah, someone's being touchy! I just want one word; I will have that word and there's nothing you can do about it, daughter of Apollo."