Another story from my archives, posted as a sample of my work for potential RP partners.

Gotham Academy for the Gifted. Shortened to GAFTG in all of its publications. Abbreviated to GAG by all its students, as in, with a spoon. There’s not a day when I don’t wander these halls on my way to and from class wondering, “Someone didn’t think this one through, did they?”

It’s not a bad place as far as exclusive, private, preparatory schools go. The uniforms don’t itch too much. The building is large enough I can usually get through the day without running into my snot nosed and occasionally annoying nephews. They don’t use metal detectors so I can sneak in my costume and collapsible staff, just in case I need to skip class to go fight crime.

Yeah. I’m one of those, a super-hero. I prefer the title, “Perky Teen Adventurer,” but everyone teases me that it sounds too much like a kinky personal ad on Craigslist. I’m Mercedes Agnes Thomas-Arasaka, Kid Harrier, daughter to Silent Strike and the Harrier King. All my friends call me Des, except for my nephew (yes, one of the two I try to avoid at school). Nick calls me “Mercy,” the twerp. Maybe it’s a crush. Whatever it is, I hope he grows out of it soon. I live with my ”vader” (Father in Dutch. I speak four and a half languages. My Mandarin, sorry, ”Putonghua”, is in development) in one of the worst neighborhoods in Gotham’s East Side. We’re reclaiming the streets, block by block around two of the apartment buildings we own there. My mother? That’s a whole other conversation.

The conversation I was trying to focus on at the moment included my best friend, Veena Batchu. She leaned on the locker next to mine, dark skin and an athlete’s body dressed in our cheerleading uniform. There’s a beauty mark on her cheek that sinks into a dimple when she smiles. I think she’s really pretty. I hear her father is some famous surgeon in the city. Since that incident with the alcohol burner in the chem lab, I can’t see her with a scalpel. There wasn’t too much damage and that whole painted eyebrow look worked well for her as they grew back in, but give her a wicked sharp knife and say, “cut me, cut me?” Like, no way.

“Brad will be there.”

I can admit it. I wasn’t paying my best friend much attention. I’d been receiving the same Friday pitch for six weeks. “So and so is having a party. Wanna come with me? The other cheerleaders are starting to say things about you.” blah, blah, blah, blah. 

“Huh?” I stopped poking through my locker and looked over to repeat, “Huh?” Yep. That’s me. Clearly erudite and master of my vocabulary.

Veena smiled broadly, setting the hook. A perfect eyebrow (completely healed, seriously) lifted. “I said Brad will be there. Weren’t you listening to me?”

“I hang on your every word, Vee. Lisa’s parents are out of town. Big party at her house. Come at seven.”

“Wow,” she replied, eyes widening. “You’re like an idiot savant, absorbing everything you hear, except for that it’s Andrea’s parents, it’s a small gathering, and it starts at nine. Hmmm, maybe I’m half right.” I thought about sticking my tongue out at her, but if the other cheerleaders were talking… Oh godver. Like I care what the rest of the team thought. Maybe I could punch her in the arm. Nah, that would look too boyish.

I swallowed. “Are you sure?”

Her head tilted to one side as she rolled her back against the locker. “Of course, I’m sure, Des. I have a talent for these things.” She wasn’t kidding. Veena has this like, innate sense of the social scene. If someone will be somewhere, she would know. It’s like she’s telepathic, or something. Seeing what I’ve seen in Gotham, it’s a distinct possibility.

Brad. I turned back to face my locker, trying to hide the warmth that rose to my cheeks. Brad’s a senior in my honors American Lit class. Lacrosse team captain. Sandy hair with just a bit of a curl. Really dark, brown eyes. Reads Thoreau. No really. He actually reads all of his assignments and participates in class. Call me a geek, but I find that a major turn on. My knee started trembling.

“Well,” I stammered. Surely Va can do without me for one Friday night. “Will you come pick me up?”

“Really?” Vee squealed in excitement. “I mean, really! You will have the best time! I totally promise! I never believe anything Tricia says about you…”

I should have objected, defended myself. But at that moment I was thinking about talking to a dark pair of eyes and what I was going to say.

——

“Hi.”

I was sure he could see my knee shaking. It threatened to vibrate my entire body, leaving me standing on the stairs with chattering teeth like some hypothermia victim. I choked out a, “Hey.”

Brilliant. Witty. Fantastic first start. Please kill me now.

We were standing next to each other in the line for the bathroom. Like, like, I know everyone goes, but I was hoping it would be a while before Brad and I had to actually face that each of us had bodily functions to tend to. I looked into my half full cup of water, wondering if I could swear off drinking. Not just alcohol. Everything. I’ll get just enough via IV fluids and never have to go pee ever again. I heard the biologist part of my brain start explaining how that’s just not possible.

“Great party, huh?”

I’d only seen two people vomit so far. I’m pretty sure I saw a partially digested pea in Angelena Cortez’s hair. The modern meaning of “small gathering” equated to “as many as we can cram into the place.” When Vee and I arrived, we spent the first 15 minutes checking out the trends of Gotham’s hip teen scene; cute, short skirts with tall boots; lace and drooping necklaces well suited to one of my dad’s old 80’s movies. At 20 minutes, Vee and I agreed the beautiful people had started to turn ugly and a trip to find some ice cream sounded like a great idea, right after a quick detour to the bathroom.

Brad’s eyes looked darker up close. I took the liberty of looking into them as we stood in the queue. He didn’t smell like vomit or alcohol. So close to him, he smelled nice. My bangs lifted from my forehead with a puff of air from my mouth, something people say I do when I’m nervous. “Hmm, no,” I tried to muster a grin, but my lips felt lopsided. “This really isn’t my scene.”

Those eyes, those beautiful eyes, widened and a smile spread across his face. “Oh man, I was worried I was the only one.” It took me a second to recognize the noise coming from me as a laugh. “I got talked into coming here by a friend,” he continued. “You’re Mercedes, right? We’re in AmLit together, aren’t we?”

I nodded, feeling the smile even out on my face. “Des,” I blurted out. “My friends call me, Des.” He extended his hand. “Des, I’m Brad Winterborne. It’s a pleasure to…”

It’s human nature to run from screams; from those all too natural sounds that emanate from pain, shock, loss. It’s a behavior that I didn’t inherit. I vaulted down the stairs, cursing in Dutch that I had left my massive Chrome messenger bag in Vee’s car. Tracing the source of the screams took no effort. I ran towards what everyone else was running from.

I saw the body on the kitchen floor first, blood slowly spreading from a collapsed female figure. The screaming filled the room; Sharp, shrill, cries echoing off cold, yellow, Mexican tile. “Demons!” My head snapped left. I didn’t recognize the girl. Wet blood covered her all too short dress. Violent, red cuts lined her exposed legs and arms. She had shed her shoes sometime in the evening and stood barefoot. She held a $500, 8″, Hinkle sushi knife in one hand, pointing the tip at me. What can I say? My family knows cutlery.

“Demons!” She screamed again. I spared one look behind me. Demons are an occupational hazard in the hero biz. Movement brought my attention back to her, but not before I felt that exquisitely crafted blade cut through my silk, violet top and bit into my skin.

“Hey, no!” I yelled. “I’m no demon!” It didn’t take much to restrain her. It took a lot to keep her restrained. Her body flipped and skidded beneath me, slippery with blood and filled with unnatural strength. My side burned from the wound. I didn’t think she hit anything vital, but I found the pain distracting. When Vee and Brad poked their heads into the kitchen doorway, it took all my concentration to call out, “Call 911!”

——

Nothing clears out a party like a stabbing and a police presence. Well, maybe gunfire. To their credit, the GCPD arrived in record time. I took comfort in watching six peace officers try to get a pair of cuffs on Christine after they asked me to back off. Eventually, she just passed out.

Christine. Her name was Christine Dawley. We had Calculus together. I didn’t recognize her until the EMT’s had got her on a gurney and wiped the blood from her face. The other girl was named Jennifer Acosta. She had been critically injured, not expected to make it. I didn’t know her.

The police interview took about 45 minutes. They did offer me some medical attention before starting the questions. By then, my wound had completely healed. (Regeneration, improved dexterity and strength. All gifts from mom. Thanks mom!) Once they figured out I hadn’t been drinking, they didn’t even call my dad. (I inherited a bunch of stuff from Va, too! Thanks Va!)

The cops asked me a lot of questions about drugs. What I saw at the party. It didn’t take a detective to figure out drugs figured in here, somewhere. I was guessing Angel Dust. I have red hair, but confusing my cute, energetic self for a demon takes a serious hallucinogen.

Veena stuck around the whole time. She got drilled too, but not quite as long. Brad, sadly, had faded at some point. Difficult to say if my skill at wrestling a crazed, knife wielding teenager made a good first impression. Some boys don’t like it when girls can break them in half.

We didn’t say anything until we got to her car. The door barely shut before I called on Veena’s power of social awareness. “Do you know where she got the drugs?”

“Adam Farintino.” A junior. Slouches a lot. I had seen him at the party earlier, hanging out with Christian Rickey and Max Waguespack. I felt pretty sure I could track him down before the cops could.

“I know where he is.” I looked at Veena across the small space between the seats of her red Volkswagen Beetle. Telepathy looked more and more like a possibility.

“Could we talk about that later?” OooooooK. Yeah. Conversation needed. My eyes flitted to my messenger bag in the back seat. “Yes, Des,” Veena told me. “I know.” Make that, long conversation needed. I bit my lip and tried not to think.

“Yes. I’ll drive. You’re flexible. You can change on the way.” The whole not thinking thing apparently doesn’t work too well for me. As she put the car in gear, I crawled into the back seat and started pulling my costume out of the bag.

——

I’m not terribly intimidating. I stand about 168 cm (oh sorry, 5’6″) and I’m not really bulky. Still, you think that the costume, the mask, and the staff; and the fact that I had just trashed the two of his friends who had attacked me would have shifted Adam’s attitude a little.

“I didn’t do nothing!” he challenged. “She asked me! I didn’t even charge her for it!” He fished a small packet from the pocket of his jeans and threw it at me. I plucked it from the air. A pair of long legs and flowers adorned the small envelope; Vanilla Sky bath salts.

“Bath salts?” I asked. I had heard about this craze. Snorted or ingested, certain substances marketed as bath salts, acted like cocaine or PCP.

“Completely legal!” Emboldened, Adam took a step forward. “I didn’t do anything wrong! The cops were already here and didn’t find nuth’n! Now, get out of here, Harrier, before I call them back to arrest you for assault!”

I didn’t let my jaw drop. I like to think I kept a stern expression on my face while I worked through options. Technically, his buddies could charge me with battery. Self-defense wouldn’t work. The two of them really weren’t a threat and I could have gotten away too easily. These weren’t street punks. These were three kids from GAG, children of some of Gotham’s wealthiest; the city’s most likely to sue.

I stepped forward. Adam retreated a bit as I brought the tip of my staff to rest on his breastbone. “You didn’t do anything illegal, Adam. There are two of your classmates in the hospital. One of them might die. You did something wrong. Stop.”

I turned and left, trying not to trip over the tail between my legs.

——

“Well, this just sucks.” Veena plopped down on the curb next to me. I had slipped back into my jeans and cut up top as we hunted for supplies. My friend rummaged through the 7-11 bag for a moment before handing over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Karamel Sutra. I could get used to hanging out with a mindreader.

I started rolling the container in my hands before replying. “Total, major suckage. That great wooshing sound? That is the sound of suck.” Veena pulled open her ice cream and started in with a spoon. Some people just don’t care about the proper temperature at which to consume the holy dessert. “Does it usually end like this?” she asked.

I shook my head, squeezing the ice cream, checking if it had reached the right consistency. “It usually ends in arrests and a few bruises, maybe a pat on the back from a local cop or saved citizen, and then a bunch of questions from a DA”

“Do you ever have to testify?”

I peeled off the lid of the cup and dipped my spoon into the cold, creamy goodness. “Sometimes,” I answered, mouth full. “Most DA’s don’t want to get a mask with a secret ID in the courtroom. Too easy to attack credibility.”

“What are you going to do now?”

The ice cream rolled across my tongue as I thought about an answer. “Talk to my dad about it.” I knew that wouldn’t sound too geeky to Veena. Who tries to hide anything from a telepath, anyway?” I scooped up another spoonful as I pondered about things a bit more. “I’ll definitely keep an eye on Adam. I’ve heard that he deals in harder stuff. If he does, I want to bust him.”

My train of thought took me to a station I didn’t want to visit. “If Jennifer dies, Christine will likely face a manslaughter charge. Maybe then the DA can hit Adam with something like ‘willful negligence.'” I shook my head, dropping it between my knees. “Chris is looking at assault with a deadly weapon, at least. When you boil it down, she’s really the problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“If we believe Adam, she asked him for the salts. Nobody forced her. I don’t think seeing demons is what she expected, but…” I shrugged. “If everyone stopped using drugs, we’d stop having drug related crime.”

“Making them legal would stop drug related crime, too.”

“Maybe,” I said, shoveling out some more. “Vanilla Sky is legal and that didn’t stop a stabbing, tonight.”

Veena nodded, her spoon poking around in a cup of Chunky Monkey. “That’s true.”

“”Va” knows a few drug counselors, really good people. I might point one of them in Christine’s direction. I will pay for it.” I rolled my eyes. “Not like she needs the money.”

“Whether something like this happens to Chris again, will really depend on her.” We sat there in silence a few moments, finishing off our ice cream. A good thing about superpowers? They burn a ton of calories.

Veena turned her head towards me, her dark eyes settling on mine. “Do you like it? The hero thing?”

“Usually,” I answered, puffing the bangs from my forehead. “My family and I, my mother, my father, my sister, my…” I couldn’t get it out without a short snort, “nephews, and I have helped a lot of people, made a lot of people’s lives better.” I stopped, thinking about two classmates in the hospital and a drug ‘dealer’ I couldn’t touch. “Do I like it, tonight? Not so much.”