TG Universes & Series:
This chapter is unedited as Ashleigh hasn't been feeling well and I wrote this after she had edited the next 50 pages coming up. So I'm to blame as I kind of write back and forth in the timeline and I felt like the second part of this story needed a lead-in. You also get to see how much I need Ashleigh. As in real life plans change when Atalanta is called into Mrs. Carson office along with Sam and Manny who are told they will be...
Hope you all enjoy this chapter.
I should be packing the supplies for another three day weekend beginning tomorrow into the wilds around the Reservation cataloguing and photographing the wildlife in the area excluding of course the Weres. Or I should be studying for final exams taking place a month after Easter’s spring break which observance this year was April 15th.
Or preparing props for the more onerous was the one woman play I was told to perform on the Sunday after—the weekend that the students on Easter break returned. Dr. Bellows said the play to set my inner child free. Who is he kidding? According to the adults I am a child. This was about the adults and power. Sometimes the best you could do was play shitty games and win stupid prizes.
Instead I was mounting the dais steps at Schuster Hall that housed the administrative and the Headmistress’s office I paused with my hand on the door. What did Mrs. Carson want with me now? I had been a good girl lately smiling also because I had alibis for all the pranks pulled. I couldn’t be in two places at once: Right?
Clicking my heels I pushed open the doors striding the hallway until I came to Her office pushing open the door leading to her reception area. Looking up from behind her desk at the sound of the door opening Mrs. Crumb pointed at the closed office door, “Go on in they are waiting.”
They, I pulled up short; who else was invited to this shindig? Well I couldn’t answer that question on this side of the door I thought sourly twisting the doorknob.
Mrs. Carson was seated behind her desk; to her right was Chief Delarose and directly facing her three wooden ladder back chairs were occupied by Sam, Manny, and the third empty chair that I claimed. The three security personnel sat with their spines straight shoulders square and faces stoic. The Headmistress leaned forward her gaze steady and direct.
“Do you know why you’ve been called in here Miss Reed?”
Sensing the tension and looking briefly to my left, “We’re being sent on a secret mission to save the free world?”
The vein on Mrs. Carson’s neck jumped as she set her jaw. Chairs squeaked as bodies shifted in their seats. The room atmosphere had shifted.
“Don’t be impertinent young lady,” she replied coldly.
Unperturbed I blithely responded, “You asked and I have no idea why I’m here so I took a shot in the dark.”
Watching her mouth open and close repeatedly I recalled my last trip in here:
‘That time she had beamed at me from her door, “Atalanta, please come in,” stepping aside and closing the door. Smelling a rat I cautiously sat in the chair that faced her desk wondering what lay behind her smile.
“You know why I called you in?”
“I guess it is because of what happened yesterday.”
The yesterday she was referring to was the college field trip and mistaken identity.
Mrs. Carson uncharacteristically swung around in her chair looking at a far wall apparently lost in thought. I then begin to wonder if I had stepped on someone’s toes today.
Nope! I was a good girl today!
Swinging her chair back around Mrs. Carson leaning forward planted her palms firmly on her desk, “I was all set to punish you for that almost fight and scene yesterday—.”
I could feel the ‘yeah but’ coming.
“—but I received a phone call this morning from a Hugo Weisz that shed a different light; not that I for one minute buy his cock and bull story of a short fat dwarf wearing a tall red gnome hat intervening. That sounds a whole lot like a student I know that seems to attract trouble of that nature to her. She can’t help it; it’s in her DNA,” the headmistress had exclaimed blowing air past her pursed lips.
“Mr. Weisz pointed out that school and especially colleges should be a place for learning; to develop critical and logical thought processes while having the academic and personal freedom to question existing ideas. He rightly pointed out that a system without an enforced and clearly understood policy for everybody to work from trends towards tyranny by a few.
That’s especially true here where we have such a wide array of student backgrounds to contend with and despite our best efforts at running a tight ship we still need to keep Poe’s identity secret. When standards are relaxed too much you have—.”
“—inmates running the asylum,” I had cheerfully supplied.
Her lips had curled meeting frown lines, “An apt description Miss Reed and an added reason we enforce strict guidelines here; to help you keep a low profile and out of trouble after you graduate.”
“So obviously the inmates and the asylum is at the college?”’I had queried.
The sound of wood scrapping across the floor brought me to the present. Carson folded her arms pointedly replied, “It was a rhetorical comment and one that didn’t need your reply. You could have used the dramatic on-stage experience that Dr. Bellows has provided for you through the theatrical department; too bad you won’t have that opportunity.”
Displaying remarkable restraint I remained silent as she continued while inwardly high-fiving , “The other students will be enjoying their week off,”—which I wasn’t scheduled for anyway—“while you and your entourage,” –her lips twisted around the word entourage—“have been called to Washington for two weeks beginning tomorrow.”
“What is this all about,” Manny frowned.
“The Marshall’s Service wants to debrief her on the capture of the fugitives along with some training and qualifying for her commission. I want one or both of you,” she continued speaking to Manny and Sam, “with her at all times during any interviews.”
Carson anticipating their concerns held up her hands, “Remind them she is under age and in our care. I want this school and the Medawihla connection minimized. Any questions,” she asked leaning back in her chair.
“One question that comes to mind is who is paying for this trip.”
“Good question,” she replied handing Manny and Sam each a credit card, “you just need to keep good records.”
Extending my hand I quipped, “Where’s mine?”
“You’re lucky I don’t charge you two weeks salary each,” she replied evenly.
“I could take the train.”
Four ‘no’s’ rained down on me.
“If they are no more questions….,” she left the sentence dangling, “then you can go.”
As the three of us were leaving Delarose called out, “Sam, Manny; I’d like to talk with you two.”
“Go ahead,” Manny touched my back, “We’ll catch up with you later.”
I nodded and continued walking away happy to be free from that ridiculous play but frowning at the thought of going to the nation’s capitol. I had been there before with my dad not long after we moved to Philly.
We had done the family tourist thing; visiting the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the various seats of power before paying tribute to the war dead. It was our last real family trip together before dad was killed in the Middle East.
That was not quiet three years ago the summer after I turned twelve but felt like another lifetime and in some ways it was. Less than a year after that summer vacation, dad was gone, mom and I had moved to New Mexico and through some twist of fate I was now a girl. I never wanted to be a girl anymore than I wanted to be a boy. It just was….different.
I sat on the dais steps leading to the entrance of Schuster Hall remembering the day dad and I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The setting sun framed the Washington Monument in an ethereal glow as the night lights bathed the obelisk framing it against a purple haze backdrop. Lights surrounding the reflecting pool danced on water molecules bounced between the symbols of America’s greatest tests. Behind us golden lights lit up the bearded figure adding its shadows to the mystery and intrigue of the National Memorials Park.
We had visited the memorials for the war dead, the Washington Monuments and Constitution Gardens before ending the tour on the steps of the Lincoln Monument.
“Son,” he began speaking softly, “all this represents over two hundred years of an idea….an idea that man is master of his own destiny; that he is free to do as he will as long he does not infringe on anyone else’s right to the same,” spreading his hands to encompass all that we viewed.
That America is called to be a beacon for liberty but that great responsibility came with great sacrifice. All the men and many women on his side of the family had served in the military going back to the civil war. Mom of course served but it was mostly to get her education paid for. She had grew up in a series of foster homes and had agreed to a deferred enlistment to help pay for college and getting her medical degree from the Army.
Dad was disappointed that I didn’t show interest in outdoor activities or participating in any organized sports preferring my own company, books, and the wonders of the internet to my contemporaries.
I smiled ruefully realizing that as the girl I came closer to reflecting his values and interests than I ever did as his son.
“Earth to Atalanta; Earth to Atalanta,” Nikki’s words brought me to the present. “You all right,” she asked.
“Yeah,” I answered numbly, “I was just told I’m going to Washington.”
“On a top secret mission to save the planet,” she teased.
“Funny you should say that, that’s what I asked Carson.”
“I see you have all your fingers so I assume you asked going out the door.”
“No not me. I asked first thing,” I grinned back at Nikki.
“Silly girl when you leaving?”
“First thing in the morning,” I answered.
“Wow,” she exclaimed, “that’s short notice; how come?”
“It has to do with that stupid Marshall’s commission and the capture of the fugitives,” I answered my brows furrowing, “but there is one good thing about it.”
“Yeah what’s that,” she challenged.
“I don’t have to do that stupid play and you,” I tapped her shoulder, “don’t have to sit through it either.”
“We’ll take up a collection and throw a party,” she quipped adding, “better get-a-move-on or you’ll be late for class.”
“Hi mom it’s me, your favorite daughter.”
“Do I get three guesses? I’m glad you called how is my favorite and only daughter doing?”
“I’m fine,” my voice cracked. Mom was always there for me linking me to the past and a reminder that that I hadn’t dreamed Alan up. “And you; how are you doing?”
“We’re fine here nothing serious at the ranch; a couple of early bookings caught the sniffles. We did have one serious accident happen to one of the neighbors and had to call in the Air-Evac team to transport him to the nearest hospital that had internal surgeons on duty. That’s probably one that wouldn’t have made it a couple of years ago.”
Even at this distance I felt her sense of purpose and accomplishment over the phone, “Since the clinic was built.”
“Yes since the medical center was built.” I grinned at her from my end when she corrected me. But she was correct it was more than a clinic that served only the spa’s clientele; the center was a regional hub serving the entire north central portion of the state including several tribal Reservations.
“Judy showed a lot of foresight didn’t she and we were lucky that Manny was there to oversee the fine details,” I teased knowing full well that the clinic—the medical center—was her baby.
“They helped,” she quipped sharply, “but—“she began laughing with me as my laughter spilled out. “You brat, you just wait until I get you home; I’ll turn you over my knee.”
“That was mean of me.”
“Yes it was but to what do I have the pleasure of hearing your beautiful voice?”
“I don’t have to do that stupid play.”
“Oh is this your one allowed call?”
“Seriously Atalanta what have you done now?”
A denial automatically sprang to my lips, “I plead innocent to the now part,” I laughed and explained about the debriefing.
“Why do they need you for that? Weren’t there other people there?”
“Mom it’s the government!”
I felt her sigh, “When do you leave?”
“We leave for D.C. in the morning,” I replied evenly.
Silence greeted me, “Are you going to be alright going back there.”
“I think so mom, anyway it is kind of a demarcation point; a jumping off place that probably wouldn’t hurt me to revisit. I might learn something I missed before.”
Mom ignoring my straight man setup, “You do have a new perspective but who’s going with you?”
“Sam and Manny’s driving his truck.”
“Call me in the morning.”
I promised that I would and we hung up. Turning off the light I sat down on the bed drawing my feet under me and staring out the lone window into the night skies. In the darkened room I closed my eyes remembering my dad and recalling his face the sound of his voice and the way he walked. Pulling my ‘ratty ole shirt’ tighter I opened my eyes breathing slowly and deeply tasting its essence; dad’s scent, the garment’s natural fibers blending with my own scent formed an aura around me.
I felt a presence gathering strength and form filling the room transporting the room and its contents into ether like void. A—neither here nor there land—a land where past and present met and time stood still. I felt the existence of several spirits just touching the outer bands of my consciousness seemingly watching from a distance. I waited calmly detached from whatever unknown events that waited innately feeling that I had chosen to come here.
A single spirit stepped forward, “Daddy,” I whispered.
“Yes Atalanta I’m your daddy.” The words weren’t spoken aloud but as a thought imprinted in my mind.
“I’ve changed since you’ve …gone… away; how do you know it’s me.”
“I know there have been changes, but how did you know who I was?”
“The same way you knew me.” That was logic or was it illogic that I couldn’t argue with.
“What am I doing here,” I asked.
“Don’t you know pumpkin?”
Wait! What! Daddy never called me pumpkin before. “You know I’m a girl now?”
“I’m not blind,” was the gentle reply.
“Are you disappointed that I’m a—“
“A girl? No I’m not. It’s who you are.”
I felt all warm and safe inside, “How come I can’t see you?”
“I’m a spirit my body is somewhere else.”
That made as much sense as me talking to my departed daddy did.
“I hadn’t thought of it like that. Can you see mom and me?”
“I can’t look after you two like I could have because we’re on different planes now but I do what I can do.”
“You know I’m going to Washington tomorrow.” I felt his nod. “Any advice because two heads are…”
“Better than one,” he finished one of his favorite truisms, “Be true to your ideas and yourself Atalanta.”
“I love you daddy.”
“I love you too, pumpkin,” he gently replied fading away taking the other world with him replacing it with the four walls of my room. I sat on the bed not moving or thinking for a long time content just to breathe in and out. Content just to bask in the warm afterglow focusing on the minute detail of respiration with not a thought or care in the world.
I remained in that catatonic state for what seemed like hours but in that timeless environment was in reality only minutes. Shaking myself free I crawled under the covers still wrapped in my ole ratty shirt eager for tomorrow to come.
“Screw you Carson,” I declared to the heavens as I drifted off.
I was ready to storms the gates of hell itself, if need be!
I hope you enjoy the chapter and leave comments or kudos or both. I apologize for what am sure are many errors but I never was no good with grammar.
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