Atalanta's Story Continued: Reaching Home Chapter 12-15

I'm sorry it has taken me this long to post but I'm terrified I'll mess up the chapter listings or something and I procrastinate. Then real life has thrown plenty of change-ups at me in the last 30 days. And I didn't want to get too far ahead of Ashleigh.

We learn that Nikki is helping Atalanta in some small ways to learn to blow off magic that she attracts. Atalanta learns she'll be going on a field trip to a local liberal arts college to gather ideas for her play. What could possibly go wrong with that plan it seems Dr. Bellows and Carson never learns. Anyway it ought to be fun!

Again I apologize for the delay and I do hope you enjoy the story.


Chapter 12

The halls were emptying of students as the warning bell sounded.

Great! Late. Again.

On most weekdays like all the students at Whateley I wore the school uniform which for the girls consisted of knee length pleated skirts of solids or plaids paired knee socks and black slippers. We had no choice but to wear white buttoned shirts with starched collars. Worn over that was a blue blazer or cardigan with the school’s crest on the lapel or collar.

Having just come from the combat sims I walked into Introduction to Power Theory class dressed in my signature black attire; britches, boots, duster, and hat just as the teacher was about to close the door.

“Miss Reed you’re out of uniform,” Mrs. Snodgrass informed me nasally.

“Sims ran long and Mrs. Carson told me to hurry or I’d be late to class.”

A stickler for protocol Mrs. Snodgrass was torn between the dress code, class, and a directive from the headmistress.

“Fine,” she replied sharply adding, “find a seat at the back of the room where you won’t disturb the class.

All eyes were on me as I drifted towards the rear of the room to find a seat. I was both known and a mystery since arriving at the end of the fall semester, but none of my acquaintances from Poe were in attendance because IPT was a freshman class that was a combination power theory and school orientation. The class was popular since it was required for all incoming students and was offered in the fall and winter. Because my outside duties kept me from the campus three days a week I hadn’t made any friends outside of Poe and security. I didn’t mind as I never made many friends growing up because we moved often and those I did make were older mentor types. That hadn’t changed as a girl.

“Class bring up today’s lesson.” No papers were shuffled or books opened but instead the whirl of electrons filled the classroom as electronic reservoirs were opened. I fumbled opening my device; Mom and the school in New Mexico used pen and paper to teach me.

“Mrs. Snodgrass,” a girl on the front row asked softly, “I don’t understand BITs and why they vary so much from one person to another.” A hesitant smile played across her lips as she looked first at Mrs. Snodgrass before glancing back at the class and continued. “We all know or have seen the wide spectrum of mutations. I can’t believe anyone has an internal image of having three-toes or scales or a prehensile tail or…” she let her sentence trail off.

“A case of careful what you wish for,” someone quipped quickly followed by a smattering of snickers that rippled across the room.

“Class; settle down,” Mrs. Snodgrass raised her voice. “Out of babes and smart-aleck’s. This wasn’t to be our lesson plan but I feel it is an important subject to address and now is as good a time as any to do that.”

She silently closed her teaching device and walked around to the front of her desk. “What Mr. Johnson said in jest does have some truth in it.”

We all straightened in our seats leaning forward.

Mrs. Snodgrass turned to me, “Miss Reed you mutated two years ago. Do you have any thoughts about it?”

Did I have any thoughts? Well sure I did.

“I’m not sure I’m your typical mutant,” I began then realized how trite those words were and then I remembered something else too. “Well now that I think back maybe I am. I told Mom that the name Atalanta came to me after I changed but her name popped into my head a few months before. My dad had just been killed and I felt abandoned. Atalanta and her dad had a love-hate relationship too and I felt an odd kind of kinship with her so maybe I had an internal image of her.”

“That’s understandable,” a girl to my right responded, “a girl looks up to her daddy.”

Biting my lip I kept silent. Changelings were known about but only the administration and the residents of Poe knew our secret. I looked hard at Mrs. Snodgrass.

“It is established theory,” she responded quickly, “that mutations occur under stress combined with the surging hormones of the advent of puberty. That those stressors don’t necessarily have to be physical hasn’t been proven; in fact it is probably through both that facilitates the mutant gene activation. The first cause of life is survival; what better way to survive drowning than by growing gills or falling by a pair of wings or being crushed than becoming one with the material that’s squeezing the life from you?”

She paused looking expectantly around the room.

“So then is it any wonder that your BIT or your mutant gene finds so many varied avenues to express itself; it is doing so to meet its first cause and that is to survive. If the mutant gene is as rare as we believe then it is all the more imperative that it survives.”

Like students around the world often do we got the teacher off on a tangent and the class schedule was derailed. Class was dismissed without reading a page.

Chapter 13

Sunlight streamed through barren branches spreading across leaf crunch covered ground warming and bringing to life dormant forces frozen in place and buried beneath winter’s blanket. Tender green shoots were unfurling against a brilliant blue sky. Green helmets pushed through the brown carpet of dead leaves.

Alongside the worn path a now swollen stream fed by melting snow banks lapped at its banks. The ringing of metal striking hardened nitro-cellos fibers signaled the start of lumberjack rigors. Brightly covered Robins and Blue Jays tweeted impatiently from parched branches. Migrating geese dotted the sky their forms dwarfed by distance.

The tall girlish figure her face obscured beneath the misshapen hat encapsulated in the leather duster kept time with the main soundtrack from:”The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

In her arms Red clutched tightly a bright green folder that held Grandma Buson’s logic problems she gave Red each Saturday to solve the following week.

Mom wanted Red to humor her mother who missed being the headmistress of a prestigious prep school after being forced out for refusing to change with the times.

“Bless her heart,” Mom was fond of saying adding, “you be careful,” before sending her child out the front door.

Grandma lived in a deteriorating neighborhood.

Red didn’t mind the Saturday visits to Grandmas’ and actually started looking forward to see what problems of logic Grandma came up with appealing to her inquisitive nature.

Dr. Bellows laid the sheet of paper down on his desk carefully smoothing it flat; “So Atalanta give me an overview of the fairytale and how it fits with Whateley?”

Grinning I replied, “Sure thing Dr. Bellows; it’s a ‘Little-Red-Riding-Hood’ tale.”

“And you’re Red Riding Hood,” Dr. Bellows interjected.

“Who else,” I answered shaking out my auburn locks, “Granny don’t need no chicken soup; she’s healthy as a horse”-my lips curled at the tendon that twitched on his neck-“Granny”-again that tendon tweaked-“needs a purpose. She was the headmistress of this prep school--.”


“—Headmistress. Grandma Buson is too old-fashioned and the school board asks her to retire.”

“Ahh,” Dr. Bellows steeples his fingers on the desk, “and Buson is Carson right?”


“Why that theme song and Mrs. Buson is the bad? Right?”

“No, Grandma is the good; I’m the bad incorrigible one,” I replied quickly leaning back in my chair.

“I see,” he replied studying me intently, “and the wolf; who is the wolf?” he asks gently in his neutral tone.

“Damned-if-I-know,” I quipped shrugging, “could be the school board or a neighbor or it just could be just a wolf.”

“Well,” Dr. Bellows straightened up his lips tightening, “I have an idea. The theatre group is having a field trip in two weeks to Crest Top Academy for a lecture on theatre arts that might open up your mind to new possibilities and Crest Top is a fine liberal arts college.”

“Do-I-haf’ta,” I pouted crossing my arms.

“Don’t be like that,” Dr. Bellows laughed at my exaggerated display. “It’ll be good for you. But I will have to okay it with Mrs. Carson and work out the extra logistics.”

Extra logistics meant added security. Dr. Bellows dismissed me telling me that he’d get in touch with me later to let me know when I’d leave for the lecture. Dr. Bellow’s meetings usually came after my classes were over and I walked back to my room at Poe to wait to eat supper and catch up on schoolwork.

Chapter 14

I had chosen to sit on the bed cross-legged considering thought forms instead of at the desk reviewing class work. With Nikki’s help I was gaining an understanding of how my body reacted to magic. I wasn’t a wizard by conventional description. Magic users gathered essence building up a well of it to use when needed. I didn’t have that well but instead I had a sponge that absorbed magic energy and spit it back in unpredictable forms. And like a sponge is not attuned to absorbing moisture from the air but rather from a soaking, my talent was eating magic attacks. Nikki was helping me to control the feedback loop and to keep some in reserve.

I suspected the result of that reserve will end with me imbuing objects with essence of magic and I wasn’t sure I liked those implications. Rather I wasn’t sure if I wanted it known I could do that but I suspected Nikki was beginning to doubt my dorky attempts.

On cue a knock sounded on the door and Nikki’s voice called out, “Atalanta can I come in?”

“Sure,” I replied scooting to one side of the bed as she came into the room, “make yourself comfortable,” patting the bed beside me, “or over there,” I pointed at the chair.

She sat down beside me, “How’s the Servitor coming along?”

“I’m beginning to get a handle on it,” I confessed cautiously.

“Can I see?”

A mist formed its shimmering image reminiscent of military cloaking devices or of the Alien in the Predator movies. He was dressed in plaid shirt, denims, biker boots, and wearing a Harvard baseball cap.

“Male,” Nikki asked surprised?

“Yeah, his name is Alan.”

Nikki arched her eyebrows; she knew that was my name before I changed, “You’ve decided to personalize your Servitor.”

“Yeah I thought doing it this way makes it easier to give him power and…” I turned from looking at my creation into someplace far-far- away. “…a reminder that Alan is a part of me too.”

“What powers does he have?”

“Observation; he records everything in an area that I ask him too. I wanted to go slow as I’m really not comfortable using this stuff.”

Nikki laughed, “I know we gave you a hard time over blowing up Circe’s secret door and almost blowing up the testing lab but—“

“But that just another day at the nation’s premier mutant academy,” I quipped interrupting.

“But that’s exactly why you need training so that you’re not a loose cannon.”

“Where’s the fun in that,” I grinned back remembering the book of runes Circe gave me to study over Christmas break. That was when I learned that I could imbue or enhance objects and gemstones’ natural energies which I kept to myself.

“Seriously you need to learn to limit the amount you take in at one time or…”

“…Or I’ll blow a fuse,” I flippantly added.

“Or blow something up,” she added soberly, “remember the lab.”

Yeah I remembered.

The sudden influx of energy caused an instant reaction to the pain similar to touching a live wire causes a person to react, but in my case that action resulted in a plasma energy release hot enough to melt six inches of boiler plate steel.

Still I hesitated to reveal too much. Leaning forward lowering my voice I whispered confidentially, “Nikki can you keep a secret?”

“Sure unless you’re figuring on blowing up the world.”

“I’m a different person than the one before I changed.”

Nikki cocked an eyebrow giving me a sideways look.

“Dummy,” I playfully slapped her shoulder, “I don’t mean changed sexes or the mutant powers. As Alan I was deliberate, cautious, and introspective but now I’m instinctive, decisive, and confident.”

I paused searching for the right combination of words, “There are two kinds of knowledge; experienced or learned knowledge that you receive from people, books, and institutions. Then there is a spiritual personal Gnostic knowledge that’s intuitive. Both have their places and usage but what’s in here,” I pointed to my heart, “is not open for bureaucratic meddling.”

Holding up my hands as Nikki opened her mouth, “Please let me finish.”

She nodded.

“Rhetorical question; do you know why babies are a learning machine?”

“Actually I don’t,” she smirked.

“Rhetorical means I wasn’t looking for a response. You’re supposed be seen and not heard and to act impressed as I pontificate,” I chirped back before we both began giggling.

“Okay,” Nikki using the back of her hand brushed her cheekbone as a zipper, straightened up, and held up her other hand, “scout’s honor.”

“Scout’s honor,” I echoed wiping the smile from my face, “babies, small children, and even adults can learn faster with fewer or no filters. The subconscious mind processes at speeds thousands of times faster than the conscious mind does and the conscious mind is where the filters are at. My physical body is the seat of my power and I don’t want to erect roadblocks that limit my ability to react.”

“But wouldn’t the ability to use magic help you?”

“Well may be.” I had been going over this in my mind, “Let’s say I want to be an assassin; well learning poisons is a good thing, right? But that’s because it’s added on the outside. You say I don’t have the well to store essence in, maybe there is a reason for that.”

I got up off the bed and walked to the window and looked out, “What do you see,” I asked Nikki when she joined me.

“Duh—it’s dark out.”

“But you could use magic and light it up.”

She nodded, “Yeah I could.”

“I can see just fine,” as I turned to face her, she momentarily flinched, “I can alter the ratio of cones and rods in my eyes to see in the dark."

“That’s why they’re glowing.”

I nodded relaxing my hold and feeling them return to normal as the reflective light dimmed, “That’s like magic; all my senses are hyper vigilant and instinctive and I don’t want to charge headlong and bust something up in the process. That I’m hesitant probably tells me that I’m on the right track. I do think the Servitor is helpful and I have learned I can direct magic into objects.”

“You can. Cool.

“I’d like to get your help to try that out on something."

“On what,” she queried her head tilted.

“I had a pair of Wakizashi follow me home from the sims."

“No way. Imaginary sims weapons don’t exist outside their environment.”

“These do,” I replied walking over to my closet and reaching for the shelf above the door retrieved two lacquered and wrapped scabbards each with an eye peering out and housing the weapons of finely crafted steel. Carrying them over to the bed I pulled one from its sheathing handing it butt first to Nikki. The handles were white stag inlaid with a dragon wrapped in the traditional diamond pattern of ray skin with burnt orange bronze oval guards seemingly forged from the same block of steel as the 15” tanto-styled blade. The handle length and weight matching the blood groove depths. to form a perfectly balanced weapon.

“Wow these are beautiful…and old,” she added turning them in her hand. “What do you want to do with these?”

“These; nothing, but I’d like to experiment on another one first to see if I could enhance them.”

“Enhance them how,” she asked holding them up to the light.

“I was thinking to enchant it to absorb magic instead of me.”

“Interesting concept,” Nikki mused, “I’ll see what I can find out. In the meantime think over what I said.”

My computer beeped as Dr. Bellow’s email arrived interrupting further discussion.

“Oh, goody my field trip was approved,” I squealed excitedly clapping to a hidden merriment bubbling forth.

“Field trip…oh for the fairy tale performance, she replied laughing at my display. “When is it?”

“Two weeks from today.”

“Be good then and I‘ll see you later.”

“Later,” I agreed.

Chapter 15

That night as I turned down the bed covers my phone rang, “Hello sweetie.”

“Hi Mom,” I returned, “how are you and how are things out there?”

“We’re fine. How about you; how’s school? Is Mrs. Carson treating you alright? ”

Mom didn’t trust Mrs. Carson to look after my best interests after the Thanksgiving and Christmas incidents. She’d be livid if she knew that because of that assignment I had helped to capture two escaped murderer’s and was now a bona fide US Marshall.

She’d be thrilled. Not!

Mom was correct of course; Mrs. Carson’s interest lies with the school’s best interests and in most cases that corresponded with the student’s as well. I was under no illusions and I really didn’t want to be here but conditions could be a lot worse.

Mom was convinced that Mrs. Carson was taking advantage of me with my contract with the Medawihla tribe. She was right but it suited my purposes too.

“Relax Mom everything is fine. I’m even going on a field trip with the theater group in two weeks.”

Every Mom wants their daughter to dance and sing; to be a star and to be beautiful.

“I didn’t know you were in the drama club.”

“I’m not; Dr. Bellows thinks it’ll be good for me to stretch myself as I believe he called it.”

“So are you going to be in a play then?”

“No Mom,” I explained the fairy tale theme and how it related to Whateley, “Mrs. Carson is the bad,” she stated firmly.

“Mom it isn’t all her fault,” I insisted.

“It’s not,” and listed all the incidents since her and Judy had put me on the train while forgetting it was her kidnapping that led there.

“Things just seem to happen around me,” I countered sighing.

“Oh, my poor baby,” she moaned, “are they brainwashing you up there?”

Oh God! I rolled my eyes upward.

“A bit dramatic don’t you think,” I replied dryly.

“A bit,” she agreed followed by nervous laughter, “but I really-really miss you.”

“I miss you too and I’ll be home in a few months.”

Afterwards as I crawled under the covers I smiled into the darkness; it was nice having someone that had your back unconditionally.

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