Salamander 2 Part 7
Monday, 3rd of December, 2035
I woke bright and early in the morning and got myself ready to go. I made sure to dig out my gym kit for the mystery club this evening. I grabbed some breakfast and when D showed up, said goodbye to Gwen and headed off.
"I cooked a pie yesterday," I said.
"Cool! What kind?" D asked.
"It was shepherds pie."
"Nice, was it tasty?"
"Yeah, I was dead chuffed with the result. Gwen seemed to really enjoy it too. There was a bit of an incident at the supermarket when I was picking up the ingredients though."
"Oh yeah, what happened?"
"The security guard called me names and kicked me out."
"That's not good! Which shop was it we should boycott it."
"Well, I sneaked back in with my disguise on and saw the manager fire the guy over it. She was really apologetic about it. She went round helping me find stuff and then gave me a load of money off vouchers."
"Guess she was worried you might sue."
"Partly. She seemed really embarrassed about it too."
We wandered along a bit in silence then I remembered my interview.
"Oh, this club this evening what time will it finish? I have this interview to go to for a part time job," I explained.
"You have an interview! Since when?" D asked.
"I saw the advert in a restaurant window on Sunday. I rang up and the woman wanted to see me today."
"What is it cleaning dishes?"
"Not sure. That's partly what the interview is for."
"Well the club runs an hour or so after school, depends a bit on .. Stuff," said D cryptically still not wanting to give anything away.
"That should be fine then."
"What does Gwen think about you getting a job?"
“She was not too keen on the idea, but so long as it doesn't get in the way of my school work, she's not going to stop me.”
“Cool, so you’re going to be busy all the time now?”
“I think I can only work a few hours a day so I doubt it. It won't earn much but it will make me feel like I'm pulling my weight a bit. I don't know if Gwen will let me give her the money I earn, but I can use it to buy food and any bits and bobs I need for school. So she won't have to pay for that lot and that will be something.”
“I hope you'll still have time to see me little sister, when you're a career woman,” grinned D.
“Always, big sister,” I smiled back.
We walked the rest of the way to school meeting Jane at the gates. I told her about my activities on Sunday. She seemed quite impressed with my wanting to help my sister out saying that it was unusual for people our age.
As we entered the gate I heard a girl say, “There she is!”
I looked round and saw the two young girls who had been following me last week, they were crouched just out of sight at the school gates and they were obviously waiting for me. I was going to say something when one of the girls, the bat winged one, suddenly squealed in pain and collapsed to the ground. Her friend rushed to her side, her face horror struck. I heard a laugh and turned to see Trisha and her gang practically wetting themselves laughing over the poor girls pain. They strode off laughing, leaving the poor girl writhing around in agony. I ran over to see what Trisha had done.
“It burns,” cried the poor girl pulling at her clothes trying to take them off, she seemed to think they were on fire.
I knelt down beside her and gently took her hand trying to comfort her. I could feel the poor girls pain lancing through her, she felt like she was burning. I didn't know what to do. How could Trisha torture the poor girl like this! I could feel Trisha's influence on the girl like some odd field around her. I looked up at Jane who was on the other side of the girl.
“What can we do?” I asked.
“I don't know, unless Trisha makes it stop I'm not sure there's anything we can do,” she looked upset at that then suddenly thoughtful, “Maybe your invisibility shield thingy would help! It dampens telepathy so maybe it will break Trisha's hold on the girl and you can stop the pain. It's a long shot but it's worth a try.”
I nodded and pulled the moaning girl close to me and then flipped on my invisibility focusing on blocking out any telepaths in hope it would strengthen the dampening effects of the shield and stop Trisha from hurting the girl. Her friend gasped as we vanished. I felt the pain the girl was feeling gradually lessen and fade. I focused harder on breaking Trisha's influence. Suddenly the connection Trisha had made snapped and I felt a pulse of residual power reflect back to it's point of origin. I would guess that Trisha would get a little pain of her own for that.
I carefully dropped the invisibility and let go of the girl. She looked around a little disorientated. I checked a bit for any further attacks on Trisha's part but it seemed she had stopped now.
The girl regarded me for a bit then suddenly flung her arms around me, “Thank you!” she said.
“You're welcome,” I replied, “Now you better get off to your lessons and watch out for Trisha, in future she may try and hurt you again.”
“OK,” she said with a smile and picked herself up and ran off with her friend.
As they were leaving I heard the cat girl ask her, “What was it like being all invisible?”
“I was invisible?!” she exclaimed and they ran off talking animatedly.
D and Jane helped me to my feet and we headed off to our classroom. When we got there a lot of talk was about Trisha.
“Did you hear?” asked one girl.
“Hear what?” D replied.
“Trisha has some sort of fainting fit, she fell down in the middle of the corridor!” a boy said.
This wasn't good. She was almost certain to know it was me that caused this and I wasn't sure it was going to improve my relations with her.
“Guess she was working that brain of hers too hard,” said D noncommittally.
When we were sitting down at the back of the room, Jane said to me quietly, “You need to be careful. Before, you were just a potential threat to Trisha, now she probably thinks you have attacked her.”
“I know, but I couldn't let that poor girl suffer like that,” I replied.
“We know,” said D with a smile, “We just don't want to see you getting hurt for doing the right thing.”
Attendance proceeded as usual and it was soon time for the first lesson of the day, English.
When I entered the room the teacher was already there so we hurried sat down. He glanced around the room and when he came to me he paused.
"You're not in my class," he said.
"Yes I am I started last week I'm Amanda Wilson," I replied.
"No you're not! She doesn't look anything like you! Stop playing games!" he said angrily.
I couldn't believe I was being told I wasn't myself, maybe my disguise had been a bad idea, "I am Amanda, I was just in disguise before."
"Rubbish! Get out before I have you in detention," he said.
"She is Amanda sir," said Jane.
"Yeah sir, honest she is," D said.
"Enough of this lying!" He shouted.
“They're not lying,” I said getting a little annoyed. I could have just proved it to him but I was getting annoyed that he didn't want to take my word for it. I got the sense from his emotions that there was more to this, he felt fed up. I wondered if he had been getting a lot of pranks and was trying to make an example of me or something.
“That's it, the three of you are going to the head teacher's office now you are all going to get detention for this game!” he shouted.
“But ..” I tried.
“NOW!!!” he roared.
We packed up our stuff and followed the teacher to the office. He left one of the other pupils in charge. We followed the fuming teacher to the head mistress’s office. I wasn't sure how this was going to pan out, Mrs. Thomas knew who I was and what with all the things that had happened I doubted she would have forgotten my face.
As we walked into the office, the poisonous Mrs. Donnal sneered at us, “Not you lot again, what have the monsters done this time?”
“One of them was pretending to be another student! I saw through their prank and I'm not about to let them make me look like a fool,” the teacher shouted.
*bit late for that,* Jane's mental voice quipped in my head. It took every ounce of will power to keep from laughing, Jane was an evil little minx!
Mrs. Donnal was still sneering. I wondered if the old saying 'don't make that face because if the wind changes you'll be stuck like that' had actually happened to her as she never seemed to have any other expression, buzzed an intercom on her desk, “A teacher is here to see you about disciplining some students.”
“OK, send them in,” came the reply.
Mrs. Donnal now smiling and sneering waved the teacher to the door of Mrs. Thomas' office. The three of us were ushered in followed by the teacher. Mrs. Thomas sat at her desk looking a little concerned at our appearance.
“These three have been attempting to disrupt my class!” The teacher said angrily.
“I see, now what exactly were they doing that necessitated bringing them down here?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
“That one,” he said jabbing a finger at me, “Was pretending to be another student in my class, and the other two were in on it.”
“Which student was she impersonating?” asked Mrs. Thomas looking a bit perplexed by the scenario.
“A new student Amanda Wilson. She obviously hoped I wouldn't notice the switch with her only having been here for one lesson,” he said.
Mrs. Thomas regarded him for a few seconds, looked back at me, then with a slightly bemused expression on her face said, “But that is Amanda Wilson.”
“Come again?” said the teacher.
“That there is Amanda Wilson. I may not know all students by sight but I did welcome her here myself last week and she is somewhat distinctive,” Mrs. Thomas said.
“Ah .. but .. she didn't .. then who was .. huh?” said the teacher now a little confused.
“It's partly my fault,” I said, “I was wearing a disguise to make me look more normal but Mrs. Murphy made me stop. I did tell him but he wouldn't listen.”
“No .. that's impossible it was a different normal girl I saw before. No amount of make up or a disguise could make you look normal,” the teacher said.
Both Jane and D stiffened at that and fixed him with angry stares. Mrs. Thomas also looked a little off put by that comment. The teacher noticing this reaction blanched, his eyes going wide obviously realising the connotations of what he had said, “I didn't mean that as an insult,” he said quickly, “I just meant your er … distinctive features would be hard to hide. I didn't mean to offend you.”
Both D and Jane eased off a bit, though D stood with arms crossed looking at the teacher warily.
“It's not hard to hide when you know how,” I said and demonstrated by turning on my disguise.
“Well now it's all explained, just a simple misunderstanding. You can all return to your lessons,” Mrs. Thomas said, we began leaving but she continued, “I'd like a quick word with you Amanda.”
I stopped and waited sure she was going to have a go at me then the intercom on her desk buzzed, “Yes what is it Mrs. Donnal?” she asked pressing a button on it.
“There is a phone call for you, one of the governors, Mr. Marcus Walsh,” Mrs. Donnal said.
“Oh bother, what annoying timing that man has,” said Mrs. Thomas before pressing the button and saying, “Put him through Mrs. Donnal.”
She turned to look at me then said, “I have to deal with this but I want you to come and see me in during morning break.”
“Yes Miss,” I replied and grabbed my stuff hurrying after D and Jane.
As I headed past Mrs. Donnal at full tilt she screeched out, “NO RUNNING IN THE CORRIDOR!!!”
I slowed my pace until I was round the corner then legged it after my friends. If it hadn't been for the fact that I had to come back a bit later, I was sorely tempted to stick my tongue out at the vile woman. As it was I didn't really want to aggravate her further, if that was possible at all. I caught up with D and Jane and headed back to the English room. The rest of the lesson was pretty quiet and I was on my best behaviour not wanting to get further in the teachers bad books.
We did our reading and so forth and soon it was time for the next lesson which was further humanities. I had to go to the toilet, there was one just outside our classroom so I asked D and Jane to save me a seat. I did my business and then hurried to get to the classroom. Just as I was near the entrance to the room, I felt a spark of anger moving towards me at high speed from behind.
I instinctively dodged sideways and turned to see what was going on. One of Trisha's hench girls tumbled to the floor where I had just been standing a moment ago. She had obviously been trying to jump me from behind but I had just managed to avoid her. Behind her was Trisha and three other girls all looking at me.
“You attacked me earlier you little bitch!” said Trisha.
“I did not,” I said backing away.
I tried to mentally call out to Jane to get help but I felt something getting in the way. Trisha was obviously stopping me calling for help that way.
“No one attacks me and gets away with it! I'm going to rip your mind apart and make you my slave!” she said practically frothing at the mouth.
The gang was closing in on me I needed to get away, just as they were about to jump me I vanished and side stepped a bit then kept deadly still.
“What!” shouted one of the girls.
“Where did she go? Is she a teleporter?” another asked.
“She's still here I can feel her!" I clamped down on my signature trying to be a stealthy as possible, “Damn it she's blocking me so I can't sense her but I think she's still here somewhere. QUIET!” shouted Trisha she cocked her head to one side and began turning her head slowly back and forth, intently listening. She began moving very quietly forward sweeping the air in front of her, the other girls were soon emulating her.
If I moved I would be heard and probably seen! If I didn't it would only be a matter of time before they came into contact with me. I had to think of a way out! They couldn't see me but the would try and follow me, how could I escape?
One of the girls was getting closer to me it would be moments before they found me. Suddenly I knew what to do. A bit of misdirection and I could escape them long enough to go get into the classroom. I doubted even Trisha would try and attack me with a teacher there. She was reckless but not stupid.
The girl was just about on me. I swiped her outstretched arm with my nails causing her to scream out in pain then I shoved her across the corridor into her friends. I had no time to marvel at how much stronger I had become as I was off and running towards a pair of swinging doors up the corridor. I could hear Trisha and cohorts in hot pursuit just behind me. I ran up to the doors full tilt and slammed my palm into them flinging them open. Dodging to the left I quickly flattened myself against the wall in front of the swinging doors hoping that the motion of the doors would hide my movements. I remained as still as I could, focusing on remaining undetected, not even daring to breath.
“Come on she went this way,” shouted Trisha and pounded through the door her gang following in her wake.
I waited there not wanting to move too soon. Just when I was about to head over to my classroom, there was the sound of running feet coming my way. Oddly it wasn't from the direction Trisha had just gone. D came thundering round the corner with some other girl I didn't know.
“You say they were chasing her, which way did they go?” D said to the girl.
“I think that way,” the girl said pointing to the doors.
They were just about to run through the doors so I shouted out, “D!” which brought them both skidding to a halt.
“Tish? Where are you?” D said.
I reappeared, “Over here, I tricked them,” I said with a smile.
“Hah! Nice, well let's get to class before they figure it out,” said D patting me on the shoulder.
We hurried back to the classroom and took our seats, barely making it in time for the start of the lesson. A few minutes into the lesson I got the feeling of someone watching me. I looked around and spotted a pair of red eyes glaring at me through the glass.
*This isn't over lizard girl!* A mental voice stabbed at me.
I had to assume that was Trisha's, it didn't sound like her normal voice it was all nasty and distorted. I wondered if that was how she thought of herself in her head. Like some movie villain or some such.
Her eyes vanished and I tried to focus back on the lesson.
The bell went and I had to head over to the office area to see Mrs. Thomas. D escorted me over looking out for Trisha's lot. We arrived without incident and I went in to see Mrs. Thomas.
“Ah come in and sit down Amanda,” she said.
I took a seat and waited not sure what she wanted to see me about.
“Amanda, I've been hearing that you have been getting into a lot of fights,” she said.
“I've not started anything,” I said, “They keep attacking me.”
“Yes, well I believe you, but that's not the way you are being portrayed to the powers that be. This business with hiding yourself and so forth has got rumours started that you are a disruptive influence. That coupled with the fights makes you out to be a problem to the school. Please try to keep a lower profile and avoid some of these incidents. I'm already getting pressure to have you expelled. Mostly that comes from Miss Smiths family but if the rumours persist some of the more moderate people may be more inclined to force me to take action.”
I was fairly aghast at the implications of that and I couldn't help but say something, “I can't believe this, they keep attacking me and yet I'm the one under threat of expulsion!”
“Please understand, I'm not threatening you I'm trying to help you. Try to stay out of trouble, for both our sakes.”
I nodded not sure of what else I could do. I resolved to try and escape these confrontations, not get into any more trouble. I left her office determined not the get into one of these situations again. I managed 5 minutes.
I was on my way to the library when several boys stepped in front of me. They blocked my way so I turned to try and go back but saw Stacy and a load of other boys blocking my path that way. I looked around trying to find a way out without conflict. I decided to go invisible and try and rush my way out.
I disappeared and prepared to run when I heard Stacy shout, “Oh no you don't!”
Suddenly something hit me from behind it wrapped around me. They had thrown a big sheet or something at me! I tried to get away but the sheet was tangled round me, making it difficult to move. I started to fight my way out, but the people round me took the opportunity to attack grabbing me from all sides. I tried to fight back but I was still caught up in the sheet. They hit me knocking me to the ground and began kicking at me.
“That's it, beat that ugly freak!” shouted Stacy then began cackling with laughter.
My invisibility dropped, the pain from the attack made me unable to hold it. I curled up to protect my body as much as I could. I thought I was going to pass out it hurt so bad. Blow after blow rained down on me from all sides. I tasted blood and hurt all over.
“Bring it over here!” she shouted.
I was lifted bodily up and dragged over to Stacy. The sheet was pulled back from my face.
“This is what you get for messing with me you dirty animal! I'm going to see that you get kicked out back onto the streets where you belong,” she said with a haughty superior smile. Despite the pain I had the presence of mind to spit in her face, “You bitch!” she screamed and began hitting me herself. She lacked the punch of the others but I was badly bruised enough that she still caused much more pain.
Just as she was winding up for another hit one of the boys holding me was suddenly wrenched backwards with a yowl.
There was the sound of fighting behind us. I twisted and saw D laying in to Stacy's escorts. I looked back at Stacy she looked very annoyed that my friend was here to save the day.
“Bah! Time to go. Rest assured freak by tonight this will all be you're fault and I will have been on the other side of school. This is going to get you expelled for sure!” she said laughing.
She wasn't going to get away this time! I had to make her stay here to face the music. There was no way in my present state I could restrain her, so I did the only thing I could think of. I moved my hand and used my razor sharp nails to cut free of the sheet then slapped my hand against her face anchoring it with my finger pads. After that I pretty much collapsed.
Stacy screamed as my hand stuck to her and tried to pull my hand off her face. She didn't have much luck. My finger pads could stick to any surface even skin and I could easily hold my whole body weight by one hand. Her face couldn't take quite that much strain, so she was more likely to tear her face off than remove my hand. She had the last remaining helper who was still slightly holding me up try to yank me free but that failed. He tried hitting my hand and only managed to slap Stacy in the face.
About this point the commotion was attracting the teachers, so the helper decided that he was better off a long way away and ran. Stacy was screaming at the remaining people to help. Those in any fit state to move were basically legging it leaving her with her face practically on the floor attempting to drag me along and not having much luck.
She was wailing now trying to get away. Her so called friends were gone or being held down, and she was unable to escape as she had me stuck to her face. I was beginning to loose consciousness as D came over to see if I was alright when the first teacher arrived.
“What the blazes is going on here!” shouted a teacher, it was Mr. Griffiths.
“Stacy Smith and a gang of boys were attacking Amanda,” said a voice, I recognised it as Helen.
“NO!” screamed Stacy, “She attacked me!”
“She's lying on the floor tied up in a sheet and she looks badly beaten. You appear not to have a scratch on you. Just how stupid do you think I am. Let go of her hand!” Mr. Griffiths shouted. “You,” he said jabbing a finger at some kid standing by, “Go and get the school nurse, Quickly!”
He looked back at Stacy who was trying to remove my hand again, “I said let her go Miss Smith!”
“I don't think she can Sir. Amanda's fingers stick to any surface like glue and don't come off easily. They don't do any damage so she probably did that to stop Stacy from running off,” said D.
“OK Miss Wilson you can let her go now. She is going nowhere I assure you,” said Mr. Griffiths.
I bent my fingers back on themselves and peeled them off Stacy's face. Then I did pass out.
I came to sat on a bed in the small nurses office. I felt a lot better for my sleep. I had a quick look at myself I had a lot of bruising but it was already a very dark colour like they had been there for a while. I was still a little sore, but I didn't feel any sharp pains. I guessed that whatever damage I had received had been mostly taken care of by my regenerative capabilities and the sleep I'd had. I was very hungry all of a sudden, I guessed I had probably burned a lot of energy healing. I hoped I hadn't missed lunch time.
I was just making my way out of the room when the nurse came in, “You shouldn't be up and about!” she said.
“I'm fine,” I said, “A bit sore and just a little hungry.”
“You were badly beaten up. Rest, we have an ambulance on the way,” said the Nurse.
“Back to bed you might have internal injuries. We need to have you checked out to be sure.”
I sighed and went back to the bed. I guess I was going to miss the club thing this evening and probably my interview. I would have to reschedule.
“Tish! You're awake!” D said from the doorway. She rushed in and hugged me very gently taking extra care not to squeeze me too tight, “I was so worried about you.”
“How did you manage to come and save me?” I asked.
“Helen told me. She saw what happened and ran and found me,” D said.
“Oh, that was nice of her,” I said.
“She surprised me, I wouldn't have thought someone like that would help one of us. I know she helped you before but you didn't know her in the past. She was every bit as bad as Stacy. She seems to have really changed though.”
“Maybe being bullied just like she had bullied people like us, has made her see the error of her ways.”
“I don't know about that but I guess I can give her the benefit of doubt.”
“Oh, speaking of Stacy did they get her?”
“Oh yeah, caught red handed at the scene of the crime with witnesses and you beaten up pretty badly. She's not going to wriggle out of it this time, good thinking grabbing her like that.”
“Well I couldn't think of anything else to do. I couldn't let her get away.”
At this point a load of paramedics bundled into the room and began checking me over. They indicated that I didn't seem to be in any immediate danger but would take me to hospital to be checked out just as a precaution. I was hoisted into a stretcher and carried through the school, it did seem to be lunch time as there were large crowds about. They all stared at me as I was carried through the school, there was a bit of a commotion and the little bat winged girl ran up.
“Is she going to be OK?” she asked.
“She should be fine we are just taking her in to be safe,” said one of the paramedics.
The girl came over to me and clasped my hand, “Get well soon, lady,”
“Don't worry sweetie, I'll be fine,” I said.
She squeezed my hand again then let them carry me away, I saw all sorts of people in the crowd, even some of the people that had helped to put me on the stretcher. I slightly hammed up my ill performance after that to give them a bit of a scare.
They loaded me into the back of an ambulance and then we were racing off to the hospital. I didn't see much loaded up in the back. I just lay there and before I knew it I was drifting off to sleep again. When I woke up I was being moved onto a bed in the hospital.
“Hey there, how are you feeling?” asked a medic of some kind.
“I'm fine. A little sore and a bit hungry,” I answered.
“Well let's take a look and see,” she answered.
She checked me over and began examining me, “What happened to you then,” the medic asked.
“Some kids at school beat me up, they wrapped me in a sheet, held me down, then kicked me,” I replied.
“Where did they kick you?” she asked.
“Mostly my middle and back,” I replied.
“OK, let me know if this hurts at all,” she lifted my shirt and began feeling my ribs. “There's a lot of old bruising here has someone been hitting you before?”
“No, I think that's all from today,” I replied.
The medic turned and gave me a look, but continued to check me out, “You don't seem too badly damaged I'll have them run some scans to check if you're OK.”
She turned and then headed out. I could see her go out into the hall and start talking to someone she seemed quite animated but I couldn't make out what she was saying. She and the other person left and I dozed for a bit, next thing I knew I was being rolled into a room to be scanned. The ran me through various machines and checked me out soon I was back in the room. They told me I was fine and that I would be OK to go home but they wanted someone to speak to me first.
A short while later a woman from social services turned up to talk to me, "Hi Amanda how are you feeling?" she asked.
"Hungry, I missed lunch," I replied.
"Well I'll try and be quick so you can go get something to eat. I wanted to speak to you about those bruises."
"I got them today."
"Now Amanda it's OK you can tell me about them. Did your sister beat you?"
"What? No! She would never do that! I told you they were from today."
"It's OK Amanda I can help you, there is no need to lie for her. The doctor said the bruises were old and pretty bad. Tell me how you got them. Your family has hurt you before we can protect you from them. You just need to tell me the truth."
"I am! You are not listening. I got those bruises today. If they look older it must be because of my regenerative abilities. If I can regrow a hand I doubt bruises are an issue. Why don't you check my medical files I'm sure there must be something in there. It's not nice to throw allegations about Gwen out like that without checking your facts properly first. Or at least have the decency to listen to me! It's bad enough that I was beaten up at school today but to then have someone try to frame my sister for it is beyond a joke!" I was pretty angry by this point.
"I didn't mean to upset you. The doctor thought your injuries were inconsistent and there are prior cases of abuse. We are just trying to check you are OK."
"Fine! You've checked, I'm not being abused, job done. Can I go now or are you going to interrogate me some more?"
"I'll see if anyone has come to collect you yet," she then ran off.
I sat there waiting for a bit when Gwen came rushing in, "Oh Mandy are you alright? I was frantic, they wouldn't let me see you!" she said rushing over to hug me. I smiled and hugged her back happy she was here, when she let me go I saw the social services woman standing in the doorway watching us.
“I don't like her, she tried to say you were abusing me,” I said to Gwen eyeing the woman suspiciously.
“What?” Gwen asked.
“They saw that bruises I got today but had already started to heal so they thought I was lying. They thought you'd been beating me or something they wouldn't listen to me.”
“Well, I'm sure they were just trying to make sure you were safe.”
“The could at least do me the courtesy of pretending to listen to me.”
“Well, come on let's see about getting you out of here.”
The doctors then took their time explaining that I was OK to Gwen and that I would be able to return to school in a few days. I hadn't taken a lot of damage and my accelerated healing, that they knew about now that they had bothered to check my medical records, would mean I would be fine pretty quick. Plus I was a lot tougher than I looked to start with so I didn't take damage as easily as a normal person. I reckoned I would probably be good to go back to school tomorrow, but I would have to somehow convince Gwen of that fact.
The final thing I needed to do before I was able to go home was talk to the police. Since I had been hospitalised they were looking into things and took a statement. I just wanted to get home and have meal then maybe a rest so I didn’t ask many questions.
The hospital offered me a wheelchair to get me out to a taxi to take me home. I was fairly clear that I didn't need it but Gwen insisted that I should take it easy. So I had the indignity of being rolled through the hospital when I was perfectly capable of walking. All the people were staring at me as I was rolled past wondering what was wrong with me and I didn't like it much. Then I had to be helped into a cab before we were driven back to our flat. I felt it was a big fuss over nothing I was a little sore that was it.
Gwen helped me up into the flat despite my protests then said I had to go straight to bed, she seemed intent on coddling me. I lay there for a bit getting pretty bored, then Gwen brought me some soup that cheered me up a bit. I was pretty ravenous by this point it being early afternoon. I wolfed down the soup and asked for seconds, then thirds, I was on my fourths by the time I was feeling remotely sated. After I polished that off I felt a little sleepy and soon I was dozing again.
I must have been asleep for a good few hours when I heard someone at the door I heard Gwen's voice speaking very quietly to someone, “She's asleep at the moment Dorothy. I'll let her know you stopped by though.”
“Right ho Gwen. I don't want to disturb her if she's resting,” D said.
“D,” I called out, “Is that you?”
“Hey, you're supposed to be sleeping,” said Gwen from the door.
“Well I'm up now,” I replied.
“Come on in Dorothy, she's awake now,” Gwen said.
“If you're sure,” D said.
Gwen just waved her in and shut the door behind her. I tried to get up to greet D, but I was promptly waved back to bed.
“So how you feeling?” asked D.
“I'm OK. I'm sorry I missed the mystery club this evening,” I replied.
“That's OK, if you're well enough you won’t miss it as they have put it off till later in the week.”
“Just for me?”
“Partly I think there were some other things on for one of the teachers too, so it was an easy choice.”
“Oh that reminds me I have that interview I need to reschedule,” I said, I made to get the phone, but once again Gwen stopped me.
“You stay in bed. I'll call them for you, now where's the number and who do I ask for?” she asked.
I grumbled a little but could see she wouldn't take no for an answer, so I furnished her with the details and she was soon chatting away rearranging my interview.
“OK, I told the lady what happened and that you would ring her again when you were better to sort out a new interview. You need to rest up for a few days and get better,” Gwen said.
“I'm fine, I'll be back to school in no time. I could probably go back tomorrow,” I said.
“Doctors orders, you take it easy,” Gwen said.
I grumbled some more but sat back. There was no point arguing with her now she would just put her foot down and get more stubborn. I would have to work on her to get her to see things my way.
"So did I miss much at school?" I asked.
"Lot of fallout from the attack, Stacy was denying she had any involvement trying to wriggle out of it. Tensions between the anti-MORFS lot and the power freaks were through the roof," D replied.
"I thought I was persona non grata for those guys?"
"Well kind of, still with Trisha, but word got around about you helping the little bat winged kid Kitty and with the attack by Stacy you are the new rallying figure."
"Her name is Kitty!?"
"Yeah poor kid, not sure what her parents were thinking, good luck she didn't turn out like her friend she or would have got a right ribbing."
"So I'm the new poster girl for the power freaks in their war with the anti-MORFS lot."
"’Fraid so. I don't think they really give a stuff about you, but they see it as an opportunity for revenge."
"Bah, I don't like being used as an excuse to hurt people no mater who they are."
"I don't think you have much say in the matter."
"Bah!" I said with extra emphasis then spoiled my harsh stance by yawning.
"Are you sleepy again Mandy?" asked Gwen.
"No," I said and yawned again even harder.
"Pish posh, back to bed for you," said Gwen.
"I'll see you later Tish, get well soon and give me a ring when you are better," D said.
"Bye D, see you later," I said sleepily, I had dozed off before she was even out the door.
I spent most of the time asleep my body must have been working overtime to repair itself, it was odd I didn't remember being this tired when I lost my hand the first time. I did have other concerns at the time so maybe the adrenaline from being on the run, plus my less than comfortable sleeping arrangements prevented me from passing out like this.
I slept till dinner time, I was feeling a bit better so I tried to get up to help. Once again Gwen stopped me. Her treating me like I was an invalid was becoming a little annoying. I stayed on the sofa and grumpily watched some TV. I felt a little useless sitting there on the sofa wrapped up in my bedding like I was sick child.
I sat there watching the local news not really that interested in what was going on when I saw some pictures of my school. I turned up the sound and listened to what was being said.
“In local news, there’s crisis at Wilynsford Secondary School today, where a young student who is also a MORFS survivor was brutally beaten by a vicious gang of students. We go to Eva Bretton with the story,” the news reader said. Were they talking about me?
The camera cut to a well dressed blond woman standing outside my school gates, “Bullying is a much lamented fact of school life for some children and especially so for those who undergo radical changes due to MORFS. While teachers and schools try to do all they can to prevent these events happening, a recent incident has left parents at this school asking if enough is being done to protect their children. Earlier today a young girl, who we are informed is a hybrid, was brutally beaten by a gang of purists children of similar ages. This gang left the girl so badly injured she was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital. They pounced on the girl in large numbers during mid morning break, luckily the attack was interrupted by another student who summoned aid and courageously prevented further damage being done. Unfortunately most of the assailants escaped into the student populace before a nearby teacher could catch them, but we understand the victim herself was bravely able to prevent one alleged female attacker from escaping by apparently holding on to her.”
The scene switched to the front of the hospital where I had been, “The girl was taken to this hospital for treatment of her injuries. A hospital spokesperson denied us access to see the girl but stated she was in a stable condition being visited by her family,” the camera lingered on the door a bit longer and I clearly saw in the distance a familiar figure being wheeled out of the front door and helped into a taxi. I gave a little laugh realising they had inadvertently got a film of me without even realising it. They seemed to be exaggerating how badly I had been hurt making out I may be at death’s door, either they didn't know I was more or less OK apart from a few bruises, or they were doing it deliberately to make the story more potent.
The camera switched to a shot outside the school again, “The school declined us an interview stating only that they regretted the terrible attack but it was an isolated incident. They go on to say they were seeing to it that the people responsible were severely punished collaborating with the police where appropriate. They also say that they are taking steps to make sure that this sort of incident never occurs again. Parents however are less than convinced of this.”
The camera cut to a shot of a young red headed woman with a small bat winged girl standing holding her hand, it was Kitty and I assumed her mother, “Mrs. Novaks is a local lawyer whose daughter goes to Wilynsford Secondary.”
“My daughter Kitty has suffered terribly at the hands of bullies since her change. I have been on and on at the school to do something about it and they have time and again failed to help her. Indeed the only one who has done anything was the poor girl who was attacked. She stood up for my Kitty and look where it got her! I'm afraid if I keep sending my girl to this school she will end up in hospital with the girl who tried to help her,” said Mrs. Novaks.
It did seem the news was once again somewhat twisting events to fit the story they wanted to tell. In that my helping Kitty had nothing to do with getting beaten up later. But I guess having cute little Kitty stand there, the little girl at risk with tears in her eyes whose only protector had been beaten up, made for more drama than the truth.
Then they showed a few more parents with hybrid yet photogenic kids talking about how they had suffered at the hands of bullies. I noted that all the kids were cute looking there were none of the more extreme hybrids mostly partial cat or dog hybrids and so forth. I doubted they would want me in that line up, or any of the more extreme hybrids who got bullied even worse.
“Most parents we spoke to believed that the problem was with a small number of children with extreme religious upbringing, the so called purists. However one woman we spoke to herself a MORFS survivor suggests that the problem may run deeper,” the reporter said and the camera cut to what I immediately recognised as Joyce's office with Joyce herself sitting in one of her trademark flowery dresses with her hair done up in bows showing no hint of the nerves she usually displayed when talking to new people, “Dr Joyce Newman is a translator and a hybrid MORFS survivor. Her daughter also goes to the school. Her late husband was even head teacher at the school before his death ten years ago.”
“This is not the first incident of this kind it is merely the most serious to date,” Joyce said in a calm earnest voice, “The administration has written each off as isolated incidents where a small number of individuals have gotten out of hand. They then claim to have fixed the problem by punishing those involved. Yet the problems remain and often the students involved in this bullying are not punished at all. I was in the school less that a week ago speaking to the head teacher about the girl who was hospitalised, who is a friend of the family. She had only just arrived at the school and been the victim of a very nasty attack. Yet the people responsible were not punished and the head teacher more or less told me that her hands were tied. I believe the same parties were involved in this more recent attack and also many others to many students on the school. In each case they have got off scot free,” Joyce said.
“Why won’t the school act to protect it's students if they know who is responsible?” asked the reporter from somewhere off camera.
“It comes down to the fact that a large number of the school’s governors are themselves purist. They are turning a blind eye to misdeeds against MORFS survivors and conversely stamping on any MORFS survivor child they can,” Joyce said.
The camera cut away showing fuzzy out of focus long range shots of various men and women, “Our investigation found out that at least two governors and even some of the local education authority have links to known purist groups. A few even have convictions for attacking MORFS survivors. With people like that running the school is any MORFS child safe? This is a question more and more parents are asking themselves,” the reporter said.
It cut back to Joyce, “While these people continue to hold sway over the actions of the school, innocent children will continue to be at risk. We the parents of children who are MORFS survivors will take this state of affairs no longer. I call on all parents to join together in putting pressure on our local authority to affect a change in the running of the school. I call not exclusively parents of MORFS children but all parents. Parents who's children are not MORFS survivors should seriously consider joining our cause. While they may not be at risk from these groups today, their child could be changed by MORFS at any time, and then be relentlessly hounded by these individuals. Why wait for them to be in that vulnerable state before taking action, help us make the school safe for all our children regardless of if they have undergone MORFS.”
“Friends at school are united in their support for the seriously injured girl,” said the reporter the camera then cut to a series of people of which I vaguely knew one and even then not well enough to put a name to face.
“Yeah I know Molly well she was like my best friend in the world, since infants school,” said one girl, if she was going to pretend to be my friend she might have at least got my name right, “It's going to be so hard without her. I just hope she can walk again or her days as the star player in the hockey team will be behind her,” Hockey team? Where did she get that from.
“She was an inspiration to us all,” said a bloke I vaguely recognised as one of the people in the power freaks gang, “She wouldn't stop fighting for our rights and the good of our people,” blimey what did they think I am, some sort of saint?
“I was with my buddy when I heard and he was like Dude! And I was like Ya! And he was like No way! I think that says it all,” a scruffy kid said making as much sense as any of the others.
“I was there when she was attacked, I came at the first guy and I said it's all over chuckles but he pulled a knife, now I hate knives. I think it was a butterfly knife, or maybe a hunting knife, so anyway there I was with trying to wrestle the guy to the ground. I got the knife out of his grip took him down, but three of his buddies hit me at once. I took out two of them with a round house, but the third got in a lucky hit knocking me out and I couldn't save her,” said some kid, this was utter tripe.
“The school’s going to be a sad place without her. She was always top of the class, head of loads of clubs. She stood up to those purist bigots for all these years and now they finally silenced her,” said some girl, obviously having no idea I had been at the school for barely a week.
As with all their quotes they must have been going for good sound bites rather than truthful sentiment. Not one had any idea who I was or what happened they were all just looking to get on TV.
The camera switched back to the reporter standing at the school gates, “We asked for comment from the local authorities and specifically those governors highlighted in the report we received no comment from either. Tensions continue to run high at the school with groups of students from both sides threatening to take matters into their own hands, and while events have obviously been building for a long time this brutal attack on a well liked student has been the catalyst to bring matters to a head. The school head teacher and the governors have called for calm to prevent further violence. Tonight pupils and teachers will be holding a candle light vigil for the wounded girl in the hopes she pulls through. For News South East this is Eva Bretton.”
“We are going to bring you more on that story as it develops. In lighter news ..” the newsreader said cutting off as I killed the TV.
Were they really holding candle light vigils for me, I couldn't imagine why. All in all it sounded like the whole thing had been blown completely out of proportion. I wondered how much Joyce had to do with that. She had been looking for some way to help me, and big media pressure along the lines of 'girl may not make it through the night due to horrific purist beating and uncaring school' was more likely to make things change than the more truthful 'girl takes a few bruises has a few big meals and sleeps a lot, story at 11'. Describing me as well liked and so forth was also an exaggeration and the interviews with my “friends” were bizarre.
“Gwen?” I called.
“Yes Mandy,” she said coming in from the kitchen.
“I was just on the news.”
“Yeah, apparently I'm now at deaths door, after being beaten almost to death by a vicious purist gang. Now they are holding a candle lit vigil for my survival so that I can go back to school and lead the hockey team to victory and fight for my peoples rights as head of every school club,” I said.
Gwen raised an eyebrow, “what?”
“That's what I thought. It was weird, like some bizarre twisted version of what had happened,” I replied.
“Well that is the news for you.”
“I guess so, Joyce was on too, I wonder if she had anything to do with it?”
“Why don't you ring her up and ask her about it.”
I wandered over to the phone and rang up Joyce.
"Hello," D's voice answered.
"Hey D, did you see the news?" I asked.
"Yeah, pretty crazy."
"Indeed, I'm tempted to go and join the candle lit vigil to see if anyone notices."
"Ha! That'd be funny, especially if you could get an interview with the news wishing yourself good health."
"I saw your mum on the news which was a bit of a surprise."
"Yeah, she's a regular political whiz now. Fielding calls from all the news agencies and parents raising support."
"Was this her idea then?"
"Dunno I'll ask her," she put the phone away from her mouth then called out, "Mum was it your idea to make Tish a martyr?"
I faintly heard Joyce's voice say, "Who is that you're talking to dear? Is it Amanda? .. Let me have a word with her dear."
"OK," D said then spoke directly into the phone, "Mum wants a word."
“OK,” I said.
I heard D hand the phone over then Joyce came on the line, “Hello there Amanda, how are you feeling dear?”
“Better thank you Joyce, I saw you on the news,” I replied.
“Quite the circus isn't it dear. I hope you don't mind too much my using this to draw attention to the school, I saw an opportunity to use this publicity to force some change. Hopefully we can get some of the more unpleasant elements shown the door and improve things for all the children.”
“I don't mind, it was a bit odd seeing all this fuss about me. Plus all those people who suddenly said I was their friend just to get on the news. I'm not sure about this candle lit vigil thing, I'm nearly all better anyway.”
“Well this just goes to show the power of prayer dear, it healed you up retroactively before they even had their vigil,” Joyce said with an amused tone.
“He he, more like the power of regenerative DNA leached from some reptile species.”
“Quite so, much more reliable than that placebo effect.”
“So, do I have to pretend to be on death's door then?”
“No, if all goes according to plan we'll have moved the argument beyond just your problems so they can't use the 'isolated incident' excuse. Then it won't matter that you are up and about pretty swiftly.”
“Cool, I didn't fancy having to be wheeled about in a wheelchair for a few months playing the heroic victim.”
“Well I'm glad you are feeling well, Dorothy tells me you have been making good use of that cookery book I lent you. When you are all healed up you'll have to come over and cook us a meal.”
“I'd like that.”
“Well, I'll hand you back to Dorothy dear, bye now.”
“Bye Joyce,” I replied and then heard the phone being passed back to D.
“So you up with the master plan now? You have lost the ability to walk and you need to pretend till the insurance comes through,” said D.
“Hmm not sure I can manage that convincingly,” I replied.
“Hmm well you can regrow limbs, what if I lop one of your legs off .. just temporarily you understand.”
“I guess that's OK,” I said with a giggle.
“Right .. Mum I need a saw and some antiseptic, Tish is going to go for the insurance scam,” D called out laughing.
I heard faintly in the background Joyce's reply, “Try not to get blood everywhere dear, put down a sheet or something.”
Both D and I burst into fits of giggles at that the idea, defrauding the insurance people by removing a limb or two knowing it would grow back was comical, if a bit macabre.
“So what happened to Stacy?” I asked when the giggles had quieted down.
“Suspended for now, pending possible expulsion. Not even her connections could prevent the suspension. Besides the power freaks were looking to lynch her if she was at school. So it's as much for her protection as anything else. Not sure if they can kick her out, though with the publicity they are getting she might be. I heard she threw a right wobbly when she was told. Must have been quite a sight.”
"Yeah, I hope she gets what is coming to her."
"She will, if not this time then at some point in the future."
"Mandy, dinner time," Gwen called.
"Oh, it's dinner time I've got to go," I said.
"Right ho, well get well soon and I'll see you later, bye," D said.
"Bye," I replied and hung up.
I went and had my dinner then got an early night still feeling tired. I hoped I might be well enough for school by morning.
I turned off the news broadcast sickened. The demon had obviously goaded the good god fearing students till they attacked her with her body guard placed to prevent any serious damage. She was now using that publicity to eliminate her enemies and even try to install a more favourable environment for its kind at the school. I had no doubt if it succeeded the souls of the innocents there would be at grave risk.
The way she had played the media was masterful. Knowing her own face would scare off the good people she had put forward the cuter more harmless looking fiends. The seductresses monsters cloaked in seemingly friendly forms their claws and teeth hidden, playing on humans love of cute furry animals. One had to respect the skill with which she had blinded the media to the truth. Her plan, evil though it was, seemed perfect.
She was a far more wily opponent than she had initially seemed. Once again deception was her watch word. By following her we had seen how her demonic body was barely injured at all in the attack. Yet in the media she had allowed them to portray her as clinging to life by a thin thread. Her lack of damage was yet one more factor we would have to add to our consideration of her, she was obviously far more robust than we had anticipated.
In some ways this was good as who wanted their prey to give up without a fight? It would make a mockery of our entire mission. Still it made our job tougher.
We passed the recording of the incident on to One in case he deemed direct intervention at this stage was necessary, but as far as I could see it was pointless. Even if we took out the girl, she had set up a series of events that even without her would continue.
No, it was better to continue testing, probing, and analysing until we had all the information before pouncing. Acting now would seem premature to me. But I didn't make these decisions so we would have to wait for One to make the choice.
In the mean time I would be supporting Five as she attempted to steal the girl’s hospital charts. Any scans and notes in her files would be useful in assessing her capabilities.