11.5 – 'Don't Let Me Get Me'
I really do owe the life I have to the Legion. Where did that life begin, you might ask? Far from where I personally would have ever wanted to go, or would have expected.
It began in Alaska, by the side of a nice little stream somewhere on Grace Island. God decided to give me an extra treat as he began this new life for me, because he surrounded me with a quartet of beautiful young women – three of which I had the pleasure of dating later on.
Chapter Number One, by Hank Stewart
Teamwork. While it certainly never showed up on any class
schedule at the United States Academy of Extranormal Studies, it permeated
everything. The weakest student at USAES learned teamwork. This is not to say
the Legion wouldn't learn teamwork, but it would come from a much harder
school, and at a much higher price.
Inside The Tower, by K. M. Sherrie
"Would you hold on a little tighter, Sandi?"
"Oh, sure, like, I'd bet you'd like that!"
Jane sighed as she looked over the green-on-gray landscape with her binoculars, the sun surprisingly low in the sky. Just when you think someone's changing, they do or say something that reminds you of why you don't like them and never really did.
Sitting behind her atop a ginger-hued horse, Sandi shifted herself slightly. "How's that?" she said.
Jane winced as Sandi pulled tight around her waist. "HEY!" she snapped. "Not so tight - at least not without a really good night out on the town!"
"But I thought you'd like this," Sandi said, letting up on Jane slightly as she whispered into her ear. "Well, you do have Tom now... still, I'll bet you wouldn't mind if I were Daria, and held on just a bit tighter... or higher..."
"Oh, it's okay," Sandi continued, and Jane could hear the bubbling mirth in her voice. "Sooner or later, everybody has a little bit of a girl-crush... every now and then..."
"Why are you being such a- hey! OW!"
Both Jane and Sandi grunted with pain as they dropped onto the cold, soft grassy earth from about four feet up! The two young women looked crossly at Charles, who had transformed from horse to human form and was looking at both with wide, unblinking eyes. All three of the Legionnaires were dressed in their standard uniforms, but were also wearing winter coats and gloves.
"Oh, stop it, Charles – you, too, Jane," Sandi said, brushing herself off as she stood up and looked around before turning back and ignoring the looks her fellow Legionnaires gave her. "We've been out here two hours and haven't found anything yet – and Charles' stomach is growling so loudly that we can all hear it. It's time to stop and have something for lunch, anyway. After we eat, we'll keep looking for another hour, and then head back to the others – I don't like not having much daylight. Charles – don't change back like that again. Someone might be watching."
Jane stood up, groaning; it had been a long time since she'd ridden a horse – and having that horse be a boy she'd detested on general principle since primary school wasn't exactly something that made her feel comfortable, especially knowing the jokes and stories that he could come up with...
She looked over at Charles with some surprise. He wasn't paying any attention to her or Sandi – in fact, he hadn't been making any of the usual cracks you'd have expected of 'Upchuck' when he was alone with girls, or trying to be funny... he was slightly distracted, in fact.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Charles said, turning to face Jane. "I was just thinking how much this looks like – I came up here for my vacation."
Sandi looked up from her backpack. "You spent your time on your vacation here in Alaska?"
"Well, two weeks of it was on a cruise ship, but I spent about four days kind of lost and walking around a place a lot like this," he recalled. "It was... okay. I wasn't in any real danger while I was lost - my father took me camping every year, so I already know how to take care of myself in the woods - but the powers do make it easier."
Charles took a couple of the large stones Jane handed him to complete the small circle on the ground, and walked toward a clump of trees. "It was... nice up here," he said, collecting several fallen branches and walking back, then snapping them easily into pieces just right to build a small fire. "Quiet, with lots of space, and it doesn't smell like a city..."
Sandi opened her backpack, and pulled out a folding stool to sit upon. "Why didn't you just turn into a bird and fly back to the cruise ship?"
Charles ignored her as he went back and got more wood. "Charles-!"
"He must have had a good reason," Jane said, and she shrugged in response to Sandi's annoyed look. "He had a way out if there was any real problems and he knows the wilderness – why not talk a few days and just enjoy the quiet?"
The two young women just watched Charles quietly – more from a light sense of shock, really – as he changed into a tiny dragon, puffed a small stream of fire out of his mouth and set the kindling on fire before changing back to human form. "This is better," he said, changing back and rubbing his hands over the merrily burning campfire. "When I was up here before, I didn't have any trouble staying warm or with finding anything to eat."
Sandi suppressed a shudder as she triplicated a sandwich. "What did you eat?"
"There's lots of edible plants and berries – but that can get very old fast. I'd become a bird and check the area out for hunters, change into a Kodiak bear, swat fish out of the streams, then build a fire and grill them."
Jane watched Sandi triplicate the one-liter bottle of water she had drawn from her backpack. "What about at night?"
"Kodiak bears don't really have a problem with being cold," he said, accepting three sandwiches and a bottle of water from Sandi. "You'll always be warm, and if someone's with you, then you can keep them warm, too-"
"You met someone and they know about your powers?" Sandi said sharply, and Jane grabbed the bottle of water from her as she drew back on reflex, almost knocking her trio of sandwiches to the ground. "And you didn't say anything about it?"
"I told the Colonel when I got back," Charles said, glancing over at Jane, "and I told the Legion Leader – at the time – too."
Sandi flashed a glare at Jane. "You knew?"
"I'm not worried, and the Colonel isn't either," Jane remarked, biting into her sandwich. "Besides, Bonnie promised to keep it secret-"
"You know her name – it was a 'her?"
Sandi looked between the other two Legionnaires. "You were up here alone for four days – and four nights - in Alaska, with some girl, and you let her know that you have powers? Why didn't you tell any of the rest of us?"
"Why didn't I tell you?"
Charles looked Sandi directly in the eye. "Remember the way you all acted when I joined up? Remember back in August, when I came to tell all of you about Hurricane Katrina?"
Sandi shrugged. "So?"
"So? So, when have any of you ever wanted to talk to 'Upchuck?"
Sandi's mouth opened in disbelief from Charles' words, spoken matter-of-factly and without any malice; she tried to speak but could find no words, and Charles turned from the two young women to the fire as Sandi and Jane looked from him to each other.
The three Legionnaires ate their lunches in silence.
Tom stepped out of the large tent that the Legionnaires had designated as their 'bathroom', and shook his head as he walked towards the center of their camp.
Latrine duty and KP. I'm the son of a billionaire – someday, I'll be a billionaire – I'm easily the strongest and fastest one of all of us, I'm invulnerable... and I get to set up the tents, clean the camping toilets, carry the water bladders to the shore and back, and make sure there's plenty of hot water for the shower.
Watch the main campfire & keep it lit, make sure that all of the garbage is disposed of so it doesn't attract wild animals, watch over the food and make sure there's enough drinking water for everyone. Heat the water to boiling with my heat vision, and then cool it down with my super breath...
Tom remembered reading up on Alaska when Marshall – his Aunt Mildred's oldest son – had gone hiking in Denali National Park two years ago, and one item had stuck in his head ever since:
Please note: Giardia, a waterborne cyst which causes severe intestinal illness, occurs in the park. Boil all water, or use an approved filter of one micron or less.
One of Marshall's friends didn't listen, and spent a week in a hospital for it.
Yeah. Just remember Dan.
Suddenly, boiling lots of water doesn't seem like such an unreasonable thing... At least they haven't insisted on having me set out their sleeping arrangements in the tents, and I don't have to stand watch tonight and get to sleep.
Dad certainly didn't mention being stuck with doing things like this.
Yeah. I get to be the kitchen jockey, just because I have super-strength, super-speed, heat vision and I can super-cool things down with my breath. Super-breath. Yeah, that's a cool super-power.
I'll never tease my mom about her power – not that I ever would have, but now... never happen.
Oh, yeah – since Stacy's going to go fishing for everyone's dinner tonight, I get to work the grill. I have to make sure that all of the fish are cooked evenly – would you mind just giving them all just a little touch with your heat vision?
I can't believe that I have to use my heat vision to clean the portable toilets each time after someone uses it.
I know that the others have powers that are a little better for this exercise than mine – okay, I'll let the little thing that my super-vision and shape-vision could find everything in a heartbeat, but that everyone seems to have forgotten that pass – but they could at least have let us go out first to look... yeah, yeah, everybody has a part to play, work together as a team, yadda, yadda, yadda...
Tom sat down on a folding chair, and pulled a can of pizza-flavored potato crisps from Jane's knapsack. He shoveled a small stack of crisps into his mouth, and crunched as he saw Quinn and Tiffany watching Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle on the DVD player – apparently, Quinn had put her foot down and kept the Colonel from confiscating it, to everyone's surprise... including the Colonel's, Tom recalled with a smirk. Well, he's always said that if you can make a point stick, he'd let it go...He did take the .44 magnums that Sandi and Brittany had in their bags – although I saw that look that those two had after he turned away. I'd bet a million dollars that they still have guns on them somewhere...and I'm sure that the Colonel knows that, too. Sandi's learning entirely too much of that special-ops kind of thinking from him... he expects her to be sneaky as hell...
A pair of squeals rose up from the two girls. They really think that guy from Even Stevens and that Holes movie is cute, too. That's sad – but who knows what girls will think is 'cute' or 'hot'? I've seen the way girls look at Charles – the ones that aren't from Lawndale, or at least aren't from Lawndale High, and especially since he's been in the Legion... They look at him the way they look at me – but they look at me like I'm covered in money. They look at him like he should be covered with their hot little bodies – what did Jackie Chan say in Rush Hour 2? 'She likes me because I'm cute. Like - Snoopy.' Oh, yeah. His family has money, the girls think he's cute – especially now since he's slowly started to move off that 'Casanova routine' of his (Thank you God and Colonel Armalin!)- And when they also find out that he's a pilot...!
He got up and began to walk. Legion training and discipline was good for him. He's been with them almost a year, and it's done a world of good – especially with his growth spurt. He was always short, and I guess getting his powers coincided with that, because he's grown at least four inches taller than Stacy, who was always the tallest. He's almost six foot – but none of them ever noticed that he's taller than they are because they've always looked down their noses at him. I wonder how they're going to react when they see some of the model-like hot girls and the rich girls that they're jealous of falling all over themselves to get Charles to notice them...? Oh, that's going to be a day I'd pay big money to see!
Tom pushed away the memory of his own sister, and how she (and several of her friends, who just had to come with her) had all but swooned every time Charles passed by... I should hate the guy for that on general principle alone, he thought wryly. Elsie's the same age as Quinn and her friends, and she's crushing on him hard... at least she didn't see him with his shirt off, like that Adriana friend of hers who burst into his room as he was changing... okay, so he's a little more cut than you'd expect, and he's paying attention and working out hard on the free weights – and if he ever lays a hand on my sister-
It looks like six or seven months of hard training under the Colonel has helped them all out, he thought, thinking of how taut Jane's abs were – and a smile came across his face as he also remembered how ticklish she was. I wonder what Daria was like before she got into the Legion – because she certainly doesn't look bad now...
Tom was suddenly aware of someone calling him; he turned around to see Quinn and Tiffany yelling as they ran towards him, pointing downwards-
That's when Tom realized that his left foot was firmly placed in the campfire.
"All right, listen up, Legionnaires!" Armalin barked out as he pulled a yellow flag, small and slightly triangular in shape, from his heavy fatigue jacket. "Here's the deal. See this flag? There are twenty of these flags scattered across the island – and trust me, they are not going to be exactly easy to find. Once you hit the ground, you have seventy-two hours to find a minimum of ten of these flags and have them in your possession when we return to pick you up. Do you understand me, Legionnaires? Having ten of these in your possession will be considered as having successfully completed the exercise."
"Excuse me – but why wouldn't we have them at the end?"
Armalin blatantly ignored Daria's question. "You will be completely on your own for the period of this exercise, people. There'll be no wet nursing from Sgt. Nemec, or me there on the ground to hold your hands, or making sure that you point in the right direction when you use your powers."
A collective shudder went through the Legionnaires as they collectively threw brain bleach on that image. "But, as I mentioned before, there really shouldn't be much reason for you to use those powers. Of course, I could be wrong, so I want you people to go in prepared. I want you to use your damn brains before you use your powers, and I want you working as a team."
He looked the young people over. "Get moving."
Daria sighed as she held the flag in her hands, remembering the Marine's words, and watched as Brittany and Stacy appeared out of thin air as Stacy set them both down on the ground. "That's one," Stacy smiled, looking at the flag with a big smile on her face. "There aren't any more in the treetops, either – that one was hidden so you could only find it by flying overhead..."
Not much reason for using our powers, hmn? Daria thought, pushing her glasses up from the tip of her nose. "So, did you see anything else interesting while you were up there?"
"I did!" Brittany piped up cheerfully. "If we go about ten or so miles to the north, there's some sort of abandoned building there – it looks like an old hunting lodge, or something!"
"Well, that could be useful – if it's not entirely busted up, we could probably use some of it for shelter," Daria said, almost to herself. "I hate sleeping in tents-"
"You don't like camping, Daria?"
"I don't like the outdoors much at all, Brittany – especially when people that I know are in it with me."
"Oh." She twirled a ponytail around a long finger. "I thought it was because of your family getting sick because of the berries they ate when all of you went on that camping trip."
Daria's eyes went wide, and she spun around to face Brittany. "Who told you about that?"
"I heard Quinn telling the other girls in the Fashion Club about it long ago!"
The auburn-haired girl's head slumped down. "Hey, don't worry about it, Daria – I've been going camping all over with my daddy since I was five! I know how to camp anywhere – my freshman year, we spent a week in the summer camping and climbing in Switzerland!"
"Um, Daria? I know that you're not, well, exactly the outdoors type, but I'm really good at this, and Stacy, ah, she's all wolf-girl and such now, so, I mean, you don't have to be afraid of being out here in the wilderness."
"Well, thank you, Brittany. Knowing that I'm here with you and Brittany makes me feel worlds better."
"You don't have to be, all, bitchy, now, either. You always do that when you're scared, but since we all have to work together until we get back, you trying to make us mad so we'll stay away from you doesn't matter. We have to be here."
"I am NOT scared of being out here in the woods!"
"Yes, you are," Stacy said, stuffing the flag into her coat pocket. "I guess you can't make the wild animals do stuff the way you can to us, so you're still afraid of them."
"Look, let's just finish looking around this area. I think we should head out and –"
"I want to check out the riverbank."
"Stacy – there's no flags in the water."
"How would you know?" Brittany objected. "After all, the Colonel planned this out, and he said there's probably no reason to use our powers, but the only place we've found a flag so far was in a place were we wouldn't have found it unless we DID use them! So, maybe one of the things we're supposed to figure out while we're doing this is that what he said things are supposed to be like isn't the way things really are, so we shouldn't do what he said because then, we won't win – so doing exactly what we're supposed to do is really the way to lose because then, all we're doing is listening to an adult blindly just because they're an adult, instead of paying attention in the place where we are because we're here and we know what we have to do and they're back there only thinking that they know what we need to do!"
The three young women were quiet for a moment. "Brittany...setting aside the fact that someone needs to tell you about comma splices... that actually makes a great deal of sense."
Brittany brushed a piece of dried leaf off her sleeve. "Just because you got good grades when you were in school doesn't mean that you're the only one who knows things, Daria."
Stacy started to walk away, so that Daria wouldn't see the smile on her face. She and Quinn are so much alike sometimes... but at least Quinn knows how to make a good comeback when someone gets a good one in on her! Daria just folds up... oooooh, look! Fish!
Daria noticed that the woods had gotten a bit too quiet, save for the soft rushing sounds of the river behind them, and turned to see Stacy at the riverbank, crouched down low on a large, slippery rock as she looked into the clear, clean waters. "Stacy... what are you doing?"
Stacy didn't move a muscle as she peered into the river, her eyes now thin, feral slits. "Looking at the fish."
"Oh, yeah!" Brittany suddenly spurted out. "It is supposed to be getting dark soon – remember, they only get about eight or nine hours of daylight here in Alaska at this time of the year, so we should start thinking about getting back to the camp, and bringing some fish back for dinner, remember?"
"Okay – but let's go back first, and you can get the fish on the riverbank there, all right?" Daria had no problems eating fresh fish, but even the thought of Stacy actually reaching in and swatting the fish out of the water – or worse, reaching in and spearing a fish with her claws – made her more than slightly queasy. "I don't want to fly back with you carrying the both of us and some fish, too!"
"Oh, yeah – we forgot to bring something to carry them!" Brittany said, her face having a slight pout. "Wait a second – I might have something in my pack that we can use!"
Daria watched as Brittany took the large, camouflage-shaded backpack off and dug through it; like Sandi, Brittany had planned ahead, and her 'bug-out bag' had a few things more personal than the generic bags Sandi had packed for the rest of the Legionnaires... "I guess that we could use this..."
"I am not flying back with you, Stacy and some slimy fish carried in a pillow case! Why do you even HAVE a pillow case in there, anyway?"
"Because you can carry things in it if you need to, and because you can stuff soft things – like sweaters or extra clothes - in it and make a pillow so you can sleep anywhere!"
Daria blinked hard, and then shook her head. "No. We can wait. Stacy, let's go."
"Okay – oooooh! Look at the colors on that one...!"
Annoyed, Daria turned and marched off towards the riverbank. "You can look at the fish later, but let's get back to the camp now-"
A flash of light came from the tree line, and Daria immediately turned to see what had made it. "What was-EEP!"
A scant second beforehand, Stacy had heard a distinct CLICK! from behind, rose up and spun about in the direction of the sound so fast that she was actually facing the sound when the flash went off – and accidentally knocked Daria into the cold waters of the river!
Brittany's eyes went wide as Daria's shriek echoed through the area and raced forward to help, but Stacy reached in and plucked Daria out with one hand. "Oh, Daria, you're soaking wet!" the wide-eyed blonde bleated, pulling a large, fluffy towel from her bag as Daria pulled out of Stacy's grip. "You'll catch a cold or something if you don't get into some dry stuff right away! Here's a towel, and I've got a spare uniform in here-"
Daria pulled off her soaked coat and tunic, and accepted the towel from Brittany. "God, that's cold...! Where the hell are my glasses-?"
"I've got them!" Stacy said, snatching them from the water when another flash came from the tree line, and before either Daria or Brittany could react, Stacy was gone-
"HEY! Let me go-!"
"Put – me - down!"
"We've been up here an entire day, and I haven't seen anything interesting yet!"
"Look, camera boy – this is Alaska. There are a lot of interesting things up here..."
"Yeah, if you're into the nature thing. I don't get why the magazine sent me up here..."
"Yeah – I thought that Val magazine was all about 'girly-girl' stuff, and celebrities, and weird recipes that the stars like."
Langston Chambers ran an idle finger over her Marlin Model 1895G 'Guide Gun' as she leaned against a tree, watching several birds flying overhead. "So, why did they send you up here? We're a little light on glitz, glamour and near-naked fashion on the Last Frontier..."
"Beats me," the man behind the large tree spoke. "They pulled me out of a new movie festival down in Jamaica and offered me a full month's salary as a bonus if I came up here and could find anything of interest up here to do a photo layout on. Wonder why they sent me here, specifically..."
"Maybe because they wanted to get you out of the way so they can bring in someone newer, cuter and who they can pay less?"
"Oh, very funny." The guy was silent for a moment. "I'm not that stupid. Yeah, they could have done this to get me out of the way – but – and I'm not being full of myself – I'm good at this. They send me out when they need some good shots of people... and they sent me up here out of the blue. It's like... they wanted me to be up here for something... like, you know... just in case something does happen...
Langston blew a wayward lock of whitish-blonde hair away from her eyes, and shouldered her rifle as Hank Stewart zipped himself up and stepped from behind the tree. "Finally finished killing weeds back there?"
He let Langston help him put his backpack back on, then picked up his camera case and fished a beautiful Leica from within. "Nice camera."
"She's never let me down yet. Say, while we're out here, maybe I could –"
Hank gave her a sad look that didn't fool either of them. "Just a thought."
"Why do I get the feeling that your people picked me to be your field guide just because I'm a pretty girl that can also handle herself out in the woods, as well as with a rifle?"
"A very pretty girl... and they did tell me to get photos of you, too..."
"Uh, huh. That's why you wanted me to buy that tiny pink string bikini back in Anchorage." Langston was well aware of the way men looked at her – and while she wasn't egotistical about her looks, she wasn't a fool to think that men only wanted her around in the woods because she was a hell of a shot. Well, it was a nice bikini – and it would look good on me...
"Well, it would look good on you, and with this as the background-"
The young woman stopped in her tracks, and looked back at Hank. "Are you supposed to be doing a photo essay on me?"
The idea had come up when Langston's boss recommended her for the job - and despite his usual rabid disdain for people trying to tell him how to do his job or what subjects to shoot, Hank hadn't protested a bit... once Langston had walked into the office. "Well..."
"I don't believe this. Yes, Carla's in charge, so I do believe this. Anything for publicity...!"
"If it makes you feel better, you are very attractive - and you've actually got a skill. That puts you ahead of more of the air-headed actresses and models that I usually photograph, and you could get a lot of notice with a good photo shoot-
Langston had heard this line before and had almost fallen for it a couple of times – although not with anyone as remotely slick or charming as this photo hound. Best to lay the rules out now. "Not sleeping with you."
"What makes you think I want to?"
"You're not gay." And by the way you look at me every now and then...
"You're the one that snuggled up to me."
"You could have done the honorable thing and awakened me." Damn! Yes, I did, and if you had any idea of the thoughts that were going through my head when I did wake up – but I'm not going to be anybody's random bedwarmer...
Hank actually laughed out loud. "Why would I do something stupid like that – and why is it that women talk about men doing 'the honorable thing' in terms of sex only when they're with a guy they don't want to instantly fall all over?" Why is it that the really pretty ones with some actual worth always have issues with getting close to someone?
Langston looked him dead in the eye. "You do realize that I'm carrying a rifle in a caliber that's been killing buffalo and bears very dead for well over a century, right?"
"Stop being a tease."
The photographer and his guide walked along at a brisk pace. "Now, about that pink bikini..."
"I didn't get it."
"I got it for you. Well, your boss did. She also got a silver-white one for you – said that it should go great with your eyes and hair..."
Several minutes later, Hank and Langston walked along through a lightly wooded area when they heard the sound of young, female voices. "Hmn, someone else is wandering around out here," Hank said, checking the settings on his camera as they approached the faint sounds. "Yeah, there they are – oh, my God."
"What is it?"
"The sound of my bonus hitting my account. Legionnaires."
"Those girls – they're Legionnaires – THE Legionnaires," Hank said. "What – you guys in Alaska don't have a Legion chapter up here?"
"That stupid kids' club from the East Coast?"
"I'll be sure to tell them that's what you think of them," Hank said. "They've been a big news story over the past year – this billionaire endowed these kids and set up a youth organization, and they've been doing service projects... well, all of the other chapters nationwide have. Chapter #1 – the Lawndale, Maryland chapter – the flagship group – well, nobody's really sure what they're doing, except building this kick-ass headquarters and hiring a celebrity psychologist."
"Yeah – he's like a former Marine pilot, or he's in the reserves or something, but he's working with them exclusively now. He used to work with a lot of celebrities when he wasn't off kicking ass – a month of so back, he got a medal for saving a lot of British soldiers back during Desert Storm, and he got knighted by the Queen of England, too."
"And people actually think this stuff is important?"
"Hey, if people want to fixate on the 'pretty people' instead of their own lives, fine with me - as long as I get paid for the photos."
"You sound like you know a lot about them."
"Well, since everyone would kill to get exclusive photos-"
"Which one do you think is the best looking?"
"Well, most of them are kind of hot-"
Langston smirked at the way Hank's face went scarlet. "You fell for that one too easily. Come on – let's start earning your money."
As the two came through the tree line, Hank raised his camera and focused in on the attractive girl with long, brown hair kneeling close to the river's edge. "Hey, that's Stacy Rowe," Hank said, smiling. "Yeah, she's one of the cuter ones. This is going to be a great shot," he said. "Just hold still- whoa..."
Hank lowered his camera slightly as an auburn-haired girl with glasses came into sight.
"That's Daria Morgendorffer. She's one of the original three – the ones that Russell Stark endowed and started the Legion with. Oh, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching..."
Hank focused in as Daria walked up to the Stacy; he snapped the shot - and faster than he could have believed, Stacy whirled around and looked directly at him, accidentally knocking Daria into the water!
"Oh, hell!" Langston blurted out, stepping through the trees into plain sight as Hank dropped his first camera to his chest and started taking shots with his second automatic camera of Stacy pulling Daria out of the water as a bouncy blonde in camouflage bounded up. She offered Daria a large towel as she peeled out of her soaking wet coat and blue tunic down to her sheer white turtleneck beneath, which may have just as well been invisible for the way it molded over her slender form...
Hank finished off the roll, dropped the camera back and then went to his next camera; the flash went off-
Hank suddenly found himself being held aloft with one hand by Stacy, and Langston was held up with the other!
"HEY!" Hank said, more than a bit shocked that a wafer-thin girl like that could hoist him as if he were a fat-free wafer. "Let me go-!"
Langston, however, was a bit quicker on the uptake. "We're with Val magazine! He is! He's supposed to be up here!"
Stacy looked at the two, surprise on her face, and lowered them to the ground. "So..." Langston said, looking Stacy over before glancing back at the others, and then back to her. "Your chapter of the Legion is a bit – different - than all of the others...right?"
Hank said nothing. He was slightly distracted in equal measure by the insanely high amount of money he was sure that he could get for the photos he had just taken, the allure of the celebrity life he somehow knew that he would be entering within the next thirty days, and the smoldering-hot image of a wet Daria Morgendorffer in what his little voice was telling him would be the biggest-selling poster of the year.
"YOU DID WHAT...?"
Trent winced at the sound of Armalin's bellow, which easily penetrated the doors of the Recreation Center. Oh, man... he's pissed off at someone.
"If you're not going to carry yourself like an adult-"
"Damnit, Hall – at least let me know ahead of time if you're going to do something so incredibly stupid in the name of PR!"
"Look, you said that you were sending them on survival training sometime this week-"
"It's an MHAACS scenario, Hall – which they will probably be using their powers, and unless you want the entire world to know about what they can do-"
"I'm sure that they will know not to use their powers around a photographer, Colonel – and along those lines, congratulations on the promotion."
Calmness took hold, and Armalin followed hall into the Recreation Center. "I just wish that- Oh."
Trent lifted his head up from the huge, lush sectional couch, set against the walls of the room and almost the entire room in length. "Hey, guys. I was waiting for you to get back, and, uh... I guess I fell asleep."
"Yes... Trent, isn't it?" Dawn walked over to him and shook his hand. "You may not remember me. I'm Dawn Hall –"
"Yeah. You're the PR chick from Quest that didn't want to move the Legion to Lawndale. I remember you."
"Well, looking over everything that's been done... I supposed that I could have been... premature in my beliefs about the Legion." Her smile finally touched her eyes, which, Trent noticed, was actually a very good thing... "So, Mr. Lane – how can we help you?"
"Well, I was coming to talk to the Colonel – I mean, like, with the Tower opening up and everything, I was wondering if, like, you guys were hiring, and what I'd have to do to get a job-"
"You can run to the galley – the cafeteria – and get me some of those rib tips they're serving for lunch," Armalin said. "I also want a salad with peppercorn ranch dressing and three slices of white bread, and get a liter bottle of water, and bring it up to my office. We'll figure out what your official duties are later – and bring your lunch up, too."
"If you can get a cart, I'd like a little something, too," Dawn said, giving Trent a meaningful glance. "Steak fries instead of salad, please, and a saucer of extra sauce on the side. Diet Sprite, if you don't mind."
"Okay... that I didn't see coming," Armalin said, looking from a receding Trent to the woman a full foot shorter than himself. "Isn't he a touch... young for you?"
"What makes you think I've got any interest in him?"
"The fact that I may need the Jaws of Life to pull your eyes off the boy the next time you look at him," Armalin smirked. "Planning on indulging a previous schoolgirl crush held over from the days of grunge...?"
"While you're making light, Colonel, perhaps you could tell me why you're hiring him, and for what?"
"For what – well, there's a number of unofficial duties and things that just come up that he could do... driver, errands, and so forth. He knows them all, and he's not a security risk... and you've just shown another duty that he fulfills quite well – he gives the young women something to think about." Armalin almost laughed. You've got nine young people – two of them are male, one's taken and the other, the girls here wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole... although, the jealousy factor is going to spike once other women notice him..."
"Ruttheimer? I can see that – he's got a 'Ron Howard from Happy Days' feel to him; I see that you've gotten him weaned off that pseudo-Valentino habit he had..."
"Hey, it's like they always taught us: 'If you have to show off, you probably can't do it, and one you can, you don't feel the need to show off.' The boy can fly, and he's getting himself in shape physically and mentally. He's becoming his own man."
"Looking for a new recruit?"
"There's something that people who always ask that question just don't realize, Miss Hall..."
"The Marine Corps offers a lot of things – but we don't take just anyone, and there's a reason we have the most difficult entry requirements. Our door is always open – but you have to walk through. You have to want it, even before you get to the door."
"You wouldn't want any of the Legionnaires in the military?"
"The question is if any of the Legionnaires would want the military – and even though they're all good kids and have excellent futures... there's only one who would want it."
"Yes, just one... and I wouldn't want her to go. I think that she has... I think that she has..."
Armalin was silent for a moment. "She already has a destiny."