Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

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Chapter 20: Maverick

"Are you ready for us to come in yet?" Seth asked as he appeared in their midst.

"Actually, it'd probably be better if we came out. There's not a whole lot of room in here." Beau said honestly.

"Are you guys done?" Seth asked curiously as he looked around, trying to assess the moods of those present.

"What'dya say, Mad? Are we good?" Slash asked hopefully.

Ms. Mordigan seemed to be about to answer, then instead, looked at Steve inquisitively.

"What?" Steve asked with a suddenly panicked look in his eyes.

"Before things get too crazy, I just wanted to be sure that you weren't feeling railroaded into anything. It's okay if you need to take a step back or put things on hold until you've had a chance to process." Ms. Mordigan said frankly.

"Thanks for thinking of that, but after all this time dreaming of 'what could have been' I'm finally reaching the big time, my chance is finally here. This is my shot." Steve said passionately.

Ms. Mordigan looked at Steve a moment longer, then turned to Beau and said, "I have a feeling that everything is exactly as it needs to be. If you need my promise not to share your secrets, you have it. If you're seeking my commitment to your team, you have that too. Just let me know what else you need from me."

"I don't think any of us would ask more from you than that. In a world that hates us, we don't just need someone like Matt to help us learn our abilities. We also need someone who knows how the world works to help us navigate our way past the people who obviously hate us AND the people who will pretend to be our friends so that they can use us. It looks to me like you could be that person." Beau said confidently.

"I'll do my best not to disappoint you." Ms. Mordigan said sincerely.

"Seth, will you ask them to unlock the door? I think we'd all like to celebrate with snacks." Lisa asked hopefully.

Rather than answer verbally, Seth disappeared in a brief flash of anti-light.

* * * * *

"Seth says that there's not enough room for all of us in there." John said to the group as they emerged from the quaint little cottage.

"I think we could all fit just fine. I'm just not sure we'd be able to accomplish much in the way of cleaning with everyone in the way." Beau said frankly.

"Jesus. Are you and Louie close to being back at the gingerbread house?" Slash asked into the air.

After a moment, Professor Xavier said into all their minds, //It appears that Jesus' telepathy shuts down when he assumes his fighting form.//

"Is Vile Kricket okay? Should we go back and get them?" Ronny asked with concern.

//They should be fine. They appear to have been a bit too ambitious in their choices. Therefore, carrying the assortment of supplies is slowing them down.// Professor Xavier explained.

"What about Lee and Quaid? Do you have any idea when they'll be back?" Slash asked anxiously.

//It appears that Lee and Quaid have discovered the joys of travelling at a high rate of speed within a psionic cube through the bowels of hell. I expect that they will return to you shortly, although it is yet to be determined if they will remember to gather any cleaning supplies.// Professor Xavier responded with fond amusement under his words.

"Maybe we could get a couple tables out of the cottage to use for the food while we're waiting for them to get back." Lisa quietly suggested.

"That sounds like a good idea!" Seth said cheerfully.

"The tables are really old and look like they're super heavy." Beau cautioned.

"Heavy's no problem for me, but it'd be nice if someone would take the other end to help me get it through the door." Lisa said frankly.

"Yeah. I'll help you." Clark said automatically as he stepped toward the cabin.

"Actually, I can make the tables light enough to float. If someone will just guide them through the doorway; that's the part that might slow me down a little." Ronny said honestly.

"Yeah. I'll help you with that." Slash easily volunteered.

"I guess we'll be over here keeping the food cold." Bobby said with Robert at his side.

"At least there's something you can do to help." John said sourly.

"There's a pot-bellied stove in the cabin. I didn't see a woodpile or anything, but it's cool enough out here that if you got the fire going, I'm pretty sure that everyone would really appreciate it." Slash said frankly.

After a moment to consider, John finally looked to his side and asked, "Trey, do you want to help me gather wood?"

"Is that some type of thinly veiled invitation to engage in a sexual act?" Trey asked uncertainly.

Ms. Mordigan's eyes went wide in surprise at the suggestion.

"Yes. Yes it is." John said firmly, then broke into a smile as he took gentle hold of Trey's arm and whispered, "Come on."

"I feel like I should be helping." Steve said apprehensively.

It took a moment for Ms. Mordigan to realize to what Steve was referring.

"From what Beauregard was saying, they might end up taking all the furnishings out as part of the cleaning process. You could probably join in and be a part of that if you like." Ms. Mordigan cautiously suggested.

"Should I ask Beau about it?" Steve asked uncertainly.

"I suppose that if you ask Beauregard, he can either tell you himself or direct you to whomever is in charge. It seems to change from minute to minute." Ms. Mordigan finished with a smile.

"Do you think I'll ever be in charge?" Steve asked cautiously.

"I guess that depends on whether or not you can take charge. If you're not sure if you're up to it, this might be an ideal opportunity to dip a toe in and find out." Ms. Mordigan said honestly, then glanced at Steve's tail before quietly adding, "...metaphorically speaking."

Steve looked at her uncertainly for a moment, then slithered toward the cottage where Beau, Lisa, Clark, Slash, and Ronny were already making their way inside.

* * * * *

"Since we've got everyone here, what would you think about taking some of the other furniture out too?" Steve asked cautiously as he followed the group into the Gingerbread House.

"Yeah. That might be a good idea." Beau said decisively.

"It's something we can do until the cleaning supplies get here." Slash supportively added.

Before anyone could react, Beau suddenly said, "Everyone, hold on. I think we're doing this the hard way."

"What do you want for us to do?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"If we get everyone with a levitating ability or super strength together in here, we can get Seth to make the wall disappear so that we can carry everything out without anyone having to try and fit things through the doorway." Beau said seriously.

"That'll probably be a lot faster and easier." Lisa confirmed.

"Sounds good! I'll go get him!" Steve said enthusiastically, then slithered out the door before anyone could suggest otherwise.

* * * * *

"Seth? Would you mind making the front wall disappear so that we can carry the furniture out?" Steve asked hopefully.

Seth looked at the front of the building for a moment, then silently moved around to the side.

"If you don't want to do it, we can just carry the furniture out through the door like we were planning to." Steve quickly explained.

"No. It's not that. I'm just thinking that this isn't the same as making a door go noodley. I'm worried that making the whole front wall disappear might weaken the building enough to cause the roof to cave in. I think it'll be a lot better if I go through this side wall. The beam across the top looks like it will hold everything in place, even if the wall below it suddenly goes squishy." Seth explained.

"I guess it's good that you're the one with this ability, because I never would have thought of that." Steve said honestly.

"Don't give me too much credit. From what I can tell, we're all just making it up as we go along. I'm sure that there are lots of things that I'm going to miss. You just caught me on a good day." Seth said with a grin.

Steve watched as Seth stepped forward and placed his hands flat against the wall. While the light of his horns started to glow, the wall began to become less and less real.

* * * * *

"Seth thought it would be better for us to go out through the side wall. He says it'll be less likely to cause damage to the building." Steve rushed to say as he slithered into the cottage through the front door.

"I guess he'd probably know best." Beau said simply, then watched as the side wall seemed to become semi-transparent and somewhat gelatinous in appearance.

"Looks like he's almost ready. Lifters and floaters, let's grab it and go!" Lisa said with an uncharacteristic enthusiastic attitude.

"Ronny, let me help with the table so you can concentrate on doing your floaty thing." Steve hurried to say as he moved to the other end of the table.

"Um, yeah. Thanks... um, Steve, was it?" Ronny asked uncertainly.

"Yeah. And you're Bobby's brother, aren't you?" Steve asked curiously.

"Right. Do you have super strength?" Ronny asked as he moved to allow Steve to take the end of the table.

"I wouldn't say 'super', but I'm decently strong, maybe a little above average. I can definitely lift a table if I need to." Steve said, as he suited actions to words.

Steve turned himself so that he could see where he was going, then took a firm grip to begin carrying the table.

"Wait! Wait! Hold up! I almost stepped on your tail." Slash said suddenly.

"Oh. Yeah. Maybe it'd be better if you were in front. I can't always keep track of where my tail is when I'm moving." Steve said anxiously.

"Yeah. Just stay there and I'll swing around." Slash said as he began to arch around Steve.

"How's the weight? Do you need for it to be lighter?" Ronny asked cautiously.

"Actually, no. It's not bad. I think we've got this." Slash assured him.

"I can help too." Beau cautiously offered, obviously braced for their refusal.

"Great! That corner's up for grabs." Steve said as he glanced at the corner of the end of the table that he was carrying.

As Clark and Lisa carried a table past them, Beau stepped up and took hold of the corner, making sure to take on at least some of the weight.

"Good. It looks like you guys have got this. If you'll get the tables set up where you want them, you can be getting the snacks ready while I get the rest of this stuff emptied out."

"Will you need for us to come back and help you with that?" Steve asked with concern.

"The only reason I thought that I'd need help before was because of the door. As long as Seth keeps the wall open for me, I think I can handle the rest." Ronny said confidently.

"Let's move this over by Bobby." Slash quietly suggested.

"Yell if you need us." Steve called as he glanced to see that Beau was ready.

* * * * *

"That's impressive." Lisa said cautiously as she watched the shelving, boxes, and drums from inside the cottage floating through the transparent wall.

"The kid has some power." Matt acknowledged.

"The power itself is impressive enough, but it's his level of control that truely astounds me." Ms. Mordigan said quietly.

"That, right there, is what we're here for. The kid has what it takes to help a lot of people who need it, but at the same time, he could really let loose and cause some damage if he wanted to. It's our job to show him that fighting for what's right is worth it and that easy answers and pretty promises aren't always what they look like on the surface." Matt said sagely.

"It sounds like you're speaking from personal experience." Ms. Mordigan said with a look askance at him.

"I seen some things." Matt said simply as he kept his focus on the teenagers working together to achieve a goal.

Ms. Mordigan slowly nodded, as much in sympathy as agreement.

* * * * *

As Bobby, Robert, Steve, and Slash were working to arrange the prepared foods into something of a buffet line on the tables, the rest of the group began to cross the open ground to inspect the shelves and crates that Ronny had moved from the building.

Unexpectedly, a black blur wearing a shredded blue/black cape raced through their midst and came to rest at the side of the cottage. Within a matter of seconds, the blackness fell away and the cape dissolved to reveal Louie and Jesus, laying side by side. They were surrounded by various cleaning supplies as they both breathed heavily.

"Are you guys alright?" Lisa asked with concern as she hurried to them.

"They look like they need a drink. Did you guys bring any water with the snacks?" Beau called out as he knelt beside Louie.

"Yeah. We brought some canteens. Give me a second." Bobby said quickly as he rummaged through the backpacks.

//We'll be okay. We just need to catch our breath.// Jesus assured them.

"You didn't need to push yourselves so hard." Lisa said gently.

//Things are a little different when we're combined. We don't get the same feedback to know how much effort something is taking. Time seems to move differently, too... although I can't tell if it feels like it's moving faster or slower.// Jesus quietly explained.

"Are you sure that you're both going to be alright?" Lisa asked quietly.

//Yes. We just need a few minutes for our bodies to react and normalize. We're just like anyone else after a challenging run.// Jesus said seriously.

"Louie, here. Have some water." Beau said gently as he encouraged Louie to sit up.

"I brought a paper plate. I hope that'll work for you." Slash said gently as he placed the paper plate on the ground beside Jesus, then began to pour cool water from a canteen.

//That's perfect. Thank you.// Jesus said appreciatively.

Due to the uneven ground, Slash decided to stay and hold the plate in place as Jesus slaked his thirst.

After enjoying a long sip of water, Louie quietly said, "Next time we go for supplies, remind us to take a bag or a box or something. Carrying all that junk is what messed us up the most."

//We couldn't build up any momentum because things kept shifting and slipping.// Jesus further explained.

"If there's a next time, we'll be sure to remind you." Ms. Mordigan said warmly with a slight grin.

"Where's Quaid?" Louie asked with concern as he looked around the gathering.

"He left with Lee just after you did to get more cleaning supplies. We're expecting them back any minute." Beau said seriously.

"We didn't see them while we were out there." Louie said as he looked back toward the mansion.

"They're not anyplace that you could have seen them." Matt said simply.

Louie, filled with concern, looked to Matt for a further explanation... and possibly some reassurance.

"It's sort of like what you and Jesus do, combining your abilities. Lee and Quaid put their abilities together and found a way to make them do... something. We'll have to wait for them to come back before we'll know just how that worked out." Matt explained.

* * * * *

"Is that everything?" Seth asked as he looked around the empty single room, devoid of all but the pot-bellied stove..

"Unless you want to take the cobwebs down and clean them before putting them back up." Ronny said as he looked into the rafters.

"Don't say that around Beau or he might take you up on it." Seth joked.

"I don't think you'll have to worry about that. Now that the heavy lifting is done, they're probably going to set us off to the side so that they can focus on the important work." Ronny said bitterly.

"How do you mean?" Seth asked curiously.

"It's the whole thing about everyone being part of the team and making sure that everyone gets to make a contribution and participate and blah, blah, blah..." Ronny trailed off wearily.

"What's wrong with that?" Seth asked curiously.

"It ends up making things harder than they need to be. It makes them take longer and sometimes it even makes them more dangerous. Anything hard, dirty, or just plain miserable is given to us because we have what it takes to muscle through it. Anything where you have to be smart, whether it's book smart or socially smart is something that they definitely have to take charge of... you know, for the good of the team." Ronny said frankly.

"I don't get what you're saying." Seth said slowly, sensing the seriousness of what Ronny was telling him, despite the somewhat joking tone that he was using.

"You and me, we've got some mega-powers. I don't know if we qualify as 'alpha' or 'omega' level, but we've still got enough power to do some big important things. Basically, they call on us when they need a hammer. They call on the others when they need a tweezer." Ronny said firmly.

Seth nodded that he was following along so far.

"That's all well and good when they're actually the best people for the job. But when the team decides to let someone less powerful do something just so that they'll feel like they're part of things, they not only make everything harder and slower than it needs to be, but they sometimes even put us in danger because they don't have the best person doing the job." Ronny said frankly.

"When we got here, to the cottage, everyone was trying to come up with different ways to get us past the locked door. Louie said that the reason they weren't going to automatically use my ability was in case I was on a different team or knocked out or dead or something. Even though I didn't really want to hear that, I understood that he was right. When we've got the chance, it's important for all the members of the team to know how to deal with things on their own. But at the same time, you're right too, it's also important to know which of us can handle it best and see that they get enough practice so that they can know how to use their powers when they need to." Seth said thoughtfully, more of a way of reasoning it out rather than explaining his understanding.

"Yeah. I can see the point of that. It sounds like you guys are on the right track. I was just worried that you might be handicapping your team by limiting yourselves to the capabilities of your least talented teammate." Ronny said seriously.

"Our team has mutants, a regular human, a witch, a ghost, and even a fallen god. Our power levels are kind of all over the place." Seth finished with a weary chuckle.

"A ghost?" Ronny cautiously asked.

"Oops. Forget I said that. A few things still have to get worked out before I'm allowed to talk about it."

"Yeah. I can understand that, but are you saying that you're going to have an actual ghost as part of your team?" Ronny asked in fascination.

"Yeah. At least that's the plan. We're going to have to wait and see how it ends up turning out." Seth said frankly.

"Once it's all worked out, I'd like to talk to your ghost, if I can. I went through some stuff a while back that got me to thinking and... I just have a few questions."

"If it's questions about how death works, Beau might be a better person to talk to about it. He does death magic so he probably knows things about it that not everyone does, maybe not even the ghosts themselves." Seth said thoughtfully.

"My questions aren't as much about how it works as they are about how it feels. I'd like to know how close what I went through was to what it actually feels like to be dead." Ronny said with a note of anxiety.

"I can't say for sure how long it's going to take, but I'll be sure to ask him if I get the chance." Seth promised.

"I don't know if you know this, but I'm new here too." Ronny said more quietly.

"No. I didn't know that." Seth admitted, then added, "I wouldn't have guessed. You seem to fit right in with everyone else, like you've been with them all along."

"I just wanted you to know that in case you need something and don't have someone to ask who'll understand." Ronny said seriously.

"Because we're both high power?" Seth asked to confirm.

"That and because we're both new. I get the feeling that people who've been around for a while don't remember what it's like to not already know how things work and who can be trusted and things like that." Ronny said gravely.

"Yeah. It's hard to know who you can trust." Seth quietly admitted.

"I know. The only thing I can tell you is to try and find someone... one person, who's got your back. Once you've got that, the rest of it kind of falls into place." Ronny said confidently, obviously secure in the advice he was giving.

"That sounds easy, but a lot of things that sound that way usually aren't." Seth said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Pretty much." Ronny easily conceded, then thought to add, "I've gone for years without a single person in my life who I could trust even a little bit. Then, like a switch was flipped, all of a sudden I've got more people than I can count who I'd trust with my life."

"If that's the case, then maybe it wasn't something they did. Maybe it was you." Seth cautiously suggested.

"Yeah. There's no big mystery of what changed. I just started 'choosing' to be around people who would treat me like I'm worth a damn. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I've got people lined up around the block to trust me and depend on me and make me feel like I'm a really valuable part of their team." Ronny said frankly

"I'm pretty sure that I'm already around people like that." Seth said uncertainly.

"Well, good. That's the first step. The next one should probably be picking someone who you'd want to be like. If you can find someone who's already got what you're looking for, it can kind of give you a roadmap of how to get to where you want to be."

"They could probably warn you about things to watch out for, too." Seth said with a slow nod.

"That is, if they like you. Remember that there are some people who think it's best to learn by doing or to learn from your mistakes. They won't warn you about what's up ahead because they think it's for your own good." Ronny finished with a roll of his eyes.

"As bad as that is, I think it's still better than someone who clears the path for you and doesn't let you face anything on your own." Seth said frankly, then added more quietly, "But it's probably better to have someone that's more in the middle."

Ronny nodded and seemed to be about to say something when he noticed that the floor seemed to be trembling beneath their feet.

"Do you feel that?" Seth asked uncertainly.

"Yeah." Ronny hesitantly answered.

"What's causing that? It feels like back home, when the washing machine would go unbalanced in the spin cycle." Seth said as he looked around for the source of the deep low rumbling.

"I think it's coming from outside." Ronny said and was out the door before he had completely finished the sentence.

Seth followed immediately behind.

* * * * *

"What's going on?" Seth asked as he looked around for the source of the rumbling.

Before anyone could answer, the ground in their midst seemed to simultaneously cave in and erupt.

In a burst of flame and smoke, a cloudy blue cube suddenly rose from within the earth with Quaid and Lee standing inside.

For a brief moment, flaming debris seemed to be raining down upon them, then within a heartbeat, the ground was solid beneath their feet, and the air was fresh and clear of flames and sulfur.

//And I thought we knew how to make an entrance.// Jesus chuckled wearily at the spectacle of it.

"Sorry! We didn't mean to do that! This thing doesn't have any brakes!" Quaid said loudly, then stood panting heavily for a long moment as the cube dissolved around them.

"Are you guys alright?" Lisa asked with concern.

"We're great! It's just going to take a minute before we're past the adrenaline rush." Lee said with giddy chuckles interlaced with his words.

"I see that you brought us some cleaning supplies. Thank you for that." Matt said uncertainly as he looked at the buckets filled with water and brushes surrounding Lee and Quaid's feet.

"We stopped at the boathouse. No one was there, but I don't think Dad or Father will mind that we took some of their cleaning stuff." Quaid explained.

"I already told you, I'm the grandfather. I can give permission too." Lee quietly assured him.

"I'm still not sure about how all that works. They don't have grandfathers where I'm from." Quaid said frankly, then thought to add, "They usually don't have kids either. They just kind of... are."

"If everyone's here, the snacks are ready." Robert announced from the beautifully organized snack tables.

"Let's go ahead and enjoy our mid-morning snack, then we'll be in a better state to be working on cleaning and testing." Ms. Mordigan helpfully suggested.

"Aren't you worried that it might spoil our lunch?" Ronny asked curiously as everyone picked themselves up and began to migrate toward the snack tables.

"In my experience, people your age tend to have highly variable dietary needs. I've found that typically, as long as you're not forced to eat when you're not hungry or prevented from eating when you are, that things tend to work out the way that they're supposed to." Ms. Mordigan said pleasantly.

* * * * *

"How many of you are there here?" Brian asked Clark as they approached the snack tables from different directions.

"How do you mean?" Clark asked with confusion.

"You, Trey, Robert, Quaid, and now Ms. Mordigan... are there more aliens than humans on Earth right now?" Brian asked warily.

"You can't really judge it by the people we have here. This isn't a representative sample." Clark assured him, then explained, "Just like with mutants, this is just a place where it's safe for us to live and learn without having to worry about being discovered or hunted. I promise you that out in the real world you'll find a lot more people who are human than aren't."

"Oh... Okay." Brian said slowly, then added, "I guess that I just didn't realize how many aliens we had running around here."

"We prefer to be called 'non-humans'." Clark carefully told him, then explained, "I mean, it doesn't really bother me, but I know that it does bother some other people, so I try not to use it out of respect for them."

"Oh, yeah. Okay. I didn't mean anything by it. It's just that after meeting everyone individually, I didn't really do the math before." Brian cautiously explained.

"I think it's pretty much like being a mutant. When you're here, it's like being in a protective bubble that not only keeps you safe, but also has its own climate of beliefs and attitudes. When you step outside the bubble, you feel like you're not a part of things and worry about what will happen if people find out. Basically, it feels like everyone in the universe is against you." Clark said frankly.

"I guess it is like being a mutant." Brian said with astonishment.

"So, Ms. Mordigan is a non-human?" Clark asked curiously.

"Yeah. I thought that somehow you'd just know." Brian said honestly.

"I'm not sure, but I think that might be a really prejudiced thing to say... somehow. At least, I feel like I should be offended by it." Clark said uncertainly.

"Oh? Sorry. I didn't mean it that way." Brian said honestly.

"It's okay. I know you didn't. I just thought you should know that stuff like that is probably not alright to say to people. They might not care if you mean it or not, they might just react." Clark carefully explained.

"Yeah. Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." Brian easily agreed.

"You haven't started eating yet, have you?" John asked as he and Trey emerged from a wooded area down the hill from the Gingerbread House, each carrying an armload of branches and sticks.

"Not yet, but one more minute and we might have." Clark called back in their direction with a smile that conveyed his love for them both.

"Is there anything else that we need to do before we start eating?" Ms. Mordigan asked as she looked around the gathering.

"Yeah. We can wait for Trey and John to get up here, then we can decide what we're going to be doing next so that we can go and get to it as soon as we're done." Beau suggested.

"Do you know what we'll be doing next?" Ms. Mordigan asked curiously.

"I figured that you would probably want to take the test takers back to the mansion for their next round of placement tests." Beau said frankly.

"Yes. I had intended to do that." Ms. Mordigan confirmed.

"I thought that since there's so many of us, that the rest of the Meerkats could hang around here for a little bit and get the Gingerbread House ready for use." Beau said seriously.

"What did you have planned for the junior X-Men?" Matt asked curiously.

"I didn't actually have anything planned. But it seems to me that y'all have your own lives and your own way of doing things. You probably don't need for me to be making plans for you." Beau said frankly.

"Yeah. Well I been thinking that, if Julia and Kurt would allow it, we might take a look around the Wagner campus and dorm rooms to see what we can find that those detectives might have missed." Matt said seriously.

"What are we going to be looking for?" Ronny asked curiously.

"Clues." Matt said simply, then explained, "I figure that between mutant abilities and futuristic technology, we might be able to uncover a few things that the investigators either don't have the budget to fully investigate or might not know to look for."

"So we won't have to go to class today?" Ronny asked cautiously to confirm.

"As long as we go into this taking it seriously, I think it could end up being a practical learning experience." Matt quietly explained.

"It does sound like it has that potential." Ms. Mordigan said supportively.

"Even though we went to a lot of trouble to bring all the furniture outside, it's too cold to be sitting on the grass and eating out here. If no one has a really big problem with it, I'm going to get my food and take it into the Gingerbread House." Lisa announced.

"That sounds like an excellent plan to me." Clark immediately agreed.

"It does feel like it's getting colder." Ms. Mordigan said in support of Lisa's idea.

"Maybe, if we ask really nicely, John and Trey will start the fire for us." Ronny said hopefully.

"We can do that. We've already got everything we'll need." John assured him with a smile.

Armed with a plan, everyone made their food selections and headed for the shelter of the Gingerbread House.

* * * * *

With all the furnishings removed, the open floor space of the little cabin was comfortable, verging on cozy.

"Maybe we should have asked Ronny to stay to help float the furniture back in." Lisa said as she and Steve carried a heavy wooden rack of shelving through the transparent side wall.

"I'd rather that they get started on their investigation." Slash said frankly.

"And now that Beau's told them about Loomis, they've got another advantage over the detectives." Lisa said as she put her end of the shelving down.

"It's better that they investigate. We've got this." Beau said as he slowly and carefully mopped an open section of the floor.

"Do you have any idea of what we're doing with the cannisters of... gunk?" Slash asked cautiously as he looked out the window.

"I don't know what that stuff is, but I'm pretty sure that it's the kind of thing that you can't just throw in the trash. It probably has to be disposed of properly." Beau said thoughtfully.

"Okay. How do you do that?" Slash asked curiously.

"Actually, I have no idea." Beau said honestly.

//Maybe we should ask the professor. He handles so many things, he probably already knows and might want to take care of it himself so that he can be sure that it's done right.// Jesus cautiously suggested.

"You know... this might be an ideal project for you to work on as a group." Ms. Mordigan slowly suggested.

Silence fell over those assembled until Lee finally quietly asked, "What do you mean 'project'?"

"Not only would it be good for you to know how to properly dispose of hazardous materials, but I believe that it would be a valuable learning experience for you, as a group, to discover how and where to find answers to this type of question for yourselves. Since the cleaning is nearly done, your group could come back to the mansion with us and work on that while the rest of us resume the testing." Ms. Mordigan said frankly.

"You know, all of a sudden, test-taking doesn't sound so bad." Lisa said uneasily.

Beau looked at Ms. Mordigan with dawning realization for a brief moment, then slowly whispered, "You're evil."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: Well, She has already been seen as possibly evil. I'm actually thinking he said that as he would to any teacher who might have suggested that.

As I have stated before, it looks as though some progress has been made. At least this chapter doesn't seem to have ended in a vile, ugly or icky cliffhanger.

No one has been left in the hell dimension, or sandwiched between dimensions. There are no gigantic fanged creatures chasing after someone, or other thing of that sort. We can relax and wait impatiently for the next chapter, like good little readers.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher