The OrigAvengers: Rage of Artron
The OrigAvengers: Rage of Artron
By Noah and SFCamster
The First Message
>go to kirby high school
>such idiots, much stupid
>then fold leaves the door open le gasp
>steal files like a BOSS
>time for the idiots to get whats coming to em
01001001 01101110 01110100 01110010 01101111
By Ally Weber
“Where is it, again?” I asked, trying to keep up. Kirby still felt like a maze to me. It didn’t help that I was running through its hallways trying to keep up with Tilly Waterson, who was sprinting with a look of determination.
Nevertheless, she glanced back enough for me to hear her. “It’s just up ahead,” she called back. “Around the corner.”
With considerable effort, we finally made it to the door. To my surprise, it was already open, displaying the stairs down into the room below. I turned to Tilly with concern, but she was already quietly descending into Kirby’s basement. Honestly, if what Trent had said was true, I was afraid of what I would find down there, but I followed Tilly.
F.O.L.D.’s headquarters had changed since their abandonment. A few of the tables had disappeared, making the room feel much more open and empty. No Trent strutted around the room. No agents sat attentively working on laptops. However, three figures were present on the scene. Cal Largent, Clark’s younger brother, was pacing the floor, muttering to himself. Andrew Gardner stood against the wall, apparently lost in thought. Finally, Laura Rushman appeared to be trying to consol Cal to no avail.
“It was my fault,” Cal said dejectedly. “I was supposed to watch the files. This whole thing is my fault.”
“Cal,” Laura soothed. “You couldn’t be watching the files 24/7. F.O.L.D.—” She stopped, noticing Tilly and I. Cal looked up at the pause to see us.
“So it’s true,” Tilly said flatly. “Trent, that idiot, was telling the truth. Someone took F.O.L.D.’s files. All of them?”
“All of them,” confirmed Laura. “Kirby and Wheeler kids. So, it’s not against one specific school…” Laura shrugged, and smirked. “I guess that’s a plus.”
Cal groaned. “I am so fired. I just became an agent.”
“Cal, there’s no one to fire you,” Laura said pointedly. “F.O.L.D’s dead, anyway.”
I cleared my throat. “So, um… what now? What was in those files?”
Tilly took a seat at one of the remaining tables. “They were records of past students. Past OrigAvengers. Past F.O.L.D. meetings. Profiles of every student who ever attended both schools. Some of the files were decades old. F.O.L.D. has been around for awhile. Those files… there were a lot of them.”
“I ruined everything,” Cal said to himself, in sheer disbelief.
Andy stepped away from the wall. He had been listening so quietly I had almost forgotten he was there. He put his hand on Cal’s shoulder. “Cal, don’t worry. We all make mistakes. Some of them bigger than others, sure, but I know it better than anyone. Nobody blames you. We just have to fix the mistakes made, is all.” I noticed Andy give Laura a small smile as he said this.
I nodded in support. “It’s okay to lose, Cal. What matters is what we do now.”
Cal looked at both of us appreciatively, and thankfully stopped pacing.
“We need help,” I said thoughtfully. Suddenly, I had an idea. “Dove! If this affects both Kirby and Wheeler, we need to tell the people from Wheeler.”
Tilly nodded. “I’ll text him.” She got out her phone. I noticed she had several phones. I decided not to comment on it.
“Shouldn’t he have gotten that text from Trent?” I asked Tilly, taking a seat next to her.
“Trent only texted those from the team who go to Kirby. He tended to give Kirby some preference when it came to F.O.L.D.” Tilly opened her phone. “What I’m wondering is…” She trailed off, staring at her phone screen.
I followed her gaze to see that a page had popped up on her screen. It appeared to be a short message with poor grammar. To my alarm, it was a brag about taking the F.O.L.D. files. To top it all off, right at the top was a line reading, “by Artron”.
“That’s not good,” I said with alarm.
“What?” asked Laura. She, Andy, and Cal came over and read the message with us. When they were done, Andy simply went back over to the wall, Laura frowned, and Cal looked upset.
“So Ultron took the files?” Cal demanded.
“Not Ultron. It’s a guy using the name of Artron to mess with us.” Tilly stood up from the table and stood in the center of the room, adopting her Planning Face. “Whatever the case, we still have to figure out who this guy is. In the wrong hands, and it looks like these are, these files could do a lot of damage.”
Andy leaned against the wall, arms crossed. He was very deep in thought. “Sounds like a really big problem,” he commented, quietly.
“Very big, yes,” Tilly replied.
“Big enough for…” I started. Suddenly, I saw where Andy was going, and I was very excited.
“You mean…?” Laura said, looking positively electric. I knew I liked her.
Andy looked at me and nodded. I knew immediately what he meant. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, dialed a number, and waited. The phone picked up. “Oh, hey Mars. Can I borrow your garage?” I pulled Unshreddible Hulk out of my pocket with my other hand and smiled. “The OrigAvengers need a place to meet.”
“Ah, come on,” Cal moaned. “No fair.”
By Clark Largent
Well, it’s been awhile since a potential disaster, so I guess we were overdue. And would you look at that, it’s by a kid trying to be Ultron. AHEM, Artron. Apparently he’s sending this to everyone, everywhere, and also we have to fix it, obviously.
So that’s why I was in the garage of a kid I don’t know, sitting awkwardly on some stacked up boxes glancing back and forth between my fellow OrigAvengers, who seemed just as confused and uncomfortable. Except for Ally and Dove, who apparently knew the kid whose garage we were in.
This garage itself reminded me of a kindergartener’s art project. It was all over the place, with random objects and art all over it. Lights were strung across the ceiling, a bike hung on the wall, and a desk was placed in the corner of the room. The kid, by the way, (Mars was his name) was just sitting in the corner drawing in a sketchpad.
“Are you sure you do not mind?” Dove had asked him.
“‘Course not,” the dude said, still drawing. “Your wish is my command, good king Thor.”
He was weird.
Anyway, here we were. I’ll admit, it did give me some unexpected nostalgia, seeing everyone together; Jessica and Jesse holding hands, bickering with each other; Ally acting nervous; Dove not knowing what anyone is talking about; Tilly sitting down, taking notes, rambling about random stuff; Andy talking with…the blonde girl from the Halloween party?
“Is no one going to mention the new girl?” I asked, when I realized no one had actually noticed her.
“Oh, that’s Laura,” Tilly said from her spot on the ground. “She’s the new OrigAvenger.”
“What’s up?” Laura said, smiling and waving once she felt everyone staring at her.
“Who made her an OrigAvenger?” I asked.
“I did,” Andy said, quietly.
Jessica crossed her arms. “And you didn’t ask any of us what we thought about that?”
Laura looked hurt. “I mean, I didn’t think-“
Andy rolled his eyes. “She proved herself on the Trent/Seyla mission, so I made her an OrigAvenger.”
“I’m Origami Black Widow,” she announced proudly, pulling a blonde puppet out of her pocket. Why she didn’t go with the far more attractive red hair confuses me.
“Andy, you should ask us before you make new members.” Ally spoke up, surprisingly. “I mean, I know Laura, she definitely deserves a spot on the team, but ask us next time, okay?”
“Noted.” Andy crossed his arms and turned towards the rest of us. “Okay, we need to discuss what we’re actually here for: Artron.”
“Convenient subject change, but alright,” I muttered. I stood up from my box-seat and stepped next to Andy. “Okay, so, Artron. Play on the name Ultron. A bad play but a play nonetheless. Anyway, he’s the guy that stole the F.O.L.D. files and he’s threatening to use them. Don’t know how, don’t know when.”
“This is a big deal, with security risks for both schools,” Andy continued. “That’s why we’re here.”
“In a random kid’s garage,” Jesse commented.
“You’re welcome, by the way,” Mars piped up from his corner.
“Wasn’t Clark supposed to be guarding the files?” the new girl asked.
I glared at her. “I don’t take insubordination like that, young lady.”
“We give you insubordination all the time,” Dove replied. “Why can she not also give it to you?”
“Gah!” I shouted, throwing my hands up. “Guys, focus! Artron: bad! Plan to stop him: good!”
Jessica sat down on the floor next to Tilly. “It would be helpful if we had some suspects. Do you have any ideas?”
I rubbed the back of my head, embarrassed, because yes, I was slightly embarrassed. “I…actually…didn’t pay much attention during the guarding time. That was Cal. But…uh, I do remember a few.” I started counting off on my fingers. “There was a brunette who seemed interested…Jasmine, I think…” I heard Ally gasp. She must have known that girl. “Uh, there was a dude with a bad leg…Oh, and one guy who almost stole a file about Cal’s Venom friend. Chris was his name.”
Tilly wrote all this down. “Were they all Kirby students?” she asked.
“I mean, I’d assume,” I replied. “Since they were all, you know, at Kirby.”
“You sure you don’t have anymore clues?” Jesse asked. “Please, next time something this big happens, don’t just drink your coffee the whole time.”
“I’m doing my best, guys,” I said, exasperated. I looked at Andy, begging him to take over. His control of a group is something I very much envy.
“Okay, guys, we have a couple names and some faces. These are our best bets to find Artron. Keep your eyes up and we’ll find him, or her, before any real damage can be done.”
“Yes sir,” Laura said, with a mock salute. Jesse gagged. I groaned.
“I will make sure nothing goes awry at Wheeler, while you are all working at Kirby,” Dove said. “We will defeat this villain!”
“Yay, optimism,” I said, incredibly enthusiastically.
By Andy Gardner
Throughout the entire meeting, I kept receiving dirty looks from half of the team. I knew they were all directly related to Laura’s membership. I was actually really offended on her behalf, and kind of offended myself; I thought they would be able to trust the judgement of their leader. Guess not.
“Hey, Andy?” Clark called me over after I’d said goodbye to Laura. Jesse and Jessica were standing next to him, with Dove and Ally awkwardly shuffling behind them. Inwardly, I groaned. Here was the confrontation.
“Yes?” I asked. “If this is about Laura-”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “That is exactly what this is about, Andy.”
At least they wouldn’t be beating around the bush. “I told you: I made a decision, and I’m sticking to it. Laura will be a valuable member to this team.”
Dove, surprisingly, spoke up. “We don’t doubt that Laura was invaluable to you when you were fixing the Trent/Seyla problem. We just wish that we were consulted. We are a team, after all. We’d like to decide on any new members as a team.”
I nodded. Whenever Dove spoke, I tried to listen. He was a wise kid. “I’m sorry for not talking it over with you guys. That was my mistake.”
“You’re forgiven,” Ally piped up from the back, smiling kindly. “I like her, anyway. It’s nice to have another girl on the team.”
“Woah, woah, woah,” Clark butted in. I knew it was only a matter of time before he did so. “We can’t just end there.”
“We don’t even really know her!” Jessica shouted, exasperated. “She’s this new girl that just showed up all of a sudden, and now Andy is falling all over himself to give her membership!”
“She could be the L in T.H.A.N.O.S.!” Jesse added.
“Why don’t we just give her the boot and be done with it?” Clark suggested. I clenched my fist.
“Clark, you can’t do that. You all made me the leader, and I’d like to think it’s because you trust me…” I realized that statement sounded really petulant. I unclenched my fist, and calmed down a bit. “Please…just go with me on this. She’ll do well, I promise.”
Dove and Ally nodded. Jesse shrugged. Clark and Jessica, though, kept glaring at me. As a few of them turned to leave, Jessica stopped right in front of me. “I’ll let it slide for now, Gardner. But at the first sign of a mistake on her part, she’s off the team. And maybe you will be too.”
She and Jesse left, following Clark and Dove out. Ally stayed behind to help her friend Mars clean up. I walked outside, enjoying the crisp February air. I’d let them see that I was a worthy leader, and that Laura was a worthy teammate.
I owed them that much, at least.
TWO WEEKS LATER
By Agent Tilly Waterson
You know, I hate it when we don’t hear anything about the new villains for a long time.
It is now March. We finally escaped the incredibly hectic month of February, and I’ve been reeeeeally tense with the threat of Artron hanging over our heads. Seriously, we’ve not had a single word from him, or her, since the first message. That really couldn’t be good.
Most of the students didn’t care all that much about who Artron was; rather, they care about what school he went to. Andy’s speech brought a cease-fire at best, and we’ve been in a shaky truce ever since. The slightest bit of friction, and we’ll be right back at each other’s throats.
I heard that Andy had talked with Principal Ainsley about Artron. Since the fall of F.O.L.D., Andy told me that Principal Ainsley wanted to take a more active approach in handling the events at Kirby. So, when Artron came up, it didn’t take long for the news to reach Principal Ainsley. He called Andy in to talk about it. Shortly after, he made a public announcement that the staff was looking into the issue and preventing the
Today, though, there was something more important on everybody’s minds; Harrison Herring was giving a public update.
I noticed a crowd of students around the nearest television. I should probably explain why we have televisions for Wheeler students reading this. You guys have all of your personal tablets and shiny gizmos; Kirby has a system of televisions placed throughout the school for announcements and stuff. It’s less fancy, sure, but it gets the job done. Members from the Student Body Government commonly used this as a platform for going over upcoming events and reminders.
On the screen, I saw the president of the Student Body Government, Harrison Osgood Herring. I had some bad past experiences with him, so I generally avoided watching the updates. This time, however, the students seemed quite interested in what he had to say. The word was that he would have a statement regarding the Trent/Seyla (shudder) problem from last month, something that, aside from one meeting, he’d been infamously quiet on. Harrison, slimy as he was, might have something important to say. A small crowd was forming, so I stopped to watch, too.
Next to me, I recognized Robby Boone, who I had worked with as an agent at F.O.L.D. He had been a bit quiet since the fall of F.O.L.D., but I saw him occasionally hanging out with Clark. I nudged him. “Robby,” I whispered. “Has Harrison said anything yet about Trent?”
“Not yet,” he reported. “He’s been going on about—wait, here we go…”
I snapped to attention. “—and with that I would like to transition into the moment you all having been waiting for,” Harrison was saying, in his usual pompous manner. “Recently, the student named Trenton Adams came under criticism for some of his personal decisions, widely publicized by the head of the Kirby King school paper, Desiree Dawson. To speak on this matter, I would like to welcome Trenton to our studio.”
The screen cut to a wide shot, revealing Trent sitting next to Harrison. “Thank you for having me,” he said politely. I scowled at the screen. I still hadn’t totally forgiven him, and seeing Harrison all buddy-buddy with him didn’t help my feelings.
“Now, Trenton, while I have you here, is there anything you would like to say to your audience?”
“Yes, there is,” Trent said, slowly. He had cleaned up a lot since I’d last seen him at the coffee shop. He no longer had two eyepatches, for one, but he’d also put on a nice button-down shirt and tried to look dignified. “I messed up, sure. And I am very sorry for hiding a very important aspect of my life from the rest of the school. However, I do not apologize for going out with Seyla Solstice; I really do love her, and what I did I did for her.”
Harrison put his hand over his heart, acting touched. I wanted to puke. “You heard it here first. Can any of us really blame him? Love is a tricky thing to get over.” He turned straight towards the camera, taking a serious look. “All of you know about what Trenton Adams did. However, I believe that he shouldn’t have been so…berated, I might say. He has given much to this school, and he deserves more than we’ve given him. And so, I feel, from the bottom of my heart, that Trent should be for-”
The screen cut to black. All the students in front and behind started talking, complaining about Kirby’s usual bad reception.
Suddenly, the screen turned back on, but it wasn’t Harrison and Trent on-screen. It was a picture of a guy I knew; Franklin Young. He was a popular guy who everybody liked. He had blonde hair, a wide smile, and a suave personality; suave enough to rival the aloof popularity even of Cassidy Lashay. Speaking of which, I’d heard that Franklin and Cassidy had been ‘shipped’ recently. His sudden appearance on-screen seemed…strange.
A robotic voiceover narrated as the video played, speaking in really chopped up sentences. “Popularity means nothing. It gives people fake status…that can be lost in an instant. All because of one stupid decision. This is something Franklin himself posted one year ago, then deleted. So please; don’t shoot the messenger.” The video cut to a shot of Franklin standing next to Leonard Broderick (gosh, that guy is annoying) but it they both seemed younger. Nard was leading a demonstration, which Franklin was helping with; I thought I could hear Jameson Tanner’s voice as he was filming. Franklin was holding Austin Baker against the wall. Nard said something about how Austin tried to stop an attack on Wheeler, and how he must pay. On cue, Franklin grabbed Austin’s underwear and yanked it over his head. Jameson snickered offscreen and Austin howled with pain, while Franklin and Nard high-fived. The video then ended.
The effect on the crowd was immediate. People cursed Franklin’s name, called him obscenities, and seemed indignant that they’ve ever liked him. For my part, I realized what the voice’s game was; a smear campaign amongst the most ruthless of critics. Namely, teenagers.
“Please take the time to consider what you’ve seen. And remember, I’m not the one to blame. Just helping raise awareness. Yours truly, Artron.”
To Be Franklin
What’s up, Tilly,
So, after the Franklin Young events, we had a gigantic meeting at lunch. It was such a spur-of-the-moment and, honestly, tense meeting that I know you didn’t have much time to record the conversation. However, I decided to fill Dove in after lunch during my free period, so I thought I would send it in.
If you need any help with this whole thing, let me know.
Also, I apologize for the pun in the subject of this email. I deemed it necessary.
Ally: Some stuff happened today. Artron stuff.
Dove: Nef. What kind of stuff? Are you okay?
Ally: Fine, but Artron hacked a news report and ruined a guy’s reputation. The group met during lunch; we can’t really figure out why the guy was targeted. We’re splitting up to figure it out.
Dove: Splitting up? For what reason?
Ally: Things are really tense rn. Clark is being stupid again.
Dove: Oh, I see. Is he never not being stupid?
Ally: Fair point lol
Dove: Yes, laugh out loud.
Ally: Almost. When someone’s really laughing out loud, they tend to say ROFL or just XD.
Ally: Rolling on the floor laughing.
Dove: Oh, wow! You made me ROFL.
Ally: Perfect! You’re getting it.
Dove: Thank you! Now, what were you saying about Clark?
Ally: Right, so everyone’s still divided over Laura. She seemed angry that we hadn’t been able to do anything yet, and I think Clark thought that she was blaming him. He got really defensive.
Dove: I see.
Ally: He said that he thought Artron’s message was timed a bit too perfectly, and that he would need to check with his geek friends, Lane and Leena, about the school tech, since they know all about it. Andy wanted to investigate Franklin’s involvement first, and Andy and Clark started bickering about which they should see to first.
Dove: So they split up?
Ally: Yeah. I was against it but Andy said that if Clark really wanted to do this on his own, he should.
Dove: So Clark is investigating this on his own?
Ally: Oh no I phrased that wrong, Jesse and Jessica went with him. Tilly, Andy, Laura, and I are looking into Franklin’s involvement. Hopefully things will settle down soon.
Dove: Clark is making this far too complicated. Aumingi.
Ally: Weakling, right?
Dove: Correct! Hey, I will teach you some of my native language if you teach me some more text language.
In the Tech Lab
By Jessica Smith-Holt
I hope Andy knows that he’s being ridiculous. Yes, I know he’ll end up reading this file at some point. I am intentionally saying this out loud. He’s just being so…difficult.
Clark actually had a good point for once, when he suggested that we figure out the logistics first. That way, if there is a trail to follow, the trail won’t go cold, and we’ll be able to stop Artron before he could do anymore damage. But, Andy wanted to do the ‘noble’ thing first and go talk to the victim. Believe me, I don’t think that Franklin deserved it at all. (I actually dated him in elementary school. He was nice.) But, I’m sure Franklin can handle himself like a big boy long enough for us to do our work.
As it was, we split up; me, Jesse and Clark going to the tech lab and Andy taking his sidekick and Ally off to empathize. One of us is acting way smarter than the other.
“Why are you still grumpy about this?” Jesse asked me on the way to the tech lab. I must have been glowering; it’s one of my tells.
“Maybe a little,” I said through clenched teeth.
“He’s being stupid, sure,” Jesse said, smirking. “But come on, he’s the leader. We need to give him a little slack.”
“We’ve given him too much,” I said, stopping in the hallway. Clark was way ahead, already rounding a corner. He moves fast when he’s on a mission. “He goes on one mission by himself and he already thinks he’s united the school, knighted a newbie, and believes he knows best. He’s arrogant.”
Jesse put his arm on my shoulder and smiled. I liked it when he did that. “You might be right. But, we still have to respect him. He let us split up, didn’t he? That must mean he has some sense left.” He smirked.
“Fine. But if he screws up again…” I trailed off. I really didn’t know what I’d do if he ruined another piece of the investigation. So, instead, me and Jesse plowed on after Clark.
For posterity’s sake, the tech lab looks like this; a long, gray room with flourescent lighting, linoleum flooring and lots of counters and shelves lining the walls. Two long tables sit in the middle of the room, length-wise. On these counters and tables and in the shelves is myriad knick-knacks and gadgets, in every manner of repair, or disrepair, imaginable. Shop class and Science class take place in this room, since it’s the most suited to things being built, and things being blown up.
Lane Leicester and Leena Hiltondale practically live in this room. It’s where they’re able to build Mindstorms bots, work on Kirby’s wifi, whatever. If you want to find the two of them, you go here. Sure enough, they were inside, sitting next to each other, fiddling with a small robot’s motherboard.
“No, that piece goes there, Lane,” I heard Leena say. “There won’t be room for the other receiver.”
“Not if I angle it precisely,” Lane responded. “Then we’ll get an even better reception into the motor functions.”
Clark strode in, obviously right at home. He stopped behind the two of them and glanced at the motherboard. “Actually, rotate it counter-clockwise,” he said, pointing at the part they bickered over. “It’ll boost the feed, without the need for the other receiver.”
Lane rolled his eyes. “Now, why didn’t we think of that?”
“We did, Lane, you just forgot,” Leena retorted.
“Hey now, calm down,” Jesse said, clapping his hands. “We’re here on business. You can fight over your robot when we’re done.”
They both glared at Jesse, but agreed. Funny; they’d never been this agitated like this before. They got up from their chairs and turned to face us.
“To what do we owe this pleasure?” Leena asked, politely. “It has been awhile, Clark. It’s nice to see you.”
Clark smiled. “It’s great to see you guys too. I’ve just been busy with hero stuff, you know.”
“What’s so heroic about only drinking coffee all the time?” Jesse asked. Clark glared.
“We need your help to figure out how Artron hacked Harrison’s message today,” I explained. “Artron probably ruined a kid’s standings with just a single video message. We can’t allow that to happen again.”
“Ah, yes,” Lane said, fidgeting with a small screwdriver. “I’ll tell you; the transmission feed the school uses is incredibly simple. I mean, we’ve even hacked into it before.”
Leena stepped on Lane’s foot to get him to stop bragging. “What Lane means is, it’s hard to say. Anyone with the barest knowledge of coding and feeds would be able to get into the stream. It would be hard to tell who it is.”
“Can you at least figure out if it’s from Kirby or Wheeler?” Clark asked. “I’ve tried, but whatever you say, the signal is a bit more complicated than I’m used to.”
Leena reached into her school bag and pulled out a laptop. “That might be possible.” She opened the laptop on the table and connected a loose extension cord to the side. “Logging onto the streaming feed now.”
I looked at the laptop, but none of the signals on the screen made sense to me. It just looked like a heart monitor, actually, with lots of up and down fluctuations. Lane, Leena and Clark seemed to understand, though.
“That spike’s our guy,” Clark said, pointing at a spike running parallel with another line; a line representing Harrison’s address from earlier today.
Lane tapped some keys of the keyboard and isolated the feed. “I’d say it is. And it looks like…” he pressed enter, “Natch. The hack came from Kirby.”
“You know, all of these villains here really don’t reflect well on the school,” Jesse commented. “Why can’t Wheeler have a megalomaniacal threat?”
“I mean, they do,” Clark replied. “But ours are better.”
I ignored them. “Thanks, guys. It’s not much, but at least we’re able to narrow it down to one school.”
“Always happy to help,” Leena said, smiling. Lane went back to working on the motherboard.
As we left, Clark smirked. “And Andy thought this would be a useless trip. Wait’ll we show him!”
By Laura Rushman
“Are you sure I should be here? Should I really be a member of the team?” I asked Andy. I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to be handed everything on a silver platter after being made an OrigAvenger. I mean, obviously; I’m the new girl. Sure, I’ve been a F.O.L.D. Agent, but that really doesn’t mean anything at this point. Everything has to be proven on my own merit.
But I was not at all expecting the hostility from a few of my teammates. It’s kind of hurtful, honestly. Andy trusts me. Why can’t they?
Andy’s trust, however, was always a great pick -me-up. He was walking down the hall, focused on the task at hand, but he still offered some encouragement. “You belong, Laura, and not just because you’re one of my best friends. You have a way with words that nobody else really has. I think that skill will be very useful.”
I blushed. Ally, who was walking behind us, playfully elbowed me. “The Andy Pep Talk,” she whispered. “He never knows he’s doing it, yet it helps any of us when we’re feeling down.”
“They’re something, all right,” I replied.
At normal volume, Ally continued. “You’ll have to forgive the others. We’ve been a team for almost a year now. Sure, we haven’t done a ton as heroes, but we’re friends. It’ll take a bit to adjust to a totally new personality in the group.”
“I understand.” I paused. “Do you really think Andy made the right call?”
“I think so. We’ll see.”
To find Franklin, we asked a couple of his friends we met on the way there. They all pointing us to the hallway by the lockers. Sure enough, we found Franklin, in said hallway, arguing with a girl who I recognized to be Cassidy Lashay. She was in her usual green shirt and skirt. I didn’t know Cassidy personally, but I knew she was one of the most popular kids at Kirby. And, in this case, one of the most upset kids.
“—it doesn’t matter, Frank! Are you kidding me? Tanner? Broderick? You never told me that you were Nard’s loyal sidekick. And I… I thought you valued honesty.”
“I do, Cassidy!” Frank pleaded. “So listen to me when I say that was years ago. You saw the video. You saw how young I was. Heck, it was before I met you.”
“That’s exactly my problem, Frank. I thought you weren’t a jerk before I met you. Now, I don’t know what’s true and what’s not. How do I know that everything I have come to know about you isn’t just an act?”
“I changed, Cassidy. I—” Franklin noticed us approaching.
Then, a realization struck her. “You wanted to go out with me, didn’t you? All the people shipping us?”
“Well, yeah, maybe…”
“Franklin, we’re just friends! I didn’t know you’d listen to those jerks.”
He paled, then glared. “Is this about another guy? Your friend?”
Cassidy looked surprised and offended. “Of course not. I can’t believe you’d even go there.”
“Maybe I’m just green with envy,” he said, with a malicious tone.
That must have struck a particularly sensitive chord. She grimaced and sniffled. She turned her head, saw us, and looked back one last time to Franklin. “Correction: we were friends.”
With that, she turned on her heel and stormed down the hallway. She brushed past my shoulder, and I’m pretty sure she was crying. Franklin was furious and punched one of the locker doors.
“You must be Mr. Young,” Andy started.
“Thanks for not doing anything about that video dude, Avengers,” Franklin muttered.
Andy glanced at me, asking me to continue. I nodded. “It totally sucks. I’m sorry you had to break up with your girlfriend.”
“We weren’t dating,” the victim said, resigned. “Just, really close to dating. I’ll admit this would be worse if we had been going out.”
“Any idea why you’d be a target?” Ally asked.
Franklin rolled his eyes. “So this is an interrogation?”
“Think of it like preventative measures,” I explained. “We were too late to save you. We don’t want to make that mistake with someone else.”
He leaned against the locker and crossed his arms. “Uh, well, I don’t know. Someone might want revenge for something I did with Nard back in the day. Maybe someone wants to get with Cassidy. Nearly every guy in the school likes her.”
I couldn’t help glancing at Andy. He shrugged. I turned back to Franklin. “Any other reason?”
“I can’t think of any. I mean, I think I’m cool.” He looked at his feet. “Guess I was wrong.”
“Whatever you said to Cassidy certainly wasn’t, ” Ally commented.
“Hey, she was being totally unfair,” Franklin replied, defensively. “I was defending myself.”
“Broke her heart, more accurately,” Andy said, quietly. He turned around. “Come on, guys. We’ve got all we’re going to get.”
Me and Ally nodded. Ally held out her fist for me to bump. “First objective completed,” she whispered. I giggled.
“That’s all?” Franklin asked as we walked away. “No help in getting the girl back? No avenging me?”
Andy turned around and glowered at him. “Son, you aren’t getting Cassidy back. Any chance you had, you just ruined. Good luck in finding a new girl.”
By Cal Largent
After the lunch meeting with the OrigAvengers (which I wasn’t really supposed to be at, but who cares.) the group split up to do their own things. I followed Clark, Jesse and Jessica. This is a problem I’m very involved in, so I wanted to help as much as possible.
“What can I do, Clark?” I asked before he left the cafeteria. Jesse and Jessica had already stepped outside. “Can I come with you guys?”
Clark stopped and turned around quickly. “You can’t come with us,” he responded. I nodded. Clark thought for a moment. “But, you can conduct your own investigation. Find some suspects and shake them down. You’ll be OrigAvengers adjacent, that way.”
I grinned. “I won’t let you down!” I was ready to get moving, but I thought of something to ask. “Uh, can I have some partners?”
Clark rolled his eyes. I glared at him, and he folded. “Uh, yeah, fine. Whatever works.” He opened the door. “Gotta go. Good luck, bro.”
I chose two partners: Lacey and Robby. Since a little after Thanksgiving, me and Lacey had become pretty good friends, and we were the de-facto leaders of the OriSpider-Men. Robby was just cool.
“Thanks for inviting me to come with you,” Robby said, as we scoped out the cafeteria. “It’s been awhile since I’ve helped with a mission.”
“Not a problem, man,” I said. “Now, who should we be on the lookout for?”
The Kirby cafeteria might be the best room in the school. It’s big and spacious, were more than enough seating room for everyone. The walls are a nice light blue, with long metal tables all over the room. The food is good, as far as cafeteria food goes. I do love the Rib-B-Q’s, even though Clark hates them.
I was standing on a chair looking around, with Lacey next to me. “Who exactly do you plan on shaking down? And how do we prove that they’re Artron?”
“Eh, it’ll come to me.”
“So, we’re just looking for the nastiest bad guys?”
“Pretty much,” I agreed. “We had a couple suspicious characters come by while we were guarding the files. One dude, a guy with a Carnage puppet, almost got some, but he’s been suspended for a week so he couldn’t have done anything.”
“That’s one suspect down,” Robby said, climbing onto the seat next to me and Lacey. “Any other ideas?”
“The Fabers are always troublemakers,” I said, gesturing towards the two Faber brothers eating mac n’ cheese. “We could start with them.”
Robby nodded. “Cool.”
Robby went and talked to them, holding out Cardboard Machine to show them he meant business.
Haley Jacobson was a Junior who loved to gossip about people and had dated tons of guys in the school, including Franklin. He could’ve done something to anger her at some point, and now she would want revenge. Lacey went and talked to her, with Origami Spider-Gwen.
I remembered the kid with the prosthetic leg, but I didn’t see him around. So, I went with the most obvious suspect; Jameson Tanner.
“Uh, hey, man,” I greeted him, nervously. He was slurping a soda, leaning back against the table.
“You’re Largent’s brother, aren’t you?” Jameson grinned. “Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand for me to shake. I shook it hesitantly.
“Wanna sit?” he asked, making a spot for me next to him.
“You’re not going to flip me over the table or anything?” I asked.
Jameson chuckled. “Of course not. I don’t like your brother, or some of his friends, but I’m still willing to give those related to him a chance. So, if you want, sit down.”
I nodded. I sat down.
“You’re here to ask me about that Voltron kid, right?” Jameson asked.
“Uh, yeah.” I shrugged. “No offense, but you’re kind of a suspect.”
Jameson shrugged too. “Eh, could be worse. You should know that kind of stuff isn’t my style.”
“It’s not?” I loosened up a bit. “You’ve been a villain so far, so I’m just covering the bases.”
“So, Largent Jr., there’s different kinds of ‘good guys’, right?”
“Same with us ‘bad guys.’ I’m not really trying to be a bad guy, I just do what’s best for me. That usually means helping out guys who can help me. I’m just there for muscle. This guy, though; he’s the brainy type. I’m okay with admitting that I’m not the smartest, but this guy is. He’s playing to the fickle audience of high school. I talk up a big fight, but I’m not smart enough to do that.”
“Oh. I see.”
He slurped some more soda. “My advice; be on the lookout for people you don’t expect; the smarter types. And take my word for it; I’m not the bad guy. This time, at least.”
Text conversation recorded by Clark
Clark: Didnt find out much from Science Duo. Just that Artron might be kirbian
Jesse: lane and leena did seem more jumpy than usual. Artron must creep them out, creeping on their tech territory like that
Jessica: They seemed normal to me.
Andy: Not much from Franklin either. Maybe Artron is someone who wants revenge on him, or someone who wants him out of the way.
Jessica: Out of the way of what?
Laura: cassidy, obv
Jessica: Don’t ‘obv’ me, Laura.
Jesse: a crime of passion you say
Ally: Maybe Artron’s a vigilante type? Franklin seemed like a bit of a jerk to me.
Clark: We dont need any new heroes here thank you. Crowded enough as it is.
Clark: Oh by the way Cal, Robby and one of Cal’s friends talked with Jameson, the Fabers and Haley Jacobson. All of them gave alibis or at least convincing arguments
Andy: Tell Cal good job. Every little bit helps
Clark: He will swoon when I tell him you said that
Dove: What I’m heading is: Very slight progress, yet progress nonetheless?
Ally: Pretty much
Ally: Sorry you haven’t done much
Dove: Do not be sorry. Wheeler is worried about Artron anyway; Seyla has people guarding the school so no Kirbian’s can get in.
Jesse: what happened to ‘let there be peace’
Dove: It’s simply a precautionary measure. I do not oppose it…yet.
Andy: Good luck Dove.
Andy: Everybody else: be on your toes. We don’t know when and where Artron will strike next. We can’t have another Franklin.
Artron Strikes Back
By Dover MacLeash
I do hope that the title is a fitting reference. Star Wars seems like a fittingly dramatic comparison.
The reason I make a dramatic reference is because Artron has, indeed, struck back. This time, however, it was not at Kirby. It was at Wheeler.
It has been two days since the attack on Franklin Young. Wheeler was already very tense; they do not like to be connected to the uncomfortable situations that take place at Kirby all too often. Consistently, Wheeler has preferred to be unconnected to any fights, disagreements or battles at Kirby High School. Even with the truce Andy proposed, Wheeler’s antisocial tendencies remain.
This is why Seyla’s actions – stationing students to protect the interests of Wheeler – confused me.
I was worried that these actions may be the work of T.H.A.N.O.S., whom Andy and I had found Seyla loyal to. However, if Seyla was actively taking measures against Artron…you can see why this has puzzled me.
Puzzled enough to consider asking her about it directly. All of this sneaking around, working behind the scenes…none of that was for me. The direct approach always was the most attractive to myself.
Seyla, on the other hand, was known for her deception. Her work behind the curtain (occasionally, quite literally) and her mask as the Student Body President both had taught me this. Her placing of guards could simply be to throw me off.
So it was that I decided to combat deception with confrontation.
I found her outside the Science room, speaking with one of her friends on business; she held her tablet and was reading off of a list. I did respect her ability to balance her apparently malicious scheming with her usual duties as Student Body President. I coughed, to make myself known.
“Oh, hi, Dover,” Seyla said sweetly, but I noticed a glimmer of agitation in her eyes. She seemed stressed, but she continued politely. “I didn’t see you there. How can I help you?”
“I believe the subject is fairly obvious,” I started. “Artron. Do you know anything about him?”
Seyla nodded to her friend, evidently a good-bye. The friend left, Seyla turned off her tablet, and she focused all her attention on me. “I assume you’re accusing me, or heaven forbid, T.H.A.N.O.S., of being behind Artron?”
I shuffled, nervously. Seyla usually the smartest person in the room. It made interrogations very difficult. “Yes. Is this the work…of T.H.A.N.O.S.?”
Seyla still had a smile on her face, but her eyes took on a look of seriousness. “Dover, T.H.A.N.O.S. doesn’t attack students. You must have realized that by now. We don’t operate like this.”
“I find it very difficult to trust you, after every string you pulled to get elected,” I said, angrily.
“That’s fair. But trust me when I say this; T.H.A.N.O.S. is not to blame. At the very least, I’m not.”
“How do you know no one else is?”
“I don’t know who the other members are, Dove, I just-” Seyla was cut off by her tablet buzzing. Seyla turned it on, and found a black screen with text being written on the screen.
“Do you have a call?” I asked.
Seyla looked confused. “No…I do not.”
I looked around the hall, and many students who carried their tablets were experiencing the same thing. Every students tablet buzzed, and each one opened it to see what was going on; the same text was on the screen.
The text read:
>im sorry about this
>i really am sadviolin.mp4
>but it has to be done
>say hello to Artrons next victim
>mr jooooooohn miller
A video appeared on the screen, recorded from the security cameras; a silent video of John Miller, during the Student Body campaign (the date on the recording confirmed it), trying to bribe Chris Burwell, a member of the Student Council, into voting for him. Admirably, Chris seemed to kindly refuse the bribe. The video turned off. The text returned.
>corrupt politicians get their start early i see
>bribes get you nowhere kiddies
>at least he wasnt elected
>seyla solstice 2020
The text disappeared from the screen, and every tablet turned off.
Seyla looked at me, horrified. “I can’t believe this,” she said, quietly. “I have nothing to do with this, Dove. I swear.”
I could tell she was being genuine. I nodded. “I believe you.”
My belief had evidently caught her off guard. She looked surprised. “Um, thank you.” She turned away. “I need to check with my guards.” She quickly headed off down the hallway, more frantic than I had ever seen her.
I realized that I could not ask for help from any of the other OrigAvengers for this attack. I must do all I can against Artron on my own.
A Quick Text From Dove
Text conversation recorded by Clark
Dove: Wheeler has been attacked. John Miller is the victim.
Jesse: well thats not good
Dove: I will do all I can while I am here.
Ally: Good luck, Dove.
I finished my text and slipped my phone back into my pocket. While standing there, I tried my hardest to figure out the next course of action. I am not by any means technologically-gifted. I found myself wishing that Clark were here to help.
“Terrible, what happened,” I heard someone behind me say. “What do you plan on doing about it, Mr. Thorigami?”
I turned around to see a straight-postured, dark-skinned boy standing behind me. A short, blonde boy with too-big pants stood next to him. The dark-skinned boy had an air of confidence, while the shorter boy seemed a bit nervous. “I am not really sure,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
“I’m a concerned party,” the confident boy said. He held out his hand. “I’m Garfield, but call me Gar.”
I shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Gar. I am Dove.”
“We know,” the boy with the large pants said. “You’re cool.”
“Thank you.” I turned to Gar. “Why are you concerned?”
“Other than the fact that some crazy person is doxxing students?” Gar said with a wry smile. “John is one of my best friends. I’d like to preserve his honor.”
“I see.” I realized Gar might just be the way to start an investigation. “Do you know why someone might target John?”
“There aren’t many possibilities. John is a fairly quiet person who doesn’t do much. I had to push him hard to get him to run for Student Body President.”
“Is that why he was so unprepared?”
Gar chuckled. I was starting to like him. “Probably. Anyway, it could do with said political running, or, as I think is more likely, his relationship with Cassidy Lashay.”
I raised my eyebrow. This was intriguing information. “He knows Ms. Lashay?”
“They dated in middle school before breaking up right before freshman year. As much as I hate to admit it, it was John’s fault. It was messy. That relationship could have spawned several enemies.”
Gar gestured to his shorter friend. “This is another of my best friends, Kev.” Kev nodded at me. I held out my hand for him to shake. He shifted his weight forward and shook it weakly. “Kev is a good friend of Cassidy and wants to keep her safe.”
“I’m not that noble,” Kev said. “I just wanna help her out.”
The way Kev said this made me feel that he did not just want to help her out. He avoided meeting my eyes. I suspected there was something else there, but I decided not to press.
“All that to say,” Gar continued, “We would like to help. It was Kev’s idea.” Kev nodded to confirm.
“I appreciate all the help I can get,” I said, gratefully. “It is always nice to solve problems with friends helping you out.”
“I agree,” Gar said. “So, where to first?”
“Should we go check on John Miller?” I said. “You know him best.”
“No need to find him,” Kev piped up. “Look.”
John was walking down the hallway, moping. Several other students tripped him as they went. Not as vocal as Kirby, but just as mean.
“Good eye, Mr. Kev,” I complemented. “Onwards.”
I walked over to a very tired-looking John with Gar and Kev following. Kev appeared to wince as we walked. “Are you okay, Kev?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Kev snapped back. He glared at me. I looked to Gar. He gave me an apologetic look. I made a mental note not to ask Kev about this.
“Hello, John?” I said as a way of greeting.
John saw me and smiled. “Oh, hey Dove. How are you?”
“I am fine. How are you?”
John laughed. “Not great, if you haven’t noticed.”
Gar stepped next to him. “You look rough.”
“Really, Gar?” John said, sarcastically. “Not like my entire reputation has been ruined. I wasn’t even trying to bribe Chris. Well, not really.”
Kev stumbled. “What were you trying to do?”
“I’d borrowed money from Chris a couple months ago for something important. I tried to give it back but he wouldn’t accept it. That’s why he was so nice about refusing it.”
“I see,” I said. This was beginning to be more and more complicated. “Artron has made a mistake.”
“No, duh,” John replied. “I think I’ll be fine. Just gotta wait for this to blow over.”
“I’ll be happy to help as much as I can,” Gar said, kindly. “All you gotta do is ask.”
John smiled. “Thanks, man. Means a lot.”
“Thank you for speaking with us, John,” I said. “Knowing that Artron makes mistakes in his messages…this is valuable information.”
“No problem.” John stepped around us and kept walking down the hall. “I hope you can figure this out before someone else gets hit.”
“We will,” I said, firmly. I turned to my new partners, Gar and Kev. “So, friends. Where to next?”
Back in the Garage
Dove called us all to a meeting right after school. Mars wasn’t home – his family was on vacation – but he’d given me a key and permission to use his garage whenever we needed to. He seemed very excited that his garage had become the temporary OrigAvengers headquarters. So, that’s where we were.
“Wheeler and Kirby have both been attacked, now,” Dove started once everyone was inside. He had a clipboard in his hands with many pages of notes. It was really impressive, how seriously Dove was taking this. “That means that anyone could be a target.”
“Awesome. Good to know none of us are safe,” Clark said sarcastically. He was sitting on a box with his laptop open on his lap. He was typing something into it, but he hadn’t told anyone just what he was doing.
I was sitting in my usual spot: against the far wall on a wooden bench, behind Dove. Everyone else was spread throughout the room. Jessica and Jesse stood next to Clark, watching him type. Jessica obviously didn’t want to stand near Laura. Andy tried to stand in the middle of the group as a connecting tissue. Laura stood close to him. Dove was at the end of the room, nearest the garage door, flipping through notes.
“So far, the two victims have been Franklin Young and John Miller,” Dove explained. “It is not a simple case of bullying, as Cal, Robby and Lacey helped us learn. These two boys have almost nothing in common: different schools, social circles, opinions, physiques. They do, however, have important connection: Cassidy Lashay.
“John dated her years ago, and Franklin was nearly dating her. That’s enough of a lead to go off of, I think.” Dove looked at Andy. “Is there anything you would like to add?”
“No, no, you got it all,” Andy said, smiling. He gave Dove a pat on the back. “Good work, man.” Dove handed Andy the clipboard and Andy focused his attention to the rest of us. “So, we have a connection. Any ideas for motives or suspects?”
“Jack the Ripper?” Jesse unhelpfully suggested. I rolled my eyes. He really got on my nerves sometimes.
Jessica ignored him. “Maybe it’s a jealous ex-girlfriend? I’d be lying if I wasn’t jealous of Mr. Perfect Green Dress sometimes.”
“I wouldn’t mention that dress if I were you,” Laura interrupted. “She seemed pretty offended when Franklin called her ‘green.’”
Jessica shot Laura a look.
“It can’t be a girlfriend,” Andy said, looking through the notes. “John only ever dated Cassidy, and Franklin’s never dated, period.”
“Ha, lame,” Clark said.
“You’ve only had one girlfriend, idiot,” Jesse observed.
“Yeah, but at least I still have a girlfriend.”
Clark’s eyes got big. “No offense, big guy, I was talking about- uh…” He went back to typing, which was good for him, because if he’d kept talking I would have just punched him. I glanced at Dove, and he mouthed “allt í lagi”. The other day, he had taught me that native phrase: okay. I was glad the remark hadn’t hurt him. Everyone, aside from Clark, looked back at Andy.
“Ooookay, uh…” He flipped through several pages. “Any other theories?”
“Does she have any siblings?” I asked. “Maybe it’s like a weird overprotective-brother-thing.”
“She does have a twin brother, actually,” Andy replied. “But he goes to a fancy private school upstate. It couldn’t have been him.”
To everyone’s surprise, Jesse actually stepped forward. “You guys are forgetting the obvious answer!” he said, waving his arms for emphasis. “Man, it feels good to figure out something before the rest of you.”
“Enlighten us, babe,” Jessica said, humoring him.
Jesse smirked. “You guys are just too noble to recognize the obvious; Artron is a dude who’s in love with Cassidy! He’s levelling the playing field. Getting rid of the competition. Genius tactic. Wish I’d thought of it with Jessica.”
“I’m touched and frightened that you think it’s a good idea,” Jessica replied.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I thought it’s been established that every guy has a crush on her,” I said, glancing good-naturedly at Andy. He blushed in spite of himself. “This doesn’t really narrow the playing field.”
“No, but this might,” Clark said, standing up quickly with his laptop. He turned the laptop around so everyone could see the screen. What was on-screen looked two seperate map layouts, one of Kirby and one of Wheeler. Several red dots blipped on and off screen. “There may be a surplus of regular dudes who want to date Cassidy, but there isn’t a surplus of dudes who have directly accessed Kirby and Wheeler’s information feed. Using an access point that Lane and Leena provided, you just tap a few buttons…”
Clark did just so, and all of the dots at Wheeler disappeared, and one remained at Kirby. One single line appeared and stretched from the one dot from Kirby to Wheeler. “These should be all of the access moments that took place at Kirby and Wheeler over the last two days. And if I’m right…” Clark looked at the screen. “Our dude’s a Kirbian, I’ll tell you that much.” He set the laptop down on his box.
Laura walked over, looking intently at the screen. “Now, wait a second.”
“Wait for what a second?” Clark asked.
“You have the net cast too wide,” she said, still looking at the screen. “Decrease the area, and we’d be able to see whose computer the signal came from.”
“Like this!” Laura started pressing the arrows on the laptop.
“Hey, don’t touch that,” Clark said. “Andy, she’s touching my things!”
Laura stood up and put her hands on her hips, proudly. “See? I found the culprit.”
Clark looked at the screen itself. Laura had zoomed in all the way into Kirby’s map, over one single dot. Clark moved the cursor over the single dot and read the serial number that dropped down.
“I know that number. That’s Lane’s computer,” Clark said, dumbfounded.
I got down from my box. “You memorized your friend’s computer’s serial number?”
“I got bored.”
“Wait, so… Artron… is Lane?” Jessica asked pointedly. Everyone froze. I was shocked. I had only talked to Lane a few times, but I never thought that he would be capable of Artron-level stuff.
Clark broke the silence. “No. Lane and Leena are my friends. They would never do this.”
“According to Cal, Jameson Tanner said that the villain is smart,” Dove pointed out uncomfortably. “From what I have been hearing of Lane and Leena, they are, well…”
“Geeks,” Jessica supplied.
“But smart,” finished Dove.
“Hey!” Clark said sharply. He looked around at us indignantly. “Lane and Leena wouldn’t do this, I swear.”
“Clark, you just saw the serial number. It’s from Lane’s computer,” Laura pointed out.
Clark grabbed his laptop and pressed some more buttons, investigating. “But that’s impossible. Lane and Leena were helping us.”
“It’s not impossible,” Laura interrupted. “Look, just go back.” She moved to press a button.
“No, don’t touch that-”
Click. Laura had accidentally pressed the wrong button. Both maps disappeared from the screen. I gasped. Laura retreated. Clark’s eyes again grew wide.
“You deleted the maps,” he said, almost sounding amazed. “I’d been working on those all day, and you deleted them.”
Laura immediately became upset. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to! It was just a mistake-”
“You deleted the maps! Now we can’t confront Lane with proof!” Clark said, raising his voice.
Andy stepped in between them. “Okay, Clark. Calm down. Isn’t there an ‘undo’ button?”
Clark looked at the screen again. “Oh. Oh yeah.” He pressed ‘undo’ and the maps reappeared.
“See?” Andy replied. “No harm done.”
Jessica stepped forward. “I disagree. There is a lot of harm done.”
“What do you mean, Jessica?” Dove asked. “The problem was fixed.”
“The problem is Laura thinking she has the right to mess with stuff like she did,” Jessica said, sharply. “It’s not her place.”
“She helped point out a potential suspect!” I said.
“Just before she nearly destroyed all of Clark’s evidence.” She narrowed her eyes. “This is exactly what I was afraid of when Laura joined. We’re a team of six. We don’t have room for a seventh.”
“Jess, we’re a group of kids who solve problems with origami superheroes,” Jesse replied. “This isn’t some elite group.”
“We were a team appointed to protect students from problems out of their control. If certain members can’t do that,” she jerked her head towards Laura, “They shouldn’t be here.”
“That’s a bit unfair,” Laura murmured. I agreed. Jessica was getting to be mean.
I mean, I could see her point. It was a bit weird to all of a sudden have a new member. But she was working on proving herself. Jessica needed to have a bit of forgiveness.
“Stand down, Jessica,” Andy ordered.
Clark looked at our leader. “Or what, Andy? You’re not gonna throw her out, are you?”
“Of course not. I don’t want her talking about my friend like that. Especially when she’s right here.”
“Maybe she has a point, though, Andy,” Clark said, slowly. “I’m fine with her being on the team, but I’m not fine when she starts messing with my stuff. We have to find Artron. We can’t be focused on problems caused by the team itself.”
Andy nodded. “I agree.”
“I am sorry, too,” Laura said, meekly.
“So you’re not going to get onto her for jeopardizing the mission?” Jessica asked, indignant.
“Don’t ‘Jessica’ me, Gardner. You’re either playing favorites or you aren’t.” She sighed. “I don’t want to work like this, honestly.”
“What?” Dove asked. “Please explain.”
She breathed deeply, as if steeling herself. “I don’t want to work with the OrigAvengers while our leader won’t focus on the team he already has, instead focusing on some girl he has a crush on.”
I looked at Dove. We both flinched. That was a low, low blow. Andy turned bright red, matching his hair. Laura fumed. “Don’t talk about Andy like that. I don’t care how full of yourself you are, Jessica-” she started.
“For the moment, I’m resigning from the team. I’ll be back…when Andy comes back to his senses.” She turned to leave.
Clark got up, too. I looked at him, pleadingly. “Clark, not you too.”
“Jessica has some good points. I’m sorry, Andy, Laura, she’s being really unfair to you.” He shrugged. “But I have a lot of the same feelings. Don’t worry, I don’t not like you guys. This is more…giving me a break to think about things.”
“I understand,” Andy said. His tone was clipped and angry.
Jessica turned around. “Calm on, Jesse,” she said.
Jesse stood still and shuffled his feet.
“Sorry Jess…I’m staying.”
“What you said…was low. Real low. Especially to people I know you consider friends. I’m staying with them. Please don’t take it personally.”
Jessica glared. “Don’t worry, I will.”
Clark and Jessica both left, leaving myself, Dove, Andy, Laura and Jesse.
“Hey, we almost stayed a team for a full year,” Jesse said, trying to lighten the mood. “Don’t worry…they’ll be back.”
“Oh, shut up, Jesse,” Andy snapped.
Laura sniffled. Dove seemed stunned.
I was really disappointed. I took Unshreddible Hulk out of my pocket and looked at him. A small part of me wanted to Hulk out and just destroy everything. But I knew that wouldn’t help anything. We’d lost two of the smartest people in the fight against Artron. More importantly, the OrigAvengers were the best friends I’d ever made, especially since coming to Kirby. How could this group feel the same if we’d lost two of the founding members?
Rejection and Introspection
I didn’t lose all my team – I still had four people working with me – but it still hurts to lose Clark and Jessica.
I understand their frustrations…I really do. I just can’t bring myself to agree with them. In a way, given all that we have been through, it hurts that they didn’t trust me to make the right call with Laura. It’s important to me that they aren’t afraid of not having any control over the OrigAvengers.
The OrigAvengers belong to all. They deserve to have a say in which way we go. Still, if we belong to all, we should welcome heroes that join the team, like Laura.
They weren’t with me when F.O.L.D. collapsed, so I can’t say I blame them for not trusting Laura. Now… I have small but undeniably existent, tugging doubts about whether they trust me. I’m trying not to focus on them too much.
So, when the OrigAvengers—at least, what remains of us—met at the playground before school, I can’t say my self-esteem was very high.
For better or for worse, they weren’t looking good, either.
I leaned up against the playground set with Laura, who appeared to be trying to blend into the black frame with her dark jacket. Dove, who had kindly agreed to come over before heading to Wheeler, sat on the swingset, idly moving back and forth while staring at the ground. Ally sat cross-legged in the grass in front of the swings. Jesse was lying down next to her, his hands covering his face.
Nobody was saying anything.
“Is anybody gonna say something or do I have to make a dumb, quippy remark that’ll get me punched?” Jesse groaned through his hands. I appreciated that he’d even come, really. He’d undeniably drawn the shortest straw; he and Jessica weren’t speaking because of the argument.
Ally half-heartedly punched his arm. “There. You’ve been punched.”
“I’m not gonna take that lying down,” he said, slowly sitting up to illustrate his point. “Guys, seriously, what are we going to do? We can’t just sit here feeling like crap.”
“I do not want to be feeling like waste either,” Dove added. “But I do not know where to go from here.”
I turned around and leaned against the swingset with my head. So many feelings came at me from all sides; hurt that Jessica (and, to a lesser extent, Clark) wouldn’t trust me, embarrassment on mine and Laura’s behalf for Jessica’s comment, shame that I had no idea where to lead anyone else, fear that Artron was still out there, waiting-
“Gah!” I shouted, in spite of myself. I punched the swingset. “Ow. Bad idea.” Great, now I was embarrassed that I’d just punched the tar out of my hand.
“It’s not your fault, Andy,” Ally said.
“Stop telling me that!” I snapped. Ally flinched. I clenched my fist. “…Sorry. You don’t deserve that.”
“You know it’s my fault, anyway,” Laura said, softly. “I shouldn’t have tried to mess with Clark’s computer.”
My feelings softened, slightly. I turned towards her. She was still standing off to the side. “Laura-” I started.
She cut me off. “Andy, stop making excuses for me. When I joined the team I became a full member, right? I want to prove myself, and I don’t want to feel like you’re my crutch on this team. You’re not responsible all the time. It’s my fault. Let me take the blame.”
“She is right,” Dove said. “This is a team. Do not try to carry the whole team’s burdens on your shoulders. It is unhealthy.”
Ally stood up. “You’re the leader, we know. We picked you to be the leader because of that sense of complete responsibility. But what kind of team would we be if we let the leader take the fall for everything?”
Dove, Ally and Laura all looked at me, daring me to respond. I glanced at Jesse, pleadingly.
“Hey, don’t look at me. I’ll let you smarter people hash this out.”
But, I knew there was nothing left to hash out. It was time for class. They’d made their point, and now they’d let me consider what they’d said.
“I need to get to Wheeler,” Dove said. “I shall see you all later.” True to his word, Dove got off the swingset, told Ally ‘sé þig seinna’ and headed towards Wheeler.
Ally, Jesse and Laura turned to leave as well. Before they all left, though, I stopped them.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d been taking…chances from you all.”
Ally smiled. “There you are taking responsibility again.” She gave me a hug. “We’re here for you, Andy. Don’t only try to be there for us.”
“I’m not hugging you, but ditto,” Jesse added. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an angry girlfriend to find.”
Ally and Jesse left. Laura stayed still for awhile.
“Laura…about what Jessica said last night-”
She sniffed. “I know, Andy. I know she didn’t mean it. I know you don’t have…”
I wanted to correct her. I really did. But something stopped me. I wasn’t ready. “Yeah. Um, yeah. Still friends?”
She sniffed again. Her face stayed fairly stoic. I couldn’t tell if what I’d said had any effect on her at least. “Yeah, yeah. Still friends.”
She smiled weakly and turned back towards the school.
I felt like I’d said the wrong thing once again, but I couldn’t find the strength to go fix it.
The News Leaks
I’ve suffered arguments and break-ups like this before, but somehow it feels more…difficult, this time around.
I texted several of my friends, like Adrian, Gar and Kev and told them briefly what had happened. Then, I was alone to myself the rest of the night.
After the meet-up with Andy on the playground, I slumped around school this morning, not really caring about who said ‘hello’ to me or whether I said ‘hello’ in return. I knew that, since the OrigAvengers were still technically together, I needed to be helping with Artron’s defeat as much as possible. I just couldn’t bring myself to do any investigating at all.
Matters were not made better as the day went on. At around 10:30 in the morning, a Kirby King newspaper made its way to Wheeler. On the front cover was the headline ‘FOUNDING ORIGAVENGERS MEMBERS QUIT – NEW GIRL TO BLAME? by Desiree Dawson’.
Drullusokkur. I didn’t have time to worry about how the news was leaked. What I did worry about was that now Artron would know his enemies had suffered a blow.
I was actually shown the newspaper by my new friends Gar and Kev. Kev walked by Kirby on the way to school, and as such was able to find a copy.
“Cassidy gave it to me. She thought it was important,” Kev said, quietly, as always. “It’s only a matter of time before everyone finds out.”
“That’s not the issue,” I replied. “We’ve been blacklisted before. No, this time I’m simply worried about the villain.”
“Really?” Kev said. “You’re not worried about your image?”
I shook my head. “I’m simply worried about the safety of the schools. And of my friends.”
Kev stared at me for a moment, then looked thoughtful.
“‘Clark Largent and Jessica Smith-Holt, two founding members of the Kirby/Wheeler-based group, both quit the team yesterday after disagreements surrounding the newest member Laura Rushman.’” Gar read. “I’m sorry, Dove. That must be difficult to process.”
Per usual, I did not like to share my feelings with others. I simply shrugged. “However, this does not mean we should forget Artron. The fiend even now will be-“
Before I could even finish speaking, TV screens up and down the hallway turned on. A picture of the newspaper article was front and center for all to see.
“As you can see,” a voice said over the loudspeakers, “The OrigAvengers can’t even work with themselves well enough to beat me. It’s unfortunate. Please, discuss, like, comment and subscribe, and don’t forget to tip the waiters!”
The TVs turned off. Thankfully, there wasn’t a large reaction; it was a sad fact that even though there’d only been a few attacks, people were already used to Artron’s broadcasts.
“Well, it seems like he knows,” Gar commented.
“I think you are correct,” I replied.
Gar rubbed his chin. “Artron must have got up early to make this. Or, he had inside information.”
“If Clark were here, he’d be able to trace the signal, isolate the mainframe, some other strange technological wizardry that I don’t understand,” I said. “I sincerely hope he comes to his senses soon.”
“Do you want us to get an adult investigation in here?” Gar asked. “Kev’s dad is the head of security here.”
“No. This is a problem F.O.L.D. started and the OrigAvengers must end.”
Everyone was quiet for a moment, each thinking about something different. Then, “Yeah,” Kev said. “I dunno, maybe Artron made a mistake this time.
“Oh?” I asked.
“I don’t think he should have attacked you guys.”
I patted Kev’s back. He stumbled a bit. “Thank you, Kev. It was wonderful to have people like you to help me.”
“Anytime, Mr. MacLeash,” Gar replied.
I can’t believe them, honestly. It’s so frustrating. I knew we shouldn’t have let Laura stay. I knew it would make things worse. Just look where we are now!
But, one way or another, we had to find Artron. Even if I didn’t want to be a part of the team now, I was still a hero in my own right. With Mockingfold in my backpack, I decided to go find the one person none of the others had thought to look for; Cassidy Lashay herself.
It seemed ridiculous that we’d spent this whole time arguing about why she was at the center of everything, and yet no one had actually thought to go talk to her. I’ll just chock that up to Andy being stupid, again.
Cassidy is easy to find, most days. She’s a popular girl beloved by almost everyone, so, of course, she has a posse that follows her every move. Okay, I do consider myself to be kind of popular, maybe an 8 on a scale of 10, but Cassidy would be at 10 on that scale.
Personally, I’ve never liked her. She moved here a couple semesters ago from upstate and suddenly she owns the place. She’s a sophomore, so maybe it’s just the fact that she’s younger than me, but she can really get on my nerves.
Man. I sound really cranky right now. I need a break. I wonder if Jesse wants to go- oh, right. Anyway.
Um, so, I found Cassidy right after Math with Mr. Hammond. She was outside, chatting with her group who, as best as I could guess, were consoling her about losing Franklin. Each of them wore a green outfit to match Cassidy’s usual wardrobe.
“I’m so sorry, Cass,” one girl said.
“You’re better off,” one added.
“Franklin was a jerk, anyway,” another confirmed.
“Guys, guys, I’m fine,” Cassidy said, trying to break out of the center of the cluster. “It just didn’t work out.”
“We’re here for you!” the first girl said as Cassidy finally busted through the wall.
I was standing there waiting for her. “Cassidy Lashay?”
“Oh, hi, Jessica,” Cassidy said, with a smile. “Here as a friend, or as an OrigAvenger? Oh, right, you quit.” Cassidy turned around and shooed away her adoring fans. They wandered off dejectedly, like a dog being told to stay away from the dinner table.
I glared at her. “I’m still a F.O.L.D. agent. Or, I was, at least. That doesn’t matter. I’m still here to ask you some questions.”
She looked confused. “Me? Why me? Do you think I’m Artron?”
“I’m not ruling it out,” I said, bored already. “But we think Artron is targeting people around you. Do you have any idea why?”
“Is that why he went after Franklin?” she asked. “It’s my fault?”
Cassidy looked hurt. She brushed a strand of her curly black hair out of her face. “I mean, I’m upset that I lost Franklin as a friend. Now, I know that he was just my friend because people wanted us to be together, and that helps, but…”
I looked at her. “You think it might’ve been for the best?”
“No! Well, I don’t know. Maybe.” She slouched over. “It stung to lose him, really. I only have, like, one real friend, and he doesn’t even go here, and…” She took a deep breath. “It’s just a stressful time.”
“You’re more human than usual,” I commented.
“Wow, thanks,” she said, glaring.
“No, I mean-” I said, putting my foot in my mouth. “I mean, I just thought you were a popular girl after all the guys.”
“The last guy I dated was John Miller in middle school, and look how that turned out.” She leaned against the wall, with a melancholy look on her face. “I want to take my time with whoever I date next.”
“Yeah…” I agreed. Huh. Maybe Cassidy wasn’t terrible. “I think that’s enough for today. Thank you for talking.”
“Anytime, Jessica,” Cassidy replied.
I turned to leave, but I had one more thing on my mind. “I’ve been meaning to ask…what’s with the outfit?”
She looked down at her bright emerald top and dark green skirt, contemplating. Then she looked back at me. “Red is my favorite color,” she said, simply.
I remembered what Laura had said about her being sensitive about the fact that she was wearing green, so I just shrugged. “Suit yourself,” I said.
I walked away, thinking things over. If I’d misjudged Cassidy so grossly…maybe I’d recently misjudged someone else.
Doing My Brother’s Job For Him
So, Clark didn’t tell me anything, but thanks to the always-reliant Desiree Dawson and the Kirby King, I learned that the OrigAvengers took a massive beating when Clark and Jessica split from the team.
I kept asking Clark about it all week, but he wouldn’t tell me anything. He just moped around the house, texting Robby and Emily, kind of ignoring everyone. It was getting really annoying.
Tuesday night, though, Mom made steak and mashed potatoes (my favorite) and Uncle Ricky came over. Family dinner! The whole time I kept hinting to Clark that he should tell us everything. Finally, I broke him.
“Fine!” Clark snapped. “I’ll tell you.”
“Tell him what?” Uncle Ricky asked.
If looks could kill, the look Clark gave me would have made me deader than Uncle Ben. But, he relented, and pretty soon he’d told us the entire story.
“But that makes no sense, because we talked to Lane and Leena last week,” he was saying. “They helped us track down the signal.”
“Mashed potatoes,” I said.
“What?” Clark asked confusedly.
“Pass the mashed potatoes, bro.” Clark sighed. I piled my plate high with my third serving.
“This reminds me of something that happened when we were on a mission,” Mom commented. “Remember Gordie, Jr.? We had been informed by the director of F.O.L.D. at that time-“
“He’s your principal, now,” Uncle Ricky added. “Alden Ainsley.”
“No way,” I said. “Principal Ainsley was the director of F.O.L.D.?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “Yes, anyway, he said that Gordie might be going out with a girl that Alden had feelings for. Now, we checked up on it, and we found out that Gordie was actually trying to get the girl to like Alden! Er, Mr. Ainsley.
“My point is, maybe you just need to talk to your friend Lane. Don’t rush to make any judgements.”
Clark picked at his mashed potatoes again.
Uncle Ricky changed the subject. “In unrelated news, the music store is doing really well!”
“That’s fantastic, Ricky!” Mom replied.
At that point, though, Clark and I stopped listening. I poked his arm. “So, are you going to talk to Lane and Leena tomorrow?”
Clark glared. “No, I’m not. Laura was just mistaken.”
Man, Clark was such an idiot sometimes. It looked like I needed to take matters into my own hands.
The first thing I did the next day was find my partners in stopping crime, Robby and Lacey. Robby was walking with Clark and Emily between classes. I swooped in and pulled Robby aside.
“Hey, man, we’ve got another part of the investigation to do,” I said. “Wanna come?”
“Oh, sure,” he said immediately. He turned to Emily and Clark. “You guys fine if I go with Cal?”
“Of course,” Emily replied. “If it’s related to Artron, do whatever you can. I despise guys like him.”
“Strong words, babe,” Clark said. He looked at me, then realization came over his face. “Wait a second, this isn’t about-“
I’d already grabbed Robby and started fast-walking down the hall. “Yes, it is, see you later!”
I marched Robby over to Lacey’s locker. Sure enough, my friend was there. “Hey, Lacey!” I yelled.
She turned to see us. “Oh, hey guys. What’s up?”
“I’ve got an update on the Artron situation.” I explained how the Artron signal had come from Lane’s computer, and how Lane could potentially be Artron himself.
“So, are we going to go catch him?” Lacey asked.
“Indubitably,” I replied.
“Indubitably?” Robby asked.
“It’s a word.”
I took them to a bench in the hallway and sat down. “Okay, here’s the plan,” I said, pulling out a map. “I’ve sketched out the science-y room that Lane and Leena are always in. I say that we all take different positions around the room and communicate through walkie-talkies. Oh, yeah, code names. Lacey, you’re BestFriend01. Robby, your code name is OkayFriend02.”
“Ouch,” Robby replied.
“Touching, Cal,” Lacey said, “But look up.”
Lane and Leena were just across the hall at their own lockers. Nobody was talking to them, and they were wide open for the taking.
“Oh.” I got up from the bench and ran straight for Lane.
“Oh, hi Cal. Wait, what are you-” Lane said before I tackled him to the floor.
“Take that, Artron! That’s right, I know who you are. Guess what? I also know karate!”
“Me too!” added Spider-Fold.
“Cal, get off,” Robby ordered. “You’re getting to be as weird as your brother.”
“Why did you do that?” Leena asked as she helped Lane up.
“We have reason to believe Lane is, or working with, Artron,” Lacey explained.
“Yeah. I wanna take him I Clark,” I added.
Lane and Leena both looked at each other nervously, as if they knew what I was talking about.
“We’ll come,” Lane said. “Only if you promise not to tackle me again.”
At lunch me, Robby and Lacey brought Lane and Leena to Clark. He was sitting by himself at lunch, avoiding Andy and the others. Seemed petty to me.
“Hey, Clark, I did your job,” I greeted him.
Clark looked up from his lunch and saw Lane and Leena. “Guys, I’m sorry, Cal is delusional-“
“No, Clark,” Leena interrupted. “We do have something to tell you.”
Lane looked at Leena. “Do we have to?”
Leena glared at him pointedly. Lane sighed and slumped into a chair next to Clark. “We do really have to tell you something important.”
“Oh.” Clark looked at me confused, then looked back at Lane. “I’ll go find Jessica. Stay put.” Clark stood up and passed by me. “Um, thanks,” he said quietly. I nodded.
Another successful mission, I’d say.
By the Kirby Student Body Council (Collected by Tilly)
THIS MARCH 23 AT 5:00, SEE KIRBY TAKE ON THEIR FOOTBALL ARCHRIVALS IN WHAT STUDENTS ARE CALLING THE GAME OF THE YEAR. IT’S KIRBY VS WHEELER. MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND SAVE THE DATE!
As soon as I’d got a reluctant Jessica to come over, she asked Lane and Leena “Okay, what the heck are you two talking about? This had better not be about that football game. I’ve heard far too much about that *bleep*.”
“Wow, language,” Lane said, quietly.
“All I know is that I was just interrupted from not talking to Jesse at lunch, so this had better be important,” Jessica fired.
“Fair point,” I replied. I turned to Lane and Leena. “Okay, guys, I stood up for you after Laura accused you of being a bad guy. What you’ve got better vindicate me.”
Leena looked miserable, and Lane just looked uncomfortable. “I don’t think you’re going to like what we need to tell you, then…” Leena replied. She got out Lane’s laptop and handed it to Lane. He made a big show out of not wanting to open it, but finally did and typed in some special codes. He turned the laptop around and showed a signal mainframe connecting into Wheeler and Kirby.
I was dumbfounded, if that’s the correct word to use in this situation. I took the computer. “No way,” I gasped. “This mainframe is intense. There’s so many different feeds to keep track of. Did you guys build this?”
Lane shrugged. “It was a stressful afternoon.”
Jessica looked skeptical. “So, does this mean you’re Artron?”
“Er, not quite,” Leena said, ashamed. “But we might as well be.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. “Are you like clones or something?” Jessica elbowed me.
“No…we were accomplices to Artron,” Lane said, quickly. He added, even quicker, “but it was against our will!”
Leena resigned herself to telling the whole story. “Right after Artron found the files, and right after he’d sent the first warning text, he contacted us. He the modulated voice and we couldn’t trace the call, so we don’t know who he is. Well, anyway, he asked us to help him with his ‘mission’; getting rid of people who’d become popular in unfair ways.”
“‘Bring them down to size’ was his exact words,” Lane added.
“Yes, it was.” Leena huffed, annoyed at being interrupted. “Anyway, we said no, of course, and planned to contact you all. Unfortunately…Artron was prepared. He’d already looked through the files, and found something we would have liked to have stayed secret…”
“He didn’t…” I said, quietly.
“He did,” Lane confirmed.
“Did what?” Jessica asked.
I looked at both of them, just to see if I could say. The both solemnly nodded their permission. I looked back at Jessica. “Freshman year of high school, we entered the first Mindstorms contest. Lane and Leena decided to work late in the science lab. Somehow, someway…they blew up a table. They asked me to help them cover it up. No one ever knew what happened to that table except for us…and Artron, now, I guess.”
I looked back at the duo. “How’d Artron even find out about that? I thought you’d scrubbed the footage!”
“You hacked into school security in freshman year?” Jessica asked.
“That’s beside the point,” I said, shushing her.
“We did,” Leena said, “but it turns out the F.O.L.D. had another camera stationed in there that everyone had forgotten about. Artron was able to locate it, and…”
“Artron blackmailed us into working with him. We were against it, sure…but we both didn’t want our secret out. As soon as Cal caught up with us, we knew it wasn’t worth hiding anymore.”
Leena continued, “We also knew we had to tell you…Artron is planning something big for the football game this weekend.”
“The one between Kirby and Wheeler?” Jessica asked.
“The very same,” Lane said. “We don’t know what he’s planning, but we know he didn’t need us. This means that he’s probably smart enough on his own.”
“Well that sucks,” I moaned.
Jessica nodded. “You guys did the right thing. Thank you so much for telling us.”
They both smiled and left. I put my head on the table. “Uuuuuuuugh. You know what this means, right?”
Jessica leaned back, groaning. “Yes, yes I do.”
“We’re wrong, and Laura isn’t the devil?”
Jessica leaned forward. “Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have new blood on the team.”
“Okay, not that far,” I said. “But yeah, you were a jerk. Should we go apologize?”
“Do we have to?”
I nodded. “It’s the painfully heroic thing to do.”
So, we got up and went to find the rest of the crew.
You’d think I’d get tired of putting my foot in my mouth, but I guess not.
My feelings were, well, they just were. I hope that explains it enough.
Throughout the day I wondered how I could possibly face the team again. I knew that the remaining members all at least liked me (I didn’t know if it was more, in one case…) but I felt awful about taking the team apart in my first, like, three weeks. That had to be a record for origami teams.
I tried to avoid my ‘teammate’, if I still wanted to call them that, all day. I found it morbidly funny that I now really was the Black Widow of the team. The loner, trying my hardest to be alone because I was afraid of hurting them again. I was getting perfectly used to drowning in my own bubbling shame and regret.
You know, until after lunch.
Right after I left the cafeteria, I heard a voice behind me.
“Hey, uh, Laura?”
I turned around. It was Jessica, with Clark behind her.
I couldn’t hold in my bubbling shame and regret. “I’m really sorry for the computer problem, Clark. I just wanted to help and I should never have touched it and I’m sorry for blaming your friend-”
“Hey, hey, Laura, calm down,” Clark said. “Yeah, please don’t touch my stuff again. But…um, anyway…”
“We’re sorry.” Jessica looked pained saying it, which was slightly annoying, but I took the gesture.
“You were right about Lane,” Clark said. “Well, partly. They were blackmailed. Because they blew up a table?”
“Not important. We just need to get the team back together.”
“You mean get back on the team?” I said, sarcastically.
“You-” Jessica started. She caught herself. “Yes. That’s what we mean. Do you know where everyone else is?”
“I’ve been avoiding everyone myself, but I could text Ally…”
“Not Andy?” Jessica asked.
“No, not Andy,” I snapped back. “Sorry.”
Clark cleared his throat. “Ahem. That was painfully awkward. Please, we need to get the team back together now. Focus.”
I sent a quick text to everyone: “meet @ mars garage after school if its fine with ally.”
Ally sent back “Sure. Meet at Mars’s.”
For the third time in recent days, all seven of the OrigAvengers were in Mars’s garage. I still wondered if Mars was really fine with us meeting there, but I figured we were fine if we didn’t break anything.
It was…tense. Everyone seemed kind of distant from each other, aside from Ally and Dove who were always comfortable together.
“So, what you’re saying is…” Andy started.
“I was wrong, per usual, and Artron is going to attack the football game on Friday.” Clark was waving his arms, like he usually did when he was excited. “Oh, yeah, sorry about leaving. That’s my bad.”
Andy nodded. He looked between Clark and Jessica. “I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I am really sorry. I really should not have given Laura membership, but most of all I’m sorry for giving you as much of a say in this team that you should.
“A single argument should not break the team like that, but I wasn’t willing to let have as much say as you should. I was a crappy leader.”
Clark put his hand on Andy’s shoulder. “You know what, Andy? You were.”
“No, that’s it.”
“I’m sorry, too, Jesse,” Jessica said. “I let my temper get the best of me.”
“Listen, Jess,” Jesse said, taking Jessica’s hands. “I’m dating you, unreasonable temper and all.”
“Okay!” Andy said. “So, are we all good?”
“I was good to begin with,” Dove said quietly.
“Same,” Ally said.
“Well, I guess we’ve got a villain to catch Friday?” I asked.
“Yes, we do,” Andy replied. “All of us.”
Everyone smiled at me. “Welcome to the team, Black Widow,” Clark said. “Hope you stay awhile.”
They were finally accepting me! I beamed. “Thank you so much, everyone!”
The Football Game
The OrigAvengers, a team once more, sat together on the bleachers as the football game started Friday night. Outwardly, I was quiet, but inwardly I was very, very happy. I made me ecstatic to see my friends finally being friends once again.
Jessica and Jesse, while quiet, did sit next to each other. I figured they would be dating once again soon enough. I sat on Jessica’s right, with Ally next to me; we shared a popcorn bag from the concession’s stand. Laura and Andy sat above me. Clark, and Emily and Robby, sat right next to them. Clark and Andy were the ones who were always at each other’s esophaguses. (Ally’s note: He means throats.) More than the others, their reconciliation was the most rewarding.
“So, when is this attack gonna happen?” Clark asked aloud. “I’ve noticed a significant lack of supervillain activity since I walked in.”
“Give it time,” Andy replied. “We just walked in.”
When we entered the stadium, it was the middle of the first quarter. Now, it was nearing the end of the second. From what I could see, the players on each side were running into each other and attempting to move the oddly-shaped ball to the other end of the field. I still do not fully understand the rules of football, but by viewing the screen on the far end of the field, I knew that the Kirby Monkeys were winning. The score was 13-9, at Kirby’s advantage.
At that time I recognized Gar walking into the stands. I waved to him, and he waved back. He walked up the bleachers and in front of me and Ally. He held two tins of nachos in his hands.
“Enjoying the game?” he asked.
“Has it been a good game?” I asked Ally.
“It’s been really boring so far,” she answered. She held out her hand to Gar. “I’m Ally.”
Gar shook her hand. “A pleasure to meet you. I’m Gar, a friend of Dove.”
“Dove makes friends with pretty much everyone, so that doesn’t surprise me.”
“Thank you, Ally.” The time was a minute and a half to half-time. “Who is the second plate of nachos for?” I asked Gar.
“These are supposed to be for Kev. He headed to the bathroom right as we got here.” Gar checked his watch. “I hope he gets back soon. He loves football. I’d hate for him to miss this, even if we are losing.”
“Everyone knows Kirby has the better team,” Jesse piped up.
“It is a fact,” Jessica confirmed.
“Oh, puh-lease,” Gar said, jokingly. “Wheeler won the tournament last year.”
The clock now said thirty seconds to half-time. It was Wheeler’s possession on the third down. The quarterback ‘hiked’, stayed back, and hurled the ball halfway down the field. A teammate caught the ball but was taken down.
“See?” Gar said. “No one could make a catch like that but Jeff Barry.”
“Oh, Kyle Downes would have caught it if he hadn’t been taken out of the game,” Jesse interjected.
With ten seconds ’till half-time, the Wheeler Squirrels hiked the ball, spent some time running the clock, then the quarterback threw the ball and a player I now recognized as Jeff Barry caught the ball and ran straight into the ‘in-zone.’ It was now 16-13, Wheeler’s lead, at the half.
“Eh, we’ll get you back,” Jesse good-naturedly told Gar.
Suddenly, the lights in the field turned off. The players hadn’t even had a chance to leave the field. Everyone in the stands started to ask questions and complain. Then, just as suddenly, the lights came on. However, the enormous video screen was black.
“What do you wanna bet that this is Artron?” Clark asked aloud.
“It’s not smart to bet, Clark,” Emily berated.
“We need to go.”
Before we could, however, the video screen turned on, but the only thing on screen was a green audio monitor.
“Hello, everyone. It’s me, Artron,” a heavily modulated voice said. The audio monitor danced up and down as Artron spoke. It poured through the speakers, so that everyone could hear. “Nice to see you all again.”
It was completely silent across the field. No one spoke. I glanced at Ally; she looked as worried as I did.
“We’ve had a great turnout tonight. Gives me a fantastic audience. Now, I can’t hear you, so you’ll just have to hear me talk to myself for awhile.” Artron yawned, as if we already bored of his speech. It sickened me. “I’ve been kind, and tried to give you a break while your heroes hurt themselves. But, no time like the present to do what I put off until tomorrow since the cat’s out of the bag. Now, all I want to accomplish tonight is what I’ve been accomplishing; the exposure of thorns in the side of the education community. Everyone has a secret to hide.
“However, I know that my…position…is a bit unfair. So, I’ll give you all a fighting chance. The OrigAvengers, if, you know, they’re not killing each other, can try to stop me before I reveal the secrets of such athletes as Raleigh Wilder, Will Kinner, Trey Bransfield, and Jeff Barry. I’ll let you consider the implications of all that. Now, OrigAvengers, I know you’re there: I’m at Wheeler. Come and get me.”
The audio monitor disappeared from the screen. Artron had delivered his ultimatum.
“Should we go?” Laura asked. “What if it’s a trap?”
Andy was already standing up to go. “That’s what we do, then. Spring the trap.”
“I can’t be the only one who noticed that every name he listed has something to do with Cassidy,” Jesse observed. “He’s not even trying to be subtle at this point.”
“Cassidy?” Gar asked. “Kev’s friend…” he murmured, quietly.
Principal Villanueva walked onto the field with a microphone. She made sure it was turned on, and started talking. “Please remain calm, everyone, I’m sure we’ll enforcement officers go-”
“No, but thanks,” Clark yelled down, impertinently.
“No?” the principal replied. I could not see her completely, but I guessed that she had an amused look on her face.
“He asked for the OrigAvengers,” Clark yelled back, standing up. “The OrigAvengers are who his sorry butt is gonna get.”
“He means, ma’am,” Andy said, flicking Clark on the ear, “We were requested. We have experience with these types.”
She shrugged. “Well, if you think you can handle it.”
“Puh-lease,” Jesse said, smirking. “We eat guys like him for breakfast, but not literally.”
“Guys, stop,” Andy hissed. “Ignore them. Yes, we can do it.”
Clark stood up and stretched. “Mind if I go?” he asked Emily.
“You don’t have much of a choice,” she replied. She stood up and kissed his cheek. “Go be a hero.”
“Can I come?” Robby asked. “I’ve been itching for some real hero work. I even brought Cardboard Machine tonight.” I produced the puppet from his pocket.
“Dude, you need a hobby,” Clark said. “But fine. Come on.”
We all got up to leave. I turned to Gar. “Would you like to come as well? If Kev were here, I’d ask him too. You’ve helped me a lot already.”
Gar looked surprised. “Really? I’d be honored.”
Our now sizable group made our way down the bleachers and out of the Wheeler field. Just before we started towards the school a girl came up to us. A girl wearing a bright green dress.
“Cassidy?” Jessica asked. “What are you doing here?”
She breathed deeply. “I want to help you all.”
“Help us? Why? I thought you didn’t like to get your perfect green dress dirty.”
“Red dress!” she yelped. Then, she composed herself. “You’re the heroes, aren’t you? I want to help stop the villain. Believe me, I’ve had experience before.”
“But why help us?” Andy asked.
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed that ‘Artron’ has been targeting guys who I’ve been close too.” She looked towards the school. “I think I know who Artron is…and I want to make sure he’s taken care of.”
I noticed she said this with no malice in her voice. She seemed to have real care for whoever Artron was. I even had suspicions of my own.
“Kev headed to the bathroom just before Artron attacked, correct?” I whispered to Gar.
Gar nodded. “It can’t be a coincidence. He’d know everyone Cassidy dated, and he’s really close to Cassidy herself…I think Kev is our man.”
The OrigAvengers, a team once more, made our way to Wheeler to finally catch the villain.
Into the Lair
Step #1: Reform the OrigAvengers, check.
Step #2: Find out who Artron is, check (Dove filled us in on the way. I can’t believe it’s that prosthetic leg kid.)
Step #3: Wonder why some random kid and Cassidy Lashay are with us, check.
Step #4: Get inside Wheeler, find the punk and make him eat his words. Not check.
I mean, we did make it to the school, this whole, too-big group, but we were stopped by a girl with bright pink hair at the door.
“I expect you all want inside?” the girl asked with a sickly-sweet smile.
“Seyla, not now,” Dove said, exasperated.
“Is that Seyla Solstice?” I whispered to Andy.
“Yes, it is,” Andy replied.
“She’s kind of hot.”
Andy ignored me, and walked straight up to Seyla. “Ms. Solstice, we really do need inside. I don’t know if you heard-“
“Save your breath, Andrew,” she interrupted. “I’ve been getting nonstop texts about Artron’s challenge. He was inside before I got here, and he wants you all to meet him inside.” She paused. “I think you all really need to do this.”
“You’re giving us permission to go inside?” Laura asked, sounding way too surprised.
Seyla smiled, but it seemed like an actual smile. Not one just put on for show. “Yes, Laura, I am. You may think I’m an enemy,” she said, glaring at Dove, “but our feelings aren’t so different. Also, he’s been a nightmare for my presidency at Wheeler. I think that OrigAvengers need to take over from here.”
She nodded to Andy. Andy, also very surprised, turned and nodded to all of us. “Thank you, Seyla.”
Seyla jokingly blew Andy a kiss. Laura grimaced and I think Andy ignored it. She stepped aside, and stepped into the Wheeler school vestibule. (What? You know, it’s the room with doors in the front and doors in the back. It’s a word.)
“This is getting exciting,” Robby said, excitedly.
No sooner than we’d all made our way into the vestibule than the doors behind us locked. Dove tried to open the doors leading into the school but they we locked too.
“Well, that was the shortest mission ever,” Jesse mused.
“Artron?” Andy asked Dove.
“Unmistakably,” Dove replied.
“Wheeler is high-tech. Everything can be controlled by the security room,” the random kid said. “Kev’s dad probably let him inside.”
“We have a winner!” a voice shouted over the loudspeakers again. It was the modulated voice of Artron, of course (who else) but he didn’t sound as confident as usual. He kind of sounded sad, actually. “It’s great to see you all working together again. The schools really do need you. Unfortunately, I don’t. That’s why I brought you all here.”
Cassidy Lashay, of all people, stepped forward. “Why are you doing this, Kev?”
“Oh, hey, Cassidy,” the voice replied. It was definitely a nervous voice that time. “I’m doing this because people are jerks, duh. They mess with you and they mess with me, all because of things we can’t help.”
Cassidy looked somber. “I understand. But you need to stop ruining people like this.”
There was a pause. “I will, one-hundred percent.” Another pause. “But only if the OrigAvengers can catch me. If they do, I promise I will stop.”
“Let us in, then,” Ally said.
“Again, I will. But there is a bit of a catch. I just want the seven, technical, OGs. Gar, Cassidy, kid I don’t know-“
“My name’s Robby,” Robby said.
“Rodney, sure. Those three have to leave. Only then, I’ll let you seven in. You’ll be trapped in here until you find me.”
“Does that count as kidnapping?” I asked, curious.
“Not technically,” Kev answered. “You all will be free to leave as soon as you want. But then the challenge will be forfeit and the attacks made. I know you guys wouldn’t do that. So, you’ll be stuck here until you find me.”
“Won’t you just be in the control room? Dove knows where that is,” Jessica said.
“Yes, I will. There will just be some…obstacles, you’ll find. I’ll give you one minute to decide.”
Robby rolled his eyes. “Goshdangit, why don’t I ever get to go on the missions?”
“Sorry buddy,” I said, patting his back. “Maybe next time.”
“You need to go forward,” Cassidy told Dove. “He is not a bad person. He’s just misguided. I’ve known him for a long time…he’s never done this before.”
“We know,” Dove replied. “We will find him.” He turned to Gar. “Gar, please lead them outside. We must face Artron head on.”
“Yes sir, Dove,” Gar said, saluting.
“Have you made your decision?” Artron’s voice said over the speakers.
“It seems we have,” Andy replied. “We’ll go forward. Let the others out first.”
The front door clicked. Gar easily pushed it open.
“So long for now,” Robby said. “I still wish I could be in the group.”
Robby, Gar, and Cassidy left the vestibule, leaving myself, Andy, Dove, Andy, Jessica, Jesse and Laura inside.
Sure enough, the door into the school un-locked. I pushed it open easily.
“Huh. Seems like we’re inside.” I commented. “Let’s try to get a leg up on this jerk.”
“I heard that,” Artron said.
As soon as we stepped inside the school, the door locked behind us.
“Not ominous at all…” Jesse murmured. “You sure we wanna do this?”
“If we don’t do it, no one else will,” Dove replied.
“Security guards would do it for us,” Jesse muttered.
Just for luck, I pulled Captain Americut out of my pocket and placed him on my finger. Everyone else did the same with their puppets; the white Iron Fold, blonde Black Widow, Short-haired Thorigami, same-old Unshreddible Hulk, tactical Mockingfold and bright purple Hawkpleat.
“The power of Christ compels you…” Jesse said, waving Hawkpleat like a crucifix.
“Jesse, stop,” Jessica snapped.
I ignored both of them, per usual. “Dove, you’ve got point here. Which way to the control room?”
“It is in the center of the school,” Dove said. “It should be a straightforward path, but with how confident Kev sounded I doubt it will be that simple.”
“No, it won’t be,” Artron’s voice sounded. “Good intuition.”
Clark smirked, rolling his eyes, “Well gang, should we split up and look for clues?” he asked sarcastically.
“Jinkies,” Ally replied. I shot a look at them.
Dove, in front, led us down the hallway as a group. Following him in line, it was me, Clark, Jessica, Jesse, Ally and Laura. We came to a doorway. As soon as Clark passed the door it slammed shut and locked. We were split up from the rest of the group.
“*bleep* you, Kev,” I heard Jessica shout.
“Language, Jessica,” I snapped back.
“I told you it wouldn’t be easy. Now you’ll have to find your own way,” Artron taunted.
Dove looked through the glass. “Ally, do you remember how to find the control room?”
Ally thought for a moment. “Yeah, I think I do. We go left and then take a right and then another left?”
“Exactly. Good luck.”
Clark looked at me, “Well, Americut, any bright ideas?”
“Y-You’re the one who stepped through the door!” I yelled back.
“Yeah? Well, you should’ve figured it would’ve been a trap!”
Dove held up his hands, trying to cool us down with Thorigami on his finger, “Guys, guys, sun’s getting real low.”
Clark glared at Dove, blinked, and then slouched on the floor. “I guess we have to wait for Ally then.”
“Clark, we knew it would be a trap as soon as he challenged us,” he said, calmly. “Now, we must trust the others, like you wanted to do. Follow me, you two, and try not to fight so much.”
I let Dove lead us down the hallway, since he obviously knew his way around. Suddenly, the loudspeakers crackled to life again, but this time Artron sounded as if he’d gained all of his confidence back. “Now, the things I found out in your files was interesting. Some was surprising. I mean, sure, the Golden Boys Andy and Dove don’t have much, but everybody else…”
“What are you trying, Kev?” I asked. It felt weird talking to nothing.
“Disorienting you, obviously. I don’t want you to find me. Oh, and, by the way, I’ve
already released a video about Jeff Barry, by the way, so that’s one strike.”
“It’s football, not baseball, idiot,” Clark corrected.
“Doesn’t matter.” There was a sound of paper rustling, as if Kev was getting ready to read something. “So, our first bit of fun news is that Mr. Jesse Rodriguez is the owner of some…interesting videos.”
“Wait, what kind of videos?” Clark said, nervously.
“The worst possible kind…he has a Roblox YouTube channel.”
I heard a strangled yell from across the halls that belonged to Jesse. But, really, if that was all the info he had on any of us, how bad could it get?
Dove led us round a corner, and the lights in the hall went out. It was pitch black.
“Fight fair, huglaus,” Dove shouted.
“I’m desperate, okay?” Artron answered. “I know you all know what I’m really after. I can’t let you jeopardize that.”
There was a long pause, and then Artron said, “You don’t know that! This is the only way.” I figured someone else had said something we couldn’t hear.
It was so dark I couldn’t see where Dove and Clark was, but I could feel them nearby. I heard Clark scratch his nose, and I heard Dove trip over something and fall over. “Ow! What is that?”
“I might’ve left some of the lockers open, so watch out,” Artron said, I could tell genuinely apologetically. “Oooh, here’s a nice tidbit: Laura once broke someone’s hand in karate.”
I know it was supposed to be a ‘bad’ reveal, but that made me respect Laura even more.
“Kev, I know what it is like to pursue a girl,” Dove said, from his place on the floor. I could tell he was thinking about what he was going to say. I heard him get up. He grabbed his phone from his pocket, turned on the flashlight, and led us on quietly. “You can not tell anyone this, either of you. Or you, Kev. This is strictly between us.”
“Okay,” me and Clark said, simultaneously.
“…Fine,” Artron said, reluctantly. “But you do realize my entire thing has been spilling secrets?”
“As friends, I will take my chances.” Dove took a deep breath. “I fell in love with a girl, but she had to leave. It broke me apart for a very long time. My entire summer was very hard. It took me quite a while to recover, but…I think I am falling in love again. However, the way to her heart is not through attacking any potential competitors for her affections. That is wrong, Kev.
“There is no sure-fire way to a girl’s heart, but it is certainly not over fighting over her like some kind of prize. I know you really do care for Cassidy, and from what I’ve seen I do think Cassidy cares for you in some way. Treat her like a person. I am willing to be your friend. I am willing to help you.”
“…But how can I possibly be sure?” Artron replied, his voice shaking.
“You cannot. But we are willing to help you.”
Dove came to a door. He tried to open it, but it was locked. With perfect timing, another beam of light could be seen from a second flashlight: Ally had found the door. We were no longer separated.
“Welcome back, crew,” Clark greeted them. “I’m looking up your YouTube channel when I get home, Jesse.”
“It seems we’ve found the control room,” Dove said. “We’ve completed your challenge; please keep up your end of the bargain.”
“What?!?” Artron shouted, but we were so close to the room that I could hear the modulated voice mingled with the voice of a scared kid. “You distracted me, Dove!”
“I will admit I did,” Dove said, “But I meant every word of what I said.”
“Every word of what?” Ally asked.
“It was something for Kev to hear,” I explained, simply. I somehow had a feeling that whatever Dove had said shouldn’t be told to the other OrigAvengers…one in particular.
“I’ll publish everything!” Kev shouted, no longer bothering with the modulator. “There’s stuff about Jessica, really interesting things about Ally, something about Clark.”
“KEV, YOU SLIMY LITTLE COWARD!” a furious voice bellowed.
Everyone put their hands to their ears. Laura stepped forward, because of course the voice belonged to her.
“If you back out of the promise, I promise you I will tell Cassidy everything. I will tell her the most miniscule detail of how you feel and-”
“Fine! Fine!” Kev shouted. All of a sudden, the lights turned back on. It took us a moment to adjust to the bright light. I heard the door click. “Come in.”
“Wow…thanks, Laura,” Clark said.
“No biggie,” Laura said, beaming again.
I stepped into the control room. It was a small room with a screens everywhere, each broadcasting a different room of the school. Under the screens was a long table where Kev had set up a voice modulator, microphone, sheets of F.O.L.D. files, and Cheetos. Kev himself was sitting on a spinning office chair in the middle of the room. He was wearing shorts at the moment. His right leg was flesh-and-blood, but his left leg from the thigh down was built of plastic and aluminum.
He looked dejected and disappointed. “I’ve shut down all the broadcasts. I’ll delete all of the files I’ve stored. I won’t attack anyone again.” he said, slowly. “So, what now?” He absentmindedly rubbed his left leg.
“That’s a sweet leg, dude,” Clark said, all of a sudden. “Where’d you get it?”
“Gar knows a guy, actually,” Kev explained. “Wait. Why aren’t you guys arresting me? Like Jude last year?”
“Honestly, Kev,” I started, “We don’t really know what to do with you. I mean, Jude really wanted the schools to hurt. You…you never physically hurt anyone, you didn’t do any property damage, your motives were mostly pure…”
Kev kept flinching, expecting the worst. Now, seeing him, I really did have pity on him. He was just a misguided guy trying to get the girl. I understood the struggle.
“I might have a suggestion, ” Jessica said cautiously. “Laura actually inspired it.”
“Me?” Laura asked, surprised.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a way to always keep tabs on him, make sure he’s always around us, and see to it that he never makes trouble again, ” she continued. “Make him an OrigAvenger.”
“What?” Kev said.
Clark stared at her, stupefied. “I’m sorry, what?”
I mean, Jessica’s reasoning made some sense; it would be a way to help the poor kid get the girl like Dove had promised but also keep a constant watch on him. He even had the perfect puppet to use: OriVision. Fitting, you know?
I, for one, still felt icky about it. It set a dangerous precedent. Would we reward all of our enemies with membership into the origami Varsity squad? I mean, I still wasn’t one-hundred percent okay with Laura being here. Now we’re adding someone else, and he was a villain?!
We put it to a quick vote, and I was outvoted, like always. Surprisingly, Andy and Ally were both actually on my side, but everyone else voted in the affirmative. Guess that’s what we get for more inclusion in the team dynamic. So, for all intents and purposes, Kev, with OriVision, was the newest member of the team.
With Kev, the group headed out of the school. Apparently the football game with still going strong, with no doxxing to worry about anymore. I did hear later that Jeff Barry had been taken out of the game because of whatever Artron had said about him. Must have been bad.
Seyla, Gar, Robby and Cassidy were waiting for us outside. As soon as Cassidy saw Kev, I noticed her eyes light up. He looked ashamed that she was seeing his leg. He tried to walk as normal as possible, which of course made it more obvious.
“You found him,” Seyla said, sounding impressed. “Well done. What do you plan on doing with him?”
“We’ve already done it, ” Dove announced.
“Atomic wedgie?” Robby asked.
“I’d suggest suspension, ” Gar said.
“Come on, man,” Kev begged, feebly.
“Suspension is a certainty, ” Dove continued. “But he is now the newest member of the OrigAvengers.”
There a variety of reactions: a raised eyebrow by the Gar kid, a ‘no fair’ by Robby, an impressed look from Cassidy, and a grimace of revulsion from Seyla.
“That’s how you’re punishing him? For ruining several different students? You’re giving him membership? I’m glad I chose the right side.”
“His intentions were noble, and every student he went after did actually have a dangerous secret to reveal, ” Jessica said, defensively.
Seyla glowered. “I’ll admit I respect your methods, but not your results. For your sake, I hope you’re right and I’m wrong. We’ll meet again, and next time, we won’t be friends.” She turned around and strode off the field. So she was still our enemy, I guess.
Cassidy walked up to Kev. “So, you’re an OrigAvenger now? “
Kev shrugged. “Apparently. Dove said, since I was Artron, I could be OriVision.”
Cassidy gasped. “No way! ” In one of the greatest plot twists of week, she reached into her purse and pulled out her own puppet. It was green and little magic orbs on it.
“You do origami too?” Laura asked, surprised.
“I did it a lot at my old school, with my brother,” Cassidy explained, slightly embarrassed. “Your girlfriend used to go there, actually, Clark.”
“Wait -” I started, suddenly very curious, but Robby stepped forward to get a better look at the puppet.
“Green Enchantress? Like the Thor villain?” he asked.
Cassidy suddenly looked incredibly offended and started to put the puppet back in her purse.
Before she could, though, Kev asked to look at it closer. “It’s not green anything,” he said to her, reassuringly. “This is Scarlet Witch.”
Cassidy’s eyes grew huge. “You know…?”
He stammered a bit, “Well, I mean, I know because it goes great with your dress. Very red.”
Cassidy smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen, and I think she might have been crying a bit. She gave the unsuspecting Kev a huge hug. “No one’s ever really cared enough to say so,” I heard her murmur.
Andy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around. “What’s her deal? It’s definitely green, and her dress is as green as Kermit. “
“I glanced at her file before Kev threw it in the trash,” Andy explained. “She’s colorblind, but no one ever notices.”
“Ooooooooh, ” I said. “Wait, doesn’t Scarlet Witch like Vision in the -“
Andy elbowed me. “Baby steps, Clark.”
“Clark, Andy!” Dove called us. He and Ally were talking with Gar.
We walked over. “Yeah?” I asked.
“I was wondering…Gar helped me out against Artron. I do not think it would be fair to make Kev an OrigAvenger and not make Gar one… ” Dove scratched his neck.
“Sure,” Andy replied. “What puppet were you thinking?”
“Black Panther has always been one of my absolute favorites,” Gar said. “Maybe…Black Pen-ther? If that is alright with you?”
I rolled my eyes, exasperated. “Sure, we just make everyone an OrigAvenger,” I said out loud.
“Can Cassidy be one?” Kev asked. “She already has a puppet.”
“I’d like to, if it’s possible,” Cassidy confirmed.
“Ooh, can I finally be one? ” Robby asked, after eavesdropping like the eavesdropper he is.
“I’m fine with it, ” Ally said.
“Yes, I won’t be the only newbie!” Laura shouted.
“Why not?” Jessica said, calmly. I scoffed. Now that she was on board, I’d have to go with it.
Andy noticed how stressed I was. “Hey, we’re gonna have to quit someday. It’ll be smart to have new blood, you know?”
“I know, I know,” I said. I looked at the new recruits; Gar, Kev, Cassidy and Robby. “Well, all right then. You four are now, by a proclamation made by me but mostly Andy, OrigAvengers. Welcome to the team.”
After the Game
As the newly-formed OrigAvengers broke up and spread out, I walked ahead with Dove over the outside trails of Wheeler, with everyone else following behind us. The trees were crisp and a light breeze flowed through. March was a turning point for our season, and the weather had warmed up a bit. We walked away from Wheeler, but the path was all too familiar. “I miss this place,” I said.
Dove simply nodded, listening. I appreciated that the big guy didn’t ask me why I was kicked out. That seemed to be everyone’s first instinct. Dove didn’t seem to care. He just walked with me, hands in his pockets, keeping his arms close and looking ahead. Suddenly, he turned. “Hey, Ally?”
“Yeah?” I asked.
I laughed. “For what?”
“Just… being a genuine, good person. It is very refreshing.”
I stopped any remaining laughter short and smiled. “You got it, MacLeash. You’re one to talk. You’re, like, the nicest guy I’ve met. I bet whatever you said to delay Kev was personal, emotional, and from your heart.”
Dove looked surprised. “How’d you know?”
“Because it’s who you are, Dove.” The rest of the OrigAvengers had nearly caught up, so we continued to walk. “Hey, teach me another Icelandic word,” I requested.
“I think I am the one who needs to be learning a language,” Dove said. “The other day, I tried to give a transfer student at Wheeler directions to the bathroom. They ended up in a band class.”
“C’mon, you’re fine,” I assured him. “I remember Wheeler all too well. Band and the bathroom are close.”
“They are not!” Dove laughed.
“Yes, they are! You just have to make a left, then a right, then another…” Dove cracked up as I said this. “Fine,” I admitted. “But I want to learn more Icelandic.”
“Very well,” Dove said. “Your word of the day is: vinur.”
“Vinur?” I asked.
I smiled. “Hey, watch this. I’ve got an idea.” I turned back to the other OrigAvengers who were following us. “Hey Clark,” I yelled. “You’re a vinur! You too, Jessica!”
“Hey!” Clark complained. Jessica simply laughed as she walked with Jesse. They seemed to be on good terms again. I would tell them what that meant one day. Despite the rift, I respected those two.
I turned back to Dove. He chuckled.
“You make me ROFL, Weber.”
For My Eyes Only
Andy texted me later that night telling all that happened. It felt weird not being in the center of events for once, but believe me, I needed a break.
I was lying on my bed last night, processing all the weird stuff going on, when I felt my phone buzz next to me. I wanted to ignore it and take a nap, but who knows, it could be someone important. I picked it up, and who should be calling but Trent.
It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but curiosity got the better of me; I answered the call.
“What do you want?” I said, curtly.
“Oh, Tilly! Hello,” Trent greeted. “It’s great to hear from you.”
“Sure.” I replied. I noticed that he sounded a bit more…urgent, maybe? Like there was something very important he had to accomplish. “What do you want?” I asked again.
“Do you remember the black box I gave you?”
“Do you happen to know where it is? I need it back. There’s some important information inside.”
I thought for a moment before answering. I decided what to do. “I don’t have it, Trent.”
There was a pause. “What do you mean?”
“I stored it at Headquarters. It was stolen. Kev didn’t know about it, so I have no idea who did.”
Another, longer pause. “Oh. That’s not good. Are you sure?”
“Okay. If you happen to find it, please tell me.”
“Yes sir- I mean, Trent.”
“Thank you, Tilly.”
Trent hung up and I dropped my phone back onto my bed. I stepped over to my desk. I opened the drawer. Inside was a bunch of stray papers related to F.O.L.D.; mostly just work-in-progress student profiles and stuff like that. I grabbed the papers and threw them on my desk (my desk was really messy) and picked up something that I’d been storing in the drawer.
The black box.
If Trent wanted what was inside the box, I had a feeling that it wasn’t good. I laid down on my bed again, and begin to fiddle with the unassuming cube. Trent couldn’t have the information, but I was darn well going to have it soon.
I didn’t know why, but I had a feeling that the fate of the schools could depend on it.
The entire Council helped out with this one, contributing ideas, critiques and the like. But we’d like to give an extra special thanks for OrigamiLuke100. He helped flesh out ideas and concepts and came up with some pretty awesome stuff for this story.
Thanks to CJ for another fantastic cover.
And thank YOU! You Superfolders reading are chocolate chip pancakes with a side of plastic dinosaurs. You’re what makes the MOU such an amazing community. Keep writing!