Part Four of a Series
The First Adventure
All characters are mine and mine alone. If they look like anybody you know or think you know, it's sheer coincidence. This story does contain some violence and sexual content. If you don't like either of those, please try your call again.
Synopsis: As graduation for the International High seniors nears, Brice is faced with betrayal and a supervillain.
I'd like to thank Cait and Kara for helping me develop Alice . Also, great thanks to Rosa and Michele for taking on the large task of editing this adventure.
Dedicated to my friends. Without my friends there would be no foundation for Brice's adventures, or any of my stories for that matter.
Questions? Comments? Rude remarks? email@example.com.
Brice watched her alarm clock turn 12:00 AM. The alarm was set to go off in four hours, but she wasn't tired. She thought about taking some sleep-aid pills, but decided against it. She had taken them before, and they worked perfectly. They were tiny blue pills and you took one for each hour of sleep you wanted. You also didn't wake up feeling groggy.
Brice sighed as she sat up. Her pets, Monty the black Labrador and Python the white cat, stirred beside her, but made no other action before falling back to sleep. Brice tossed back the sheet covering her, and headed for her shower.
“It's April Fool's Day,” she muttered to herself. When she looked into the large mirror over her sink she said, “And I'm the fucking fool.”
Brice scrubbed her face with her hands before moving to turn on her shower. She stripped off her oversized sleep shirt and boxers before climbing in. It felt good to let the hot water run over her. She hoped it would wash off some of her stupidity, but she had been hoping that for the past five days.
After her shower, Brice dressed in her black and blue uniform. She had thought having a weekend off would give her time to recover, but she still felt just as stupid, angry, and hurt as she had when she first learned about it.
Brice left the door to her bedroom cracked so her pets could get out in the morning. She then headed downstairs, where she frowned to see the kitchen light still on. She walked in to find Greer sitting at the kitchen table with her laptop.
“You're up late,” Brice commented as she went to turn on the coffee pot.
Greer snorted, “Brice, midnight is not late for a high schooler. I'm usually just going to bed when you get up at four.”
Brice shrugged, “Suit yourself.”
Greer frowned as Brice leaned on the counter to watch the coffee make. She asked, “Why are you up so early?”
Again, Brice shrugged, “Just am. I thought I would go get the bus tuned up and then have breakfast somewhere.”
Greer's frown deepened since she knew Brice was lying. She knew Brice would probably fly around the world a dozen times while she brooded over what had happened.
Brice filled her thermos and nodded at Greer, “I'll pick you and John up in about eight hours.”
She walked out to her bus, where she then did the series of tests that allowed her entrance to the large school bus. Brice had gotten used to making a bus stop at her own house now that John and Greer lived with her. She was just glad Greer was now on Western Hemisphere time so she only had to make one stop for the both of them.
Greer had been wrong about what Brice was going to do. She didn't fly around the world a few times. Instead she landed the bus on Interstate 90 in Wisconsin and started driving west on the long stretch of road. She activated the cruise-control, but not the auto-drive. Greer had been right about Brice wanting to brood.
“I was so stupid to trust her. So fucking stupid.”
One Week Earlier
“Are you sure they'll like me?” Brice asked, looking down at her clothes to make sure they were perfect. It was Sunday, and while she wasn't wearing her Sunday best, she was wearing the new clothes that Noel, her best friend, and Alice , her best friend's fiancée, had picked out for her for this very occasion.
Amelia Delgado smiled and squeezed Brice's hand as she flew her car with the other hand, “Yes, Brice. I wouldn't be bringing you to meet them if I thought otherwise.”
Brice looked at her girlfriend and smiled to herself. She didn't know how she had gotten so lucky. Amelia was a gorgeous medical doctor of Hispanic descent. Her superpower lay within her eyes, which allowed her to see things in layers. She could look at Brice and see her without her clothes on, then her muscular system, and then her bones. Amelia often joked if she hadn't decided to become a doctor she would have made a great addition to airport security.
“You should know that my father is very protective of me,” Amelia stated, “I'm his little girl. He's going to be tough on you, but he's just doing it out of love for me.”
“I can understand that,” Brice said.
“Well, after you meet him,” Amelia paused, “Let's just say you're going to be glad we haven't made love yet.”
Brice shot her girlfriend a look of disbelief, “Amelia, I'm never going to be happy we haven't made love yet.”
“Oh, you will, after you meet him,” Amelia replied without looking at Brice.
Brice shook her head, but left it at that. After dating for eight months, Amelia was finally introducing Brice to her parents. Amelia had stated they couldn't make love until they did so, since Brice was very special to her.
Even though Brice was nervous about meeting Amelia's parents, she was secretly thrilled. Amelia was beautiful and a bit of a tease. Brice was certain if they waited longer, she would have permanent nerve damage.
Amelia was soon landing her car in remote part of Arizona .
“You didn't mention you grew up on a farm,” Brice said, looking around.
“I didn't. My parents moved out here when they retired.”
The house looked like a typical farmhouse, but Brice could tell it was owned by people in the superhero community. She could see four high-tech generators alongside the house, five satellite dishes, and two cars that were capable of flying. Most people weren't able to tell the difference between a normal vehicle and one capable of flying, but Brice wasn't most people. She was ordinary according to her medical charts, but she still wasn't most people.
After stepping out of the car, Brice paused to smooth her clothes once again. Amelia smiled as she took her hand, “Calm down. You'll be fine.”
As only family can do, Amelia opened her parents' front door without even knocking. She called out, “Mamá , Papá, we're here.”
Before Brice could even give the hallway a good look, there was a flash. A man of Hispanic origins now stood before them. He was the same height as Amelia, which was taller than her own medium height. His hair was peppered, though his neatly trimmed beard was still black.
Amelia smiled, “Papá, this is Brice Johnson. Brice this is…”
“Carlos Loiza Delgado,” the man finished in a deep voice. He held out his right hand, which Brice took. She never lost eye contact with him as they shared a firm grip.
“Your mother is in the kitchen, Amelia. You should go say hello while I talk to young Brice here.”
Before Amelia or Brice could protest, Carlos wrapped an arm around Brice's shoulders and started steering her towards a room. Once inside, Carlos firmly closed the door of what Brice assumed was his study.
“Would you like something to drink?” Carlos asked.
“Oh, no, thank you,” Brice started to say but corrected herself when Carlos started pouring her something anyway, “I mean, thank you.”
Carlos handed her the glass with amber colored liquid and said, “Have a sit.”
He gestured towards a chair in front of his desk and he moved to sit behind it. Brice hesitated for a moment before sitting down. She politely sipped the drink, discovering the liquid was brandy. She glanced around for a table to sit the glass upon but there was none close by. She settled for holding the glass in her hand.
Carlos nodded, though why she did not know. He asked, staring at her firmly, “Now, how long have you been seeing my Amelia?”
“Six months now,” Brice answered, “Give or take a few weeks.”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I drive a bus for the International High School .”
Brice had no idea why the man suddenly picked up a pen and stared writing on a pad of paper in front of him. He seemed to be glancing at his computer a lot as well.
“Who are your parents?”
“Mark and Marge Johnson, also known as Morpheus and Majesta.”
Carlos's hard and strict aura dimmed for a moment. He said, “So that makes Helen your grandmother. She's a good woman. We are power kinsmen.”
“Ah,” Brice replied. She realized that's why he appeared so suddenly. Power kinsmen were those who shared similar superpowers. Her grandmother had the power of super speed and so did Carlos, it seemed.
The moment passed and Carlos went back to interrogating her. Brice felt some of the questions were silly or intrusive, but she answered them all. She didn't know why, because had anyone else asked her some of those questions, she would have said it was none of their business.
“Now,” Carlos said, leaning forward in his chair, “Time for the real questions. Do you like my daughter? Do you care for my daughter?”
“Of course, to both questions” Brice answered, surprised he had to ask.
“Good. Have you dishonored her?”
“Excuse me?” Brice asked, confused. She jumped, startled, as he went from being behind his desk to in front of it in the time it took for her to blink her eyes. He seemed to be fuming with barely controlled anger and she had to admit that she felt intimidated.
“Have you shamed her? Disgraced her? Have you engaged in coitus?”
It took Brice a moment to realize what he was asking, “Are you asking if we've had sex?”
“Yes,” Carlos growled, “That is what I'm asking.”
Brice didn't want to answer the question. She hadn't intended to answer the question but was shocked when she heard herself say, “No, we haven't.”
Brice was so busy puzzling over why she answered that she didn't even notice Carlos had moved back behind his desk.
“Well Brice, I would say this interview went well for you. Now, what…”
The sound of the door opening interrupted them. A beautiful, middle-aged woman who looked a lot like Amelia entered the room. She frowned at her husband before smiling at Brice, “I think you've kept our guest long enough, Carlos.”
Carlos said, almost sulking, “I locked that door for a reason, Eliana. And it was a new lock.”
His wife smirked, “I know. It took me a minute and a half to get it unlocked.”
Eliana strolled over, her hand held out, which Brice rose to shake. The bus driver was surprised when the woman took her drink out of her hand.
Eliana sniffed the brandy and examined the glass. She shook her head as she sat it on her husband's desk, “Was the truth serum and the polygraph both necessary?”
“Excuse me?” Brice asked as Carlos merely shrugged.
Eliana smiled at her, “He placed a truth serum in your brandy and the glass acts as a polygraph reader. He can monitor your results on his computer. Don't worry, the effects should wear off in an hour or so.”
Not giving Brice any time to process this new information, Eliana took Brice by the hand and led her out of the room, “It's time for dinner. Come, Carlos.”
Amelia beamed as Brice entered the dining room. There were a few others beaming and one man said, “It seems you survived my father's interrogation, Brice. Congratulations.”
Amelia elbowed the man and said, “Brice, this is my brother Sebastian. Beside him is his beautiful wife Karla. Next is my brother Antonio, my sister Lina, and her husband Kingsley.”
The rest of the evening went by without any more interrogations or serums of any kind. Brice found Amelia's family nice and charming. She just hoped she was making a good impression to them.
Since it was her family, Amelia decided when it was time for them to leave. As she was saying goodbye to her mother, Carlos pulled Brice off to the side. Brice steeled herself.
“I am not entirely sure of you, Brice Johnson,” Carlos stated with a scowl on his face, “But my Amelia cares for you and you haven't caused her dishonor. That will do...for now.” Brice tried not to jump as he suddenly grabbed her shoulder in a tight grip, “But know if you hurt my daughter in any way, I will come after you. Do you understand me?”
The bus driver had time to nod before Amelia rushed in to save her. Amelia pulled Brice back from her father before stepping in to give him a hug.
“Brice is a good person, Papá. Trust me,” Amelia said.
Carlos merely grunted as he hugged her back.
Once inside the safety of the car, Brice collapsed back in the chair. Without hesitation, she said, “Your Dad is crazy.”
Amelia chuckled as she fastened her seatbelt, “Your Ma is crazier.”
“So did he ask you if we had sex?”
“Yes,” Brice groaned, “You were right. I'm glad I haven't ‘dishonored' you.”
Amelia smiled, “My father takes that very seriously. Antonio brought home a woman to meet the family when he was twenty. Papá found out they had had sex and he was furious. He lectured them for two hours before arranging for them to see a priest to be lectured even more. They didn't end up getting married.”
“So he's extremely against premarital sex. Roger that.”
“Well, yes and no. From what I can tell, he feels if you're with the right person, the person you want to take home and meet the family, you should wait. It upsets him when people promise relationships and marriage just to have sex. If you really mean it, you can wait and you can wait a long time. He waited two years to marry Mamá and he proudly states they didn't have sex until after they were married.”
“Well, I suppose,” Brice started to reply but stopped short, “Wait, what are you doing?”
Amelia had turned on auto-drive once they were in clear airspace and was now unfastening her seatbelt. The look she wore caused Brice's heart to beat up.
“You've met my family and talked to my father. He's given you his approval even though he didn't directly say so. We've waited long enough.”
Before Brice knew it, her seat was reclined and Amelia was straddling her.
She held up her hands to stop Amelia, “Wait, wait. What if I believe in what your father wants? What if I want to wait until we're married? I don't want to dishonor you.”
Amelia pulled back looking torn between surprised, treasured, and frustrated. She asked, almost a whine, “Please, tell me you're not serious, Brice. I've waited a long time to make love to you. Please,” She pleaded, “say you're joking.”
Brice smirked, grabbing Amelia to pull her down on top of her, “Of course I am, come here.”
“Gracias a Dios,” Amelia muttered before kissing Brice.
Brice supposed having sex for the first time in a car wasn't overly romantic, but she wasn't complaining and Amelia didn't seem to have a problem with it.
Fate was against the two that evening. Just as Brice was unbuttoning Amelia's jeans, a loud shrilling noise sounded, causing the women to jump apart.
“What the hell is that?” Brice asked at the same time Amelia started reaching into her pant's pocket. The doctor cursed, “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Amelia pulled out her phone and cursed again as she read it. She hopped back into her seat as she plugged her cell phone into her car.
“I'm on emergency call tonight. Some bad guy just blew part of an interstate in Orlando causing massive pileups and wrecks. I'm sorry, but I have to go,” Amelia explained to Brice painfully.
“It's okay,” Brice replied, and it was. All doctors, attending and residents, were assigned to be on emergency call a few nights a week. They were only called if there was a large-scale situation that needed medics and doctors. Generally, those situations were caused by villains of all kinds from super to normal, and the number of injured ranged from dozens to hundreds.
Amelia had been called to bomb threats, actual bombed locations, train derailments, airplane crashes, and large hostage situations. Brice was told triages were set up for medics to stabilize victims until they could get them to the on call doctors who stabilized them enough to get them to a proper hospital.
They had been flying over Oklahoma when the call came in and Amelia got them to Orlando in less than ten minutes. Amelia asked Brice to take her car back to her house and she would get a ride home with someone.
Flying over the emergency site, Brice was shocked at how much of Interstate 4 was missing. She knew that Amelia wouldn't be home anytime soon. They landed by a hastily erected triage tent. With one last kiss, Amelia grabbed her phone, jumped out of the car and went running into the tent. Brice quickly got into the driver's seat to get the car out of the way.
Once at Amelia's house, Brice picked up her bus. As she was going through the series of tests to enter her bus, her phone started vibrating. It was a text message from Noel asking how things went.
Brice called her best friend instead of texting back. Noel answered, “Things must not be going well if you're calling me.”
“She got an emergency call in Orlando .”
“Oh yeah, the interstate thing. He was probably getting on the turnpike and realized he didn't have fifty cents.”
Brice bit her lip to keep from smiling. That shouldn't have been funny. She cleared her throat, “Bad Noel. Horrible use of humor.”
“I apologize. So how did it go with her parents?”
Brice told her about everything that happened. Noel laughed, “I like her father.”
“Yes, I can imagine you doing that when your daughter brings home her boyfriend or girlfriend.”
“Negative,” Noel replied, “Alice and I are not having children. I've told you this before.”
“And I told you that since you are your mother's only child, she's going to be very upset from the lack of grandchildren.”
“She can just be another grandmother to yours.”
“Don't remind me,” Brice groaned, “Ma wants grandkids so bad that she keeps reminding me about my biological clock.”
“Well, you are getting past your prime,” Noel teased, “You do have a birthday coming in a few months.”
“I'll be 28, thank you very much,” Brice defended, “And might I remind you that you're already 28. That means you're already past your prime.”
“No I'm not” Noel paused, “I have an important call coming in. I'll talk to you later.”
Brice said goodbye as she started up the bus and drove back to her home in Tennessee . When Brice returned home she walked into her house where she was greeted by Monty, who was soon followed by Python.
“Hello my handsome boys,” Brice said, bending down to pet them. Before she could straighten back up, a gray colored blur raced around the corner, giving a single loud bark. Brice laughed, “Yes, Grail, I didn't forget you. Hello to you too, girl.”
Brice picked up the Alaskan Husky puppy and let the dog lick her face. Grail had been John's birthday present from his sister, Greer. He named her to match Brice's pets.
The bus driver put Grail down and patted Monty on the head when he looked jealous. The little puppy immediately went up and snuggled under the larger lab and tried to chew one of his front legs. Monty gave his master a look that said, “Help.”
Brice merely laughed at him, “Don't worry, Monty. When we take her to go get her shots, we'll have an animal talker have a chat with her. Maybe she'll stop chewing on you then. Wouldn't want her digging up the garden.”
“You don't have a garden,” Greer remarked, coming down the stairway from her room, “And it's really random of you to bring one up.”
“Well, it's just in case I get a real garden one day.”
The teenager shook her head as she headed into the kitchen. She called back at Brice, “I wasn't expecting you home so I didn't make enough supper for you, in case you were hungry.”
“That's fine. Amelia's family actually makes pretty decent food,” Brice replied as she followed Greer into the kitchen.
“Well, I didn't make enough dessert for you either,” Greer added.
“What's for dessert?”
“Homemade strawberry ice cream.”
Brice placed a hand over her heart, “You didn't make enough ice cream for me. Now that hurts. I'm wounded, hurt. I won't survive.”
Greer hid her smile by turning around, “You're overdramatic.”
Brice feigned a heavy and dramatic sigh, “So they tell me. I guess I'll go wither away upstairs from the lack of ice cream.”
Greer shook her head as Brice turned and began to slowly walk out of the kitchen, “I made enough for you and you know it. Stop whatever it is you're doing.”
Brice turned around to flash the teenager a grin, “You smiled though. Admit it.”
“I'll admit no such thing,” Greer dryly stated. She raised her voice, “John, come get your ice cream.”
“Can I eat it playing my game?” John called back from the living room.
“No,” Greer and Brice called out together. They shared a look before Greer continued, “You'll eat it here in the kitchen.”
They could hear John grumble a bit as he paused his game. Brice grinned, “I can't wait for him to go through puberty. I'm sure he'll be just as cheerful, delightful and social as you can be on your dark days.”
“Keep it up, Brice, and the dogs will have your share,” Greer warned.
Brice held up her hands in surrender as John came into the kitchen. They all shared the ice cream as they chatted over random things.
Brice got ready for work around 8:30 PM since it was a school night and she had to go pick up her students, who were on Eastern Hemisphere time. Now that Greer had transferred to Western Hemisphere time she only had 4 students on her night shift and it didn't take long to pick them up. The school was floating like an iceberg in the Arctic Circle when she dropped them off before heading back home.
As she hoped, Amelia texted her before she went to sleep at 10:30 PM.
“Still in Orlando & finding injured. I'm OK. We should go away nxt weekend. Talk 2 u more about it 2morrow.”
Brice smiled as she read the text again. Going away next weekend sounded great. She wanted some alone time with Amelia and she wouldn't be able to do so until Friday. Her work schedule during the week didn't leave a lot of quality time to ‘dishonor' anybody.
The bus driver awoke at 4:30 AM to get ready for work, again, and left to pick up her students. After taking her riders home, Brice had breakfast in a Waffle House in Texas . She nursed a cup of coffee for half an hour before going to pick up her students on Eastern Hemisphere time. They attended school from nine AM to five PM Eastern Standard Time.
Brice had made the habit of picking up John and Greer at her mountain home last, but she had a new rider this semester who she now picked up last. She didn't know why she always made the decision to pick him up last. Perhaps it was because having him on her bus ground her nerves and she wanted him on her bus for the least amount of time possible.
So after picking up John and Greer, she made her way up to New Jersey . Stopping outside the home she was raised in, located in the heart of a superhero subdivision, she let her brother Michael onto her bus.
Michael greeted her as he climbed aboard the bus, “Morning, sis.”
“Morning,” Brice replied as she waved to her father, who was getting into his car to fly to the high school were he taught.
A few things had changed over the past few months. Since the start of the semester, Michael rode the bus to school instead of riding with his father. He now greeted Brice instead of ignoring her like he used to do. As a handsome senior who had the power to fly, he hadn't wanted people to know his sister was a baron.
Brice watched in her rearview mirror as he walked to the back of the bus to sit down beside Greer. She tried not to frown when he kissed her cheek. The reason things had changed was because Michael was now dating Greer. She didn't like to admit that it bothered her, but it did. She figured it was because she knew how much of a jerk Michael could be.
Brice was certain the only reason Michael acted so nice to her now was because Greer told him to. He only started riding the bus so he could spend more time with her. He had also started coming over to her house a lot. Luckily Brice didn't have to be a bad guy and establish rules, her mother did that for her.
Marge had sat Michael and Greer down and told them what they could and could not do. They couldn't be in a room alone without the door open and they couldn't be out late together. The teenagers agreed to everything the superhero ordered even though Greer was nineteen (Micheal had just turned eighteen) and no longer anybody's ward. She was John's guardian and they just happened to live with Brice.
Flying towards the school, she pondered how Greer was dealing with the sudden changes. Alice mentioned to Brice that Greer had gone from mysterious to popular over night. Being beautiful, powerful, and holding the attention of one of the most popular guys in school, it was easy for Greer to make such a status change. Greer never let on if she was having trouble adjusting, and she seemed happy, so Brice kept her ponderings to herself.
She nodded goodbye to her students as they unloaded off the bus. She had to smile when John turned around to wave at her. She knew he would be a mess of hormones in a few years, but right now he was pretty sweet.
“So how did it go last night?”
Brice heard the voice before she saw the speaker, but it was a very distinctive voice. She replied, “Very well, I think. How are you, Alice ?”
At her door appeared a gorgeous dark-skinned woman who had the best legs Brice had ever seen. Said legs were on display today as Alice Inferno wore a short, tight, black skirt.
“I'm not sure that's appropriate work attire,” Brice teased.
“I've never had any complaints,” Alice grinned, “You're not complaining now, are you?”
Brice rolled her eyes, “You best stop flirting or Noel will want to skin me alive. I'm sure she has both of us bugged right now.”
“You're probably right,” Alice laughed, “I'll see you later, Brice.”
Brice saluted her before taking off. She wanted to take a nap and then go have lunch with Amelia.
The rest of the week up until Thursday passed by fast for Brice. She and Amelia had made arrangements for a romantic getaway that weekend which she was really looking forward to. The only odd thing about it was that Noel seemed to be avoiding Brice. She hadn't texted or called the bus driver all week. Brice shrugged it off, figuring Noel was on a mission.
Brice had just dropped off her night students on Thursday night when her phone rang. She was pleased to see it was Noel calling and answered, “Where have you been, Frosty?”
“Uh, Brice,” Noel hesitated, “I need to see you. Could you come to my house?”
The bus driver frowned, “Sure, but what's wrong? Did something happen?”
“I'll explain it when you get here.”
Brice increased her speed. She had never known Noel to sound so serious. She made it to Noel and Alice 's house in five minutes. She remotely locked her bus as she quickly walked to the front door. She didn't even have time to knock before Noel was opening it, “Come in.”
Brice entered, “What's wrong? Where's Alice ? Did something happen?”
“I'm right here,” Alice replied quietly. She was sitting at their dining table. Noel motioned for Brice to follow her and to sit down with them. Brice sat with Alice across from her and Noel right beside her.
There was a heavy moment of silence before Brice snapped, “Okay, you two have to start talking now. Why am I here?”
“Brice, I have something to tell you. I wish to God that I didn't have to tell you. I know it's only going to upset you,” Noel started, looking extremely uncomfortable.
Becoming more unsettled by the minute, Brice merely nodded.
Noel looked down at her hands and then around, everywhere but at Brice.
“Jesus, Noel, just spit it out already!” Brice exclaimed, unable to take it any longer.
Noel took a deep breath and gushed, “I did a background check on Amelia.”
Brice blinked once, then twice. She finally prompted, “And?”
“It was clean,” Noel admitted.
Brice let out the breath she had been holding and gave a laugh, “Well, there's no problem then. I mean, I can see how you would be worried about me getting upset, but I'm not. You did what any good friend would do and…”
“That's not all,” Noel interrupted softly.
Brice stopped. She started to feel colder, “What else?”
“I had her followed by an undercover spy,” Noel confessed. She amended, “A couple of spies. They've been following her for a month and just reported back to me this last Sunday. That was the call that I hung up on you to take. They told me something that,” Noel hesitated, “I didn't want to believe. They gave me proof, sent me files. I still didn't want to believe it so…”
“Noel and I personally investigated Amelia ourselves,” Alice finished for her lover.
Brice didn't say anything. She just waited, even though she didn't want to hear what they had to say.
Noel took a deep breath, “She goes to these clubs a few nights a week, gay clubs, on the nights she's not working or with you. She's...never alone in these clubs.”
Brice felt the blood drain from her face and then rush back in anger. She slammed her hands on the table, “What are you saying, Noel? Spit it out!”
Noel pulled out an envelope and slid it across the table. Brice didn't move to take it.
“In here are recordings my spies took. She has been with eleven different women over the past month,” Noel reluctantly stated.
“And when Noel and I followed her, we saw her with a twelfth,” Alice slowly added.
Brice was in shock. Everything seemed to slow down for her. She didn't know what to think or what to say. It took her a full minute to ask, “Is it...is she… just making out or…”
“She had sex with them,” Alice confirmed, “I'm sorry, Brice.”
The trio fell quiet for a long time. Minutes passed before Noel asked, “So what are you going to do?”
Brice shrugged after a minute, “Confront her. Ask her why the hell,” She swallowed, “would she do this.”
She wanted to cry. She wanted to yell. Wanted to break something. Wanted to bury herself in the ground and not come up again. She shook her head as she felt a familiar crowded feeling in her brain.
“No use reading my mind, Noel. It's all jumbled. I can't even think straight.”
Noel frowned. She didn't have to read her friend's mind to see how much she was hurting. Brice hurting made her hurt, and she wasn't good with emotional pain. She said, “Tell me what you want me to do. I'll do anything. Want me to get her fired? Consider it done. Want her to go bankrupt? She'll be in a poorhouse tomorrow. I'll have her spayed if you want. I can make her disappear off the face of this planet.”
Later Brice would feel a rush of love for her friend but she couldn't concentrate on one feeling at the moment.
Looking at her phone, Brice saw she had an hour before Amelia was supposed to get off work. She knew she had to get this over with tonight.
As if Alice was the one who was telepathic, she asked, “Are you sure you want to do this tonight, Brice? Perhaps it's best to wait until tomorrow.”
“No. I have to know. I have to know why she did this,” Brice said with shaky confidence.
“Do you want me to call in sick for you?” Noel asked, “You don't want to work tomorrow, do you?”
“I'm not going to let this interfere with my life. I'm not going to be some emotional wreck who lies around and cries all day,” Brice snapped, “So she's cheated on me. So apparently I'm not good enough. I'm not going to fall apart and be unable to do my job. You don't have to follow me around with a dustpan, waiting to sweep up the pieces.”
As soon as she said the words, she regretted them. She was angry, but not at them.
“I'm sorry,” she whispered.
Alice and Noel shook their heads. Noel said, “Pal, you're pissed. I honestly expected worse. This tank top is bullet proof, stab proof, and fireproof. I thought you would kill me for delivering the message so I'm glad you haven't. If you need to talk to her tonight, then go talk to her. How about tomorrow you come back and we'll all get drunk together?”
“We were supposed to go away together tomorrow,” Brice said to no one in particular, “Yes, that sounds like a good idea. I'll see you tomorrow.”
Taking the unopened envelope in hand, she walked to the front door and Noel went with her. They didn't hug but Noel briefly rubbed one of her shoulders. It was comforting and yet not helpful at the same time.
Brice set the bus on auto-pilot towards Amelia's home. She stared down at the envelope for the entire flight. She continued to do so after she landed. Finally, she opened it to see what was inside.
There were eleven sheets of paper inside. All the sheets of paper were actually recordings that could do all the standard functions of a computer such as play, fast forward, rewind and zoom. She randomly picked one and looked at it. It was a picture of Amelia heading into a club with a large play symbol over it. She tapped the paper and the recording started.
It showed Amelia entering the club and sitting at the bar. There was a time-lapse and Amelia was suddenly talking to a beautiful blonde. They danced together and started making out. The couple moved to an empty table where things progressed further. Brice was unable to finish watching it and turned it off. She played the beginnings of the others, just to see who Amelia had slept with. Who Amelia had chosen over her.
Brice let herself into Amelia's house after a while. They had given each other keys not long ago. She just sat on the couch with the envelope in hand and waited for Amelia to come home. She tried to think of a way to start the conversation. Brice didn't think ‘you cheating bitch, how could you do this to me' was a good beginning.
When Amelia got home from work, she was surprised to find Brice in her house. She beamed, “Well, this is a pleasant surprise after a hard day.”
Her smile slowly died as she saw the serious expression on Brice's face, “What's wrong? What's happened?”
Brice dumped the envelopes contents on the coffee table in front of her, “I found out about the real you tonight.”
Amelia frowned as she moved forward to see what was on the slips of paper. Brice didn't know what she expected to happen, but it wasn't the reaction she got. She half expected Amelia to deny it or beg for forgiveness. She expected some outburst of emotion but she got none. Amelia merely arched an eyebrow and asked, honestly confused, “Are these supposed to mean something?”
Brice felt her jaw drop. She leapt up from the couch, “Mean something? They show you've been sleeping with other people!”
Amelia blinked a few times, “Yes, of course I have. Haven't you?”
The bus driver was becoming more stunned and outraged by the minute, “You think I've been sleeping with other people?”
“I assumed you had been. We're both very sexual people and since we agreed to wait to sleep together, I thought it was clear we could relieve our frustrations with other people.”
“When in the hell did we ever make that clear? I don't recall we agreeing on an open relationship,” Brice growled.
“Cause we didn't,” Amelia replied, trying to remain the calm one in the situation, “This relationship is between me and you. They were just a way to come. I don't even remember their names. I never slept with anyone of them more than once.”
“And that's supposed to make me feel better?”
Amelia sighed, rubbing her head, “I don't get why you are so upset about this. They were nothing. You are everything.”
Brice just shook her head. She was furious and she wanted nothing more than to shake some sense into the other woman, “Can you honestly not see why I'm upset? Why what you did was wrong? This isn't something little. This is a deal-breaker.”
“Wait,” Amelia interjected, “You're going to break up with me over this? You've got to be joking.”
“Joking?” Brice shouted, “You've fucking slept with over ten women in the past month! I don't even want to know how many you've slept with since the beginning of our relationship and you didn't mention a single word about it! I thought I was something special worth waiting for.”
“You are,” Amelia promised, “It's custom in my family not to sleep with the person we care for the most. However, the custom recognizes we are human and are allowed to sleep with anyone else we want before the wedding as long as we are emotionally faithful.”
“So that's your excuse for going out every other night like a damn cat in heat? It's custom? ”
Amelia growled, “Are you trying to call me a slut?”
“Well, if the shoe fits,” Brice rejoined.
“Get the hell out of my house!” Amelia shouted.
“Fine,” Brice shouted back, “I'm done with this! Done with you!”
Feeling like she had been cut, Amelia wasn't going to let Brice leave without having her final say. She said, her voice clear, “I may have slept with other women, but they never meant anything to me. It's you who I care for. You who I think about throughout the day. You who I introduced to my parents. You are the only one I have feelings for, but you can't say the same.”
“What in the hell are you getting at?” Brice snapped, spinning around to glare at the doctor.
“I've seen the way you look at that girl, and I stress the word girl,” Amelia accused.
“Who are you talking,” Brice stopped short, “Wait, you think…you think I have feelings for Greer? Greer?”
“Yes, Greer. I've seen the way she looks at you and the way you look at her. You wonder how I could think you were sleeping with other people? If you saw the looks you two share you wouldn't have to wonder. Everybody sees it.”
Brice was flabbergasted. She could only shake her head in disbelief for a moment. She said, “I can't believe you think that. There's nothing to see. She's a teenager, or a girl as you so stressed. She's nineteen years old. She lives with me and rides my bus. We're casual friends at best.”
“Please,” Amelia hissed, “Don't insult me. If you don't see it, it's because you're trying to block it. You have feelings for that girl. You act so jealous when she's around your brother. So you're not allowed to yell at me about betrayal and being unfaithful. You've been betraying me far more than you think I've betrayed you.”
Brice didn't want to hear anything else coming out of Amelia's mouth. She gave the woman she had been dating the last eight months a final glare before storming out of the house.
The entire drive home she felt tears burning her eyes but she refused to cry them. She was sure they'd come sooner or later but for now, she wasn't going to cry.
As she walked into the house, she spotted Greer on the couch reading a book. Greer looked up at her, “I was getting worried about you. It's almost midnight.”
“I stopped to see a few people,” Brice dully said, “You should go to bed.”
She ignored the worried look Greer cast her as she went up to her room. Amelia's words about herself and Greer popped back in her head, but she pushed them out. Monty and Python immediately followed her, knowing something was wrong with their master.
Knowing she had to get up in four hours to go back to work, Brice wearily took four blue sleeping pills. Within minutes she was in a dreamless sleep, her pets curled protectively around her.
Her alarm went off too soon for her liking. Monty followed her around as she got dressed for work, occasionally licking her hand.
“It will be okay, boy. Don't worry,” She said, patting his head.
Brice got through the day by forcing herself not to think about it. She did her job, ignoring the looks of concerns from John and Greer. Noel called her on her break.
“Are you still coming over tonight?” Noel asked, “Drinks are on me.”
“Sure. Might as well.”
“ Alice said something about playing strip poker,” Noel said, “You better wear layers. You know how much you suck at poker.”
Brice laughed for the first time all day, “Well, you better wear lots of layers because I don't want to see anything you got.”
“Ouch,” Noel said, “I'll see you tonight then. You can come on over about eight. That will give Alice enough time to make me clean the house.”
“See you then,” Brice confirmed.
Unable to take a nap, she, along with Grail, Monty, and Python, watched How's Its Made as she waited to go pick up her students.
“Now you know how glue is made,” She solemnly told the animals, “And I did not see one horse killed in the making of that product.”
She took the dogs out for a walk before locking them in the house. Brice made her way towards the school, where she picked up her students and took them home. Everyone was excited because it was Friday, with the exception of Greer and John, who kept looking at her.
After dropping Michael off last, the three housemates agreed to get a pizza for dinner since it was late in the evening. Normally the three would stand around in the kitchen as they ate, telling each other about their day. It was normally a cheerful event full of laughter and talking. However, that night it was a very quiet and solemn event.
John asked, trying to get Brice to talk, “So you're leaving tonight with Amelia, right?”
Greer watched as Brice seemed to darken, a heavy frown on her face. Brice finally shook her head, “No. I'm going to Alice and Noel's this evening. Amelia and I separated last night. You'll no longer be seeing her around here.”
“Oh,” John replied. Glancing between his sister and Brice, he finally asked, “May I eat my pizza in the living room?”
Turning to refill her cup of water, Brice said, “It's fine with me as long as it's okay with your sister.”
Greer nodded and John quickly fled.
After another moment, Greer hedged, “So…ah…do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really,” Brice replied curtly.
“Fair enough,” Greer accepted as she turned to leave the kitchen.
“It's just…ah,” Brice quickly said, “I don't know what's going through my own head right now. I'm just trying not to think about it cause when I do…well… it's just a jumbled mess right now, Greer.”
“It's okay,” Greer promised, “Just know I'm here if you want to talk.”
Brice smiled her thanks and Greer went to join her brother. The bus driver took a long shower before heading over to Noel and Alice 's house.
Alice answered the door with a smile, “Come in. Noel went to get some ‘special brew,” as she called it. She should be back in a few moments.”
Brice followed Alice into the living room and sat down in a chair opposite the couch.
“We have over thirty channels dedicated to soccer if you'd like something to watch,” Alice commented, “I believe South Africa is playing Egypt at the moment.”
“Soccer is a big deal in South Africa , correct?”
“It is a very big deal,” Alice confirmed.
Brice inquired, “Then why don't you like it?”
Alice gave a noncommittal shrug. The pair sat in silence for a moment before another thought dawned on Brice. She realized she didn't know much about Alice .
The bus driver tried to organize everything she knew about Alice Inferno, which wasn't much. Brice knew she was from South Africa , though not from exactly where. She knew her superpowers lay within fire though Brice had never seen Alice do more than light a few candles and have a warming kiss. Brice knew Alice was employed at the International High School for Gifted Students, where she taught various science classes such as Explosives I & II and basic chemistry. Alice owned a Bugatti Veyron car that wouldn't be released to the public for another five years. Most importantly, she knew Alice loved Noel and Noel loved her.
“It just occurred to me that we've known each other for the better part of a year and I know very little about you, Alice,” Brice concluded.
Brice watched as a smile grew on Alice 's face. It wasn't quiet a smirk but it was close. Alice said, “No one really does.”
“Except Noel,” Brice added though it was almost a question.
“Except Noel,” Alice easily agreed.
The pair waited for Noel in silence after that. Brice was lost in thought and she had no idea what was going through Alice 's mind.
A few minutes later Noel came into the house. She carried a large bag and she was wearing a snow jacket, “It's cold down there.”
Brice eyed the snow on Noel's shoulder, “Did you go to Alaska ?”
“Don't be silly,” Noel replied, coming into the living room to give Alice a kiss, “I went to Antarctica . I have a friend down there who makes the best moonshine. Shoots like a dream and mixes with anything.”
“I'll play bartender,” Alice offered, “You two sit and relax.”
Alice took the large bag from Noel and went into the kitchen.
“She's very mysterious,” Brice stated.
Noel grinned, “Yes, I know. Keeps me on my toes with her. Let's turn on the game.”
Alice brought back mixed drinks for all three of them which they sipped until Noel put in Bitchslap , her favorite movie.
“Are we going to do shots every time they show cleavage?” Brice asked.
Noel rolled her eyes, “We'd be out cold in the first five minutes. We take a shot every time someone dies.”
“Oh god, we're going to get alcohol poisoning,” Brice gasped.
The white-haired woman lightly threw the DVD case at her best friend, who dodged it easily. They watched the movie with a large bottle of Noel's moonshine and three shot glasses in front of them. When the credits rolled, Noel asked, her speech slowed, “What should we do now?”
“Hmm, I don't know,” Brice answered, “Play another drinking game?”
“Aren't we too old for this?” Alice asked.
“Never,” Brice and Noel answered at the same time.
However, the moonshine Noel acquired for them was doing their job. They were all relaxed and very much buzzed. Alice absentmindedly turned on some music for background noise.
“How are you handling the whole breakup thing?” Noel asked, getting straight to the point.
In her relaxed state, Brice just shrugged, “It hurts. I feel betrayed. At the same time, it feels wrong not to have talked to her in the past day. I'm torn between missing her and never wanting to see her again at the same time.”
“You'll get over it,” Noel boldly promised, “You'll find an even better woman. I'll make sure to spy on her in the first few months before anything gets too serious.”
Brice chuckled. She then asked, “Has anybody ever cheated on either of you?”
Noel shook her head, but Alice said, “Her name was Harper. This was far back in middle school. She was able to clone herself which is why I got reports that she was making out with the captains of the men and women soccer teams at the same time in two different locations while she was on a date with me.”
“Jesus,” Brice replied but Noel started fuming, “Harper who? I'll tear her in half.”
Alice smiled as she patted Noel's cheek, “No, Noel. There will be no tearing today.”
The three lounged around, asking random questions. When they couldn't think of any more questions, they pulled up a random question generator on Noel's blackberry.
Brice read a question to Noel, “Have you ever had a threesome?”
Noel shook her head no but she also blushed. Brice laughed, “You're lying.”
“Am not,” Noel defended. Even Alice looked curious, “I know you haven't unless you've been cheating on me.”
“No,” Noel defended hotly, “It was just a dream I had once.”
“Oh really?” Alice asked, crossing her legs, “And who was in this dream?”
“You of course,” Noel quickly promised.
“And?” Alice prompted.
Noel grumbled something that sounded suspiciously like Brice.
“You had a sex dream with Brice and I?” Alice asked incredulously.
“It was just a dream,” Noel firmly stated as she blushed harder. Brice joined her in blushing. Perhaps some things were better left untold. Alice laughed at the pair of them.
An hour later and with more drinks in their system, they were saying whatever came to mind.
“Have you told your Ma about the breakup yet?” Alice asked.
Brice laughed, “No. I'm afraid to for everyone's sake. She's already stressed about making sure Michael's graduation celebration is perfect. It's technically Greer's, too.”
“Oh yeah,” Noel said, “I remember my graduation party from high school. I got lots of presents. What's Michael getting?”
“A vehicle, of course.”
“What are you getting Greer?”
Brice shrugged, “I'd get her a car too but I'm afraid she'd hit me.”
Noel excitedly said, “That's what we should do! All three of us pitch in together to get her a car. Well, a top-of-the-line motorcycle at the very least. It's practically tradition to get a graduating senior a vehicle that can fly and drive. She looks like a biker chick to me anyway.”
The bus driver laughed as Alice nodded in agreement, “Well, sounds good to me.”
“So when is this party so I remember to request off? I won't remember now but you can text me later,” Noel said.
Brice had to think a long moment, the alcohol fogging her brain, “I can't remember when the barbeque is either. I'll tell you later, I guess.”
“Ah, it's a braai. Good,” Alice randomly said, pleased for some reason, “We must use wood and make fire like true people of the veld.”
Brice and Noel looked at her and then at each other for a moment.
“Either a few of those words weren't English or I'm really drunk,” Brice finally stated.
Noel grinned, “You are really drunk, but you're right. She becomes more South African when she drinks. Her accent has already gotten thicker. It's so cute.”
“I can speak all eleven official languages of South Africa ,” Alice stated proudly.
Noel added, just as proud, “She also speaks thirty other languages.”
“You can label me impressed,” Brice replied honestly.
There was a comfortable moment of silence before Brice said, “Can I ask you guys something? It's about something Amelia said to me when I confronted her.”
“Sure,” Noel said, “Hit us.”
“She said,” Brice started, “She said that she was sleeping with the other women but they didn't mean anything. That I was the only one she cared for.”
“Don't fall for that,” Noel firmly stated, “It's just a line.”
“That wasn't what I had a question on, though thanks for the input. She said I was the only one she cared for but…that I couldn't say the same. That…Greer and I… had feelings for each other.”
The bus driver looked at her friends, who shared a look between themselves and turned back to Brice, their faces trained neutral. Brice frowned, “You put on your work face. None of that. You gotta be honest with me. Do you think what Amelia said was true? That she looks at me and I look at her?”
“Well,” Noel fidgeted, “it's a complicated question. First and foremost, though, you were faithful to Amelia. I mean, did you ever even think about doing anything with Greer?”
“No,” Brice quickly stated, “I mean, I think she's beautiful when she smiles and,” Brice stuttered, “and…but no. She's…too young for me.”
“She is nine years younger than you,” Alice agreed.
“There's,” Noel paused, thinking, “Like this bond between you and Greer,” Noel said, trying to explain what was going through her drunken mind, “It's strange. You occasionally look at each other like there's something more, but…then you don't. Like there's a hint but then there's not…”
“I agree,” Alice confirmed, even though she knew Noel's thought wasn't fully formed.
“I guess I can see what you're talking about,” Brice finally admitted, “There are times…like there's something more I'm not seeing but…well…it doesn't change the fact that she's in high school and nine years younger than me.”
“And dating your brother,” Alice helpfully added, taking another drink.
“Yes, there is that,” Brice added darkly.
“See, see,” Noel quickly said, pointing a finger at her, “You do stuff like that. Act all jealous of Michael and Greer. If you want people to stop thinking you and Greer are doing the naughty-naughty,” Noel emphasized, “And you do want that, right?”
Noel paused for Brice's answer, which was a yes in the form of a nod, “Then you gotta stop acting all jealous and looking at her like she's a beautiful woman. She's just Greer, your nineteen-year-old housemate who just needs you as a friend. I mean she seems happy with Michael and her life now. I think you should let her live it out and just be her friend. That's my advice anyway. I mean, okay, there's always a possibility down the road when she's more settled into life, blah blah etc etc. But down the road is down the road. You gotta think about right now and what the relationship between you and Greer should be right now.”
Brice was quiet for a long moment. She finally nodded, settling the matter, “You're right. I just have to be her friend.”
Noel nodded, satisfied as well. The trio finished off their drinks and Brice couldn't stop her yawning. Alice leaned into Noel, rubbing her thigh, “We should let Brice go to sleep. She's had a long day.”
“Ah,” Noel paused looking at Alice , “yeah, we'll let you get some rest, Brice. Goodnight.”
“Goeie nag,” Alice said. Brice really hoped that meant good night
Brice could have laughed at how fast Noel and Alice disappeared. Looking at the clock, she was surprised to see it was after two in the morning. She grabbed a couch pillow and put it behind her head. She then dragged the couch's afghan down on top of her.
Not even a minute after she heard their bedroom door close, the couple started making noise. She tried to ride it out but after two minutes, she was stumbling towards the door. She was getting lots of mental images and that was not a good thing.
Brice didn't know how she made it through the series of tests to unlock her bus, but she did.
“Your alcohol level is twice the legal limit. You are not allowed to operate this bus,” Her bus told her, “Would you like to engage autopilot?”
“Yes,” Brice ordered as she slumped down into her chair, “Take me home.”
Greer jumped up as she heard someone coming in the door. Brice had said she was going to spend the night at Noel and Alice 's, so this had to be an intruder. Picturing the rug in front of the door in her mind, she yanked it hard. It had her desired effect and caused whoever was in the hallway to fall.
In a run, she telepathically opened the wall safe that Noel had installed which kept an assortment of weapons. Noel and Alice had shown her how to use all of them from stun gun to real gun. Brice knew nothing about the wall safe or the weapons' training.
She pulled out the stun gun from the rack and rounded the corner, “Don't move.”
Brice moaned from the floor, “I don't think I can.”
Greer's jaw dropped, “Oh my God, Brice. I'm so sorry. You said you were spending the night and I thought... God, I'm so sorry.”
Brice looked at Greer and then blinked to refocus her vision, “What in the hell are you holding?”
Realizing she still had the stun gun in hand, Greer quickly put it behind her back, “Nothing.”
Brice's eyebrows frowned together.
“That's not nothing. That's a gun. You were going to shoot me,” Brice accused, raising a pointing finger.
“I was not,” Greer protested even thought it was an obvious lie, “Let's get you up off the floor.”
“Can't,” Brice moaned, rolling onto her side, “I'm broke. Broken-hearted and broked. Brokeded.”
“And drunk,” Greer observed.
“That too,” Brice admitted thoughtfully.
“Wait,” Greer said, “Did you drive home in this state? Are you crazy?”
Brice shook her head, “I got in the bus, sat in my seat, and told it to take me home. It did the flying all by itself. My own yellow cab. Had to leave. Noel and Alice aren't quiet at all when they start to have sex. I didn't know Noel could moan like that.”
“Too much information,” Greer softly commented. She leaned down and helped Brice get off the floor. She braced herself for when she touched Brice, but frowned when nothing happened. The blonde tried to shrug it off as she helped Brice into the living room and onto the couch.
Brice let out a sigh of relief as she sat down on the couch. She peered around the living room and her eyes widened when she saw her metamorphic painting of a mountain river had been turned into the cover of a weapons' rack. The painting was metamorphic because the artist who painted it had a strange gift with paints. He could paint scenes over each other and tell the paints to switch layers during certain times of the year. Her painting changed with the seasons. The painting had been a birthday present from her mother and father, since Brice would only be able to buy one of his paintings after years of saving.
“What is that?” Brice said, pointing to the open weapons' rack.
Greer mentally smacked herself in the head as she sent her gun back into the rack and quickly closed it with her power.
“I didn't see anything,” Greer commented, sitting down beside her.
Brice let her head rest back against the couch, “I'm too mellow to stay mad about it now. We're so talking about this in the morning though. You can count on it.”
“I can't wait,” Greer droned.
Knowing quite well that she was taking advantage of Brice in her drunken state, Greer asked, “So what happened with Amelia?”
“Oh, she cheated on me. A lot. With a lot of women. All different kinds of women,” Brice sleepily stated.
“She what?” Greer gasped. She could feel her anger rising, “Do you want me to knock some sense into her?”
Brice chuckled, “Such violent friends I have. Noel offered, you offered. I'm sure Ma will more than offer.”
“Just leave it be,” Brice muttered, “I want nothing more to do with her. Want nothing more to do with anybody. No more women. Going to be a nun.”
“You'd look cute in a habit,” Greer laughed.
Brice yawned as she kicked off her shoes. She lay down to rest her head on the armrest and curled her feet up. With her eyes closed, she blindly reached up to pull the blanket at the top of the couch down on her. She kept missing the blanket until Greer finally took pity on her and got the blanket down for her.
“You do know your bed is like twenty feet away,” Greer said as she covered Brice up with the blanket.
“It can find its own sofa to sleep on.”
Greer chuckled. She spent a little extra time tucking the blanket around the brown-haired woman. After a moment's hesitation, she brushed a strand of Brice's hair behind her ear. She waited for her mind to be bombarded with visions, but she wasn't.
As she went up to her room, she wondered why the lack of visions bothered her. It was what she wanted after all. It was why she started dating Michael. She had gotten what she wanted. Why did it feel so wrong?
A few days later, back to the present
Brice wasn't sure how long she had been driving and brooding over Amelia when she was snapped out of her daze by the flashing of blue lights behind her. She thought the police car was going to go around her but after a minute, it seemed apparent that the car was signaling her to pull over.
Brice started pressing buttons on the dash. The bus took control and started pulling itself slowly and safely to the side of the road. The bus's driver was rapidly reading one of her monitors that had pulled up a word document while sticking her driver's license in a slot under it. A built-in printer, located where a standard bus would have a CB radio, shot out two slips of paper as she pulled her driver's license out of the slot. A moment later, the interior of the bus converted into the interior of a regular yellow school bus. Away went the safety harnesses and overhead compartments, and her dash converted into a regular dashboard. The transformation was complete by the time the bus and the police car had come to a stop.
Brice shut off the bus, opened the large driver's side window, and turned on the overhead light above her. She rapidly started reading the two slips of paper. She tossed both in the shredder after quickly reading them.
After a few minutes, a brimmed-hat South Dakota High Patrol officer exited the police car and started walking up towards her window. The police officer shined a flashlight up into her window, “May I see your license?”
Brice handed over her license. The female officer looked at it for a moment before asking, “Ms. Jacobson, do you know how fast you were going?”
Brice did know. She had been going 70 miles per hour on cruise control. When the bus's cruise control was activated, it automatically adjusted for changes in speed limits. The computer told her she had been violating no laws.
“No, officer,” She replied.
“You were going 70 in a 60. That was a construction zone back there.”
Brice wanted to hit the computer, which was now hidden inside the bus. The system was supposed to update every six hours for any changes in speed limits or construction zones.
“Where are you headed in a bus this late at night?”
“Our school choir went to sing over in Rapid City . They were supposed to be on their way home around 11 o'clock but their bus broke down and it's no easy fix. They figured the cheapest solution was to wake me up and drive over to get them.”
“Uh huh,” The police woman grunted, “I'll be right back. Stay in the bus.”
The officer took her license and went back to her car. Brice wanted to smack herself on the head. The second the officer ran her license, it was going to put a flag on her worksheet. She knew any charges against her would be dropped since the computer hadn't been updated about the change in speed limits, but she was going to get a firm talking to about using government vehicles for personal use.
Most of the bus drivers used their buses as personal vehicles. It was even encouraged in case of an emergency. The school transportation board knew almost everything the bus drivers did on the bus, but they didn't care as long as the bus drivers stayed out of trouble. Having your fake license run counted as trouble.
Brice's head jerked around at the sound of a rewing motor. She watched as a sports car flew, easily going over a hundred. A few seconds later, the officer came back to her window to hand back her license.
“Pay attention to the speed signs, Ms. Jacobson,” The officer warned before getting in her car to chase after the speeder.
Just as Brice let out a heavy sigh of relief, her cell phone started ringing. She answered, seeing it was Noel, “You won't believe what just happened?”
“Oh, I bet I can. I just got you out of trouble. Alice says hi, she's kind of busy speeding at the moment.”
“Wait,” Brice said, “That was you two in the car that just flew by?”
“Yep,” Noel giggled, “We were in the neighborhood when I was alerted that you had been pulled over. I decided to be very nice to my best friend and get her out of a ticket.”
Brice started to laugh and then paused. She said, as an idea popped in her head, “How did you know I had been pulled over? You're stalking me, aren't you? ”
“No,” Noel firmly denied, “Like I'd stalk you. You'd be at the bottom of my list to stalk.”
“Hey, I'm worth stalking,” Brice declared, outraged.
Noel heaved a heavy sigh, “First you get upset that I'm stalking you and then you get upset that I'm not stalking you. You need to get your head on straight, woman. Alice , stop playing cat and mouse with the police and let's go home. Great, now she's pouting.”
Brice chuckled as she reflected on how great her friends were. She said, “Well, I'll let you get back to your game. Thanks… for the help, Noel. You're a good friend.”
“No problem,” Noel softly replied.
As Brice started up her bus, she knew it wasn't going to be easy getting over Amelia but she knew she would have friends to help her along the way.
“Are all the preparations ready?”
“Yes, Boss,” Duster replied, “Kitty is inspecting our infiltration team now.”
Virus glanced over at Kitty, who seemed to be inspecting their team a little too closely. Duster caught his look and turned to glare at Kitty, “Kitty! You were to check just their weapons and tools.”
“Oh, but I am,” Kitty purred as she adjusted the pair of breasts covered by a tight, black shirt. She moved to the next person with her hand outreached to his groin. She pouted when Duster caught her wrist, having changed into dust and reformed right beside her.
“Enough,” Virus ordered, a sternness in his calm voice. Everyone in the room straightened and turned to give him their full attention.
“Once at the location, you have a two hour window to complete your mission. I want everything they have on our target. I will not tolerate the same failure that happened last November when our man failed to return with the USB drive. You all know what happened to him, correct?”
Everyone tried not to wince. They did know what happened to the man who failed their boss. Two of Virus's powers were biological manipulation and poison generation, which allowed him to make people's bodies wither slowly away. The person would feel like they had all the diseases in the world while being eaten away by parasites at the same time.
“We will not fail you,” Duster pledged.
“You better not. I see no reason for you to fail since we're going directly to the source this time. I expect you all back with the information in a few hours. Dismissed.”
“What happened here?” Noel asked as she walked into the destroyed file room.
“This isn't your case, Noel, or even your division,” A woman growled. She was dressed in a black suit, her badge and gun visible. Her blonde hair was tied back into a tight bun, showing off her piercing green eyes.
“Ouch, Gertrude. I was in the building when I heard about this situation. Thought I'd drop in and help an old school buddy out. I almost get the feeling you don't want me here,” Noel said, ignoring the woman and taking a look around.
“Of course I don't want you here,” Gertrude hissed, “After what you did in Geneva last summer...”
“What was taken?” Noel asked, interrupting the woman's rant, “And what's kept in these files? Why do we even have hardcopy files anymore? I would have thought everything would have been switched to electronic years ago.”
Gertrude sighed as she straightened her jacket. She was not going to let this white-haired hotshot get the best of her.
“Well, since your security clearance is green, I can let you in on the situation. Earlier this evening, a group of people broke into this facility. From what little video footage they didn't destroy, we gather they broke into two teams. One team headed towards this file room while the other team headed towards a high-level lab. I'm in charge of investigating what happened in this room while my commander is personally investigating what was taken from the lab.”
Gertrude walked around the room, “As you can see, they made a mess out of everything so as to make it harder for us to figure out what they took. This room contains all the data on every living individual with powers in the world...”
“So my file was in here?” Noel demanded to know, “And Alice's?”
“No, you didn't let me finish. Individuals with powers who are not superheroes, sidekicks, villains of any sort, or who work for this institution. As personnel, you and Alice 's folders are in another room. This rooms contains students of the International High School , doctors, lawyers, and so forth. Pretty much anyone with power who…”
“Are barons' files kept in this room?” Noel interrupted the woman yet again.
“Yes,” Gertrude confirmed, though she didn't know why barons would be important, “Though I highly doubt such an expert band of thieves would want some baron's file.”
Noel didn't reply for she was deep in thought. After a moment, she shrugged, “Well, let me know what turns up missing. I'm off to see what was taken from the lab.”
“You can't,” Gertrude stated.
Noel arched an eyebrow, “I can't? I have a green security clearance. Same as yours.”
There were seven security clearance levels based on sequence of hues in rainbows. There was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. School children remembered it by the mnemonic “ROY G BIV.” Red was standard clearance while violet was the highest.
Gertrude shook her head, “My boss is covering the lab-half of this case. The security level is indigo. Whatever they stole over there,” She paused, “It was important.”
“Hmm,” Noel pondered, stroking her chin. Gertrude rolled her eyes. She wanted nothing more than to punch that stubborn jaw.
“Oh well,” Noel said, tossing her hands in the air, “Let me know how it goes, Trudy.”
Gertrude growled as Noel walked out of the room. Noel ignored the woman as she headed to her desk. Gertrude always acted like she had a stick up her ass.
“Probably because she doesn't realize she's gay,” Noel snickered, “She needs a good woman to let her hair down with.”
Once at her desk, she had to clear off a stack of paperwork to find the keyboard. Noel hated paperwork. That's probably why she never did it. With a few clicks, she had the personal data files pulled up. She typed in Brice Johnson into the search bar and pressed enter.
Noel bent a paperclip out of shape as she waited for the search results. She had never looked at Brice's personal files. She never saw the need since she had known Brice, though barely, growing up and she was her best friend now.
Glancing up, she saw Brice's file had pulled up. She started reading through it. Brice was marked as a the baron child of superhero parents. It briefly mentioned Brice underwent counseling until the age of twenty three and reported in for yearly testing to see if she was still able to drive a school bus.
Noel read on and was surprised that the file was only three pages long. Out of curiosity, she pulled up Michael Johnson's file. His was already 15 pages long. His mother and father's were well into the hundreds. Noel understood that Brice was a baron, but figured the woman was worth more than three pages of information.
The white-haired superhero selected a random baron from the data files. The random male baron was a few years younger than Brice and he had ten pages of information. He was a shoe salesman at a mall and he had more information than Brice.
Noel frowned, deep in thought. Something wasn't right with her friend's files. They didn't even include medical records. One would think Brice never had a cold, sore throat, or ear infection growing up. Children in the superhero community did have great healthcare, but kids still got colds. All of Michael's colds had been documented, but why hadn't Brice's been?
There was more to the story and Noel was going get to the bottom of it.
Virus smiled, pleased, “Good work. I knew you wouldn't let me down.”
Duster laid out two large briefcases in front of him. She opened one, revealing a large bundle of paper. The second briefcase revealed several rows of blood-filled test tubes.
Virus's smile only grew, “Good. Now it's time for my evil scientist to get to work. Lamb! We have presents for you.”
The month of April had passed quickly for Brice, despite the fact she still brooded over Amelia. She hadn't talked to her ex the entire month. It was hard adjusting to being single again, but also very easy. She now had time to repaint the outside of her house like she normally did twice a year.
Greer and Michael's graduation party was in the middle of May. Since Marge had told her they were giving Michael his car before the party, Brice only thought it was a good idea to give Greer her present before the event as well.
The teenager was surprised when she came down from her room to find Alice , Noel, Brice and John all sitting in the living room. She glanced at a nearby clock, “Umm, I thought the party wasn't until four? Am I running late?”
“No, we just came over to give you your presents,” Alice said.
Brice smiled as Greer started to blush. She protested as John came over to lead her to a chair, “You didn't have to get me anything. I mean, it's not a big deal.”
“Of course it is,” Noel stated, “Graduating high school is a very big deal. This is the end of one part of your life and the start of another. Time to figure out what you want to do with your life. Have you decided on becoming a superhero or…ouch.”
Brice had punched Noel in her arm, “We're not here to question her. We're here to give her presents.”
“Which you didn't have to do,” Greer reaffirmed.
“Open mine first,” John declared, thrusting a nicely wrapped package at his sister. She smiled at him as she opened it.
“Gloves? Thanks, John. They're really nice,” Greer declared, though she was obviously confused. She could tell they were expensive gloves, black with padding.
“Next is from Noel and I,” Alice said, handing her a large box.
This present gave Greer a few more hints as to what was going on. Inside was a black, armored motorcycle jacket with a horizontal blue strip. Also inside was a full face black helmet with blue flames and a pair of black leather boots that looked to be her size.
“Tell me you didn't,” Greer said, looking stunned.
“Okay,” Brice smiled, “I didn't.”
The bus driver handed her a small box which Greer hesitantly opened. Inside was a note that said, “Go look out the front door.”
Greer gave Brice a long look before going to the front door. The group followed her. When she opened the door, her mouth fell open at the brand new motorcycle parked at the foot of the steps.
“It's yours,” Brice stated unnecessarily.
“Wow…it's…it's…just wow,” Greer stammered.
Brice smiled as the teenager went to get a closer look at her new bike. Noel and Alice followed, taking turns to describe all the features of the bike. It could drive on land and fly in the sky. In the air, it placed the bike in a controlled air sphere to protect from the elements and decrease wind resistance. It got four thousand miles to the gallon, and the list went on and on.
“I know you took lessons as the school, but I'm more than willing to personally give you lessons if you want,” Alice offered.
Greer smiled her thanks but turned her attention towards Brice. Before the bus driver could do anything, she found herself wrapped in a large hug.
“Thanks,” Greer whispered in her ear.
“Well…umm…you're welcome. But it was a joint idea and present,” Brice said, her turn to stammer. She was sure she was also blushing.
“I know,” Greer smiled.
Brice couldn't stop herself from smiling back. Greer went back to her motorcycle. The rest of the afternoon Alice showed Greer pointers on her bike and Greer took it out for a test ride. Greer had learned how to drive all sorts of vehicles in driver's education at the high school. John, who was academically gifted and who the government declared had to attend the high school until he was fifteen, wouldn't take driver's education until his senior year.
Noel, Brice and John played on John's game console, which he got for Christmas. They played everything from racing to shooting games. After some time, John let the two grown women play by themselves. While he found it fun to beat both of them, he found it funnier to watch them compete against each other.
“You cheated!” Noel exclaimed as she came in second place, “If this had been in real life, my driving skills would make sure I won.”
“Whatever,” Brice protested, rolling her eyes, “I'm a bus driver. I do more driving in a month then you do in a year.”
“You want to take this out into the sky?” Noel asked, placing her control down.
“You think your little car can keep up with my big bus? Size matters.”
“You're just overcompensating for…”
“What's going on here?” Alice interrupted as she walked into the house with Greer. Noel and Brice were both standing, looking ready to fight.
The best friends looked at Alice and then at each other. They quickly sat down and picked up their remotes.
“Another round?” Noel asked, feigning innocence.
“Sounds good,” Brice agreed.
Alice chuckled as she and Greer walked into the kitchen to get something to drink. Greer asked, amused, “How do you get them both to behave?”
“Oh, they know how ridiculous they act sometimes. It only takes a small reminder for them to remember they are grown adults.”
Alice continued, musing, “I think they are making up for the friendship they never got to have growing up. Noel moved in a block down the street when they were twelve, but circumstances caused Noel not to seek out her friendship.”
Greer understood, “Brice hadn't shown any powers and was already labeled a baron. It would have been uncool for Noel to be friends with her.”
Alice nodded, “Their mothers tried to get them to be friends, but Noel wouldn't have anything of it. Noel says she wasn't unkind to Brice, but she didn't even give Brice a chance. I think that bothers her still so she tries to make up for it by being the best friend she knows how to be.”
“Ha!” They heard Noel shout from the other room, “Take that!”
“Are you sure they're not just immature?” Greer asked with a grin.
“It's always a possible theory,” Alice replied with a solemn expression.
The group of five soon went to New Jersey for Greer and Michael's graduation party. Greer rode her bike, unable to resist showing it off. Brice told her to park it in the driveway by Michael's new Audi Spyder.
Brice's parents had turned their backyard into a club. There was a large black sphere over the backyard and Brice could faintly hear music. She knew Marge had arranged for a DJ to be present.
Michael came out to greet his girlfriend just as she landed. He kissed her the moment her helmet came off.
“You look sexy as hell on this bike, baby. Want to take me for a spin later?”
“Children,” Marge warned, coming out of the house, “Don't make me get the hose.”
Michael rolled his eyes while listening to Greer brag about her bike. He then tugged her in the house to see how the backyard was set up.
“Looks just like a real club,” Marge bragged, “Basses are turned up and strobe and neon lights are everywhere!”
“Maybe we can dance,” Noel remarked to Alice , moving closer.
“Children,” Jamie warned, also coming out of the house, “Don't make me get the hose.”
“Oh, hi Mom,” Noel greeted, a blush on her cheeks.
“Have you been behaving?” Jamie asked as Noel came over to kiss her cheek.
“Never,” Noel solemnly pleaded.
The group went into the house. Inside the house, the music was a little louder and one could faintly feel the vibrations.
“Can I go play in the basement?” John asked. The basement was the game room in the house.
“Go right ahead,” Marge said, “There are a few new games down there for you.”
The five women continued into the kitchen.
“Mark is buried away in his study. Teenagers are being dropped off left and right.”
“Who is chaperoning in there?” Brice had to ask.
“Oh I have a few robots roaming and watching,” Marge reassured, “Super-charged teenaged hormones will not find any relief in my house.”
Brice didn't know whether to be relieved or embarrassed.
Jamie poured them all a glass of wine. She said as they all sat around the kitchen table, “Noel, Brice, we haven't chosen a date to have our spa retreat.”
Noel and Brice had gotten their mothers tickets to one of the world's finest spas, thinking the women would take each other. However, their mothers wanted to take their daughters with them and Noel and Brice had been scrambling for reasons to get out of it.
“I'm simply too busy during the school year, Ma.”
“And you never know what can pop up at work,” Noel added.
“Why don't you four go during the summer?” Alice offered with a mischievous smile, “Brice is off and Noel doesn't have as many missions during that time of year. She also has vacation time she could use.”
“That sounds great,” Marge declared, “We'll do it during the summer.”
“I just don't know what I'll do with myself this summer,” Marge said, pouring herself another glass of wine, “Michael's been offered a superhero mentorship with Falcon and will be gone most of the summer. He'll probably go away for college and Mark and I will be left all alone. I could barely stand it when Brice moved out.”
Superhero mentorships were almost every high school graduate's dream. Most graduates who were deemed capable of being superheros received an intense basic training from various superhero teachers before having to pass an accreditation test. Those mentored with superheroes got out into the field sooner and received more hands on training. They also became famous faster.
Since Michael was the son of famous superheroes and one of the fastest flyers in the world, it was inevitable that he would be offered a mentorship.
“I know what you mean, Marge,” Jamie said, clicking her glass with the other woman's, “When Noel left me, I didn't know what I would do with myself.”
Brice eyed her wine. She wanted something stronger. She then heard Noel's voice in her head, “I agree. Where's the hard stuff?”
The bus driver smiled at her best friend and wordlessly got up to start making margaritas. Marge eyed her daughter before turning her attention back to Jamie.
“You should offer Greer a mentorship,” Jamie proclaimed suddenly.
“I've thought about it,” Marge admitted, “She would make a great superhero.”
Brice paused in her drink preparations. She didn't know if Greer had made a choice about becoming a superhero or not. If she did become a superhero, she would be putting herself in harm's way. Greer could die just like her father did and while mentorships were coveted, they were also more dangerous than standard training.
The bus driver continued her drink-making while still pondering. The thought of Greer dying upset her more than she thought it would. As the daughter of superheroes and raised in the superhero community, dying and the risk of dying was a part of everyday life. Her own life was threatened far more than the average citizen. The thought of Greer dying shouldn't be so upsetting.
“You're doing it again,” Noel said in her head, “You got to stop thinking stuff like that.”
“Hey, I'm allowed to be worried about her! It's not like I'm thinking about her out there grinding against my brother,” Brice argued back in her mind.
The moment she mentally said it, she wanted to think about it but she refused her brain the tormented pleasure. Brice finished the margaritas and Marge suggested they go watch Sex and the City episodes. Brice and Noel hesitated since they didn't want to watch sex scenes with their mothers, but Alice accepted for them.
They took turns answering the door and directing the teenagers to the backyard. They had finished six episodes and were making another picture when Greer came looking for them.
“Are y'all doing okay?”
“Y'all?” Noel laughed, “I forget you are our little southern bell from Alabama .”
Alice beat Brice in smacking Noel, “Leave her alone. That accent is cute.”
Greer gave all the women an amused look, “I guess you guys are fine.”
“Oh,” Marge said, getting up from the couch, “I have something I wanted to ask you, Greer.”
“Okay,” Greer said, obviously confused as to what Marge could want to ask her.
“I've watched you very closely since the incident at the school last year. You've shown you are brave, strong, and have a fire inside of you to fight for justice and peace. You have a lot of potential and I'd like to be your mentor if you wish to become a superhero.”
Noel, Alice and Brice couldn't help but smile at the stunned look on Greer's face. It was as if Marge had offered her the world.
“I…I'll…” Greer stuttered.
“Now don't answer right now,” Marge ordered, “Think it over and get back to me after graduation. We're in no rush.”
“O…okay,” Greer replied. She mechanically turned on her heels and walked out of the room. She was shell-shocked. One of the strongest, most famous superheroes in the world had offered her a mentorship. She would never tell anybody, but she had a huge hero crush on Majesta when she was little. It was an embarrassing thought now that she was dating Majesta's son.
Walking from the house into the backyard snapped her out of her shock.
“Greer! There you are,” Cally shouted, attaching herself to Greer's side. Greer wouldn't call Cally her best friend, or even a friend, but the girl had become the closest thing Greer had had to a friend in a long time.
Cally was a beautiful red-head who was able to self-denote like a bomb and reform herself. With her large breasts, firm buttocks and powers, Cally was simply called “The Bomb.”
“Come dance with me,” Cally said. Greer started to protest, but Cally pulled her out on the dance floor.
Greer only felt comfortable dancing around Michael. She had confessed to her boyfriend that she didn't know how to dance when he told her about the club-theme for their party. He had spent the next hour showing her regular dance moves which weren't that complicated.
“I promise no one is going to care about how you dance. Just move with the music,” Michael said, kissing her check, “It's our party. It's for us to have fun.”
Cally had gotten Greer to the dance floor just as a techno mixed version of Lady Gaga came on.
“Dance with me,” Cally stated again. She started dancing in front of Greer.
Greer felt like a fish out of water. She awkwardly started moving in time with the music, keeping her hands by her side.
Cally shook her head. She grabbed Greer's hands and pulled her close. Moving close to Greer's ear, she said above the loud music, “You have to relax. Now move your hips.”
Before Greer could try, Cally turned around and pulled Greer close to so that all of Cally was covering the blonde's front. Greer was grateful it was dark because she was sure she was blushing.
Cally placed Greer's hands on her hips and started to move with the music. Greer was able to pick up on the silent order to move with her.
Greer picked up on the rhythm quickly though she didn't notice it. All she noticed was the way Cally's hips rubbed back against her in time with the music. This wasn't the kind of dancing Michael had shown her and she could see why. She had been very strict with him about sexual matters and how she wanted to wait.
Halfway through the song, Cally spun around to dance face to face with Greer. The sudden change caused Greer to lose tempo, but she soon picked up the rhythm again with her hips. Her hands never left their spot on Cally's waist.
Greer wasn't even aware the song had ended and had changed into a new one until Cally suddenly jumped to wrap her in a hug.
“That was fun,” Cally shouted, “We should dance again tonight. Everyone was watching us.”
Greer looked around and was surprised to see everyone was still watching them. The blonde pulled away from the red-head with a smile and went to find her boyfriend.
“That was hot,” Michael commented, handing her a drink.
She elbowed him, “Pig.”
Greer drank her cold drink to cool down. She had never realized dancing was so interesting.
Inside the house, the women were nursing daiquiris. Noel said, looking at the clock, “How long is this party going to last?”
“I told them until nine,” Marge said. She helped herself to a slice of pizza from the box in front of them. She had ordered two dozen pizzas for the party. The majority were in the backyard with the hungry teenagers, but three boxes were in the house for those who were not teenagers.
Mark came out of his study. He said, “Is it about time?”
Marge nodded, “I think it's a good time.”
“Time for what?” Brice asked.
“We have a present for you. It's your early birthday present. Follow us.”
Brice looked at Noel, who shrugged. Brice followed her mother and father towards their three-car garage. They opened the door and Brice saw a large red bow on a luxurious silver Lincoln Navigator. The one Brice planned to buy once she saved up enough.
“You bought me an SUV?” Brice asked, incredulously.
“Well, it's the only thing your mother and I could think that you wanted,” Mark said, “And they had a deal going on at the dealership. Buy one car and get one half-priced.”
As Brice argued with her parents that it was too big of a birthday present, Noel's phone rang. Excusing herself from the group, Noel went outside to answer it.
“Noel, it's Gertrude Hinson.”
“Trudy, to what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call?”
Gertrude growled on her end of the line, “You asked me to keep you updated on my case?”
“Oh, the break-in into the file room. What was missing?”
“You can cut the crap and tell me what you know,” Gertrude ordered.
Noel looked at her phone in confusion, “I have no idea what you're talking about, Trudy.”
“You asked the day of the break-in if barons' files were stored in that room. The missing files turned out to belong to a baron. Are you going to tell me that it was just a coincidence?”
“It was just a lucky guess,” Noel replied, her voice devoid of amusement, “Whose file was taken?”
“Well, they didn't actually take the file, but they didn't know we had ways of knowing if files had been copied. The file belongs to a Brice Johnson. Know her?”
Noel looked into the garage as Brice hugged her mother and father, “We've met a time or two.”
“So what are the results?” Virus asked.
Lamb hated having people hover over him when he was working but since he liked living, he adjusted when it came to Virus.
“This blood sample is incredible,” Lamb excitedly stated, “Amazing!”
“So are you sure it is a perfect candidate for what we want?”
“Well,” Lamb hedged, “Nothing's ever certain. I need to see samples after extreme exposure to genetic altering materials.”
“Toxic waste,” Lamb answered easily.
“Okay, so say the subject survives that. Will these samples be enough for our experiment?”
“No. This isn't nearly enough. We need much, much more blood.”
“Then we shall get it,” Virus stated firmly.
Brice felt herself beaming with pride as she sat at Greer and Michael's graduation.
How could one not be proud of their baby brother and housemate graduating? Even though there was a professional film crew recording the eighty seven graduates, she and her father were holding video cameras. Marge and John were taking a picture every few seconds.
Brice was going to give Judy Watson a copy of everything taken today. The crazed mother of Greer and John was getting better slowly. The medications seemed to be working better than before, but she still freaked out over the idea of Greer graduating and becoming a superhero.
Noel sat with the Johnson family and John since Alice was sitting with the teachers on stage. Mark would have joined his fellow teachers, but since Michael was his son he chose to sit in the audience.
Noel and Brice took turns poking each other as the ceremony went on and on. Noel quietly moaned, “This one is twice as long as mine was.”
Brice snickered and then quieted as her mother glared at her. Everyone around her stood when Michael walked across the stage to receive his diploma and stood again when Greer walked across to get hers.
Finally, the principal said, “Now I present to you the graduating class of 2011.”
Applause and cheers filled the air as did red graduation caps. Some of the caps pierced the stratosphere.
Michael and Greer took pictures with the Johnson family, John, Alice and Noel along with their friends for a long time after the ceremony. Michael said, “Greer and I are going to have dinner with a few friends.”
“Okay,” Mark said, “But be home before one in the morning.”
“Ah, Dad,” Michael protested, “I just graduated.”
“And you still live under our roof,” Marge informed him, “Now get.”
John went with Marge and Mark back to New Jersey . He had made a friend close to his age at their Christmas party last year and his friend, Nate, lived down the street from them. After getting permission, John was allowed to spend the night with Nate.
“Are you sure you don't want to spend the night hanging with us?” Noel asked.
“No, I'm fine. Just want to spend a night at home,” Brice replied. Noel and Alice seemed to want to spend more time with Brice ever since the graduation party. On one hand she enjoyed it but she knew there was something Noel and Alice weren't telling her.
Later that evening, Brice sat on the couch surrounded by Grail, Monty and Python. She was rereading some of her favorite online works. Completely lost in one of the stories, she almost didn't realize her phone had buzzed a text. She frowned in confusion when she saw it was from Michael.
“Greer isn't answering her cell. She left suddenly saying she wasn't feeling well fifteen minutes ago. Can u have her call me when she gets in?”
“Sure,” Brice replied even though she was concerned. She hoped Greer was all right. Just as she was about to call Noel and start tracking the teenager down, she heard the now familiar roar of Greer's bike.
Brice got up to go meet Greer at the door. The bus driver felt her knees buckle as she watched the bike land but there was no one driving it. She rushed to the bike, seeing a large note attached to it.
The first words of the note read, “If you wish to see your little girlfriend alive again, you'll follow the directions below. Sincerely, Duster.”
The note told her to get rid of any electronics on and go, alone, to a designated location. It said they would know if she called someone for help or wore a tracer. If they even suspected that she hadn't followed directions, they could kill Greer.
Brice didn't know how long she stared at that note, her brain and body locked in pure terror. She had no doubt Duster would kill Greer since she almost succeeded once. Brice wanted nothing more than to call in the cavalry, or Noel, or Noel and the cavalry. She at least wanted to leave a message for somebody.
Brice knew she couldn't save Greer alone, but she knew she would kill the teenager if she tried to get help. Resigning herself to the horrible fate ahead of her, Brice did as the note said.
Her pets circled around her, worried, as she came into the house to rid herself of everything on her except her keys. She couldn't bring herself to pet them on the head and say everything would be alright.
Brice drove her new SUV to the first location the note directed her to, which was in the middle of a field. She parked next to a plain car. Her directions told her to get inside the car and engage the autopilot. She did as it said.
The car flew for half an hour. It was the longest half an hour Brice had ever had to endure. All she could think about was if Greer still was alive and what Duster could possible want with her.
The car did zigzags and turns. It was almost as if they wanted her to lose her sense of direction, but Brice was a bus driver. She could glance out of the window and look down at the land to figure out where she was. They were flying over the Amazon when the car started to descend. It landed her in front of what appeared to be an old, abandoned warehouse.
The final direction on her note said to enter the building. Taking a moment to steel her nerve, Brice walked into the warehouse. Duster greeted her at the entrance.
The supervillainess sneered, “Long time, no see.”
“Not long enough,” Brice remarked.
Duster balled her fists. She wanted nothing more than to beat Brice until she couldn't walk, but Virus wanted her unharmed for now. The supervillainess settled for scanning the bus driver to see if she had any weapons or tracking devices on her. Settling that Brice was clean, Duster led her through the abandoned warehouse into an empty room where she left her alone.
The room had a regular-sized entrance on one side but giant, cargo doors on the other. The situation did not look good if the terrifying flutters in her stomach were any indication.
“It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Brice.”
Brice spun around. A few feet away from her stood a cloaked-figure. His voice and figure sounded familiar and she wondered why, “Who you are you? Wait… wait… you're the leader of that gang who attacked the school last year.”
“Indeed, I am,” Virus said as he moved forward while taking off the hood of his cloak, “My followers call me Boss, the world shall know me as Master, but for now, you may call me Virus.”
With his hood pulled back, Brice was able to get a good look at the supervillain who was behind everything. He was older than she expected, obviously from her parents' generation of superheroes and supervillains. He was a handsome Caucasian man, though he had a wicked gleam in his blue eyes. His peppered and salted hair was styled perfectly like a powerful CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There was something about his face that looked familiar to Brice, but she didn't know him.
“Virus,” Brice repeated, “Never heard of you.”
A flicker of irritation crossed Virus's face. It quickly cleared, “Of course you haven't. I have kept a low profile for years now. Soon the entire world will know my name because I will be their ruler.”
“Uh huh,” Brice said, “Isn't that every supervillain's dream?”
Virus smiled, “Good point. You actually are rather intelligent, Brice. Well, let's skip over the small talk and get right to the point. I wish for you to join me.”
“Excuse me?” Brice asked, dumbfounded. Why would a supervillain want her on his side? Granted she was a bus driver with access to the location of the high school at all times and the family and friend of powerful superheroes, but other than that she could see no reason why he would want her.
“I wish for you to join me,” Virus repeated, “Not today and probably not tomorrow. You must first pass a final test.”
“I'm not even going to ask and skip right over the part where I tell you that I'll never join you. Now where's Greer?”
Virus smirked, “That lovely young lady is the reason you'll join me. She's right here with us. Lamb, open the doors.”
The large doors behind Brice rattled as they started to slide open. Brice's fear increased tenfold at what lay behind the doors.
In front of her was a walkway encircling a large vat of green sludge. Hanging twenty feet over the tub was a cage connected to a pulley. Greer lay inside the floor of the cage, seemingly unconscious.
“She's not unconscious,” Virus said, as if reading her mind, “There is a large block of Ununseptium in the cage with her. She's quite awake but quite unable to help herself.”
Brice took a step forward but when she did, the cage dropped a few inches.
“I wouldn't do that if I were you,” A voice called out. Out from the shadows walked a short, bald man wearing thick safety goggles and a white lab coat. Brice pinned him as the classic evil scientist. He cackled, “I'll drop her if you come any closer.”
He waved a remote control in his hand.
Virus chuckled, “This is Lamb, my evil scientist. What you see here is a large container of toxic waste that Lamb has collected from his experiments. This is part of his laboratory. You will be spending a lot of time with him once you join us.”
“I can't wait,” Brice and Lamb said at the same time though the latter was far more excited about then the former.
“Let her go,” Brice pleaded, “Please, let her go. I'll take your test, I'll join you. Just let her go.”
“I knew you would see it my way. Now, come, let me show you your test.”
Virus motioned for Brice to follow him. He walked closer towards the large vat. The sidewalk had railings around it to keep people from falling in but there was one open session. He waved his hand towards the tub, “Jump.”
Brice felt her jaw drop. Just looking at the green liquid made her skin crawl and he wanted her to jump into it?
“What?” She gasped.
“Jump into the vat.”
When Brice didn't move, Virus nodded towards Lamb. The mad scientist giggled as he pushed a button on his remote. Greer's cage started lowering.
“No!” Brice screamed, rushing to the side of the vat, “I'll do it! I'll do it! Just let her go!”
“You jump in or I'll drop her right into the tub. With the Ununseptium rendering her unable to move, she'll drown as soon as she's in six inches of it. She's awake you know, and alert. She knows how close she is to dying and you're the only one who can save her.”
Brice took another step towards the opening. With terrified eyes, she looked down into the vat. She knew it was her only option. Greer would drown, but maybe she could survive.
“I… I just have to jump in?”
“Just jump in,” Virus confirmed, “And then you can come right back out. See, there's a ladder right there on the side of the tub.”
Brice looked down and saw there was a ladder. She started steeling herself. She knew this was a lose-lose situation. She could jump in and they could drop Greer in right after her. Even if she made it out, they could still kill Greer.
“How do I know you'll do as you say?” Brice asked, trying to buy another moment. She knew help wouldn't come but she kept hoping.
Virus rolled his eyes, “Are you really so dumb? I'm a bad guy. You can't trust a damn word I say. But you have no other choice so jump in the tub or she dies right now.”
Brice gulped as she took another step towards the vat. She tried to imagine it was a pool that hadn't been cleaned in a long time. Just as she was going to step off the edge, she heard a familiar voice say, “Am I too late to this pool party?”
Brice and Virus spun around to see Noel ripping the remote control out of Lamb's hands before shoving him aside.
“Oh, what does this button do?” Noel asked as she pushed one.
“I won't even ask how you found this place,” Virus calmly stated.
“Good,” Noel replied, “Talking's not my strong suit.”
Within seconds, Greer's cage was on the solid walkway. Brice took off to open the cage, which didn't even have a lock on it. If the bus driver found it strange that no one was stopping her, she didn't notice. She grabbed Greer by her arms and started dragging her from the cage.
“Long time no see, Dad,” Noel said, tossing the remote control aside.
Brice paused in pulling Greer from the cage. She could see they shared the same stubborn jaw.
“Well, that's a plot twist I didn't see coming,” Brice muttered as she finally got Greer away from the cage. Greer was finally able to start moving a little, though the prolonged exposure to the Ununseptium had left her very weak.
Virus laughed, “So it has been. As much as I would love to continue this touching family reunion, I have other matters to attend to. Duster, if you would.”
Brice quickly noticed the dust cloud beside her. She stepped between the forming Duster and Greer. She knew she couldn't do much, but she would do all she could.
Duster leered at her, “This is going to be fun.”
Greer gasped in terror as a vision assaulted her mind.
“Brice,” Greer weakly called out, trying to sit up. Grabbing a hold on a nearby crate, she was able to rise to her feet, “Run! She's after you!”
But it was too late. Duster grabbed Brice before she could move and slammedher head on the metal railing, rending Brice unconscious. With ease, Duster tossed Brice over the railing into the vat of toxic waste.
Greer screamed as Brice landed in the liquid and started to sink.
“Time to go,” Virus said with a grin, “Considering the troops are on their way, Duster and I will leave first. We'll come back for you later Lamb.”
Lamb didn't hear his boss, as he was screaming over the floating device that Noel had thrown into the container to help save her friend. Neither Greer, Noel or Lamb noticed as Virus and Duster evaporated from the lab.
In Brice's next adventure:
When Brice wakes up in the hospital, something isn't quite right. Matter of fact, nothing is quite right. Everything and everyone are different and she seems to be the only thing that hasn't changed.
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