Bullies and Counselors: Part 2

I don’t remember much of the drive over. I wanted to ask Haley a bunch of different things, but with Jaclyn in the car it didn’t feel right. It also seemed kind of nosy.

It took about thirty minutes to get to the studio. Normally it would have taken fifteen, but the after-school traffic slowed everything down. South High was practically in the suburbs. The Grand Lake Martial Arts Academy sat midway between downtown and the edge of the city. In the 1880’s it had been near the edge of Grand Lake. In the 1950’s, it had been Cannon’s Hardware before Cannon’s became an auto parts chain. The red neon “Cannon’s Hardware” sign still hung parallel to the building, stretching from the top of the second floor to the top of the first. It wasn’t lit.

A painted, plywood sign with the words “Grand Lake Martial Arts Academy” rested on the ledge above the first floor of the brown, brick building.

I drove the car down the alley between it and the vacant building next door. The sign said “Kay’s Sewing,” but it had been vacant as long as I’d been alive. The studio’s parking lot was little more than dirt during the summer. In the winter, it looked like flattened snow mixed with lines where tire tracks dug through to the soil.

I ended up parking behind the vacant building. Cars had filled both lots thanks to the kids’ karate lessons that ran on the first floor between four and six.

Jaclyn made it to the back door while Haley and I were still getting our duffel bags out of the car.

As we walked up to the door, I asked Haley, “Was Sean the guy Travis was talking about? The ex-boyfriend you scratched?”

“Yes,” she said.

I recognized her tone from the conversation that had turned into our first fight. A tip for those of you not in relationships: Even if your girlfriend and some shrews both make paralytic poisons, she probably doesn’t want to hear about it.

I wasn’t going to get much more out of her.

We went through the door and up the wooden stairs to the second story. From below we could hear childrens’ voices shouting. From above, we could hear the crack of wooden staves striking each other and occasionally the smack of a staff hitting a person.

When we got to the top of the stairs we found Cassie fighting Lee AKA Immortal. Vaughn sat on a bench at the side of the room. While Haley and Jaclyn went into the dressing room to change, I walked over to him.

“Hey, I thought you weren’t coming.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t coming. I just said I couldn’t train. I still want to watch. Oh, and hey, I drove. My parents let me borrow the car now that my arms have mostly healed. Maybe if I end up in traction they’ll give me back my bank account and my phone.”

“You can hope,” I said. “What’ll they do if you lose an eye?”

“Buy me a new car if I’m lucky,” Vaughn said.

Haley and Jaclyn came out of the dressing room wearing sweats. Lee didn’t go for martial arts uniforms.

“I better get dressed,” I said, and I left.

When I got out of the dressing room, I found him giving a talk I’d heard in different forms over the last few years.

“… I’m not here to make you better people. This isn’t a spiritual journey. I’m here to teach you how to fight. If you manage to get more out of it than that, good for you.”

He caught my eye as I stepped out the door.

“Nick, good to see you. Let’s start.”

Describing Lee was a problem. His appearance changed. At the studio, I saw him as a twenty-something Asian man. Grandpa had been introduced to Lee during World War II, told that his name was Günther, and years later still saw him as white and blond.

I’d seen him as Günther once or twice when he’d been reminiscing with Grandpa about the war. When I’d seen him playing music, his looks fit the age and ethnicity of the group. I’d always suspected it wasn’t a shapeshifting thing as much as an illusion that took place in the viewers’ minds.

I spent some of class helping him teach the others, some of it working on my own stuff, or sparring with Cassie. Lee taught a mixture of styles so I practiced kicks, punches and aikido style throws.

Cassie and I finished a little earlier and found ourselves talking to Vaughn while Lee taught Jaclyn and Haley new ways to fall.

Cassie pulled a towel out of her duffel bag and wiped sweat off her face. “You got here nearly half an hour after us. What happened?”

“I don’t know. I ended up waiting for Haley and Jaclyn for a while, and then traffic was bad. I got stuck behind a school bus a couple different times.”

“I didn’t even know Jaclyn was coming,” Vaughn said, “so I was imagining you and Haley had stopped to make out.”

Cassie laughed.

Talking through her laughter, I said, “No, but we did run into Sean Drucker. He was at South with Julie from our school, her cousin, and a couple of his friends. It’s like almost all the people I’d least like to see got together and had a convention or something.”

“You know why they know each other?” Vaughn asked.

“No idea,” I said.

“Almost the same reason we know each other except kind of the exact opposite.”

I didn’t like where this was going.

“Exact opposite?” Cassie asked, dropping the towel on the bench.

“Their grandparents worked for my grandfather.”

22 thoughts on “Bullies and Counselors: Part 2”

  1. If Nick has been training with this teacher for a while, why was his fighting style defined as “just brawling” by Mr. Menace?

  2. Mr. Menace described the original Rocket’s style as brawling. He described Nick and Cassie’s style as something of a mystery.

    I think that’s in “New Heroes League: Part 1” if you want to look.

  3. Oh that could lead to all kinds of problems. The bad guy kids getting together, I wonder how many of them will turn out criminals.

    Yep that must be a tough person to know, since his look changes almost everytime you see him.

  4. Except, daymon, if it’s based on psychic perceptions, then you’d probably always know it was him anyway, and just accept it as being him. That’s probably part of the reason why Nick is so “meh” about the effect. Also, it’s probably because he’s Nick, and the entire world and everything in it is just an interesting problem to solve.

    Hey, Jim, since powers seem to be a dominant trait passed on to offspring (all of Jaclyn’s siblings, Travis and Haley, Daniel and his dad, Rachel and Nick, and all the other kids), how come Nick’s Mom doesn’t have powers?


  5. daymon: If you know Lee, you recognize him everywhere after a while. I might hint a little more about that in the next post if there’s a reason to.

    Hg: It’s actually more recessive than dominant and I’ve imagined powers as being dependent on multiple genes rather than one or two. Plus, as a bonus, environmental factors come into play. Thus, some people get permanent access to their abilities through some sort of traumatic event. Some get them from birth/puberty. Some never hit the appropriate environmental trigger and can only partially access their powers through the chemical mixes that Red Lightning, Magnus, and the Cabal created.

    Of all the parents, the only one with powers is Daniel’s dad. It seems dominant because I’m focusing on the kids with powers, but Nick and Rachel have a bunch of cousins with no noticeable powers. Ditto Haley and Travis.

    Oddly enough, this point will be touched on in the next bit of story too…

  6. Emote Control: No problem. It’s easy to not remember something from more than 100+ pages of text…

    Gavin: I’m hoping so. I’ve been meaning to introduce him since practically the first page of the story, but it didn’t ever fit. Also, Zartan? I can see it now that you mention it, but you’ll probably find at least a little of Vandal Savage in him too. Also, maybe a little Han Solo and a little Destruction (from Sandman).

    Parahacker: There just aren’t enough venomous mammals to find a complimentary one. Shrews and arguably platypuses (platypi?) are pretty much it. So once you mentioned it, it seemed inevitable.

  7. Where you have the Jr. Avengers you gotta have the Jr. SPECTRE….

    Jim, I love how you slip the craziest plot turns in the weirdest of places “Almost the same reason we know each other except kind of the exact opposite.”

    If that doesn’t just shout “To be continued” I don’t know what does….

  8. Sure, so, like, even Cassie and Vaughn needed “pushes” to activate their powers. Actually, I had been assuming the powers were recessive, until both Rachel and “all of Jaclyn’s brothers” were introduced as having powers. And, according to your theory, since Nick and Rachel have only half the power inheritance as their mother from the original Rocket and Ghost Girl, your “combination” would have to imply that Nick’s dad has powers in his family tree too.


    Of course, it could also just be the same kind of genetic fluke that puts two red-heads in a house full of brown hair.


  9. Hg: Good points.

    I’ve got a few different assumptions going.

    1. I happened to listen to some news report that mentioned that people are statistically more likely to be genetically similar to their grandparents than their parents. I’m inclined to use that as justification for a lot of this. That being said, obviously we’ve all got four grandparents, so I’ve been focusing on the kids who inherit from the grandparents with powers.

    2. As I imagine the genetic justification for powers, there’s are multiple genes that contribute to powers being “on” or “off” for a person. There are also genes in addition to that that contribute to exactly what sort of powers you have. Thus Nick’s dad doesn’t really have to have powers on his side of the family as much as genes that compliment Nick’s mom’s.

    Hmmn… I’m amused at how much thought I’ve put in to the background.

  10. The Zartan thing was to see if anyone caught it, I’m glad it was recognizable. I can totally see the Vandal and Solo thing — Lee is a wicked character. MOAR please!

    (Why do people write Moar instead of More on the internet? I don’t get it. It’s the same amount of letters)

  11. Gavin: It was recognizable with Google. It’s been a long time since I last watched G.I. Joe.

    You can figure seeing more of Lee is inevitable. As for “MOAR,” I blame it on LOLcats.

    Bill: Thanks. We’re not quite done with the twisting on this particular twist…

  12. Is there something wrong with the formatting of this page?
    For some reason the test runs under the floating boxes and off the edge of the page for me (using IE)…this is the only page that does, though.

  13. The other problem that would have come with using shrew as a name. Think of all the villains pontificating that they have come to tame her. The news reports after a lost battle, “Shrew tamed, film at eleven.”

      1. Hey wait hell is a known thing in this world….. god that must mess with religion in some fashion.

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