Round Robin Generation 8: Part One


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Round Robin Generation 8: Part One

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Round Robin Generation 8: Part One

  1. 2. <ul><li>“As you all know, an unusual event occurred in Belladonna Cove recently. This meeting of the Council is for discussion of that event, its aftermath, and its ramifications. Researcher 92?” </li></ul>
  2. 3. <ul><li>“Thank you, Leader 113. The research division has been exploring what happened in Belladonna Cove. We have discovered that it was a confrontation between a family of witches, called the Cordials, and a family of part-elves, called the Dorans. We have some images that our satellites have captured for viewing purposes.” </li></ul><ul><li>She turned on the viewing screen. </li></ul>
  3. 4. <ul><li>“As you can see, this confrontation caused a large amount of upheaval to Belladonna Cove. However, that event is over. It cannot be changed. Its ramifications and effects are far more important. To that effect, we have researched the history of the participants of the confrontation. The Cordial sisters have been witches for over 800 years. They are descended from a long line of witches and have continued those practices. They have also been neutralized and are no longer a problem.” </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>“Tara DeBateau Doran began life as Tara Tremaine. Her parents were killed when she was an infant, and she was adopted by Armand DeBateau. Her history is neither interesting nor relevant.” </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>“Her husband, David Doran, is another story, as the humans say. He is descended from two lines of elves and a number of humans. Elves do not look at their part-breeds kindly, and the North Forest Elves have been chasing the Doran family since David’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, Carli Doran, left the North Forest. </li></ul><ul><li>However, David Doran’s heritage is not entirely elf or human. His great-grandfather, Edward Doran, was willingly pollinated by one of our technicians.” </li></ul>
  6. 7. <ul><li>There was a slight murmur of surprise - the first time such a murmur had been heard in decades. </li></ul><ul><li>“Willingly?” Technician 296 asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“Willingly. He apparently searched for the aliens, as the humans call us, from the time he was a child, and was very excited to be abducted and to meet our people.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Therefore,” Leader 113 said, “we have invited two of our pollination technicians to attend the rest of this meeting: Pollination Technician 365, the pollinator of Edward Doran, and Pollination Technician 9, who lived with humans in Strangetown for many years, and who knew Edward Doran and his family.” </li></ul>
  7. 8. <ul><li>She pressed a button and a door opened, allowing the two technicians into the room. Pollination Technician 365 strode confidently to the seat farther from the door. Pollination Technician 9 shuffled in far more slowly. Educator 227, in the chair next to his, helped him sit down comfortably. Everyone, including Leader 113, nodded respectfully. </li></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>“Welcome, Pollination Technician 9, Pollination Technician 365. You have been called to this meeting to discuss the Doran family. Pollination Technician 365, you are the pollinator of Edward Doran, and the parental unit of Ainsley Doran. Pollination Technician 9, you are our expert on human behavior, and one of our most respected Elders.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Researcher 92 briefed us,” Pollination Technician 9 said in his gravelly voice. “It sounded to me like you’re trying to figure out what’s going to be done about the Dorans. What exactly does that mean?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I do not understand what you are asking,” Researcher 92 said. </li></ul><ul><li>“I mean,” Pollination Technician 9 said, “are you planning on chasing them down and killing them?” </li></ul>
  9. 10. <ul><li>A gasp was heard around the table. Leader 113 stood up, crossing her arms. “Pollination Technician 9, we are not the Elves. We do not kill our part-breeds.” </li></ul><ul><li>“No, we just abandon them and never speak to them again.” </li></ul><ul><li>Pollination Technician 71 shrugged. “They are not our people. They would not understand us. There is no reason to contact them.” Everyone nodded in agreement. </li></ul><ul><li>Pollination Technician 9 raised an eyebrow. “None of you have spent time with humans, I see, or this ignorance would not exist. Never mind. If you’re not going to chase the Dorans down and kill them, what are you going to do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“That is what we are meeting to discuss. Does anyone have any suggestions?” Leader 113 asked as she sat down again. </li></ul>
  10. 11. <ul><li>Technician 296 spoke up. “We could continue to ignore them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“This is an option. Are there any other suggestions.” </li></ul><ul><li>“We could abduct the current heir and explain who we are and what we want,” Pollination Technician 71 said. </li></ul><ul><li>“That would make them highly unlikely to trust us,” Researcher 92 stated. “The Dorans have many reasons to be suspicious of outsiders, and are often reluctant to trust. Abduction would make such trust even less likely.” </li></ul><ul><li>“We are taking all suggestions. It does not matter how much value they appear to have, for value can be found where it is least expected. Researcher 92, do you have a suggestion?” </li></ul>
  11. 12. <ul><li>“I would like to know more about the North Forest Elves. Our satellites continue to have problems in that area.” </li></ul><ul><li>“That is due to the large amount of magic in the area,” Technician 296 said. “We have been working on fixing the problem, but progress is slow. We have no access to magic for use in testing.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yes, I know that. I therefore suggest that we send an agent to speak to the Elves, to learn more about them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Perhaps we should simply send someone to speak to the Dorans?” Pollination Technician 365 said. “Perhaps without an abduction, they would be more likely to trust us.” </li></ul><ul><li>“We could also set drones to follow the Dorans,” Technician 296 said. “Perhaps they would not break if they are not near the North Forest.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Do we know which Doran we should be following?” Educator 227 asked. “This David Doran appears to be relatively old, for a human, and done having his family.” </li></ul>
  12. 13. <ul><li>Researcher 92 cleared her throat. “We have reason to believe that the important Doran to follow is Madeleine Doran, eldest child of David Doran. The Elves appear to be focusing their attentions on looking for her.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Then I believe we should send an observer to watch Madeleine Doran, and to discover what can be known about the family and the Elves. Drones appear to be a good idea, but can be spotted or destroyed much more easily than a live observer.” </li></ul><ul><li>Heads were nodding, and Leader 113 took command again. “This idea appears to have the most support. Are there any other suggestions?” No one said anything. “Does everyone agree with Educator 227’s idea?” Everyone nodded. “Then this is the plan we will follow. We will send an agent to observe Madeleine Doran. The question, therefore, becomes who to send.” </li></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>Technician 296 raised his hand. “Perhaps one of us should go? We know what to look for.” </li></ul><ul><li>Pollination Technician 9 snorted. “None of you can act worth a damn. It will be very obvious to Madeleine Doran that you’re there to spy on her.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Are you volunteering?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hell no. If I were young enough to travel, perhaps. But I’m too old. I can’t do that sort of job these days, not without collapsing, and that wouldn’t help anyone.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What is your suggestion, then?” Leader 113 asked diplomatically. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Send an adolescent - one who is close to maturation - or a new adult - and disguise them as a part-alien - a part-breed - who is from somewhere else and working with or going to school with Madeleine Doran.” </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>“Is there anyone who fits that category?” Leader 113 asked Educator 227. </li></ul><ul><li>Educator 227 thought for a second. “Yes. Adolescent 500 is due to undergo metamorphosis at the end of this cycle.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Get Adolescent 500 and bring him or her to this meeting.” </li></ul><ul><li>Educator 227 nodded, stood up, and left the room. As she left, she heard Researcher 92 speaking. “How will we disguise Adolescent 500 as a part-breed?” </li></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>Educator 227 stopped at a data checkpoint as soon as she reached one after leaving the Council Room. According to the calendar, Adolescent 500 was on a rotation with Adolescent 511 watching some of the younglings. She typed for a moment, putting out a call for an Educator or Adolescent with four free segments to meet her by the younglings’ area. Then she continued on down the hall. </li></ul>
  16. 17. <ul><li>The younglings’ area was set up differently from the rest of the station, as allowances were made for their age and size. This specific room had two Adolescents - Adolescent 500 and Adolescent 511 - teaching and tending to six younglings. </li></ul><ul><li>Educator 227 watched from the door as the younglings went about their daily routine. </li></ul><ul><li>She was soon joined by Educator 454. “You needed an off-duty Educator, Educator 227?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I did. I need to speak to Adolescent 500 and take her to a meeting, and did not want to leave Adolescent 511 with six younglings alone.” </li></ul><ul><li>Educator 454 nodded. “I am available.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Good.” </li></ul>
  17. 18. <ul><li>Educator 227 opened the door and entered the room, Educator 454 behind her. All heads immediately turned to look at them. </li></ul><ul><li>“Shh,” Adolescent 500 said to the youngling in her arms. “Educator 227, we greet you.” Two of the younglings fidgeted and she looked down her nose at them. Educator 227 was their division head, and respect was called for. Adolescent 511 handed a bottle to another youngling, then snapped to attention. </li></ul><ul><li>“Adolescent 500, the Council needs to speak to you.” </li></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>“Me?” She put the youngling on the floor, where she immediately crawled over to Adolescent 511 and asked for attention. </li></ul><ul><li>“Yes, you. We have a job that can only be performed by an Adolescent, and you are the oldest. I have been sent to bring you to the meeting.” </li></ul><ul><li>“But, the younglings-” </li></ul><ul><li>“Educator 454 will cover the rest of your shift.” </li></ul><ul><li>Adolescent 500 nodded. “Adolescent 511?” she asked, turning to him. </li></ul><ul><li>He bounced the youngling gently. “I will tell Educator 454 what we are doing.” </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>Educator 227 nodded, then turned and left the room. Adolescent 500 followed. They walked in silence for a bit. </li></ul><ul><li>“What do you need me to do?” Adolescent 500 asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“You will be told at the meeting.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yes, Educator 227.” </li></ul>
  20. 21. <ul><li>There was clearly discussion coming from the Council Room when they reached it. “-clothing is stored somewhere, yes,” Pollination Technician 71 was saying. </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone looked up as the door opened. “Welcome, Adolescent 500,” Leader 113 said. “Thank you for bringing her, Educator 227.” </li></ul><ul><li>Educator 227 took her seat, and Adolescent 500 saw that there was an empty one at the end of the table. She took it. “Educator 227 said you had a job for me,” she said quietly. </li></ul><ul><li>“We do.” Leader 113 explained their ideas, the history of the Dorans, and the tasks that Adolescent 500 would be performing. “Are you willing to accept this job?” </li></ul>
  21. 22. <ul><li>Adolescent 500 thought for a moment. Could she leave her people for however long it took to watch this Madeleine Doran? Could she successfully disguise herself as a part-breed? Could she - would she - do this? </li></ul><ul><li>“Yes,” she said. “I am willing.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><li>The room was silent, other than the buzz of machines. The two Technicians made no noise as they did their work. </li></ul><ul><li>When the door opened, both Technicians looked up. Their division head - Technician 296 - walked in with an Adolescent and Pollination Technician 9. They both stood immediately. </li></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>Pollination Technician 9 went to lean silently against the wall while Technician 296 brought the Adolescent over to the Technicians. “You two are going to make Adolescent 500 look like a part-breed for a job that has been mandated by the Council.” </li></ul><ul><li>They both nodded. “We have the problem with the mirrors,” Technician 306 said. </li></ul><ul><li>“Explain that to Adolescent 500. I must get back to the meeting; Pollination Technician 9 will remain to assist if necessary.” </li></ul><ul><li>Both Technicians nodded respectfully to Pollination Technician 9 while Technician 296 left, closing the door behind him. </li></ul><ul><li>“Well,” Technician 306 said, looking at Adolescent 500, “let us begin.” </li></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>Adolescent 500 nodded a bit nervously and went up to the Technicians. Technician 306 looked her over critically. “Technician 296 stated that you should look like a part-breed. We can do that one of two ways. Let us try the simple way first.” </li></ul><ul><li>Technician 188 brought over a small item. “These are contact lenses.” He showed her how to put them in her eyes, demonstrating with his own pair, and she attempted to do so. </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>The first lens burned, and the second was worse. “Ow ow ow ow ow!” Adolescent 500 said, holding her hands to her eyes. “These are painful!” </li></ul><ul><li>“Take them out,” Technician 306 said. “We’ll use the other solution.” She nodded to Technician 188, who started readying one of the machines. </li></ul><ul><li>Adolescent 500 finally managed to get the contact lenses out of her eyes. She put them back in the case and handed it to Technician 306. “Those are very painful.” </li></ul><ul><li>Technician 306 nodded. “I agree with you. I have tried them myself, and do not find them at all comfortable. However, Technician 188 can wear them without a problem, as do many humans. Since you cannot, we must use another solution.” She turned to look at Technician 188. Adolescent 500 followed her gaze. “If we cannot change your eyes, we must change your skin.” </li></ul>
  26. 27. <ul><li>“My skin?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Our eyes and skin are two of the things that make us truly different from the humans. To look like a part-breed, we must change one.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I thought part-breeds often had our coloring.” </li></ul><ul><li>“They do,” Pollination Technician 9 said. All three turned to look at him. “But children of part-breeds usually don’t, and that backstory is easier to fake. Changing your skin color will help.” </li></ul><ul><li>Adolescent 500 nodded. “What do I have to do?” </li></ul>
  27. 29. <ul><li>When all was done, Adolescent 500 looked at her hands, now a coffee-ish color, without even a hint of green. “This looks very odd.” </li></ul><ul><li>Technician 306 quirked her lips. “There is one thing of which you should be wary.” She gestured Adolescent 500 to another machine. “We have not managed to make mirrors show the outside.” </li></ul><ul><li>“We believe that mirrors have special properties,” Technician 188 said. “They only show the truth.” </li></ul><ul><li>Adolescent 500 stepped hesitantly up to the machine. “What do you mean?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Your skin will still appear green, when viewed in a mirror.” </li></ul><ul><li>“This is also why vampires do not appear in mirrors,” Technician 306 added. “They are dead, and consequently not really there. The piece of them that appears in a mirror no longer exists. Had you been able to wear the contact lenses, we would have recommended glasses when near mirrors - or sunglasses, preferably - to hide your eyes. Instead, you will have to be very careful.” </li></ul>
  28. 30. <ul><li>Adolescent 500 looked at herself in the mirror. They were right - she did look green in the mirror. “Aside from the mirrors, could I pass as a part-breed now?” </li></ul><ul><li>Pollination Technician 9 laughed. “Not at all. The skin color is fine, but you’re missing one feature that is common to humans.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What?” she asked. </li></ul><ul><li>He reached up, gesturing at his own head. “Hair.” </li></ul><ul><li>Technician 188 handed her a vial, taken from yet another machine. “This will make your hair follicles work again - very swiftly for a short while, and then at a normal pace for humans.” </li></ul>
  29. 31. <ul><li>She held it up and considered it, then took a breath and drank. Her head felt very odd as the hair grew quickly, finally falling in front of her eyes. She scratched at her head. “That felt very strange. And it is all in front of my eyes. How do humans see like this?” </li></ul><ul><li>“They pull it back or keep it short,” Pollination Technician 9 said. </li></ul><ul><li>“And the last thing you need,” Technician 306 said as she reentered the room - Adolescent 500 had not even noticed she was gone. “Clothing.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Clothing?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Humans do not dress like us,” Pollination Technician 9 said. “They have many different styles, individual to each person.” </li></ul><ul><li>“These are duplicated from clothing which humans wore when abducted,” Technician 306 said. “I believe these should fit you.” </li></ul>
  30. 32. <ul><li>Adolescent 500 took off her outfit and tried the human clothing on. A hat was included - it held her hair mostly out of her face. “Humans dress like this?” </li></ul><ul><li>Pollination Technician 9 grinned. “You have a lot to learn if you’re going to pass as a part-breed. Let’s get back to the meeting, so we can work on teaching you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yes, Pollination Technician 9.” </li></ul><ul><li>He stood up from the wall and smiled at the Technicians. “Thanks for your help.” </li></ul><ul><li>“It was our job,” Technician 306 said. </li></ul><ul><li>He rolled his eyes. “Not what I meant.” </li></ul>
  31. 33. <ul><li>He swiftly ushered Adolescent 500 out of the room and into a small supply closet. “Why are we in here?” she asked. </li></ul><ul><li>He reached into a cabinet and took two items out, doing something to each then placing them on a counter. “This is a cellular phone, copied from the humans, which has been specially modified. I have no doubt the Council will give you ways to contact them, but this is for you to contact me .” </li></ul><ul><li>“Why would I need to contact you?” she asked. She accepted one phone anyway and put it in her new pocket. He took the other one. </li></ul><ul><li>“Aside from the fact that I know more about humans than everyone else here combined?” He smiled enigmatically. “When you fall in love with the humans, call me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I’m not going to fall in love with the humans.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Oh, you are. You just don’t know it yet.” </li></ul>
  32. 34. <ul><li>She did not understand him, and it showed on her face. But instead of asking, she changed the subject. “Do we not have to be at the meeting?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Sure, kid. Let’s go.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  33. 36. <ul><li>“Morning.” </li></ul><ul><li>Madeleine Doran looked up from the cereal she was making. “Morning,” she said quietly. </li></ul><ul><li>He sat down at the island. “Making enough for me?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yeah, sure.” </li></ul>
  34. 37. <ul><li>“So, cereal,” he said, clearly fishing for a topic of conversation. “You don’t make nicer food for your woohoo partners?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I don’t cook. That would be why I ordered a pizza last night.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Well, I’m glad you did, and that you were my last stop. You’re excellent in bed.” </li></ul><ul><li>She didn’t answer him, choosing instead to eat in silence. </li></ul><ul><li>The rest of breakfast was incredibly awkward. </li></ul>
  35. 38. <ul><li>After breakfast, he got dressed and pecked her on the cheek. “If you ever want no-strings-attached woohoo again, call me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Right.” </li></ul><ul><li>He left the apartment and she watched him go. </li></ul><ul><li>Then she took a long, hot shower. </li></ul><ul><li>When she was done, she went to her job as a Record Store Clerk. </li></ul>
  36. 39. <ul><li>After work, Maddie looked in her fridge. The pizza from the night before had gone bad during the woohoo, there wasn’t enough milk left for cereal, and she was out of bread. Hell, she was even out of Ramen. </li></ul><ul><li>She considered going shopping, but tossed the idea immediately. She didn’t feel like going out. </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, she picked up the phone and ordered Chinese. </li></ul>
  37. 40. <ul><li>As Maddie sat on the couch with her wontons, she turned on the TV. </li></ul><ul><li>Nothing interesting was on, so she flipped channels for a while, stopping for a short time on various shows, and eventually settling on a basketball game. </li></ul><ul><li>That reminded her of Alice, and she smiled, then stopped. </li></ul><ul><li>What the hell was she doing ? </li></ul><ul><li>She’d slept with the pizza guy. The pizza guy . </li></ul><ul><li>Not that there was anything wrong with sleeping with the pizza guy…other than making her feel like a total cliché. </li></ul>
  38. 41. <ul><li>And, to top that, everything she’d argued with Vee about would not leave her mind, not after the news she’d gotten at work. </li></ul><ul><li>She wasn’t even being considered for the promotion to Assistant Manager. She didn’t have enough experience, she didn’t have enough education, she was too young. </li></ul><ul><li>Her dream of being a Rock God wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, that was clear. Her few gigs - the ones she’d managed to get - had been in shitty bars, and hadn’t led to anything else. </li></ul><ul><li>She still thought Vee was wrong. She didn’t have to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a politician, or something “serious.” Becoming a musician was a completely legitimate career choice. </li></ul><ul><li>But what she was doing clearly wasn’t working. </li></ul>
  39. 42. <ul><li>As she came out of her thoughts, she noticed it was the end of a commercial. </li></ul><ul><li>“ -spaces available! Call now and become a student at La Fiesta Tech!” </li></ul><ul><li>She pressed pause and rewound, watching the commercial in its entirety. </li></ul><ul><li>La Fiesta Tech was still looking for students for the fall semester, even though it started in only two weeks. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie paused the TV again, then sat back and thought. She had money in that trust fund her grandfather had set up, and while she wasn’t a genius, she was definitely smart enough to get in to LFT - what with its reputation as a party school and all. And maybe an education would help her in the future. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ll prove it to you, Vee,” she said to no one. “I’m more than just a stupid immature teenager. I will become a rock star, and I’ll do it with an education.” </li></ul>
  40. 43. <ul><li>She pulled out her cell phone and called the number, still paused in big writing at the bottom of the screen. </li></ul><ul><li>“Hi, yeah, my name is Madeleine Doran, and I saw your commercial. I’d like to register for the fall semester.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  41. 44. <ul><li>Frances looked up at the dorm. So this was where he was going to be living for the next two years. </li></ul>
  42. 45. <ul><li>He heard a noise, and turned his head to the left. “Connie.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Frances! Hi! How are you?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Good, good. You?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Pretty good. So what are you doing here?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I’m a student, Connie.” </li></ul><ul><li>Connie Rogers rolled her eyes. “No, I mean here ! Like, at Fiesta Hall. Don’t you have your own house?” </li></ul>
  43. 46. <ul><li>“Oh, um, I used to. I’m working as an RA now, though.” </li></ul><ul><li>She grinned. “Cool! I guess you’ve got the right half of the dorm, then - I’m the RA for the left.” </li></ul><ul><li>He smiled. “Great. Want to go settle in, then we can go through the student lists?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Works for me.” </li></ul>
  44. 47. <ul><li>His room was fairly small, with a bed, desk, and small sofa - so he could meet with his freshmen in private, if necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>He wrinkled his nose slightly. It was much smaller than he was used to. </li></ul><ul><li>On a whim, he glanced into the room next door, one meant for a freshman. It was significantly smaller, with only a desk and a bed. </li></ul><ul><li>“Thank Plumbbob I didn’t have to live here as a freshman,” he muttered. </li></ul>
  45. 48. <ul><li>Connie was by the computers when he came out, so he pulled a chair over to where he could look over her shoulder. “Have you looked at your list yet?” she asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“Nope. I got the notice yesterday, but I was too busy packing. I know I have a bunch of the late registrations, though.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Same - on both points.” She logged in to the school system and pulled up her list. “I’ve got three girls and four guys. Rosa Collier, Dianna Fields, Faith Ray, Casey Curtis, Herbert Graves, Travis Jefferson, and Dave Moss. I don’t recognize any of the names.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Herbert Graves might be Edith Graves’s younger brother. Do you know Edith?” </li></ul><ul><li>Connie thought for a minute. “No, but I think that name sounds familiar.” </li></ul><ul><li>“She’s an econ major, a senior.” </li></ul>
  46. 49. <ul><li>“Ah, cool, I’ll have to see if they’re related. Want to look at your list?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Sure. Do I need to log in?” </li></ul><ul><li>She clicked a few times. “No, looks like all the lists are accessible to all the RAs. Here’s yours.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Thanks.” </li></ul>
  47. 50. <ul><li>“No problem. So your list is: William Williamson, Almeric Davis, Aldric Davis-” </li></ul><ul><li>“I wonder if they’re related.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Twins, maybe? Very similar names, anyway. Klara Vonderstein - says here she’s an international student - Stella Terrano, Blossom Moonbeam-” </li></ul><ul><li>“Seriously?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Seriously. And Madeleine Doran. Doran. Where have I heard the name Doran before?” </li></ul><ul><li>There was silence, so she turned back to look at him. “Frances?” </li></ul>
  48. 51. <ul><li>“Doran - Belladonna Cove.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Belladonna Cove. The wedding announcements - it must have been twenty years ago. There was a Doran who married into the DeBateau family, it was a huge scandal. And I think-” He got up and went over to the bookshelf, grabbing a history book. He paged through it swiftly. “Bluewater Village.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Bluewater was destroyed decades ago.” </li></ul><ul><li>“And one Dominic Doran was called the ‘Hero of Bluewater’.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Last names don’t necessarily mean anything, Frances. I’m not at all related to the governor of Three Lakes, even though we have the same last name.” </li></ul>
  49. 52. <ul><li>“Where is Madeleine Doran from? The lists should have some basic information - hometown, birthdate, that sort of thing.” </li></ul><ul><li>Connie clicked through the list - each name linked to more information on that freshman. “Fine, fine, you win.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Belladonna Cove?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Belladonna Cove.” </li></ul><ul><li>“You know, Connie,” he said, “this is going to be a very interesting couple of years. Very very interesting.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  50. 53. <ul><li>Early the next morning, Frances and Connie waited with their lists in front of the dorm for their freshmen to arrive. </li></ul><ul><li>As they came in, they introduced themselves, found each freshman on the lists, and directed them to their rooms and RA groups. Connie’s freshmen were told to meet in the common room upstairs, by the couches, while Frances’s freshmen had the cafeteria. </li></ul>
  51. 54. <ul><li>After they’d all arrived, they gathered in the cafeteria, and the last freshman in pulled up a chair and sat down. </li></ul>
  52. 55. <ul><li>“Hi, I’m Frances J. Worthington the third, but you can call me Frances. I’ll be your RA - Residence Advisor - this year and next year, as well. I’m currently a Junior, majoring in Economics, and I’m from Arbordale, where my family has lived for generations. </li></ul><ul><li>There are general rules you all have to follow while living in the dorm, but they’re pretty simple. Try to avoid burning the place down, if you make a mess in one of the common areas, clean it up, and if someone asks you to be quiet, keep the noise down, especially if it’s night and there are classes the next day. People writing term papers or doing school-related research have precedence on the computers, but feel free to use them for anything otherwise. Oh, and treat the cafeteria workers well - if you don’t, you could find yourself stuck with burned food all year! </li></ul><ul><li>Now, I’d like to meet you all; I have your names on a list, but I don’t know your faces, and none of you know each other. Therefore, why don’t you go around the table and introduce yourselves? Name, major, and where you’re from is fine, though if you want to tell us more, that’s cool too.” He gestured to the person on his right to start. </li></ul>
  53. 56. <ul><li>“Oh! I am Stella Terrano,” she said, in keeping with the cover story that had been invented for her. She still thought of herself as 500, for it was the designation she’d held since birth, but she had at least started to become used to answering to Stella. “I am from the town of Madison, which is northeast of here. I am majoring in Physics.” </li></ul>
  54. 57. <ul><li>“Aldric Davis,” the person next to her said. “I’m from Viper Canyon, the town next door. I like television, cookies, and having fun. I’m also majoring in Physics.” He gestured to the person to his right. “Your turn.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Klara Vonderstein. I am an international student from Alpinloch. I am majoring in Political Science, concentrating in International Relations.” </li></ul>
  55. 58. <ul><li>“Hi, I’m Madeleine Doran, but feel free to call me Maddie. I haven’t decided on a major yet, though I’m considering Art, since LFT doesn’t have a Music program - I love to play the piano, and recently took up the guitar. I’m from Belladonna Cove.” </li></ul>
  56. 59. <ul><li>“I’m Almeric Davis. Yes, Aldric and I are twins. I’m older by five minutes.” His brother glared at him and he ignored it. “I’m also from Viper Canyon. I haven’t decided on a major yet, but I’m considering Poli Sci. Klara, you’ll have to tell me about that.” He smiled at her. </li></ul><ul><li>“My name is Blossom Moonbeam,” said the person next to him. “Yes, Blossom Moonbeam. My parents are total hippies, who never stopped being hippies even when everyone else did - I grew up traveling all over the place, and our mailing address is on Twikkii, but we don’t really live there most of the time. For a long time I thought I hated it, but then, well, I realized that I’m just like them. I love traveling, and I don’t think I could ever give that up, but I’ve also learned that school is valuable, so I’m here for the next four years! I’m majoring in Biology.” </li></ul><ul><li>“William Williamson,” the last freshman said. “I’m from Sedona, which is on the other side of Viper Canyon. I’m planning on working in the family real estate business when I graduate, and am therefore majoring in Economics.” </li></ul>
  57. 60. <ul><li>“It’s great to meet you all, and I hope we all have a wonderful two years together,” Frances said once everyone was done. “There’s a party tonight to welcome freshmen at the Wasteland Lounge, with one of the on-campus bands - the Shifting Paradymes - playing. I hope you’ll all come - I’ll be waiting in the lobby at 8 to leave, and anyone who wants to go is welcome to walk with me. It’s a great time to meet other people in your class, and older students who are around campus. </li></ul><ul><li>For now, I suggest you settle into your rooms, get used to the dorm, and have fun meeting each other!” </li></ul>
  58. 61. <ul><li>The first thing Maddie did after the meeting was lock her door. Her room was pretty small, and she couldn’t see herself spending much time in there, other than when she actually wanted to study (if that ever happened) , but it was still her own private space. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie valued privacy. </li></ul>
  59. 62. <ul><li>“Hey, Frances, what’s up?” Maddie asked as she came back into the hallway, heading for the common area to see what there was to do up there. She’d already spotted the chess table by the stairs, but that didn’t interest her. </li></ul><ul><li>“Madeleine. How are you?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Good, getting used to moving in and all that.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I see you locked your door.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yeah, it’s nice living in a dorm and all, and, I mean, I have sisters, but…well, no, having sisters means I like my privacy. Even if I can’t fit a piano in my room here.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Oh, yeah, privacy is a good thing. Want to go find somewhere to be private?” He was clearly trying to sound flirtatious, but Maddie couldn’t help but laugh. </li></ul>
  60. 63. <ul><li>When he raised his hand as though to caress her face, however, Maddie stopped him. “Look, Frances, I don’t have anything against flirting. Or against woohoo. But you’re gay, and I don’t do gay guys.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I’m not gay.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Then you’re lying to yourself. I have plenty of friends who are gay, and I know how to recognize it. There’s a reason I never flirted with Roger, though he was pretty damn hot, I have to admit. Most of his family was.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What does this have to do with me?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I’m bi myself, and have plenty of gay friends. I can recognize it. And you, Frances J. Worthington the third, are completely and totally gay.” </li></ul>
  61. 64. <ul><li>“I’m not-” he began to say again. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie patted him on the shoulder. “I don’t mind being friends. But you’re clearly gay, and, like I said, I don’t do gay guys. So, right now, let’s just be friends, and you can try and figure out your sexuality with someone who’s not me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Fine,” he said, sighing. He wasn’t gay. He couldn’t be gay. </li></ul><ul><li>She smiled. “Great. I’m going to go explore the dorm. Want to come with?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yeah, I guess.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Great!” </li></ul>
  62. 65. <ul><li>Maddie quickly found the dartboard, where Almeric was idly playing. She and Frances joined him for a game. </li></ul><ul><li>Meanwhile, a fight was going on across the cafeteria, as William and Klara poked each other repeatedly. </li></ul><ul><li>“Don’t you think you should go break that up?” Almeric asked. </li></ul><ul><li>Frances looked at the fighting pair. “I guess so. I’m a bit reluctant to get involved.” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie rolled her eyes. “Oh, let them fight. I bet it’s all just sexual tension anyway.” </li></ul><ul><li>Almeric raised an eyebrow at her, then walked over and broke up the fight. </li></ul>
  63. 66. <ul><li>During the day, there were phone calls home (“Yes, Mom, I got here fine, I’m all moved in”), a lunch of macaroni and cheese (“We are expected to eat this for two years?”), and even some schoolwork. </li></ul>
  64. 67. <ul><li>And, as they gathered to walk to the Wasteland Lounge, there was even some flirting. “You know, Blossom, I think you’re really pretty,” Aldric said as they gathered. </li></ul><ul><li>“Thanks, Aldric.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Want to dance with me? I mean, tonight.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Maybe a bit, but I’m here to meet lots of new people, not just dance with you. Maybe one or two, though.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Alright,” he said, somewhat deflated, but willing to take anything he could get. </li></ul>
  65. 68. <ul><li>After they gathered by the dorm, Frances led his freshmen to the Wasteland Lounge for the performance and party. </li></ul><ul><li>Most of them walked in quickly, eager to get to the party, but a couple lingered outside. </li></ul>
  66. 69. <ul><li>Stella glanced inside, looking at the band, the dancers, the people drinking, and everyone else. “It is very loud in there,” she said quietly. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie looked at her. “Well, yeah. That’s what parties are.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I am not…accustomed to parties.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Then come on! I bet you’ll have fun when you loosen up!” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie walked in, joining the people dancing around the band. </li></ul>
  67. 70. <ul><li>“Come on!” she yelled to Stella as she danced by the drummer. “It’s a lot of fun!” </li></ul>
  68. 71. <ul><li>Stella looked around at the partiers. There were dancers, and talkers, and even people sitting and watching. </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe she could join that group. </li></ul><ul><li>She moved to go farther into the room when she spotted herself in the mirror. </li></ul>
  69. 72. <ul><li>“Oh no,” she whispered. Then she turned and left as quickly as she could. </li></ul>
  70. 73. <ul><li>Frances, meanwhile, was talking with Connie about their respective groups of freshmen. </li></ul><ul><li>“Well, none of them seem to have chosen majors yet, probably an effect of regis-” </li></ul><ul><li>“Hold on a sec, Connie.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What’s wrong?” </li></ul><ul><li>“One of my freshmen just ran out. I’m going to go talk to her.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Oh, sure, go ahead.” </li></ul><ul><li>Frances followed Stella, catching something odd out of the corner of his eye as she left. Had that been a flash of green? </li></ul>
  71. 74. <ul><li>He caught her as she was leaving, heading for the dorm. “Stella!” he called. </li></ul><ul><li>She turned around and walked back to where he was standing by the doors. “Yes, Frances?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Did something happen? Why did you leave?” </li></ul><ul><li>She laughed a bit too loudly. “Oh, you know, I just realized that I am not in the mood for a party after all. I believe I will return to the dorm and relax there this evening.” </li></ul><ul><li>His eyes narrowed as she walked away. Something was odd about that girl. </li></ul>
  72. 75. <ul><li>Frances then returned to Connie. “Was something wrong?” she asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“Oh no, no,” Frances said, waving his hand. “She just felt like leaving.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Huh,” she said. “Odd that she barely got in the door. </li></ul><ul><li>He shrugged. “It happens sometimes. Freshmen are weird.” </li></ul><ul><li>“True that. Want to go dance?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Sure, why not.” </li></ul>
  73. 76. <ul><li>All of the students had fun, whether they danced, drank, or simply stood or sat talking to people. </li></ul><ul><li>It was a crazy party, suiting La Fiesta Tech to a T. </li></ul>
  74. 77. <ul><li>One student even decided to get naked and streak through the party. Most of the students laughed, though a few were rather shocked. </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, it was also late enough in the evening that many of the students were completely drunk and didn’t care - even those who might have while sober. </li></ul>
  75. 78. <ul><li>Eventually, the evening ended with a trip to the bubble blower for some of the Fiesta Hall freshmen. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  76. 79. <ul><li>When Stella returned to the empty dorm, she sat down at the chessboard and began a game against herself. </li></ul><ul><li>She’d almost given herself away. </li></ul><ul><li>She had to avoid mirrors. She had to. </li></ul><ul><li>Luckily, there weren’t many in the dorm. </li></ul>
  77. 80. <ul><li>“Hey, mind if I join you?” </li></ul><ul><li>“You may,” Stella said. </li></ul><ul><li>“Have you been playing chess since you left the party?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I…yes, I have.” </li></ul><ul><li>“That’s a long time.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I had much to think about.” </li></ul>
  78. 81. <ul><li>“Want to start a new game?” Maddie asked as she cleared off the board, then began setting the pieces up again. </li></ul><ul><li>“Yes.” </li></ul><ul><li>They played in silence for a while. </li></ul>
  79. 82. <ul><li>“You’re good at this.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I suppose I am,” Stella answered. “You are-” </li></ul><ul><li>“Oh don’t worry, you don’t need to tell me I’m good at chess. I’m not. According to Dad, his father was some kind of chess genius, but I clearly didn’t get those talents. That’s fine. I happen to have other talents.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Then why did you ask to play with me?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Because you were already playing, and I wanted to get to know you. You are pretty hot, after all.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Wait, what?” </li></ul>
  80. 83. <ul><li>“You’re pretty hot. If you want to try a relationship, come and find me.” She picked up the pieces and put them away. “I think you win, anyway.” Then she left the table. </li></ul><ul><li>Stella stared after her for a while. Madeleine Doran wanted a relationship with her ? That was not in her job description. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  81. 84. <ul><li>The next morning began as most mornings did for Maddie - waking up as late as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>She wasn’t a morning person. At all. </li></ul><ul><li>But there were classes, and she wasn’t going to fail. </li></ul>
  82. 85. <ul><li>While Maddie wasn’t going to fail school, she wasn’t going to spend all of her energy concentrating on it, either, and therefore she spent a lot of her first semester flirting with various people. </li></ul><ul><li>And, well, if other people were willing to do her homework after a bit of flirting…it wasn’t hurting anyone, right? </li></ul>
  83. 86. <ul><li>She also got used to late night meals of jello (about all she could cook when the cafeteria workers weren’t around) or leftover mac and cheese, often with students who had fallen asleep - either from too much studying or too much partying. </li></ul>
  84. 87. <ul><li>And also to early morning meals with everyone still dressed in their pajamas or underwear. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie had no problem admiring the eye candy. </li></ul>
  85. 88. <ul><li>Unfortunately, there were also some things she had to study in order to get through her classes. </li></ul><ul><li>Exercising was one of her least favorite, but at least she didn’t have to do much of it. </li></ul><ul><li>“Damn it,” she muttered more than once while running on the treadmill. “Alice is the athletic one, not me!” </li></ul>
  86. 89. <ul><li>Good thing there were always consolation prizes when she was done! </li></ul>
  87. 90. <ul><li>Plus, there was hanging out with the girls. Unfortunately, Blossom and Klara were definitely straight, and Stella seemed to be fairly asexual, but they were fun to hang around with, even if Stella and Klara were fairly book-obsessed. </li></ul>
  88. 91. <ul><li>When she wanted company, all she had to do was go to the cafeteria. Someone was always eating, no matter the time of day. </li></ul>
  89. 92. <ul><li>And at least the dorm had a piano on the roof! Maddie had missed hers, but it really hadn’t been portable enough to bring during her travels. When she’d sort of settled, she’d bought a cheap guitar, but the piano was her true love. </li></ul><ul><li>She wasn’t the only one who enjoyed music, either. Plenty of the other dorm residents joined her at the instruments, almost forming a band of their own. They never performed officially, however, and who played which instrument tended to vary fairly often. </li></ul>
  90. 93. <ul><li>The group water balloon fight that Maddie started one day to distract everyone from their upcoming midterms was a lot of fun, and got everyone in the dorm knowing each other better. </li></ul>
  91. 94. <ul><li>The water balloon fight wasn’t the only thing the other students did. They spent time in the hot tub on the roof (which, admittedly, no one was certain why it was there, but such was LFT), dancing to the stereo in the common room, or painting for fun. </li></ul>
  92. 95. <ul><li>Or glaring each other into submission. </li></ul>
  93. 96. <ul><li>They also made friends, and sometimes flirted, though nothing really came of it. </li></ul>
  94. 97. <ul><li>Well, nothing except jealousy, and a determination to be better. </li></ul>
  95. 98. <ul><li>And possibly to find consolation elsewhere. </li></ul><ul><li>“Look, Aldric, I like you, but…” </li></ul><ul><li>“Then why won’t you flirt with me? You flirt with everyone else. Well, everyone who likes girls, and I like girls.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Because I’ve seen the way you look at Blossom. You’re clearly into her, and I totally respect that. If you’re not into me, it’s not worth it. I won’t be a replacement for someone else.” </li></ul><ul><li>He nodded slowly, then left her alone. </li></ul>
  96. 99. <ul><li>While Stella spent much of her time studying - she had no intentions of failing her courses, though they were not her main reason for being at La Fiesta Tech - she also spent some of it having fun. </li></ul><ul><li>Though, admittedly, she often had to learn what exactly the humans meant by “fun.” </li></ul>
  97. 100. <ul><li>In addition, she watched the stars every night from midnight to one, according to her instructions. </li></ul>
  98. 101. <ul><li>Stella also watched Madeleine fairly often. </li></ul><ul><li>She did not understand Maddie’s obsession with kissing and dating. What exactly made it so interesting to Maddie? </li></ul><ul><li>Her task was to observe, not to judge, and Stella faithfully observed as much as Maddie chose to show. </li></ul><ul><li>Which was quite a lot. </li></ul>
  99. 102. <ul><li>Maddie wasn’t exactly shy about going after her conquests, either, and Stella wasn’t the only one to notice. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  100. 103. <ul><li>Frances found himself visiting the Worthington Society - of which he’d been a member since his freshman year - at the very end of the fall semester, right before finals. “Shari,” he said, sitting down with the current society president, a senior. “I’ve got a couple of freshmen in my hall group who I think should be invited to join when we do the freshmen invites at the end of the year.” </li></ul><ul><li>“You’re welcome to invite anyone you want, Frances. We all know you’ll be president next year.” </li></ul><ul><li>“You’re not sure of it.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Frances, you’re a Worthington . There’s no way you won’t be elected. So who did you want to invite?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Madeleine Doran.” </li></ul><ul><li>“The DeBateau descendant? She’ll be useful, yes. Who’s the other?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Stella Terrano. There’s something odd about her, and I think inviting her would make investigating her easier.” </li></ul>
  101. 104. <ul><li>Shari nodded. “Sure, why not?” </li></ul><ul><li>Frances looked around the room. “Cool. Hey, if you don’t mind, I need to go speak to Kendra.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Sure, go ahead.” </li></ul>
  102. 105. <ul><li>Frances caught Kendra Gibbs by the kitchen. “Hey, Kendra.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What is it, Frances?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I’ve got a favor to ask of you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What sort of favor?” She crossed her arms over her chest. </li></ul><ul><li>“There’s a girl in my dorm who I’d like you to meet, maybe date, see if you can get her interested in you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Why?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Well, she prefers girls, won’t date me, and, well, I think you might be good for her.” </li></ul>
  103. 106. <ul><li>“There’s something you’re not telling me, Frances.” </li></ul><ul><li>“It’s personal, Kendra. Look, I’m not asking you to date her if you’re not interested. I’m asking you to come to Fiesta Hall and see if you are interested, and if you are, ask her out.” </li></ul><ul><li>She nodded slowly. “Fine. I’ll come by your dorm, after my finals are done. But if you’re hiding something, you’d better tell me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Don’t worry,” he said, “I will.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  104. 107. <ul><li>Kendra did stop by the dorm the day after finals - which everyone managed to ace, whether by their own work or the work of others - and found herself sharing a celebratory lunch of spaghetti and meatballs with Madeleine, the freshman who Frances had mentioned. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie was attractive, and entertaining, and intriguing, and Kendra found herself falling fast. </li></ul>
  105. 108. <ul><li>Maddie thought Kendra was kind of hot, too. </li></ul>
  106. 109. <ul><li>And she had no objections to making out with her. </li></ul>
  107. 110. <ul><li>Stella, meanwhile, developed a new hobby: learning how to make robots. She’d been able to use her end of semester grant to buy the bench, and had set it up in the small room with the easels. </li></ul><ul><li>She couldn’t do much, yet, but she could learn. With every toy robot she made, she got better. </li></ul>
  108. 111. <ul><li>Maddie often watched her, holed up with her robot bench and her tools. </li></ul><ul><li>Stella was intriguing, and Maddie was intrigued. </li></ul>
  109. 112. <ul><li>Of course, Maddie spent time with people other than Stella, too. </li></ul><ul><li>Such as her dates. </li></ul><ul><li>The poker table on the roof? Was very fun. </li></ul>
  110. 113. <ul><li>So was the hot tub. </li></ul>
  111. 114. <ul><li>Kendra was around fairly often, too, and always available for flirting. </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes it was a bit too often. </li></ul>
  112. 115. <ul><li>“Hey, Kendra, what are you doing here?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Oh, I had some free time, so I thought I would stop by, see if you were available.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I’ve got class in a bit, but, yeah, sure.” </li></ul>
  113. 116. <ul><li>They hung out together, and even went in the hot tub for a bit. </li></ul>
  114. 117. <ul><li>But Maddie wasn’t sad to use the excuse of class to say goodbye to Kendra. </li></ul>
  115. 118. <ul><li>Other relationships were also happening. </li></ul><ul><li>Blossom was clearly interested in Almeric. </li></ul>
  116. 119. <ul><li>And Aldric was just as clearly interested in Blossom. </li></ul>
  117. 120. <ul><li>Klara and William continued to get into arguments, though it never became a full-blown fight. </li></ul>
  118. 121. <ul><li>And everyone spent time together for meals. </li></ul>
  119. 122. <ul><li>Which was certainly less dangerous than the time Blossom managed to set the microwave on fire while making Ramen. </li></ul><ul><li>Luckily, the fire department came and put it out before anyone got hurt. </li></ul>
  120. 123. <ul><li>All in all, the semester went well, and even included a trip to the photobooth. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  121. 124. <ul><li>A few nights before finals, Frances caught Maddie and Stella while they were eating dinner. “Hey,” he said, “there’s a thing tonight that I’d like to take you guys to.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What sort of thing?” Maddie asked. </li></ul><ul><li>He leaned in and spoke quietly. “Can you two be awake and ready to go after everyone else goes to bed?” </li></ul>
  122. 125. <ul><li>Maddie and Stella exchanged a glance. “This is a secret thing, isn’t it?” </li></ul><ul><li>Frances nodded. “It is.” </li></ul><ul><li>Stella shrugged. “I will be at the telescope from midnight to one.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I guess I could join you up there.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Great,” Frances said, standing up. “I’ll see you two then.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  123. 126. <ul><li>“What do you think this is about?” </li></ul><ul><li>“What do you mean?” </li></ul><ul><li>“This thing that Frances invited us to. I wonder if it’s some sort of cult. We could be meeting to dance naked under the full moon.” She smiled slowly. “That would be fun.” </li></ul>
  124. 127. <ul><li>Stella looked at Madeleine, her brow furrowed, then went back to her telescope. Humans were odd. “I cannot see Frances participating in such an activity.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Nah, probably not.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Besides, it is a new moon tonight.” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie rolled her eyes. “I was joking, Stella.” She stared up at the stars. “What do you do up here all the time, anyway? Stare at the stars and the moon and all that?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I enjoy astronomy.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Yeah, but you stargaze every night. Looking to meet the aliens?” </li></ul>
  125. 128. <ul><li>Stella froze. “I enjoy astronomy,” she said again. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie clearly wasn’t satisfied with that response, and was about to say something when they were interrupted. </li></ul>
  126. 129. <ul><li>“Are you two ready to go?” Frances asked. </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie rolled to her feet. “Yeah, sure.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Stella?” </li></ul><ul><li>She checked the sky - it was almost one, and if anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now. “Yes, I am ready.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  127. 130. <ul><li>“So what is this place?” Maddie asked as they got out of the limo - how the hell had Frances gotten a limo? - and stopped in front of a small building that she’d never seen before in all of her time walking around campus. </li></ul>
  128. 131. <ul><li>“Welcome to the Worthington Society!” Shari Gregory said loudly as she clapped vigorously. </li></ul><ul><li>“Welcome!” Marta Robbins echoed. The others joined in a bit less vigorously. </li></ul>
  129. 132. <ul><li>“This is a secret society, isn’t it?” Maddie asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“It is.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Named after you?” </li></ul><ul><li>“My family. My grandfather sponsored its creation.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Why are we here?” Stella asked, looking around at all the people, many of whom were cheering, though others were not. </li></ul><ul><li>“Come inside and I’ll tell you.” </li></ul>
  130. 133. <ul><li>On their way into the house, Stella and Madeleine were presented with llama jackets, and Frances also changed into his. </li></ul><ul><li>The Worthington Society didn’t have a real meeting room; what it did have was a living room with a pool table and a couple of chairs. Frances and Shari took those chairs as everyone gathered around. </li></ul><ul><li>“Welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Worthington Society,” Frances said. “I’m pleased to introduce two new members, Madeleine Doran and Stella Terrano.” He gestured to each girl as he said their names. “Please make them feel welcome!” </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone clapped, then wandered off to play pool, make food, or hang out with their friends. </li></ul>
  131. 134. <ul><li>Madeleine looked around at all the attractive people in the room. And, well, some of the not-quite-so-attractive people in the room. Maybe some of them would make good partners. </li></ul>
  132. 135. <ul><li>She was interrupted in her search by one of her many lovers. “Kendra! I didn’t know you were a member!” </li></ul><ul><li>“I wasn’t allowed to tell you until you were accepted. I’m glad you were, though. It means we can be together more.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Sure,” Maddie said, sparing one last glance for all those sims she wasn’t going to get to sleep with - at least not right now. Of course, she would take advantage of the one she had. “Want to go make out?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Sure.” </li></ul>
  133. 136. <ul><li>Meanwhile, Stella found herself talking with a nice girl who said her name was Rosalie Rhodes. </li></ul><ul><li>“It’s great to have more people! I mean, I get we’re supposed to be a secret society and all, and I kind of like being included, you know? But if there’s no one at all, then it’s kind of boring! And, I mean, we need to continue each year, you know? If we have no freshmen, then who’ll keep it going?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Are there no other freshmen?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Well, there’s a couple, right? But we’re still gathering people slowly, so more is good! As long as it’s not too many, I guess. But, anyway, it’s great to meet you, Stella. Stella, right?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Right.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Great!” </li></ul>
  134. 137. <ul><li>Then they wandered around and met more sims while Frances played some pool. </li></ul>
  135. 138. <ul><li>“Come on, Stella, aren’t you having fun?” Maddie asked after they’d met a few more people. “Lots of people to meet, lots of hot guys - and girls - to swoon over…” </li></ul><ul><li>Stella smiled. “I do not find the enjoyment that you do in such things.” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie shrugged. “You will, someday, if I have to drag you kicking and screaming into the world of Romance.” </li></ul><ul><li>Stella raised an eyebrow. “I will enjoy seeing you try.” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie learned in closely. “I bet you’ll enjoy it.” </li></ul>
  136. 139. <ul><li>They were interrupted by Frances. “It’s getting pretty late, we should head back to the dorm and get some sleep before classes.” </li></ul><ul><li>Both girls nodded and they all left the house, headed for the limo ride home. </li></ul>
  137. 140. <ul><li>As they headed out, Maddie turned around and asked Frances a question she’d been wondering about all evening. “Why us? I mean, why not the other freshmen in our dorm?” </li></ul><ul><li>Frances fidgeted a bit. “Well, I thought you two were the most suited to being members. The others…we’ll see about them later on. Maybe they’ll be more suitable then. We do add sophomores, sometimes.” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie and Stella exchanged a quick glance, but stayed quiet. Frances clearly wasn’t going to tell them the full answer yet. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  138. 141. <ul><li>The week before and the week of finals passed in a blur, though not always for the right reasons. </li></ul><ul><li>While Stella edited her final projects, Maddie…goofed off. </li></ul><ul><li>“Should you not be working on your finals?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Probably, but I think they’re mostly done, and I’m not going to get more done now. Besides, I hit level 15 on SSX3, and no way am I stopping now.” </li></ul><ul><li>Stella shook her head. She still did not understand Madeleine. </li></ul>
  139. 142. <ul><li>After Stella finished her projects, and Maddie lost her last life, they got up to go downstairs for a quick lunch before their first finals. </li></ul><ul><li>On the way to the stairs, Maddie stopped Stella. “So, you know, now that we’re mostly done with freshman year…how do you feel about going on a date with me?” </li></ul>
  140. 143. <ul><li>“I do not think that would be a good idea.” </li></ul><ul><li>“What do you mean?” </li></ul><ul><li>“I am not…Madeleine, I am not as accustomed to dating as you are. I do not know what to do.” </li></ul><ul><li>“You do whatever feels good.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I know that intellectually, but I have never dated anyone before. I would…I would prefer my first relationship to be something that is not casual. You date so many people, and bounce between them, and I do not think that is for me.” </li></ul>
  141. 144. <ul><li>“So you’re saying no.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I am saying no. I do not want a casual relationship.” </li></ul><ul><li>“And if I said it wasn’t casual?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Could you live up to that?” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie thought of Vee. She thought of everything that had been said, and everything she knew about herself. “Right now? No. Maybe someday.” </li></ul>
  142. 145. <ul><li>“When it is that someday, come find me.” </li></ul><ul><li>Maddie nodded. “I will. Friends?” </li></ul><ul><li>“Friends.” </li></ul><ul><li>As Maddie left, Stella stared after her. What was she doing? Saying she might date Maddie in the future? That wasn’t at all in her job description. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  143. 146. <ul><li>Stella smiled as she stargazed. Freshman year was over, and grades had come in, and she had done very well - straight As. Not that that was her primary purpose for being at La Fiesta Tech, but it was still nice that she could do so well in human school - and they were surprisingly advanced in Physics, her major. </li></ul><ul><li>She had put the issue of dating Maddie out of her mind, resolving to deal with it some time in the future. It was highly unlikely that Maddie would ever be ready to settle down, anyway. </li></ul><ul><li>As she stargazed, she felt an odd feeling and looked up to see a bright light. “Oh,” she said quietly. </li></ul>
  144. 147. <ul><li>She heard a whooshing sound and felt herself being pulled up by the tracker beams of the spaceship. She instinctively grabbed for the telescope, then forced herself to let go. She was safe in the hands of her people. She knew that. </li></ul><ul><li>Her abduction didn’t go unnoticed. All of her dormmates came running up to the roof to see what was going on, but there was nothing they could do. </li></ul><ul><li>One moment, Stella was there. </li></ul><ul><li>The next, she was gone. </li></ul>
  145. 148. <ul><li>Frances threw up his hands as he stared at the swiftly disappearing speck of light in the sky. “I thought the aliens didn’t abduct college students!” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  146. 149. <ul><li>Hi everyone, I’m RoseFyre, or Rose, and I’ll be your writer for Generation Eight of the Boolpropian Round Robin Legacy! For those of you who don’t know me, I usually write A Buffyverse Apocalypse, but I’m happy to trade my restrictions for some plot for a bit! </li></ul><ul><li>Much thanks goes to Marina, Gin, Lark, Cait, Ori, Pen, and (especially) Jamie, without whom there would be no Maddie and no plot! Seriously, so much of this plot would not exist without you guys, especially my plot bouncing walls (actually, Stacie, you should totally go here too, even though you’re NEXT and not already gone). Thanks also go to the cheerleading squad (you know who you are), for helping me get this out so quickly. </li></ul><ul><li>I hope everyone enjoys the rest of my generation, and what I do with Maddie. See you all next time for more college and more plottiness! </li></ul>