Yup. This's turning out to be a real easy case.
Should've known better, huh? It's /never/ that simple - especially when you're
dealing with kids and idiots.
Alright. Lemme introduce myself.
The name's Frobisher. I'm a Whifferdill, a mesomorph, a shape-shifter.
I'm also usually a penguin, but that's... let's just say I've got personal
reasons for that, 'kay?
As for what I do... well, I've gotta lot to keep busy with.
I'm an adventurer in time and space - hang out with this guy called the Doctor,
don't know if you've heard of him, usually the one with the curly hair and the
patchwork coat from Hell. Hell of a thing to try and shift into, lemme tell you.
I also own a little place called Bish's - not here, though, no, it's offworld.
It's a nice, quiet little place, the sort of place where the barman knows your
name, and I try to make sure no-one leaves with a long face, down
in the mouth.
Third, and finally, I'm a private eye - a gumshoe, a shamus, a snoop. Not much
call for that, these days, not that I'm complaining - lets me get on with my
other jobs. Still, I do get the occasional case from time to time.
Like my latest one, for example.
Which should be an object lesson in why never to talk to idiots.
Get this twerp in a tie-dyed shirt and fanboy scarf - it's a Doctor thing, don't
worry 'bout it - who says his name's Darren, and he wants me to find this girl
he keeps callin' the Babe. Drools a little while he's talking about her, which
doesn't exactly help him any.
I push for a few details - like name, address, appearance, why he's looking for
her, little things like that.
Turns out dribble-boy didn't even get that much. Long legs, not too stacked,
wearing a jacket and skirt... yeah, _that's_ a lot to go on. Says she's got a
cousin, high school kid - trouble is, he can't remember what _she_ looked like,
besides "um, long brown hair, kind of cute"... gee, thanks. You know how many
high school kids look like _that_?
He also says the cousin hangs out with this bird-girl - grey skin, large wings -
and that rings a bell somewhere in the back of my mind. Maybe not much of a
lead, but it's something.
He's pretty sure on the high school, though - H. G. Wells'.
At this point, I take the opportunity to delicately point out that he hasn't
actually said _why_ he wants to find her.
Wonder-boy goes blank for a moment, and I swear I see the lights come on in his
head when the inspiration hits. Doesn't look like it hits all that often,
Says she's lost something, and he wants to return it to her personally. He's
insistent on that one - personally.
Uh-huh. Translation: the genius here's hiring me to do his stalking for him.
'Course, I don't let on 'bout that.
I tell him I'll take the case.
His face lights up, then crashes down again.
Oh yeah. The fee.
No trouble, I tell him. I'll do it for the price of fish.
'Sides, I've got enough money from my other jobs that it ain't an issue - but
again, I'm not telling him that.
He's almost walking on air by the time he leaves.
I sit back in my chair.
Yeah, I'm gonna track this girl down - call it intellectual curiosity,
exercising my talents, whatever - but once I do, I'm gonna come back to this
guy, apologise, and come up with something vaguely plausible 'bout how she's
left the country, no forwarding address, etcetera, etcetera, making sure - and
this is important - there's absolutely no accidental resemblance to any other
girl who might find herself being followed by this twerp.
Why not let him do it himself, dig himself deeper in the shitheap?
Please. I know the type. He's got that dogged fanboy look - once he's got a hold
of something, he ain't gonna let go until something stops him in his tracks, and
_I'm_ not about to let this girl turn round one day to find this
twat on her trail. I take the job, I can throw him off the trail. Simple as
Now, the bird-girl rings a bell. Think maybe I've seen her 'round the place.
Hm. Time to play the 'fly on the wall' again.
'Course, when I say that, it's not just a metaphor.
Which goes some way to explaining why I'm buzzing round the front entrance of H.
G. Wells Memorial High School in fly form at half-eight the next morning.
Now, there's an interesting little fact about shapeshifters - namely, some types
of shapeshifter can recognise another shapeshifter, /any/ type of shapeshifter,
And what yours truly /didn't/ know was that one of these shapeshifters happened
to work at this school.
So I'm buzzing round, waiting to see if this bird-girl shows up, when this tall,
attractive redhead walks through the gates, catches sight of me, and blinks.
The next thing I know, there's this huge flipping frog sitting beneath me,
_looking_ at me.
This is not good.
'Mm. Breakfast.' the frog says.
Shit. Shitshitshit. Gotta shift fast.
The frog flips its tongue out - and believe me, there is no way you _ever_ wanna
see a tongue that long heading for you - just as I morph into a bowling ball.
The tongue wraps itself around the bowling ball.
There's one of those horrible little moments when everything freezes.
Lemme put it this way: have you ever seen a frog trying to swallow a bowling
Let's just say it's not a pretty sight.
Fortunately, I manage to manifest some arms and legs, pull myself free and make
a break for it while the frog's still recovering.
O-/kay/. Scratch that approach.
Okay. So the school's got a shapeshifter - and worse, one who can recognise
another on sight.
Obviously, snooping 'round isn't gonna work - especially when I don't know who
I'm looking for.
Right. So if I can't poke round in disguise, why not poke round as a
shapeshifter? Hopefully, it's just the shapeshifting she recognises, not the
Easy enough. All I have to do is get myself into the school system.
Just one little catch, though. The way these things work, there's already a
version of me at H. G. Wells - a teenage version.
Okay. I can't go in as /me/, but I /can/ go in as someone else.
Stop to think about this for a moment.
A shapeshifter pretending to be another shapeshifter because there's another
version of him already running around.
Okay. Looks like I'm gonna need the Doc's help on this one.
Or... maybe not the Doc.
Let's see what the TARDIS's got lying round...
My eyes hurt.
But it was worth it.
One hard weekend of work, and I've got a ready-forged school record in the name
of 'Kelin Durcan' waiting to be used
Right. One quick letter of application to the Headmaster, attach a transcript of
the record, and then... let's see.
'Ah. Mr Durcan, isn't it? Take a seat.' the Assistant Head says.
I sit down, trying not to stare.
Crukking hell. I /knew/ this Maxil guy looked like the Doc - my Doc - but
actually /seeing/ it, seeing a guy who looks like the Doc _without_
shapeshifting... it's a little boggling.
Check that. It's a _lot_ boggling.
'A Whifferdill, I see.'
For this one, I've shifted to a younger version of my baseline form - humanoid,
egg-shaped head, two large eyes, no mouth, nose or ears, four fingers on both
hands - easily identifiable as a Whifferdill.
Which is kinda the point.
Maxil leans forward. 'The school takes a dim view of shapeshifters who... shall
we say... abuse their talents. Impersonating a pupil or teacher is particularly
frowned on - especially when it implicates them in criminal
acts - and may be considered grounds for expulsion.'
I nod again. 'Yessir.'
'Using your shapeshifting talents to assist /in/ criminal acts - well, let's
just say that participation in a crime will be considered grounds for suspension
at the very least.'
'And as for those who see fit to use their abilities to sneak into the staff
rooms, or into another gender's bathrooms - that earns you at least a week's
worth of detentions.'
'And I would remind you, just in case you are under the impression you _can_ try
something, that our Miss Varne is a shapeshifter herself, and capable of
recognising any other shapeshifters on sight to boot.'
'Yessir.' Varne, huh? Probably the lady I ran into first time round.
Maxil sits back, apparently satisfied. 'Good. Now, let's take a look at your
He flips open the file on his desk.
'Largely unremarkable in class, achieving high marks only in English and Maths.
Extra-curricular activities... the Music and Drama groups. A few commendations,
largely in regards to English and Maths. General opinion from your reports has
it that you are a diligent student, listen well in class, but appear to have
difficulty applying yourself fully, while your disciplinary record is again
unremarkable. In short, nothing to mark you outside the student norm.' Maxil
lets out a breath. 'Which, quite frankly, is something of a relief.'
'It is, sir?'
'Yes.' Maxil says. 'This school has... a long-standing problem with delinquency
and delinquents, I'm afraid. Our best efforts have seen the situation kept at
manageable levels, but the disturbances and disruptions still continue.'
'It is my hope that new students such as yourself will not aggravate the
situation, or otherwise find themselves involved in such.'
'Yes, sir.' Poor bastard. If he's actually discussing a delinquency problem with
a student, it must get pretty nasty. That can't be good.
'Very well, Mr Durcan-' Maxil pauses. 'Excuse me just a moment.'
He turns and looks out of the window.
And I realise I can hear something, just on the edge of hearing, a steady
I do the eyestalk thing, trying to get a look at whatever Maxil's-oh cruk.
He wasn't kidding.
What the hell is _that?_ It looks like a mobile rocket launcher!
'Excuse me, Mr Durcan.' Maxil says. 'It appears we have a situation on our
And he's out of the office and down the stairs
I'm right behind him.
By the time we reach the schoolyard, the kids've moved most definitely _away_
from the school gate.
And looking at what's standing there, I can't blame 'em.
The guy's seven feet tall if he's an inch, he's built like a brick outhouse, and
he's got a rocket launcher strapped over one shoulder.
He stands in the gateway, not moving, not talking, not doing anything. Just
Maxil stands in the doorway, well away from the guy - let's face it, you'd have
to be crazy to storm right up to a guy with a rocket launcher - and yells 'Who
are you? What do you want?'
'Who are you?'
'I'll ask again: who are you?'
Finally, Mr Outhouse does something - he raises the rocket launcher and aims it
into the playground.
'INSIDE!!' Maxil roars. 'GET INSIDE NOW! THIS IS AN /ORDER/!'
No-one moves, except for Mr Outhouse, who aims the rocket launcher our way.
And I realise that right about now, I'm staring down the muzzle of a rocket
Can Whifferdills survive a rocket blast full on?
I have the horrible feeling I'm gonna find out.
And for the second time today, I realise I'm listening to something on the edge
of hearing - a high-pitched whirring sound, something moving at high speed.
It blasts through from leftside, a whirlwind of motion, heading straight for Mr
-and stops right in front of him.
It's... a girl?
A girl in a green latex tentacle mask, in a yellow jacket and skirt.
'Wow.' she says, looking at the rocket launcher. 'Talk about your phallic
Mr Outhouse moves the rocket launcher so it's pointed in her direction.
The girl whips out a massive cork plug, and shoves it into the launcher.
Mr Outhouse looks at it, then calmly tears the strapping in two, letting the
There's a blur of motion, and the girl's suddenly behind Mr Outhouse, launcher
in both hands.
'You know,' she says, 'you should be careful where you leave these things.'
There's another blur of motion, the launcher's resting against the gatepost, and
the girl's back standing in front of Mr Outhouse again.
'Don't you know it's not nice to play with rocket launchers?' she scolds. 'Not
without bringing enough for everyone!'
'The strong silent type, huh?' she says.
Mr Outhouse reaches out and grabs her tentacles.
Her face goes an interesting shade of red.
She takes a step back, then another, then another.
With every step, the tentacles get longer and longer and longer...
...until finally, she's standing by me and Maxil.
And I can actually /see/ the tension in her tentacles.
'Hi, Mr Maxil,' she says, her voice muffled. 'New student?'
'Yes.' Maxil says. 'Someday, Mask, we are going to have a discussion about how a
girl who doesn't even attend this school can cause so much trouble.'
'Maybe some other time?' the Mask says. 'I'm kind of in the middle of
something... 'scuse me.'
She grabs on to both door handles, takes another step back...
...and then lets go.
Once the dust clears, Mr Outhouse's still holding onto the Mask's tentacles,
while the Mask's looking distinctly dazed.
'Ah. Want some more, d'ya?' she manages to say.
Mr Outhouse lifts one meaty hand, and claps it round the back of the Mask.
The entire student body draws its breath in.
Crukking _hell_. Even the Mask slamming into him didn't faze him. How're we
supposed to stop him?
The Mask reaches up, grabs his arms, tugs - but no good. Nothing's moving this
She pulls a mallet out from thin air, and slams it up into his groin.
The entire male student body winces, but he doesn't even _blink_.
This guy is _seriously_ inhuman.
She fumbles for her jacket pocket, pulls something out, and throws it down.
There's a flash of light, a crack of thunder, and a cloud of smoke obscures them
Then the whirlwind starts up again, blowing the smoke away...
...and when it stops, the Mask's standing free of Mr Outhouse.
He stands there for a moment.
Then he turns and leaves - thudthudthudthudthudthud - slowly fading as he
The students start to cheer.
'Mask! Mask! Mask! Mask!'
The Mask grins. 'Hey, you're too kind. Seriously.'
'Who _was_ that?' someone yells.
'His name's Walter.' The Mask shrugs. 'As to what he was doing here... I think
he doesn't like schools very much.'
This sets off a little laughter in the crowd, releasing some of the tension.
'How'd ya get free?' someone else calls.
The grin gets bigger. 'That is... a secret!'
And just like that, she's gone.
The kids begin drifting back into groups, chattering about what she did and how
she could have done it.
Maxil, meanwhile, looks at the rocket launcher and sighs. 'I'll have to get
Magnus and Varne to dispose of this. They know what to do with this sort of
'Um, so...' I try.
Maxil finally seems to notice me. 'Ah, yes. You have a few minutes before school
begins, Mr Durcan. I suggest you use them.'
He stomps off.
'But-' Oh well, it's not like anyone's gonna nick the launcher.
I wander into the crowd.
Whoa. If that's what he meant by 'manageable levels', I don't wanna be anywhere
near when it starts getting unmanageable.
And, well... I can't help feeling a little sympathetic to the guy, having to put
up with all this. Wonder if he knew what he was letting himself in for when he
I know /I/ didn't.
Something catches my eye, a glimpse of grey.
I turn to see what it is.
Houston, we have contact.
Grey skin? Check. Wings folded under school jacket? Check.
This looks like our kid.
Let's see... ah yes. Girl with her, long brown hair, pretty cute - bit gangly,
yeah, but judging on this, she's gonna break her fair share of hearts when she's
And now I can get a proper look at the bird-girl, it doesn't look like /she's/
gonna have any trouble in the heartbreaking department, either. The two of 'em
look to be 'bout the same height and build - 'cept for the wings, of course.
Two other girls with them. One's got light purple skin, big dark purple eyes,
and a writhing mess of snakes where you'd expect the hair to be. Don't recognise
the species, not that that's a surprise. Looks kinda like a Gorgon, but since
no-one's been turned to stone yet, I'm guessing... not.
The other's a Grel. Big black eyes, mass of tentacles in place of a mouth, no
hair... yep, a Grel. Looks to be in the year below the other three - wait, in
/my/ year. Gotta start keeping that straight...
'Like what you see?'
The voice's low and soft, with just the hint of something that might be a
I look back and forth, trying to see who said that.
I realise I'm standing near one of the gateposts, and look up.
There's a girl perched on the top of the gatepost, in my year's uniform. Long
black hair at the front, tied back behind her head, framing her face, with
purple ribbon woven into it, both left and right sides, and a purple hairband
setting it all off. Can't make out her eyes, not from down here - the hair's
falling over them.
'Like what you see?' she says again.
'Depends what I'm looking at.' I say guardedly.
It looks as if she smiles for a moment. 'New, aren't you?'
'Could say that, yeah.'
'But that can be said of so many things, can't it? New, old...' Again, that
thing that might or might not be a chuckle. 'Miyo Someya.'
Okay, gonna take a risk here and assume that's her name. 'Kelin Durcan.'
'Kelin...' She rolls it over on her tongue, experimenting with it. 'Mm. An
interesting name... I wonder...'
The way she says it sends a chill down my back.
'Yes. Quite interesting.' she says finally. 'I think I like that.'
Just before I can ask what the hell she's talking about, the bell rings.
I look back at the gatepost.
I try to tell myself that didn't creep me out in the slightest.
I'm not having much luck.
Every organisation's got someone who knows what's going on, keeps their ear to
the ground, keeps up with all the gossip.
Fortunately, I've got an advantage. I know what a lot of these guys're like as
Yeah, maybe it's not the way they were as teens, but it gives me /something/ to
And if Fitz Kreiner doesn't know who that guy is - assuming he's not that guy himself -
I'm a Klingon's uncle.
So come lunchtime...
'Hey,' Fitz says. 'You're the new guy, yeah?'
Fitz gives me the once-over. 'A Whifferdill, huh? Like Frobisher?'
I /almost/ say 'yeah', but then I remember I'm not supposed to know who
'Couple of years up from us.' Fitz explains. 'Usually takes the form of a
Okay... oh yeah, should really do the *blink blink* thing right about now,
shouldn't I? 'Why?'
Fitz shrugs. 'He won't say. Says it's for personal reasons.'
'Settling in okay? No problems?'
I shake my head. 'No. Well, not yet...'
Fitz looks amused. 'Well, when you do, you can always come to me. Me and the
guys should be able to help you out.'
'Thanks.' I say. 'Um...' I nod over to my leads, currently talking to
gorgon-girl and the Grel. 'What's with those girls?'
Fitz sucks his breath in through his teeth. 'Going straight for the big ones,
'Oh yeah.' Fitz says. '/That's/ Xeffy and Ayna. Most every guy in the lower half
of the school wants to go out with 'em. Not that anyone's actually managed it,
'_Oh_ yeah.' From the tone of his voice, I'm guessing he's counting himself in
I do my best "polite bafflement". 'Why?'
'/Why?/' Fitz echoes. 'You have to ask /why/? They're cute, they're smart, they
live in this way cool pocket dimension...' He shakes his head. 'Why. Huh. Wait
'till Sarah hears /this/ one...'
'So they're... friends?'
'Sisters.' Fitz says. 'Well, actually, twins.'
'/Twins/?' I echo.
'Yeah, in the same year together. Sort of gives it away.'
'Wow.' I say. 'So, um, what's with...' I make vague gestures in the air.
'The wings?' Fitz says, with a grin. 'Oh yeah. They're Sirens.'
'What, Sirens of Time?'
'Nah.' Fitz says, grinning even wider. 'It's from Greek myth - you heard of
them? Tried to lure that Odysseus guy to his death?' He shakes his head. 'Man,
if they'd looked like /that/, I'd've jumped in right there...'
'They don't look that old...'
Fitz chuckles. 'They've heard /that/ one before. Nah, more like Sirens v.2.0,
updated for this millennium, without the nastier bits - including "trying to get
'Oh, right. So, um... the wings?'
Fitz shrugs. 'It's a twin thing. Ayna got 'em, Xeffy didn't.'
'Right.' So Ayna's the bird-girl and Xeffy's the other one. Gotcha. 'What about
the other two?'
'The other two...?' Fitz shakes his head. 'Oh yeah. The Gorgon lookalike's Kwen,
she's from RPG-side. Says she's a Not-Very-Near Human.'
I *blink* at that one. '...Right.'
'Kind of a gadget freak - new gadget comes out, she picks it up.' Fitz hehs.
'She's also got this weird triplication thing going - she can triplicate
herself, just by thinking about it.'
'The Grel girl's called Molly. She's kind of like the walking library - you ask
her a question, and she pops up with an answer.'
Fitz considers. 'Nah, not _any_ question - but she knows a hell of a lot more
than anyone else here. Don't ask her to do your homework, though - that axe of
hers is *sharp*.'
'Will do.' I say. 'Um... while I'm at it... you know anything about a Miyo
Fitz /double-takes/. 'Miyo? The spooky chick? What d'you wanna know about _her_
'I ran into her this morning.'
Fitz winces. 'Oy. Not good. /Not/ good.'
'She likes creeping people out. Playing games with them. She gets interested in
you... *wham*, things start getting creepy.' Fitz shoots me a worried look. 'She
didn't look interested in you, did she?'
'Um...' I begin.
'Do you mind if I take this seat?'
There's another one of those moments where the world freezes.
I look up, knowing, just *knowing*, what I'm going to see.
And yep, Miyo's standing there, looking politely curious.
'Why don't you take mine?' Fitz offers.
'Weren't you talking?' Miyo says.
'It's okay. I was just leaving.' With that, he stands up to go.
Miyo accepts the offered seat. 'Thank you.'
'Welcome.' Fitz says, and mouths 'call for help' at me.
I nod, and Fitz heads off.
'Oh.' Miho says matter-of-factly, taking the seat. 'He ran away...'
And _that's_ odd - I hear that as English (courtesy of the Doc's ship's
Universal Translation thing), but when I actually _listen_ to her voice, it
sounds like... I dunno, Chinese? Japanese?
Thing is, when she's spoken before, I'm sure she was speaking English...
'So, um... where're you from?' I try.
Her expression's something that might conceivably be a smile. 'Many places.
Here, there, everywhere.
'What about you?'
'Me? I live 'round here.'
'Ah.' Still with that enigmatic expression. 'It's a fascinating place, isn't it?
A place where the extraordinary is so commonplace, it's become part of the
ordinary. Then again, you could say that by becoming part of the ordinary, it's
no longer extraordinary.
'What do you think?'
Now I can see her face, it's still not easy to get a good look at her eyes - her
eyelids are hooded, and her hair comes down just above them - but if I look
closely, I can make out flashes of... yellow?
'Depends what you mean by the ordinary.'
'True, true...' she says. 'We take even the ordinary, the everyday, for
granted... but if we looked only a little closer, who knows what we might see?'
'Um...' I begin.
The bell rings.
'Ah,' she says, and I'd feel so much better if I knew if she sounded satisfied
or not. 'Perhaps some other time, then.'
And then she's gone, lost in the crowd.
I stay on the bench a little longer, thinking.
On the one hand, I've managed to find my leads. Sort of.
On the other, there's a spooky kid who's taking an interest in me.
And on the third, this school looks to be a major danger magnet - kinda like the
Doctor like that.
Yup, this's gonna be easy...
...and it's only the first day.
To Be Continued
Disclaimer: 'Doctor Who', Maxil and Fitz are the BBC's, Frobisher and the
Whifferdills are Marvel's, Walter and the Mask are Dark Horse's, Darren is
BKWillis's, Varne is Ken Young's, and everyone else is mine.
The Grel were created by Paul Cornell.
H. G. Wells Memorial High School was created by Paul Gadzikowski, after Imran,
Frobisher actually does own a bar - 'Where Nobody Knows Your Name...', DWM 329.
Summary: Frobisher goes undercover at H. G. Wells'... only to find that going
back to school isn't as easy as it seems.