Part 2

by BKWillis


'You know she drives me
Out of my mind
You know she drives me
Out of my head.
She talks to birds
She talks to angels
She talks to trees
She talks to bees
She don't talk to me.'
--The Ramones


"C'mon, Yates. Pay what you owe so we can all get on to class."

The football team captain put his back against the nearest wall,
looking about for any of his mates from the team, but the corridor
was empty save for himself, the two hulking Servii underclassmen,
and the pigtailed, gum-popping blonde who called herself
'Babydoll'. Her blue eyes narrowed as she snapped her fingers and
held out her hand for payment.

"Pay up, Yates. You bet a tenner on Inunabe High School, and
they got beat like a drum, so hand it over."

Mike chuckled weakly and considered trying to sidle along the
wall, but the pair of three-eyed Servii toughs moved to flank him.
"I'm sorry," he said, "really I am, but I don't have it on me just now,
you see. Spent it all at the arcade yesterday with Benton and Bell.
I'm just about flat broke. Aheh heh..."

A look of deepest sympathy and understanding failed to appear on
any of the trio's faces. The two Servii glanced at one another and
cracked their knuckles in a warming-up sort of way, while Babydoll
just sighed and shook her head. "Look, Yates," she said, "I'll be
honest with you. The boss doesn't like for us to get physical too
often. He'd rather have a smooth working relationship with his
clients, one where services are provided in exchange for payment.
That makes him happy, and it makes you, as client, happy. Am I

"Er, yes? I suppose so..."

"So, anyway," she went on, "when the clients are happy and the
boss is happy, everybody wins. You get to make friendly wagers
when it suits you, the boss gets to make a little money, and the
school administration never has to get involved in anything that
would upset them. You see how this is a good thing?"

"I guess..." He cast a look at the two slabs of green muscle, who
showed no signs of backing off.

"Right. Now, what happens when a spanner gets thrown in the
works, say, by somebody not paying what they owe? If that
happens, the boss can't just let it slide, because if he did that,
pretty soon _everybody_ would be spending their money at the
arcade and telling us they were flat broke when it came time to
pay. That would mean no more friendly wagering for people like
you and no more money for the boss. That wouldn't be very
satisfying for anybody, so we have to make sure that the money
that's owed gets paid promptly, or else that people who _don't_
pay promptly have to suffer some sort of consequences, as an
incentive to good behavior. You see the logic there, don't you?"

Mike, who could see that all this discussion was aimed at proving
the conclusion that he deserved a good thrashing, floundered a
bit with that point. "Well, sort of... I mean..."

"The word you're looking for," the blonde said coldly, "is 'yes'.
If you're having trouble saying it, I can have Daraaga and Zangkai
here rearrange your mouth to make it easier. Shall I?"

"No!" Mike yelped. "I mean, yes! I mean--"

"Shut up," Babydoll suggested. "I know what you mean." She
dropped the immediately threatening tone, going back to the
pretend-reasonable threatening tone she'd been using before.
"Now, we were discussing consequences for trying to welch on
a bet. Obviously the most effective consequence, from a public-
relations standpoint, is to leave the welcher with some physical
sign of his punishment. Black eyes, say, or missing teeth. Visible
bruises. Something along those lines."

Mike pressed even tighter against the wall as the two Servii loomed
over him, nasty, fang-flashing grins on their faces and evil joy in
their eyes. Clawed paws reached for him, then halted as the blonde
continued her monologue.

"But there are problems with physical consequences, Yates. One is
that, after we beat on you for a while, you won't be all that inclined
to go on making friendly wagers. We might write that off, but the
far worse problem is that black eyes and busted lips tend to draw
attention from unwanted places, like Assistant Headmaster Maxil.
Or you might be inclined to _bring_ it to his notice, if he didn't on
his own. And that would be a no-win situation for everybody. So,
with some regret, I have to say that beating you up is not a real
option at this time." And she did look as if she regretted it.

Yates allowed himself to gasp out the breath he hadn't realized he'd
been holding as Daraaga and Zangkai rather reluctantly backed off.
It looked like he might get out of this one after all...

"However," Babydoll went on, holding up a finger, "we have other
options to employ in this case. Therefore, you will pay the ten
pounds you owe, plus an additional ten-pound penalty for late
payment, in two days' time. Failure to meet either the amount or
the deadline will result in _someone_ slipping a little note to that
nice Sarah Jane girl that runs the school paper, detailing how a
certain member of the football team likes to make friendly wagers on
sporting events, including ones played by H. G. Wells School.
She might even get to wondering about that surprising defeat the
football team suffered last week in the big game with Sarutama

Mike's face went red with anger and he took a step toward the girl,
Servii thugs or no. "See here! I did _not_ throw that game! I bet
on _us_ to win, anyway, so why would I? That's a filthy lie, and
you know it!"

Babydoll just shrugged imperturbably. "I didn't say you did. I just
said that she might get to wondering, is all." Now she smiled at
him, a pretty, wholesome, trusting little-girl smile. "But this is all a
moot point anyway, isn't it? Because I just _know_ that you're
gonna bring that twenty pounds on time, right?" She winked at
him. "Nod, Yates, or I'll have Daraaga hit you where the bruise
won't show."

Babydoll cast an eye at the clock as Yates nodded like a man on the
gallows. This 'friendly explanation' had put her behind schedule a
bit, so she'd have to push it to get the rest of her collections done
before the homeroom bell rang. Of course, if she had to put some
of them off until lunch, Cain would understand. He considered
these sorts of discussions with the clientele to be time well-spent.
Still, it'd be nice to bring in her full take before Bella got there with
hers and earned a bunch of suckup points...

Thoughts of schedule problems and brownie points were suddenly
driven away by the arrival of a more pressing piece of business, a
piece of business who came strolling alone through the double-
doors at the end of the hallway. It was that devil-looking redhead,
the one everybody was talking about, the one everybody was so
afraid of. The one the boss had told them all to try and scope out.
Someone with her kind of notoriety might make a good addition to
their operation, or might be a potential rival. Either way, the boss
wanted to know.

Babydoll listened with half an ear to Yates's sulky promises to have
the money by the appointed time. Her eyes were on the mystery
girl as she made her way to her locker and began sorting through
her books. It was funny, but there didn't seem to be anything out
of the ordinary about the way the winged girl went about her
business. Odd, that. Babydoll was as good a judge of toughs,
punks, and bullies as had ever served an after-school detention
and she could usually spot a badass a mile away. It was in the way
they carried themselves, a certain casual insolence of posture, a
constant, studied threat in their eyes, which were forever scanning
the faces around them for signs of challenge. The wannabes -- the
ones who desperately wanted everyone to think they were tougher
than they really were -- tended to carry this to sometimes ridiculous
extremes, but with the genuine article, the pure-D goat-in-the-
stable, the attitude came as naturally as breathing. Yet this girl, this
supposed holy terror in the form of a teenager gave off none of that
sort of vibe. There was no swagger in her walk, no tell-tale
stiffening of the spine when eyes were on her, none of the angry
what-the-Hell-are-you-looking-at stares. But neither was there any
meekness or self-consciousness about her, either. Where any
normal student would have acknowledged the sight of three
toughs backing another student against the wall with either a
sudden and obvious obliviousness or a bit of fearful hurrying, this
Embericles paid them no more notice than she did the walls or the
floor. Strange. Interesting in its way, but strange.

"Two days, Yates," Babydoll muttered, eyes still on the redhead.
"Have the money then." She flicked a finger at Daraaga and
Zangkai for them to follow her and set off toward Embericles's
locker, leaving the football captain to his own thoughts.

They came up behind the redhead at her locker, making no move
to disguise their intent, feet thumping noisily on the floor to the
accompaniment of the insolent smack-popping of Babydoll's
chewing gum. Babydoll's look of professional mock-affability
fell as the Servii moved to either side of the girl, who never looked
up or around at them, leaving Babydoll staring at her bat-winged

"Hey there," Babydoll tried, letting a trace of exasperation creep
into her tone.

Embericles went on sorting through her locker, slipping completed
assignments for each class into their appropriate textbooks.

"You're Embericles, right?" Babydoll offered again, to her back.
"We've been hearing a lot about you..."

Only stony silence answered her, the girl still not even
acknowledging her existence.

Babydoll spat her gum across the hallway, brows darkening. "Look
here, Embericles, I've got a little proposition to talk to you about,
and it would be in your best interest to pay attention."

The winged girl calmly tucked her math book under her arm and
shut her locker before turning at last to face the increasingly
incensed blonde, sparing only the barest glance to the two Servii
toughs flanking her.

"That's better," Babydoll grinned, relaxing a bit. "Now see, what
the deal is--"

"You're in my way."

Babydoll blinked at the interruption, her gaze locking on and
searching the other girl's eyes for signs of intent. There was no
obvious hostility there, nor anything else particularly unnerving;
Embericles's eyes were of a deep blue a few shades darker than her
own and showed only the bored disinterest of someone who's just
walked in on a movie that they've already seen too many times.

"Uh, what?" Babydoll asked, thrown just a bit off-stride.

"You're in my way," Embericles repeated quietly. "Get out of it."

That struck Babydoll as a definite challenge, just the sort of thing
she was used to dealing with. She grinned unpleasantly, sending
a meaningful 'get-ready' glance at Daraaga and Zangkai. "And
what if I won't, bat-girl?"

"You will."

She took a step toward them and Babydoll felt the hair stand up on
the back of her neck as a sense of terrible dread settled over her.
She had to fight the urge to backpedal away, telling her traitorous
knees to stop trying to shake and shiver. She swallowed hard,
feeling the panic of nameless whispered fears in the back of her

Daraaga and Zangkai were already headed for the doorway,
stammering apologies, though to whom was difficult to tell.

Pride and pure dogged stubbornness kept Babydoll standing there
as Embericles walked right up to her. Cold sweat was trickling
down her face and there was a tremble in her lip, but stay she did,
all the while being assailed by the most horrible, bone-chilling
sense of impending, unescapable doom.

She ruthlessly suppressed a whimper as Embericles looked her
straight in the eyes from just a few inches away. Only thoughts
of her hard-won reputation for toughness kept her from closing her
eyes or looking away.

"Move aside," said Embericles.

This time, Babydoll couldn't help herself. She stepped aside before
she was even completely sure she was moving at all, feeling some
of that paralyzing terror slip away. As Embericles started to step
past her, enough of her presence of mind had returned for her to
raise a protesting hand into the girl's path.

"Don't touch me," Embericles hissed. This was the first actual sign
of emotion Babydoll had seen her show and the effect, on top of
that awful, palpable sense of raw animal fear, sent the blonde
stepping hastily away.

Babydoll watched her stroll casually off toward her classroom as
she leaned against the wall, panting for breath and one hand
clutched to her chest. She'd been just about to crap her pants
from sheer terror just then, but she had no idea _why_. There had
been no threats, no danger, and precious little sign even of tension
in the air, yet her body was reacting as if she'd just survived a near-
miss with a dump truck. Or a shark, maybe. A big, cold, ravenous

She wiped a sweaty palm against her thigh and shook her head,
muttering to herself, "So, just what the heck was _that_ all about?"


Lunchtime came, as it usually did on Wednesdays at H. G. Wells
School, in a flurry of debate over just what kind of animal it was
that had died to produce the alleged 'meat patties' the cafeteria
served, if indeed it had been an animal and not, say, some form of
roofing material.

"That," said Xeffy in firm tones as she pointed at her own slab of
gravy-slathered mystery substance, "is definitely a spur mark."

"It can't be horsemeat," Ayna argued, "not with this coloring. I'm
thinking it might be some kind of upholstery padding."

Zoe, who was sitting with them, was having none of that. "Don't
be facetious, Ayna. The cafeteria would hardly serve upholstery
padding, given the cost of that material even in scrap form. Logic
would indicate that it would have to be something with minimal
recycle value, such as medical or machine-shop waste."

"I'm still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it's
horse," Xeffy insisted, "although by the texture it must be one that
died during the Boer War. After a hard and sickly life, too." She
prodded the 'meat patty' experimentally with her fork, and when it
failed to prod back or emit any kind slime, picked up her knife and
began to saw determinedly at one edge.

"I think you're giving the cooks too much credit, Xef," Ayna said,
making no move to touch her own 'meat patty'. "What do you
think, Nyss? Hello-o... Earth to Nyssaias..."

"Eh? Huh? Pardon?" The winged girl stirred guiltily out of the
semi-trance she'd been in. "I'm sorry, what?"

Xeffy squealed and clapped her hands, pointing at the confused
brunette. "I recognize that spaced-out look! Ayna looks like that
when she's thinking about boys!"

"In other words, all the time?" Zoe commented.

Ayna wasn't going to take that lying down. "Hey! I don't think
about boys _all_ the time!"

The others just stared at her.

"I _don't_!"

Xeffy considered this for a moment. "Yeah, actually I guess that's
true. Sometimes she thinks about food, too."

Ayna got redder and louder. "AND...?"

"Oh, and music, too."

Ayna settled back down, looking satisfied. "Exactly. I don't have a
one-track mind. I have a three-track mind."

Now Xeffy's attention was back on Nyssaias. "So, who is it?
Who's the guy?"

The winged girl shook her head. "It isn't like that. I was just
thinking..." She trailed off, appearing to debate with herself over
what to say and how to say it. "Something bothers me. A lot."

Hearing the sincerity in their new friend's tone, the others instantly
dropped their playful banter. Xeffy leaned in a little, lowering her
voice. "What is it, Nyss? Is it anything we can help with?" She
saw Nyssaias's gaze flick past her and she turned to follow that
look, seeing only the usual lone figure sitting by herself at the back
of the room.

"_Her_?" Ayna said. She'd caught the direction of Nyssaias's look
as well. "Well, I'll admit that Embericles creeps me out, too, but you
shouldn't let it worry you." Her eyes suddenly narrowed. "Or has
she given you a hard time?"

"No no no. She hasn't done anything. And that's just it."
Nyssaias looked at the other girls' faces, seeing no sign of
comprehension. "It just... It doesn't seem _right_."

"What doesn't?" Xeffy asked. "Her being here?"

"No, not that. For her to be treated the way she is, to be so alone.
So completely alone. That just isn't right."

The other three girls shared flabbergasted looks, Xeffy finding her
voice first. "No offense, Nyss," she said carefully, "but you don't
know this girl..."

"I didn't know _you_ three days ago," Nyssaias replied.

"You don't know what she's like," Xeffy went on over her. "There's
good reasons why everybody avoids her."

"She's a menace," Zoe said quietly. "A mad dog waiting to bite."

Nyssaias remained stubbornly unconvinced. "And you know this
how?" she demanded. "Have you talked to her? Has she ever
done anything to you?"

"Well, no," Ayna admitted. "Not as such, no. But you hear

"And a bad reputation is enough reason to treat someone like a

Zoe shook her head. "It isn't just reputation, Nyssaias. There are
facts. She almost killed two students and hurt several others. This
is a matter of record. She was sent to the Reformatory for it. These
things _happened_."

"And not just that," said Xeffy, shuddering. "You can feel it when
she's around. Pure badness, like smoke in the air. Evil."

"It still isn't right," Nyssaias implored. "Even if all that's true, that
still doesn't mean somebody should be treated like they don't even
exist. I've seen other bad types here, like that bully Kali, and even
they have friends. Even they have people who will call them by
name. So why is she so different?"

"That's just the way it is," answered Ayna, a bit lamely.

Just then, Embericles arose from her table and, as happened every
day, brought conversation in the lunchroom to a screeching halt
as she started to make her way up front to return her tableware.
But this time, something different happened. This time, Nyssaias
got up and walked along with her, carrying her own still-full tray.

That got a few conversations going again.


At the same time, another important conversation was taking place
at the bottom of an empty stairwell.

"...and that's it. I swear to God I have no idea why it happened, but
that's the way the deal went down, boss."

Cain leaned against the wall, moodily picking his teeth with a
pocketknife and considering the tale he'd just heard. Babydoll
stood before him, downcast and humiliated, half-expecting some
sort of punishment for her less-than-sterling performance against
the bat-winged girl earlier, with the rest of the gang slouching
around them, trying to look cool and casual.

"And that's all she said?" Cain asked at last. "No threats, no
smack-talk? No interest at all?"

"No," Babydoll glumly confirmed. "I might as well have been
telling her the relative humidity for all she seemed to care."

"Interesting," the one-eyed delinquent muttered. "Very

"Want me to go have a 'chat' with her, boss?" Bella asked, grinning
to show her fangs. "_I_ won't get freaked out."

"That's because you're already a freak," Babydoll grumbled back at
her. But Bella just laughed and blew her a kiss.

Cain let out a long sigh and put his knife away. "No," he said.
"Interesting this may be, but it ain't that important. I just wanted to
get in touch with her to see if she was interested in making a play,
or maybe trying to rebuild an old operation here. But if she doesn't
want in on our racket, then as long as she doesn't try to make a
play of her own or hook up with Kali's gang, we've got no beef with
her. So, no, I don't want any of you trying to lean on her. Got me?"

Sullen nods all around.

"That's too bad, though," Bella mused. "A chick like her would be
handy to use against your ex-girlfriend--" Cain shot her a dark look
and, grinning still, she amended that to, "--to use against _Kali_, I

"Oh, we'll still do that," laughed Cain. "Just because she doesn't
wanna hook up with us, that don't mean we can't get some use out
of her all the same." The young crime boss's smile was as twisted
and nasty as his intentions as his gang chuckled along with him.


Nyssaias was acutely conscious of the scores of eyes tracking her
as she hurried along to walk beside the bat-winged girl. She
winced each time her fork rattled on her tray and tried hard not to
look around at the watching students whose stares beat on her
with an almost physical intensity. Gods, how could Embericles
stand this day after day, being the center of so much unwelcome
attention? It was enough to make Nyssaias want to break down
crying right on the spot, but Embericles was as calm and resolute
as she always was, treating it all as if it were nothing more
noteworthy than the air she breathed. Nyssaias stiffened her
backbone and quickened her steps to bring herself up to the other
girl's side.

Embericles didn't look at her, or give any sign that she knew she
was there.

"Um, hi," Nyssaias tried, flashing a winning smile. When in doubt,
try being friendly. That always worked for her. Show people a
smile and a little consideration, and they'd be sure to reciprocate.

Embericles kept walking.

"My name is Nyssaias. I'm in the same English class as you."

More silence, the pace of those footsteps never varying.

"You're Embericles, right? It's nice to meet you." This was said
around her biggest and sunniest smile yet, but it got no more
response than if she'd been talking to her bookbag.

Okay, this was weird. And a bit rude, she supposed. People
always responded to her when she was being cheerful. _Always_.
Never in her life had anyone just completely blown her off like this.
It was an unsettling experience. Still, it fell far short of the tales her
friends had been so blithely tossing around. She didn't feel any
sort of weird aura on this girl, and certainly not the 'Eeeeevil' she'd
been warned about. Sure, that lack of emotion was a bit offputting,
and her refusal to acknowledge a greeting was fairly discourteous,
but it fell far, far short of any actual 'badness'. Frankly, she'd felt
greater unease around some of the more supposedly 'normal'
students, like Kali or Rhanda or that odd Bella girl that was in her
Chemistry class.

The two reached the return window and slid their trays inside to be
cleaned. Nyssaias was still trying to think of something else to say
when Embericles suddenly turned and looked directly at her.

Caught off-guard, Nyssaias stammered a bit, trying to come out
with something that wouldn't sound stupid to her own ears,
finally settling for her default position of offering a big, happy smile
as she waited to see what the redhead had to say. And, after a
long moment of staring coolly right at Nyssaias, she said it:

"You're in my way."

(to be continued)


Copyright Notes:

'Doctor Who' is property of the BBC.
'Then Do That Over' concept created by Paul Gadzikowski.
Xeffy and Ayna created by Imran Inayat.
'Desert of Fear' characters created by Clive May, Ken Young, BKWillis,
and Brad Filippone.
Story title and opening quote are from the song 'She Talks to Rainbows',
by the Ramones.
Other original characters created by BKWillis.

A note on the other schools mentioned:

Inunabe (Dog Stew) High School is the school Excel graduates from in the first
episode of the anime series 'Excel Saga' and to which she returns as a
substitute teacher and baseball coach in episode 11. Sarutama (Monkey Balls)
High School, a sports powerhouse (due to fielding teams consisting entirely of
monkeys) and Inunabe High's great rival, is from that same episode.

Part 1 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8

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