Hey there friends and fictional folk! Sorry this is a bit late and short, I’ve been hard at work acting in a local play. But I did want to give you guys something for this update. It’s not much but I hope you enjoy it anyway and I promise there will be a much meatier issue next time.
Until then, remember to share, comment, and subscribe to my website so you don’t miss updates. Hope you enjoy!
“Good lord, Daniel!” Mr. Ross puffed as he hurriedly climbed down the ladder. “I know that this is troubling news, but I am not as spry as I once was. Please do not simply dash off like that, my boy.”
“Sorry, Mr. Ross.”
Natalie only barely heard them. She was too busy staring at the newspaper she had immediately ripped out of Daniel’s hands. Her eyes ran across the page, absorbing the words with super speed. Or at least that’s what it felt like.
Sure enough, the article covered much more of her fight with Skunk-bear than she would care to be public knowledge. It even gave a direct quote of her saying that her superhero name was Naga. Luckily, there was no mention of either Daniel or Mr. Ross being at the construction site.
She didn’t think her gut could sink any further. Then she looked at who wrote, edited, and photographed the story: Thomas Laville.
How did this make it into the school newspaper? West Side Weekly was trash, but surely even they wouldn’t print something like this. It was too much like big foot and not even school related news.
She glanced at the editorial staff. This day was just full of surprises it seemed.
Almost all of the positions for the newspaper staff proudly displayed the name Thomas Laville.
She felt betrayed. Sure, she hadn’t told him not to post the pictures he had taken or print them in a newspaper, but she didn’t think she had to. After all, who would believe him? But still, it seemed like a break of trust.
“I do not think you need worry, my boy,” Mr. Ross was saying. “Even I do not read the school newspaper and, were I not a former member of the ISRD, I would not believe this sort of story were anything but an urban myth printed as an attention grabbing piece.”
“But Omphalos wanted us to keep hybrids a secret for as long as possible,” Daniel fussed. “What if they take away Natalie for this and lock her up?”
“Firstly, this was not due to our own actions, so they can’t put the blame on us. Second, even if they tried, Natalie is too valuable to them as a field agent to take into custody. Thirdly, this is a one-time event that no one is going to pay attention to.”
“Even so,” Natalie cut in, setting down the newspaper, “I don’t think we should take chances. Agent Bell-head—”
“Bellerophon,” Daniel corrected, almost instinctively.
“I know his name, but I don’t care cause he’s a jerk. Anyway, he’s probably looking for any reason to pull rank on us. If he catches wind of this, we might be in trouble.”
“True,” Mr. Ross mused, stroking his beard.
“Plus, I don’t think this is going to be a one-time thing.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Well, if I saw undeniable proof of Bigfoot, I don’t think I’d stop at just one photo. I’d try to find as much evidence as possible. And there’s going to be a lot more hybrid sightings than Bigfoot or Mothman sightings pretty soon.”
“This is true.”
“I’m actually surprised there haven’t been more sightings,” Daniel said, moving to the lair’s computer and pulling up the web browser. “I’ve been looking but there’s basically nothing about any of the others.”
“It is still early,” Mr. Ross pointed out. “They may simply not be very active yet.”
“But we know they will be,” Natalie said. “And when people start looking for more information, do we want them linking it back to Tom and the school?”
“Well, how do you intend to solve this problem, my dear?”
Did he have to turn this into a lecture or pop quiz? Once a teacher, always a teacher it seemed.
Natalie considered the question carefully. If there was one thing, she was thankful to Mr. Ross for, it was showing her the need to consider something from all angles. She suspected that was why he became a history professor. A math problem only had a certain number of angles it could be approached from. History on the other hand, had a million different points of view.
“I think we need to purge all files about this from the school’s systems,” she decided. “We can’t hack into Tom’s computer or destroy all the copies of the paper, but we can still take it down from school records and destroy the physical paper’s we can get our hands on. After that, if Tom shows up to any more battles, I should talk to him and see if I can convince him to keep our secret. He listened to me at the construction site, surely he’ll listen to me again.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw Daniel scowl, but when she turned to him, he seemed expectant. Which was good since he was an important part of her plan.
“Danny, can you purge the school systems?” she asked. “We can help with the physical copies, but you know tech best.”
He perked up. “Absolutely! I’ve found backdoors to the school’s security system during computer lab multiple times.”
Mr. Ross frowned. “You hack into the school on a regular basis?”
“I don’t do anything,” Daniel quickly said, suddenly sheepish. “I just like to see if I can. The normal programming classes are so slow that I get bored, so I start digging around. The only time I actually altered anything was when I accidentally changed all the D’s in West Side’s home page to B’s. I never messed with grades. I swear.”
“That was you?” Natalie laughed. “My mom and a bunch of parents threw such a fit about that! People were talking for weeks about what great a prank that was! And you did it by accident?”
Daniel blushed. “Y-yeah. I thought for sure I was going to get caught. But I guess not.”
“Well,” Mr. Ross huffed, “as much as I disapprove of your behavior, this will prove a valuable asset in this case. However, we have a more serious issue to attend to at the moment. Another student has gone missing.”
Natalie’s eyes widened. “Do you think they found another ark shard?”
“No. I think the student, one Kaden C. Swift, is a victim of a hybrid attack. No body or blood has been found, so I doubt he was killed, but the school and police want to keep this under wraps until more evidence is found.”
“Kaden Swift, the sprinter?” Natalie asked. She didn’t know much about the guy except that he had won gold at nearly every track meet. “Who would want to kidnap him? And why one of the hybrids?”
“Wait!” Daniel gasped, his fingers flying across the keyboard. “Swift! One of our hybrid candidates had that last name.”
A dozen headshots of students from West Side High School popped up on screen. These were all the kids and teenagers who had been reported missing since the day that the arc shard orb exploded. They called that day “The Shattering.” They being Natalie and Daniel, Mr. Ross did not see any reason to give it a fancy title.
The pictures were a list of candidates for who might have been in the group affected by The Shattering. It was a way to gather more evidence if they needed help tracking down a hybrid. Natalie’s own headshot was on the list, much to her chagrin. Daniel said it was completeness, but that didn’t make it any less uncomfortable to see her name on what was essentially a Most Wanted poster.
Daniel scrolled down the list until he came to a photo of a guy with messy black hair and dark eyes, Natalie couldn’t tell if his skin was naturally tan or not. His face seemed set into an expression that was somewhere between a scowl and a pout. Clicking on the picture, Daniel brought up a file of information on him.
“Damian Swift,” Daniel read from the file. “Youngest of the Swift Trio, siblings all involved in track and field. The eldest, Mara T. Swift, is the best marathon runner the school has ever had, same with Kaden but for sprinting. Damian is good at both kinds of running but always comes second or third to his siblings. I think we have a case of sibling rivalry taken way too far on our hands.”
“Then we need to find Mara fast,” Natalie said. That would undoubtably be Damian’s next target. “Let’s go for a jog.”