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The Nerd's Symphony

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Chapter One

XAVIER’S POINT OF VIEW

The late-spring air at James Madison High School is thick with the anticipation of preparing for final exams and getting ready for summer vacation. For the seniors, it means saying goodbye to high school and preparing for the real world. For freshmen and sophomores, it means preparing to get ready for the next level. But for us juniors? Well, it means getting ready to go into senior year and making sure to take no chances.

And that’s the case for my friend Dante Copeland and I as the two of us were currently in the library for our early-morning study hall period. And in case you didn’t already know, my name is Xavier Bryshere Reeves- aquatic sportsman, musician, artist, and teenage superhero known as a Sentinel. And after all the craziness that had happened this late winter through the early spring (Dante’s indoctrination of being a Sentinel; his cousin Danita Braddock swearing revenge and kidnapping my late sister Coretta, Dante’s pen-pal and current Insider Valarie Castro, and my former bully turned ally Cedric Harding), it was nice to get back into some semblance of normalcy nowadays. “So, what do you think we should study first?” my newfound best friend and second-in-command Sentinel asked me as we got out our books and folders. “Maybe we should take a crack at studying Chemistry 1 since we know Billingsley is bound to pull up some surprise pre-exam quizzes before the actual final exam.”

“No way,” I insisted, extracting my Spanish I book out of my bag. “Zach and Ava warned us that Spanish I is going to be extra tough with Ms. Gutierrez leading the exams. And they did say that were going to have to do an oral examination, hence the four of us going to Miami to take down a drug ring that was tipped off by one of Valarie’s contacts and-“

“Uh, Zay? I hate to interrupt you, but why are your eyes glowing gold?” Dante cut me off, giving me a concerned stare.

I pulled out a pocket mirror to see that my eyes were indeed glowing the familiar molten-gold, the same shade that let me know that I was about to “flame up” and become my alter-ego Firenze. “Ah, man,” I said. “I was hoping to keep a low profile today, even after dealing what when down a few months ago.”

“Wait, this isn’t the first time that your eyes glowed on purpose?”

I took deep breath. “Apparently not,” I confessed. “Ever since we took down Danita and I laid Coretta to rest back in late February, my powers have been going off at certain times of the day, even when there’s little to no trouble at all. I’ve been transforming into Firenze, my hair would catch on fire, and I even woke up to wearing the Sentinel suit once or twice on the weekends.”

Dante’s eyes went wide. “I knew that Uncle Drake and I weren’t the only ones with the same problem,” he said softly. “Uncle D’s lightning bolts would usually go off when he’s in his sheriff’s persona while I’m turning to ice every other day. And I think it’s something to do with the aftermath of taking down Danita.”

I sighed. “I guess you can say that the three of us haven’t really coped with what happened with Valarie, Coretta, and Cedric being kidnapped,” I admitted. “There’s some stuff that you just want to forget, but it seems like you really can’t let it go- intentionally, anyway.”

“Well, at least we’re making sure to fully let go of the past,” Dante replied, pausing to take of sup of his bottled water. “You and I have really came a long way since arriving at Crystal Pointe. I thought I was doomed to be my cousin’s puppet for her dirty work and knowing her, she might have killed me off when she got tired of me.”

“Well, I personally don’t want to regress into that scared sophomore from Texas who’s been threatened with death or made to disappear by any gangsters who beat me up since I wasn’t into hustling or dropping out. If not for Mom and Dad sending me here, who knows what would’ve happened to me?”

“Well, I’m for one glad that you came here to California. And I’m glad that I made a new friend who is like me- in need of a fresh start and ready to breathe,” Dante replied, reaching across the table and patting my shoulder. “you think that we should tell Hardict and Jackson what’s been-“

“No way,” I replied. “They’re probably bogged down with looking for new recruits for the Pep Club’s Sentinel team or those for the Bellevue Sentinels. I say we just wait it out until we know that things will go back to normal.”

Dante sighed. “If you say so,” he replied just as he turned around to see one of the basketball cheerleaders making her way to our table with a young Black woman wearing black jeans and a pink blouse following suit. She looked to be a bit younger than us, but carried herself like a proper junior as she patted her braids. “Can we help you two?”

“Hey, Reeves and Copeland,” the cheerleader known as Caylee replied, gesturing to the other teenager. “This is RaeAnne Emerson and she said that she’s been looking for you two. Plus, you both need to head to Principal J’s office right now.”

The other teenager named RaeAnne came to us and extended out a hand for us to shake. “I’m RaeAnne Audriece Emerson, as you already know,” she introduced ourselves. “And I take it that you two are Xavier Reeves and Dante Copeland, AKA Firenze and Erebus. I’ve been following you two throughout the weblogs.”

“That we are” I replied as Dante and I shook hands with her. “Can we help you?”

“My mom and I just moved down here to Crystal Pointe from Georgia to find new roots since we were mainly kicked out of our old hometown for being Black,” RaeAnne began, “but we’re mainly here to see if my friend Quentin Woodlawn made it here all right and settled wit his new parents.”

“Well, do you know who this Quentin Woodlawn’s parents are?” Dante asked. “I’m sure that our principal and vice-principal can be more of help than Zay and I can.”

RaeAnne gave us a knowing smirk. “You should know who Q’s parents are since they are your mentors,” she replied. “Richard Jackson and Pamela Hardict. And they’re with my mom right now in the office waiting for us right now.”

My eyes went wide with shock. There’s no way that-

Xavier, she is telling the truth, the voice of my alter-ego Firenze said in my head.

“I guess we better make tracks and head on over to the office,” Dante said, snapping me out of my thoughts as he and I collected our belongings before leaving the library. To me, “Dude, this Quentin kid is really Jackson and Hardict’s? I never knew that, let alone them having a relationship.”

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to figure out the rest of the story once we get there,” I told him as we stood up and led RaeAnne o the main office. “Boy, just when you think that you’re catching a break into normalcy, some form of news takes things into a new level.”

**********

The main office was buzzing with a few minor troublemakers and a couple of juniors looking to talk to some of the academic advisors about their new schedules for the fall semester. “Morning, boys,” the matronly receptionist greeted us as she gave us a freshly-baked brownie. “Jackson and Hardict are expecting y’all with Mrs. Emerson. And fair warning, Xavier. That Mike Sayers boy is also here, so prepare yourself.”

“Thanks, ma’am,” I replied, already knowing that Mike was bound to pull a fast punch on myself or Dante- and in some cases both of us since he was known to be a ruthless combat training specialist. And as soon as I opened the door to Principal Jackson’s office, I was immediately given a swift left hood to the jaw by the turbo-charged Sentinel before he did the same to Dante and knocking the both of us down in judo sweep. “Really, Mike?”

“Killed you,” Mike grinned as Richard (in Sentinel mode) helped us up while RaeAnne sat down next to a large woman with an Afro dressed in a business suit as Hardict (dressed in her tasteful purple business suit) pulled up two chairs for Dante and myself. “Need to sharpen those skills, Reeves.”

“Mike, enough,” Richard said, though there was no seriousness in his tone. “Boys, you already met RaeAnne Emerson at the liberty. The woman next to her is her mother Audrey LaChelle Emerson, both of them good friends of Quentin Woodlawn’s, who will be a part of your team.”

“Yeah, about that,” Dante began, wincing in pain as his jaw ached from being hit by Mike. “How come you or Pam never told us that you two had a kid? I didn’t even know that the two of you were married.”

“Neither did I,” I confessed.

“We are,” Hardict told us, “to each other. But we don’t want any nasty people trying to take advantage of us by exploiting our identities. And as for us having Quentin, we were teenagers when we had him. And we weren’t ready to be parents yet. But we do have him at the Richards Manor at Millerfield Hills, where Richard and I will be staying for the moment. And it’s a good thing that we sent Mike over to fetch him from Sanders Springs.”

“I guess my brother didn’t take the news of him being related to me well since he freaked out over the matter,” Mike said.

“Wait, you’re Quentin’s brother?” I said in disbelief. “and you’re also Richard and Pamela’s kid?”

The brunette smiled widely. “just call me Michael Trevor Hardict-Jackson,” he said.

“What a small world we live in,” RaeAnne commented. “But back to the moment about Quentin, is he okay?”

“That’s the main conversation,” Richard said as he turned to Dante and I. “Xavier, Quentin really didn’t have much of a charmed life back in Georgia, him being completely ignored by his predominantly-black adoptive family and bullied by his old schoolmates. Like you, he was humiliated for just being himself and he was nearly pushed to suicide thanks to his main bullies- a Diane Oberlin and her boyfriend named Chip Penske. But he was mainly bullied for being biracial, something that wasn’t tolerated by the supremacy-minded and predominantly-white citizens of Sanders Springs. His late adoptive family said that he wasn’t ‘Black enough’ to be taken seriously, which affected his ability to connect to anyone while the other townspeople just thought he was too troublesome for his own good. And when the former died in a car wreck, they wrote in though till to have him sent to a reform school in nearby Toccoa. And that led to a campaign by the rest of the town to have him killed off.”

“Ouch,” Dante said grimly. “and that’s when you decided to have Mike send for Quentin, I bet.”

Hardict nodded, her eyes glimmering. “If not for him, Quentin would’ve made the jump off that bridge,” she said sadly. She cleared her throat. “Anyway, boys, the main thing to consider is that Quentin is a primal candidate to join your budding team, though he doesn’t really know who we are just yet. So we need to be circumspect of our identities as Sentinels until we’re able to figure out what his backstory is like.”

“Indeed,” Richard agreed. “With the Emersons being close to Quentin as friends, there’s no doubt that they’re now known as Insiders since Mrs. Emerson is a patient account specialist at the hospital while RaeAnne is talented in STEM technology. The two of you will need to keep the Pep Club and the Bellevue kids informed of the news during lunch. They’ll also need to keep their identities as Sentinels to themselves until we fully indoctrinate him at the welcoming party that’ll be held at the manor on the last day of school.”

“Will do,” I promised the adults. To Dante, “Think that the others will be surprised?”

Dante shrugged his shoulders. “Knowing them, they’ll be wanting- WHOA!” He was suddenly knocked out of his seat thanks to Mike’s telekinetic abilities while doing the same to me. “Seriously, Mike?”

“Hey, it looks like you two will need to train with me after school,” he said. “And since you’ll have finals to prepare for, I’ll be handling that as well. Get one answer wrong… let’s just say that you’ll be needing to stay in bed for a few days.”

Mrs. Emerson looked over at Richard and Pamela, who just shrugged their shoulders. “Child, does this boy ever sleep at night?” She asked me.

“Do I have to answer that?” I replied. “If I do, I might be knocked out until next year.” I just pulled out my cell phone and sent a mass text to the two groups. Sentinel powwow at lunch, I typed on my phone. Big news ahead.

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