Due Process

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Chapter 14

Enemies

There's a new playa in town

All of us involved in the attack, the students from the "out of time" busses and a bunch of teachers were called to a special assembly after classes that afternoon. Sadye and Mr DeLefeu were up on stage, along with a couple of other kids who looked a bit uncomfortable.

"Right, everyone here?" he began. "So I know you have a lot of questions, about the attack, what the creature was, etc. I hope I can answer most of them right now. Most importantly, there's a new power type you'll be seeing around the school, what we're calling "Dreamers", and the pin will probably look like this." He switched on the projector beside him and a shape that suggested an eye both opened and closed at the same time was shown behind him. He switched it off again. "Apparently this power has been around for some time, but only a few people really dedicated themselves to learning how to use it, and most effects of it fade pretty quickly, so that's why we've never seen it before. Also it seems somehow 'immune' to Seers, even knowing this Dreamer power exists doesn't help our Seers pick people out who have the ability. Only another Dreamer can do that. This is Sadye, Miss Ransbottom to you," there was tittering in the seats, "She and her father have been researching this power in secret since she was born so there's really no better Dreamer on Earth right now that she knows of. She'll be helping us from now on so that last night's attack doesn't happen again. In short, Sadye and other Dreamers like her can step from their dreams into reality and then control reality as though it was their dream." There was a murmur of excitement in the auditorium, an ability like that would trump even me, I thought. People started whispering excitedly to those nearby, and Mr DeLefeu held up his hands for quiet. "Much like a Spirit Hunter leaving their body to gain power, they become vulnerable when they do this because they are asleep, plain and simple. But I can't deny the things I saw Sadye do, and the creature that attacked the girl's dorm last night made it clear we need help. Incidentally, the student we found killed a few days ago didn't actually exist- it was a dummy made to look real by the emerging creature to further spread fear in the school. Sadye thinks it came into existence because there are now so many untrained Dreamers at the school all at once, all adding their "dream energy" together unknowingly, which is why it got stronger so rapidly. She's only seen a creature like that once, but apparently there is a less powerful version of it that's much more common, and she heard a rumor about a more powerful version appearing once, so you can imagine we're eager to make sure it doesn't happen again. Now, what does this have to do with the busses that got stuck in time? I had a hunch, and had Sadye test every student from the older buses, and there was a dreamer on every one of them. Sadye thinks the place the busses went was created by a Dreamer and somehow reacted to the students on the bus, drawing them in. She's collapsed the space so that won't ever happen again."

"That explains a lot," I whispered to Osman.

He nodded back. "It felt kind of like a dream, now that I think on it, and the weird space effects we saw? I can believe it."

"So in the coming days she'll be testing everyone at the school to make sure every Dreamer learns proper control at least, while we figure out where this power came from and how it stayed hidden from us for so long. Meanwhile, keep in mind that while Sadye is here her body is asleep somewhere, so if she wakes up, she disappears from here- don't be surprised if that happens. She says time runs somewhat funny between dreams and reality, so she can never really say when she'll stop dreaming. And now you know what I know about the situation. As you know, Seers and ESPers already have some dream related skills, but Sadye says there are some better techniques she can teach us, so don't be surprised if you see her talking in your Ability Focused Studies classes. She also says anyone can learn to better control their own dreams and may be running some after class activities to that end. Depends on student interest, and some other logistics stuff you don't care about. There will be a sign up sheet hung on the billboard if you're interested. That's all for now."

Yasui ran up to us as we left the building heading for the cafeteria for dinner.

"That explains a lot," she said.

We both nodded. "Osman said the very thing to me." I replied.

"Think what you could do with a power like that," she went on. "And we never even knew about it. Weird."

"I don't know," said Osman. "That power might be nice, but to have to worry your very nightmares are going to come real and attack you? No thank you."

"There is that. Do you think you could learn this Dreamer stuff, Dean?"

I shrugged. "Depends on whether it's more like spirit clone or Christina's spirit grades I guess. I don't know, I don't like it. Power should be tied to the soul, so why can't Seers tell it's there? It's almost like it's coming from somewhere else. I'm not sure what to make of it."

"I guess you're right. I just hope they figure it out, I don't want to fight one of those things ever again. See you all later, bye Katrina!"

She ran off, and Osman turned to me.

"It raises question," he said hesitantly. "Did Seers look at her dream body or her real body?"

I saw what he was getting at. "Right, technically she's just a normal girl that's dreaming. It just so happens she can step from wherever dreams happen into our world."

"Scary place, if dreams not happen in head."

"Hey you're right, we always assumed they did... This might change everything."

It was the last week of Feburary when something weird started happening- again. I had learned the spirit clone technique from Yasui but was putting more effort into my classes then talismans at the moment. Not that I stopped reading about them, of course. The trouble started on Thursday when I sat down to lunch with my friends and saw a stranger sitting there. Then I noticed everyone looking daggers at me.

"What's up?" I asked, concerned, looking around at my friends.

"You've got a lot of nerve sitting here after what you said to Yasui last night Dean," said Christina coldly.

"Yeah," said Jonathan, "It was pretty harsh, even for you."

My head whipped around to look at this stranger sitting at our table. Dark hair, blue eyes, average looking. "Who-" I started to say, but as he looked at me, I remembered that Jonathan had been hanging around since I met him in my Ability Focused Studies class a month ago. "Oh, Jonathan, hi, what are you all talking about? Did we even talk last night?"

"Don't try to weasel out of it by pretending it didn't happen," said Christina, putting an arm around Yasui's shoulders. "You really hurt her, you know?"

"Hurt her? Yasui, is this some kind of joke? I would never say something to hurt you, you must know that."

Looking at her, it seemed she was desperately trying not to cry, all she managed to say was "Please leave, now," before turning away from me. Christina pulled her close and glared at me.

"You heard her. Now leave."

I was at a loss- I'm sure I just stayed in my room and read most of last night, I didn't recall even talking to Yasui at all. But rather then pursue it I just picked up my tray and moved to another table. My thoughts were boiling, what was going on? Suddenly I heard a voice in my head.

Dean, it's Kat. Something very weird is going on here, so don't despair. I'm not sure who this guy is that's shown up, but he wasn't around yesterday, I'm sure of that. But he is an ESPer and I think he's doing something to them. We'll talk later when I can get away from Osman for a few minutes.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, that was a load off my shoulders. I guess I wasn't losing my mind after all.

An ESPer, huh? I thought. Guess I'll have to do some research. I knew ESPers could do a lot of things, but much of what they did, like Katrina's ability to create illusions in people's minds depended on getting good at other skills, in the case of illusion it was sending you had to know pretty well. After all, if you couldn't reliably put thoughts into people's heads, how could do it with images? So I wasn't sure what skill would allow an ESPer to do what this Jonathan guy was doing. I resolved to find out.

"He came here a month ago," said Mr DeLefeu, who I immediately went to see after lunch. "He was late because of some family issues, but otherwise he's a pretty ordinary ESPer. Why do you ask?"

"I don't think he belongs here."

"What are you talking about Dean? Of course he belongs here, he's an ESPer, isn't he? And I seem to recall you hanging out with him in the past, talking about stuff, so what's the problem?"

"I remember hanging out with him too, that's the problem."

He looked at me for a moment, unsure. "Are you getting enough sleep?" he finally asked. "You're not buried in talisman making books all night, are you? Because you're sounding a little frantic."

"It's just-" I took a deep breath. "Yasui is mad at me, heck everyone is mad at me right now, and I don't remember why!"

"Well, he's just a first year student like you, and it takes years to learn memory alteration and besides, he's your friend, or at the very least an acquaintance. Why would he want to hurt you like that?"

"Well Katrina also said-"

"Dean, enough. I've been very patient but you're taking this too far. Go apologize to Yasui for whatever you said and try to work it out with her, trust me, it's good practice for the future. As a man you'll always be in trouble with your female friends for one reason or another, even when you have no clue what you did, so just get used to it."

Obviously this is going to get me nowhere, I thought. He's convinced everything is normal.

"Okay," I said. "I just thought you might like to know, after all, didn't you once say to report anything out of the ordinary? It seems out of the ordinary to me, I reported it, that's all."

"And I appreciate it, I really do. If more people took that road I think things would go a lot smoother around here, but in this case I think you're just overreacting."

"I hear you. Thanks for listening."

"Not at all, Dean, you know my door is always open. I'll see you later."

So now what? I asked myself, walking to my next class. This might get tricky.

I went through the rest of the day rather half-heartedly, it was driving me nuts that not only was our little group throwing me out, I had no way to convince anyone this Jonathan guy didn't belong here, and I was innocent. I was laying in bed, staring at the celling and trying to think of a solution when Katrina came through the wall.

"Okay, he's in the shower so I have a few minutes to talk," she said, all echoey and far away sounding.

"Shower? How does it work with you in his- never mind. Why are you using projection instead of illusion like you normally do now?"

"I can only target someone with illusion that I can see. So I have to do it this way."

"Oh, okay. So, Jonathan, you say he did something to the others?"

"Yeah. This morning he just walked up to each of them and started talking like he had known them forever. I felt him do something to them, and they acted like they knew who he was. But you see I don't think he knows about me, so he didn't target me and thus I still know seeing him today was the first time I actually met him."

"Okay, something is going on then. I talked to the principal this afternoon, and he was convinced everything was normal. Even said he remembered seeing us talking together in the halls or whatever. I've got to prove he's not a student here, but how?"

We both thought for a moment.

"There must be records of every student and their power kept someplace, right?" said Katrina. "For grading at least. I wonder if he changed those too? After all, if he just makes people think they put him into a computer, they wouldn't check, at least for awhile. And when they did I bet he would just cover that up when confronted."

"You're probably right. Shoot, how am I going to stop this guy? Especially if he can just change my memories whenever he feels threatened I'm on to him."

"What's he doing here is a better question. You don't know him, do you?"

I shook my head. "Never seen him before, at least I don't think so. I suppose if he can make me think I'm not meeting him for the first time right now, he could erase my memory of meeting him before now!"

"Wow, you're right. You better write a bunch of this stuff down in case he messes with your head again."

"I will. What could he want?"

"I guess we'll just see if he's around tomorrow and take it from there. Maybe he's just an upperclassman messing with you using illusion?"

"No, I mean, I don't think so. It would be pretty elaborate for a joke."

Katrina gasped. "I just had a terrible thought. What if the principal is in on it? I mean, that whole field trip thing, right? We know they test students in various ways, maybe this is one of those. You know, solve the mystery?"

"I guess it could be anything at this point. I'll assume he's dangerous until I get to the bottom of this though, if he can mess with the principal's head, he must be pretty powerful. Thanks for talking this out with me, I'm feeling better knowing I'm not going nuts."

"Of course," she said, blowing me a kiss. "I'm glad to help."

She fuzzed, and was gone through the wall back to Osman.

You picked the wrong guy to mess with, I thought, because I'm taking you down.

The problem of course was how to do just that- I had no idea. His flawless infiltration of the school, his targeted attack on me, manipulating so many people, I knew he was much more powerful then I was so a straight up contest of powers would probably leave me dead. Which got me thinking about why he had singled me out in the first place, after all I had no enemies that I knew of. Could this have something to do with my parents? I couldn't be sure, and without knowing his goal it would be doubly hard to predict his actions. Then that led into my wondering if my memory hadn't already been tampered with, how would I know? I sat and thought as Osman returned and went to bed without speaking to me. Would have been nice if I could ask him, and I knew Katrina would back me up if I told him my side of the story, but I figured if this Jonathan wanted me off balance by turning my friends against me I would play the part for a while.

So the next day I looked into things that could break memory alteration and while there were talismans that could help defend against an ESPers power, after something was done it was a lot trickier. I noticed he was still around, talking to my friends as though he had known them all along, and that other people were whispering to each other and pointing in my direction. Great, seems like he'd been busy yesterday too. It was after classes that day that I was sitting in the library desperately trying to figure something out when a girl named Veta walked past me. She was an Alchemist from India that I had worked with in my Ability Focused Studies class when I was picking up my alchemy skills. Long black hair, dark eyes, her eyebrows were a little too long but she was still pretty. I hardly saw her walk by, I was so wrapped up in my thoughts, when suddenly an idea struck me.

"Hey, Veta, wait up! Do you have a second?"

"Oh. Dean, it's you," she replied a bit coldly. "What do you want?"

"Come on, he didn't get to you too, did he? Why is this guy trying to ruin my life?" I asked, looking up at the ceiling.

"What are you talking about? People have just been talking about your recent behavior and honestly I thought you were better then that Dean, so if you'll excuse me..."

"No, wait, please, I need your help," I pleaded. "This ESPer I've never seen before is trying to ruin my life for some reason and I need help exposing him. I don't know who else to turn to, my friends have all turned against me, but I think you can get me the proof I need to go to the principal!"

She paused. "So you didn't..."

"I don't even know what I've supposedly done, Katrina says he's using memory alteration on people and it's true, the principal had this whole story ready about how he belonged here and everything."

She seemed to think for a moment, looking me over. "All right," she finally said, sitting down, "Why don't you start at the beginning?"

So I told her what happened at breakfast the day before and what Katrina had said to me, and while Veta looked a little skeptical, she agreed to help.

"But what can I do?" she asked. "I'm just an Alchemist, if the principal says he's supposed to be here I can't exactly turn him into stone or anything, I'll get in big trouble."

"It's not your powers I need right now," I explained, "It's evidence. He went ahead and put himself in people's memories, but I wonder if he bothered to change the computer records to match his story."

"So that's what this is about," she said, smiling at last, "You want me to hack into the school database and see if he's in there."

"Hack is such an ugly word, but yes, you told me you were really good with computers, right?"

"I've picked up a few things. I can tell you this much though, I'm pretty sure the student list is only on Mr Delefeu's computer."

"Oh," I said, eyes shining, "You've already tried to hack the school database then."

She colored. "I can neither confirm nor deny this allegation. But I may have conducted a basic network intrusion test, just to make sure the school's computers were safe."

I grinned at her. "I see how it is. What you're telling me is that we're going to have to get into the principal's office somehow to do this?"

"I could just open up a hole in the door with transmogrification but it might be warded against that sort of thing."

"Not to worry," I said, my eyes twinkling as I grabbed the talisman book I had been looking through earlier, "I think I've got that one covered."

She looked on with interest as I grabbed my specially prepared paper, twenty cents in nickels, a brush, and spirit ink out of my pouch.

"How did- never mind." She shook her head. "Artificers."

"Oh, just wait," I cautioned her, "It's gonna get surreal in just a second."

She looked at me like I was nuts, but didn't say more.

I unfolded the piece of paper off and set it on the table next to the book, which I had propped open to a diagram for a Phase talisman. Given how useful this talisman was sure to be, it was certainly an easy one, as talismans went. Of course, that still meant hours of work for "lesser skilled" individuals. I closed my hand around the nickels and concentrated- first on a set of rings to hold the charm onto the chain, then on the charm itself. Naturally I picked the shape of a little ghost, which seemed appropriate. Luck was with me, for the rings anyway, they formed right away. The charm took me a few tries, but I managed it. I set the ghost in the center of the paper and told Veta to step back a back.

"This is going to be a rush job, so we'll see how it goes," I told her. "I've never tried doing it this way before, but theory says it should work just fine."

She complied, beginning to look like she was sorry she had stopped, and I started calling on the spirit of the Ant. Several minutes later I had it, then called out as many spirit clones as I could. Putting in a tremendous effort I managed to call out five of them, which I figured was probably the highest number I would ever get, and now Veta's eyes were just popping out of her head.

"Who are you?" she stammered. "You just- and then you- now there-"

"Deep breaths, Veta," I said. "Keep it together now. You've seen me learning a bunch of different stuff in class."

"Yeah, but to see you actually use it, what are all... you doing here, anyway?"

"Oh, that's easy. I have the spirit of the ant assisting me right now, so I can help anyone with any skill, as that's the special power ant conveys on people who call it. So now I'm going to assist myself in making this talisman so I can get it done right now, rather then two days from now. Normally this talisman would take two solid days of work to not mess up, I'm going to try and do it in an hour."

"Good luck," she said, uncertain.

I got started drawing the spiral around the ghost, filling it with the symbols from the book, and taking the advice of my five clones to not mess it up.

Less then two hours later I energized the spiral and was rewarded with a new talisman that I clipped onto my left leg, next to the regeneration one. I could only use one at time of course, but the regeneration one could stay on most of the time.

"Wow," said Veta, impressed. "You really know your stuff, you just sat there and made that thing."

I chuckled. "Thanks. I took a shortcut though, this talisman draws on my own spirit energy to activate. That makes it far easier to make then one that doesn't, and my clones were a big help." They all blushed appropriately. "Also only I can use it, making it even easier to create, so that's how I was able to do it so fast. Of course if I messed it up..." I activated it and stuck my hand through the table and sure enough, it passed right through. "Nope, looks like it came out just fine." I said, "Now, can it take both of us?"

I deactivated it and offered her my hand, which she reluctantly grabbed, and I activated it again. I stuck my head through a bookcase to make sure no one was on the other side, and we both walked through.

"Looks like that part works just fine too!" I exclaimed, pleased. Veta seemed impressed as well; She swiped her hand through the bookcase again, then touched me on the other arm, and I felt her hand like normal.

"Amazing! What would happen if I was halfway through the bookcase and you let go?"

"Ah, well according to the book you would probably get cut to ribbons and would be forcibly ejected to whatever side you were closer to."

"Let's not test that then."

"So," I said, walking through the bookshelf again and letting go of her hand on the other side, "Are we on for tonight?"

"Exactly how much harder would it be to make one of those for me?" she asked.

I laughed, "I get it, you want one too, huh?"

"I wouldn't mind one, for my trouble in helping you out and all."

"I think I could manage it before tomorrow. You up for it fellows?" My clones nodded and I pulled out another sheet of paper.

"Then I think we have a deal."

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