Chapter 123

The initial plan was for the tubes to be stacked up carefully in a designated area by the riverbank. That way they could be accounted for and easily dispersed the next day. Unfortunately, that plan failed to take into account the effect of several hours’ drinking (and one Super’s relaxation melody) on the mind of the average adolescent. The result was that as the Lander students emerged from the river at the designated point, a veritable clusterfuck of rubber tubes formed. They were tossed, dropped, or sometimes left to drift down the stream, forgotten entirely. Angela and Ben had prepared for this, having been contributors to the mess last year, and were managing to at least stop the ones breaking for freedom down the blue aquatic road.

As a result, they were of little help as the predominantly intoxicated teens began the arduous task of setting up their tents. Coupled with the fact that many of the students possessed very destructive capabilities, it was thanks only to the few who had remained sober that the campsite didn’t wind up as a smoking crater in the ground.

“Okay,” Vince said, wiping the sweat from his brow. He’d need to take a dip in the river again when this was all done just to feel clean. “I’ve got mine, Sasha’s, and Alex’s all done.”

“I’ve completed tents for myself, Jill, Stella, Violet,” Thomas replied. His power made the set up a much faster process since he could use his energy to grasp multiple tools simultaneously.

“Meanwhile, I’ve barely managed to put up my own and Alice’s, thanks to her insistence on helping,” Nick grunted from the ground where he was tying off a stake.

“You needed my help,” Alice protested, her words clearly slurred. “You’re drunk.”

“Quite right; what would I have done without you tripping into the fabric, uprooting the entire structure and forcing me to start all over?” Nick said.

“Damn skippy,” Alice said, crossing her arms.

“Besides, you’re drunk. I’ve only managed to get a buzz since someone keeps stealing my beers,” Nick said.

“At least we know where this one is,” Vince said, pointing at Alice. “Has anyone seen the rest of the girls?”

“I’ve kept an eye on them,” Thomas assured him. “They’re over near the bus, milling with the rest of the group.”

“That seems safe enough. And Alex?” Vince asked.

“Last I saw he was still hanging around that Selena girl,” Thomas said.

“Good for him,” Nick said. “That girl is hot with a capital sex.”

“Pffft. That doesn’t even make sense. And you can’t say stuff like that, anyway. You’re a bound man now, you and Bubbles keep going out together,” Alice said. Normally she would have done a much better job keeping the spite out of her voice.

“Bubbles is great, but the day I stop appreciating the female form in all its splendor is the day they’re laying me in the ground. And even then I’m not making any promises,” Nick shot back, ignoring her tone.

 “You’re such a goddamned asshole.” Alice swayed herself to a standing position and began wobbling off into the woods at a brisk pace.

The boys stood uncertain for a few seconds, trying to comprehend her reaction.

“Huh, I didn’t think it was that bad,” Nick said. “I figured at most she’d punch me in the arm.”

“That did seem to be a bit of an overreaction,” Vince agreed. “I mean, in comparison to the stuff you normally say, that was pretty tame.”

“I think perhaps both of you missed the crux of that situation,” Thomas said. “Regardless, she seems to getting away from camp without slowing, so it might be a good idea to go after her.”

“You guys have fun with that,” Nick said. “If I chase her down today I’ll be filling out a domestic abuse complaint tomorrow. Not sure why she only hits me.”

“You do the most to provoke it,” Vince said. “But that’s fine; you get some food working. It will be dark pretty soon and everyone will be hungry. Thomas and I will go make sure Alice is okay.”

“Oh it is Fucking Go Time!” That declaration was launched in the audible tenor of Stella Hawkins, voice thick with aggression and fury, emanating from the collective area near the bus.

“Or we’ll go find out what’s going on before Stella seriously hurts someone,” Thomas amended, immediately dashing over to the area.

“Crap, there are a lot of people milling around. This might be bad,” Vince noticed. “I should go help Thomas; Nick, do you mind?”

Nick was already on his feet, producing a flashlight and a compass from his bag. “No, I get it. If there’s a Super throwdown you and Thomas can help keep the peace. That means the 'calm down the drunken princess' mission falls to the guy without astounding powers.”

“Your powers are very astounding,” Vince told him. “Just not in this particular venue. I think they’re well-suited to your task, though. Talking down Alice will require a little bit of luck.”

“Saints preserve us,” Nick said. The two boys parted in separate directions, Nick heading north and Vince just over to the buses.

The crowd at the buses was thick and difficult to cut through. Their intoxication and fascination with any altercation made the situation even more troublesome. Thomas had handled this hurdle by conjuring a wedge out of orange energy and plowing right through. Vince, on the other hand, was left with slipping through slowly, apologizing as he went. Finally he made it to the front. The sight that met his eyes was one of Roy Daniels and Stella Hawkins, both a foot or so off the ground cocooned in a familiar orange glow. Thomas stood in the center, sweat beginning to materialize on his face. This had to be a heavy burden for him, especially as both captives struggled violently.

“You two... need to calm down,” Thomas said, his breath broken by effort. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Stella hadn’t shifted, but a girl made entirely of steel was considerably heavier than one made of flesh.

“Fuck that, put me down, Thomas!” Stella yelled.

“Let the lady come get her licking,” Roy agreed, flexing against his own bands.

The next voice that pierced the fray was neither of the three. It came from the back of the crowd and parted it like a 1950’s haircut.

“I agree, let them both down,” said Angela. She stepped forward effortlessly, a peaceful air surrounding her as she entered the chaotic fray. “They won’t be attacking one another until I find out what happened.”

“You... sure?” Thomas grunted.

A wide, gentle smile slid on Angela’s face.

“They will behave. That is a promise.”