And Introducing As...
While in recovery from a successful NaNoWriMo 2011, the Muse decided to finish this chapter. Comments welcome as always. Requests for pictures of Buffy or Dawn in their school uniforms will receive the consideration they deserve.Updated:
3,152 (2 of ?)
Watching the new D.E.B.S. Cadets on the obstacle course, Max Brewer winced internally, as yet another one lost her grip and fell into the mud pit. She'd never fallen in herself, she thought proudly, but she could remember Janet whinging for weeks afterward about the tar like substance getting into places she would rather not have heard about.
As their H.A.S.E. DI, she watched impassively as cadet followed cadet into the churning mess, no matter how much she wanted to yell at them, like DI's had yelled back when she'd been a cadet. This was only her first rotation through the Academy since graduating and she couldn't believe the quality of cadets she'd seen so far. Sure, it was only the first week but half of them wouldn't have survived the pace when she'd been a cadet herself.
Even though Amy'd worked hard to make it clear that the movie was a parody, and they'd all had fun playing over-the-top versions of themselves, Max suspected too many of the wrong type of girl had seen the movie and based their decision to attend the Academy on it. Not everyone had what it took to be a D.E.B., no matter how well they scored on some test, and she was going to make sure those unsuitable to be D.E.B.S. were weeded out before the end of the first term.
"Okay, ladies, listen up!" she shouted, as the last cadet finished. "Wash the mud off and then four laps," she said, pointing at the row of nearby outdoor showers.
She hoped enough of them finished on time so they could actually get to the interesting part of the day, teaching them the simple self-defense moves all new cadets were required to know. It wasn't the same as the real hand-to-hand training they'd start second term but the Academy had been using it as a way to evaluate cadets for years.
"Which one for the demo?" Max asked Janet in a low voice, as she joined them in the training circle, glad it was a sunny day. Thirty two women, two thirds of them soaking wet, would have been a serious assault on her senses in one of the cramped training gyms. Not that she would get in trouble for biting a few Cadet heads off in the process, stress testing the new cadets was part of her job.
Looking at her DCs sitting in a large semi-circle in front of them, she nodded at Janet, amazed at how things had changed. Back when they'd been on the same squad at the Academy, she'd never asked Janet for her opinion on anything. But in the years since then, working together in the real world, Janet had become the squad's intel expert.
No matter how good Amy was at accomplishing their goal once she was set in motion, or how good Dominique was at manipulating people, or even with her own planning and combat skills, the ability to turn piles of information into good intel was where Janet outshone the rest of them. Even if she was still annoying, Max knew their successes in the field wouldn't have been possible without her. If they needed to know something for a mission, she would find it, digest it, and turn it into something they could all understand and use. Max wasn't looking forward to the inevitable day when Janet was taken off field duty and moved upstairs, something she'd already discussed privately with Amy.
Excited at the chance to apply her well honed skills in a new role, Janet had been going over the files of the cadets in their group with a fine tooth comb for the last month. "A couple good choices," she said, with that perky-preppy tone that still drove Max crazy. "A couple black belts. A kick boxer. The usual bunch of high school jocks. The rest are academics."
"What about the skinny blonde, Summers?" Max asked, curious.
"Cheerleader. The only one in this cadet class. A couple self defense classes in high school," Janet said. "She skated at the Junior level. Local stuff."
"Really? She's not one of the black belts?" Max asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.
"No, why?" Janet asked, surreptitiously glancing at Summers.
Max frowned. "There's just something about her."
"She does look kind of sparkly for someone who just went through the obstacle course and then ran a couple miles," Janet said, nodding.
"Sparkly?" Max said, struggling to keep her voice down. "D.E.B.S. aren't sparkly!"
"You know what I mean," Janet said, stepping back nervously.
Shaking her head, Max stepped out onto the training floor. The D.E.B.S. selection process was extremely thorough. In the history of the Academy, they'd never had a mole or double agent make it to H.A.S.E. If Janet hadn't noticed anything suspicious, there was nothing to find.
"Now that we're all warmed up, the real training can begin," she told them, raising her voice. "Some of you might think you already know a little bit about self defense. Some of you are smart enough to know you don't know everything. Over the next three weeks, all of you are going to learn the basics of D.E.B.S. Defense, the foundation of all self-defense training taught here at the Academy."
"I'll need a volunteer," Max said. "Summers, front and center."
Summers raised an eyebrow at her, obviously unimpressed. She didn't so much stand as flow to a standing position before silently joining Max in front of the others.
"Now, according to my sources, Summers here was a cheerleader," Max said, addressing the other cadets. "So she should already have the necessary flexibility needed, but not the bad habits those of you who've dabbled in martial arts will have. Today, Summers is going to help me demonstrate the moves you will be learning."
"This is about learning proper form," Max told her in a low voice. "We'll take it slow and easy."
"Yes, ma'am," Summers said.
"Okay, time to pair up," Janet said, after Max demonstrated with Summers the series of moves the cadets would be learning over the next few weeks, ending by repeating the moves they would be focusing on that day.
"Lucy?" she said, hearing a faint nervous giggle.
"Yes?" was breathed softly in an ear before the lips that had uttered the word made their way down her jaw, leaving behind a trail of tingling skin in their wake.
"We aren't alone," Amy murmured to her favorite ex-criminal.
In a graceful move that Amy was sure few others could copy, Lucy rolled off of her lap onto the couch, giving an unobstructed view of the entryway. Standing there, looking slightly embarrassed, was a tall girl, close to her own height. Her long brunette hair, in some kind of fancy braid, just barely reached the top of her skirt, which seemed to be the same pattern of plaid as the D.E.B.S. Academy uniform, but in a much darker shade of blue, almost red.
"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt," the girl said.
"You must be Dawn," Amy said, smiling at her. Mr. Phipps had said she and Lucy would be sharing the safe house with the Summers sisters, though the pictures he'd provided had been fairly old so she'd been expecting someone much shorter. "I'm Amy, and this is Lucy. We just moved in this morning."
"Hey," Lucy murmured in her usual neutral fashion.
Amy sighed. Lucy hadn't been happy with the idea of living in a D.E.B.S. safe house for the next year while Amy spent her down-time as Mr. Phipps' assistant. But Amy couldn't explain why she'd refused Lucy's offer to find them something more private. She didn't think Lucy would take it too well to find out she was living in the same house as a Global Justice agent. Not that she could tell her anyway, since the whole thing was classified. She'd barely managed to get permission to tell Max, Dom, and Janet once the term officially started.
"Have you talked with your sister?" she asked, waving her into the room, ignoring Lucy's low hiss of annoyance at the continued interruption.
"She calls every night," Dawn told her.
"How's she doing?" Amy asked, curious, suspecting that someone who was supposedly one of Global Justice's top agents, not that she'd been allowed to see her file, would be bored with the three week "H.A.S.E." course all new D.E.B.S. took to get in shape before their first year started.
Dawn shrugged. "Okay, I guess," she said.
"Max isn't giving her a hard time, is she?" Amy asked.
"Max?" Dawn asked.
"Max Brewer. She's one of the H.A.S.E. instructors this year. She can be a bit over the top," Amy said, ignoring Lucy's snort at the description. "We were squad-mates at the Academy."
"Buffy hasn't said anything," Dawn said, shrugging again.
"We're ordering pizza for dinner," Amy said. "Want to join us?"
"Sure," Dawn said, "if it's okay with both of you?" she asked.
"Fine," Lucy murmured, when Amy squeezed her hand. She imagined she could hear Lucy gritting her teeth at the invitation. She knew that Lucy thought she took the friendliness thing too far, but she couldn't help it.
"I'll be right back," Dawn said, giving them both a huge smile before leaving the room.
"Amy!" Lucy grumbled.
"You knew we'd be sharing the house," Amy said. "Besides, she's only a kid. She needs someone to look after her while her sister is doing H.A.S.E."
"I'll get you a puppy," Lucy said. "At least those are trainable."
"Would you rather share a house with Max and Janet?" Amy asked. "That was our other choice."
Lucy stared at her like she was crazy before pulling her back down to resume one of her favorite activities.
"You're both D.E.B.S.?" Dawn asked, skeptically, after swallowing a mouthful of pizza. All of the D.E.B.S. she'd met so far, mostly the retired ones who taught at her new school, had an overbearing wholesomeness to them. Amy had that in abundance, but Lucy seemed to lack whatever it was. She actually reminded Dawn of Faith, and not just because of her hair. Not necessarily evil, but more interested in having a good time than saving the world.
"Nope," Lucy said, taking another large slice of pizza.
"I am," Amy said, absently picking the olives off of Lucy's pizza. "Lucy's a crime consultant."
"Cool," Dawn said. She wondered if they taught that wholesomeness attitude at the Academy. She was going to have to make sure Buffy didn't succumb to it. She was bad enough as it was with the whole straitlaced thing, after a couple years with Global Justice. She even used crosswalks on empty streets. "Are you teaching at the Academy?"
"Not this time," Amy said, wordlessly handing a napkin to Lucy who grimaced but wiped her mouth.
"Oh?" Dawn prompted, while wondering how long they'd been together. They had that silent communication thing going on that she'd noticed the last time she'd visited Willow and Tara.
"It's the ten year break for my squad," Amy said.
"You've been a D.E.B. for ten years?"
"Not exactly," Amy said, swatting Lucy in response to her snort. "We've been together for nine years. Four at the Academy and five out in the field. Any squad that stays together that long gets to take a break from the field for their tenner."
"Like a sabbatical?" Dawn asked.
"Something like that," Amy said, popping open a Diet Pepsi. After pouring it into her glass, she took a sip. Making a face, she traded glasses with Lucy.
Dawn giggled and asked "Do you get to choose what you do? For your tenner, I mean."
"Sometimes," Amy said, idly watching Lucy poke the last piece. "It's already dead," she said, grabbing Lucy's fork.
"So you're doing something at the Academy?" Dawn asked, her fingers crossed under the table. Her new classmates were already weirded out because Buffy was at the Academy. She didn't need her housemates teaching at the Prep on top of that.
"Max and Dom are teaching," Amy said. "Janet's a teaching assistant and I'll be Mr. Phipps' assistant for the next year."
Lucy laughed. "Only the D.E.B.S. would be crazy enough to give those two teaching jobs," she said.
"One word, Lucy," Amy said. "Australia."
"Australia?" Dawn asked, puzzled.
"It was a thing," Lucy said, smirking. "Besides, nothing happened."
Buffy's GJ undercover instructors had always said that the best cover was one that had elements of truth to it. And with a little GJ computer wizardry, her cover for the D.E.B.S. Academy built on that truth to give her an almost foolproof one. But there were a few drawbacks to hers, she was reminded, after standing in line for an all too brief lunch her third day into H.A.S.E.
Unlike at Global Justice, with the often cited example of Kim Possible, to the brains and jocks in her cadet class being a cheerleader was not something worthy of respect. They weren't hostile, but the jocks considered her a light-weight, and the brains reflexively moved away, remembering, she suspected, an encounter with their high school version of a Cordelia Chase. And being singled out by their Drill Instructor on the first day didn't help.
She'd been slightly surprised to find that the role of perky cheerleader wasn't too hard to play by drawing deep within herself for that point in her life when she'd been the proto-typical perky cheerleader. Adding a dash of her sister's exuberance provided just the right touch. Hopefully, Dawn wouldn't laugh too hard and give away her cover when she saw her.
Looking around, she spotted an empty seat at a corner table in the crowded cafeteria. Carefully sidestepping several loudly talking cadets crowded around a tall, statuesque blonde at another table, she slid her tray, with its slice of some unidentifiable meat, a large helping of a vegetable that had seen better days, a roll, and a cookie, onto the table and sat down in front of it, ignoring the three women already at the table.
"If it isn't Kim Possible," a snarky voice said, as she picked up her knife and fork and stared glumly at the meat, hoping it was her imagination that it was moving under a layer of some brown, gravy-like substance. Stabbing it with her fork, she cut off a small chunk. She wondered if forcing the cadets to eat something with the toughness of shoe leather was part of the weeding-out process she'd been warned about.
"Kim Who?" Buffy asked, in a perky voice, giving up on the meat after a second bite and reaching for the cookie, only to have a large hand snatch it away. "Hey!" she yelled. "That was mine!"
"I think we should check her for red roots," a different voice said, even as Buffy watched a woman twice her size, auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail, open her mouth, miming swallowing her cookie in one bite.
"I don't have red hair," Buffy said. She held up a lock of her short hair. "Blonde, see?" Reaching over, she snatched the cookie back. "Get your own cookie."
"You've got balls for a cheerleader," the third girl, her hair a mix of neon pink and green, said. "Josie has maimed people for less."
"And I'm chopped liver?" the original voice said, coming from a tiny woman with brown hair.
"Why would anyone chop liver?" Buffy asked, using bubble-headed blonde voice number three, perfected during a week long GJ op at a beauty pageant.
"Cute," said neon hair. "Do people actually fall for that act?"
Buffy winked at her. "Who says it's an act?" she said, before breaking her cookie in half and handing half to Josie.
"I still think she could be Kim Possible in disguise," said snarky voice. "What's your middle name?"
"Anne, with an 'e'," Buffy said. "Still not Kim Possible," she added, scrunching up her nose like she'd smelled something disgusting.
"Do the curtains match the drapes?" neon girl said with a leer. "I say we take the Pet elsewhere and find out."
"Pet?" Buffy asked. "And no, but still not a redhead," she said, not phased by the crude comment. She'd had worse directed at her. Conversations could get fairly crude on a long stakeout, even in a supposedly upstanding organization like GJ.
"Teacher's Pet," snarky voice said, after Josie stopped giggling at Buffy's answer.
"So, you want to take my place as practice dummy? I'm sure that can be arranged," Buffy said cheerfully.
"Pass," she said. "I have too much self respect."
"So, Summers, what is your name?" neon hair asked.
Buffy sighed, nibbling on her cookie for a moment before answering. "Buffy," she said.
"No, really, what is your name?"
Buffy shrugged. "I'm from LA," she said. "It was a thing that year."
"Your parents must have hated you," snarky voice said. "I like Pet better."
"And yours?" Buffy asked, ignoring the comment.
"Billie," said snarky voice.
"Claudia," said neon hair, "but you can call me Claud."
"Okay," Buffy said, picking up her fork again, this time to sample the vegetable.
"Not just balls," Claud said. "You must have an iron stomach."
"Lunch," Buffy said. Pointing at her tray, "food or something like it," she said.
"Or something," Billie said, visibly shuddering.
"I like the cookies," Josie said, winking at Buffy.
"Me too," Buffy said, agreeing with her, cautiously chewing a mouthful of vegetable. "Edible," she announced, hoping her GJ anti-poison shots were still working. Not that she thought anyone would try to poison her. "But bland and tasteless. Needs something."
"A trash can," Claud said, poking the dish on her own tray.
"The peeps would check you off for that," Billie said. "They're watching us." She waved over Josie’s shoulder at the camera over the main door.
"There are at least five more," Buffy said, pointing at five different points in the room with her fork. She’d actually detected over a dozen cameras, and other sensors blanketing the room in a classic full coverage configuration, similar to setup she’d assisted GJ techs with in the past, but they didn’t need to know that.
"It’s a spy school," Claud said. "I bet they use them for some class."
"Food as weapons of terror," Billie said. "They want to see our expressions as it kills us."
Before Buffy could add her own potentially witty comment, the lunch gong sounded three times. Shaking her head, she stood up. "Later," she said, nodding at the others, before spinning with just enough force to give her plaid skirt that classic twirl, reinforcing her perky, cheerleader image, to the obvious delight of her lunch companions, if the whistling was any indication.