Captain Americut: The Fall
Dedicated to Stan Lee and the amazing people behind the MCU. Love you 3000.
Captain Americut: The Fall
Written by Noah
A New Recruit
Clark had interrupted me from my conversation. It was during the Halloween Party, and this really sweet-looking girl with blonde hair had come up to me and asked if she could speak with me for a bit. I obliged. Before we could talk, though, Clark shouted ‘GARDNER!’ and pulled me away. That guy…
Anyway, after talking with Clark, I went to go find the girl. She’d obviously had something to say, so I might as well give her the chance.
I found her halfheartedly enjoying Mr. Good Clean Fun’s performance. I stepped up and held out my hand. “My name is Andy Gardner. I believe you wanted to speak earlier?”
The girl smiled and shook my hand. “I’m Laura. Laura Rushman. You’re the Captain America guy, right?”
“I prefer Americut, actually,” I said, sheepishly. The whole origami-pun-thing can be pretty embarrassing when you explain it to other people.
“Americut works. I like it.” She adopted a look of faux-seriousness and continued. “This whole F.O.L.D. thing you’ve got going on here? I want in.”
“Really? Well, it’s a pretty tough club. Sure you can handle it?”
She smiled again. “I think I can do it.” She pulled an origami puppet out of her pocket. It had blonde hair and two stun batons. I knew exactly who it was.
“Ooooh, I see.”
Her face changed, so this time she was the more sheepish one. “So, yeah, I didn’t know if I should do the Infinity War design or not. I don’t know how the origami rules work, so this seemed like the best idea.”
“This is perfectly fine. Black Widow has been far too absent from the F.O.L.D. roster.”
“Are you saying I’m in?”
“Why not? You seem to have some ambition, and you have a puppet already. Those are pretty much the only prerequisites.”
She beamed. “Thank you! The other school I was at made their club so exclusive.”
I held out my hand and she shook it vigorously. “Welcome to F.O.L.D., Ms. Rushman. We’re gonna need you.”
By Laura Rushman
Oh…oh boy. This was big. Like, really big. Bad big. This would be really bad for both Kirby and Wheeler.
I couldn’t take this to the Director, obviously. Um…Tilly? No, no, she adores Trent, that wouldn’t work either. Jessieca? No, they’ve been too busy dating to notice anything else.
Andy? Yes, he’d work. He’s kind-hearted, he’s smart, he’s able to fix things, he’s just amazing in and out. Yeah, he’d know what to do. Well, I sure hope he will.
I like to go to Madison Park on the weekends. It’s a great place to be quiet, relax, and collect my thoughts from the past week. I especially like to bring a book and read in the small gazebo by the little waterfall. It’s just so serene.
That’s where I was today. In the gazebo, reading Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time. The waterfall nearby was frozen over, glistening in the morning light. The sun was shining, and surprisingly it wasn’t too cold for being the start of January. Snow was on the ground, nice and fluffy. My idea of a perfect day.
After finishing a chapter, I stood up to stretch my legs. Leaning out of the gazebo, I looked down to the lake, where people were skating. That’s when I saw them.
I recognized Trent because of his big brown trench coat. He was on the ice, skating, holding the hand of a girl. At first I thought it was Tilly, because I knew she kind of liked Trent; maybe they were finally going out! However, this girl was way taller than Tilly. She had bright pink hair, and was wearing a bright purple coat with a big yellow ‘W’ patch on the breast pocket.
I realized she was Seyla Solstice, the current student body president of Wheeler.
Trent and Seyla skated for awhile, before they shared some hot chocolate and kissed on one of the benches.
I sat back down fast after that. If it got out that the director of F.O.L.D. was not sort-of only cheating on Tilly (I know he wasn’t really, but everybody knows she liked him anyway), but sort-of cheating on her with the head of Wheeler, it would be really bad.
So, Andy, this is a big deal. This is for your eyes only. Please help me figure out what to do.
As you can probably tell by now, I’m not usually one for introspection. I try to tell it like it is, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I’ve found that truth is incredibly important, even if some people would prefer to ignore it. I don’t compromise, unless it’s of the utmost importance…as you’ll see below.
That’s what I find our school newspaper so difficult, and why I had to deal with one specific reporter yesterday, which led to some of the most trouble I’ve been in since taking up the paper shield.
“Who’s our guy?” Laura asked me during lunch.
“That’s him,” I said, pointing a short kid with black hair. “Austin Baker.” Baker was generally considered an annoyance by everyone, and had an extensive list of enemies. Somehow, he’d gotten a job at the school paper, and he’d used his newfound position to attack anyone he had a problem with. This harassment had to stop, and me and Laura were the ones who were going to stop him.
“When do we move?” Laura asked, quietly. At that moment Baker looked up from his lunch and saw us staring. He stood up immediately and began heading towards the door.
“We move now,” I replied.
We followed Baker out of the cafeteria and into the hall, but we were blocked by a big guy. I recognized him immediately.
“Oh, come on, Brody,” Laura groaned. “Let us through.”
“I mean, I’d like to,” Brody, the big guy, replied, “But Austin has some…bad stuff on me. If I mess up, he’ll publish it.”
I discreetly rolled my eyes. Brody always had the best of intentions but they somehow always sent him to the wrong side. “Brody, we’ve helped you out before, right?”
“Can you help us out now? We’re trying to stop Austin, so he can’t mess with anyone else. We can’t do that if you’re in the way.”
Brody shuffled his feet. “Well…fine. But you better stop him.” He moved aside.
“Thanks, man!” Laura shouted as we ran off.
Austin hadn’t gotten very far. He glanced backward and saw us chasing after him and panicked. He turned sharply into an unused Science classroom, trapping himself. We stopped at the door, and slowly walked inside. Austin was hiding behind a plastic skeleton in the corner of the room.
“Um, we can still see you,” Laura said.
“Go away! You don’t know what I’m capable of,” Austin shouted, trying to get us to leave.
“Son,” I said, adopting my best commanding voice, which admittedly wasn’t much of one, “We know exactly what you do, and that’s why we’re here to make you stop.” I easily stepped behind the skeleton and pulled Austin out from behind it. He stared at me kind of funny, like he was unsure if he should start laughing. I stepped back.
Laura stepped forward and immediately took charge. “Austin, you’re a small kid. There’s a lot of people who would like to make you smaller if you don’t stop your slander now!”
“It’s not slander,” I whispered to her. “In print it’s libel.”
“Same thing!” She said, exasperated.
However, her threats had the desired effect on Austin. “I was just tired of having people pick on me,” he explained, desperately. “When Desiree gave me the job, she gave me power! Don’t take it away from me!”
“Ever heard of ‘great power, great responsibility?” Laura inquired, snidely. “I’m pretty sure Cal Largent would love to explain it to you.”
I held up my hand to shush Laura. “Desiree? Who’s Desiree?”
Austin looked affronted. “How could you not know who Desiree is?”
Laura leaned up to me. “Desiree Dawson is the editor of the Kirby King.”
“Is that what the newspaper is called?” I asked. “Huh.”
“You don’t know what the newspaper is called?” Austin asked, as indignantly as before.
“I don’t actually read the newspaper, no,” I explained, sheepishly. “Laura’s the one who keeps me filled in.” At this, Laura gave me a sweet smile. I smiled back.
“So, why’d Desiree give you a job?” Laura asked.
“Because Desiree Dawson is the nicest person in this entire school,” Austin explained further. “She gives jobs to those she knows don’t have the best luck. Most of the reporters she has on staff were the subject of the worst bullying and harassment in Kirby. She’s the best editor Kirby has ever had. And she should be, since she’s the daughter of the Vice Principal.”
“We have a Vice Principal?” I asked Laura. She shrugged.
I turned back to Austin, mulling this information over. “Obviously she’s not the nicest person ever, if she was letting you print the stuff you did.”
“Okay, okay, I’m corrupt, but she’s not,” Austin said, breaking. “I’ll stop writing the mean stuff, okay? I just don’t want to disappoint her.”
I let go of him and backed off. “Fine. Get out of here. But if we get rid of you attacking any other student, we’ll be a lot less nice.” Beside me, Laura cracked her knuckles for emphasis.
Austin instinctively held his hands up. “Okay, okay, you have my word.” Immediately, he bolted out of the classroom and down the hall.
“You think he’ll keep his word?” Laura asked me.
“I’d like to think he would, but I’m not super naive like you are,” I replied, grinning. Laura punched me in the shoulder.
Suddenly, she looked like she remembered something very urgent. “Um, Andy, there’s something I need to tell you. And, since we’re already alone in here, now’s as good a time as any.”
I did not like where this was going. I spontaneously started to blush. “I’m really flattered, Laura-”
Laura turned bright red. “-No! No, it’s nothing like that.” We both turned away, me feeling like an idiot. Laura brushed her hair out of her face. “No, um…it’s about Trent…and him not being a potential traitor…”
She then filled me in on everything that she saw.
“Is that as bad as I think it is?” She asked, after explaining everything.
“Um…yes, yes it is,” I said simply. I’d never gotten to know Trent all that well, but he’d seemed nice enough. I mean, if Tilly Waterson, one of my best friends and the embodiment of happiness that she was, was great friends with him, that must mean something. And, being the head of F.O.L.D., the leading group of Kirby, had to mean something to him! But now that Trent had been caught going out with the head of what many still believed to be the enemy school…
This was one of those situations where compromise was necessary.
“We can’t tell anyone,” I said, finally. “We need to work this out just between us. If this gets out, there will be pandemonium.”
“That’s what I thought,” Laura agreed, biting her lip nervously. “So, what do we do?”
I ran my fingers through my hair, completely out of my depth. Now that the head of F.O.L.D. was corrupt, what could be done?
“I don’t know,” I said.
PAGE BREAK: ONE WEEK LATER
First Kinda Sorta Date, Maybe?
Now don’t go thinking I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, an expression I love. I just have to get thoughts out there, because there’s a lot of them.
I was at the park today, just for fun. Since my dad went back to active duty this year, I’ve spent a lot of time by myself. Now, don’t worry, I’m not by myself; I’m staying with my aunt and my baby cousins, who are really loud and annoying and…um…I’m rambling.
All that to say, I was at the park. It was around lunch time, and the cold was starting to get to me – there’s only so much walking someone can do in the snow – when I saw Trent! I’d actually never seen him outside the Kirby grounds. It surprised me. He seemed to be looking for someone. I waved to him.
“Hi, Trent!” I called. Trent jumped, obviously surprised to see me as well. It made me laugh.
“Oh, Tilly,” he replied, recomposing himself. “Hello!”
“Looking for someone?”
Trent smiled. “No, just enjoying the cool air. Walk with me?”
Trent was actually inviting me to walk with him? That was…surprising. I hoped he’d remembered what I’d told him last year, you know, after slapping him. But hey, what was the harm?
We ended up walking around and talking for a couple hours. Trent pretty frequently looked behind him, as if making sure no one was following. I asked him about it.
“I’m the head of F.O.L.D. Lots of enemies. Why else do you think I don’t go outside of school often?”
I shrugged. “I just thought you were a vampire or something.”
“What kind of vampire? Hopefully not Twilight.”
“Definitely not. I was thinking more Count Chocula than Edward.”
He chuckled. “I can live with Chocula.”
We discussed F.O.L.D., our families, music, all the stuff we like. Finally, around two, Trent had to leave.
“Thanks for hanging out, Tilly. Pleasure running into you!”
“Of course, sir- er, Trent.”
He smiled and walked home. I headed home, too. I came inside, ate a snack with my aunt, and went to my computer to write this.
I’m still not sure what I feel about Trent. And, that certainly wasn’t a date, I think. Or maybe it was? I have no idea. But, I had fun. Trent’s a good friend. What could go wrong?
Subject: I’m not so sure…
By Laura (in email to Andy)
Andy, it’s been over a week and I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to keep the info to ourselves.
It’s hard to see Trent at school and act like everything’s alright. It feels super dishonest!
Tilly texted me about her ‘sorta date’ and it made me feel terrible. When she told me how Trent seemed to be looking for someone… I told her.
Don’t be mad, Andy! I just can’t see Tilly going out with Trent, that dirty double agent.
Sure, it might be a good idea to hide it from the public, but keeping it from people directly involved is not a good idea.
I think we need to go ahead and confront the problem head on. I really hope you agree.
I still trust you, though!
An Old Friend
I don’t know if you all know this, but I’ve known Andy Gardner for a long time. We met in Sunday school back when we were preschoolers, and we’ve stayed pretty good friends since then. I think he had a crush on me for awhile…but then again, I had a crush on him too for even longer. Now, though, we’re just good friends, and we watch out for each other.
We live in the same neighborhood, so sometimes we walk to school together. This morning was one of those days. We met at the sidewalk in front of the Qwikpick gas station, per usual. But something was really bothering Andy. He barely mumbled a hello and couldn’t look me in the eye. I immediately knew that he knew about Trent…
“What’s up?” I asked, skeptically.
“Oh, nothing much,” he replied, his voice lower than usual.
“For being a part of an organization of paper spies, you’re a really bad liar.”
“You’ve said so before.”
He looked back and forth, as if making sure no one was listening. Then he finally looked me in the eye. He sighed. “Okay, Tilly, listen…this is gonna hurt.” And he told me.
It hurt all right, hearing it for the second time, but it hurt a bit more that Andy hadn’t told me yet. “Laura told me already. How long have you known?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “A week and a few days.”
Ouch. “A week?! That didn’t seem like pertinent information?”
“I know. I just didn’t want you to get hurt.” He sighed. “If it wasn’t for Laura, I wouldn’t have told you yet. Thank her. It’s my fault.”
“Yeah, well- thanks for watching out for me, but-” I didn’t know what to say, then. I wanted to be mad at Andy, but I know he was doing what he thought was best.
Well, now that everybody knows, I guess I better tell you that I did, kind of, like Trent. I’d liked him for about a year, probably because I’d worked so closely with him. He was really funny, in this stoic, deadpan way. He was strong, mysterious, and the way he wrote haiku was very cute. I know it doesn’t seem like enough to develop a crush on him, but nobody asked you.
When Laura texted me about Trent going out with another girl, at the ice pond, no less…I’ll admit I cried a bit. I’m not proud.
Andy looked terrible. I gave him a hug and let out my own pent-up sadness while he awkwardly shuffled back and forth. I pulled away and rubbed my eyes.
“You can’t tell anyone, obviously,” Andy mumbled, still unsure of what to do. “Only me, you and Laura know.”
“Yeah. Fall of civilization and all that?” I sniffled.
“F.O.L.D. has to stay alive. Just because Trent’s a jerk doesn’t mean everyone is. We need to tell him off as soon as we get to school, deal with the problem quietly, and…I’m not sure what else.”
I nodded, still rubbing tears off of my face. They were really cold on my cheeks in the January air. “Yeah, okay.” I forced a little smile. “Thanks for watching out for me, Andy. Just…don’t keep things like this from me. I’m your friend.”
“Yeah, okay. Um…shall we head to school?”
“Lead the way.”
So everything had to be kept quiet. That wouldn’t be very hard. We’re a paper spy organization; we’re used to keeping things quiet. Like Trent, keeping his other girlfriend quiet…okay, I won’t make that comparison.
When we got to school, I had one goal in mind; break up with Trent, and nothing else.
That didn’t really work.
Conversation recorded by Jessica Smith-Holt, just because
Jessica: Holy *BLEEP*, that’s not good.
(Expletive in reference to the Kirby King newspaper editorial on bulletin board: TRENTON ADAMS, F.O.L.D. LEADER AND RELATIONSHIP CHEATER)
Jessica (reading paper): Trenton Adams, leader of F.O.L.D., was seen Saturday on a date with Wheeler student body president, Seyla Solstice. Adams, who was thought to have liked assistant Tilly Waterson, went to Madison park and ice skated with the enemy. This information was discovered by F.O.L.D. agents Laura Rushman and Andrew Gardner, who planned on hiding the information from the general public. Desiree Dawson, the head of the newspaper, was asked for her opinion on the issue: “If they think they can hide information like this from the students of Kirby, what does that mean for F.O.L.D. itself? What other secrets do they feel they have to hide from us?” This new development comes amidst the long-brewing controversy surrounding the rumored ‘student files’, detailing student’s backgrounds and lives as parts of Kirby and Wheeler. Dawson is calling for F.O.L.D.’s end, as its “encroachment” on student privacy must be stopped.
Jesse Rodriguez: Babe, that is not good.
Jessica: No duh. If Tilly didn’t know already-
Tilly Waterson: Oh, I know.
*Agents Tilly Waterson and Andrew Gardner appear*
Andy: By the way, please don’t use that kind of language, Jessica. It’s unbecoming.
Jessica: *BLEEP*, Gardner. You knew this whole thing?
Jesse: This is definitely something that F.O.L.D. should have known, Andy. You shouldn’t have kept this to yourself.
Andy: It…wasn’t a great solution, but I stand by it, Jesse.
Jessica (snidely): We’ll see, Gardner.
Tilly: We need to check headquarters. Maybe Trent will be there…?
*Clark and Cal Largent walk up, read article*
Clark: I knew Trent was a scumbag. I could just feel it.
Cal: That’s not cool, man.
Andy: Yeah, we should go now. Clark, wanna come?
Clark: I’m not touching this with a ten-foot pole. If you need any help, I’ll be ignoring you. Good luck, guys.
*Jessica, Jesse, Andy and Tilly head towards basement headquarters. Upon arriving at headquarters, the base is almost completely empty. Laura Rushman is wandering back and forth between tables, running her fingers through her hair frantically*
Andy: Woah, Laura, calm down. What happened?
Laura: Oh, Andy, thank goodness. Oh, and you guys too.
Jesse: I’m honored.
Laura: As far as I can tell, the paper was put up last night. Trent came down here and everyone turned on him. They all packed up their laptops and stuff and left, saying they’d never come back. F.O.L.D…is dead.
Tilly: …And Trent?
Laura: I have no idea. F.O.L.D. falls and Trent’s nowhere to be seen. I’m really sorry, Tilly.
Tilly (angrily): It’s not your fault, Laura. It’s his.
Jessica: That’s not entirely true. If you hadn’t kept this information and shared it with F.O.L.D., there’d probably be a bunch of members left. You betrayed us, guys.
Jesse: F.O.L.D. is the secret keepers; you don’t keep the secrets from the keepers.
Tilly: …That doesn’t make sense…
Andy: We need to make sure everything is going fine in the rest of the school. F.O.L.D. took care of everything. It won’t take long for everything to go to crap. Jesse, Jessica, I hate to ask this of you, but-
Jessica: No way, Andy. You’re a good leader for the OrigAvengers, but I don’t think you’re the best option to replace Trent. So, I’m leaving F.O.L.D.
Jesse: Wait, seriously? But-
Jessica: You don’t have to Jesse, but I’m leaving.
Jesse: Eh, if you are, I am. Sorry Andy. You three; do your best to fix this. I believe in you, even if Jessica doesn’t.
“What the crap was that?” I asked as soon as Jessieca left. Andy sat down, looking, for once, out of his depth.
“Jessica doesn’t think I should have kept the information about Trent to myself. Jesse does whatever Jessica does. So, not even members of the OrigAvengers will stand by us.”
“Why do we need them to stand by us?”
Tilly had her head in her hands. “F.O.L.D. was this incorruptible force to a lot of kids, but also an untrustworthy group to others. The people who liked us are gonna hate us now, and the people who hate us will hate us worse. We’re, like, public enemy number one now.”
“But there’s three of us-”
“You know what I mean!”
I sat down next to Andy. “You made the right decision, Andy. I mean, I trusted it was right. You can’t beat yourself up for that.” I grabbed Origami Black Widow from my pocket and handed her to Andy. “At least Black Widow thinks so.”
Andy smiled. “Thanks, Laura. I’ll keep that in mind.” He stood up, stretched, and put his trademarked Business Face™ on. “So, first thing’s first, we have to-”
Andy was interrupted by the door opening. In the doorway stood Cal Largent, Clark’s younger brother and the guy who had Spider-Fold. He looked a bit timid.
“Uh, hey guys. Just so you know, I’m totally on your side. This whole thing sucks and you guys are probably gonna need all the help you can get-” Cal rambled.
“What’s up, Cal?” Andy said, interrupting him.
“Oh, yeah,” he stopped. “Um, the Student Body President wants to see you.”
“Harrison?” Tilly asked, incredulously. “Great. Just the guy I want to see now.”
“Harrison?” I asked. I realized I hadn’t actually met the Student Body President. I felt slightly guilty about that.
Tilly turned towards me to explain. “Harrison Osgood Herring has been our SBP for awhile, because he’s an amazing politician and knows what the people want. However, he’s also a slimy guy who acts like everything is a-okay when it really isn’t, and he thinks he can make everything better. Back in middle school, after my dog died, he asked me out because he thought a date with him would make me feel better.”
“Ew, gross,” I replied.
“No matter the personal preferences, it’d be best if we go,” Andy reasoned. “Having Harrison on our side would do a world of good.”
“Okay, then, follow me, please,” Cal said, awkwardly, leading us up into the hallway.
Ever since I came to Kirby at the beginning of the semester, people had always been nice to me and fairly welcoming. It had helped, a lot, after all the family drama I’d had last year. Especially since becoming Andy’s F.O.L.D. partner, everything felt good. Andy did most of that, but having the actual respect of my peers was something I’d never had.
Now, though, as we were walking through the school to the Teacher’s Lounge (Harrison’s unofficial office), it felt just like it had at my old school. It was better when people just ignored us; however, some people were actively against us now.
“F.O.L.D. deserves to go down with that slimeball Trent!”
“To think I ever thought you guys were cool.”
“Any other important information you’d like to share with us, idiots?”
Obviously, these are not all of the insults; some were way more expletive-filled. Thankfully, Andy, in his quiet stoicism, made some of the others back up. Also, Tilly seemed to have the least insults hurled at her; I hoped they’d realize that she was the victim here.
“So, uh, here we are,” Cal said as we got to the Lounge. “Good luck.”
We stepped inside and Harrison was waiting for us in the middle of the room. He was sitting in one of the leather armchairs, talking with a girl I hadn’t met. She had darker skin, an athletic build and short black hair with pink streaks. When they saw us, they both stood.
“I’d like to say it’s a good day, but I’m not a liar,” Harrison said, gravely. “Though, I am glad to see you. Tilly, it’s been too long. I’m so sorry.” Tilly discreetly glanced at me and grimaced. I tried to stifle a giggle. “And Mr. Gardner, I’m glad that you’re the one in charge here. No matter the mistakes you made, I’ve always liked you.”
“Thank you, Harrison,” Andy replied, a bit confused. “Now, what did you call us here for?”
Harrison turned to the other girl. “Well, friends, none of us here distrust you. It’s F.O.L.D. and Mr. Adams that we have a problem with. However, we do need to ask you about your thoughts. Ms. Dawson?”
“Of course, Mr. Herring.” The girl turned to us and gave a slight bow. “I’m the head of the school paper. My name is Desiree Dawson.”
Day with Desiree
I’ll admit; I didn’t like standing in front of the girl who’d just made life incredibly hard for us. Especially since I couldn’t read her at all, and see what she was thinking. I needed to talk with her. But, before I could, Laura blurted out “You’re the reporter who Austin Brody was so scared of!”
Desiree smirked, which wasn’t a great sign. “That I am. But that was for good reason. Everything I do, I do for a good reason.”
“Like dismantling F.O.L.D. from the top down?” Tilly asked.
I stepped in front, knowing it was time to take charge. “What’s your game, Desiree?”
“My ‘game’ is the same as yours, Andrew. The betterment of the school by way of defeating potential threats.” Harrison had stepped back, as if enjoying the confrontation. Desiree sat down and motioned towards three empty chairs, asking us to sit as well. Me and Tilly obliged, but Laura stayed standing.
“I highly doubt that,” Laura said, arms crossed.
Desiree sighed. “Listen, Laura, I’ve been doing my job at this school for four years now. Last I checked you’ve only been here for one. I outrank you.”
“Get to the point, Ms. Dawson,” I interrupted, annoyed. I didn’t like people who took forever to say what they needed to say. Come to think of it, that’s one of the reasons I have trouble with Clark.
The girl rolled her eyes. She reached inside her backpack and took out a tablet and started fiddling with it absentmindedly.
“So?” Laura pressed.
“Man, your ward is touchy.” She glanced up at Harrison, who didn’t even seem to be listening anymore; he was talking on the phone. He looked at Desiree and nodded, leaving the room. Finally, she turned to us, suddenly very serious. “Andrew, have you ever heard of ‘The Power of the Press’?”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“That saying defines my sort of abilities here. I’m the head of the school paper here. It’s my domain.”
“How come I’ve never heard of you before last week, then?”
“I like to have some anonymity. Besides, you OrigAvengers wouldn’t agree with my, or our, methods. But we do all the good you public faces do and more. You can call us H.Y.D.E.”
Tilly stood up. “Like Hydra? The bad guys?”
“Quiet, please, Ms. Waterson. Let me continue.”
Tilly sat down grumpily. Desiree continued.
“It’s been our papers that have kept the school safe. The articles that got rid of Micheal Rainey? That was my dad. And who do you think sent Ezra Cronin to expose the Science Group? That was all me. We do good work.”
“Your ‘work’ is a bit underhanded, don’t you think? Destroying people’s reputations, breaking down clubs like this?”
Desiree’s look turned serious. “The people and groups we ‘break down’ are threats to the school, and we treat them as such. Surely you can respect that. It’s why we made Trent’s…excursions public knowledge.”
Tilly looked more mad than I’d ever seen her before. “Even if Trent…was a jerk, you don’t have the right to destroy someone’s life like that. That’s totally awful.”
“Well, Tilly, how long would F.O.L.D. still be functioning under a corrupt, traitorous leader? It’s better to kill it as soon as possible, rather than let something like that grow and fester.”
“We could find a new leader,” Laura suggested.
“Do you think anyone is going to trust F.O.L.D. after this? Even if you got the most righteous leader possible, like Dover MacLeash, or even All-American Hunk over here,” she said, gesturing to me. I rolled my eyes. I noticed Laura blushing, hopefully from anger, “It wouldn’t work. You’ve lost all the trust you had. Now, we’ll just go back to being a regular school without the Children’s FBI working in it.”
I leaned forward. “Unfortunately, Ms. Dawson, our school isn’t a regular school. We face problems that other schools don’t. F.O.L.D. was there to fix those problems. Take out the exterminator and you’re left with a lot of bugs.”
“That’s a terrible comparison,” Tilly said.
“Well, uh, you get the point,” I replied, leaning back again. Every time I thought I had control of a situation, my lack of creative speech would ruin it. It’d happened too many times to count; it was one of the more frustrating parts of being Captain Americut.
“You don’t know how right you are, Andrew…with everything that’s already started…everything to come…”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I think you know. We’ll see, Andrew. Who knows, it might end up for the better. Or, H.Y.D.E. is right and everything is greater than before,” Desiree said, with finality. “It’s getting to be time for class, so I’ll let you all go. It was great to meet you all.”
Harrison shook my hand as we left the room. “Thank you for speaking with us. Hopefully, this crisis can be averted, and any crises to come.”
I nodded, but with none of the enthusiasm Harrison seemed to have. He seemed to be enjoying the conflict, and waiting for others to take control of it. That didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t like the way they’d mentioned future problems. It reminded me too much of my conversation months ago with Seyla Solstice…about T.H.A.N.O.S.
We left the Lounge and split up, heading towards our respective classes. I couldn’t agree with Desiree on any level. She obviously thought she was doing the best for Kirby, but what if her ideas sent everything into anarchy?
“Do you have any idea what we do now?” Laura asked me, before splitting up.
“Maybe…” I replied. “But before we do anything…we have to talk to Trent.”
A Text Conversation Between the OrigAvengers
Recorded by Clark Largent’s Phone
Clark: So what do you guys think about the crap that’s going on
Dove: Do you mean everything surrounding Seyla and Trenton? Personally, I do not like it one bit.
Clark: No i mean Andy
Clark: I mean the guy lied about something
Jessica: I can’t believe it. Andy is supposed to be our leader.
Ally: I trust him, tho. Andy hasn’t messed up yet, let’s give him a break.
Dove: I agree with Ally. Andy simply made a mistake.
Jessie: of course you agree with ally
Jessica: Yeah, Dove, but this is an important issue. He hid the fact that a leader from Kirby and a leader from Wheeler have been making out behind everybody’s backs.
Jessie: all because of that new girl
Jessica: It’s been a week now. Things are not looking good. At least at Kirby, people are at each other’s throats.
Dove: I do not know about people being at the throats of others, but Wheeler students are also having some trouble.
Clark: Andy does deserve some slack
Clark: Let’s see how it goes
Ally: Thank you, Clark.
Talking to Trent proved to be a lot harder than I’d expected.
For a solid week, he’s been avoiding us. Sure, he shows up to class and all that, but as soon as classes were done and schools were out, Trent would vanish. Nobody knew where he went, and with tensions rising in the school itself, it was super important that we learned wherever he was.
So, as soon as school let out, we went to ask his mom.
“You’re from FOLD, aren’t you?”
That was the first thing Trent’s mom said to us when we came to the door of his house. When she came to the door, it kind of surprised me; Trent was usually so well put together, but his mom seemed…not? She was wearing a bathrobe at 4 in the afternoon and looked like she’d been drinking. I did not like the look of her.
“Yes, ma’am,” Andy replied. “We’re just looking for Trent.”
“Who are you three?” Mrs. Adams asked, squinting at us. “I would have remembered Trent mentioning a motley crew like you.”
I highly doubted that, but that comment seemed to make Tilly sad. She composed herself quickly, though. “Um, I’m Tilly. That’s Andy, and that’s Laura. We’re…Trent’s friends. Are you sure Trent never talked about us?”
“Never heard of you,” she replied. I decided that I did not like her.
I glanced at Andy, who I knew would be having a difficult time. He didn’t know how to forcefully interrogate someone, especially an adult. I decided to take over.
“Ma’am,” I started, with an even tone. “We’re part of F.O.L.D., and like Tilly said…friends of Trent. I don’t know if he’s told you anything, but F.O.L.D. has crumbled because of a mistake he made. We need answers.”
Mrs. Adams groaned. “I knew F.O.L.D. wouldn’t last with him in charge.” She sighed. “You’ll find him at the coffee shop downtown. Good luck.”
‘New Grounds Coffee and Tea’ is a coffee shop in downtown Madison that most people try to ignore. It’s a very popular place with Madison’s millennial crowd, but most kids and adults never go in. The coffee is watery, the tea is bitter, and the building itself is the color of day-old creamer. We wouldn’t go in there unless it was absolutely necessary, which, in this case, it was.
My dad drove us, which was a bit embarrassing (the usual “Nice boyfriend you got there, sweetie.”) but it was a small price to pay. And, to be fair, it is nice to have my dad take interest in my life, but that’s beside the point.
We walked inside New Grounds. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what we saw.
There’s a stage at the back wall of New Grounds that people use for slam poetry and weird stuff like that. Director Trenton Adams, my former calm, serious, all-business boss, was sitting on this stage with a guitar, reciting bad haiku. He had two eyepatches on, covering both eyes. He looked really dumb.
“You can tape paper
But you can’t really tape up
My sad, broken heart.”
A few of the hipsters clapped. Tilly gagged.
“I can’t believe I thought his haiku were cute,” she groaned.
“Trent!” Andy shouted. “We need to talk.”
The barista glared at him. “Quiet down, man. You’ll ruin the vibes.”
Andy nodded, embarrassed. “Sorry.”
Trent stood up. “Can’t a guy feel sorry for himself in peace?”
“Not when the school you led is going to pieces,” I replied.
Tilly glared. “You have a lot to explain sir. I mean, Trent.”
Trent stumbled into a booth, which was fairly impressive considering both of his eyes were covered. He looked so different from even just yesterday, like all of his former confidence was gone. We followed him into the booth and sat down.
Andy glanced at me, giving me the go-ahead. I nodded. “Talk, I commanded.
Trent was frowning. “You guys sound mad. Why is it bad that I’m going out with Seyla? I chose all of you because you were for unity.”
“Not that kind of unity,” I said, grossed out.
“That’s not what I meant, Laura. What I mean is, by uniting the heads of both schools, real good could come of it.”
“Dating in secret is a terrible way to go about it.”
Trent laughed quietly. “You are far more intimidating than I sound. Andy hired a good agent.”
Tilly slammed the table. “Don’t change the subject, Trent! You knew we would have supported you if you’d just told us! Instead, you lied and led me on. That really hurts. I thought we were, you know…best friends.”
Trent lifted one of his eye patches, revealing his blue eye. “I never meant to lead you on, though I can see why you thought that was a date. I’ll take responsibility for that one. But, there’s tons of things going on behind the surface that you guys can’t understand yet. Seyla knows why, and I do too, and that’s why it had to be secret. Now, though…I trust Harrison to make good calls…”
“What does Harrison have to do with anything?” Andy asked.
“Nevermind him. But, really, it didn’t have anything to do with not trusting you. Well, it did, but not like that. I stand by that decision.”
Tilly crossed her arms. “You’ve destroyed F.O.L.D. because of this, Trent. Almost every single agent has resigned, including Jesseca.”
Trent nodded. “I’m aware. But…have you considered that F.O.L.D. might be at fault for a lot of the problems in Wheeler and Kirby? Maybe it was time for it to end.”
“Okay, Kylo Ren,” I sneered. “What do you suppose we do now?”
Andy had been mostly quiet, studying our one-eyed hostage. Whenever he got quiet like that, I knew he was trying to read the person. Finally, he spoke. “Trent’s not lying, and he definitely believes what he’s saying.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gardner,” Trent exclaimed.
Andy was quiet again, but still seemed to be making up his mind. “I don’t even think he’s totally wrong…F.O.L.D. is at the center of all of the problems and ends up making more.”
I raised my eyebrow. “What are you saying?”
“You think this traitor is right?” Tilly said, exasperated.
“No, not completely,” Andy admitted. “However, I think I know what our next objective is. We need to see the other side. Right, Director?”
Trent smiled. “I knew you’d catch on. You’ll have to go to Wheeler.”
“Ah, come on!” I said, exasperated.
Before we could go to Wheeler, we still had some work at Kirby to do. And even before homeroom even started, we had to break up a nasty fight.
On the front lawn of the school, Colt Melville and Cal’s friend Diego were throwing punches, evidently about F.O.L.D. I went there as soon as I heard.
“I can’t believe I ever wanted to join F.O.L.D., those liars,” Colt sneered. He had a bruise on his arm, probably a punch from Diego. “It deserved to die, and everyone in it, too.”
“It wasn’t the people’s fault, Colt, it was just Trent,” Diego reasoned. He had a knot on his forehead.
Clark was trying his best to stop the fight by threatening expulsion from his brother’s team all while trying not to spill his coffee.
Andy came bustling in, as per usual followed by Laura. “Clark, what’s going on?”
“These idiots started a fight and I’m doing my best to stop it,” Clark explained, standing in the middle of the two combatants. Colt swung a punch that Clark just barely avoided. “Hey! Don’t attack the mediator!”
“Why?” Andy asked.
“You said I should be doing my best to be an active presence!” Clark replied.
“Move out of the way.”
“Oh, thank goodness.”
Clark stepped away Andy took his place in between Colt and Diego.
“Okay, what started this?” Andy demanded.
Diego kept his fists up. “I just said one thing defending F.O.L.D. and this idiot attacked me.”
“F.O.L.D. is evil!”
I put my foot down. “F.O.L.D. is dead, stop mutilating its corpse!”
Andy held up a finger to the two boys. “Now get back to your classes, both of you. I don’t want to tell you again.”
Colt and Diego both muttered darkly under their breaths, but headed back to their classes.
Andy looked at me gravely. “We have to get to Wheeler and fix this.”
The File-Room Fiasco
By Cal Largent
Hey guys, it’s Cal again! Man, I’m getting so busy lately. It’s great.
I mean, it’s actually not great, because what I had to do was a really important job.
After F.O.L.D. headquarters shut down, I asked Clark was to do about everything inside the headquarters. I mean, F.O.L.D. has some important stuff down there, like files on all of the students of both Kirby and Wheeler. Not just present students, either; they have files on everybody that’s ever been to both schools. It’s kinda creepy, honestly. But, obviously, this is important stuff. So, Clark and I decided to defend it, as the heroes we are!
Well, actually, I had to kind of bribe Clark into the job by saying I’d buy him coffee for a week, which he agreed to pretty enthusiastically. (He spends way too much money on coffee, seriously.)
Whenever we had free periods this week, Clark and I would come down to the File Room and make sure it was still locked. Then, we’d spend a couple minutes being the guards. I with Spider-Fold and Clark with Iron Fold, we made a good team.
Beside the point, it was actually pretty fun, just goofing off down there with my brother. Clark would tell me about how much being a junior in high school sucked, while I told him how much being a freshman sucked, and back and forth like that. He’d also talk about Emily and tease me about Lacey… (shut up we’re not a couple) and anyway it was still pretty fun.
It got more fun when someone actually tried to break into the room.
I had just told an annoying kid named Kev to go away (he kept claiming that his sister, a F.O.L.D. agent, had left his bookbag downstairs; when I went and checked he tried to go for the door, but Clark stopped him. He moves fast for a guy with a prosthetic leg) when a dude named Chris made a rush for the door.
Clark was the dude in charge of the key to the File-Room. Tilly had given it to him, so he always kept it on his car’s key ring. He kept his key-ring in his backpack, which was now sitting open on the table. Chris had evidently figured out where they were, as that’s the first place he jumped to.
“Clark, the keys!” I yelled at him.
Clark, who had been busy texting Robby about something, snapped to attention. Out of pure idiotic reflexes, Clark threw the only thing he had at the guy; his phone.
“What the-” I heard Chris mutter, as the phone clocked him in the forehead. It didn’t really do anything, though; Chris just rubbed his forward and ran for the File-Room door, now unguarded. He burst into the room and went straight for the ‘C’ files.
“What did you think that would do?” I asked Clark as we both ran in.
“I don’t really know. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
We followed Chris into the ‘C’ files, where he’d just pulled out one labeled Cronin…oh, great.
“Now I have the perfect thing to destroy Ezra Cronin and OrigVenom!” Chris shouted, holding the paper aloft.
“Ezra’s your friend, right?” Clark asked me.
“I don’t know what that guy does to attract all these weirdos,” I muttered.
Before Chris could escape, Clark tackled him. I grabbed Ezra’s file and put it back into the cabinet. We put the key back into Clark’s backpack and took Chris down to the principal’s office.
Hero work complete, once again!
Into the Fray
Seeing Trent gave me a new resolve to fix everything that he’d screwed up. Don’t get me wrong, I did kind of like to see him, but it was more seeing him brought so low. Yeah, yeah, it’s sadistic, but I don’t care.
Andy was dead-set on going to Wheeler to try to fix things. I really didn’t sound like a good idea to me; the last time I’d been to Wheeler we’d had a traitor and a Ghost Rider. A lot less fun than it sounds.
Andy elected to keep our trip to Wheeler on the downlow; seeing three high-ranking F.O.L.D. agents at the enemy’s school would not look good. I agreed with him, but Laura was hesitant.
“Didn’t keeping things from Kirby mess a lot of stuff up?” She asked.
Andy nodded. “Yes, it did. But this one’s for our own safety. It’ll be fine!” He didn’t sound as confident as he usually was; he sounded like he was reassuring himself as much as Laura.
We had to wait until the next day. We received a special pass from Vice Principal Dawson to visit the school for a couple hours. And, we were off.
“Greetings, Kirbians.” We were greeted by Adrian Collins, the Wheeler hall monitor. He had Heimdollar on his finger. “It’s great to see people of fellow class here.” He winked at us. “If you wouldn’t mind, would you like a quick tour?”
“We’d love one!” Laura said, smiling.
Walking inside Wheeler during the school day was a very surreal experience. Since the last time I’d been in there, things had changed. Honestly, the school seemed more professional than Kirby did; there were amazing murals on the walls, trophy-cases, and academic achievements all over. The students were more well-behaved and proper, but also had an air of snobbishness. It definitely felt deserving of the name Wheeler Academy. Every now and then, Adrian would point out a specific achievement, like “This is the ninth annual girl’s basketball championship cup,” or “This is a picture of the time Larry Mitchell and his wrestling team were all simultaneously unconscious.”
Finally, we stopped by a classroom door. “You will be wanting to speak with Seyla Solstice, I believe,” Adrian said. “She’ll be in Spanish class at the moment, so you’ll have to wait here. But, believe me, watch yourself.” He leaned in and lowered his voice. “She is a witch.”
“Duly noted,” Andy replied. “Thanks for your help, Adrian.”
“Any time, Andy. May the winds blow in your favor.” He strode off, to do more hall-monitor things, I guess. I still have no idea how his job works.
Waiting for class to let out was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever done. Sitting inside a school that, as far as I know, wanted my school to be ground into dust, felt off. Andy shuffled his feet, Laura checked her phone, and I just looked around, studying all of the awards on the walls. It made me see Wheeler a bit differently; when they weren’t doing battle with us, they were a normal students at a normal school. Kind of like us. There were awards for speech, athletics, even tons of pictures of stage performances and musicals. It…surprised me, and I thought I liked Wheeler!
Finally, the classes let out. Due to very in-depth descriptions from Dove MacLeash, I was able to spot Seyla Solstice immediately, with her bright pink hair. She seemed pleasant on the outside; smiling, laughing at her friend’s jokes, and helping others with their books. But she also carried herself with a very haughty air, an air that I’d seen in a lot of ‘popular’ girls, like Cassidy Lashay at Kirby. I could see how she might turn be a tyrant as the Student Body President.
However, everyone stopped what they were doing when they saw me, Laura and Andy. They just kind of stared at us, like they were unsure why we existed. While everyone stood frozen, I decided to walk up to Seyla. Andy and Laura followed behind. I could hear some of the kids whispering about me specifically; evidently, word had gotten out about my pseudo-date with Trent.
“She doesn’t look that special.”
“Seyla is way prettier than her.”
“Nah, I like her.”
I ignored them all and focused on my objective.
“Ms. Solstice?” I greeted.
Seyla turned towards us and had the slightest hint of a sneer. “Oh, hello! You must be from Kirby. Seyla looked past my shoulder to see Andy and Laura. “Andy, it’s nice to see you again,” she said, giving a very pretty smile.
“Hello, Seyla,” Andy replied, with a courteous nod.
“So, you must be Tilly Waterson,” Seyla said, turning back to me. “Trent’s told me about you.”
“He’s kind of forgotten to tell me all about you,” I replied, not with any malice. Just the truth. “He’s been a bit unfair to both of us recently.”
Seyla walked forward, still smiling. “Oh, don’t worry. Some people think that he went on a date with you, but I know it was just because he had to keep the secret. Believe me, I totally understand. Nobody here knew until you all knew, as well.”
“Really? Then how are you still, you know, trusted?”
Seyla giggled, a very fake giggle. “It’s because we’re all very trusting, Tilly. I don’t know how its going with Kirby High, but my friends here understand that if I keep a secret, I keep it for a reason.”
“So you’re all fine with your student body president keeping a hidden boyfriend?” I asked the crowd.
“Listen, Tilly, I know you had a little crush on Trent. This must be hard for you. But we’re all fine here. You guys need to take a page out of our book, maybe!” She laughed a very friendly laugh, like she hadn’t just insulted me to my face. A couple of her friends laughed, but most of the people in the crowd shifted uncomfortably. I glanced at Andy, whose fists were clenched.
I turned back to Seyla. “I’m not sure everyone agrees, Seyla. We might not have such a popular student body president, but the kids at Kirby usually listen to each other. Maybe you can take a page out of our book.”
I turned out my heel and simply walked away. Andy and Laura, looking a bit stunned, took my lead and followed.
We returned to Kirby, and I really wished we hadn’t.
“Oh, crap,” Laura mumbled as soon as we walked inside. On the bulletin board opposite the door, there was a newspaper statement about Andrew Gardner (and others) visiting Trent and Wheeler secretly: ORIGAVENGERS LEADER SEEN WITH BOTH TRENTON ADAMS AND AT WHEELER: GOOD OR BAD?
Andy put his head in his hands.
“I screwed up again,” He moaned.
“Gardner!” someone shouted from down the hall. It was, pretty expectedly, Jameson Tanner, the muscle-headed idiot we’d had to deal with time and again. He stormed right up into Andy’s face. “You’re no better than Trent, going to Wheeler like that.”
“I’m doing what I think is best for both schools, Jameson,” Andy replied, calmly.
“Trust him, Jameson,” Laura said, defending him. “He knows what he’s doing, most of the time.”
“Yeah, sure he does,” Jameson sneered. “Well, this is what the ‘best’ gets him.” Jameson grabbed Andy by the collar and slammed him into the wall.
“Let him go!” I shouted.
“Fight me, Gardner. See if you really know best,” Jameson taunted. “That Largent kid is way tougher than you are.”
“I’m not gonna fight you, Jameson. It’ll make things even worse,” Andy said, struggling under Jameson’s grip.
“Well, then.” Jameson punched Andy in the face. He let go of Andy’s collar and let him stumble.
“You jerk!” Laura shouted. She ran to get the nurse for Andy. I reached out to help steady my friend. He already had a black eye forming.
“Aren’t you going to punch back?” Jameson asked. “Largent did.”
Andy coughed. “I’m not going to fight you. Get over it.”
Jameson punched him again, this time in the nose. The blood immediately started pouring out.
“You have a great hook, I’ll give you that,” Andy said, choking on blood. “Just let me do my job, man. I can do this all day.”
“You don’t have to,” I muttered. I reared back and punched Jameson. He stumbled back, surprised. I could tell I hadn’t hurt him much, but he would have a good bruise on his cheek for awhile. I felt proud.
“You-” he started to say.
Before anything else could happen, Laura came running back with the school nurse, Ms. Summers.
“Jameson Tanner, not again!” she shouted. “That is detention for a week for you. Now get out of here.”
Jameson, dejected, sauntered off, glaring at me and Andy. Ms. Summers took Andy from my shoulders and helped steady him on hers.
“What was that bruise on his cheek?” Ms. Summers asked me as soon as he was out of earshot. “Andy?”
“No, that was Tilly,” Andy mumbled.
“Oh. Well, nice punch, Tilly,” Ms. Summers complimented. I took the time to look at Andy himself. He had a black eye and a bloody nose and looked terrible.
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, are you okay?” Laura asked, hugging him. “What happened?”
Andy tried to speak again, but too much blood was pouring from his nose. It might have been broken. I pulled Tilly away from him so he could go to the nurse’s office. Laura asked me what happened.
“Jameson attacked him. He wouldn’t punch him back, being the noble idiot he is. I punched him.”
Laura laughed, unexpectedly. “That’s amazing! But I would have kicked him. And not in a good place, either.”
I smiled. “Yeah, that would have been better. Just got caught up in the moment. Protecting Andy’s honor, and all.”
Laura gave me a high five, then turned serious again. “I really hope he’s okay.”
“He’s tough, Laura,” I said, reassuring her. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’ll be back for you soon enough.”
She glared. “Ha, ha. Very funny.” She glanced at her watch. “Dang, we need to get to class.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a thing. I nearly forgot.”
Another Text Conversation Between the OrigAvengers
Recorded by Clark Largent
Jessica: A pattern seems to be forming, hmm?
Dove: Jessica, Andy went to Wheeler under a truce. There was no reason to share the details with anyone. Adrian himself talked to me about it, and I respect his choices.
Jessica: Stop covering for him, Dove! He’s as bad as Trent and Seyla!
Jessie: or ‘treyla’ as i call them
Jessica: Jessie, you are not helping.
Clark: He did get his nose busted by Jameson if thats any consolation
Jessica: He deserved it.
Ally: Oh come on, Jessica. That’s ridiculous.
Jessica: Andy is making too many mistakes, and he needs to take the consequences.
Ally: I can’t believe you all are just going to rag on Andy like this. I don’t want any part of this.
Ally Weber has left the chat
Clark: Guys you made Hulk leave
Dove: I hope you all start to take this more seriously now. Andy is our leader, and we stand by him.
Jessica: Not like this.
Jessica Smith-Holt has left the chat
Jessie: what the crap
Clark: Nice job idiots
Power of the Press
By Desiree Dawson, Editor of the Kirby King
In a surprising turn of events, I was asked to visit Andrew Gardner in the nurse’s office by Tilly Waterson. Just like nearly everyone who knew what I did, Tilly Waterson does not understand my full motives and why I do what I do. In fact, I don’t believe anyone knows how I operate, unfortunately.
Andrew is willing to try to see what I feel, however. That is why he is letting me write this file for this fairly redundant ‘story’.
After I was contacted by Tilly Waterson, I decided to oblige to her request and visit Andrew Gardner in the nurse’s office. I’m not entirely sure why I was asked; my theory is that Tilly Waterson wanted to give me proof that Andrew has the best interests for Kirby and Wheeler in mind. He was laying down on the bed while Ms. Summers fiddled with something on the other side of the room. He had gauze sticking out of his nose and a Band-Aid over his eye.
“May I come in?” I asked.
Andrew looked very surprised. “Come in, dear,” Ms. Summers said. “I won’t get in your way.”
“What happened to you?” I asked as I walked in.
“What, you don’t know? That’s surprising,” he replied, with no little amount of sarcasm.
I crossed my arms. “Was this because of my article?”
“I assume you hurt the other guy worse?”
Andrew shook his head. “Tilly was the one who got a punch in.”
“I see.” I pride myself on my ability to read a person. It is why I am such an impressive, and quick, newspaper editor/writer. Looking at Andrew, he looked very hurt and dejected, but not because of his bloody nose. No, he looked genuinely remorseful, with a look begging forgiveness for the mistakes he’d made. That was not something I was expecting, especially from one of the myriad prancing ‘heroes’ this school had prancing around. I…felt for him, something I have never felt with really anyone.
I decided to try something else I had never done. Reassure him. “Did you know that H.Y.D.E. has been around almost as long as F.O.L.D., Andrew?”
“No. No, I didn’t.”
I leaned against the wall. “H.Y.D.E. was originally created simply to combat F.O.L.D. F.O.L.D. wanted to be the good guys, so, naturally, H.Y.D.E. wanted to be the bad guys. However, since F.O.L.D. has definitely changed throughout the years, H.Y.D.E. has as well. As our name suggests, we hide in the shadows. Influencing things. But, influencing them in ways that we think is best. Obviously, I understand that no one is perfect, but I do feel like my four years at this school has made me capable of leading this school through this quiet manipulation.”
Andy snorted, and then immediately winced. “Ow. Um, anyway, you do realize you sound like a villain, right?”
“Oh, undoubtedly,” I said, laughing. “But, I know I’m not wrong. There were many potential heroes that we’ve intentionally kept from becoming figureheads in this school. If you knew everything we’d done, you’d be thanking us.”
“Why are you telling me all of this?”
“Because we have never once had to consider getting rid of you.”
I wandered across the room, thinking about my words. “You are of the very rare students here that so fully embodies the character they represent that they are, honestly, heroes. You are one of these. You look out for everyone’s best interests. You lead with a quiet finesse, and, most importantly, you listen to everyone. Be they from Kirby, Wheeler, and everywhere in between, you make them feel valued and appreciated, and in a high school that is no small thing. Believe me; even I have trouble listening to others.
“The reason I am seemingly able to work against you is because I trust you will fix things. You just need a push in the right direction, and a shove out of the wrong direction.”
Andrew sat still, considering everything I’d told him. He still seemed very unsure of himself, but that would change in time.
“Please, consider everything I’ve told you, and I’m sure you will make the right decision.” I turned to leave. “Oh, by the way, Principal Ainsley would like to see you this afternoon.”
Taking a Stand
Being told that the principal wanted to see me, after my two biggest screw-ups, was not an exciting prospect. Waiting throughout the school day was awful.
I’d basically lost all respect at this point. I had to go through the rest of my classes by myself, as I was attracting all the wrong kind of attention and I didn’t want Laura to be caught in the crosshairs.
People tried to start fights with me; Jameson, obviously, but also a few of the meaner jerks like Brian and James Faber. I wouldn’t give them the pleasure of punching out Captain Americut, so I just tried to keep my head down.
The worst part was seeing all of the fights started up around me; like Diego and Colt, these were fights started due to opposing thoughts on the Trent-Seyla problem, and everything being done to stop it. So many times I tried to step in and stop the fights, but people would just stare at me, wondering why I had the authority to stop them after everything I’d done. So, it came to some of the other OrigAvengers to stop the fights. Every time Jessica would see me, she’d give me the same glare, asking silently ‘Why are you still here?’ That was the worst feeling; inferiority.
This was the worst day I had ever had as a student of Kirby High School.
I really was not prepared to be called in by the principal. Obviously, I only expected the worse. I was fully prepared to receive detentions for months and maybe even be suspended…but that’s not what happened.
Thankfully my nose had stopped bleeding, but I still had a Band-Aid over my eye (which had the design of the American flag…). I didn’t look the best when I walked into the principal’s office.
Let me be clear; I had never met Principal Ainsley. I’d only seen him speaking at school assemblies and stuff like that. I didn’t know what he’d be like.
His office was surprisingly colorful, and he actually had The Amazing Spider-Man #185 framed, which I found funny. Ainsley himself was standing by his desk, with a stern but warm smile.
“Hello, Mr. Gardner. Or should I call you Andy?” He asked, holding his hand out.
“Uh, Andy, sir,” I shook his hand. “Um, I just want to say I’m really sorry, I did everything I thought was best but it made it worse-”
Mr. Ainsley waved his hands. “Woah, woah, Andy, don’t worry. You’re not in trouble at all. In fact, I called you here because I wanted to encourage you.”
“Sit down, please.” He gestured to a chair in front of his desk. He sat down at his own chair and gave an even warmer smile. “Andy, I don’t know if you’ve realized, but I’ve been very lazy.”
“I’m the principal of this school, yes? But tell me; how often have you seen me around? Answer honestly.”
I thought about it. “Not very often, actually.”
“Exactly. You students, and F.O.L.D., Harrison, Trenton, you have all seemed to take charge and I’d like to believe you made my job easier. However, that doesn’t give me an excuse to just sit down and do nothing. Which, unfortunately, I’ve done far too much of.
“This week has been inexcusable in the things going on. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ve teamed with the Wheeler principal, Mrs. Villanueva, to deliver a speech to the students of both schools, condemning the frankly deplorable behavior of late and announcing more active roles on both of our parts. I’d like you to speak before myself.”
I choked. “What?”
“I’d like you to speak, just giving your honest thoughts and wishes for both schools.”
“Sir…why? I ruined everything.”
Mr. Ainsley chuckled, which made me nervous. “Andy, you can’t possibly blame yourself for everything that went wrong. In fact, you ‘deserve’ so little of the blame that it’s frankly vain of you to think so. And just because you made a couple mistakes doesn’t mean you are unfit to be a leader. You are a far greater leader than I could ever hope to be. Why do you think your OrigAvengers look to you for guidance? Why do think your friends trust you so fully?”
I looked down at my shoes. People were saying all of these nice things about me, but I didn’t believe them, honestly. “I…don’t deserve that trust.”
“No one does, my young friend. But you’ve earned it. Mistakes are a part of life, and your friends like you too much to just ignore you. Why do you have Captain Americut?”
I remembered Captain Americut in my pocket. To be perfectly honest, I had kind of forgotten about him for these past few days. I took him out and looked at him. “I was given him. By Tilly.”
“Why is that?”
“Because she knows he’s my favorite character?”
“Andy, she gave it to you because she knows you are perfect for the role. You’re as much of a symbol as the puppet itself. And, even the shield is emblematic of the trust you’ve earned.”
I remembered Clark making the shield for me, out of his own puppet. Honestly, I got kind of teared-up. I still didn’t understand. “Sir, I can’t even lead an interrogation properly. How am I supposed to say a speech?”
“It all goes back to the friends you’ve gained. I think you’ll figure out a way.” He smiled, one last time. “Head back to classes, Andy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Andy told me all about his speech that he had to recite, and I could tell he was terrified, even if he did a good job of hiding it.
“You will do perfect, Andy. I know you will.”
“Yeah, but what do I even say?” He asked, exasperated.
“What would Captain America do?”
He halfheartedly glared at me. “He’d recite a speech written by the Russo brothers or something.”
My eyes lit up. “Then that’s what you do!”
Andy looked confused. “Hire the Russos? I think they’re above my paygrade.”
“No, no, no. Write a script!”
“You would like me to write a script for you?”
We had asked the best writer we knew to help us with this: Desiree Dawson. She just looked mildly amused that we had come to her for help, but hopefully she knew how important this was.
“It doesn’t have to be long, just enough to capture the hearts and minds of everyone in the audience!” I pleaded.
“I don’t know if I can do that in such a short time…”
Andy looked at Desiree, a very beggingly heartfelt look. “Please, Desiree. This speech can’t be what it needs to be unless you write it. You know the things to say; you can sway an entire school with, like, two articles. I can hardly form complete sentences when I’m on stage. So…please. I need your help.”
Desiree smiled, then nodded. “I knew I liked you, Andrew. I’ll write your script, and it will be the best dang script you’ve ever seen.”
I gave Desiree a hug. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Desiree tried to full away. “Okay, that’s enough of that. Andrew, your ward?”
That night, after Andy got the script, we got Tilly to help us practice it at Andy’s house. Turns out Tilly had given so many pep talks to younger F.O.L.D. agents that she knew exactly how to play on an audience.
“You need to stress your syll-a-bles and let them look into your soul,” she explained.
“That’s a terrifying analogy!” Andy said. “I don’t want them looking into my soul.”
“Hey, if it works, it works,” Tilly said, laughing.
Finally, I tried to give him as much of a pep talk as I could. It was nothing special, so it doesn’t deserve to be reiterated here. But, I think it worked. Tomorrow was the day to see Andrew Gardner on stage.
End of the Line
I knew I would be nervous, but I didn’t know just how nervous.
The school day ended way too soon, and pretty sure every student had made their way to the center of the Kirby/Wheeler boundary lines; the same place the OrigAvengers had made a stand last year. That nostalgia did help a bit.
A podium was set up on a small platform, just big enough for one person to stand on. Every student from Kirby High School and Wheeler Academy stood on the grass, ready to watch a speech that would make, or break, everything.
Apparently a ceasefire had been called for this afternoon only, which was why nobody was killing each other even after standing so close together. Still, the students had kind of segregated themselves into the Kirby and Wheeler groups, which a sizable division in between. It made me feel better to see Clark Largent, Dove MacLeash, Ally Weber, Jesse Rodriguez and Jessica Smith-Holt standing together in the middle. OrigAvengers, represent.
For my part, I was standing behind the small podium on the left side, trying not to die from nervousness, next to three friends; Laura, Tilly, and Desiree. Mr. Ainsley and Mrs. Villanueva were standing on the right side. Once everyone was gathered, Mrs. Villanueva stepped up to the podium first.
“I thank you all for coming to this last-minute assembly. Or, I should be thanking myself, since you were forced to come, anyway.” Mrs. Villanueva giggled at her little joke. Uneasy chuckles were heard on the Wheeler side. “But before Mr. Ainsley and I share what we wanted to say, we’d like to give a Kirby student, Andrew Gardner, the chance to speak. Take it away, Andrew!”
Mrs. Villanueva stepped down from the podium, leaving it open for me. The wave of nausea I felt was unreal.
Suddenly, I felt Laura’s hand in mind. “I believe in you,” she whispered.
Standing there, next to Laura, Tilly, and Desiree, I knew what I had to do. Tilly gave me a thumbs up and Desiree gave me a slight nod. The podium was open, and it was time for me to talk.
I walked up to the podium, holding my script, and looked out across the field; Wheeler and Kirby, standing shoulder to shoulder, but each student ready to tear the other apart. One wrong word and the flimsy ceasefire they’d agreed to would disintegrate. Peace was the objective; failure wasn’t an option. I cleared my throat.
“Hello, everyone. I’m Andy Gardner. Some of you know me as the Captain Americut of Kirby High School.” I took Captain Americut out of my pocket and set him up on the podium. I received some boos from the Wheeler side, and outraged protest from both sides. I really wasn’t popular. I quieted the crowd and plunged forward.
“I am responsible for a lot of the fighting today, and for that I apologise. I thought that by keeping the information to myself, it would be better for everyone. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. Everything I’ve hoped to accomplish as an OrigAvenger, like peace for both schools, was nearly ruined. That was, truly, my fault.
“But…I was doing it in both of our best interests. I really want Wheeler and Kirby to be allies; friends, even. I have best friends in both schools and I want the rest of you to experience that feeling. By keeping the information about the leader of F.O.L.D., I was trying to control an outbreak; because once the info got out, how could any of you trust me, or each other, ever again?
“Kirby High School and Wheeler Academy are both amazing schools. I’ve been to both. We both have our strengths and our flaws. But if we did finally forgive each other for our past mistakes, if we finally hug and make up, if we finally be the allies that we were always meant to be…I think that we would fix each other’s problems just by being together.
“You all have absolutely no reason to listen to a thing I say; I get that. But the goal of the OrigAvengers was originally to protect people, and the only way they can do that is if all of the people are on the same side. So…please…give peace a chance, maybe?”
Andy doesn’t like to take credit for it, but everybody adored his speech. As soon as he stopped talking, he got a standing ovation from both sides. People were tired of fighting; Andy gave them a reason not to. It was amazing.
He stepped down from the podium and walked off the stage. He stood on the grass next to me. As Principal Ainsley said some closing words, Tilly and Desiree both smiled at Andy.
“Great job, Andy,” Tilly said, giving him a hug. “It sounded perfect.”
Andy was always a bit nervous when people hugged him- I know, I’d tried before -but he relented. “Thanks, Tilly.”
“You did my words justice, Andrew,” Desiree said, smiling. “Who knew you were such a good speaker?”
“I did,” I said, playfully elbowing Andy.
He looked genuinely uncomfortable receiving all of the compliments. “It was all because of you guys. I just talked.”
“The amount of humility you have is astounding, Andrew,” Desiree commented. “You’ve earned my trust, and my respect; two things almost no one at Kirby has. I’ll try not to defame you anytime soon.” Desiree strode across the turf and headed back towards Kirby.
“I knew you could do it,” Tilly complimented. “You’ve made Captain Americut proud. And hey, maybe this will work out for the best of both schools.”
“What do you mean by that, Tilly?” Andy asked.
“T.H.A.N.O.S., obviously,” she said, with a dark tone. “Maybe they won’t have to destroy the schools after all.” Then, she walked away too, going to join the crowd. Andy’s face had darkened a bit, too. I had only heard him mention T.H.A.N.O.S. a couple times, but the threat unsettled him more than any other. I grabbed his hand again, waking him up from his worries.
“Hey, Andy, look,” I said, pointing into the gathered students.
In the crowd, I saw Clark Largent with his girlfriend Emily standing next to Dove MacLeash and Ally Weber. Cal was quietly talking animatedly with another freshman; I think it was Dove’s friend Kurt. Even Jessica and Jesse give Andrew a thumbs up. I guess they’d forgiven him, too. Me and Andy were left alone on the grass.
“You know how Captain America is a symbol or something?” I asked him, quietly.
“Yeah, I do,” he replied, even quieter.
“You’re that symbol for both schools, now.”
He sighed. “I just…I caused the problems. Why doesn’t everybody hate me for that?”
“Andy Gardner, everybody makes mistakes. I know you think you’re supposed to be better, but nobody is perfect. We like you, I like you, because you’re an amazing guy. You’re trustworthy and always looking out for everyone’s best interest. You made a mistake. But you’ve proved that you’re more than that mistake. You deserve our trust.”
To emphasize the point, I got on my tiptoes and gave him a small peck on the cheek. His cheeks turned as red as his hair.
“Okay, point taken,” he mumbled. “I really couldn’t have done it without you, or Tilly, or Desiree. Especially you. You’re a great partner.”
It was my turn to blush. “Well, I just did what you taught me.”
“Definitely not.” His voice took on a more militaristic, serious tone. “In fact, you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty. Laura Rushman, how would like membership to the OrigAvengers?”
“Is this just because I kissed you?”
That took the wind out of his sails. He blushed again. “Wha- no, no, of course not. I was planning on asking you, seriously.”
I smirked. “I’m just messing with you.” I adopted the same soldier voice. I saluted, for good measure. “I’m honored, Captain.”
Andy saluted back. “Well, Black Widow, it’s wonderful to have you on the team. You’ll serve our schools well.”
One More Text Conversation Between the OrigAvengers
Recorded by Clark Largent
Ally Weber has joined the chat
Jessica Smith-Holt has joined the chat
Ally: What did I tell you, Jessica? Andy is a true leader who deserves our respect.
Jessica: He did a good job, I’ll give him that.
Jessie: i nearly cried, it was so beautiful
Clark: Im glad he did that. Are we back to normal now?
Dove: We better be. The OrigAvengers need Andy.
Ally: I wholeheartedly agree.
Jessie: stop agreeing with each other
Jessie: its gross
Clark: Okay guys I need to go
Jessica: I’ll see you all later.
Dove: Good day to you all.
You forgot something
F.O.L.D.’s files about everyone?
Someone took them all.