Origami Cyclops and the All-New X-Men?
Origami Cyclops and the All-New X-Men?
By SF Noah and SF Cam
In Regards to Disregarding the Highly Regarded Katie Brooks
By Eric Dunlap
Nobody is supposed to read this. This isn’t meant for Nathan Torres to get his mousy little hands on, or Lila to read and get all misty-eyed about it. This is for Eric Dunlap’s eyes only. And that’s me, Eric. This is for me to figure out what in the world I’m supposed to do about the team.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about opening the team, and letting literally anyone join who wants to. It sounds…gross, doesn’t it? But I have to make a decision about it, and soon.
The right answer is obviously keeping it closed. And I would make that call without hesitation. People demand to be a part of the team every day and we do our best to ignore them. But something is different about the demands this time; the students are unified. Nobody could have expected that.
Nathan Torres wrote an article- more like a manifesto for the Claremont Checker all about how the Origami X-Men shouldn’t be an exclusive group like it literally always has been. Something about how we keep making the same mistakes as the previous teams. Personally, I don’t see what he’s on about. I’m disappointed that Principal Sampson let it through. But not only that, he put forward a candidate: Katie Brooks, the mysterious new girl whom I still knew nothing about. Why her?
Even if nobody seems to know much about her, the students have completely accepted her, and thanks to Nathan’s article, and nearly the whole body wants to see her join the Origami X-Men team. Thanks, Nathan.
Still, I’d definitely stand my ground, except that even some of my own team is joining in the support. Lila and Daniel, my right and left hand men, are on Katie’s side. Obviously this issue isn’t as cut and dry as I’d like it to be.
Sofia and Caiden are still with me, but if nearly half the team thinks it’s a good idea, maybe there’s some merit? I don’t know. I trust Lila. I really do. But is she wrong?
The Origami X-Men is meant to be a team that the school can look up. I’ve led it for the past two years, and it’s stayed the same. This would make it not just all-new, but also all-different. I guess my biggest question is: why change now?
I don’t know what to do. I need to figure it out, and fast, or else the Origami X-Men may completely fall apart.
Origami Cyclops and the All-New X-Men?
“So, that’s what you wanted to talk to me about, huh?” Mr. Millar said, writing something down on his notepad.
I’d never been inside the guidance counsellor’s office. It was surprisingly roomy and pretty cozy. There was a bookshelf in the corner of the room with many psychology books arranged on them, a bulletin board with various motivational phrases and posters pinned to it, and a coffee machine that Mr. Millar frequently used. Mr. Millar had a desk and a chair, but he’d pulled the chair around to be closer to me. I was sitting on a couch just in front of the door, telling him everything that I wrote down about the team.
I don’t usually like to share my feelings about, well, anything, but this seemed like a big enough problem to open up a bit. It felt way too much like a therapy session for my tastes.
“You were never a part of the Origami X-Men, so you might not get how important this is,” I explained. “It could change how the team functions pretty much forever.”
Mr Millar tapped his pen to his chin. “I wasn’t a part of the X-Men, no.” I could have sworn he had a little smirk when he said that. “But, I do think I understand. Change is scary. Everybody has to go through it sometimes.”
“This is a huge change, though. Massive. The Origami X-Men have always been special. If anybody can join it, how can it stay special?”
Mr. Millar wrote something else down, and then switched gears. “You say this all started when Katie Brooks joined at the beginning of the semester?”
“How do you feel about Katie as a person?”
I tilted my head, thinking. “Well…”
Truth be told, I’d spent almost no time with Katie Brooks. Some polite greetings as we passed in the halls was about the extent of our interaction. Everything I knew about Brooks I’d heard secondhand. According to Lila and Daniel, Katie was a smart younger girl, a bit snarky, who wanted to help out as much as possible but also tried to forge her own path. In essence, she sounded like someone the people would see as the perfect candidate.
The points Lila and Daniel respectively focus on shed a lot on what Katie could become. Lila always mentions how she’s a ‘spitfire’ and ‘no-nonsense’ and whatever else. She cares about the snarkiness. I think it’s because she wants someone to back her up whenever she disagrees with me, which is often. She wants someone she can mold into a weapon against me.
Daniel supports her because she is a ‘good person’. Daniel wants to have someone on the team who will agree when he mentions the Origami X-Men’s more standoffish aspects.
Both of them want Katie to join so that they can change the team.
And I said as much.
“Are you sure it’s not you who wants the team to change?” Mr. Millar said, after I finished.
My eyes narrowed. “I’m fairly certain that’s not the case.”
“Just consider it, for a second,” Mr. Millar asked, leaning forward. “You want the team to stay the same. But wouldn’t that be changing how the team works? You weren’t the first Cyclops, and you won’t be the last. The team changes whether you like it or not, but you’re the one with the most control of that change. Why not make a change for the better?”
I raised my eyebrow. “So you do think that adding Katie will be a good thing?”
“I think you knew my position before you even asked to speak with me,” Mr. Millar said, smiling.
I was a bit disappointed, but he had a point. Maybe I did know what I was getting into.
But he’d said something else that had got me thinking; I wasn’t the first Cyclops. There had been a Cyclops before me. What would he think about this?
I stood up, suddenly. “Thank you for the help, Mr. Millar.”
Mr. Millar’s face fell, suddenly, but he recovered fast. “Of course, Eric. Any time at all. My door is always open. Think about what I said.”
I nodded, halfheartedly. I had a new mission and someone else to find. “Sure.”
I walked to the door, taking a deep breath as I planned my next movement. I opened the door, and walked out into the hallway. And who should be right outside but Katie Brooks herself.
Claremont’s Newest Student
By Katie Brooks
I’ve been given a weird reception at Claremont. For one, everyone seems to know who I am. Even weirder, they seem to like who I am. Ever since Nathan Torres’s article came out, I’ve become a martyr of opening up the Origami X-Men. And I say martyr because, well…
“Hi,” Eric Dunlap said, having just exited my dad’s office.
“Hi,” I said. This dude was looking at me stone-faced, nonetheless failing to mask in his eyes a mix of concern and horror. It was blended so well I couldn’t see where one emotion started and the other ended.
“It’s Katie, right?” he said. “Um, I know who you are.”
“Apparently everyone does.”
“Eric.” He extended his hand.
“Formal,” I noted, shaking it. I detected a slight shiver.
He collected himself. “I’m from the Origami X-Men. Cyclops.”
“Ah.” Everything made sense now. He’d read the article. Who hadn’t? The students at Claremont were more dedicated to the aging newspaper business than any other school I had been at. The New York Times had nothing on this place.
“How long have you been out here?” he asked.
“Just got here.”
He looked relieved. “Well… it’s nice to meet you.”
“Is it? I’m glad. I’m here to see Mr. Millar,” I said, slightly impatiently. I was keeping the whole my-dad-works-at-the-school-I-go-to thing quiet. “I guess I’ll be working with you on the team.” I pushed past Eric to the office door.
My hand was on the door handle. “Excuse me?”
He hesitated. “Um, look, the thing is… no. You’re not on the X-Men.”
“Origami X-Men,” I corrected him.
“I know the name. I’m on the team. You’re not.”
“Is that what the team wants?”
“You totally did. That was two seconds of hesitation. Minimum.”
He looked like he was at a loss for words. “That’s…”
I sighed. “You’re obnoxious.” I turned and went into the office, leaving him outside.
That statement was confirmed when I went into my dad’s office. My dad sat back behind his desk. He hid it well behind a welcoming smile, but I detected that he had just had to deal with an obnoxious, potentially absurd customer.
“Katie!” Dad said, smiling. “Were your ears buzzing?”
“All the time,” I sighed. “Why does everyone seem to care that I’m a student here?”
“It’s like Mean Girls, you see…” he started, but he stopped and started laughing when he saw me glaring.
“You know I hate that movie.”
“Can’t even believe we’re related, then,” he laughed. “But you’re special, Katie! Some of the team doesn’t really like you all that much, but enough of them do that people see you as the opportunity to let the Origami X-Men open up.”
“Well, the team doesn’t seem too open themselves.”
He smiled. “You met Eric?”
“He doesn’t want things to change. Just give it time. I’m sure he’ll come around.”
“I guess.” I paused. “I smell Five Guys.”
“I told you your trip would be worth it,” he smiled, pulling out the takeout bag from behind the desk.
I put the Origami X-Men situation behind me. Right now, all that mattered was dinner with my dad. Tomorrow, the Origami X-Men would come up again. Everyone always made sure it did.
The next day, it was back to my regular routine: avoiding people. The newspaper article never actually included my picture, so I was able to fly at least a little under the radar. (Some of the other Katies at Claremont had had some unwelcome attention as well.) Everyone knew about me; only a few knew me. Those few included Nathan Torres, my newest tolerated acquaintance.
Nathan and I had Chemistry class together. But class also included Sofia Ortiz and Caiden Lashay, Origami X-Men’s Mystique and Quicksilver, respectively. And the chemistry between the two of them and I was nothing short of a bubbly acidic mess.
See, the class had been partnering up to work on titrations, and I, deep in my routine of avoiding people, wound up unpaired. So, I got assigned to Sofia and Caiden’s duo. I noticed Nathan was working with a guy I barely recognized; I think his name was Daveed.
“Remember, class,” Mr. Whitmire explained, “If the titrant is off by even a little, your calculations will be all messed up. Make sure your measurements are even and precise, and your observations even moreso.”
“Hi,” I said to Sofia and Caiden.
“Yeah, yeah,” Sofia said, distracted by her measurements. “Look, girl, Caiden and I are partners that live by one rule.”
“Talk less, chase A+ success,” Caiden grumbled. “Doesn’t work for me because I talk a lot and I never pass a B-.”
“Isn’t that two rules?”
Sofia was unfazed. “Work quietly and efficiently, and we’ll get along great. You can write down the measurements.”
“Fantastic,” I sighed. Caiden pushed the pad roughly toward me.
“What’s everyone’s names?” I asked, politely, jotting mine down.
I wrote it down while Caiden eyed it. “No, it’s Caiden, not Kaden. Let me—” He grabbed the pad and pencil. He scanned the names. His eyes widened. “You’re the Brooks girl!”
“What?” Sofia yelled, knocking over a container. The class looked over. “Sorry,” Sofia glowered.
“Please be careful with the equipment,” Mr. Whitmire ordered.
The rest of the class resumed their work. I could feel Nathan Torres watching our table from across the room. Sofia stood up the container and started taking measurements again. Caiden just stared at me.
“So…” I continued, looking at the instructions on the table. “We need the burelle, and-”
“So, heard you’re joining the Origami X-Men,” Caiden said. “In the immortal words of the great cowboys of the American wild west, ‘This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.’”
“But there is more than two of us-” I started, but I was interrupted by Sofia.
“Well, it doesn’t matter if there’s two or not, because she’s not joining.”
I tried to ignore her; I’d heard enough from both sides to not really care. But Nathan had still been listening at the other table, and, well…
Nathan snorted. Sofia picked her head up. “Are you feeling alright, Nathan? Wouldn’t want you to sneeze and contaminate your sample.”
“The people want Katie Brooks to join the Origami X-Men,” he stated, confidently and pompously. I didn’t mind Nathan, but he could be a bit overbearing.
“The people aren’t on the team, Nathan,” Sofia said, going back to her calculations. She poured the titrant into the bourette before I could make any suggestions.
“And the team… doesn’t want me on it?” I asked, cautiously.
“No,” said Sofia shortly.
“Daniel and Lila seem pretty nice…” I murmured.
Nathan stood up, enraged.
Daveed raised his hand warily. “Hey, Nathan, how many significant figures did you get for the concentra—”
“Four. Sofia, you can’t keep her out. I know her well enough to know she deserves it!”
“She’s not done anything to show that, Torres. Not enough to prove it.”
“I could, if you’d let me have a chance,” I offered. I never was so enthusiastic about this whole ‘joining a team’ thing once Nathan put me on the map, but now, hearing one of the members seem so against it…I don’t know. Maybe I did want to be on the team. If nothing else, I could show Sofia that she was wrong, something I don’t think she often was.
“Oh yeah? How?” she asked.
I glared. “Does it matter?”
While we weren’t paying attention, Caiden was still writing stuff down on the board, and I’m fairly certain he added more of the titrant to the analyte. While we were arguing, the liquid started turning an ugly color.
“Um, guys,” Daveed, at the other table, spoke up. “You might want to check your mixture.”
Sofia’s eyes widened. “You messed it up!”
Caiden looked defeated. “I—”
“Not you. Katie!”
“You’ve been yelling at me this whole time, how could I have possibly—”
“Quiet down,” Mr. Whitmire said, raising his voice. He left his desk and walked over to our table. He looked over our mixture. “Ortiz, Brooks, Lashay, were you paying attention at all? Clean the buorette and try again with the correct volume of titrant.”
As soon as he walked away, Sofia shot daggers at me with her expression. “You’ve certainly proved yourself, all right.”
“What? No, I-” I started to defend myself, but I caught a look from Mr. Whitmire and stopped myself.
But, now I learned; I did want to join the Origami X-Men. I could do it. Couldn’t I?
“Yes!” Daveed shouted, his solution turning the perfect color. The class looked at him, puzzled, and his face fell, embarrassed. “I did it.”
It’s not hard to find Declan whenever I want to talk to him, which is often; he’s usually surrounded by a cluster of girls obsessed with him. Declan is far and away the most popular guy at Claremont Academy. His dad is a rich developer on Wall Street, and this has always given Declan a boost in his status. As one might expect, he was on the Origami X-Men team.
He was the Origami Cyclops before me. That gave me an ‘in’, something not a lot of people had. After school was over, I went to go ask him my questions. Sure enough, he was outside, studying under a tree on the lawn, while several girls watched him. It made me equal parts disgusted and jealous.
“Eric!” Declan said, looking up from his book. “Long time no see, buddy. How are you?”
“Your fanbase is here,” I noted.
“They’re dedicated,” he said, offhandedly. “Are you single?”
“Are you offering?”
He looked at me with disgust. “Offering to set you up. Not take you out.”
“I know. And no thanks.”
He sighed. “Well, if you’re not here for one of the girls, what are you here for?”
“I wanted to ask you what you thought about Katie Brooks.”
“So it is about a girl?”
“Not exactly. She wants to join the Origami X-Men. It’s been in the school paper.”
“Really?” Declan asked. “Didn’t notice.”
“Yeah. That twerp, Nathan Torres, wrote a little story and now everyone’s sold on opening up the Origami X-Men to outsiders.”
“Disgusting. That’s why you don’t trust the press, Eric. They’re vultures.”
“I mean, why did I get a spot on the Origami X-Men?” I asked. “What was important to you guys when you let me on the team?”
He shrugged. “You’re like me, I guess. You’ve got a lot of potential. People seemed to like you a lot. Your family isn’t half bad either.” My mother was a scientist working on renewable energy, which does put you on the map. “You looked like a good option, and once I was done with the X-Men, I thought you’d be a good person to take my spot.”
I thought about it for a minute. Yeah, it did make sense. “I just don’t know how to let someone like Katie join.”
“Who says you have to? Katie Brooks doesn’t sound like a particularly exceptional option. If you can’t see what she’d bring to the team, why would you let her join?”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said, crossing my arms. “Half of the team seems to want her, though.”
“You’re the leader, Eric. You control the team, not your teammates.” He stood up, put his pen in his pocket and closed his textbook. “Always a pleasure, Eric. Good luck with your team issues. You’ll be able to figure it out, I’m sure.”
With that, Declan headed out onto the pavement towards his car and the cluster of girls followed him. I was left alone, under the tree, thinking over what he’d just said. I’d now been given two very different pieces of advice. Who should I listen to?
It’s Not Easy Being Mean
In the midst of this split among the Origami X-Men, operations otherwise seemed normal. I walked with Daniel on our “patrol” of Claremont, which mostly involved Daniel tossing a yo-yo while I kept my head down, deep in thought. Daniel seemed to notice that I was preoccupied and was smart enough to leave me in my thoughts.
I was the deciding vote. With Caiden unhelpfully uninterested and a deadlock between Sofia and Daniel, the matter of Katie Brooks fell into my hands.
“You’re pretty quiet,” Daniel commented finally, absentmindedly performing a subpar cat’s cradle.
“Am I?” I asked, a bit snarkily. “Interesting.”
Daniel looked a bit confused, but he caught on pretty quick. “Not much use discussing the issue.”
“You’re not buckling, are you?”
Daniel waved to a friend in the hallway, and turned back to me. “I think it’s the right thing to do, Eric. I don’t really feel much else about it. Can you honestly say that keeping everything so…secluded is right?”
I snorted. “You never used to talk like this.”
“I didn’t used to think like this,” Daniel admitted. “Until we met- wait a second…”
Coming out of one of the classrooms with several books in his hands was Parker, the troublemaker we’d fought earlier in the year- coincidentally, right after Katie Brooks had arrived on campus.
Parker saw us, and his face quickly cycled through the expressions of fear, annoyance, and finally resentment. He seemed to be focusing his hatred on me in particular.
“Eric,” he said tightly.
“Parker,” I said coolly. I tried to avoid the obvious tension. “How’re you holding up?”
“Just peachy,” Parker sniped back. “I’ve been a model student since January, just so you know. No reason to get me suspended. And I’m not idolizing you guys anymore, either.” He looked past me. “Hey, Daniel.”
“Good to see you, Parker,” Daniel replied. He sounded way kinder than Parker deserved.
“You wanna see my new puppet?” Parker asked, with a sneer. He held up an orange and purple character with a long, pink tongue. “Meet Toad. You guys treated me like slime, so I made the grossest character I could find. What do you think?”
“It looks good!” Daniel said, shrugging.
I rolled my eyes and told Parker what he wanted to hear. “It looks disgusting.”
“Thanks.” Parker pushed past me and Daniel.
I let out a sigh and turned. “Parker?”
“We’re not heroes. We’re just a group of kids who fight over whether a transfer student can join our club.”
Parker looked at me carefully. “Well, you were heroes to me. And you’re heroes to a lot of people here. I looked up to you guys. The super cool Origami X-Men…protectors of peace and justice at Claremont, a team who made sure they lived up to the reputation of the school. I thought you’d be cool like the actual X-Men. It was disappointing, to say the least.”
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said.
Parker looked like he was going to say something, but apparently thought better of it and trudged off.
I thought about how much I had looked up to Declan. At the time, I had also felt what Parker had described. He and his team…man, I missed those guys. Declan and Emily used to be so nice. They gave me that feeling of wanting to be someone looked up to, someone that worked to defend the reputation of something bigger. Come to think of, Declan never seemed to have that feeling anymore. Not since Emily left. I wonder when I lost that feeling.
At any rate, it wasn’t with me now. But what Parker said sparked a glimmer of it.
“Hmm,” I grunted.
“Yeah?” Daniel asked. “What’s up?”
I paused and turned. “Hey, uh…I’ll see you later.”
Daniel looked confused, but he nodded. “Oh, uh, sure. I’ll finish the patrol.”
“See you for lunch?”
He looked surprised. “Okay. Sure. I think Five Guys is catering today.”
“Score,” I said. “Bring the team.”
I was back in Mr. Millar’s office, this time lying on the couch facing the ceiling. I didn’t feel well. I’d wrestled with the decision for so long, that now that it was made, I just felt…drained.
“I’m not exactly supposed to offer it, but would you want some coffee? It helps with the nerves.” Mr. Millar was at the machine, pouring himself a cup of what smelled like a very strong brew. He stirred in some cream and took a sip.
“No, thank you,” I replied. “Coffee tastes like broken dreams.”
Mr. Millar chuckled. “Suit yourself.” He sat down in the same chair opposite me, picked up his clipboard and pen, and started writing. “Have you come to a conclusion?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” I moaned. “This morning.”
“How did it go?”
“I genuinely don’t know.”
I’m not an indecisive person, really. Most decisions I can make quickly and easily. It’s what made me such a good leader of the team. But this stumped me, completely. Earlier, however, after seeing Parker, I came to a decision. A decision that I didn’t like, but a decision all the same.
My stomach turned the whole morning. It really shouldn’t be as huge as I made it, and I get that; at surface level, these are puppets. Puppets that shouldn’t mean as much as they do. But more than that, the Origami X-Men represented something to the school. What should it represent?
At lunchtime was when I would state my piece. I called the current team together, and told them what I thought.
“Please say this is finally over with,” Caiden begged, barely listening. He had his phone out, scrolling through Instagram or something. “I just want to go back to punching idiots.”
“Katie isn’t joining, right? She can’t be.” Sofia was focused, ignoring her lunch and looking me in the eye, skeptically.
“She can and she will, Sofia,” Lila replied. “It’ll be great for the school and our reputation.”
“And, it’s the right thing to do,” Daniel added.
“Quiet, please,” I ordered. They listened. “I’ve made my decision.” I removed Origami Cyclops from my pocket and laid him on the table. “I’m resigning from the team.”
Everybody looked at me, dumbfounded. “WHAT?!” they all said.
“And Katie is on the team.”
The ‘What?!’ was repeated, and with more intensity. They all started talking at once, questioning what I was doing and if I’d lost my mind. You know, what you’d expect.
I told them to be quiet and asked them to let me explain. “I can’t deal with this. The Origami X-Men has been the same for so long that this much change…isn’t what I prepared for. That’s why I’m resigning. I’m not as effective a leader as I thought I was. If I can’t lead you through the tough problems without nearly making myself puke, I suck.
“I think that letting Katie join is right, actually. So, that’s the first part of my last order; let Katie in. The people want it, and half of you want it. Do it.”
“So you’re making us do this and just peacing out?” Sofia asked, indignantly. “What kind of leader-”
“That’s my point, Sofia. I’m a bad leader.” The words felt bad as they left my mouth. “Hence the resignation.” I looked at each of them individually. “I want all of you to stick together. That’s the second part. The school does need us. Well, you. Don’t fracture just because I leave. Daniel, that’s up to you.”
“What?” Daniel asked, then pointed at himself, confused. “Me?”
“You’re the nicest one here,” I explained. “I see that now. So either become the new leader or find someone else who can. It’s up to you.”
“Um, yes sir,” Daniel said, with a mock salute.
“But what made you decide?” Lila asked, still dumbfounded.
I smiled. “I remembered what the X-Men are. The X-Men aren’t an exclusive rich club for the high society folks. The real X-Men literally come from everywhere and everyone. It’s a team that’s supposed to be open and welcoming to those who need it. We’re…not that. But you should be.
“I’ll be around, of course. I’m not leaving the school. Just, for the best of the team, and I guess myself, I need to figure things out. I hope you guys can understand.”
“Um, yeah, sure,” Lila said.
Sofia crossed her arms. “Whatever.”
“So long, Dunlap,” Caiden said, finally looking up from his phone.
Daniel was quiet the longest. “I never really agreed with you all that often. But I’ll be sad to see you go. I really respect your decision, Eric.”
“Thanks, guys.” I turned around. “Well, see you around.”
As I walked away from the lunch table, I noticed Declan staring at me a few rows down. Once he caught my eye, all he did was shake his head, disappointed, and turn around.
I finished telling all of this to Mr. Millar, still with a knot in my stomach. “Did I make the right decision?”
Mr. Millar was absentmindedly biting his tongue, considering my story. Finally, after writing something down, he sighed. “I’m proud of you, Eric.”
“It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, and a bigger man to accept the consequences.”
I played back the events in my head really quickly. “But I’m not sure how well Sofia and Caiden will take it. Or if Daniel and Lila will know what to do. And Declan seemed to think it’s a horrible idea.”
Mr. Millar chuckled again. “If I may be candid, Declan is a punk. If I were you, I wouldn’t put much stock into what he thinks. If Declan Parrish thinks it’s a bad idea, that’s a good indication that it’s a good one. Reminds me of some other people I knew.” He smirked to himself, then continued. “As for your team, trust them to make the right decisions going forward. There’s some good hearts there, if a bit stubborn.”
“Okay,” I said, slowly. “Well, then…what do I do?”
“What do you think you should do?”
“I’m not sure,” I said, telling the truth. “Maybe learn how the Origami X-Men got so messed up?”
Mr. Millar smirked again. “Nathan Torres will be able to help you out with that.”
My face instinctively wrinkled at the name, but I stopped myself quickly. “Ugh, fine.”
“You’re on the right path, Eric. Trust yourself and you’ll be on a good one.”
That’s been my goal since the last meeting; just trying to find a good path. I don’t know where I’ll be without the Origami X-Men, but I’ll find something. This absolutely isn’t what I expected. But it might just be what I, and the rest of the team, really need.
What the People Want
Eric’s decision travelled fast around the school. Everyone, not least of all, me, was left in shock. Who knew what such a sudden change would mean for everyone involved?
I was summoned – I say summoned, more like Daniel came over and asked me to meet him – to the big tree outside on the school’s main lawn. It turned out to be the unofficial meeting place of the Origami X-Men.
It felt slightly weird: something that I’d been promised to do for over four months now was finally coming true. What Nathan Torres had challenged the team to do was coming to pass, and my dad turned out to be right. Huh.
Don’t get me wrong: I was now sure that I wanted to be in this team. If nothing else, to show Sofia Ortiz that she was full of it. But, there was something else; it felt like I was doing what my dad wasn’t able to do years ago. That had to count for something, right?
After school, I followed Daniel’s instructions and headed onto the lawn. Sure enough, the team was waiting for me by, or in Caiden’s case in, the tree. It was a nice place to meet, I had to admit.
I noticed they all looked uncomfortable; Lila was twirling her hair on finger; Sofia looked grumpier than I’d ever seen her; Daniel was biting his tongue, hoping everything would go well; and Caiden was doing pull-ups to pass the time. After everything, I didn’t blame them.
“Welcome, Katie Brooks!” Lila said, importantly. “Welcome to the Origami X-Men.”
“Uh, thanks for having me,” I said, shyly. “Weird, huh?”
“Very,” Sofia grunted. “But sure, welcome.”
I shot her a quick look.
Daniel looked around. “So, does…anybody know how to properly induct a new member?”
“Shouldn’t you know, new leader?” Sofia asked.
Daniel looked at Lila. “You’ve been on the team almost as long as Eric was. How did he do it?”
“I don’t remember,” Lila said, apologetically. “It’s been a long time.”
Caiden dropped down from the tree branch. “Don’t worry, guys. Eric sent me the instructions.” He pulled out his phone and started scrolling. “It’s here somewhere…aha!”
He stood up straight and began to read in a terrible sophisticated accent, “Here, in this impromptu meeting, we recognize the acceptance of new member Katie Brooks to the Origami X-Men. Congratulations, Katie Brooks, for being accepted to this prestigious establishment.” He squinted as he read. “Eric specifically asks us to not hold any grudges and to ‘set all difficulties aside for the nobility and image of the group’. He also requested that Daniel honors him with a 21 yo-yo salute, which I am going to pass on.”
He glanced at Daniel, Eric’s designated leader of the group, who seemed perfectly fine with this.
“And with these words, Katie Brooks is now a member of the group.” Caiden looked up. “Well, I didn’t see that coming.”
The group gave a round of polite golf applause, Sofia clapping at a much slower rate.
“Thanks, guys,” I said, smiling. I knew I wouldn’t be able to win them all immediately, but I’d do my best.
“So, now comes the time to choose your character, Katie,” Lila said, importantly. “Someone who you feel embodies your traits, or just looks cool.”
I smirked. I’d already had a character chosen for a long time, ever since Nathan had launched his investigation. I’d been using it as a bookmark in my schoolwork ever since. Taking my puppet out of the book and putting it onto my finger, I waggled it proudly.
“I’ve got one already,” I explained. “Everyone, meet Origami X-23!”