It had been a long two months for Daniella Thomas. Not only had she flowed through three tumultuous relationships and had endured front-page photos of her kicking Bachelor Number Three in the balls, but she also had to contend with the fact that she was going to be alone to live out a tedious life of endless club-hopping. She had figured this out last night, in fact, after crashing half-drunkenly onto her bed after a foray into the depths of Soul Love Live.
When she got to sleep shortly thereafter, her dreams had started off just fine. She was in the middle of negotiating world peace at a UN conference wearing a glittery Versace dress when the dream transformed. All of a sudden, the room was devoured into flames. Danie fought her way to some kind of stable ground as it lurched around her, but all she could see was fire. A small figure screamed shrilly. Flames licked on Danie as she drifted toward the sound, but the fire thickened. Shadows enveloped the girl and Danie felt a strange dread. Feeling scared, she willed herself out of sleep. As she drifted upward to consciousness, she realized that something was not quite right. And she wasn’t alone.
She knew it was bad when a tall, redheaded apparition appeared before her very eyes.
Danie gasped, startled, then sighed. “Shit, you could have warned me or something.”
The redhead just looked at her, standing in her frighteningly erect posture. She didn’t blame Danie for being curt; she would have been the same if it had been herself lying in rumpled clothing in bed. “I did warn you, Daniella.” When Danie looked blank, she added, “Your dream?”
The fire. The girl. The shadows. Danie sat up in her wrinkled orange top and rubbed her eyes. “Oh, that part.”
The redhead shook her head at Danie. “You know, I would have expected you to be up by now.”
“Look, not all of us are on 12-hour day like you seem to be,” Danie snapped. “I had a wild night. No big deal.”
The redhead crossed her arms. “But Daniella, it is a big deal. It is a big deal because you have missed something very vital.”
“Like what? The Early Show on CBS? Look, I don’t have the fucking time to be arguing with you. I have to have a shower. I smell like alcohol and cheap perfume. Now who the hell sent you?”
The redhead stared at her point-blank in the eyes. “Aidanne did.”
Oh shit. It really was bad.
That was something worth listening to. Aidanne had been the Queen of the Sun a few thousand years ago and had died creating the Amulet of Nova, which was currently prostrate in one of Danie’s drawers. It was forbidden to use it. Danie could turn herself into Rotisserie Gold if she attempted to. But now that Aidanne had sent someone from the future to warn her of something, Danie had a bad feeling that it would see light before long.
Danie, sobered, started to climb out of bed and stopped instead to check her cell phone. No messages. Yet. “Why did Aidanne send you?”
The redhead sensing that Danie understood a bit of the danger that lie ahead, walked to the window. “She wanted me to warn you that there is an imbalance among you now. Something has happened with one of your allies.”
Usagi, was Danie’s first thought. But someone would have called her if that had happened. As Danie joined the redhead at the window, alarm overtook her. “Just come out with it!” she exclaimed.
The redhead remained calm. Her features, while they were identical to Danie’s, displayed calm. “Look out the window.”
Danie’s temper flared. “I don’t see why the hell looking out of the window–”
The redhead grabbed Danie’s head and pushed it up to the glass. Danie growled. Those future Senshi are some brute chicks.
“What do you see?” she asked.
God, here we go again. “Okay. I see Gracia Row. There are a family of three coming out of the ice cream shop, a woman reading a book, and a man trying to channel Elizabeth Taylor but getting George Michael–”
“What do you see?!” she demanded tersely, turning Danie’s head again.
Oh holy fucking shit.
They were both dressed in black like servants of evil. The woman was leading while the man trailed behind. She wore makeup heavily on her face and had probably helped him with his. Her dark hair glinted brown under the light of the Sun while his was bleached blond.
She’d recognize that receding hairline anywhere.
“They’re coming here for you,” the redhead told her.
Danie, who was still shocked about seeing the two together, looked at her great-great-great-great granddaughter with wide eyes. “They’re coming here?”
“They will kill you if you do not transform now,” the redhead told her.
Kill you was a phrase that Danie understood. She reached into her nightstand drawer and produced a citrine-encrusted pen. Afterwards, she marched out the door, wondering why all the bad guys chose to come when she was recovering from clubbing the night before.
* * *
Meanwhile, some miles away, the bell rang at the prestigious Kaminari Academy to signal the beginning of the school day. All of the clocks in the building read eight o’clock sharp. The five hundred and some odd number students, dressed in uniforms, were ensconced in their desks, chattering about their weekends or religiously preparing for their teachers’ lectures.
However, in Kaminari’s only astronomy class, there was a bit of an uproar.
“Hey,” said one pupil. “Where’s our teacher?” Similar questions followed.
Sitting in the prime seat in the middle of the room, Shane Huntington the Third rolled his eyes and crossed his arms across his chest. All he could think about at that moment was the possibility that if he didn’t get an A in this damned class, Dr. Francis would have hell to pay.
What he didn’t realize was that he had said it aloud, until Tori Jiyuu glared at him and said, “You’re such a snob, Huntington.”
Shane appraised her with a cocked eyebrow. “My father is head of the board at this slum, so I believe I’m entitled to the fringe benefits. Unlike those on scholarship.” He said the word as if it tasted like moldy cheese.
Tori, who was on scholarship for her softball skills, chuckled sardonically at the remark. “And you know that your jerk-off of a father could be voted off of the board if anyone knew about the incident.”
That made Shane shut up.
A few students looked at each other, wondering what Tori meant. But no one had the guts to ask.
The door opened. The students looked up expectedly to find their teacher, a substitute–something. Instead they were greeted with the sight of a set of triplets. Shane raised his eyebrows at the sight of them. The first one with brown hair flowing past her shoulders haughtily walked past him and sat down in the seat directly behind him. The tallest one with the ponytail and Nikes took the seat behind her sister. The last one with short hair took the seat beside her big sister.
Tori didn’t miss a beat in speaking to them. “So you guys are new or something?” she asked excitedly.
The first one shrugged. “I suppose,” she responded in a bored tone, staring upon her nails as if they were the most interesting things in the world.
The last one sighed, exasperated at her sister’s rudeness, and addressed Tori. “Yes, we are new. We just moved here from–”
“Never Never Land,” quipped the first. “It’s a place you gotta see to believe.”
“Angelica–” began the second one.
“Hey. Leave me alone, Angelique. I was just telling a joke. Can’t I tell a joke?” demanded the one called Angelica.
“Would the both of you just can it?” said the third one calmly. “Class is about to start.”
With her strange genius sixth sense, it was if she knew the teacher was coming, because the door opened again just as soon as her triplet sisters closed their mouths. Of course, upon seeing the gray-haired, uptight principal leading their new substitute teacher, Angelica’s mouth immediately dropped back open. And so did several other girls’ mouths in the room.
“Gosh, he’s a major hottie!” Angelica whispered. “Looks like we came just in time…”
“Can it, Angelica!” hissed her sisters.
Principal Pitts glanced around the room upon hearing the whispering, his eyes narrowed and suspicious. The teens quieted down, mostly because they knew that Principal Pitts was quite unpleasant when scolding about decorum (and lord knew how teenagers hated to hear the mere utterance of the word, especially if they knew what it meant), and partly because they (okay, the girls really) wanted to know who the tall, dark, and handsome hunk was.
Pitts cleared his throat, then spoke. “Class, I hate to inform you that Dr. Francis once again has the stomach flu.” He paused for effect, and a few snickers from the affluent crowd snuck through along with a few jokes about Mexican food. Pitts glared in disapproval, then cleared his throat and continued. “He is going to be out indefinitely.” A few cheers to which Pitts did not respond. “Fortunately, you all will not get to miss out on instruction for this semester, as we have found a temporary replacement for our fallen Dr. Francis.” Pitts gestured to the lanky, dark-haired young man standing behind him. “Class, this is your new teacher, Mr. Bloom.”
The girls couldn’t help but chatter excitedly among themselves, already scheming on after-school study sessions and candied apples to get his attention. Angelica was imagining herself sitting in the cherry blossom tree grove with the cute Mr. Bloom as he was stroking her hair and telling her how beautiful she was–
“Gel!” hissed Angelique. “Would you pay attention?!”
Well, damn. Angelica sent her younger sister a glare and huffily got out her Hello Kitty notebook and a ballpoint pen. To her relief, Mr. Bloom was only introducing himself. Principal Pitts had left the classroom but not without giving them (particularly the girls) disapproving glances for their chatter about the cute new substitute. She placed her chin on her palm and dreamily watched Mr. Bloom talk. Ah, what an absolutely delicious accent he has.
“Well, Principal Pitts already introduced me,” Mr. Bloom began, “but I rather not be so formal. After all, I’m not much older than you, so I’d rather you call me Orlando.”
Angelica sighed dreamily. “Orlando,” she breathed. In front of her, Shane grimaced but remained silent.
“I’m from England, if you can’t already tell,” he went on. “I went to school both here and in England, and I graduated with honors from college just three short years ago. At the moment, I am continuing my education in drama at the university nearby. I teach part-time to keep the lights on the clothes on my back.”
“You certainly don’t need those,” murmured Angelica. A dark look from Angela and a shove in the back of the head from Angelique was the response.
A short-haired brunette from the affluent corner raised her hand.
“Yes… What’s your name?”
The girl began to speak, drawing the class’s attention. The classroom door opening again broke the hold the girl had upon her audience. They all groaned when Principal Pitts made another appearance, ushering Miss Takumi, the Academy’s guidance counselor, and a mysterious, dark-eyed girl into the room.
“Aw hell. It’s the Armpits again,” muttered a guy in the corner of the room.
“Just making sure things were alright” was Pitts’ excuse for bothering them. Miss Takumi sighed and shook her head when Pitts was out of earshot.
“Sorry, Orlando, but I’ve got another new student for you,” Miss Takumi said. She gently pushed the quiet girl toward Orlando. The girl just stared at her feet. “This is Felice. She just transferred in from–”
“Nowhere,” interrupted Felice briskly. “It doesn’t matter where I came from.”
If Miss Takumi was surprised, shocked, or ready to back-slap Felice for interrupting her, she hid it well. She handed Orlando a copy of Felice’s schedule with minimal chatter and patted the quiet girl on the shoulder, wishing her a nice day. Felice didn’t move. Miss Takumi left. Orlando perused Felice’s schedule idly then looked at her.
“Shakespearean Studies, huh?” Felice didn’t respond. She just blinked, looking uncomfortable. “You like Shakespeare?”
“I suppose,” Felice responded in an even tone. “Do you?”
Orlando brought a hand to his heart dramatically. “Ah, a girl after my own heart.” Felice raised an eyebrow. “Well, why don’t you take a seat so we can continue on with the complexities of astronomy?” He handed her schedule to her.
“Thank you.” And with that, Felice found a seat near the door. The brunette was now seething with anger, as her moment with Orlando was shattered by the arrival of…that girl.
Who was she? And why was she from “nowhere”?
The question burned on the brunette’s mind for less than ten seconds, but she filed it away for later. Meanwhile, Angelica Wolfe inwardly groaned with dismay because she knew exactly who the mysterious dark-skinned girl was.