Emily came out from her room and saw everyone sitting in their usual places. She got her chair and joined them with a casual word. “So I think I saw Pierce’s brother today. I’m not sure because he ran off before I could ask him any questions.” Emily felt the sudden tension in the room and looked at everyone in turn. Jessica spoke first.
“We saw him the other day, during midterms.” Jessica tried to keep the same casual tone to her voice, but Maria thought it necessary to apologize.
“We didn’t say anything because we didn’t want to upset you.”
Emily looked around and Melissa nodded and looked into her orange soda while Mindy nodded and looked at Jessica. Amina had her hand up.
“I wasn’t there, but I knew he was around. I did not say anything because he did not feel like a threat.” Emily frowned at her and she looked away. “I am sorry. I am still learning what to say and what not to say of what I see. I am sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Emily assured her. “But this is just the sort of information we need to share. We need to not keep secrets from each other. And while I think of it,” she looked again at Amina. “If you want to go out with Joel, you don’t need my permission. I’m not your mom. You keep saying we are Amazons, start acting like one.”
“Saved by the knock,” Amina said, and then there was a knock on the door. It was Sara, the Priestess, and she brought a copy of the picture Jessica drew.
“I got this from Lisa. She got it from Latasha who showed it to her science teacher who is apparently a very mysterious person. She says it was an ogre or troll, but turned orc. That means an earth spirit in rebellion.”
“I said ogre or troll,” Mindy piped up.
“And I would guess where there is one, there are probably others,” Emily said. Amina nodded.
“Lisa said she may have seen one skulking around her house,” Sara added.
“Zoe’s mystery, do you think?” Maria suggested. “Like maybe some escaped from wherever it is they belong.”
Jessica had a different thought. “I never had cool teachers like that back in high school.”.
Jessica sat quietly in her environmental science class and looked around. The lecture hall was half empty. She thought it might be Professor Maynard’s teaching style. The woman was more boring than a drill. Then she thought it might be the subject matter. Emily had the class freshman year and described it perfectly. It did not matter what the book said, Maynard blamed the human race for every ill on the planet. It did not matter how twisted and tortured the logic, Maynard made it clear she thought the earth would be better off without people.
Emily warned her not to take the class, but she needed a science class and figured this would be an easy “A.” All she had to do was blame humanity for everything in her tests and papers and move on. Apparently a number of other students figured it out as well, but she was still surprised they were not in class. Attendance counted as part of the grade.
“All right.” Maynard put down her chalk and stopped lecturing. That caused Jessica and others to start paying attention, at least temporarily. “Professor Orlov and I are still in need of additional volunteers. We have plenty of Center for Disease Control money so we can pay you for your time. We are mapping the relationship between the brain and immune system in combination with certain environmental factors. We need samples only, and no, I don’t mean brain samples, and it won’t hurt. Please consider volunteering.” Professor Maynard smiled, but it was a pitiful thing. “Class dismissed.”
Jessica stepped out of the building and saw Mindy, Melissa and Amina walking toward the campus center. She thought she might join them, but then she might not. She felt frustrated, pointless, unworthy… She could not find the right word.
The Priestess was right. All of the other girls were seriously talented and special in some way, and Sara, the Priestess, was just as talented in her own way, even if she did not see it in herself. Jessica wondered, what a hunter was, anyway? Did that mean she had to become a redneck and take her bow and arrows out in deer season? Fat chance of that happening in Beverly Hills. She felt useless.
Okay, she said to herself. Emily and the others expected her to be in charge when Emily was not around, but what did that mean, really? Okay, she joined ROTC because she discovered she could do things she never imagined, like all the physical stuff and fighting and weapons. Oddly enough she found the course work interesting as well, unlike Maynard’s stupid class. But what did that really mean?
Jessica shook her head and thought of Jack. She thought, Jessica Brinkman and wondered if every woman thought such things at the beginning of a relationship, just to see how the name fit. He was nice. She really liked him, not the least because they shared so many interests, including the army.
Jessica made up her mind. She was going to sign up for a time of service. The upper class of ROTC, the junior and senior class was only for those who signed up for service after college. And she might marry Brinkman, or someone like him, and be an army wife. That would not be bad. And then she could put all this Amazon stuff behind her and not feel useless anymore.
Jessica stepped down to the walkway and made another decision. She was going to change her major to political science. She really did not like business. She knew her CEO father would not be happy, but he could not be more upset than he was when she told him she was going into ROTC.
Jessica’s nose went up into the air to get a good whiff. Something did not smell right. There was a fire somewhere. She stepped around the corner toward the faculty parking lot and found a small campfire made mostly of twigs. Three students, two boys and a girl were bouncing around it, excited, touching it and pulling their hand back to lick with their tongue and stick their fingers in their mouth. It was like they never saw fire before. Jessica recognized the girl.
“Megan, you missed Maynard’s class.”
The girl looked up and Jessica saw nothing behind those eyes. The girl shrieked and the boys echoed the sound, and they all ran off toward the distant woods.
“Hey, your fire. Hey!” Jessica yelled, but they did not respond. Jessica stomped out the stick fire and commented out loud. “That was weird.”