The Minda Verda School

By EnigmaInk

Chapter One: Part One


"The World Is Not Your Clam"

It didn't look like it had when he'd left.

Of course, that had been in the middle of the night and it was now mid-morning, so it was possible that a mere trick of the light could have accounted for the difference. It might have been the dramatically overgrown ivy and other weeds strangling the once vaguely pretty stone walls, or the poisoned sky ruined over the years he'd been gone. No, mused Mark Ildri as he continued his trek up the front drive of his former home. The difference was most definitely the armed guard patrolling the boarder of the estate that had once been the Minda Verda School.

The guard was more than an idle display of power, as they were about to prove. It amused Mark to think of such things going on in his former school, but as he knew well from his travels, security was becoming something of a necessity for places that looked of value.

Few such measures had already been in place when he succumbed to wanderlust, and as such Mark really, really hoped he knew someone on the guard. Otherwise convincing them of his desperate need for an audience with someone who was no doubt something like their leader was going to be tricky. Or maybe he was over dramatizing things. Some people take better to apocalypses than others, forming new hierarchies that felt almost prearranged within seemingly-too-little-time, as he could well testify to. Regardless there were currently no zombie warlords, and that was always a plus.

Luck appeared to not be with him as the figures neared. They were all strangers of varying degrees of formidability. The same cold fear that had griped him since he planned this return crept icy fingers up his spine; that in coming all the way back he would find nothing worth returning for, that those he sought were long lost to dismal fates, and that in his seeking he would bring about his own demise one way or another.

A building like this anyone might take over; he'd seen such things along his way and the possibilities of manners in which things could be the complete opposite of what he wanted multiplied in his head until they crowded out reason. There was only one member who looked as though he might have at one point been a student, but although never one to torment younger children per se, Mark had also never made a point of associating with them and as such had no idea who the young teen currently wielding impressive weaponry in his general direction was.

Mark didn't know what sort of a threat they seemed to think a lone pedestrian could be, even if he was hypothetically a Rover, but the five guards approaching him were jumpy looking. "State your name and purpose, Ezhnosim!" Despite his realization that his current predicament was a little difficult, Mark couldn't help cracking a small grin at the child's enthusiasm. Tragically this smile only served to infuriate the already over-excited youth, resulting in his pistol-whipping Mark's smirk right off his face. 'Ow,' thought Mark, regretful not only for his poor conduct but for the fact that terms like 'ezhnosim' had permeated as far as the shores of Minda Verda. He did not stop to consider that his landlocked alma mater had no legitimate shores.

"Peter, how old are you?"

Clutching his hands to his now no doubt black eye and slightly doubled over in pain, Mark was unable to see the source of the voice. The question, posed from a female he assumed had snuck up after his brief interrogation with the initial perimeterguard, was sort of an unusual one, he thought, given the circumstances. I mean, you'd think she'd look into that sort of thing prior to assigning someone to a guard. She sounds kind of familiar, actually…

"I, er, I'm fifteen, ma'am."

"That you are, Peter, and if you wish to one day be sixteen you'll refrain from such over zealousness with our… visitors. There's no call for being quite so on edge, you're home now, it's all okay, I can't seem to reiterate that point enough for you. Off sentry shift. Shoo."

Peter made a discontented sort of a small noise and ambled off.

"Now, what have we here?"

Cool fingers, presumably belonging to the aforementioned voice, gently lifted Mark's bloodied face into the morning sunlight. Her composure shattered nearly audibly as she recognized that he was, in fact, as previously stated, Mark Ildri.

"Mark!" she gasped, as you might indeed expect one to gasp were one presented with the sudden arrival of a friend of whom nothing had been heard for nearly two years. She was unable to resist an impulsive embrace, though in retrospect she realized that such a display of sentiment may not have been wise in front of her defense force, prone to anarchy as they were.

"Hi, Katie. How's it going?"

Right, right, other people still lived here. They would have to be dealt with, greeted and such. This delay in seeing the people most important to him irritated Mark but could not be helped, and so despite his verbal offhandedness he did reciprocate KT's hug and even one-upped her with a kiss on the check. She blushed prettily in defiance of her somewhat frighteningly severe black attire and insisted that he come inside the school-turned-citadel to have his already swelling face attended to and, if she was slightly less intensely busy than usual, see Kimberly. Of course, he'd want to see Kim.

KT dismissed the rest of the disgruntled sentry group and began to think distraughtly of what she could possibly say to break the rapidly approaching awkward silence as they continued to walk up the drive. She couldn't decide if she was upset or relieved by his ignoring her presence as he looked the grounds over thoughtfully. Eventually she settled on 'agitated'. 'What could possibly be going through his mind right now? Could he please not say anything I have to formulate a logical response to? God, years go by and all this happens and he still has this effect on me...' KT recalled her first experience with the Mark and the path they walked together now, not without cringing...

…Because before there was any leaving for anyone to return from, there were arrivals and other scary new things. We shall concern ourselves primarily with the entrance of a skittish fourteen year old to the Minda Verda scene, a Ms. Kerri Terrence Bell. Additionally, we shall sometimes speak as though we were British if it so pleases us. Sometimes it helps to be British when composing a flashback, so that no one gets confused.

The girl in question is trying to discern some sense or pattern from the raindrops that are smattering with hideous glee across the car window from which she had hoped to catch the first glimpse of her new school. But to no avail, for the first day of the fall term was fraught with mist, the most unpleasant of precipitations. Upon reflection, however, Kerri wouldn't have had it any other way. She liked it when the weather reflected her mood. And being, as she felt, 'sent away', to boarding school did definitely not create a fluffy clouds and sunshine sort of a feeling. In stark contradiction to both the day and Kerri's corresponding emotions was the ecstatic girl across the seat from her, a Ms. Ann Tabitha Bell: Kerri's older sister. Ann was not being sent away. Ann had chosen to go, and in making that choice, decided Kerri's destiny as well. To Kerri's everlasting chagrin.

For the past four years Ann had been in attendance at a school which had aggressively recruited her for no discernable reason, and her younger sister had been at a public school. Kerri had hated her school, but stoically refused to admit it due to her terror of the alternative: the unknown. Hiding opportunities were not afforded in a class of fifty children, and so with the hope of forcing Kerri to greatness her parents had forced her into the Minda Verda School's freshman class. They attempted to illustrate the wisdom of this decision to Kerri via examples of how well her sister had done there, her achievements in every arena. Academic, athletic, social, Ann had it all. Accounts of Ann's success merely served to cement Kerri's notion that she would not do well at this school, since she and her sister tended to be polar opposites. But seeing as the car the school had sent form them was already pulling into the drive, it was a little late to escape now.

"Mrs. Landon! How was your summer?"

"Too short. Let's see, Ann T. Bell… Um… here we go. Double room with Trisha Gardens, number 28. I'll have Mr. Nazario bring your things up, its third story."

"Great, thank you. The driver left them outside the Remdale. Kerri, I'm going to go find Blaire."

"Uh, Ann, do you think you could maybe for a minute show me arou-?" But her sister was already gone in search of her boyfriend. Kerri couldn't be too hurt by being abandoned to the charity of the woman at the front desk; Ann hadn't seen Blaire all summer, but she was a little upset. What with the years of being here, away from Kerri, Ann was more like some vaguely pleasant cousin only seen during summers and holidays than a real sister. Or perhaps all sisters were this distant. Kerri wouldn't know. Either way there was some blood relationship between them that ought to necessitate at least a brief tour of these very new surroundings. Mrs. Landon disturbed the daggers Kerri was attempting to shoot through her eyes through the walls to wherever her erstwhile sibling had dashed off to. "And you are?"

"I… I'm Kerri Terrence Bell. Ma'am."

"9th grade?"

"That's right."

"You're a little late. I'm afraid you've missed the welcome. Your whole grade is free until an orientation after lunch, they could be anywhere." Mrs. Landon did not look afraid at all.

"Oh… my. Um, what should I do then?"

"Well, do you know your way around campus? You could move into your room, I think most of the other students already have."

"Er… no." KT mourned not 'accidentally' not getting of the plane and thus being in the Cayman islands by now, but then resigned herself to her fate with a sigh echoed by the receptionist, who seemed reluctant to leave the comfort of her desk.

"Alright, come along then."

"I'm sorry to have to bother you."

"Don't worry about it, it's my job." The supposedly reassuring statement was issued with a disquieting irony, as if the woman sort of wished that escorting disoriented students was not her within her duties. To be very technical it was not what she'd been hired for at all, but let's not argue over details just now.

Mrs. Landon led Kerri out of the main building and west, towards the dormitories; four impressive buildings housing the school's entire student body and most of the staff. Under any other circumstances Kerri might've appreciated the tactful architecture and landscaping, but presently she was too bewildered. The walk wasn't long and before she realized it the she had lost her opportunity to question her guide on any of the myriad of puzzling subjects before her.

Sure enough the groundskeeper had left her things on the steps. Mrs. Landon departed without so much as a goodbye and Kerry dragged her things up to a sunny second story room, painted a delicate shade of amethyst in accordance with bearing the title "The Iris Room" on the door. There were spaces for five girls, four of which were already taken. It was like summer sleep away camp, only with an eerily air of permanence. No posters, Kerri noted, regretfully stowing hers under her bed. Personalities were easy to tell from posters, but what did the complete lack of them say? 'We aren't allowed to tape things to the walls,' perhaps? She wasn't getting much from the neutrally pretty bedspreads or typically boring desk supplies either. She'd have to wait until she could actually meet these girls to determine just how miserable she was going to be here.

It didn't take much time to make up her bed and put her clothes away. That accomplished, she might as well explore her new home. The space wasn't really her own yet and it made her a little anxious to sit there alone. Crossing the threshold however a folder fallen behind the credenza caught her eye, or rather the name on it. Kerri T. Bell. It might have been good of that Landon woman to point this out to her, but no matter. Enclosed were a few rules-and-regulations-type papers, a rather good rendering of a grounds map, and a schedule. Apparently classes would begin the following morning.

KT was a little disconcerted to see that despite her record at her old school she hadn't been placed in any honors classes, until she remembered that every class at Minda Verda was essentially an honors-level class. What fun all those would be.

Her attempts at exploring the campus dead-ended her in the library, which wouldn't have been her first choice of destination but was absolutely gorgeous nonetheless. The library was nearly silent, so far a cry from the barely hushed gossiping and giggling of her old school. Of course, school wasn't in session now, there was no telling what the volume levels were like when there were students actually 'working' at the computer terminals and study tables. It would seem that in preparation for just such a circumstance there were small study rooms hidden at intervals behind shelves. It would seem that the non-fiction section was compartmentalized by subject into alcoves, from one of which were coming gentle noises. Eager to meet some of her new classmates, Kerri decided against knocking and walked in.

"-look, all I'm saying is, I just don't think that's the way to go about thi-"

Everyone looked up at the opening door; everyone resumed what they were doing when they saw who it was. Or rather, who it wasn't: Anyone important.

An indescribable amount of thanks and love to Zozma, without whom very few things, and most notably this story, are not possible.