Title: Sins of Tragedy (1/?)
Author name:
E.D. Fiorentino
Sub Category:
teens, science, war
M for adult themes and language
When a virus attacks her classmates and leaves them no more than animals, it's up to Stephanie to find a way to save them; but how much can your average teen do to when she's up against bio-warfare and it's all she can do to save herself from her friends?
DISCLAIMER: All plots, ideas, and characters are derived from original thoughts by the author. Use of said characters, plots, and ideas are forbidden without written consent of the author. In plain old English: DO NOT STEAL!!
Author notes:
A big thank you to my friend Marina who gave me the Russian endearments "solnushka" (sunshine) and "dochenka" (daughter).

Part One: Hubris

Chapter One

Dazzling sunlight nibbled at the curtains and teased Stephanie into wakefulness. It was her last morning waking up at home before returning to school; the last morning of summer; one last chance to sleep in. She groaned and pulled one corner of her pillow over her face, desperately trying to return to her dreams. A few minutes of breathing the stuffy pillow changed her mind, and she reluctantly uncovered her face and opened her eyes. While she'd released sleep for another night, she had not nearly enough conviction to slide out from under the covers and begin her day for real.

Stephanie leaned her head further back into her pillow and tried to remember what she had been doing moments before. Like sleep, her dreams partially eluded her, bits and pieces coming to the surface of her mind, but nothing whole and remarkable. Except….

I was flying. Air rushed over my face, making my eyes water, my nose tingle, my hair knot in snapping tendrils that prickled my back. It wasn't unpleasant, altogether. Really, it was quite exhilarating; I was moving faster than I could run, and more gracefully than I could dance. The ground below me disappeared almost before I could register the scenery: trees, grass, and not much else. I looked ahead: a city, death and concrete, with a storm forming overhead. The clouds rolled and boiled, lightning flickering in its depths. While I knew the danger of the storm, I still flew onward, reckless in my abandonment of my humanness, my two-legged form no longer ruled by gravity and other natural laws. I was free…and I wanted a taste of danger.

She frowned, lines creasing her youthful brow. Stephanie had dreams of flying all the time—what normal human doesn't?—but there was something not quite right about the dream…. She snorted. Of course there was something not right: any sane person, flying or not, would never go willingly into a lightning storm.

Sighing, Stephanie relented to the nagging of her bladder and swung her feet over the side of the bed. On her way to the door she passed her suitcases, carefully packed over the past week with clothes, school supplies, and other necessities for the coming school year. She had been enrolled in a private boarding school at the age of seven. While most people considered this barbaric, Stephanie's parents had both been born and raised in Europe, where boarding schools were more common. They had always insisted that they had suffered no ill from this way of life, and encouraged their daughter to make the transition. Eager to please them, Stephanie had elected to attend St. Helene's School. Located fifty miles west of Spokane, Washington, St. Helene's was smack dab in the middle of nowhere, which, at the time, had suited Stephanie just fine. Now, at seventeen, Stephanie slightly dreaded the trip back; the lack of shopping possibilities was nearly enough to make a girl cry.

The tap squeaked as she turned the hot water on full blast. Stephanie sat on the edge of the tub and fiddled with the cold water tap until the temperature was bearable. She shed her pajamas in a puddle on the floor and clambered in, pulling the shower curtain flush with the tiled wall as she did so. She sighed as the water beat down on her back, the last feelings of sleepiness leaving her alert and refreshed. She began the chore of washing and conditioning her light brown hair. While it was chin length and fairly unremarkable in cut, there was quite a bit of it, and it had the horrible tendency to wave and curl slightly if it wasn't blow dried, or had been slept on. The latter being the case, it was also full of snarls.

After finishing her shower, she toweled off, wrapped herself in the bathrobe hanging on the back of the door, and padded back to her bedroom to get dressed. Although it, evidently, had been okay for the sun to wake her at this slightly ungodly hour, Stephanie very much doubted her parents would appreciate being woken by the sound of the blow-dryer going at high volume. Instead, she pulled it back into a stubby pony-tail and stuck some hair clips in her pocket for when the shorter parts began to fall out.

Heading downstairs to the kitchen for a quick breakfast of cold cereal and milk, Stephanie felt a flutter of excitement in her chest. This was the last time she would have to make the 4 hour long journey from her home to "Nowheresville". Students at St. Helene's were not allowed to have cars,—regardless of whether or not the could drive—and while most of her classmates's parents drove them to the school, Stephanie's parents had stopped making the journey with her several years ago.

"You're a big girl now," her mother had told her at the age of thirteen, smoothing her shining curls back behind one ear. "I'll bet the other kids wish their parents trusted them enough to do it alone." Stephanie glowered at the memory. In reality, she thought, her parents were just as tired of the four hour drive there—and even more tired of the four hour drive back to Pendleton, Oregon, where they lived.

Oh, well. The nice thing about taking the bus to school was that it made a stop in Spokane—maybe she could get some shopping done before her bus to Davenport left. While she chewed thoughtfully on her O's, she mentally calculated how much it would cost to take a cab to the Amtrak station from River Park Square. While it was only a half-mile from the station, Stephanie knew she wouldn't want to walk back with a few shopping bags. Not to mention if she couldn't get her suitcases checked. She frowned. Maybe it was better to just stay at the station after all.

She was so absorbed in her thoughts (her spoon hovering mid-air, no less), that she jumped when her dad spoke to her.

"Hey, Little Bit, what are you doing up so early?"

Stephanie sighed down at the milk that dribbled onto the counter before speaking. "Dad, you really need to stop doing that. Give me a little warning next time."

He grinned. "Next time I'll yell, 'Ho, the kitchen!' when I'm coming down the stairs, then, shall I?"

She rolled her eyes in response and went back to her cereal. "Or, you could be normal, and just walk louder."

He just sighed theatrically in response and busied himself at the cupboards, pulling out a tea kettle and a box of earl gray. "We're going to see my mum for Christmas this year," he began, changing the subject. "Are you coming with us?"

"All the way to England?"

"No, we thought we'd make a stop in the middle of the Atlantic."

Stephanie rolled her eyes again. "I don't have any plans yet. There again, it is still September—kind of early to be thinking about Christmas break when I haven't even started classes yet."

Her father chuckled as he set the kettle on the stove element to boil.

The sound of footsteps on the stairs make Stephanie turn her head to watch her mother's descent into the kitchen. Stephanie was of the opinion that she could walk into any room, regardless of its purpose or status, and make it feel a hundred times richer. While she had also been born in England like Stephanie's father, her mother was the daughter of Russian immigrants. Stephanie had inherited her mother's lithe, tiny body—but not her ability to move. Even tousle-haired and sleepy-eyed, she was still very pretty.

"Morning Frank," she said to her husband.

He leaned over the island counter to peck her on the lips. "Tea?"

"Please." She settled herself on the barstool besides Stephanie and hunched her shoulders, stretching. "I have to teach four-year-olds today. I'm going to need to caffeine." She turned her head to look at Stephanie. "Why are you up so early, Solnushka?"

Stephanie shrugged in response. "Sun woke me." She finished her bowl off by lifting it to her lips and drinking the milk straight from the bowl.

"Now I did not raise you with manners like that," her mother said, frowning as her husband pushed a mug of hot tea into her hands.

Stephanie set the bowl back on the counter with a sigh of contentment. "No, but Daddy did." She grinned widely, and then hopped off the stool, heading for the sink.

"My baby, the barbarian," he joked, and then joined his wife at the counter. "You ready to leave?"

"I've been packed for three days," Stephanie said flatly. "I had to dig through my suitcase for clothes this morning."

"Did you strip your bed?" her mother asked.

"No." Stephanie finished rinsing her bowl and opened the dishwasher. It had clean dishes in it, so she set the bowl back in the sink and closed it. "I was gonna to do it after I finished breakfast, though."

"Alright. Empty the dishwasher when you're done."

Stephanie made a face and headed upstairs to do her mother's bidding.

Two hours later, the bed was stripped, the dishes put away, and her bags were snug in the trunk of her mother's Subaru. Stephanie's father stood in the front door, leaning against the frame.

"We'll be up to visit in November."

"'Kay, Dad."

"Don't forget to write."

"I won't, Dad."

"Don't let the boys distract you from your work."

"Don't worry about it, Dad."

"No dates, either—I won't be around to clean my shotgun when they come to pick you up."

"Daaaaad!" Stephanie looked scandalized.

He chuckled in response. "Be a good girl, then." He leaned forward and planted a kiss on her forehead. "I'll see you soon."

Stephanie embraced him in return. "Love you, Dad."

"You, too, Little Bit."

She turned and skipped down the stairs and slid easily into the passenger seat of the car. Her mother turned the key in the ignition and the engine purred to life. Stephanie rolled down the window and waved to her father, who hadn't moved from his doorway stance.

The drive to the bus station went by too quickly for Stephanie, and too soon they were pulling into the parking lot. After a quick trip to the counter to check the majority of her bags, Stephanie, escorted by her mother who was chatting away at top speed, made her way to the waiting Greyhound.

"Well, then," her mother said at last, holding her daughter by the shoulders. This would have been emotional had it not been for the fact that, while Stephanie barely made 5'2", her mother stood a scanty 4'10". "Be good, Dochenka."

"I will, Mama." They embraced, and Stephanie grabbed her purse and remaining suitcase and clambered up the stairs to the bus. After securing her bag in an overhead compartment, she settled into a seat near the back and leaned against the window, hugging her purse to herself. While it was a relief to be getting away from her house finally after having been stuck with her parents all summer, it did jerk her heartstrings a little to see her mother disappear into the crowd. Leaving was always hard; she grimly recalled that she had thrown a fit when her parents had bundled her into the car for the first time to go to school at seven, but by the end of the four hours was practically bouncing in glee.

As the driver began to pull from the lot, outlining the stops that would be made prior to arriving in Spokane, Stephanie grinned. At least on this trip, she had people waiting on the other end, too.