The leaves tickled my nose as I crept through the woods. I stopped when I saw a gray furred tall humanoid sitting on a log. Come on Cub, do your thing.
Our target looked up as the bushes on the other side of the clearing rustled. Then he stood and walked the other way. I rose to all fours then onto my hind legs as I chased after him.
A blur of white passed in front of him and he dropped to the ground and clutched at his right knee. He looked up at the three of us. "Ow! Why you'd do that? I was just minding my own business. Scarlet, Charles and Shiro, do your folks know you're out this far in the woods?"
I stood over him. "How do you know our names?"
"I guess we haven't been properly introduced, at least not recently. I'm Charley, nice to meet you, but shouldn't you three be getting home?"
"Don't you want to go to your home?" Cub smiled at him. "And be with your family."
"Sorry boy, but your Jedi tricks won't work on me. Yeah, I've seen a few movies through windows and such. Besides, I got no idea what you're talking about." Charley towered over us as he stood and tested his leg.
"Charley should be with Ranger Tabes and Eddy." Shiro glared up at him.
"Oh that. It's complicated. Sure I love her, but that kid ain't my son."
"Have you seen him?" I raised my paw. "What else could he be?"
"Why you kids bothering Charley?"
I turned to look at Buttercup hovering in midair. "You know about this?"
"I know that you three are way out of bounds and on school night no less. Time for you three to get back to the cave now. Sorry about this Charley."
"No permanent harm done, Ma'am. It's nice to see everybody again, but you really need to get them out of here now."
"I am well aware. Come on you three march, on the double."
I saw a blur and Shiro was gone.
"Okay, that's one home. Now you two."
"She's not the only one who's fast." I picked up Cub and jumped 100 meters.
Buttercup was waiting for us to land. "Put your cousin down and march on foot. Stay under cover."
"Who are we hiding from?"
"My rules. Jumping like that you might hit one of the trees and knock it down. Now March."
"Yes, Aunt Buttercup." We said together, then marched in silence back to the cave.
The dinner Uncle Ice brought was delicious, but I still had a sour taste from the encounter in the woods.
"Why did you tell us we were accidents?"
"Happy accidents." Buttercup continued to lean back against Uncle Ice. "If your mothers really didn't want you two, they'd have sent you to me years ago."
"Why do you want to be a mother?"
"It's the luxury I could never justify."
"What luxury? Sure this place is decently furnished, but it's still a cave in the woods. Cub's home is a much higher rent district."
"Which means less property damage when villains come looking for the three of you to seek leverage against the three of us. Scarlet, do you know the story of The Little Match Girl?"
"The one who died alone in the cold?"
"The irony was that she wasn't alone. She could see the happy families through the windows, she just couldn't be with her own. That was my life until I met Ice. I was saving everybody else's families, but I could never justify starting one of my own. There's no family leave plan for the guardians of the world. Speaking of which." She rose into the air, turned and kissed Ice. "Duty calls. Don't wait up."
Tuesday morning Uncle Ice drove us three kids to the BART station and boarded the train with us, but continued on after we got off at the Presidio station.
We walked the few blocks to school and had just entered the gate when that limo drove up behind us. Two cars suddenly pulled away from the unloading zone to make room for it. I hadn't seen them drop off any kids.
Regina shoved open the door as soon as the limo stopped. "Cub!" She ran to him and grabbed his paw.
She turned back to the limo and saw that her mother was holding a satchel out the window. "You forgot your bag."
"Oh, sorry." Regina released Cub and walked back for the satchel.
Ms. Morbucks smile vanished as she saw that I was watching her. She rolled up her window and the Limo drove away. Two normal sized cars quickly replaced the limo and dropped off students.
I turned back and followed the others up the stairs.
A group of teenage boys were talking need the school entrance. One of them stepped in front of Shiro. "I didn't believe my little sister, but here you are. This is a school, not a zoo. There's no room here for dangerous animals."
Cub stopped and the two girls stepped behind him.
I stepped in front of him. "My cousins haven't done anything wrong. Please stand aside and let them in."
"I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about you, Scarlet Bear. This close." He held up his right hand and spread his fingers.
I stepped up just in front of his hand. "Yeah?"
"This close." He held up both forefingers to match the distance he had shown with one hand. "That's how close you came to crushing my cousin's skull in Townsville last year."
"That wasn't my fault and the Powerpuff Women kept anybody from being killed or seriously hurt. Anyway, you're lying."
"What, do you want me to call him up right now?"
"You're lying, but not about that. If you really considered me to be dangerous then you wouldn't be standing so close to me." I smiled wide, showing my fangs.
"I'm not scared for myself, but I've got a lot of friends at this school. I don't want to see them killed."
"Come on Larry." One of the other boys put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't make a fuss on day one. She'll show her true colors soon enough."
"She already has." This Larry turned and walked inside. The other boys followed him.
I turned back to Regina. "Don't worry about him."
"No, but did you really do all that?"
"Ask your mom to show you. I'm sure she has all the tapes." I walked up the stairs to my class.
"Not only are you in the wrong school, you're in the wrong classroom."
I looked at Larry and his two friends sitting up front. I backed up a step and checked the room number. "Room 302, Math Analysis first period, right?"
"Yeah, but you're a frosh. You need to take Algebra first."
"Passed with honors. Ask your cousin in Townsville." I took a seat in the opposite back corner.
Halfway through first period a voice spoke over the PA system. "Scarlet Utonium Bear, please report to the Principal's Office."
"Third door to the left of the stairs on the ground floor." The teacher didn't look up from his lesson plan.
Larry grinned at me as I walked past him.
The man at the front desk waved me through to the inner office.
Chole looked up from the note on her desk. "Scarlet, please have a seat."
"Yes, Ms. Park. What's up? Something happen to my family?"
"No, this isn't anything like that. I just can't have you threatening the other students."
"I didn't do anything."
"Please understand that while displays of fang and claw have been done by your kind for millions of years, it makes humans uncomfortable."
"I am human. That's what you said yesterday."
"Then please take to heart the example your father set of adapting human ways to better fit into human society."
"Both of us were raised by humans. I don't think he's ever spoken to a wild bear. I certainly haven't. I wouldn't know the language."
"Let's try that sometime. Let me know when you're free some weekend and we'll go down to the zoo, if you don't mind."
"Are we done here."
"Please Scarlet, promise me you'll behave at this school."
"That's what I promised my mom. That whatever the bullies did, I'd take it with a smile. Now you tell me I can't even smile."
"Smile with your lips, not your fangs. That's all I ask."
"I'm sure you'll succeed. I've always had faith in you."
"Because of my mom?"
"No, I hardly know Blossom, outside of what everybody sees on the news. But I'm sure she's nice. No, it's because you're your father's daughter. I see a lot of Griz in you and that's what gives me hope. Please come in when you need to talk, but for now go along to your next class."
"Yes, Ms. Park."
I noticed that another of Larry's friends was in that next class so I started towards a table at the other corner.
"How did you get into my class, Miss Bear?"
I turned around. "My grandfather started me welding when I was five, Professor Smith."
"It's just Mister Smith. I have no fancy degree. We usually don't allow freshmen in Shop, but I'm willing to put you to the test. How would you bend this into a tetrahedron?"
I took the metal rod from him. "Appears to be steel. Around three feet long and quarter inch thickness. Everybody put on safety goggles please."
"Do as she asks."
"Okay it measures out to exactly 36 inches. A tetrahedron has one, two, three, four, five six edges so that's six inches each. It's made out of equilateral triangles so I just need to measure sixty degrees. Everybody stand back please."
"And why is that?"
"In case I've misjudged the nature of the material. Here goes. One, two folds," I bent the metal rod with my paws, using my claws to pinch out tight corners, "and I've got the first triangle. Now up and back again and I've got the second triangle and..."
"Having problems, Miss Bear?"
"No, I can just pinch off the last length and weld it into the correct spot."
"The assignment was to bend, not cut or weld the material."
"I'll just start over and... Hmm, how does that work? Maybe if I started halfway down one edge and met it halfway at the end? No, that wouldn't work."
"Let that be a lesson to you, class. Always plan out what you're going to do before you do it. Miss Bear you will complete this assignment by the end of the semester or I'll flunk you. I'll flunk out anybody who tells you how to do it, but I'll give you one clue. You've taken on additional constraints that aren't part of the assignment. Don't be greedy, just complete the task."
"Yes, Mister Smith."
One of the other boys in the class (I noticed I was the only girl) picked up my handiwork. "There's got to be a trick to this?" He tried bending the metal but it didn't budge.
I smiled at him, but kept my lips shut.
Third period I rejoined my cousins for freshmen history. Shiro took the back corner seat away from the windows. I sat next to her, with Cub and Regina in front of us.
At the end of the period Shiro vanished from the classroom and we found her a few minutes later reserving a table for us, with her lunch already acquired.
"How did you vanish like that?" Regina asked her.
Shiro just shrugged.
"She's very fast." Cub held a chair out for Regina.
"Isn't it against the rules to run in the halls?"
"Only if the teachers catch her. Good luck with that." I sat next to Shiro.
As Cub opened her milk carton, Regina reached into her satchel. "My mom took me to a mall yesterday. She got me this phone. It takes pictures. I saw this huge panda bear stuffed toy in the window and it reminded me of you, Cub. Mom got it for me also. See?"
"Can I see your phone, Regina?"
"Just call me Gina. We're family, right?"
"How are we family?"
"Well with Cub and... I guess I mean we're friends, right?"
"Before you go too far down that path let me show you something. Siri, show video of Scarlet Bear rampage."
"There are no age appropriate videos for your query."
"Your mom has your phone locked down to kindergarten levels?" I handed it back to her. "Here, let me show you on my phone. Hey Google, show video of Scarlet Bear rampage hip hop dance mix."
Regina watched my phone wide eyed.
Larry leaned over her shoulder. "Aren't you embarrassed by that?"
"Why? I didn't do the remix. I think it's rather funny."
Regina looked down at her lunch. "Scar wasn't herself."
"Why do you call her Scar when she's a perfect unblemished Sphere?"
"My curves are almost all superpowered muscle. You've seen the footage. You know what I can do."
As Larry walked away Shiro and I nodded at Cub's use of the "SV" paw gesture.
Regina looked at the two of us then back to Cub. "Is something going on?"
"Regina or Gina," I whispered to her, "This is your last chance to choose. You can pick up your tray and go sit at another table as an ordinary little girl, or you can stick with us and become something very different. That way's your ordinary life. I strongly advise you take it."
"No, I can't." Gina grabbed Cub's arm in her hands. "I'm with you three."
"Your choice." I shrugged. "Finish lunch quick, because we have someone to see."
We finished lunch in silence, then the three of them followed me out of the cafeteria.
Her assistant wasn't at his desk, so I knocked on the door of Ms. Park's office.
"Come in." She looked up from her sandwich at the four of us. "Is there something wrong?"
I turned to Shiro. "Search the room."
A white blur silently filled the room, then Shiro dropped a pen on Ms. Park's desk.
"Shiro knows how to do this."
I used my claws to rip open the pen, then crushed the electronics that had been hidden inside.
"What was that?" Ms. Park looked up at me.
"It was electronic, not an insect."
"Gina, that's the term we use for a listening device. Turn your phone off please."
"Thanks. Cub, what did you see?"
"He's not just being a jerk?"
"He was waiting for Gina to say Scar before he used the Sphere joke. Nobody is that quick on the uptake. Either he was coached to say it or he's got an ability."
"Couldn't he be an innocent abnormal?"
"Maybe and maybe the bug's from an unrelated plot, but most likely they're connected."
"And what is Miss Morbucks' connection with all of this?" Ms. Park asked.
"Gina chose to join the team." I turned to her. "Your mom is the prime suspect."
"How many other supervillians have visited this school? Choose now, her or us. We won't hold it against you."
Gina looked down at the floor for several seconds then raised her head and looked me in the eyes. "I'm with Cub." She grabbed his paw in her hand. "What do you want me to do?"
"Your mom probably isn't going to spill her plot to you, but innocent things she asks you to do can provide vital clues to us. Just don't volunteer to her that you're plotting against her."
"And if she asks?"
"Then it's an admission that she's spying on you and hence is behind the plot. Can you pretend to be her innocent little daughter who hasn't noticed anything."
"It'd mean a lot to us."
"Then I'll do it. I'll pretend for you."
"Do you want Larry watched?"
"Please don't Ms. Park. Leave it to the professionals."
"You're just kids, not pros."
"Yes, but our mom's are. All four of us have that in common. We have to get to our next class. Everybody's got gym?"
All three nodded.