Disclaimer: The characters and plotline of Evil Genius belong to the author Katherine Jinks. She has merely inspired me to expand upon her story :)
There isn't much to say. I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Cadel found himself once again stranded in No Man's land, facing the barren wasteland of the refectory, which was just a technical term for cafeteria. He had played this scene a thousand times over on his rapid journey through the public school system, facing the horrible uncertainty that comes with a lone cafeteria entrance: being met by many blank, unfriendly faces, searching desperately for a seat where you won't be noticed. Today, the refectory was fairly empty, most of the tables occupied by only one person. The only table holding more than one person was the table at which his classmates were seated—all of the first years, who had not yet learned that friends were undesirable.
The paper bag in Cadel's fist crinkled as his sweaty hand adjusted its grip, his feet itching to turn and run from the room. With any luck, the only other person in Hardware Heaven would be Com, who never seemed to leave. Cadel was about to slink out when Gazo caught sight of him and gestured him over with an animated wave that attracted the attention of the other students seated at his table. Cadel was propelled forward by some invisible force, reaching the table under the watchful and curious eyes of his older peers. He took a seat beside Jemima, deliberately ignoring the more convenient space beside Doris in an attempt to avoid her. She still creeped him out.
The only two absent at the table, Cadel noted as he pulled a cellophane wrapped sandwich out of his crumpled and slightly damp lunch bag, were Kunoi and the new girl. Miss Carmen, Cadel now recalled. He found himself looking around the room, hoping to catch a glimpse of her in the refectory, although he had no idea why. There was something strange about the way she behaved in class, an unfamiliar attitude she possessed. When she admitted to lying in class, she seemed …remorseful about breaking the rules; then, when she was leaving the lecture hall after class, she actually smiled at him. The only other people who had smiled at him since he arrived at the Axis institute were the twins and Gazo. The twins smiled only when they were up to something that would cause discomfort to one or more of their peers, whereas Gazo's dopey smile was practically a permanent fixture on his face.
No, this girl was very different from the other Axis students; but whatever it was that made her so different from his classmates Cadel couldn't quite put his finger on. Even now, as he pondered this new student's presence, Cadel was incapable of processing the facets of her personality, his motherboard unable to make any sense of how she acted and how she made him feel.
"Cadel?" someone called, the sound far away to Cadel who was submerged in the crashing waves of his thoughts. He was snapped out of his trance as Jemima repeated, "Cadel?" The blonde beauty's face was pinched in confusion, replaced within seconds by an interested smile as she asked him sweetly, "What are you thinking about, cutie?"
"He must be lost in thought over that new girl in class. You can see it in his big, baby blue eyes," Niobe crooned from across the table, reaching over to give his pale cheek a gentle pinch. Cadel recoiled from the demeaning action and managed to stay the oncoming flush from his cheeks, although he felt his ears warm under the pairs of intrigued eyes that burned with curiosity.
Seeing Cadel's reaction, Jemima smiled and leaned over the table to stage whisper to her sister, "I wonder if this is his first crush?"
"Why don't you ask him?" Niobe rasped back, and the pair dissolved into hysterical giggles, daintily covering their mouths as they laughed. Clive grunted and stabbed a chunk of potato with his fork, mumbling before shovelling it into his cavernous mouth, "She's nothin' but a little shit! She practically pierced my lung with her damn book! What's her problem?"
"Her problem is that you're a whacker," Jemima replied rudely and Niobe cackled, mouthing something Cadel couldn't decipher to Jemima that sent her into giddy laughter. Clive frowned at the girls and stood suddenly from his seat at the table with tray in hand. He marched to the waste disposal and slammed this partially full tray on top of it, storming out of the refectory. The twins rolled their eyes at each other and continued some long postponed conversation that Cadel had missed the beginning of. None of the other students seemed to notice Clive's angry exit but Gazo, who stared after the hot head for almost a minute as if expecting him to return any second with a vengeance. Eventually he too returned to his lunch, and Cadel was the only one left affected by Clive's departure.
When Cadel was halfway through his sandwich and toying with the idea of skipping out on a lunch hour with his classmates to return to his computer, the person he had been waiting for entered the cafeteria. Cadel's stomach did a tiny flip when he saw the new girl poke her head in the door with a powder blue drawstring bag slung over one shoulder, taking in the massive room decked out in stainless steel and alternating shades of red and black. Niobe nudged her sister and pointed over Jemima's shoulder, the second turning around in her seat to see the girl who hung back timidly in the doorway. The twins made eye contact and exchanged a conspiring look, their faces identical masks of mischief that made Cadel's anxiety mount. Jemima glanced at Cadel out of the corner of her eye and Niobe nodded in agreement, the two sisters directing their prying eyes at the new girl.
"Hey!" Jemima called, waving wildly to attract the girl's attention. She froze in place and levelled her gaze on the twins, hesitating noticeably when she realized they were addressing her. She complied reluctantly when Niobe gestured welcomingly with her fingers, shuffling to their table and lowering herself warily into the seat next to Niobe only when the blonde patted it fondly with her hand and insisted, "Come sit next to me!"
"So," Jemima began brightly, leaning over the table and showing off her impressive cleavage in the process as she spread her fingers on the tabletop, "What's your name?"
The girl didn't answer immediately, sliding a Tupperware container from her blue bag and removing a purple steel water bottle with calculated precision. She placed the two items on the table before her and popped open the plastic container, removing a diagonally cut half of a sandwich. Her voice musical, she replied, "Melody Carmen."
"Such a lovely name!" Niobe gushed and her sister nodded in agreement, the two seemingly fascinated by her. Absentmindedly tucking a hair behind her ear, Niobe pressed nosily, "How old are you Melody?"
Cadel himself had noticed she looked younger than the other Axis students and couldn't help leaning forward in wait of her reply. Melody's cheeks flushed noticeably when she realized that everyone was staring at her: Niobe and Jemima with falsely kind expressions on their faces, Gazo with a vivid look of interest, Abraham with eyes that screamed apathy, Doris with her dull, cold regard and Cadel with intense, thoughtful eyes that made her heart skip in her chest. Her eyes falling to the hands folded in her lap, Melody mumbled nervously, "I'm fifteen."
"Fifteen!" Jemima exclaimed, exchanging a raised brow look with her twin. Niobe's eyes glinted wickedly and she mused aloud, "Interesting. You're not much older than Cadel."
Cadel felt a mixed sense of relief that he wasn't exponentially younger than every single one of his peers and resentment that Melody had showed him up in Basic Lying. He also felt a bit panicked by Niobe's remark, hoping she wasn't insinuating what he thought she was. Melody shrugged helplessly and joked half-heartedly, "The Axis Institute made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
Although everyone else was amused by this comment, Cadel had the suspicion that she wasn't entirely on board with being at the Axis Institute but had accepted the offer for her own safety. Before he could ponder this further, Niobe butted in conversationally, "You have a delightful little accent! Are you from America?"
Melody opened her mouth to reply but Jemima cut her off like a blade, suggesting, "Let Cadel guess first! He's so smart he'll probably know where she's from!" Jemima engaged Cadel with her next question, asking him, "Where do you think she's from, sweetie?"
Cadel ruffled at being called "sweetie", although he was more concerned with being put on the spot. He took a long sip of water to stall for time as he scrambled to analyze Melody's speech rhythms and vowel sounds. The accent was too soft to be American, but her vowels were too narrow to be British; she didn't sound European and there was little chance she came from South America, Asia or Africa. The answer was relatively easily to come about and Cadel smiled to himself as he rhetorically asked his new classmate, "You're Canadian, right?"
Melody blinked in surprised and finally nodded, making Niobe and Jemima titter like pigeons. Niobe leaned over the table and sing-songed to her sister in a voice loud enough for the entire table to hear, "I think these two are crushing on each other!"
In a flash, Melody's face went from naturally flushed to fire engine red, her eyes widening as they met Cadel's. He was temporarily muted by shock, unable to protest or assure Melody that this was untrue. Before he could utter a word, she hastily collected her things and stuttered an excuse as she rocketed from her seat, bolting out of the refectory without so much as a backwards glance.
Cadel frowned to himself, thinking furiously, 'Thanks to the twins, I've lost any chance of getting close to her in the next few weeks!' He glowered fiercely at the table as he took an overly large bite of his sandwich, cursing the twins for being so nosy. As he imagined ways to make them pay for ruining his plan, a new thought ball began rolling, increasing in momentum and working the gears of his brain feverishly. By the time his plan had come to fruition, he was done of his lunch and rushing out of the refectory with the pretext of finishing some infiltration homework.
Thankfully, none of his classmates had any idea that he had finished his infiltration homework for the week yesterday.
Dun dun DUN! What could Cadel possibly be up to? And is his interest in Melody purely scientific? Methinks the lad doth protest too much ;)
I hope you enjoyed, and please give any feedback you can come up with to improve this story! I really want to do the series justice.