Read Fallout (Lois Lane) Online

Authors: Gwenda Bond

Tags: #Lois Lane, #Clark Kent, #DC Comics, #9781630790059, #Superman

Fallout (Lois Lane)

BOOK: Fallout (Lois Lane)
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“Remember the plan,” I muttered.

I sped up as the school came into view, a telltale yellow bus lumbering away from the curb. The soles of my knee-high boots clicked against the concrete sidewalk.

Fit in. Don’t make waves.

A small herd of stragglers were still dragging their feet toward the three-story, pristine brick structure of East Metropolis High. I’d made it before first bell, then—barely. A slouchy boy in a baggy T-shirt held the door for me. That must mean my carefully selected ensemble of a plaid mini, black tights, and sweater with a small, cute skull-and-crossbones motif was okay. I’d been to enough new schools to know that people didn’t hold doors if they thought you were dressed too weirdly.

“Where’s the office?” I asked the first studious-looking girl I saw.

She shyly pointed up the hall, and I set off as the bell rang.

This was a bigger school than I was used to, more people roaming the halls, the classrooms fuller and in greater number. The school colors were blue and red, and walking down the hall felt a little like being inside an American flag. My Army general dad would love it.

I spotted a sign hanging up ahead that read “Principal and Administrative Office.” But when I got closer to the glassed-in area, I hesitated. There was a line.

Six boys—no, wait, a couple of them were girls—stood in silence a few feet away from the door. They were dressed in all black, and obviously together, facing each other in rows of three. How they stared at each other tempted me to joke,
Get a classroom
. Except on second look, it wasn’t moony-eyed-in-love staring. It was more intense than that.

“So . . .” I said when they didn’t budge. Or speak. “Are you waiting?”

“Yes,” a boy with brown hair said.

“But not for you,” another added, in a flat tone creepily similar to the first.

The second bell rang. We became the only people left in the hallway.

“I didn’t think you were,” I said, in a nice way. “It’s my first day here.”

None of them spoke.


“Thanks for the warm welcome.” I went wide around them to the door. “I’ll just cut the line now.”

Inside, the layout was simple: a reception area with a few chairs and a desk positioned to serve as gatekeeper. Behind it, the first few feet of a carpeted beige hallway were visible, leading, no doubt, back to the principal’s office.

No one was at the desk, so I sat down to wait. Patiently. As patiently as possible when I was already late on my first day at a brand-new school, anyway.

I hoped they hadn’t pulled up my transcripts, seen my dreaded permanent record, and decided not to admit me.
permanent records even existed, which I wasn’t sure about.

Then again, nothing in my life had ever been permanent. I might be biased.

I took a deep breath, crossing my fingers that the rude group in the hallway wasn’t an omen. Things had to be different here.
had to be different here.

“Don’t screw this up, Lane,” I whispered.

Then I heard voices. Overheard, actually. They were coming from up that bland beige hall. And they were arguing.

No one had showed up to help me, and the creepy group outside wasn’t loitering where they could see in the windows. So it wasn’t like there was anyone to notice when I got up and moved a little closer to the gatekeeper’s desk to better hear what the argument was about . . . And a little closer . . . And right on past the desk . . .

I stopped at the edge of the hall, still technically in the front office. But now I could hear what they were saying.

“Principal Butler, please.” The girl speaking had a quiet voice, but it was raised and wavering. “You know I would never inconvenience you without justification. I know how it sounds, but the Warheads are annihilating my sanity. Or endeavoring to. I swear to you, they’re . . .
something to me. To my
. Cognitive assault. Psychological coercion. Those are the closest terms I can find, though they are not precisely correct.”

That was some SAT-worthy vocabulary. Impressive.

I started to edge closer, into the hallway, but I forced myself to stop. I needed to stay out of view, under the radar. I did not need to be caught trespassing in admin offices.

That didn’t stop me from listening hard.

“Anavi,” a smooth, older man’s voice said, “I can see something is bothering you, but now isn’t the best time. Don’t you play some computer game together? Is this a crush gone bad on one of them, maybe?”

“No.” The girl held firm. “They wouldn’t permit me to complete my computer science homework this morning. I kept . . . transcribing incorrect answers. It was almost like they were forcing me to write the mistakes. Please, Principal Butler, if you’ll just make them stop—”

“I’m busy with the school’s guest speaker this morning,” the older man—Principal Butler—said. “But Anavi, I want you to think about what you’re saying. I’m tempted to send you for a psych eval, questioning your own sanity like this, but I know how your parents would react. You and your gaming group need to work this out.”

“But I’m not part of their group. I have not a single iota of interest in it. I just want to be left alone.”

The girl sounded like she was out of options. But the smooth-tongued principal wasn’t completely wrong. What she was saying
sound crazy.

Which was what interested me.

Without meaning to, I was walking up the hallway, just to get a look at the people in the conversation. I peered around a corner.

“If that’s true,” the principal said, “then making wild accusations is probably not the best way to keep a low profile. I’m confident you can work this out on your own.”

There were three of them, standing outside a closed office door. A man in his mid-thirties in a hip, knock-off suit was staying quiet, but watching the exchange. The girl was medium height, wearing glasses and an expression closing in on panic. No doubt her reaction to being dismissed by the third, a slickly dressed man who must be the principal.

He started, “Now, I need to escort Mr.—”

The quiet man gave a slight shake of his head as if to say
Don’t mind me
. “No rush.”

“Please, you have to listen,” the girl said. “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. But you know that in order to claim my scholarship winnings I must maintain a spotless academic record. They’re disrupting my mental capacity, inside the game and outside it. You have to stop them.”

“Calm down, or the psych eval is a possibility,” the principal said, as if it pained him.

I recognized his type. The veneer of niceness didn’t fool me. His gray suit and silver hair made me think of a shark. Only he wasn’t predator king of the sea, but entitled emperor of this school. He didn’t seem to want to help the girl with her problem. Instead he seemed inclined to protect the gamers who were bullying her.

I cleared my throat and took a few more steps toward them, joining the conversation. “Excuse me,” I said. “I couldn’t help overhearing. I have to agree with—Anavi, right?—that an administrator should take a bullying complaint seriously and do what he can to stop it. I’m assuming the school does have a policy?” I waited for a response.

The slick principal blinked at me. The other man tried to hide his amusement. Meek Anavi braced as if for an explosion.

“Who are
?” the principal asked with a note of disbelief.

I’d forgotten about the plan.
Stay quiet. Keep my head down.

“Um. Lois Lane,” I said.

“Oh,” the principal said, “yes, I remember your permanent record. It was . . . lengthy. Your father called me. Said to keep an eye on you.”

So they are real. Also, thanks, Dad.

“This is a big school. You can’t see everything,” I said. And, mentally kicking myself, I added, “It’s my first day.”

“Auspicious beginning,” the other man said.

“I know you’re enjoying this,” the principal said to him. He returned his attention to me. “Since it
your first day, shouldn’t you have arranged to be here on time? And did you really turn your seventh grade class into a ‘gambling den’?”

I ignored the first question. “I taught some girls how to play poker at a sleepover,” I said, a little defensively. “Now, why wouldn’t you send her for evaluation? By a professional or a counselor? What she’s saying would merit that if you took it seriously.”

“No, that’s okay,” Anavi said, with a betrayed expression. “I shouldn’t have reported the Warheads’ behavior. I should have stayed circumspect.”

“Glad to hear you’re rethinking,” Principal Butler said. “Ms. Lane, I can tell this wasn’t true at your previous schools, but here, we guide our students. Sometimes my job is to protect them from themselves. Like Anavi here. A grand-prize winner of the Galaxy Spelling Bee. I’m positive she’s capable of handling the situation on her own.”

That explained the girl’s twenty-dollar word choices—and meant she could spell them too. I read constantly. Magazines, newspapers, biographies. Reading was a good way to pass travel time. But I still considered auto spellcheck one of humanity’s greatest inventions.

The principal gestured toward the hallway, and the gray fabric of his jacket didn’t crease with the movement. That was one expensive suit. “You two are late for first period now, and so are we. Might I suggest, Ms. Lane, that you watch and listen until you understand your new school? Wait to pitch in with your . . . knowledge. Do that, and I know you’ll be very happy here. Most of our students are.”

“Like the one standing right across from you,” I said, nodding to Anavi.

I gave myself another mental kick.
Remember the plan.

But Principal Butler ignored me, turning to the amused man in the suit. “We should go. Ready to give your talk?”

The man hesitated. He pulled a business card out of his suit pocket. “I’m Perry White, an editor at the
Daily Planet
. I’m overseeing a new online start-up the paper is doing for teens. For students who want to be real journalists, all from this school to start. I’ve got a small staff already, but we have room for one more.” He extended the card to me. “Would you be interested in a job as a reporter?”

I accepted the card. Scanning it, I took in twin logos. The first was the familiar globe with thick lettering across it that said
Daily Planet
, but the other was a smaller, more stylized globe with a slash of sleek lettering that read
Daily Scoop.

I looked back to the man who’d offered me a job. Maybe even a dream job.

“No background check necessary,” he said, fighting a grin. “Your permanent record shouldn’t be an issue.”

I instantly liked the idea of being a reporter. Able to ask all the questions I wanted, without anyone scolding me
scribbling in my file. The ability to look into things that were wrong and tell lots of people about them. This was my chance to find a place here.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll take it, Mr. White.”

“Great, but don’t call me mister,” he said. “Perry’s fine. Come by after school. We have a staff meeting on Mondays at four. I think you’ll fit right in.”

See, that was part of the plan, the fitting-in part. I hadn’t screwed up after all.

Principal Butler said, “Remember what I told you.”

Well, hadn’t screwed up

“How could I forget?” I asked under my breath.

Butler swept out, and Perry White followed. I trailed behind them with Anavi. I wanted to talk to her, find out more about these so-called Warheads who were bothering her to the point of fraying sanity. But as soon as we left the front office, that creepy group peeled away from their spot and came toward us. Principal Butler steered the editor around them and up the hall. Leaving me to wait with Anavi for the group to pass by us.

There was something so
about them. Down to their black clothes and the mocking expressions they wore, even the liquid way they moved.

A tall one at the front of the pack said, “Got your,” and another finished, “homework done,” a third adding, “Anavi?”

Aha. These must be the infamous Warheads.

They’d been waiting for

“Are they gamers or a performance art group?” I asked, frowning.

But she didn’t answer. She was busy bolting at the speed of light in the opposite direction. They kept moving, and I watched them until they were gone.

I’d track her down again later.

I had a job to do now.

BOOK: Fallout (Lois Lane)
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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