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by Chad Imbrogno
Some of the material at the end of this story is rather intense. Please do not read on if you are easily offended.
Make no parley,
Stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid,
Mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man
Beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard,
Nor the mother's entreaties.
Make even the trestles to shake the dead
Where they lie awaiting the hearses.
So strong you thump,
O terrible drums!
So loud you bugles blow!"
Walt Whitman, Beat! Beat! Drums!
The world was going crazy. Aliens had actually landed and set up shop on earth. Dynamax turned out to be an evil company of Omega butchers. The US had been employing Omegas in covert op teams for years. Allen Covenant was getting married.
Of course, when you happen to be the niece of Allen Covenant and the kinda-sorta girlfriend of Eric Anderson, aka Tempest, very few things tend to shock or worry you.
Rene Johnson was worried now, though. Her last room mate had been "pulled out" of school by her parents and a new one was moving in for the last part of spring semester. What would she be like?
More importantly, how would she react to some of Rene's little "quirks"? The Tarot reading wasn't so bad as the possibility of Allen or Eric popping up or having Rene's Omega manifest itself in some unexpected way.
Rene paced back and forth for a bit, moving an additional piece of junk out of the way to make room. She was straightening her Northern Exposure poster when the door opened up and a mousy looking girl poked her head inside.
"Rene Johnson?" the newcomer asked softly.
"Yes. Are you Jamie Vera?"
"Yes!" Rene knew that Jamie was 22 and no girl, but she still looked it with the light blue paisly dress and school girl glasses. The way she bustled into the room added to her girlish qualities.
Rene watched in growing horror as Jamie set down copies of Rush Limbaugh's The Way Things Ought To Be and See, I Told You So. As Jamie unpacked, Rene cautiously hid her Tarot deck and copy of the Kama Sutra in her desk drawer.
Jared Pikering looked over the list of names on the desk before him. Richard Foght sat on the other side of the desk, looking over a similar list. They looked like the brothers Grim looking over a new manuscript. Or rather the brothers Evil.
Jared had his black hair cut short ala Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, a beak-like nose and two beady little eyes that could very easily be used as ball bearings. Richard was brutish in size and looks, with a chiseled face covered by three days scruff and a high standing, bleach white flat top.
"Dan Toyle," Jared said, "wasn't he the one kicked out of Delta Upsilon for 'misbehavior?'"
"Sure was," Richard replied. "Also the police chief's son."
"Perfect," Jared exhaled excitedly. "We could use a bit more power in this group. How are Jack Brach's parents?"
Richard grinned and looked like he was going to suddenly bite Jared's nose. "Richer than dirt if it could have made a long term investment in the beginning of time."
"Great. Add them to the other six and I think we have our new pledge class."
"I'll notify the brothers on who to bid for," Richard said as he stood up to leave."
"Good. I'll contact the inner sphere to get the ritual materials." Jared's face looked like a bird of prey about to feed as he whispered, "All hail Kappa Mu Alpha..."
Jamie was completely moved in now and the room looked like it belonged Two Face. On one side were Jamie's neatly arranged things along with inspirational posters and various family and religious objects on the desk and dresser. On the other was Rene's unmade half with her beefcake and alternative rock band posters and cluttered up desktop. Her quasi-occult items would have offered more contrast, but they were hidden away for the time being.
With the darkly dressed Rene facing the brightly colored Jamie, each on their respective sides, it seemed as if Cameron Macintosh was directing their meeting. The conversation was tenative, but Jamie seemed very intent on their getting to know each other right away.
"I was born in Chicago, but I lived most of my life in Lorain," Rene said as a reply to Jamie's last question. "Admiral King graduate, if that means anything to you."
"Catholic," Jamie said with a knowing nod. "I'm from Troy, myself."
Rene did her best to conceal her shudder. She had a friend from Troy and had been told all about the fundamentalist churches there. The question now was whether to continue the game of politeness or just be herself like she was apt to do.
The split second pause of Rene's thought was interrupted by Jamie saying, "Please, don't be afraid of offending me any. I'm much more open minded than my appearance," she gestured about her, "would make me out to be."
Open minded. A tingling sensation in the back of her head told Rene that Jamie's mind a more than just open. Perhaps it was her Omega kicking in, or maybe just intuition, but Rene was suddenly convinced that Jamie was indeed more than she seemed. Far more.
"OK," Rene said brightly as she hopped to her feet. She walked over to her desk and pulled out her Tarot deck, bringing it back over to Jamie. "Perhaps if I did a reading for you I could get to know you better in a way I could understand."
Jamie looked at the cards as if Rene were holding a live snake. "I don't think that would be a good idea..."
"You're not offended by them, are you?" Rene asked, stressing the word 'offended.'
The disgusted school girl look Jamie had held briefly disappeared and was replaced by an expression of stern knowledge that didn't seem to fit right on her face. "I'm not offended. I'm saying it wouldn't be a good idea." The serious expression vanished as was replaced by something brighted. "Hey, are you hungry? How about lunch?"
"Great! Where's the cafeteria around here?" Jamie practically bounced out of the room.
Rene watched for a second in disbelief. It was like having her Uncle Allen around after an unsuccessful bout with Prozac. She stuffed her cards into her pocket and headed out after Jamie.
The fraternity rituals had ended by nine and the eight pledge members were now officaly activated. In KMA, at least. The real ritual was about to begin.
Jared led the eight new initiates in their black robes down into the basement of the frat house. On the floor of the basement was a large circle made from black tar. Inside was a pentagram drawn of some silver dust.
"What the Hell is this?" Jack Brach muttered as he came in view of the pentagram. The ritual was supposed to be over.
Richard came up from behind and smacked Jack in the back of the head. "Quiet! Speak only when commanded, initiate."
"Initiates, take places around the circle, but not on it," Jared commanded. "It is time for your real initiation to begin."
The eight young men arranged themselves with some difficulty around the circle. Richard walked to each one and handed them a necklace bearing a silver skull surrounded by an opal circle, instructing them to put them on.
Once they were all wearing the new adornments, Jared spoke again. "The amulets you have each received are symbols and connections to the organization you are about to join: The Black Circle. As of now, you are under my direct jurisdiction and the indirect jurisdiction of members of the Outer and Inner Spheres."
"What are you talking about?" Jack sputtered. "What's the Black Circle? What do you mean 'direct jurisdiction?"
"You didn't know?" Jared smiled. "A pity. I was hoping not to do this." Jared muttered something unintelligible to himself and Jack fell to the ground with a cry, his amulet glowing an eerie red. The other initiates shifted uncomfortably.
After a few moments, Jack stood back up. "I am ready to obey," were the only words he said in a monotone voice.
"Excellent," Jared said. "Now everyone, hold your amulet in your left hands and repeat after me: I pledge my will,"
"I PLEDGE MY WILL,"
"To the Black Circle."
"TO THE BLACK CIRCLE."
"I shall never disobey,"
"I SHALL NEVER DISOBEY,"
"Lest I die."
"LEST I DIE."
Jared smiled a hawk grin and said, "There, that wasn't so hard, now was it." No one moved. "You can relax now."
The stiffened bodies of the initiates all slumped, seemingly exhausted for no good reason. Except for Jack.
"Tonight we're having a house party to celebrate your activation," Jared continued. "So you boys rest up until about eleven, when the fun begins." Jared walked from out of the circle, only turning back to say, "Tonight we drink some beer and lay some pipe!"
The initiates chuckled as they followed him out, except for Jack who had to be led out by Richard.
While Jamie certainly didn't look to be in her environment, she certainly acted like it. The little bible toting school girl Rene had first thought her to be turned out to be a coffee house natural. No complaints about the smoke, no ordering of "soda", and no long stares at people with pierced eyebrows. The conversation was good too.
Or at least had been. Rene and Jamie had met up with some of Rene's friends at lunch and had spent the entire day with them. Now the conversation had somehow turned to Tempest.
"I think he'd make a perfect replacement for Brandon Lee," Linda said. "He'd be great for the movies."
"All you ever think about are the movies," Jannet snapped.
"It is my major," Linda argued.
"Hmp," Dorinda snorted. "What about you, Rene? You've been kind of quiet lately."
"I think Rene feels very much the same as I do," Jamie interrupted. "That Tempest...Eric Anderson, should be pitied somewhat. Think about it; he's barely even a man yet and the power of the universe in placed in his hands. How many of us could have handled that kind of power as well as he has? I certainly did-couldn't."
Jamie looked up at Rene and their eyes met. The sincerity in which Jamie spoke with seemed to transfer through that gaze. It almost seemed as if they were communicating at an empathic level. What Jamie was receiving, Rene didn't know, but she was getting back pain. The pain of many, many years...
They both snapped out of it as Linda began chatting again. "Dorinda, are you going to the KMA party tonight? I hear it's going to be wild."
"Jack's going to be there. Of course!"
"KMA?" Rene interjected. "Are seriously going to a frat party?"
"Oh, come on, Rene," Linda said. "Put your petty anti-frat feelings behind you for this one. Kappa Mu Alpha isn't like other fraternities."
"What, do they drink a different brand of beer than all the others?" Rene sneered.
"Come on, Rene, give them a chance," Dorinda pleaded. "Even Jack joined them."
"And I still say Jack's a pud," Rene said to her friend. "Even if he is your boyfriend."
"I challenge you to come to this party and be convinced," Jannet asserted.
Everyone got quiet. Someone had just used the word challenge in Rene's direction. Either Hell was about to break loose or a deal was going to be made.
Jamie, who had been silent during the whole frat talk, whispered to Rene, "Don't do it, Rene. I've got a bad feeling..."
"I accept the challenge," Rene said boldly. "By the end of the night, you'll all see; a frat is a frat."
Rene's three friends giggled mischeviously as Jamie sighed.
Rene looked at the emblem under the Kappa Mu Alpha sign: A silver skull surrounded by a black circle. It looked somewhat familiar, like something she'd seen in one of Uncle Allen's books. She smiled as she began to think that this might just be fun.
Inside, things were well under way. The new activated members were easy to pick out; they were the ones in the black robes. Dorinda ran up to her boyfriend Jack and gave him a big hug.
Rene turned her attention away from the reunited couple and concentrated on the people and the environment. When her friends had said that KMA wasn't normal, they were certainly right.
The loudest element in the main room was the talking. There was music of some sort playing somewhere...it sounded like Gregorian chant. This was definitely Rene's sort of party. No loud music, no excessive rowdiness. Just a smooth environment with lots of talk.
Rene walked over to the table where the drinks were being dished out. There was a keg, but it was just a pony. Most people were enjoying the glasses of champaign that were being handed out, or the punch. Rene ladled herself up some punch, wondering what it would be spiked with, and listened in on the conversation going on next to her between a activee, an experienced brother, and a girl she didn't recognize.
"Yes, we were instructed all about the history of our symbol," the activee was saying. "It's very interesting."
"Could you tell it to me, then?" the girl asked. "Carl here won't say a single thing. I don't think he remembers!"
"No, we're just not allowed to tell non-brothers," the young man who was evidentially named Carl said. "It's a well kept secret."
A memory from Allen's books popped back into Rene's head and she decided to join in the conversation. "Actually, it can't be that well kept," she said. "I've read about it somewhere."
Carl turned to her and said, "Well, Miss...?"
"Rene. Well, perhaps you could inform us what it was you read?" Carl obviously didn't believe that Rene knew anything.
"I can't remember the specifics," she said, "but I remember that the symbol has something to do with something call the 'Black Circle.' I'll have to look it up when I get a chance. Maybe I'll understand more about your fraternity that way." Rene was feeling rather proud of herself now.
"Hmm," Carl said. "If you'll excuse me, I have to go." With that he turned and walked away. An uneasy feeling began to knot up in Rene's stomach. As the girl and the initiate turned and walked away also, leaving Rene alone.
"Rene!" Dorinda ran up behind her, almost in tears. "Jack! Something's wrong with Jack! I think they brain washed him or something. He doesn't remember who I am! He won't talk to me. He just tells me to go away! I'm scared..."
"Quiet, Dorinda!" Rene snapped. "There's something up here, I'm gonna figure it out. I need someplace quiet so I can remember something. Come on..."
Rene was in danger. Jamie was sure of that. She could alway go and save her...
No. Jamie sat down in front of her desk and picked up her Rosary, remembering her vow. All she could do was pray to the only being she had ever met that was more powerful than herself.
"See that girl with the black curly hair in the grey dress?"
"She knows too much. Take her."
Dorinda had gone to share her worries with Jannet, leaving Rene to find a quiet place on her own. She was passing a hallway when one of the initiates appeared in front of her. It was Dan Toyle, the guy who got busted last year.
He grabbed her wrist with one hand and clamped his hand over her mouth with the other. Before she could even put up some sort of resistance, he had pulled her into the first room in the hall without being seen. He tossed her in and locked the door behind him.
"What do you want," Rene hissed, ready to pounce.
Dan didn't say anything. He just grinned at her as he took off his robe. There was nothing underneath.
"Oh, dear God..." Rene muttered. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her deck. Hopefully she'd get a good card to fight this creep with.
As she reached to flip a card up, Dan suddenly lunged forward and smacked the cards out of Rene's hands, scattering them about the room. Her Omega had just been neutralized.
Rene swung a hard right fist that connected across Dan's face. A satisfying spatter of blood flew from his mouth as she tried to slip past him and get to the door.
Before she was a safe distance away, he reached out and grabbed her by the hair. She tried to get another swing in, but he caught her hand, and then the other. He pushed her arms aside as he tore at her dress.
"Get away from me!"
"No, stop it!"
A reckoning is due, but Rene discovers even more evil lurking in KMA as she begins a search for justice.
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