Breakfast Serial .07: Seventh Inning Stretch

Featuring the triumphant return of Wavelength…!

Weathered hands, bulbous at the joints, clasped the polished head of an aluminum cane, as an aged frame creaked forward in a mesh recliner. Wispy, white brows shot upward in unison, while bulimic eyes — cataract blue behind bifocals — gorged on the sixty-four screens that comprised the wall ahead. Pleated flesh parted into a smile. “The boy’s finally done it.”

“Gone off the deep end?” A white paw swatted the control panel on the end table between the identical recliners, hushing the audio feed from Friedrich Hall, Room 4D.

A deformed digit pushed wayward glasses back into place. “Two minutes into his stay here, he bypassed our firewalls and security protocols, so his peers could access the pornography they craved–”

“How else can an socially award genius befriend a group of teenage boys?” The ball of black fur nestled into the second seat, unimpressed. “I’m sure he anonymously penned all of their essays that year, as well.”

“Yet, he waited three and a half years to tamper with the headmistress’ programming.” The old man sat back. “The horse finally took the carrot that we dangled in front of him for so long, and he handled it with aplomb. The time code on the footage our mouthpiece is funneling is accurate; the visuals, however — they’re remixed from hours, weeks, months of carefully culled shots.”

“Remarkable.” The feline yawned.

“He’s forcing SuZ2 to experience deja vu,” the retiree clucked like a proud papa.

“Frankly, I’m more concerned with his recent outburst.” The black cat stretched his fore-paws — one white, one silver — plucking at the mesh of his seat. “We may need to reassign rooms, so tempers don’t continue to flare.”

“Pish.” The old timer dismissed the thought with the wave of an arthritic hand. “We all had our share of heated debates back in the day. We got over them. Emotions always run hot after missions; you know that as well as anyone.”

“That they do,” the feline agreed. “Especially when you manipulate events to coerce a reaction.”

“So, I may have made a phone call to an old friend, who happens to work at the governor’s office. And, I may have let slip a few choice details from this morning’s dustup.” His voice was as innocent as a hoarse rasp could be. “Is it wrong to cultivate interest in the institution we founded?”

“We agreed to act as passive observers, Micah. We’re here to monitor the progress of a rarified breed of students and pass along their statistical information to potential recruiters.” The cat leapt onto the end table and glared, with glowing chartreuse eyes, at the old man. “That’s it.”

“You don’t believe that for a second.” The elderly gentleman wiped the lenses of his glasses with the silk pocket square from his three-button jacket. “We’ve been reduced to voyeurs, spying on adolescents in their locker- and bedrooms. Not by choice but by powers beyond our control. I lost my abilities long ago–” He traced the scar across his neck with an overgrown nail. “–and, now, my joints threaten to lock me in place, while your ongoing metamorphoses make you a wild card in society. We may be resigned to lives as statisticians, locked away in a subbasement no one else even knows exists, but passive we are not. If our goal is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the ultra-abled, then we need to apply pressure until their capabilities are clear. Not everyone is cut out for life in the public eye.”

“And, not everyone wants it.” The untagged feline stood his ground. “Your meddling is forcing these kids into uncomfortable situations — where there’s no give and take, no opportunity to safely screw up and learn from their mistakes. You’re throwing them into the deep end and unleashing the sharks.”

“You have a very twisted view of the media, my friend.”

“We witnessed a feeding frenzy today. Don’t kid yourself.”

“I’m not the deluded one here.” The retiree returned his hands to the top of his cane. “There are no opportunities to safely screw up in the real world. Life doesn’t come with parent-teacher conferences or progress reports with letter grades. No, life is pass/fail.”

“Wha was tha noise?” Double vision managed to utter through a yawn.

“A hissy fit.” Spatter, still half-sitting, still waiting, had her arms crossed.

“Ahh. The news always puts me to sleep.” The petite blonde dabbed spittle from her chin with the back of a hand. “I should’ve never turned it back on.”

“I can’t ever sleep after watching the news.” DeathGrip slipped off her jacket and tossed it onto the love seat beside DoubleVision’s barely awake body. “I always have nightmares about politicians going on crime sprees after losing funding.”

“I can’t sit through any of that shit. Even The Daily Show is too dry for me.” The Chinese teen twisted the frayed end of the damp cloth on her left arm. “I’d rather be making the news than watching it.”

“Erm, sorry for the delay,” Wireframe chirped, toting what seemed to be the world’s longest water-gun into the commons. “It took me a while to find all the pieces to this.”

“What’s it do?” was the question on everyone’s lips, but DoubleVision managed to spit it out first.

“Oh, um, it’s just a shrink-ray.” The indian inventor set the tank-end of the device down on the floor. “When I was six or seven, I…I thought bird houses should have furniture, so I kind of threw this together from stuff around the house. The, um, the first time I fired it, a table imploded.”

“And, the last time…?” Spatter stared at her peer in amazement.

“I…only tried it the once.” Wireframe tapped a sequence of digits into the keypad on the side of the elongated barrel. “But, I — I’m pretty sure I calibrated correctly this time.”

“Maybe we should be standing behind you.” DeathGrip was off the split sofa and on her feat in a flash. The other girls scrambled to follow her lead.

“Okay. Stand back.” The inventor dropped to one knee and slid the tank over her right shoulder. “This has an intense recoil, if I recall correctly. And, well, I think I do, anyway.”

The trio of taller teens took a giant step back, in unison, into the hallway, as the diminutive shooter fired.

Cold water slapped Mr. Popular across the face, and his hands went back to the basin of the bathroom sink for more. Another splash assaulted his youthful features, and his palms slicked back his hair, pulling stray stands into place. His back found a wall and slumped against it. His fingers pinched and massaged the soft skin between his black eyebrows.

A buzz pulsed through his body, shaking the off-white tile that supported his shoulders and spine. Fishing the cellphone from the pants of his uniform, he flipped open the display to check the new text sent from the school’s alert service.

“‘Your ride has arrived’,” the teen idol read aloud. “What ride?”

“So, I know you and Spatter had a thing.” Tantric, riding shotgun, gazed out the side window, at road after identical, tree-lined road, hoping for a change in scenery.

“She’s a total trampoline. Everybody’s jumped on that.” LiveFeed kept his eyes on the street ahead and his head tilted far to the left, trying in vain to avoid the camera mounted under the rearview mirror — a camera that may or may not have been pumping live footage back to the headmistress.

“Then, she’s definitely off limits as per The Bro Code.” The new kid cracked his tinted window to get some fresh air into the stuffy cabin.

“Wavelength prefers to call it ‘The Brotocols’.” The lanky teen slowed the van to a halt at the sight of the yellowing light ahead. “But, yeah.”

“And, Deadlift’s off the board ’cause I don’t like trannies.”


“But, what about, like, that neurotic blonde chick? The one who wants a name-change?” Tantric stuffed his hands back into the pockets of his lime green windbreaker and rested his head against the window. “Is she taken?”

“DoubleVision? Just say no, man.” LiveFeed turned to look at his passenger. “Dare to be drama free.”

“She can’t be that much of a handful. Although…” The pudgy teen shifted his hands — and jacket — upward, creating an imitation bust, and admired his handiwork.

“Her Facebook says she’s in a relationship…with God.” The beanpole punched the gas, as the light turned green.

“You’re shitting me.”

“Scout’s honor.”

“Well, there are two ways to look at that, though, right?” Tantric sat up in his seat, his mind racing. “I mean, she could be joking, or–”

“Or, you could have spoken to her before, yeah.” LiveFeed took a sharp right, into a cramped parking lot.

“Damn.” The new kid slumped back into his seat.

“Don’t get too comfy.” The tall teen shifted gears to park. “We’re here.”

Tantric rolled down his window all the way and peered up at the dilapidated storefront, its flickering sign reading ‘The Spirits Within’. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he popped open the door. “All right. Give me a two minute head-start.”

The driver, in the cap and gloves of her profession, waited stoically beside the backdoor of the black limousine in front of the Friederich Hall. A young man — with hunched shoulders, a black hoodie, and boots you couldn’t find in any store — pushed through the glass doors of the building and gave the woman a look of astute curiosity before approaching.

“Mr. Popular, I presume?” She pulled the handle of the limo door.

“Yeah…” The Lebanese teen sized up the driver, a slinky but strong 5′9″ with mocha skin, covered in all black, save the burgundy button-up (that wasn’t so buttoned) under her half-zipped jacket. “You?”

“Selina.” The Dominican driver opened the door and gestured for the boy to enter. “How are you this evening, sir?”

“Confused” was the teen idol’s reply, as he ducked inside the vehicle.

“Is there anything you’d like me to clarify?” Selina held the door open, awaiting an answer.

“No. I think I’ll just try and enjoy the ride.” Mr. Popular pulled the back of his hoodie free from under his seated self, as the driver shut the door. “Anywhere’s better than here.”

Spatter bent over to scoop up half of the leather couch — which, although now the size of her palm, was no lighter than before — when the lights cut out. “Oh, what now?”

“Attention, K-Mart shoppers: We are currently experiencing a Charlie Brownout,” Wavelength droned in a deadpan, announcer voice from the entrance of the commons, his hand over the light switch. “Do not be alarmed if you suffer a momentary lapse of crippling depression. A floor-worker will be with you momentarily to draw a Jack O’Lantern on the back of your head.”

“Good grief…” The Chinese teen stood up, marched toward the location of the voice, and slammed her hand into his, flicking the lights back on. “One of these days, your mouth is gonna bite you in the ass.”

“I knew all that yoga would payoff.” The quarter-Cherokee teen smirked.

“Douche.” Spatter picked up where she left off — or, at least, tried to pick up what she couldn’t lift before.

Wavelength watched the senior girls pick over the carpet like they were on a microscopic scavenger hunt. “Should I even ask?”

“Only if you want to get punched.” The girl in the sundress clutched the shrunken soda-half with two hands and hefted into the air.

“Need a hand with that?” The boy in the argyle sweater vest and white t-shirt took an uncertain step forward.

“Need a trash can.” Spatter wobbled, as Wavelength retrieved the plastic bin from the corner of the room.

“A guy hits the sauna, and the whole world changes.” The muscular teen shuffled backward, while the girl with the hourglass figure released the miniature wreckage into the waste basket. “Who’s next?”

All three of the other seniors raised their hands at once.

“Oh…kay, then.” Wavelength grabbed the trash can with both hands and dragged it behind him.

“Don’t even think about it, peach fuzz.” The white 20-something cashier with dreadlocks and bloodshot eyes — Dwight, if his nametag could be believed — waved off the pudgy teen, carrying every shade of alcohol he could manage.

“You’re not even going to check my I.D.?!” Tantric protested, with mock outrage.

“You can’t fool a fooler, bro.” Dwight leaned against the checkout counter. “There’s no way you’re twenty-one.”

“Well, fuck you, then.” The kid in the windbreaker sounded so hurt it was almost believable. “You’re part of the establishment, man, you know that? Harshin’ everybody’s good time.”

“Just leave the bottles and go, dude, before I call the cops on your underage ass,” the cashier instructed, less than impressed by anything the kid had to say.

Tantric opened his arms over the checkout counter and let the bottles fall where they may.

Dwight watched the pudgy teen exit the store in a huff. “Fuckin’ pituitary case.”

“Kids these days, man.” Long, thin fingers placed two bottles of Patron and three six-packs of Corona Extra on the counter next to the assortment of discarded alcohol.

“Sayin’.” The cashier turned his head back to come-face-to-face with a UCONN jersey. He craned his neck to catch a glimpse of his 7′7″ customer. “You headed to a match or something?”

“Huh?” LiveFeed glanced down at what he was wearing and recalled his cover. “Oh. Right. Yeah, yeah.”

“We’ve got a scrimmage in Oregon on Sunday. We’re just passing through.” The words echoed through the ears of the old man and the black cat, their heads encased in aviator-style helmets that descended from the ceiling of their subterranean screening room.

“This feels so morally reprehensible.” The feline could only watch in disbelief through the viewfinder — through the teen’s own eyes — as the student handed the cashier two crisp twenties.

“Our brochure clearly states that students will be under constant surveillance,” the retiree defended. “We never specified how, exactly, they would be surveilled.”

The limousine pulled to a stop outside an imposing, ten-story, glass-and-steel structure. The partition between driver and passenger, front seat and back, lowered.

“Here we are, sir.” Selina killed the engine and removed her key. “I’ll be around to open your door in a moment. Sit tight.”

“Wait.” Mr. Popular reached toward her. “Maybe there is something you could clarify.”

“Heh.” The Dominican driver smiled warmly at the suddenly curious boy. “I’m afraid that window has expired.”

“Man…” LiveFeed revved the engine of the van and threw it in reverse. “Why does everybody automatically assume I’m an athlete?”

Tantric clutched the brown bag, full of booze, on his lap. “Because you look like the love-child of Gigantor and the Fifty Foot Woman.”

Category: Breakfast Serial

9 Responses to “Breakfast Serial .07: Seventh Inning Stretch”

  1. H.H. Neville

    Oh, what a great new wrinkle thrown in with the founders. They are certain an odd couple if ever their were one. I’m very curious about their own personal histories and if the AFTA kids might end up sharing their fate.

    Again, Wireframe is far too adorable…love it. The bit about her childhood and bird houses was wonderful, as, well, even geniuses have out of control notions as children. I like also that, yeah, she can build pretty much anything but still suffers from some disabling doubt. Anyway, yes, her timid brilliance is quite charming.

    The LiveFeed/Tantric scene was pure comic gold and capped excellently with “Spirits Within.” Nice.

    Dig the slight Orwellian-vibe of this piece. The founders, well, they’re proving to be antagonistic (as well, that’s where you seem to be pulling them) but these are their kids and, to some extent, I don’t think they’d outright harm them. I’m interested to see what lines they won’t cross seeing already what they have.

    Mr Popular’s probably in a pinch, but given his talents, I’m not to worried. There’s bound to be something there, but I have a feeling it’s more to tie in plots around the characters from the heist than actually jeopardizing him.

  2. Tom Moses

    The founders that show up here, as was pointed out in Neville’s comments above, are an interesting duo. I’m more than interested to see how they mold these young people, and just to see more of them. But there’s one question I have for you, good sir, one question:

    Where is Cortex!

  3. kink

    Glad you guys are still digging.

    I’d say more, but I don’t want to run the risk of giving anything away. There’re only three installments left, so I’ll let them speak for themselves.

  4. Jac

    I am there for any team with a cat founding member - “Artifice Albion” crossover!!

    Seriously, really like this and about to recommend it to other peoples for it’s awesome mix of action and awkwardness. I totally love the characterisation on display here.


  5. kink

    Happy to hear you approve, man!

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