The session starts with each character getting to talk a little bit about how their morning before the first day of class goes. Carrie is woken up from a bad dream by her annoying younger cousin, Lynn, who seems hurt by the fact that Carrie intends to skip breakfast. Kunihiko is having bad dreams too; he wakes up in an empty apartment and silently goes through his morning routine before locking up and walking to school alone. Booger is waking up at his friend Stoney’s house, earlier than he wants to because they have to meet with Mr. Big before school to pick up their new supply. Edward is having breakfast with his partner, Alex; their pleasant morning is interrupted only by Alex reminding Edward that his mother should be calling him sometime today. Charles was up early too, mostly to be working on an electronics project; his mother has to yell at him several times before he finally starts getting ready for school and nearly misses the bus.
We see Phaedra for the first time as her butler is driving her up to the school’s gates. He helps her out of the car and primly reminds her of her schedule for the day; in a moment of human emotion, he “breaks character” to assure her that if she needs anything to call him. She promises she will before making her way to her locker. Charles and Kunihiko arrive at roughly the same time but pay no attention to one another, though both have an odd moment of cold chills and headache as they pass one another at the school gates. Edward is crossing from the parking lot when he runs into Coach O’Halloran, his nemesis over the last several years. The two men trade barbs before O’Halloran offers a public truce; they need to at least be civil in public. Before Edward can relax too much, O’Halloran notes that he still plans on trying to get Edward’s “pet project” shut down—even going to the school board if he has to. Edward sighs; maybe it was too much to expect that O’Halloran could actually lay off on trying to get the school LGBT club closed.
Carrie’s aunt is dropping her off on the first day of school; Carrie just transferred in, so her aunt is risking being late to work to make sure she gets to class on time. Carrie’s aunt reassures her that she can call if she needs anything, but Carrie says she’ll be fine. She nearly calls her aunt “mom” a couple of times, to which the older woman responds that she misses Carrie’s parents too—but she’s sure that they would be proud of how well she’s coping. Booger is trying to work out how he’s going to transition his sales and decides to start with the teachers, a couple of whom are already his clients.
Charles is getting books out of his locker when a couple of other boys bump into him. He sullenly picks up his fallen books and says nothing as he slinks away, trying to avoid notice. Phaedra is having trouble with her books as well, but Ayesha, the leader of the school mean girls, is there to pick up one when she drops it. Ayesha says some pretty cold things to Phaedra, which the younger girl takes in stride, though she can’t keep herself from snarking back.
Edward calls homeroom to order, but finds that Kunihiko is missing. Carrie volunteers that he’s sleeping on the roof. How does she know that? She just does. Normally, the class representative would take care of going to find him, but the shuffle in class arrangements has left Class 1-A without a representative at the start of the year as their elected rep was transferred to another school. Carrie nominates Charles for a quick vote, but he responds that whoever came in second last year should have it. Andrea, one of their classmates, notes that it was her, and she’s quickly sent off to find Kunihiko. Edward is slightly unnerved by the fact that Carrie seems to mutter everything he’s saying to the class at the same time he’s saying it.
Booger is in a different homeroom, getting yelled at along with the rest of the class by their teacher, Ms. Lazuli. She’s got a reputation for being impatient and short-tempered, and homeroom seems to be no exception.
Kunihiko is napping on the roof since he didn’t sleep well the night before. Andrea has to shake him awake because he’s wearing heavy headphones and can’t hear her yelling at him. He gives her a delinquent glare as she reminds him that he’s late for homeroom, but he still congratulates her when he finds out that she’s the new class rep. When he meanders down to homeroom, he thinks about giving Edward some lip but decides against it; Mr. Jameson is just too popular and cool to give him hassle. Still, Kunihiko’s earned himself staying after school to help with the welcome fair as detention. And on the first day of school!
After homeroom, the students have a few minutes to mingle before their first class. One of the students pulls out a radio to listen to the morning news; the radio is talking about it being the one-year anniversary since the last confirmed death at the hands of a Seattle-area serial killer. Though the murders stopped suddenly, a recent string of disappearances has people worried that the “Seattle Slasher” might be back in action. Morning classes pass uneventfully, for the most part.
At lunch, Phaedra’s arm is hurting so she decides to take half of one of her pain pills. Booger notes her use of medication and wonders if she might be a potential sale at some point. Kunihiko has lunch with the “mysterious transfer student” and starts interrogating her about how she seems to know so much about what’s going on even though it’s her first day at a new school. She denies being mysterious—then proceeds to be mysterious when she pins down Booger and asks for something he doesn’t sell, but which she’s sure his boss has access to. One of their classmates, Marcell, hassles Kunihiko about trying to hit on the new girl right away, but Carrie shuts him down before he can get too clever. Marcell’s buddy Roland leads him away, chastising him about bothering Kunihiko at all. “You know what happened to his brother…”
During free period, Phaedra gets hassled by Pete, a kid from Booger’s class. He noticed her popping pills at lunchtime and was wondering if she’d put in a good word with him to Booger; they’ve been on the outs since last year over something or other, but he knows that Booger always has “the good stuff.” Phaedra denies knowing a “Booger” and seems baffled by what Pete wants. He rudely accuses her of being a stuck-up rich girl, but before it can escalate any further, Booger shows up and tells Pete to take a hike. Carrie feels like she’s being watched; she rushes off to look for who it might be, but only finds Charles coming out of a bathroom.
After school, Edward is helping out at the LGBT Club booth, along with Joey Portes, an athletic girl who is a long-time member of the club, despite her lackadaisical attitude. Coach O’Halloran comes over to hassle Edward while the student welcome fair is running, and Kunihiko can’t help but give him lip. Coach O’Halloran warns him that if it was up to him, Kunihiko would have been expelled instead of just being held back a year. “I’m lucky it’s not up to you then, right?” Kunihiko sneers. Coach O’Halloran looks at him with something like pity before responding, “Your brother never would have acted like this.” Kunihiko’s smart grin fades almost immediately.
Carrie is struck again by the feeling that someone is watching her, but she’s unwilling to leave the student fair to go hunting for anyone. It’s just a small bit of normalcy that makes her feel better about her life. Booger sneaks off to find Pete, hoping to patch things up since he can’t really afford to lose clients right now. Kunihiko lobs a lacrosse ball at Coach O’Halloran’s head and runs off before the older man can figure out who did it; fortunately, Coach O’Halloran has a very thick skull, so he’s more annoyed than hurt. Charles is mostly wandering around the student welcome fair because he doesn’t have anything waiting for him at home except the robot model he’s working on.
As everyone has begun to drift out of the student fair hallway, Edward hears a scream for help that cuts off abruptly. He and Carrie move at once toward the sound, Phaedra and Charles following along behind them mostly out of curiosity. Kunihiko follows quietly, hoping that it’s something bad enough that it’ll distract Edward and get him out of detention. The group finds Booger standing over an unconscious, bloody Pete; the lockers behind him have been buckled in by some terrible force. “He was like this when I got here!” Booger claims. Edward immediately believes him, since there’s no blood on Booger’s hands. A quick check reveals that Pete is alive, though pretty hurt. Charles gets out his cell phone to call for help—when a horrible feeling of cold and sickness washes over all of them.
Edward and Carrie manage to stay on their feet, but the others are staggered a moment by the sensation. Kunihiko particularly feels one of his horrible migraines coming on, a pounding headache that threatens to overwhelm him. “Dammit, not now…” he mutters. The windows go black and the hallway seems to stretch out infinitely behind them like a funhouse illusion. Ahead of them, a shadow figure fills a doorway. “Which of you is it?” the figure asks. “Which of you is the anomaly?” Edward steps forward, ready to defend the children if he must. He and the shadowy figure trade barbs for a moment, long enough for the attacker to reveal that he is an agent of False Hearts, going by the name Copper Crown.
Copper Crown sneers that he doesn’t have time to deal with a Guardian pawn. If the anomaly won’t reveal itself, he’ll just kill them one by one! He moves his hands and a strange wire whip materializes out of thin air between them. As he leaps into the fray, the four remaining students are overcome with a horrific wave of nausea and pain. The Renegade is awakening!
Booger recovers first and steps into Copper Crown’s path, motivated by some bout of conscience he wasn’t sure he possessed. He holds out his hands, forming a sword made from pure light and pulsing strange hypnotic patterns out of it. Copper Crown shields his eyes in time to avoid the effect. “An Overed!” he declares. “I knew there had to be one! But an Angel Halo? And so weak? Hardly the anomaly I was expecting!” As Copper Crown rushes toward the group, the hallway seems to tilt around them, gravity reorienting itself as their enemy dashes. His wire whip lashes out at Booger, cutting him badly in the arms and chest. Copper Crown finishes his run on the far end of the hallway, keeping safely at range from his prey.
Phaedra doesn’t want to fight—but her stump is in agony. She screams aloud as the flesh bursts open, unfurling itself into a three-foot-long tentacle, barbed and suckered. “What’s happening to me?!” she cries. Copper Crown is disturbed; two Overeds awakening in one place? It’s unheard of! Charles ups the ante by holding out his hands and calling the stone to defend him—and to assault his foes! He’s always liked things better than people, and now those things listen to him. Copper Crown is caught off-guard by locker doors and chunks of tile throwing themselves at him, but his armored clothes keep the worst of it at bay. Kunihiko can only roll on the ground in agony; it feels like he grabbed a live wire and stuck it in his mouth.
Carrie’s eyes go hard; she sneers that Copper Crown bit off more than he can chew. “This never goes the way you hope, you sad little man.” Then she takes a stance, holding her hands close together until a point of red-black darkness appears between them. “Look into the EYE OF SAURON!” she declares, spreading her arms wide to shatter space itself. Fire and darkness close in on Copper Crown, a blazing eye with a shadowed pupil shaped like a person. Even as he dodges away from it, it breaks into dozens of small black holes and rips the hallway up around him. He’s staggered and reeling after the assault, and Edward only makes it worse by turning the air around Copper Crown into sickening intoxicants that make him face his worst nightmare. Booger turns it into a one-two punch with his hypnotic pattern, this time nearly knocking the False Hearts agent on his ass.
“This is impossible!” Copper Crown cries, bleeding and barely able to stand. “This was the anomaly? Five awakening at once? I have to tell Master Wraith!” Before he can flee, Charles cages the area with his powers, locking down the terrorist’s ability to escape. Copper Crown has one last trump card, though; he lashes his wire whip around the unconscious Pete’s neck and threatens to kill the boy if they don’t let him go. Kunihiko finally recovers, standing tall as lightning ripples across his face. Kunihiko grabs the wire whip, the ambient energy he’s throwing off burning through it; he wraps the glowing ends around his fist before he lets go of the huge charge that’s been building up inside him for weeks. “STURM UND DRANG!” he cries, letting a hundred million volts of lightning leap up the whip to its target, followed close on by a thunderous roar that shatters all the windows in the hallway.
Copper Crown drops to the ground, smoking and burned. “Five at once…? Impossible…” And then he’s down. As his warding field drops, the folded space collapses in on itself. The hallway returns to normal, no damage apparent from the terrible battle that just raged there. Edward checks the downed agent; he’s just unconscious, not dead, which will be a huge help to the UGN. False Hearts agents don’t normally allow themselves to be taken alive. But before that, there’s the matter of several students who need to have some hard truths dropped on them. As the newly awakened Overed are starting to panic, Edward puts up his own warding field, a soothing cloud of pheromones, to make sure they won’t be disturbed.
He gives them a very basic explanation: they all have a special trait that makes them different, and they need to learn to control their powers to avoid harming themselves and others. He works for an organization that will help them do that. Despite Charles and Booger talking about “magic powers,” Kunihiko is more worried about the men in black coming and taking them away. “I won’t let this turn into some Genosha shit!” the boy declares. Edward reassures him; the organization won’t “take them away”—after all, Edward himself has a job and a relationship. Kunihiko seems a little mollified, but Phaedra is more concerned by the fact that she now has a monstrous tentacle growing where her arm used to be. Carrie comes over and assures her that she can make it go away if she concentrates. Sure enough, with a little effort, the unnatural limb melts back into the younger girl’s body—though her sleeve is still ruined. Booger discovers that he can heal his own wounds by concentrating, though Edward tries to warn him against doing so too frequently. Edward decides he needs to make a report and calls HQ.
A few minutes later, a man in a dark suit shows up; Kunihiko nearly panics when one of the “men in black” seems to show up out of nowhere. Edward calls the man “Leviathan,” and he seems to know Edward as “Pippin.” They discuss some things in broad strokes for a few moments, leaving the young people confused, until Leviathan calls for an “extraction” and seems to make the captured Copper Crown vanish in a sphere of darkness. Leviathan doesn’t try to be reassuring to the students; instead, he simply cautions them against revealing anything they’ve seen today, and tells Edward that they’ll start setting up a visit to HQ for them all this weekend. “I’m honestly not sure we have the infrastructure in place yet to handle five at one time,” he says, “but we’ll have to make do.” Carrie can’t keep from blabbing that she already knows some of what’s going on, leading Leviathan and Edward to believe that she’s an Illegal who somehow slipped through the cracks. Leviathan takes a moment to do something to Pete, ensuring that the boy won’t remember anything from the last hour or so. After Leviathan departs, Edward again warns the students against discussing what happened here. After all, who would believe them?
The students depart the school, filled with a terrible knowledge that the world has been twisted.
End Act 0.
Next time, on Double Cross! Act 1: Prelude to a Nightmare! I’m an “Overed” Now?