The Gifted Realm: Academy - Volume 1

Chapter 23 - Rules and Regulations of a Shield

“How are you feeling, baby doll?” Dan instinctively headed towards Fionna when they entered the house. She was cuddled up under one of her quilts and inhaling popcorn. Becca and Adeline were in identical positions all staring at the large television.

“Ah, Mr. Big,” Logan harassed as Chris Noth made his first apperance on the show. “I have so much in common with that guy.”

Adeline rolled her eyes, and Fionna laughed at him outright. Becca, however, glowed crimson.

“I’m good.” Fionna gave Dan a broad, beaming grin, as he leaned down to kiss her. “Mr. Big.” She waggled her eyebrows.

Dan shot his customary, cocky smirk to Logan. “See, Haydenshire, what’d I tell you?”

Jeff and Logan shook their heads as they made their way upstairs. The ladies on the screen began discussing anal sex, and Jeff nearly fainted as Samantha declared that a hole was a hole.

When they entered Halia’s nursery, he set to work though he looked extremely uncomfortable.

“Maybe Bec shouldn’t be watching that,” finally spilled from his mouth. “Her parents were super strict, and she’s really, really naïve.”

Logan stepped in with an understanding smile. “Letting your Ioses flag fly a little high there, man, might want to tuck that back in.”

“Yeah, but she’s probably never even heard of that before. I don’t want her to be embarrassed.”

“She’ll be fine, Jeff,” Dan eased. “Logan’s right. Our predilect’s fatal flaw comes into play when we think we should shield someone from something we’ve pre-determined they need to be kept from. You cannot shield her from life itself. She’d be miserable if you tried. And something you need to learn right now, before you jump into being an Iodex officer, you cannot legislate morality.”

Dan began spreading the drop cloths around the floor hoping to get Jeff’s mind off of Sex in the City.

After Jeff instructed Logan and Dan on how to load their brushes and how to keep them moving, he began working on the trim.

Following all of Jeff’s instructions, they completed the nursery in two hours, and it looked professionally done just as Jeff had promised. Pride etched his face as they closed the door leaving the lights on to let the paint dry after they’d heat casted the walls.

Logan lifted Adeline off of the couch and then fell to the spot she’d previously occupied keeping her cradled in his lap.

“Logan!” she squealed.

Becca giggled sweetly as Jeff sank down on the floor at her feet

“We should go,” Adeline insisted a moment later. “I told her she was supposed to be resting, and I’m sitting here watching her television at ten thirty.”

“Yeah and we’re getting the Strentons all moved in early tomorrow,” Logan agreed though Dan had a feeling he was more interested in getting Adeline into bed than he was getting himself to sleep.

“Here you can borrow the first few seasons.” Fionna eased herself up off of the couch with Dan’s help.

“Are you sure?” Adeline quizzed hesitantly.

“Of course.”

“I won’t keep them long.”

“Don’t worry about it. We don’t really get to watch them all that often. Aida’s still a little young for Carrie and Samantha,” Fionna teased.

“Hey, Mentor Vindico, if you have your laptop, I can show you that stuff on Facebook before we hit the sack,” Jeff offered as soon as the Haydenshires left.

Dan was intrigued but shook his head. “Nah, I need to get my wife in the bed.”

“Wait, what stuff on Facebook?” Fionna quizzed. “You hate Facebook.”

“That is very, very true, but it seems Wilshire and Mentor Bryant’s affair was outed on everybody’s favorite social network.” He rolled his eyes out of habit. He abhorred every kind of digital social network. Dan couldn’t fathom why anyone would care what other people ate for lunch, were cooking for dinner, how far they’d run during a workout, or to see the pictures from their drunken weekend. He was also well aware that once you posted something on the internet it was out there forever. Once it hit Facebook or was Tweeted, it was gone and could never be recaptured. You made a poor decision, then announced it, even if you decided to take it off of your feed at a later date it was already on a dozen other people’s pages and being discussed liberally.

Whether or not something was still digitally available, people cannot un-see or un-read something. The genie could never be returned to the lamp. Pandora’s box had been opened.

In his opinion, social media was the perfectly lethal combination of narcissism and voyeurism.  He couldn’t begin to count the sheer number of times the Senate would ask Iodex to check up on a potential hire. In a matter of moments, Ramier would have their Facebook page wide open and more times than not, they never received a call back.

“Are you serious?” Fionna looked simultaneously intrigued and horrified.

“Yes, ma’am,” Becca assured her. “We all saw it.”

“Oh my gosh, that’s terrible, but I also kind of want to see it, too. I don’t know. I’m torn. It’s just so gross.”

“I’ll look at it tomorrow,” Dan decided. He suspected what his wife meant by the affair being gross was that it was deeply emotionally disturbing. He had no interest in subjecting her to it.

“No. You’re going to be working on this case. All of the kids have clearly already seen it.” She gestured to Jeff and Becca. “I want to see what’s up there.” She turned the full power of her pleading sienna eyes on her Dan.

“Fine, as long as you’re sure.” Those huge, beautiful brown eyes had always been his weakness.

Handing Jeff his laptop, Dan settled beside Fionna keeping his hands on her legs. Her energy was running in slightly agitated arcs.

“I love you, and I would never ever do something like this,” he husked quietly in her ear. He knew what was wrong.

She wrapped her arms around his bicep clinging to him tightly.

“The first thing that happened was Mentor Sherman posted these pics on his page from some teacher conference over the summer.” Jeff spun Dan’s laptop so they could see posts dated sometime in June the year before.

Directly in front of his own phone’s camera lens, in the eighty-six available photos from the event, was Sherman mugging stupidly in the conference room of some no name hotel in Boise.

Other mentors had attended the event and had been tagged in the backgrounds of the photos. Dan noted several photos taken in what appeared to be a dining hall. The Chancellor and Mentor Bryant were seated beside one another in every shot.

“Right there.” Jeff stabbed his finger towards the screen. In the photo, Chancellor Dean Wilshire, the highest paid head of the most esteemed Gifted Academy anywhere in the United States, had his hand on Katherine Bryant’s inner thigh.

It was extremely discreet, somewhat obscured by the cheap polyester table cloths. Fergus had been photographing the man on stage whom he’d labeled in the photo as his hero. He’d had no idea what else he’d captured.

“Show me Mentor Bryant’s personal stats page,” Dan demanded.

“Yes sir.” Jeff seemed thrilled to be able to show Dan his skill set. Keeping the original page open, he opened another tab, and opened her Facebook page. It showed a large banner picture of her son and daughter. Both appeared to be in middle school. She’d posted a picture of her daughter’s recent sleepover with several of her pre-teen friends.

Dan shuddered. If she knew half of the cases Iodex had worked beyond Wretchkinsides and the Interfeci, she never would have put something like that on her page.

Moving on to the information she’d readily provided the world at large, Dan read her profile. Happily married to my hubby of twenty years. Love my kiddos at home and at school. Love biking and reading. Love to laugh. Love to learn. Love my life.

Glancing at her birthday Dan did the math. She was in her mid-forties. Wilshire was sixty-three, just two years from retiring with full Senate benefits.

“Does Chancellor Wilshire have a page as well?” Dan quizzed.

“Didn’t he tell you to make one?” Fionna asked.

“He said it was a great way to connect with my students. I told him my students could connect with me in my classes because I don’t do Facebook.”

Jeff chuckled as he opened two additional tabs. “Wilshire had a page of stuff he had one of his assistants put up about the Academy, but he’s one of the admins. Then he set up a personal page using the same account. He tried to make it so you had to be a friend of his already to put in a friend request, but he didn’t actually lock down his page. We can all see everything he posts by getting to his page through the Academy page.”

A lot had changed since Dean Wilshire was named head of Venton Academy. Dan was beyond certain that he didn’t really understand how something like Facebook worked anywhere near as well as every student at the Academy he was running.

On the public board were the dates of upcoming formals, order meetings, Summation challenges, and an advertisement for a sale going on at the school bookstore.

Jeff switched to the Chancellor’s more personal page. The most recent posting was of the Chancellor’s birthday party that had been the week before school began. There was one of he and Ellen, his wife of forty years, both smiling at the backyard barbecue. There was another of him kissing her cheek. Dan’s parents were in a few shots as were the Crown Governor and his wife.

“She knows.” Fionna cringed.

“What, baby?” Dan turned to her.

“Look at Mrs. Wilshire in the photo where he’s kissing her. Look at her eyes. She knows,” Fionna insisted.

Dan studied the picture. Fionna could feel the energy in the post. He couldn’t. But Ellen Wilshire’s eyes did indeed hold the pain of betrayal.

Jeff scrolled further down the page to the Happy Birthday wishes from all of the Chancellor’s friends. He’d responded to one that appeared to be from his younger brother.

‘You know you’re old when you offer to get a prescription for the little blue pills and your wife tells you not to bother...ha!’

 Numerous people had liked the status with a laughing reaction. Dan wondered just how much truth was in the joke.

 “But their Facebook pages aren’t going to prove whether or not the school funded their affair,” Fionna huffed. Dan knew she was still stinging from the photographic evidence of a person she’d respected falling rapidly from his pedestal.

“Well.” Jeff seemed to consider for a moment.  He swallowed and then spun the laptop back. Focusing intently, he summoned, casted Dan’s computer, typed rapidly for several long minutes, and worked until he had what he was looking for. “Do you have a thumb drive?”

“I have some extras from the ones I gave all of my students.” Dan extracted one of the thumb drives from his laptop case. Jeff casted the drive before placing it in the laptop.

“Here.” Jeff grimaced as he removed the drive. “This is Wilshire’s email account from his computer at school.” He handed Dan back the thumb drive.

“You just put all of that on there?” Fionna gasped.

“Yes, ma’am, but I would never do that normally. We have to figure this out right. I mean, that’s the case. If I could get near his actual laptop I could clone it for you, but I’d have to have the laptop out of his hands for a few minutes.”

Dan’s mouth hung open. He’d seen Ramier perform the same kinds of things on many occasions in his twelve years with Iodex. It typically took an hour or more. Jeff had performed the same task in under twenty minutes.

“There’s more stuff on Mentor Sherman’s Facebook page as well. They must’ve gone to like a dozen conferences over the summer.”

Immensely thankful that he’d informed the school governors that he would be spending every summer in Kauai with his family and would never be available to attend any such conferences, Dan didn’t have to guess why Wilshire would have wanted to attend so many out of state.

“Here,” Jeff pulled up another photograph from Mentor Sherman’s conference event pages. “I swear that guy is such a moron,” Jeff declared. The photograph was of Chancellor Wilshire and Mentor Bryant standing side by side smiling broadly with their arms slung over one another. Venton Love was the title Sherman had given the photo.

“Remember last year when he taught your Amative Energies class?” Becca giggled hysterically.

Not really wanting to think about what he might find on that thumb drive, Dan closed the laptop.

“Sherman taught your Amative Energies class last year?” Dan knew it was childish, but this story had to be good and just then he needed to laugh.

“Yes, sir. It was ridiculous. They split my health and wellness class into three classes because there were so many of us taking it third period. Sherman was assigned the Ioses, Vis Vierres, and Valeduto juniors.” Jeff choked back laughter. “We were in there about two seconds before everyone realizes that he’s teaching Amative energies but he’s never had sex. All of the Valeduto guys start correcting his vocabulary. You know, ‘cause they’re all going to be Medios or nurses, and he couldn’t seem to call anything the scientific term.

“The more uncomfortable he got the more they asked him to explain. I felt bad for the guy, but it was funny. Eventually, he casted the slides from his laptop to show on the screen, and then he actually starts taking notes off of the slides!” Jeff shook his head cracking up over the memory. “Trust me, every guy in that classroom had way more experience than Sherman. He eventually started asking us questions. Two idiots from Vis Vierres summoned really quick and flipped the slides of the female erotic energy storehouses. I don’t know if he and Tilly McIntyre have consummated their engagement or whatever, but trust me she was very, very confused the first time they did it.”

Dan and Fionna guffawed both anxious to leave Wilshire and Bryant behind for the evening. Laughter held much more appeal than deception and lies.

“Before I start to feel genuinely sorry for Sherman, I think I’d like to put this very long day to bed.” Dan stood and helped Fionna off of the couch.

“I want to see the nursery first,” Fionna headed upstairs.

“I really appreciate everything you did and your willingness to help me,” Dan assured Jeff.

“I’m happy to help. I owe you after everything you’ve done for us. I did have a question though.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s what you said before we started painting about Ioses predilects not being able to legislate morality. Isn’t that kind of what you, and your dad, or the Crown, or whoever is doing? Not that I don't think he deserves it. He's an ass for doing that to his wife, but aren’t we really going after Wilshire for having an affair? Isn’t that imposing our morality on him?”

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