The Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls was founded outside Oshawa in 1886 to help young, troubled women turn their lives around. In 1889, U. F. Gephardt changed the mission, refining the girls to become his personal army. Gephardt retired to the Century Manor Asylum in Hamilton after suffering a nervous breakdown. The Academy, however, still continues, helping troubled and troublesome girls get an education and a good start in life, whatever their ambitions are.
The New Girl
Chapter 1 - Arrival
Laura stared out the window at the passing farmland. The landscape and the gentle ride in the back of the black sedan would normally be enough to send her to sleep, but nagging worries prevented that. Instead, Laura sighed. The black-suited men in the front passenger seat glanced back, peering past the arm of his sunglasses. Laura gave him a wan smile, then slumped down in her seat. She pulled the elastic holding her dark hair in a pony tail out for the umpteenth time to fix her hair yet again.
The simple fences along the highway became a tall stone wall. The car soon slowed to turn into a laneway blocked by an ornate gate. The sedan's driver, also dressed all in black, stopped the car then got out. His partner, still in the passenger seat, shoved a hand under his suit jacket as he gave a nervous look around. The gate creaked open, the motors whirring to life. The driver returned behind the wheel and slammed the door shut. He checked Laura, then put the car into gear.
The laneway wound its way through a lawn that threatened to return to being a field. Laura spotted a fountain almost overgrown with weeds. There was no sign of any living being around, though. Even the large building ahead appeared forbidding, its exterior weatherbeaten. Laura didn't see any disrepair; in fact, she noted an section on the third floor that had been recently repainted, the newer cream paint not quite matching the older, yellowing walls.
The sedan rolled to a stop at the main doors. The men in black got out first, looking around, before allowing Laura out. They flanked her as they walked through the doors. The building's interior was far better maintained than the exterior. The footsteps of Laura and her guards echoed off the polished floor as they walked to the main office. The secretary showed them into the inner office as soon as the stepped in. Laura sat down in the only chair in front of the room's large desk. The men in black kept their hand inside their suit jacket, resting on hidden guns.
After several agonizingly long minutes, a tall woman entered, her black hair tied into a bun. She eyed Laura's guards. "Thank you for bringing her here," the woman said. "I'll take over from here. Is there anything that needs to be signed?" One of the men shook his head in the negative. "You can go."
The men didn't run out of the office, but it was close enough in Laura's eyes. With her guards gone, she turned her attention to the woman, willing her hands to stop fidgeting with the hem of her jacket. "Ma'am."
The woman sat down behind the desk. "Hello, Laura." Without looking, she opened her drawer and pulled out a file. "Welcome to the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls. I am Headmistress Stone. You can call me Headmistress or Ms Stone." The Headmistress read the file's cover. "Laura Jones. From Toronto, correct?"
Laura nodded. "Yes, Headmistress." Just at the periphery of her vision, she saw the sedan she arrived in speed by.
"Good. We have the right Laura Jones, then." The Headmistress leaned back in her chair. "Normally, we don't get girls arriving after the school year has started, especially girls in their final year. I understand there are circumstances that made it necessary."
"Yes, Headmistress. I was--"
The Headmistress held up a hand to stop Laura. "You don't have to explain. The Academy is more interested in making sure all our girls succeed in whatever endeavour they attempt. We have a long list of graduates who have made a name for themselves." The woman smiled, reminding Laura of a predator. "I, too, am a graduate."
Outside, Laura saw a cloud of black smoke erupt. She couldn't help but look at the scene. The sedan she had arrived in was on fire near the entry gates. The two men who brought her were running. The sound of the Headmistress chuckling forced Laura's attention back to the woman. "The younger girls are so full of energy today," the Headmistress said. She stood up, smoothing out her red pencil skirt as she did so. "Come along, Laura. Time to meet your new roommates."
Laura blinked. "Yes, ma'am. Headmistress." She got to her feet.
Headmistress Stone took Laura to the end of the hall and up three flights of stairs before stopping at a plain wooden door. She rapped once before entering the dorm room. Three girls, all around Laura's age, were busy with their own work. "Hello, ladies," the Headmistress said.
One of the girls rolled off her bed and stood up straight, her red hair falling straight on her shoulders. Her school uniform, a white blouse and a knee-length grey skirt, were crisply pressed. "Headmistress." The girl took a quick look at Laura before turning her full attention to the Headmistress.
A tall girl sat up straight at the room's main table. "Miss Stone." The third girl, Asian, just waved from her bed, never looking away from her tablet.
"I have your new roommate," the Headmistress said. "Autumn, put the tablet down."
The Asian girl sighed, but did as she was told. "Yes, Miss Stone."
"Girls, this is your new roommate." The Headmistress pulled Laura further into the room. "Laura Jones. I trust that you will treat her like you would any other student here. Laura, this is Caitlin Kane-O'Shaugnessy," the woman nodded at the redhead, "Skye Martin," she indicated the tallest girl, "and Autumn Ng, over on the bed."
Laura forced a smile. "Hi." She waved. Caitlin walked over to then around the newcomer. Laura felt the redhead's green eyes piercing her. "Um."
"I'm sure you will work things out," the Headmistress said. "Caitlin, make sure Laura understands the rules. Skye, don't forget your math homework. Autumn, leave the tablet alone." Autumn pulled her hand away from the device. "Laura, your uniform should be in next week. Do what you can to match, but you won't get in trouble for not wearing your uniform until after it arrives." Headmistress Stone turned on her stiletto heel and left the dorm room, the door closing behind her.
"Welcome to the Academy," Caitlin said. She returned to her bed. "There are four rules here. Skye?"
Skye stood up and approached Laura. "First rule, always wear your uniform. Obviously, that starts once you get yours."
Laura nodded. "I get it. Pride in our school and all that BS."
"Well, no." Caitlin picked up a book before continuing. "Fair warning to everyone else. The rule came about after the Geneva Conventions and was imposed by the city."
"Second rule," Skye said, talking over Laura. "The Academy is never to get involved."
Laura sat at the table. "That makes no sense at all."
"It will," Caitlin said.
"How? If we're supposed to wear our uniforms all the time, how can the school not get involved?"
Autumn got out of her bed, picking up her tablet out of habit. "That's the challenge." She smirked.
"Third rule, always support your sisters."
"No matter what?" Laura turned her chair to get more comfortable. "What if I don't agree with what any of you are doing?"
Without looking up from her book, Caitlin said, "Support comes in many forms."
"Is everyone here this cryptic?"
"Hey, you're the one coming to a new school." Autumn walked to the kitchenette to get a mug from the cupboard. "It makes perfect sense to us."
"Fine. What's the fourth rule?"
Skye smiled. "Don't get caught."
"Don't get . . ." Meaning dawned on Laura. "I see."
"Not quite," Caitlin started, "but you're getting there." She set down the book on her night stand. "Skye, take our new roommate out to meet everyone else. I have some plans that need revising."
"Sure." Skye walked to the door, waiting for Laura to join her. "It's not as complex as you think."
Laura joined the tall girl at the door. "Maybe."
Skye led Laura back out into the hall. "I guess you came in that car that the Jennifers destroyed?"
"The first years. They're always so enthusiastic this early in the semester. They must have just covered dangerous chemicals in Chem."
"And the Academy gave them access?"
"Not 'gave', exactly." Skye stopped in front of a door. "Laura, right?"
Laura nodded. "Right."
"Laura, I don't know what your previous school was like, but the Academy is nothing like any public school." Skye knocked on the door. "Some students here can't handle traditional schools."
The door opened, revealing a teenager, also about Laura's age, her long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders and breasts, her uniform impeccable. The girl's face lit up. "Skyescraper! You've come to visit! Come in, come in. And you brought a friend!" The girl stepped back into her dorm.
Skye sighed. "And then there's some who shouldn't be inflicted on others." She led Laura into the dorm. "Hello, Cassie. Are your roomies around?"
An Indian girl emerged from the bathroom. "I thought I heard you, Skye."
"Vammie, Skyescraper brought a friend over. Isn't that cute?"
"Vamsi, Cass, this is Laura. Laura, this is Vamsi," Skye indicated the Indian girl, "and the blonde is Cassie. Where are the twins?"
"Flora's in the lab," Vamsi said.
Cassie held up a hand. "I thought that was Fawna. Flora's off in the basement."
"One of them is in the lab, the other's off summoning demons. Both of them are off performing crimes against nature."
Laura shook her head to clear her hearing. "Summoning demons?"
Vamsi plopped down on a bed. "They're both off creating abominations of nature, let's put it that way. So, Laura, welcome to the Academy. It'll be bewildering for a few days, then you'll get used to it."
"I don't think I will." Laura shrugged. "Thanks, though."
"And if there's anything you need, you just let me know. Anything. Reminds me. Skye, can you let Caitlin know her package is going to take a little more time? My supply chain suffered an unfortunate arrest."
"I'll let her know." Skye took Laura by the elbow. "We should get going. I'm giving Laura the grand tour."
"Don't forget to show her the library."
Cassie moued. "Library? Really? Boring."
"Some of us don't need to move our mouths when reading, Cassie," Skye said. She turned to Laura. "We better keep going." Skye pulled the newcomer back to the door.
Vamsi got up and dashed to join the visitors. "Before you go. Laura, did anyone mention the twenty-four hour rule to you?"
Laura looked up at Skye, then back to Vamsi. "No. What twenty-four hour rule? I thought there were only four rules."
"It's not a rule but a tradition, really. Any new girl gets twenty-four hours to get used to the Academy and life here before she can be the target of a scheme."
"And that starts the moment she arrives on campus, right?"
Vamsi grinned. "You're starting to get life here."
"But what about, 'Support your sisters'?"
"Fourth rule, 'Don't get caught.'"
Skye tugged on Laura's elbow. "We should keep going. Thanks, Vamsi." She pulled Laura out of the room.
Back at their dorm, Caitlin stepped out into the hallway. "Skye, we need to go into town."
"You sure, Caitlin? So soon after what Verity did last week?"
Caitlin smiled without warmth. "She won't expect a thing, not with Laura joining us." The redhead turned her attention to the new girl. "It'll be a good introduction."
"Don't lie, but don't tell the truth."
"There is an all-girls school for troublemakers, hellions, miscreants, criminals both past and future, succubi, and reprobates. The Academy for Unruly Girls, well and truly named, really."