“We die together,” is Faye’s quick, sarcastic answer.  As her friend laughs, she thinks of her actual answer for a moment.  “Shapeshifters, right?  So, these shapeshifters are shadows…or are the shadows just shapeshifters?  One key thing to remember is the use of private information, precious memories.  Unless these creepers know our histories, we can always ask our friends things only they’d know.  That’d help with the identification process, though that would still be iffy since you’d have to think of questions on the spot while trying not to die.  Let’s focus on the imposters so we won’t have to waste time talking to our friends during the invasion.  Hmm, trick them into shapeshifting and watch them.  See if you notice any suggestion of a power source.  Perhaps these monsters are robots, so you can deactivate them.  If not, um, well…you’ve always got your System Blade, Slasher.  That’s what I’ll call you, Slasher.”

    Laughing, Elf says, “But you hate the System Blade.  Why torture yourself?”

    Playing cool as she regrets bringing up the topic of her phobia, Faye says, “I was trying to be brave.  Didn’t work.  Yeah, I know System Blades are a purifying technology that only hurts villains and cleanses good thoughts, but we both know that even those weapons can hurt the innocent if used by the wrong person.  Now, we’ll just assume the monsters are afraid of being sliced in half and retreat.  There, I saved us all by scaring them half to death.”  Faye ends with a big cheesy grin to show Elf she’s quickly gotten over a potentially bad moment.

    “You’re weird,” he says, “that’s why we’re best friends, I guess.”

    “Heh,” she laughs mockingly, “because that’s definitely all we are.  We’re just two good friends.”

    “Totally,” he teasingly agrees.

    “Completely,” she happily plays along.

    “And I’m totally sickened,” Gigi adds.

    “I thought I was your best friend, bro,” Owan complains.

    “You were,” Elfie says, “but Faye’s prettier, so she wins.”  Ent is thoroughly pleased with himself as he watches Faye try not to blush.

    And while this “non-romantic flirting” persists, we have one more conversation to be had before we take off to see the stars.  Lady Duplica has stepped away to check on a few last-minute things to ensure the safest outing possible, and now, she casually strolls back to the lunch room, thinking about what a wonderful surprise it was to have her Dougy bring her a puzzle before the big field trip.  “Now, that was a good way to start the day!  Got a good puzzle in and joked around with Doug.  Couldn’t ask for a better gift.”  As she continues to recall the lovely little moment, Cat runs into Ally J. who is too distracted watching the kids to anticipate Cat’s presence.

    “Hey, J.!” Cat says with a hearty, yet soft pat on the back.  “What are you doing here just staring like a creepy cookie?”

    “Creepy cookie, huh?” Ally tries to laugh at the joke but apparently fails to present a believable reaction.

    “Uh-oh,” says Cat, “not you, too, Ally.  Why is everyone so depressed today?”

    “We’re parents, Catherine.  It’s what we do when we watch our kids grow up too fast.”  Ally sighs.

    “So, Kammy gets a boyfriend, and now, you’re pushing Faye out the door like she just graduated.  You’re as bad as Mercy.”  Cat scratches her head, trying to understand these people.

    “Mercy?  What do you mean?”

    Cat explains the conversation they had earlier thanks to Ally self-appointing herself as Paul’s mentor.  As Lady J. hears this, she’s visibly embarrassed.

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