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Third Try

Written by HikerAngel :: [Thursday, 29 July 2021 23:35] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 29 July 2021 23:46]

Tales of a Goddess in Training: Third Try

Commissioned by Anonymous

Written by HikerAngel

Marie smoothed a silk blouse over her slender figure, a trepidatious look in her sapphire eyes as she gazed appraisingly into the mirror. The reflected image moved independently of her body, turning this way and that as Marie stood squarely before it. The young goddess tapped a slim finger consideringly against her plump lips as she examined her appearance.

The dark pencil skirt looked right. As did the ivory blouse, pearl necklace, and black pumps. She debated whether to pull her hair into a bun but decided that she would leave her golden tresses loose, delighting in the way the shimmering mass sparkled in the sunlight. She was quite fond of sparkles, after all.

She brought the inside of her wrist to her nose, closing her eyes as she breathed in its fragrant scent. She loved the way mortal perfume smelled. She might have to take a bottle of it with her after she passed her test. Mortals could be so clever sometimes! Who would have thought that the short-lived creatures could create something that smelled so divine.

Still, something was missing. Something that absolutely suited her new job. A bit discouraged by two consecutive failures at the mortal test, Marie really needed to get off to an auspicious start with her third attempt. Phoebe had told her as much when the dark-haired goddess – her friend – had recommended this career to her.

Marie continued to tap her naturally rose-colored lips with her index finger as she considered what was lacking in her appearance until, finally, she thought of it.

Glasses.

As a substitute teacher, she absolutely needed glasses. They would make her look intelligent to these mortals. For some reason, placing two small lenses upon one’s nose were equated with brain capacity among the people of this planet. Marie had no idea why that would possibly be, but her mission was to fit in and successfully complete a career accomplishment as a mortal, so she didn’t question their strange customs. Instead, she simply focused on utilizing them to better blend with the silly little mortals. Tapping her temple, an elegant pair of black-rimmed spectacles formed before her stunningly gorgeous blue eyes, the frames growing toward her ears to curl behind them until they were lost within the lush tresses of her glimmering hair.

Surveying the added touch to her appearance with two swift blinks of her long eyelashes, Marie smiled. Yes, this would do nicely.

As she watched her lips part in a broad smile, however, she knew that she would need to adjust her typically bubbly personality into something far more earnest and stern. Respectable teachers were strict, after all. She needed to set a proper example for the juvenile mortals she would be instructing. Teaching adolescent mortals was serious business!

Marie concentrated on her expression, forcing her smiling lips into a straight line. Better. She adjusted her posture, rolling her shoulders back and thrusting her curvaceous chest outward to give the impression of prim confidence. Better still.

Finally satisfied, Marie left the mortal abode that Phoebe had lent her and walked toward the school. After a few minutes, as she approached the school courtyard, her heels clicking loudly on the sidewalk, several students turned to stare at the stunning blonde.

“Who is that?!” asked one student in a hushed tone.

“New teacher?” asked another.

“I seriously hope she’s teaching one of my classes!” said a third, in a hopeful voice. His comment was followed by a series of soft snickers.

Marie turned to face the boisterous boys, her gorgeous eyes narrowing as they took in the chuckling group. As she gave them a stern glare, she accidentally ran into a thick, low-hanging branch. Her forehead bent it back as she walked, rotating the tree’s massive trunk. The turning motion twisted its crackling trunk, popping its network of roots from the ground. By the time the young goddess realized what had happened and stopped, the tree was wobbling precariously, its foundation snapped away by her carelessness.

Stepping back from the branch, Marie’s hands flew to her mouth as she watched the tree begin to list to one side. A moment later, it fell, crashing heavily into the side of the school building. Several windows shattered as leafy branches punctured their panes, showering the school’s office staff with jagged bits of glass.

“Oops!” the young goddess cried, stamping a foot in frustration to shatter the square of sidewalk it landed on, leaving a small crater of pulverized cement beneath her delicate-looking heel. She had done it again. Less than a minute on school grounds and she had already managed to stand out as a non-mortal!

Sighing resignedly, Marie continued forward toward the school’s entrance, her carefully crafted look of intense concentration replaced by a mien of sheepishness. As she took her next step, the errant bounce of a soccer ball sent it skittering into her path. Her pump descended, its narrow heel landing on the edge of the ball, where it punctured the rubber with a loud bang.

Startled, Marie’s hand flew to her upper chest, covering her pearl necklace as she looked down at the rapidly deflating sphere. Two teen girls ran up to her, their faces crestfallen as they leaned over to pick up the tattered remnants of their ball.

Marie’s eyes softened in sympathy, and she looked furtively to either side before snapping her fingers. The soccer ball in the disappointed girl’s grasp instantly inflated, its hole gone as if it had never been. Marie smiled, placing a finger over her lips to indicate to them not to give away what she’d done.

The girls ran away excitedly, passing the ball back and forth as they went. Marie grinned, knowing she shouldn’t have made such open use of her powers but unable to resist the temptation to give the girls what they so desperately wanted.

Marie continued forward, looking off to the side to watch the girls’ happy departure when her small foot crashed into a fire hydrant. A torrent of water burst upward, an instant fountain raining water all over the courtyard and into the school’s damaged window. Marie herself was quickly drenched, but a swift click of her patent-leather pumps together turned her sexy form instantly dry.

Water continued to rain down on the goddess, but it had no effect. It seemed to evaporate into nothingness just before it struck her gold-silver locks. She continued on as mortals flocked to the site, worriedly bickering over what to do about the water leak. With so many humans around, Marie couldn’t risk a display of power to correct the issue. It was only water, after all. The students would be fine, if a little soggy.

The small group of boys a short distance away were scratching their heads, looking at one another with awestruck expressions. Had they seen what she’d done?

She hoped not. Perhaps she could erase their memories later if they had. But for now, she knew that she needed to get to her classroom. The school’s principal had already told her the room number. She simply needed to locate it.

***

Kelly sat at her desk, the full-figured brunette watching with wide eyes as her books began to bounce on its wooden surface. The room reverberated with loud sounds at regular intervals that sounded almost like footfalls, except that as loud as they were, they could only have come from some sort of giant!

She looked over at Timothy, then at Bruce, a fearful expression filling her brown eyes. The two boys simply gave her a shrug, their expressions quite similar to her own.

The sound continued to grow louder, several framed posters on the wall falling to the ground with a loud clatter as the room shook so violently that Kelly considered invoking the school’s earthquake protocol to hide under her desk.

Suddenly, however, it stopped. Just outside the classroom door. The students looked at one another, their eyes in various states of alarm.

Then, suddenly, the door handle was sucked through the door, the metal knob breaking off a chunk of door with a loud crack as it disappeared from sight. A moment later, the mangled door slowly opened and a tall, slender young woman wearing a nervous, almost timid expression walked in, pushing her glasses up her nose as she strode to the center of the white board and turned to face the class.

“Hello, class. My name is Marie. It’s very nice to meet all of you.” The blue-eyed beauty gave Kelly a hesitant smile, almost as if the teacher were seeking the student’s approval rather than the other way around.

Feeling a strange compulsion to set the pretty young woman at ease, Kelly replied. “And it’s very nice to meet you too, Marie. I’m Kelly.”

Marie’s worried eyes turned hopeful, her lips curling into a beatific smile as she replied earnestly. “Well, Kelly, I shall endeavor to educate you to the best of my abilities.”

Kelly returned the woman’s smile, though she couldn’t help feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable. Had this woman made all those sounds in the hall? The footsteps that had rattled the classroom?

The teen brunette examined the teacher’s lithe physique, then shook her head. No. Marie looked more Disney princess than a Tyrannosaurus Rex. She couldn’t possibly have made those sounds. The beautiful, slender woman couldn’t possibly weigh more than 120 lbs.

Her eyes traveled slowly to the damaged door then back to the blonde stunner at the front of the room, remembering how the handle had ripped clean through the door as Marie had entered. Maybe there was more to their teacher than met the eye...

***

Marie cleared her throat. “Class, please open your textbooks to page 1,” she said authoritatively, remembering to adopt a stern expression. The young goddess was pleased that she had remembered to instruct her class to utilize the quaint little bundles of sliced trees that mortal students seemed to carry with them everywhere. It seemed such an inefficient way to impart information, but she supposed that mortals couldn’t connect directly with the Voice, so it was how they had decided to make due.

“Marie?” came a voice at the front of the room.

“Yes, Kelly?” asked Marie, brushing a stray lock of silky hair from her face.

“We’ve already gotten past that chapter,” said Kelly, hopefully. “We’re on the chapter about volcanoes now.”

Marie looked stunned, not expecting that the class would take multiple days to complete the study of the small amount of information contained in their books. “Really?”

Kelly nodded vigorously.

The young goddess quickly hid her surprise, knowing that she was supposed to be the one in charge in this setting. Successful completion of her mortal test would require that she behaved just like a mortal teacher. So she carefully formed her expression into one of blasé placidity a second time. “Okay, class. Turn to the volcano chapter.”

“I have a question,” a young male student raised his hand.

“Very well,” said Marie, pointing her finger at the eager boy. “What is your name, young mortal?”

“Timothy, ma’am.”

Marie nodded to indicate to the boy that he was to continue, her dazzling eyes looking excited for a brief moment before she hid the emotion in faux seriousness.

“In biology class, we learned about primordial life forming near lava flows billions of years ago. But isn’t lava too hot for that to happen? Wouldn’t cells just burn up in that kind of heat?”

Surprised, Marie sucked in a sharp breath. How could this boy not understand something so basic?! Creating life was one of the very first things that she, as a fledgling goddess, had learned!

“Life needs heat and light in order to be properly constructed, mortal boy,” Marie said in a light tone, pressing her finger to the center of her glasses as she launched into an explanation. “It is not dissimilar to baking a mortal cake. Just add some amino acids, use them to build up some proteins, then cells. After that, all you have to do is turn up the temperature, and give your life a nice little spirit-sparkle! Melted rocks actually work quite nicely for the temperature effect, so long as you don’t place your life too terribly close.”

The boy’s brows furrowed as he attempted to conceptualize what she was saying. He hadn’t expected a response quite like that. From her answer, it almost seemed as if his teacher had created living single-celled organisms in the past!

Marie, in her eagerness to help the boy understand, momentarily forgot that she was to avoid use of her powers. The wall of the classroom fell away with a wave of the divine woman’s slender hand. As it did, the room began to accelerate, flying over the landscape with breathtaking speed. It continued to fly faster and faster until lurching to a sudden stop over a snow-peaked mountain.

Most of the class was whipped forward in their desks. Timothy had been standing, however, and he lost his balance as the room came to a sudden stop, his arms flailing as he staggered forward into his gorgeous teacher. Marie reached out to grab the boy’s shoulders just before he crashed into her, setting him solidly in place just as the force of deceleration faded. Her brows furrowed sternly, and she raised a warning index finger scant inches from the boy’s astonished eyes.

“Bad mortal boy,” Marie scolded. “Attacking teachers is strictly forbidden.”

Timothy’s jaw dropped. “Attacking?! But I didn’t—”

“Silence, Timothy!” interrupted Marie, knowing that she needed to be strict so that the other mortal students were discouraged from attacking her. If more of them decided to attack her simultaneously, she might be forced to use her powers to repel them. If she did that, she would almost certainly fail her mortal test. She had never been attacked by a mortal before and didn’t wish it to become a regular occurrence.

Marie’s lips thinned as she attempted to remember the mortal custom for dealing with misbehaving students. After a moment’s thought, however, she had it. “Go to the office for detention, please.”

Timothy’s eyes darted toward the open wall of the classroom and the mountain beyond. He swallowed hard, then walked quickly to the classroom door. He swung it open to see that the interior, windowless side of the classroom was also floating over the mountains, quickly slamming the damaged door shut. He turned toward Marie with pleading eyes. “M-Ms. Marie, I-I don’t th-think I…”

Marie flinched, realizing that the small field trip on which she’d taken the class had disconnected the room from the rest of the school. She would have to wait until she reconnected it before sending Timothy to detention.

“Nevermind, Timothy. You are forgiven for your teacher attack. Please sit, and I will resume the lesson.”

Relieved, Timothy slumped back into his chair. Marie turned toward the stunned class, many of the students still clutching the edges of their desks with white-knuckled death grips. She didn’t seem to notice.

“Class, this is a volcano,” she said, unfurling a hand toward the mountain.

The awestruck students tore their eyes away from the scene that had replaced the classroom wall before turning to gape uncomprehendingly at their substitute teacher.

“I was hoping to show you an actual flow of lava, but I’m not aware of any active volcanoes at the moment. Unless we’re surprisingly lucky…” Marie watched the eyes of the class flow back toward the mountain, her eyes twinkling happily as she decided what to do.

Every eye in the classroom trained on the volcano, Marie floated into the air, turned invisible, then flew out of the classroom to hover over the volcano’s crater, a whirling billow of papers drifting through the sky in her wake.

Marie dropped into the rock that lined the nadir of the concave summit, allowing her mass to increase until her slender body burrowed through solid stone. A moment later, she plunged into the liquid magma at the mountain’s core.

Marie twirled as she adjusted her weight within the bubbling magma, taking care to protect her clothing from the heat of the liquid rock as she began to move upward through its viscous orange-crimson eddies. She blasted lasers from her eyes to superheat the mountain’s magma as she went. Blasting upward through the crater, a triangular funnel of whirling lava followed her spinning body into the sky. Marie paused high above the mountain, still invisible, to look down on the mountain’s peak.

Splashes of magma erupted from the rock below, the blackness of the volcanic rock at the mountain’s surface gradually disappearing into the bubbling golden glow that rose to consume it. Like thunder, a loud crack reverberated across the upper slopes of the mountain as rock and ice began to break and collapse inward. Large plumes of smoke and ash belched from the volcano’s churning belly, a smiling blonde goddess floating delightedly high above.

Stringy strands of molten rock launched into the sky. Once. Twice. Three times. Black rocks began to tumble down the sides of the mountain, ice and snow squealing and hissing as streams of lava began to collide with it, instantly vaporizing the frozen moisture upon contact.

Within moments, the mountain was in full eruption, the classroom filling with the smell of sulfur as it hovered over the mountain’s tremoring slopes. Glowing red lava radiated a wave of intense heat through the missing wall of the classroom to wash over the shocked students.

A number of students, including Kelly, shrieked, rising from their desks to run to the far wall of the room.

Marie, reappearing back in the front of the classroom after her little excursion, didn’t seem to notice the reaction of the rest of the class. She covered the distance to a trembling Timothy, who remained at his desk in two long-legged strides.

“See, Timothy?” She pointed at a patch of bare rock on the slopes of the volcano between two lava flows. “There are still living cells on the rocks between magma flows. I hope that this little demonstration answers your question?”

The boy followed the invisible line from her finger toward the patch of bare rock on the volcano, leaning forward and squinting to see. “I don’t think I can see it. It might be too small.”

“Oh, yes! I keep forgetting how limited mortal vision can be!” said Marie, with a sly smile.

She waved her hand again, and the scene outside the classroom seemed to zoom in on the rock, the floor tilting toward the volcano. One unoccupied desk in the back corner of the room slid down the angled tile floor, tumbling to the rocky cliffs below. It was instantly incinerated by a branching flow of lava.

“Better?” asked Marie, batting her long lashes as a small, pulsating blob attached to the heated rock came into view.

Timothy’s desk lurched, suddenly beginning to slide toward the open wall of the room with a scrape of its legs. The young man turned to his gorgeous teacher, an expression of pure terror painted over his features. “Ms. M-Marie!!” he stammered, reaching for her in desperation as his desk slid slowly down the tilting floor.

Marie casually reached out a hand, pressing a fingertip to the surface of the desk to pin it to the floor and halt its motion. Two more empty desks slid across the room, falling into the superheated lava below to leave nothing but the wispy, carcinogenic scent of scorched plastic. More students jumped from their seats to run up the sloped floor to get as far from the zoomed-in volcano as possible.

“H-how?” gasped a wide-eyed student from the upper wall, his arm thrown back against the cinderblocks where the remainder of the students now huddled. Several students clung to each other for dear life. The boy who had spoken pointed at the wall that was zoomed in on the bacterium at the side of the mountain.

Marie turned her blue eyes to the student who had spoken, misinterpreting his question to be a technical question about the nature of volcanoes. Clapping her hands together in delight, Marie’s eyes twinkled delightedly. She was happy to impart more knowledge on her class. It would make her successful in her chosen job for the day, after all.

“How do volcanoes work? Excellent question!” she exclaimed, not realizing that she had lifted the finger that held Timothy’s desk in place.

Marie, facing the rest of the class, completely oblivious to Timothy’s plight as his desk began to move once again. The teacher twirled a finger in the air. The classroom seemed to zoom out, the large image of the bacterium shrinking from view until it was invisible on the surface of the rocks once more.

Timothy, meanwhile, seeing his desk sliding down the sloping floor trembled, his eyes wide, frozen in an expression of horror. His desk began to pick up speed under his dragging feet, until it reached the edge of the room, tumbling over the edge. Still seated in the desk as it fell, the boy plummeted into the lava below, conflagrating instantly in a billow of amber flame as his back met molten rock.

The volcanic eruption was now in terror-inducing form, alive with a crimson glow. Amber flares momentarily lit the vast dark billows of black ash that rose spectacularly into the sky, belched from the roiling, innermost core of the mountain.

Marie righted the slope of the listing classroom with the wave of a small hand, the stiff, spellbound students rapt as they watched the awesome power of the volcanic eruption from uncomfortably close range.

“Now class,” said Marie in a singsong voice, so delighted to share her knowledge with her mortal pupils that she hardly noticed their desperate discomfort. “See those geysers of lava? Those glowing orange and red fountains right there?”

The class turned toward her to blink uncomprehendingly. One boy passed out, dropping to the feet of several others as he landed in a crumpled heap. Several seemed to want to say something about Timothy, but none of them did, too frightened that their teacher would do something even more cataclysmic if she pressed on the point.

Marie continued on, oblivious to her student’s contorted faces. “That is some of the molten rock beneath your cute little planet’s crust as it rushes through a weak spot in the rocks! Isn’t it just so pretty?” Marie turned to look, her stunning visage lit by the mountain’s amber light, her expression joyful and completely unconcerned.

“Do you see those plumes of ash?” asked Marie. “Look at their base, where those rivers of superheated mud are rushing down the mountainside toward that city? Those are called pyroclastic flows. They are how volcanoes—”

Marie paused as a chorus of mumbles grew louder, washed over the classroom in a soft wave. A few students pointed at the city at the base of the mountain with dread written all over their faces.

“Class? What is it?” Marie asked, finally noticing that something was amiss, her thin eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“M-Marie, it’s just that… I mean, what’s going to happen to that city? Is there any way to protect it from the eruption? And Timothy...” Kelly’s timid voice quavered and abandoned her as it choked with emotion. She seemed to want to say more, her eyes flicking back to her classmate’s missing desks several times before she apparently thought the better of her prospective question.

Marie’s concerned face quickly lit with happiness once again, briefly wondering why her star pupil kept looking at an empty place in the room before dismissing it as another strange mortal quirk. “What a wonderful notion, Kelly! Class, let’s divide into two groups. The first two rows and the back two rows. Each group should determine a way to save the city.”

The students looked at one another, then at the lava and steaming mud flows that were coursing down the mountainside at breakneck speed, then finally at the city. “But Marie? Isn’t the eruption going to reach the city much faster than…” Kelly asked.

Marie considered. Kelly was quite right. Forgetting to hide the use of her powers, Marie made a tapping motion with her finger and the eruption froze, suspended in time. “There. Each team has thirty minutes. Begin!”

Marie waited patiently as her class divided in two, each group seeming mystified at first but beginning to launch into more animated discussion as they began to realize that their exercise might actually be able to save the city – and thousands of people – -from annihilation.

After thirty minutes, Marie tapped a pen on her desk to call the class back to order. “Kelly, what did your team think of?”

Kelly looked shocked, her face going pale as the young goddess called on her. “We, um, thought that the city could surround its mountain-facing side with cars to block the lava and mud flows?”

Marie nodded thoughtfully. “Good work, Kelly. But are you sure that cars are sufficient to protect it?” Kelly swallowed fearfully before shaking her head.

Next, Marie turned to face the chosen spokesperson of the other team. “Bruce?”

“We, uh, thought that maybe the city could divert the flows down one street somehow, saving the rest of the buildings and people?”

Marie pursed her lips consideringly. “Let me show you how each idea would work.”

Turning toward the open wall, Marie sent a powerful burst of laser vision into one of the cars at the distant edge of the city. The door where her beams struck began to melt into slag, until the fuel tank caught on fire, sending the vehicle twenty feet into the air with a massive explosion.

“So you see, mortal driving carriages can’t withstand the kind of heat that lava can produce.”

Marie strafed a second burst of heat vision down the mountainside, carving a deep groove into the rock. She then allowed time to flow normally once more, watching as the lava and mud flows entered the channel, gaining speed as they hurled toward the city below. In seconds, it reached the outermost buildings. Walls crumbled under the pressure and heat, screams erupting from within the buildings. The flows splashed and surged, expanding to fill every street and surround every building.

“So you see, class, attempting to direct a volcanic eruption down a single path is also quite useless. The attempt only resulted in the destruction of the entire city.”

The class looked ill.

“I believe that the lesson for fragile mortals is not to build cities at the foot of volcanoes!” Marie looked incredibly pleased with the clarity of her conclusion. By warning the class of the inherent dangers of such silliness, perhaps she would be able to extend their tiny little lifespans by a few decades. Such miniscule amounts of time were quite a lot for beings such as these, who were a mere instant from death the moment they were born.

So pleased was Marie at the effectiveness of her lesson that she absent-mindedly forgot to lessen her weight for a moment. The sudden shift in the goddess’ prodigious mass sent the classroom lurching to the side once again. The unconscious student who had collapsed earlier was unable to grab hold of anything and slid across the floor into the superheated ash that was rising from far below. He was cooked to a crisp well before his charred bones clattered to the rocks on the mountain.

This time, Marie witnessed the fall, but she was too consumed by adjusting her mass to intervene. She watched the boy’s fall, surprised and saddened that she had lost a student, but busying herself by steadying the room before any more students met an untimely end.

“Now class,” Marie said, attempting to recover from her momentary surprise by turning the event into another lesson. “We have 18 students now, of an original 19. What percentage is that mortal survival rate?”

Kelly looked timidly at the other students before swallowing hard and answering. “Actually, Marie, there were 20 students at the start of class. Another one fell earlier. I, um, don’t think you noticed.”

Marie’s eyes widened as she conjured up an image of the classroom as she had first entered it, counting the students. “You’re right, Kelly! My mistake. 18 of 20. But what percentage would that be?”

“That would be 90%, right?” asked Kelly breathlessly, her voice quavering as her eyes grew glassy.

“Exactly! 90%! You are such a smart little mortal, Kelly!” Marie beamed, proud beyond measure at the accomplishment of her prize student. “That’s still quite a good survival rate among mortals, is it not?”

The class didn’t seem sure how they should respond to that comment. One of the larger young men in the classroom suddenly stalked forward, heading straight for the door.

“Mortal boy?” Marie’s perfect lips curled into a frown. “Where are you going?”

“I’m getting the hell out of here!” said the frightened student, attempting to shove Marie out of the way.

Marie blinked out of existence just before his elbow would have made contact, then reappeared between the boy and the exit, her slender frame now at least eight feet high. She crossed her arms. With the change in size, she momentarily forgot to change her mass, and the tapping toe of her resized black pump cracked the tile floor on its first descent before completely shattering it on the second. The boy stopped short, looking up in shock at her vastly larger form.

“I just want to get the hell away from this volcano!” the suddenly intimidated boy confessed, shrinking back.

Marie’s stern features softened, and she shrank back to normal mortal size before the cowed student. She thought for a moment, she spun on the tall heel of her black pump, marching back toward the head of the classroom, a determined expression etched into her exquisite features. Marie raised a hand and snapped her fingers. In response, the classroom suddenly began to move again, its sudden acceleration sending the students – including the one before her – tumbling toward the back wall of the classroom.

The cheeks of the students pulled back across their faces as the force of acceleration glued them to the cinder blocks. Marie strolled to the teacher’s desk in the corner of the room and took a seat, extending her long legs over its surface, the heel of one of her shoes separating from her small, curvaceous foot.

The classroom flew across the ocean until massive cliffs of ice loomed on the horizon, growing closer by the second. Increasingly chilly air began to swirl through the room, causing several of the students to clench their arms over their torsos and huddle together. Pleased that she had done exactly as her frightened student had requested and taken the class as far on the planet’s surface as possible from the volcano, Marie bent her right knee, pulling her foot closer. She began to massage it. The sensation of rubbing her dramatically shaped arch was extremely pleasurable after standing in the oddly shaped footwear for the entire morning. Perhaps this was why mortals wore shoes like this? For the blissful feeling of taking them off?

“Where are we?” came a wonderstruck voice from among the cluster of shivering students.

I have taken us as far as possible from the volcano, to the southernmost land mass of your world, students!” said Mari cheerily, rising to her feet as the room came to an easy halt at the edge of the vast ice shelf.

“Are the volcanoes going to melt all of this? As part of climate change or something?” came another voice as all the students continued to stare out the open wall, flurries of crystallized snow whirling into the room from just beyond.

“Volcanoes? Not really,” responded a thoughtful Marie. “Your mortal carbon burnings produce much more heat on a planetary scale.”

The students moved away from the wall once again, rubbing their hands together and curling their fingers into fists in the far corner of the room.

“Placing carbon in the atmosphere is a wonderful way to warm things up!” Marie said enthusiastically, eying her uncomfortable students for a long moment before suddenly realizing that they were cold.

She bit her plump lower lip in concern, then her eyes lit with excitement. “Let me show you how it works! It will have the added effect of making you much warmer, class. Sometimes I forget how sensitive mortals can be to tiny little temperature changes.”

Marie turned, her slender, shapely legs carrying her to the edge of the room. She extended her arms to either side, raising them slowly. A haze filled the air, the sun seeming to ripple in the sky. The great frozen cliffs began to creak. Several huge, blueish blocks released from the main mass, bits of their jagged edges shattering with spectacular sprays of ice as they tumbled down the cliffs to strike the ocean below with ear-splitting booms. The salty spray shot into the sky, thick droplets of seawater spattering into the hovering classroom.

Shrieks rose from the students as the saltwater rained over them. The air, however, had become warm, the icy water not feeling quite as chilly as hot air billowed through the room.

“I just increased the carbon particles in this portion of earth’s atmosphere by a millionfold,” Marie announced proudly. Then, she looked thoughtful for a moment before smiling. “Class, what percentage is a millionfold?”

Drops of water gathering at the ends of her soggy long hair, Kelly gathered enough presence of mind to answer her teacher’s question. “100,000,000%?”

“Quite right, Kelly,” said Marie, her tone respectful as the young woman answered yet another of Marie’s questions with perfect accuracy.

As she spoke, however, a loud rumble began to shake the frozen blocks beside the room. A cacophony of cracks and crackles tensed the frightened forms of the students as three huge, city-sized chunks of ice broke from the main mass to crash into the waves, a large, rolling ridge of water lurching from the eruption of the ocean to roll past the hovering room.

“Oooooo,” cried Marie, her hands rising excitedly to her upper chest. “Class! What is that?” she asked, jabbing a slender finger toward the speeding bulge in the ocean’s surface.

“A tsunami?” said Kelly, her eyes wide with horror as the cresting water zoomed over the horizon.

“Excellent, Kelly!” laughed Marie, so proud of her star pupil.

Marie was more than a little pleased with herself as well. She just knew that she was expanding these mortals’ minds. Perhaps she should have become a teacher in her first mortal test. She really was quite good at this job. She was sure to pass the test this time!

Caught up in the moment, forgetting completely that the mortal test was not supposed to involve any use of her powers, Marie twirled a finger, a glimmer lighting her stunning eyes.

The classroom accelerated for a third time, the students crushed to the wall more firmly than ever before. The room flew directly upward this time, the air growing thin as it ripped past the speeding cinder-block box. The edges of the open wall began to glow, heated by friction with the ambient air.

Suddenly, the cobalt sky grew dark, stars exploding into view everywhere. A millisecond later, the air in the classroom wooshed out. Ten students were sent screaming and flailing into the void before Marie thought to erect an energy field over the open wall, quickly refilling the room with breathable air.

Her eyes turned glassy as she saw several of her students tumbling, frozen and lifeless before the vast blue and white arc of their home planet. She really should have put that forcefield in place before she had left earth’s atmosphere. But it was just so difficult to remember how many ways in which these mortals’ fragile lives could be ended!

Her eyes widened, shoulders tensing as she looked for Kelly, but thankfully, the girl had managed to grab hold of a countertop and remain safely inside the room. Marie’s heels clacked rapidly across the floor before she gathered Kelly into her arms and gave the girl an affectionate, lung-compressing hug.

“Air… please!” gasped the girl, causing Marie to release her with a look of alarm.

“Is the oxygen level in the room not sufficient?”

“No, it’s fine,” panted Kelly, reaching a hand to an overturned desk nearby to steady herself. “I just… your hug…”

Marie looked confused.

“Nevermind,” said Kelly, seeming afraid to pursue that line of conversation with the overzealous goddess. “Maybe you could just take us to the moon or something? Then we could get back to earth?”

“The moon!” cried Marie enthusiastically. “I know a man from the moon! Perhaps I’ll summon him to educate you, class!”

Marie blinked her long lashes, and a stunned Matthias appeared in the center of the room.

“Wh-what?” Matthias said as he surveyed suddenly different surroundings. When his eyes landed on the gorgeous blonde goddess, he leapt back in fright.

“Marie!” he gasped breathlessly, his eyes trembling in a vertiginous dance of emotion. He wasn’t sure whether to hug the stunning girl or run from her, shrieking in terror.

“Matthias! It is so delightful to see you again!” Marie said, walking over to greet him with a dazzling smile. “Let me thank you properly for assisting me in educating these fledgling mortals!”

The staggeringly attractive goddess approached the stunned, staring man. He stood rigid and quivering in exactly the same place he had arrived.

Marie closed her eyes and leaned forward, planting a soft kiss on his trembling lips. She withdrew, her incredible lashes fluttering open, pursed lips curling into a beautiful grin. He watched her step back with warmth in his eyes, and Marie was pleased with herself, quite certain she had performed a proper mortal thanking once again.

“Now, Matthias, please explain to my class what it is like to live on the moon,” said Marie, retreating to the front of the classroom once again to give Matthias the floor.

Matthias blinked several times, still appearing to be in a state of recovery from the touch of Marie’s perfect lips as his gaze roamed across the huddled, fearful group of remaining students.

“I, well, did live on the moon for a short while,” began Matthias uncertainly. “Before Marie came and…”

Matthias trailed off, his eyes flicking toward Marie. He seemed to think better of what he was about to say, despite Marie’s happy expression.

“…and I left,” he finished succinctly.

Matthias’ gaze again shifted toward Marie, who looked at him approvingly. “So you’re a teacher now?”

“Yes, mortal Matthias!” said Marie with a small hop. Her twin heels clicked to the ground immediately after, punctuating her use of the former astronaut’s name. “And I am quite good at this job. Much better than I was at the legal assistant one.”

“You were a legal assistant?” Matthias said incredulously.

“Yes,” said Marie, her expression falling. “But I made a mistake…”

Matthias’ eyes softened as the beautiful young woman’s smile disappeared. He approached her, hesitantly placing his hand on her back. Marie stiffened, then gazed curiously into his eyes.

“It’s okay, Marie,” he said comfortingly. “I’m sure you tried your best.”

“I did! I do!” said Marie, her eyes earnest as they sparkled, connecting electrically with his.

“It’s just so hard to remember not to use my powers sometimes!” she confessed, her shoulders slumping. “I don’t think of them as out of the ordinary, Matthias! They are like breathing and walking to me!”

Matthias stared into her pleading gaze for a long moment before speaking again. “Come to dinner with me. I’ll help you with, you know, relating to mortals.”

Marie’s sculpted brows furrowed in confusion. “Why would partaking in mortal sustenance rituals help?”

That brought a chuckle to Matthias’ lips, their surface still gleaming with a bit of moisture from Marie’s innocent “thank you” kiss. He spoke with increasing confidence. “Exactly. This is why you should join me for dinner. So I can explain such things.”

Marie’s gorgeous eyes darted about for a moment before returning to meet Matthias’ hopeful gaze. “I accept, mortal Matthias. I shall consume small, burned animals and plantlife with you.”

Matthias beamed as amazed murmurs worked their way through the remaining students. Marie gave Kelly a slight nod of acknowledgement, then snapped her fingers. Matthias and Marie vanished, leaving the small group of students in stunned amazement.

The remaining handful of students looked at the empty air, then at one another.

“I’m sure she’ll remember that she left us here,” said Kelly, giving the others a nervous smile. Eyes widened and stomachs plummeted as they weighed the girl’s words over what they knew of Marie. Kelly swallowed hard, a shaking hand tucking a lock of brown hair behind her ear.

Suddenly, a bright light shone over the room as something bright approached from the blackness of space. Kelly looked up. Was that Marie? Had she come back to save them?

***

Marie stood beside Matthias on the boardwalk of the beach, the caw of seagulls and soothing crash of mild waves washing over the sand of the protected harbor. He turned, his eyes surprised as he watched Marie’s thick, golden tresses fluttering attractively in the gentle wind.

As she turned her dazzling eyes toward him, however, an authoritative voice erupted in the goddess’ mind, startling her.

“You have failed, Marie,” said the Voice.

“I have!” Marie cried mentally, her thin brows rising in surprise. “But I imparted so much knowledge into the brains of the fledgling mortals!”

“None of the mortals you educated are left,” boomed the Voice in reply.

Marie was confused. “But almost half of them—”

“—were left in orbit around the moon, Marie. And they were destroyed by an errant meteorite. None still live.”

Marie gave a soft sigh, her heart sinking as she thought of the mortal, Kelly, the intelligent mortal girl of whom she had been so fond.

Matthias paused beside her, frowning as he saw Marie’s expression change. Puzzled, he extended a bent arm for her to accept. The young goddess gave the man a sad smile, then slipped her slender arm through his and followed his lead into the restaurant. She was now eager to accept Matthias’ help before undergoing her next attempt at the mortal test.

Clearly, she needed some assistance.

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