Part III: Learning
The rest of the morning went along smoothly. Professor Apex had quizzed us on parahuman history and I’d been in the highest scoring tier. Lunch went over smoothly until Caroline had proposed a power reveal party, an odd idea but one I liked.
With lunch over we passed by the administration and got all of our things in order; ID, locker and requisition. Since Ian was loaded, my allowance was tiny. The first Raven had given the majority of his holdings to the legion to create Ravenhold but had still left us as multimillionaires.
“Got my ID.” Caroline said, coming out of the office. I’d elected to wait for her rather than head to the dorm immediately. “How do I look?” She took out her ID card and I examined it; even the awkward angle and force posture of the photo didn’t make her look any less cute.
“You look great.” I said, feeling the warm rush of blood to my cheeks as I said it. Thankfully it wasn’t noticeable.
“Ah thanks. Can I see yours?” She asked.
“Mine’s pretty bad.” I answered rubbing the back of my neck instinctively. I didn’t want to but one look at her made me cave in to her request. “It’s just that I look like a boy…”
I showed her my ID and she took in, examining it more closely. If there was one thing I hated was being misgendered or having people act as if my lack of traditional femininity made me less of a girl…
“I think you look fine. Beside it’s not a real ID card if the picture isn’t terrible.”
Her comments made me smile and gave my ID back to me.
“Want to go back to the dorm?”
“Right, I’m thinking of making a small buffet for the party; nothing complicated just a few bites and stuff.
“Would you like some help?” I offered.
“Sure, that’d be nice.”
Together we walked out of the administration building and toward our dorm. As we walked through the ground we found that other students from more advanced classes were hanging around and a handful were even playing frisbee. They had colored badges hanging on lanyard hanging from their neck, which Caroline seemed to notice.
“Why are people wearing colored badges except us?” Caroline asked.
“That’s their security clearance badge.”
“Basically it represents what they’re allowed or not allowed to do.”
“Why don’t we have those?”
“We haven’t earned one yet. There are eight ranks; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and white. Well, nine ranks if you count not having a rank as one. The further you progress the more missions and assignments become available and you gain access to special privileges like using the holographic training room freely.”
“It’s a hard light technology simulator, runs on fusion battery because of its energy drain.”
“That sounds amazing.”
“I’ve seen it in action a few times when I was with my dad, it really is.”
“So how do we get promoted?”
“They run tests periodically to judge where you are in term of skills. They also check how you work in school and with your team. Plus there are patrol and mission quota requirements to advance.”
As we continued walking I explained the rudiment of the levels; generally what type of jobs they were allowed and the overall skill level. A red-level student was essentially given the jobs a standard beat cop would accomplish; street patrol and handle minor crimes. Which was what we’d been in a few weeks top.
As soon as we got home, we got to work making food for everyone. Egg sandwiches, ham and goat cheese crostini, watermelon salad, homemade guacamole and hummus, sesame chicken skewers. Caroline was a frickin’ sorcerer when it came to food; all she had to do was take one look in the fridge and she had a menu in mind. I carefully followed her instructions.
“Hey Jaime. We’re having a party in the backyard in thirty minutes.”
In answer she just grumbled something before ditching us. She was definitely determined to have all of us dislike her. We finished the prep and set everything up in the backyard along with bags of chips and bottles of soft drinks. The others arrived quickly and divided up into little groups waiting for everyone to be there.
Allison was the last to arrive. They’d lied down for a nap and Rowan hadn’t dared shake them awake. With the party started, I offered the first demonstration. After eight years, I had become a master at throwing birdarangs, so catching a pair wasn’t a challenge at all. Still, the others seemed awed by my mastery of them.
One by one the others revealed their abilities; Caroline the hydrokinetic, Ahti had forcefields, Allison was pyrokinetic, so was Mace but he also had this strange sword which seemed to be the source of his powers. Amber was superstrong, Yougen could transform into something not quite human, Rowan was also super strong and they had claws and then there was Sanjay who shared his tech blueprints with us.
Tyler was the one who surprised me; there hadn’t been an announcement that the starheart had chosen a third Orion. With luck and time he would most likely become the world’s strongest hero.
As the party picked back up, I caught Caroline sneaking back into the house, she looked odd, making me think that it wasn’t just a potty run. So I followed her.
I found her at the counter, pouring a glass of water which she placed down on the counter. She focused on it and the water began levitating.
“Are you alright?” I asked, approaching her. The surprise broke her focus and the water splashed down everywhere. “Because you really don’t look like it…”
“I don’t know…” She answered, taking a towel and sponging the water.
“Caroline…” I pleaded.
“It’s just I was really excited to see everyone’s powers but now I realize that everyone’s better than I am.”
“Hey, don’t say that.”
“It’s true; Everyone else had a useful power while all I can do is make people wet… I’m a glorified human carwash.”
“That’s not true, you lifted the pool’s water effortlessly, probably a hundred ton of water. And water’s not harmless; ever seen a water cannon? Heck they use water jets to cut through steel like it’s nothing.”
“I guess so, but I can’t create it. How likely is it we’re going to fight by the beach or next to a pool?”
“There’s water everywhere; in cars, in plumbing, in the air itself. All you have to do is find it.”
“But I can’t, I need to know where water is to manipulate it. I’m just useless.”
“Don’t talk to yourself like that.” I took her hand gently and she didn’t resist, entwining her fingers with mine. “Do you trust me?”
“Yeah, I do.” She said after a moment of silence.
“Close your eyes. Listen to my voice.” She did as I instructed and I took her other hand, which made her squeeze mine. “Just clear your head, breathe in… breathe out… don’t try to think about nothing, just ignore the thoughts as they come. Now, Concentrate on the feeling you have when you call your powers.”
“Now, focus on water. Can you find the towel?”
“Now, concentrate on how it feel, on the sensation of water in it.”
“Let go of the towel, but not the feeling. Look for it elsewhere, push your mind as far as you can.”
I could see her eyes squinting with effort from concentrating. Her hands clenched just a little tighter.
“I can feel it.” She gasped. “Underneath us, in the floor, going from the sink to the boiler… It’s amazing… “ She opened her eyes. “That’s never happened before!”
“Congrats. Not so useless after all.”
“How did you know it would work?”
“I saw my dad the same to a student once when he took me here because my sitter was MIA. I figured I’d try. A lot of the things mutant can or can’t do is based on mental blocks. You couldn’t do it because you thought you couldn’t.”
She spontaneously wrapped her arms around me, hugging me tight. “Thank you so much, you’re amazing.”
“You’re welcome Caroline.”
She pulled back, her smile radiating. She took my hand once again and it was like my chest caught fire and had tightened up.
Kiss her you dolt! My mind screamed at me.
“You guys are missing the party.” Mace said. “I wasn’t interrupting anything, now was I?”
“No, we were done.” I answered. I let go of Caroline and she went back to the patio.
“You were being hella gay, weren’t you?”
“Don’t you have someone else to bother?”
In answer he raised his hand in surrender before stepping out into the backyard.
All I was left to do was bang my head against the wall; less than a day in and I’d already developed a massive crush with a girl I knew couldn’t possibly be interested in me…