Leaving the Darkness: Part III
Part III: A second chance begins
I had never been on a plane, every time the syndicate had moved us they had used ferries and vehicles. My ears hurt immediately, not that the flight attendants gave me any sympathetic looks as I winced. Probably a combination of being a chimera and handcuffed to the chair. I’d already heard one or two passengers whisper the word ‘genefreak’, a common slur used for chimeras.
Sentinel had told me she had an urgent mission in England and left me in the hands of a far too cheerful police officer. I was already bored of his chipper voice and wide smile as he talked about his family. Who the hell got excited about a one year old making a misshapen animal out of claydo?
I couldn’t remember such a thing with Heppenheim. Most of my earlier memories were various injections and cell infusions. I shuddered when recalling the pain of the bat features breaking through. The nose-leaf hadn’t been too bad but the wings had been weeks of torture. Heppenheim had to knock me out in the end with drugs because of my whimpering. It was after the wings when I was eight that he stopped. I remembered some syndicate men visiting and being sent to my room. In Germany we had a small house with a basement. Heppenheim hadn’t worked so closely with the syndicate then. Following that visit things changed quickly. We were moved to England alongside Kellen. She never spoke much to me back then except to challenge me in combat.
The plane shuddered, making me jerk. The darkness outside made me feel I was trapped in some alternate void. I had never been a fan of total darkness. At least on the ground there are street lamps but not even the stars or moon seemed to be shining much tonight. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to sleep the rest of the flight. A vague memory rising to meet me as sleep took me.
“Almost there kid,” the officer said, shaking me awake. I jolted at the intrusion of the personal space, the handcuffs immediately straining to hold back my wrists. His demeanor switched to shock as I shut my eyes and clenched my fists to calm down.
“Didn’t mean to startle you mate.” He murmured an apology. I didn’t respond, wincing as the descent began. I didn’t react well to surprise and this combined with the plane and fading dream was making hell with my anxiety. I shut my eyes again and instead focussed on echolocation. It was an old trick but seemed to work well. Visualising the world in sound was easier. Lines were fuzzier, the reality less harsh to my mind. I was able to map out the whole of our compartment. I could feel where the air vents led and go as far as following some pipes to the machinery below us. I could pick up conversations but in this state of mind the words didn’t carry much meaning. I recognised the course and loud voice of the announcer appearing from various speakers and opened my eyes. It looked like we’d arrived.
“One more plane and then a ferry,” the police officer informed me. I felt an internal groan rise as I followed him off the plane last, my handcuffs chained to his wrist. I thought about how I could easily escape him if needed. The guy had completely let his guard down around me. But then what? I was in an entirely new country. I’m sure I could find a syndicate contact eventually but I’d be caught before then. The Legion clean up their own messes very well.
The second plane trip was shorter thankfully and soon I was in Maine. My stomach growled but we had ten minutes to get to the pier for the ferry so my hunger would have to wait. The taxi got us there in time. I had time to take in the salty air and calm looking beach as early morning light shone down.
I got more curious looks from tourists as we boarded the ferry. By the time the boat reached its last stop though it was just the two of us on board. The ferry hung around as we got off, apparently Mr police officer wasn’t staying long. It was foggy outside so it took a while before I realised someone was towards us. I knew his costume from the leaflet on Ravenhold Academy. He was the the second Raven and one of the people who ran this place. He observed me for a few moments before reaching a hand over the chain connecting the cuffs. I didn’t even see what he did but suddenly they were gone. I gaped at my bare wrists for a moment before rubbing at the sore skin.
“Thank you for your help Officer Hill. We can take it from here,” Raven said.
“Happy to help,” he said, saluting the hero and heading back to the ferry. “Although next time I get a tour of the island,” he yelled as he walked away. The Raven laughed at his words before returning his gaze to me. He frowned down at me for a moment before pushing aside whatever thought he’d been thinking.
“Sentinel has filled me in on your situation. You should know we’ll protect your identity here to ensure you receive fair treatment. You’ll be known to the others as Jaeger Smith since Heppenheimer can link you to your past too easily. Follow me, I’ll show you where you’re staying,” he finished, turning his back on me.
“You seem pretty easygoing about setting me free,” I said, hooking one thumb through my jeans.
“By all means, try to escape or fight. The staff here are more than capable of restraining difficult students,” Raven said, not even bothering to turn and look at me, still walking forward. I hesitated at his response, partially tempted to take up the challenge but decided against it. I had volunteered to do this after all for some insane reason. I followed him to a blue hatchback car. The buildings were quiet at first but it wasn’t long until there was activity around us.
“Sentinel already arranged for the stuff they found in Portsmouth to be sent over. It’s in your room for you to sort. The others will be heading to their first class already. I don’t expect you to rush to that but try to get the third if you can. There’s a tablet in your bedside locker that will give you all the information you need to navigate this place and your classroom schedule. It’s set in german to make things easier but there are already English lessons programmed into it. The Sentinel was concerned you would struggle otherwise.”
“Heppenheim would have loved that,” I muttered. I immediately regretted using the past tense. He wasn’t dead, just disappeared. The Raven cocked an eyebrow at my words and expression.
“I’d recommend not talking about your past, especially not the Syndicate. There are some you’ll be living with who not react well to such news,” he advised, his own expression difficult to read. The car pulled to a stop outside a large building. “It’ll take a while to adjust to things here Jaeger, but if Sentinel felt you deserved a second chance then I do as well. Don’t squander it.” With that he drove off, leaving me alone with a thousand racing thoughts and an envelope.
I pulled out a pass and a letter. A brief read told me it was the standard information all students received. I crumbled it up and entered the building. I found the clipboard and saw I had been roomed with someone called Sanjay. The room had the basics inside. Sanjay had obviously already settled in, his side of the room mostly neat. I glanced at the small pile of things on my bed. It was mostly clothes, basic toiletries and a few old, tattered books from secondhand shops. I had bought them thinking I’d learn English enough to read them and never got round to it. There were a few of the old German ones though so that was better than nothing.
It took me a meager twenty minutes to pack it away in the wardrobe and bedside table. I checked all the places I’d stitched hidden compartments for weapons and found they’d be left there. I frowned but decided not to question how a group as advanced as The Legion missed a few small knives; or they just didn’t think I was much of a threat with them. I grabbed a quick shower, I hadn’t had a chance to clean since the Legion caught me in Portsmouth.
I yanked on a pair of ripped jeans, grey t-shirt and black hoodie. I slipped one of my small knives into my boot and another into the inner lining of my hoodie. I sat on the bed and grabbed the tablet, my reflection staring back at me briefly before it lit up. Finger combed blond spikes and dark grey eyes on an angular face. The tip of my nose extended by a rounded area of skin that had two sets of ridges, creating the leaf-like shape it was named after. I still had time to kill before i’d have to start hunting down wherever the homeroom was. I raided the massive and slightly intimidating kitchen and had some cereal. It was better than nothing. I explored the house some more, taking in the pool and living room area. This was definitely the more extravagant place i’d ever lived in.
I mentally readied myself before stepping outside. The only peers I had ever had were other Syndicate lackeys, and most of us hadn’t had anything close to a normal upbringing. I decided it would be best to not talk much unless someone asked me a direct question. I knew that approach wouldn’t work forever but my anxiety was overwhelmed as it was.