The Wayward Son
Part VII: Newcomers
After an evening in my lab, I went to bed fairly late and woke up early. I went through my usual routine, something I couldn’t do without; Workout, jogging, shower, refreshing the altar and then meditation and prayers. Midway through my breakfast, I got a call on my phone from Tommy Cross saying they were just landing on the island. I got up and headed for the gate only to meet up with Catherine Lindström part of the way through.
“Mr. Pichai, I was about to go see you. I’ve been contacted by Mr. Thomas Cross.” She said, it was a good thing Tommy wasn’t there; he disliked being called Thomas, the name of his not-so-nice father.
“He’s just called me too.”
We walked toward the gate together and waited for a few minutes before the truck arrived. It was the same type of truck that banks used to carry money. For good reasons; the suit was worth its weight in gold; not only was it cutting edge expensive technology, it was loaded with secret proprietary designs.
The driver got out and gave me a tablet to sign. Once that was done, Catherine’s people scanned the truck before letting it in. I hitched a ride on the truck to my lab and placed the armor on its designated place in the lab.
I made a checkup on all the systems and components; they were all there and nothing had been tampered with. That done, I hurried to school, not wanting to be late.
First class of the day was physical training, with a massively strong woman appropriately called Juggernaut — or Rachael Carver — as our teacher. Although I didn’t really pay attention to the others it was clear I was in the top third of the class.
Although I worked out quite a bit as it helped me clear my head when taking a break from lab work, I’d always been blessed with good health; I never got sick and even when I hadn’t been active such as the time I’d spent frantically working on my doctoral thesis days and night I’d stayed in good shape.
Once the examination was over, the teacher left us to free exercise as she escorted a very horrid looking Allison out. I stood there for a while trying to figure out what to do until I saw Ahti look just as confused as I was.
“You look lost.” I said, coming toward them. About the same time, Annabelle and Rowan joined us.
“It’s just that I don’t know any human games.” They said, looking down for a moment before their head raised again. “We could play Tavzi!” They proposed with a smile.
“You’ll have to explain the rules.” Annabelle said.
Ahti went over the rules quickly; two teams of two faced each other, playing in the same arena facing a wall and they had to kick or hit with their hands an inflated ball onto a wall and the opposing team had to hit it back before it bounced twice on the ground, if the ball hit the ground before it hit the wall, the opposing team got the point. A set was seven hit and first team to win three set won the game.
“Sounds simple enough.” Annabelle said. “What are the teams?”
“I want Rowan on my team.” Ahti said. “They’re big and strong.”
“Guess that makes us partners.” I said moving next to Annabelle. She gave me a nod and we took position.
To say Annabelle wasn’t very good would have been putting it mildly, but I didn’t mind; she was trying her best. Unlike me she wasn’t exactly fit; being somewhat overweight and easy to tire out. In the end Ahti and Rowan beat us 2-1 set. Not only did Ahti know the game, Rowan was fast and strong; sending his balls back was hard.
“Good game.” I said. “But next time, we’re going to crush you.”
“You can try.” Rowan said, standing proud.
With only a few minutes left we sat down for a breather. I mostly listened to Ahti talk about their sister Kulaat and how she was much better than them. Once the class was over, we headed off to the showers and the teacher gave us some protein bars and sport drink to keep us hydrated and energized.
Next class was ‘Introduction to Parahuman Combat’ which was given right across the training center in one of the dojo; Big rooms with a central depressed area with mats and training equipment all over.
Our teacher looked a bit like the Raven; similar dark color scheme and bird appearance, but his was darker and more jagged. With red goggles acting as the mask’s eyes, looking almost sinister. In his hand was a long metal combat staff which looked like it could be collapsed for convenience.
“I’m the Rook and I welcome you to introduction to parahuman combat.” He said before calling out Caroline and Charlie who’d been whispering. “In this class you’ll learn how to handle your abilities or gadgets as well as how to defend against other abilities and find how weaknesses and exploit them. We’ll also go over mundane weapons and tactics so you know how to handle facing them. These are the skills that will save your life in the field so if there is one class you need to pay attention to, it’s this one. Who here require gears for combat that they are not carrying?”
Amber and I raised our hands and he send us to get them. I ran to my lab and activated the suit’s assembly system. Once my armor was in place I flew over to the gym building, with Amber not far behind. She didn’t have much in the way of travel abilities but her enhanced strength made her capable of reaching impressive speed on foot.
We got back to the gym and the Rook decided to test our combat abilities; One by one, he crushed us. No matter what most of us tried, he deflected, dodged or parried.
My turn came and I readied my weapon system. Rather than the Ionic bolter, I opted for the repulsor blast which while powerful wouldn’t put a hole in a man.
I tried to aim but he was already on the move, using his cape to obscure his feature and mess with my targeting computer. I took a few shots but none of them came close. Seeing him come close, I took flight and moved away, shooting a barrage to prevent him from moving.
As I prepared another offense, he opened his utility belt and threw something in the air. The next thing I knew my visual sensors went offline.
I switched to radar but I couldn’t see him. Everything else I could, but he was invisible.
That’s when bolas entangled me. I tried to break free but another set hit me. Even with the strength enhancement, I struggled to break free. And then an explosion sent me crashing against the wall and falling on the ground.
“Yield.” I heard.
“I yield.” I grumbled.
He detached the bolas and I got up, jettisoning the helmet. The Rook stood over me, another weapon in hand.
“You’re radar proof?” I asked.
“You don’t live long in this world without having powers if you’re not prepared for everything that could come your way.” Was all he said.
I got up and walked to the others, running a diagnosis on my system. I examined the helmet and found its sensor’s lens partially melted. That was a flaw I had to rework. The rest of the class didn’t go much well for most of the others.
Out of everyone, Amber and Jaime did the best; Amber had a massive sword which she wielded effortlessly and she was determined. She looked like she was actually trying to skewer him, she didn’t win but she lasted the longest, had it been anyone but the Rook, they’d have ended up as half the man they were. Jaime was apparently a telekinetic; using her power to fling everything at the Rook. The fight ended up a stalemate; The Rook evading just about everything but unable to be on the offensive, Jaime using mattresses to shield herself.
Last to go was Caroline. She was really a nice person but I admit I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in her skills. She was kind of a glorified water hose… Out of everyone, I didn’t expect her to be the one to beat the Rook…
Water flooded the room, going straight for the Rook, he tried to dodge and move out of its way but it followed him. It wrapped around him and like it had become solid held him up in the air, with ropes of water keeping him immobilized. She screamed at him in anger for a moment before calming down and joining Charlie and hugging her. I wasn’t an expert, but those two were definitely into each other.
The Rook dismissed us and we went for lunch. Like the previous day I took my time apart from everyone. The second half of the day went. It wouldn’t have been noteworthy had three new classmates not joined us;
There was Jaeger who had a weird nose and ears, who spoke with a fairly thick German accent. Allen who was black and looked like he was expecting to be jumped by someone any second now and then there was Sage who was sort of a mix between masculine and feminine seemed just kind of there. To be safe I defaulted to ‘they’ pronoun.
Class over, we went back to the dorm minus the new guys who were stopping by the administration with Allison guiding them.
Caroline decided to redo the whole power show off thing like we’d done the previous day for the benefit of the newbie and decided to make cake as an incentive. I didn’t protest, just going outside and working on my tablet until the others arrived.
Once everyone was there, Caroline shared cake, making sure to tell me it was vegetarian. As the people scattered around with their plates, Jaeger came toward me.
“Hey.” He said, with an awkward wave.
“Hi.” was all I thought to answer.
“I’m the person you’re stuck rooming with”
“Okay.” I said, not sure how to answer that.
Before anything else could be said, Allen caught his attention.
“Be right back.” He said.
I shrugged and let him go.
What came next was a bit hard to follow; mention of chimeras, Allen calling Jaeger a genefreak, Jaeger leaving and the party devolving in people ganging up on Allen. I took the opportunity to slip away and into my lab. I had the sensor issue to fix.
I started designing a replacement helmet and lost track of time.
Sometime in the evening, there was a ringing at my Lab’s door. I rolled the chair over and hit the intercom. The camera outside allowed me to see Jaeger hanging by the door.
“Can I help you?”
“Not really, I just got curious. The others told me you came here to hide.”
“This is my lab, I come here to work on stuff.”
“Oh. Can I come in? It’s kind of awkward standing out here.”
I hesitated before unlocking the door. He slipping through before hovering over me, looking at my design.
“What are you working on?”
“I need to redo the armor’s helmet.” I nodded in the direction of the suit and his gaze followed. “The initial idea was to rely on external sensors which would act as a sensory shield and relay the information to the internal HUD but that was less of a good idea than I thought it would be.”
“So what are you doing to it?”
“Just standard visor that can alternate between transparent and opaque from the inside so that if sensors fail human vision can take over.”
“That’s pretty cool.”
“You’d be amazed by what the new smart materials can do. A lot of it is thanks to Itharii; idiots can complaint they haven’t given us anything but almost everything you see in this lab is thanks to them; self-repairing technology, complex three-dimensional assembler, microfusion cells are all based on Itharii tech.”
He chuckled for a second.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, it’s just that I was wondering if you could speak full sentences.”
I shrugged. “Don’t take it personally, I just don’t interact with people often.”
“I finished high school at ten, got a doctorate in engineering at fifteen and I’ve been working professionally for the last two years.”
“Hä.” He mumbled, looking stunned for a moment. “Wait, does that mean you could help me with school stuff?”
“What do you think?”