Broken: Part XIII

Broken Legacy

Part XIII: Rivalty

I stayed on the ground in the bathroom for a few minutes, hyperventilating until I felt my breath and heart calm down. My med hadn’t taken effect yet, but at least the initial panic had faded. I got up and splashed my face with cold water before going back into the classroom.

I sat back down next to Caroline and she gave me a hard cover science manual, she had picked an extra for me.

“Hey are you alright?” She whispered.

I didn’t even have the strength to lie.

“No…” I answered.

“Do you want to leave?”

“I… Eh…” I rubbed my temples, trying to think. “ No… I took my meds, I’ll get better soon.”

Under the table, Caroline’s hand found mine and she squeezed it, giving me one of her warm gorgeous smile, which gave me a little bit of courage even though all I wanted to do was break down and cry in her arms.

“Get into four groups of four please, be mindful of the grouping as you’ll be working with each other for the rest of this year.” The teacher said.

“So anyone you want to–” I began before being interrupted.

“Hey shortie, wanna team up?” Jaeger said.

I just glared at him and his stupid leaf nose.

“I don’t see why not.” I replied. “Batboy.” I then added. I saw he was taken aback by it and felt good. I wasn’t normally a jerk, but if he wanted to make fun of my height, the gloves were off. I might have been small, but I could bite back.

“Is that the type of chimera you are?” Sanjay asked.

“Yeah. Let’s move our stuff.” Jaeger answered clearly uncomfortable. I knew I’d hit the jackpot.

Since Jaeger only had one arm, Sanjay and I moved their heavy lab table closer to ours.

“Hmm, two of you are threes,” Stanko declared. “Sage and Allison… If they think my class is worth skipping I’ll just assign them to a group each. Sage is with you lot.” He said pointing at Yougen, Yikaru and Jaime “And Allison you other three.” Tyler, Allen, Mace and Allison made that team. Leaving Annabelle, Ahti, Amber and Rowan together.

“They’re not gonna be too happy to hear that,” Jaeger muttered.

“Not from me.” I said. “Someone else can break it to them.”

“I thought you were a brave hero.” Jaeger said to me. Before I could answer him, Stanko began one of his long rants so I focused on taking notes. The ‘lesson’ covering just about everything. As he passed through the rows, his eyes fixed on Jaeger.

“You, what is your name?” he asked.

“Jaeger Smith.” I couldn’t help but notice that smith wasn’t  a very German name.

“Your paramorphic features are unique, are you a chimera?” Stanko asked. Jaeger looked really uncomfortable which I admittedly enjoyed. “Amazing. Now I wonder does anyone in the class know what a chimera is?”

“Are you alright?” I heard Caroline ask Jaeger. “He shouldn’t have singled you out like that…”

“Something made of genes from different animal species.” Yougen answered.

“Yes, now does anyone know how the process is done?” Stanko asked. I knew the answer, having done lots of research after having acquired Nibbles, but I didn’t volunteer an answer. Stanko looked at Jaeger to explain, but instead he just froze.

“I’m going to be setting you all a lot of reading.” Stanko sighed. “A chimera is made using one of two methods. The most straightforward and popular approach is splicing the DNA of a developing embryo. The second approach is combining immune suppression and cell infusions to alter pre-existing DNA. The second approach is riddled with a lot of risks. Anyone care to guess what those might be?”  

Caroline shot me a look before raising her hand. “Infection risk from the immunosuppression.” she suggested.

“Yes, any others?”

“Would there be a risk of things like cancer?” Mace asked.

“Ah, due to the advancements in this area cancer is no longer a heightened risk for chimera unless they are poorly made. Or if we’re looking at it from the second approach the attempt to bind the genes fail.”

The more people talked, the more tense Jaeger became.

“Side-effects of the drugs and cell infusions,” Annabelle said.

“Yes and yes. A lot of chimeras made this way are effectively sterilized by the process. Any others?”

“Painful puberty.” Jaeger said.

“Yes, due to the way the genes are being combined, most of the paramorphic changes don’t occur until the onset of puberty. Now we know animal chimeras were made illegal in early 2012, but creating human chimeras have been illegal since the technology was first founded.”

That was when the bell rang, announcing the end of class.

“Ah, I guess I’ll teach you about famous scientists involved in chimera research next time,” he sighed.

“So where next shortie?”.

“Follow the leader batboy,” I answered.

I guided the group downstairs, knowing where every classes were. I’d been coming to Ravenhold since I’d been taken in by Ian so I knew the place by heart. I’d even been down in the Nexus, the super secret superhero base under the administration building.

By the time world history class started, my meds had kicked into full gear, leaving me rather drowsy and out of concentration. So I didn’t listen to Dr Chrononaut’s history lesson, just pretending to be doing so.

Jaeger tried to get my goat with more short jokes but I was too tired to listen. Eventually the class ended and we all went home. Caroline dropped her gift in our room, having carried it all day, and went into the kitchen, checking her sauce.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to be any help in the kitchen tonight.” I told her.

Caroline gave me a hug. “That’s alright. Get better okay?”

“I will.”

“And get that bun some love. I think Nibbles’ been lonely with how busy we’ve been.”

“Yes mom.” That made her chuckle.

“Get to it.”

I went into and I found Nibbles doing his favorite thing in the world; eating hay while sitting in his litter box. Rather than go to him already, I went to my bed and crashed down, just lying there for a while until my brain started working a little more. Nibbles was happy to keep eating hay. When my head was a little clearer, I got up and went to Nibbles’ side. 

“Hey boy.” I said, kneeling down next to him and rubbing his back. In answer, he looked at me and started to ‘purr’ by softly grinding his teeth together.

I called him and he got out of the box and followed me to the door, just in case I picked his leash and harness. I Then picked him up and made sure his bottom was clean .Which it was although he was due for a hair brushing so I picked the brush and stuffed it in my pocket.

“Alright, let’s get food.” I said, opening the door one handed before holding Nibbles with both once more.

When I came back into the kitchen, I saw that Allen had joined Caroline in the kitchen, helping her make a whole lot of dough. Quite a few people got closer once they saw Nibbles and he got really stressed.

“Please don’t crowd him, he’s a shy little guy.” I said and everyone backed off. I got an apple from the counter and sat down on the couch where Sanjay also was. With Nibbles, I shared the apple, him eating one side while I took some bites from the other.

Once he’d eaten his share, Nibbles hopped away on the couch until he ended up on Sanjay’s lap. Who looked at him for a second before just calmly petting Nibbles who sat down on his lap.

“Nibbles seems to likes you.” I said, I got my brush out and gave it to him “Here, why don’t you give him a brush.” He took it and I left for the bathroom, I needed to wash my face and my mind along with it.

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Unlikely Hero: Part I

An Unlikely Hero

Part I: Nothing for Me

Sitting on top of the church’s clock tower, I looked down at the town below me. Although really calling St. Colette, a town was a stretch; it was tiny village. Home to a few hundred people living in old bungalow and lots of trailer homes. The place only had one store and a single greasy spoon as its restaurant. We had to take the bus to the nearest town to go to school too…

That little piece of damp, suffocating Louisiana was my birthplace. The only world I’d known since I’d been little. I’d grown up there and until the previous day, I’d been certain that I was going to die there, having accomplished nothing of note with my life…

“So, what do you say?” Centurion asked, standing above me on the roof.

I glanced up at him. Centurion was more like a statue than a person. Nearly seven foot tall and made entirely of well sculpted muscle which his costume didn’t hide much. He wore a bronze colored breast plate with matching greaves and gauntlet along with a mask shaped like the face guard of a Greek helmet. Underneath it all was a simple bodysuit that covered everything except his head. Behind him, a thick red cape hung from his shoulders, attached to the breast plate. Even though the man was in his seventies, he didn’t look older than early forties, only the occasional gray hair appeared on his beard or his cornrowed hair.

“I don’t know…” I sighed. “I mean its not like there’s anything for me here… But why me?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Nobody does, the heart has never explained itself to anyone, it chose those it sees as a good host. That means that surely the Heart saw something in you Tyler, something worth exalting.”

I let out a dry chuckle. Something in me worth anything? No way in hell it had. Maybe it was just broken after it hadn’t manifested in the last four years since the previous Orion had fallen.

“You know, it’s funny. Everything think I’m some big damn hero for what I did…” I’ve had like the newspapers, the TV, radio and even random bloggers hound me all day.

“Tyler, your bravery saved people’s life.”

“Riiiight.”

There was a pause and I just chewed my lip.

“Do you want to know what went through my head when I did it?” I asked, making him frown. “That if there was anyone Anton should shoot, it was me. After all, it wasn’t like anyone was going to miss me.”

“Tyler…”

“No really. My mom sure as hell wouldn’t. She’s always complaining about how expensive my existence is or how hard living with me makes it for her to get her billionth boyfriend. The only reason she didn’t abort me or give me away is because her church wouldn’t have let it slide… And really, what is there for me in life? No way I could ever afford an education and my mom already wants me to drop out of high school as soon as I hit the legal age so I can work to pay her…

So I figured that if I could take a few bullets for someone else, then at least I’d have done something right with my life.”

“Maybe that’s why the heart chose you. Because you needed a purpose.”

“Right, it chose me because I was worthless.”

“That’s not what I meant.” He sighed.

Inside my chest, I could feel the Starheart as they called it. It was like a miniature star that burned within me, its power coursed through me. For some reason, it’d had thought I was a good host for its power.

“But really, do I even have a choice about the whole superhero thing? It’s not like people are going to forget I exist.” I asked. Centurion had politely chased them, but they’d be back.

“I can’t force you to do anything you don’t want to. But if you hate your life so much, Ravenhold could be the gateway to something else. Something better.”

“I guess… What do I have to lose anyway?”

“Does that mean you want to go?”

“There’s nothing for me here. I guess anywhere’s better than this dump”

He nodded and we went Home. Since it wasn’t too far, we flew there. Or rather Centurion flew there while I struggled to remain stable while airborne. Flight was very much a work-in-progress….

Although calling it a ‘home’ was a generous descriptor. In reality it was a minuscule mobile home with a cramped main room and three closet sized bedroom. I went into mine and grabbed my stuff, throwing it into a backpack.

When I finished packing the few things I owned; my clothes and a half decent laptop I’d inherited from my mom’s previous boyfriend, I went into the common room where my mom was waiting for me there, a cigarette in hand. Thankfully something about the powers I’d inherited had magically taken away my asthma as I didn’t suddenly start to choke.

“So you’re leaving us?” She said, her voice neutral.

I nodded. “I have to do this.”

“I guess this is goodbye then.” There was a second where I thought she’d hug me but she didn’t. Instead there was just a second of awkwardness.

“Bye mom.”

With that, I left the house and started walking down the gravel path to the curb. Just as I did, Elizabet, my older half-sister, came toward me. Still wearing her work uniform. Like my mom, she cleaned rich people’s houses for a living.

“You’re really going, eh?” She asked.

“Guess so.”

“You’re going to make a shitty hero.”

“You know what? For once I think you’re right… Goodbye Eli.”

She didn’t even answer me, just going inside the house. The two of us had never gotten along. All I knew was that she’d disliked my father and that had transferred on to me. Although she wasn’t the only one to despise him. He’d abandoned me when I was a year and a half old, running away with a younger, richer woman. If I had had the money, I’d have changed my name so I wouldn’t have his.

Centurion was waiting for me on the Curb, still dressed in his costume, which made him incredibly conspicuous.

“There’s a taxi coming. We’ve already prearranged the fare for you. He’ll bring you to Ryan Field airport which will bring you to New York, give your name to the Tera Airline desk for your ticket. When you’re in NYC, there’ll be a bus waiting at for you at six in terminal eighteen. Don’t miss it.”

“Alright.”

“Good luck Tyler.” He said before flying away.

I had to wait about twenty minutes before the Taxi arrived. Just like Centurion had said, the fare was already paid for.

It was two drive hours to Baton Rouge. Then there was an hour wait in the terminal for the flight, then it was a four hours flight until we hit New York. I arrived in the middle of the night, a few hours before the bus was there to pick the new students up. Rather than go out, I just took advantage of the Terminal’s wifi to kill the time I had left.

When pick-up time hit, I joined a large crowd of teenagers piling into two busses heading for Maine where Ravenhold was.

It was an eight hour drive, so I had plenty of time to catch on missed sleep.

Adventure: Part XV

Adventure of a Lifetime

Part XV: The Sick, the Wounded and the Worried

The whole class ended up following Allison and the newbies for their fight against the Rook. Rather than the Dojo we’d gone to the last time, the Rook chose an isolated bit of lawn for the fight.

The fights weren’t pretty. Allen and Sage were defeated pretty easily. Allison was the one who did the best, using their power to force the Rook to be on the defensive. Still they were defeated in the end due to one of Charlie’s foam bomb, which she’d loaned to Sage minutes earlier. Jaeger went last and although he had scored a few hits, he came out of it black and blue…

The second the match ended, I went to hide side. Charlie, Sage, Sanjay and Ahti coming with me.

“You okay?” Sanjay asked, prompting Jaeger to roll his eyes dismissively.

“We should take you to Doc Venus.” Charlie suggested. I looked at her and noticed that she wasn’t looking at Jaeger’s bloodied face, instead staring straight into the grass.

Jaeger tried to get on his feet by himself but stumbled back down. In the end, he resignedly accepted Sanjay’s hand. Jaeger took a few steps forward and we followed him except for Sage.

“I don’t need a whole congregation.” He said, looking at us.

“I want to make sure you’re okay though,” Ahti said, their voice higher pitched than usual.

“It’s not like I have a life threatening wound here jeez.”

We walked to the clinic, the doc sharing the same building and waiting room as Max Steel. Since classes were in session, Jaeger went into the doc’s office immediately. While Charlie, Ahti and I waited outside for them.

Next to me, I could see Ahti just shaking in their chair. Hunched over and looking about hyper alert.

“Are you okay, Ahti?” I asked putting a hand on their shoulder.

“Yes, but what about Jaeger, is he going to be okay? What if his arm is broken, is it going to heal, what if he doesn’t? I Jaeger going to leave us? I don’t want him to leave, I just met him and he seems nice. I don’t want to lose a friend…” They said, a few sad whining noise escaping their throat.

“Hey relax, little one.” Instinctively I ran my fingers over their bare cranium and they came closer, snuggling up with me. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious, beside I’m sure the doctor knows how to treat anything.”

“Really? You’re not just saying that for me, right?”

“I know Jaeger’s going to be fine. He’ll just need a day or two and he’ll be back to top shape.”

Ahti kind of looked at me weirdly, like they weren’t sure whether to believe me or not.  

Thankfully Jaeger came out soon enough, their face all cleaned up, their lip patched and somewhat swollen. He’d removed his blood stained t-shirt and instead had just buttoned up the red shirt he’d worn over it.

“We’ve missed the first few minutes of Science.” Charlie said, looking up the time on her pĥone and getting to her feet. “But don’t worry. Stanko is more invested in shared interest in the sciences than timekeeping.”

We went out and the others talked for a bit while I just listened. However there was a second of awkwardness when Jaeger mentioned wanting to bring down heroes from their smug attitude… Which was a bit odd.

“So anything we should expect from science class?” I asked.

“The teacher’s a nutjob.” Charlie said deadpan.

“Okay…”

“But the good news is that I came prepared.” She said. “I have a defoliant bomb, a vial of  protomatter disruption compound, a cryo-liquid spray, self-igniting liquid fuel and a pair of protective gel globs.”

“Do you really need those for science class?” I asked, giving her a look. “Weird teacher or not…”

“Last year the academy had to deal with a giant super fast growing fungus carpet taking over the school, a runaway neogenetic dinosaur, an agnosia gas leak that made everyone forget who everyone else was for a day and a weird group of protomatter doppelganger who then went on to merge into a hivemind intent on replacing humanity.”

“Okay so there’s been a few accidents…” I said, processing what she’d just told me.

“Those are just the things that happened in June like three months back. It’s like that every month. Heck we’re lucky nothing’s happened yet.”

All of that stuff had happened in June? And that guy was teaching us…

We arrived at the lab, on the other side of the school building from Mr. Martin’s class and the teacher let us in. As we walked in, I took a good look at the teacher. He was kind of tall and lanky. Aside from the really bad case of bed hair, he looked normal.

But then he opened his mouth…

“Ah! It seems that our astray students have made their way toward us, most fantastic!” He declared. He had some sort of european accent that I didn’t place. “You’ve joined us just in time too, as I was just  about to meticulously explain the wonderful bountiful mysterious world of SCIENCE to your fellow classmates. Please take a seat right over there!” He said, making a broad motion toward the lab stations.

It took us a second the react and we quietly went out and took seats at the back. Charlie and I together while Jaeger and Sanjay sat at the lab station next to ours.

Stanko, that was the teacher’s name, started talking and it was quick and verbose. Immediately, I knew I was going to struggle with the class. His accent, the way and the speed he talked made it difficult for me to follow. Not helped by the distance, although I should have sat in the front, I didn’t dare interrupt him.

After another barrage of speech, he asked what the Von-Neumann gene was. Or I think he did, I’d only gotten about 30% of what he’d said. Nobody however volunteered to answer so I did.

“Uh… It’s the gene believed to be responsible for the appearance of mutants.” I offered, hoping I’d understood what he’d asked.

And according to his cheerful demeanor, I had. Without missing a beat, he launched into a long explanation of something. Until he gave us an experiment. All it required was a scalpel, a petri dish and a clear liquid solution.

Thankfully, I wasn’t shy about blood. When you grew up in a farm in the middle of nowhere, scrapes, bruises and cuts were a common thing. I’d even become the go-to person for first aid since my grandpa’s hands were becoming less and less accurate.

Charlie however looked horrible, her hands shaking. She’d closed her eyes to prick her finger and had turned livid…

“Are you okay?” I asked, putting my hand on her arm. “You’re like really pale…”

“I think I’m going to be sick…” She mumbled, closing her eyes and taking a few deep breaths.

I took out a tissue from my bag and wiped her finger clean before wrapping the band-aid Stanko had provided in our ‘kit’ around her finger.

The next step of the experiment involved putting a drop of the clear solution into our blood sample. Charlie tried to do it first but her hands shook so badly that she couldn’t so I did it for the both of us.

The second the solution hit my sample, it began clotting. Charlie’s however remained liquid. Four of us had experienced a clot; Amber, Allen, Jaime and I. The others, minus Sage and Allison who hadn’t shown up to class, didn’t clot.

“Can I go to the bathroom? I think I’m going to be sick…” Charlie asked. She got the green light and ran out of the room.

Stanko had us pick some manuals and I took one for Charlie who returned a few minutes later.

“Hey are you alright?” I whispered to her once she sat back down again. She was still really pale.

“No…” She answered.

“Do you want to leave?”

“I… Eh… No… I took my meds, I’ll get better soon.”

I wanted to give her a hug so badly but since we weren’t exactly in the best place for that, I settled for taking her hand. Squeezing it gently.

“Get into four groups of four please, be mindful of the grouping as you’ll be working with each other for the rest of this year.” The teacher said.

“So anyone you want to–”

“Hey shortie, wanna team up?” Jaeger interrupting her and coming up next to us. Charlie just stopped, turned around and glared at him, murder in her eyes. I was fairly sure I was the only one who could call her short without risking life and limb.

“I don’t see why not,” she replied. “Batboy.” She then called him. Jaeger seeming taken aback by the nickname.

I could see the tension between the two of them. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, but at least Charlie wasn’t about to pass out anymore…

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Lionheart: Part I

Vanessa Marino, Leonine

One year ago — October 2015

Beyond the gate, the crowd cheered as the fighters did their thing. The waiting room where I was however was as silent as the grave. A little under two dozen of us waited, avoiding eye contact.

Friday nights were the days when the Arena opened its doors to its exclusive clientele and we’d be made to fight for their entertainment. The idle rich and immoral craved sensation and there was nothing they found more interesting than freaks beating each other bloody.

And it wasn’t like we had a choice, we weren’t people, just property of the organization. Since the chimerization process that had turned us into monsters for the crowd’s enjoyment didn’t work well on adults, our masters had acquired us as children. Crushed by debts, my folks had sold me away in exchanged for a clean slate nearly a decade ago…

“And the winner of the match is… Taurus!” The announcer called, the crowd erupting into wild cheers and giving a strong ovation to the winner.

A few minutes later, the gate opened and our friends walked through. Mark, or Taurus, came in supporting Isabelle or Canis. Neither of them looked good, Mark’s chest being covered in nasty scratches and bite marks. Isabelle however looked worse, her shoulder out of its socket and the initial signs of bruising already appearing all over her body.

Although Isabelle was a girl like me, nobody would have guessed that by looking at her; A side effect of the performance drug we were given so we’d fight harder, longer and better was masculinization. As such we’d never undergone female puberty…

“Izzy, are you alright?” I asked getting up to Isabelle’s side. I knew she wasn’t but it was the only thing I thought of.

“No… It hurt so fucking much.”

Her eyes became watery and she started to cry, the sobbing occasionally interrupted by a pained whine from her injuries… I escorted her to the bench and gently I wrapped my arms around her and licked the gash on her head. It was one of those things I just sort of did, a side effect of chimerization.

Jacob and Lisa got up and took the first aid kits, going to Mark and Isabelle’s side and got to work patching them up. Although we were enemies in the arena, we’d all grown up together. We were the only family that we had.

A few minutes later, the booking agent came down to the waiting room. I didn’t know his name, just that he was responsible for choosing who would fight whom.

“Fighters.” He announced. “Change of plan, the boss decided to book a feral match at the last minute.”

Ferals was the name they used for non-human chimeras, they were the worst. Over the years, a few of us had died from Feral matches. ferals were killing machines, they only stopped when you were dead or they were…”

The booking agent looked around, scrutinizing us one by one, trying to choose who to sent into the pit. His gaze lingered on Carlo and I felt a knot form in my stomach. Carlo had underperformed for the last few weeks and more than once the organization had used feral matches as punishment…

I knew Carlo wouldn’t have survived had he been sent.

“I’ll go.” I said, standing up.

“Vanessa, you can’t…” Izzy said said, holding my hand.

“Someone has to, I can handle it…” I told her, gently pulling my hand away. Beside, if I fought, it’d mean Lisa wouldn’t have to that night as she wouldn’t have any opponent…

“A crowd favorite fighting a deadly beast. Yes, that’ll be perfect.” The agent said. I followed him to the Gate and he let me though.

The arena was a simple pit surrounded by bleachers and covered with a thick cage to protect the spectators from any potential danger. As I came into the arena, I made sure to wave to the crowd and bow. If I hadn’t, the whole group would have been punished.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the announcer began. “our next contest will pit crowd favorite Leonine against our most deadly, vile and monstrous creation so far. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Lacerator!”

The cage door opened and the creature came out. The Lacerator looked like nothing on earth; having six limbs, two for walking and another two with scythe-like blades attached to it. It had a thick spiked carapace on its back and a long armored tail that ended with a wicked spike.

The Lacerator was smart enough not to charge at me immediately, instead carefully advancing and gauging my reactions. I did the same, trying to figure out its weak point. The carapace was going to be a challenge as the only weapons I had were my claws.

The Lacerator finally charged and I ran back, running on the wall before reaching the cage dome on top of the pit. The chimera hit the concrete wall of the pit and I jumped down behind it, grabbing its tail with all my strength and dragging it with all my strength, sending the beast crashing down a few feets further.

It let out a weird hiss at me, its mandibles clacking against each other as it went back to watching me.  

It changed its strategy, instead slowly advancing toward me, swinging its scythe from side to side to create a constant chopping arc in front of itself. I ran back up to the top of the cage and it positioned itself underneath me, ready to catch me when I’d fall…

So I threw my shoe at its head. That got it to stop for a few seconds and I let myself down, swiping at its face, ripping an eye out before leaping backward to avoid its tail, which narrowly missed impaling me. I quickly kicked my other shoe off and got ready for it again.

It went back and I could see prepare another charge again.

A second later, the Lacerator leapt at me but it didn’t reach me, instead a white blur for lack of a better descriptor crashed into it, making the Chimera fly away from the impact.

The next thing I knew, there was a girl only a few years older than I was standing over me, Having just appeared from the blur. She had short black hair, tanned skin and wore a big comfy blue hoodie.

“SalutEstCeQueCaVaPasTropBlesséEnPassantMoiCestTachyon.” She said to me, speaking ridiculously fast. Not that I understood the language she spoke.

“Tachyon, English!” Another person said, I looked up to the crowd and saw a middle eastern woman wearing a hijab and wielding pistols on both hands, shooting the security enforcers in a calm focussed manner.

“OhRightSorryAboutThatImTachyonByTheWayAndThatsUpThereIsNusaybahWereFrom
TheLegionSayAreYouAlrightYouLookHurtDoYouNeedADoctor?” She said again. Although she spoke English this time, I couldn’t follow her.

“Tachyon!” Nusaybah called.

“OhRightWellSorryButIGottaGoHelp.” She said before zipping away faster than my eyes could follow. She went through the crowd and soon most of it was left down and cuffed. “Tada!” She said, making Nusaybah sigh.

Tachyon got going again and went through the rest of the building. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Lacerator get moving again but Nusaybah riddled it with bullets which made it stop dead.

“Are you alright?” She asking coming down the stairs and coming to my side.

“I’ve been hurt worse…”

She nodded and gave me a hand up, which I took.

“Police will be here in a few minutes. How many of you are there?”

“You mean chimeras?” I asked. She nodded. “Eighteen.”

“Alright, let’s get them.”

I guided her to the waiting room. The agent froze when he saw her and she shot him with her pistol, the guy collapsing and convulsing for a moment. It was clear she wasn’t using standard bullets in her guns.

“Come with me. We’re getting you out of here.” She said. Nobody moved however.

“Get up!” I snarled. “We’re out of here.”

That got them up and they started running.

A pair of security enforcer burst through the door and I charged at them. I tackled the first one and held him from the back, my claws against his throat, holding him hostage which got his friend to stop. With my hostage frozen,  I snagged the baton he had before throwing it at his partner’s head. That done, I drove my hostage’s head into the concrete wall.

“Impressive.” Nusaybah answered.

“I’ve been doing this forever.” Was all I said.

I took the keys from one of the guard as well as his baton before running to the exit with the others, Nusaybah following us, guns raised and alert to any danger which she efficiently shot down.

Outside, only a few meters from the service dock was a big moving truck that was waited for us, marked with the forgettable logo and name of some small off-brand moving company. The inside however was arranged into a sort of living room built for comfort.

“The truck will bring you somewhere safe. Somewhere the Syndicate won’t be able to find you. Somewhere where you’ll be taken care of and helped.”

The others shared an uncertain look before climbing into the back of the truck one by one. I however didn’t budge.

“What are you waiting for?” Nusaybah asked looking at me.

“I’m not going. I’ve spent the last ten years of my life in a cage, I’m not going away to hide in another one.”

“What are you going to do then?” She asked, not even trying to convince me not to.

“I don’t know how, but I’m going to find whoever’s responsible and stop them. I’ll make sure this never happens to anyone ever again…”

“I might be able to help you with that.”

“How?”

“Have you ever heard of a place called Ravenhold?”

Leaving Darkness: Part XI

Leaving the Darkness

Part XI: The SCIENCE of Chimeras

I took the seat next to Sanjay, Charlie and Caroline sitting at the next table over.

“In this class, you’ll learn not only the fascinating theories explaining the mysteries of the cosmos as we know it that have arisen because of the scientific method but also practical applications that will aid you with the subjugation of the villainous elements of society with the aid of the cold, precise and replicable hand of SCIENCE.” The science teacher was quite the character. I imagined he and Heppenheim would have some interesting debates.

“But rather than bore you with lessons you are more than likely not yet ready to assimilate, I propose that we begin this year’s class with a simple but rewarding experiment about the nature of parahuman mutation and the universal paramorphic feature endemic to mutants, the Von-Neumann gene. Which of you would like to tell me what said gene is?”

For once I actually knew the answers, not that I felt like drawing attention to myself. After some quiet Caroline raised her hand. ““Uh, it’s the gene believed to be responsible for the appearance of mutant.” The teacher excitedly confirmed and talked about the nature of recessive genes, stuff Heppenheim had taught me a long time ago.

“…Although no two mutants are exactly alike, one paramorphic features unite them all. Does anyone know what this feature would be?” he finished, looking around the room.

I still had no intention of singling myself out and let him sigh in disappointment. Heppenheim had done multiple von-neumann tests on me as I grew up since chimera cross genetics can make for false negatives. I’d never seen my blood clot yet and wasn’t surprised when it didn’t today. Sanjay and Charlie weren’t mutants either, Caroline was. Immediately after the test though Charlie stood up, asking to be excused. She didn’t look very well and I wondered if anyone should follow her. She returned in a few moments, her cheeks flushed.

“Now go grab a copy of the books from the cupboard at the back of the room. You’ll need these to keep up with the awe inspiring world I’ll be teaching you all about,” Stanko instructed.

We all eventually got a copy and I curiously flicked through some of the pages. I knew some of the more technical terms but a lot of it was a jumble. Maybe there was a german translation somewhere in the academy’s electronic library.

“Get into four groups of four please, be mindful of the grouping as you’ll be working with each other for the rest of this year,” Stanko explained.

Groups slowly formed around us, the pairs pushing tables together. I glanced at Sanjay and shrugged. I glanced over at Charlie and Caroline who were inseparable.

“Hey shortie, wanna team up?” I joked. Charlie froze mid-sentence to Caroline to shoot me a glare. Caroline looked like she was fighting a smile.

“I don’t see why not,” she replied. ”Batboy.” I blinked at the nickname. I’d been called a lot of things but that was a new one.

“Is that the type of chimera you are?” Sanjay asked. I hesitated, I’d forgotten that Ahti had revealed what I was to the whole class.

“Yeah. Let’s move our stuff,” I said, trying to avoid the topic.

The moment i said this I realised I couldn’t actually help having only one arm. Charlie and Sanjay had no issues pushing the tables together. Stanko surveyed the room soon after, frowning.

“Hmm, two of you are threes,” Stanko signed, glancing at the register. “Sage and Allison.” he shrugged.

“If they think my class is worth skipping I’ll just assign them to a group each. Sage is with you lot,” he said pointing at Yougen’s groups, “And Allison you other three.” I looked back to see Allen teamed up with Tyler and Mace.

“They’re not gonna be too happy to hear that,” I murmured.

“Not me,” Charlie immediately said. “Someone else can break it to them.”

“I thought you were a brave hero,” I commented. Stanko cut us off with instructions before Charlie could respond. The rest of the lesson looked set to cover the basics until Stanko wandered past our table and noticed me.

“You, what is your name?” he asked.

“Jaeger Smith,” I answered.

“Your paramorphic features are unique, are you a chimera?” he asked, sounding excited. I shifted uncomfortably before nodding. “Amazing. Now I wonder does anyone in the class know what a chimera is?” he asked, addressing the rest of the room now.

“Are you alright?” Caroline asked. I nodded stiffly. “He shouldn’t have singled you out like that…”

“Something made of genes from different animal species,” Yougen volunteered.

“Yes, now does anyone know how the process is done?” he pushed. Now everyone looked unsure. His gaze moved to me but I wasn’t interested in talking.

“I’m going to be setting you all a lot of reading,” he sighed. “A chimera is made using one of two methods. The most straightforward and popular approach is splicing the DNA of a developing embryo. The second approach is combining immune suppression and cell infusions to alter pre-existing DNA. The second approach is riddled with a lot of risks. Anyone care to guess what those might be?”  Caroline shot me a look before raising her hand.

“Infection risk from the immunosuppression,” she suggested.

“Yes, any others?” Stanko prompted.

“Would there be a risk of things like cancer?” Mace asked curiously.

“Ah, due to the advancements in this area cancer is no longer a heightened risk for chimera unless they are poorly made. Or if we’re looking at it from the second approach the attempt to bind the genes fail.” I felt my fists tightened a little and I glanced at the clock but the class wasn’t over yet.

“Side-effects of the drugs and cell infusions,” Annabelle said.

“Yes and yes. A lot of chimeras made this way are effectively sterilized by the process. Any others?” he asked.

“Painful puberty,” I said. Sanjay glanced at me but I kept looking ahead.

“Yes, due to the way the genes are being combined, most of the paramorphic changes don’t occur until the onset of puberty. Now we know animal chimeras were made illegal in early 2012, but creating human chimeras have been illegal since the technology was first founded.” The bell rang, cutting him off.

“Ah, I guess I’ll teach you about famous scientists involved in chimera research next time,” he sighed.

I sincerely hoped he forgot and had another lesson plan in mind by then. I wasn’t sure how I would handle a lesson where Heppenheim might be discussed. The moment we were out the class Caroline rested a hand on my arm.

“Are you really okay?” she asked. I yanked away, surprised. Why the hell did she care so much? “Sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” she quickly apologised.

“It’s fine,” I said awkwardly. “So where next shortie?” I directed at Charlie.

“Follow the leader batboy,” she retorted. At least History should be boring. I felt ready to find the the Rook for a rematch just so I could get the nerves out of my system. There had a gym on site I could use. I made a mental note to check for one tonight.

Changing Faith: Part VII

Changing Faith

Part VII: Dire Straights of Ravenhold

I didn’t feel so bad about my performance watching Sage, then Allison stepped up. I recoiled to the back of the group at the site of the flames and carnage they were causing to the environment. When the fight was over I remembered all of the things my mum had told me about mutants. They caused destruction wherever they went. I found it hard to challenge her though upon seeing the husk of trees nearby and burnt ground. They seemed less than happy being trapped in the form but I was relieved. Someone that dangerous should be kept away from people. Although I guess that was why Ravenhold existed – and why I was here as well.

I was a bit surprised that for Jaegers turn he asked for a gun. I was used to guns being from the south but my understanding was hero mutants didn’t like those sort of weapons. They either were a terrifying weapon themselves or used less invasive weaponry with a lower death rate attached to it.

I knew Jaeger could echolocate, I assume from bat genetics? It would explain his weird nose and ears then. I hoped he would fail too when Sanjay had finished explaining how to use the palm laser gun, mostly so I could feel less bad.

That hope quickly diminished as it became clear Jaeger definitely had fighting experience. He avoided and even took some of the hits that winded me and could match the Rook at hand to hand stuff. Some of it was a blur it happened so fast. Then like that it was over, or seemed that way. Jaeger tried to continue to fight even with his hurt arm and the Rook had to pin him down in the end to make him surrender.

After that the others began leaving, discussing what they’d seen or something completely unrelated. I noticed some other students from other classes watching too. Was this place that lacking for drama? Some stayed behind to help Jaeger. I opted not to hang around and followed everyone else to our next class. Which was apparently science.

We walked into a spacious lab area which was made up of high marble top tables and plastic blue stools. There was a piping system in the room that allowed for each desk to have things like bunsen burners I guessed. There were various other bits of equipment and storage drawers around the back end of the classroom. There was another door on the opposite side of the wall to the classroom door which I assumed was the teacher’s office.

We slowly filled in, taking seats. I saw the usual pairs sitting together and spotted one guy sitting on his own. I took the stool next to him and hoped I didn’t manage to offend him as well.

“Hi, I’m Allen.”

“Tyler,” he replied, looking mildly surprised. Before we could continue talking the teacher’s office door burst open and a man with wild greying hair and a lab coat bounded into the room, a large grin on his face. I wasn’t entirely sure how safe I felt with this guy.

“Right, teaching,” he huffed, his voice carrying a strong eastern european lilt to it. Apparently he had left his office for a piece of equipment, not expecting to see us. His face quickly changed to a grin and he clapped his hands together. “My name is Stanko Ferhatović and-” he was cut off, frowning at the layout of the class.

“Where are the rest of you? I know I have a track record but students don’t usually disappear that fast….” he trailed off muttering to himself. He turned to sort through the messy pile of papers and books strewn across part of his desk. “A-ha!” he exclaimed, holding up what I assumed was a register. He murmured to himself as he looked over the names.

The chick in the wheelchair raised her hand, I think her name was Yougen. I hadn’t really had a chance to speak to a lot of the others. Stanko was still buried in the register so she had to clear her throat to get his attention.

“The Rook fought the newer students who missed his class at lunchtime. One of them got injured and his friends went with him to the doctor,” Yougen explained.

“Ah, sounds about right,” Stanko said, putting down the register. “Right then, may as well get started and-” the knocking on the door interrupted him. He went over and yanked open the door, his eyes widening as he saw the others who had been missing.

“Ah! It seems that our astray students have made their way toward us, most fantastic!” he declared. “You’ve joined us just in time too, as I was just about to meticulously explain the wonderful bountiful mysterious world of SCIENCE to your fellow classmates. Please take a seat right over there!” He moved aside, throwing his arms out towards the rest of the classroom.

“What does it say about me that people being weird in this place isn’t surprising me anymore?” I sighed. Tyler let out a short laugh in response. I considered asking Jaeger if he was okay but doubted he wanted to talk to me. He had a 3D split around his arm so the Rook must’ve really done a number on him afterall. Stanko continued where he left off.

“In this class, you’ll learn not only the fascinating theories explaining the mysteries of the cosmos as we know it that have arisen because of the scientific method but also practical applications that will aid you with the subjugation of the villainous elements of society with the aid of the cold, precise and replicable hand of SCIENCE,” he beamed, radiating excitable energy as he raised a fist to the air.

“But rather than bore you with lessons you are more than likely not yet ready to assimilate, I propose that we begin this year’s class with a simple but rewarding experiment about the nature of parahuman mutation and the universal paramorphic feature endemic to mutants, the Von-Neumann gene. Which of you would like to tell me what said gene is?”

Caroline looked unsure of herself when she raised her hand to explain. “Uh, it’s the gene believed to be responsible for the appearance of mutant.”

“Yes! Most excellent answer. The gene is found in pairs in all mutants on earth, passed down from parent to child through sexual reproduction. However the gene’s recessive inheritance means that a child requires a copy from both parents to manifest parahuman abilities. Although no two mutants are exactly alike, one paramorphic features unite them all. Does anyone know what this feature would be?”

I frowned at the new knowledge. What he was saying meant both my mum and dad were carriers. I had never thought about that. Maybe they felt equally bad and responsible for what was happening to me? That is if my mum even told dad. They didn’t exactly speak.

Silence pervaded the room as no one seemed to have a clue what he was talking about. I only knew the gene from the test Nucleon made me take.

“Nobody? Tsk… such a shame, one would think this group of youngsters would be aware of such an important element of trivia which is used to identify mutants worldwide. Still, that is why I am here, for my purpose is to educate you on those matters.” He seemed to think to himself quietly for a moment before launching into his next piece of dialogue.

“If you would please open the drawer of your lab station, you’ll find something we shall require for our day’s experiment.” Tyler opened the drawer and frowned. There were two scalpels, small petri dishes, a clear chemical, a drop counter and plasters. Tyler laid the tray on the desk, still frowning.

“Now our experiment is most simple and will be informative in both parahuman and mundane biology. In front of you are the simple tools we’ll require to test all of your von-neumann status. Now, as unpleasant as it might be, please take the scalpel. Using the tip of the blade, prick your finger, just enough for a few drops of blood to be put into the dish.” Charlie apparently didn’t want to do the test but Stanko insisted.

“I’ll go first,” Tyler offered. It quickly became clear though that Tyler had issues actually getting his blood – in that the scalpel snapped when he tried to apply pressure to his skin.

“What is your mutation, marble skin?” I asked, semi-serious. It took some creative thinking but finally there were a few small drops in a petri dish. His didn’t clot though which only made me want to ask further questions.

I’d already done it before but part of me kinda hoped that when I mixed up the solution with my blood the result would somehow miraculously be different. It wasn’t. It was almost like the teacher wanted to dig the point in even deeper when he announced I was among those who were ‘officially mutants’.

“Now go grab a copy of the books from the cupboard at the back of the room. You’ll need these to keep up with the awe inspiring world I’ll be teaching you all about.”

I couldn’t work out if he just really liked the sound of his own voice or if he was that oblivious. I hesitated when Ahti stood next to me at the cupboard and let them go first. I didn’t wanna risk brushing against their weird looking skin.

“Get into four groups of four please, be mindful of the grouping as you’ll be working with each other for the rest of this year,” Stanko explained. Tyler looked at me and shrugged. I assumed that meant he was okay teaming up with me. Another guy glanced around before deciding to join us.

“Hiya,” he said, taking one of the empty stools. I managed to remember his name was Mace. “No offence to the girls but I need to have some guy friends in this place,” he joked.

I felt relieved that my group was made of other straight guys, or at least I was pretty sure they were all straight. I wasn’t too surprised to see that Caroline, Charlie, Sanjay and Jaeger were in a group. Rowan, Ahti, Annabelle and Amber were the third group and the fourth were made up of Yougen, Yikaru and Jaime.

“Hmm, two of you are threes,” Stanko signed, glancing at the register. “Sage and Allison.” He frowned before shrugging his shoulder. “If they think my class is worth skipping I’ll just assign them to a group each. Sage is with you lot,” he said pointing at Yougen’s groups, “And Allison you other three,” he finished.

I gulped, well aware Allison did not like me, and they were more than powerful enough to destroy me. Although they would probably made a good sparring partner if we actually got on, since I don’t think my ability could actually hurt them in that other form.

The class was less eventful after that, minus the part where Stanko singled out Jaeger. It was pretty interesting learning about chimeras though. I actually left the room with some people talking to me. Mace was easier to joke with than Tyler though, he seemed more withdrawn for some reason, his thoughts elsewhere. I looked at my tablet seeing our next class was history. As long as the teacher wasn’t racist it was an improvement on the last history teacher I knew.

Generation: Part XIII

A new generation of heroes

Part XIII: Quiet Moment

As Charlie had promised, the foam dissipated in eight minutes. What she hadn’t told me what that it’d leave this sticky, greasy residue that just smelled like a mix of dollar store perfume and gasoline.

In the time it had taken for me to be free, Jaeger had fought and the others had left. All except for Sage who sat on the ground not far from me.

“Are you alright?” They asked once I broke through the thin barrier that held me down.

“Yeah, but I think I’m going to need a shower or twelve. How’s your shoulder?”

“It’s alright.” They said, getting up. There was a flash of pain in their expression when they put weight hurt shoulder.

“It hurts like hell doesn’t it?”

“Totally.” They said with a tired chuckle. “Nothing serious though.”

“Glad to hear that.” I said, giving them a smile.

We went home and I grabbed a change of clothes from my room, going for shorts and a tank top before barricading myself in the shower.

I spent an eternity in the shower rubbing over and over trying to desperately get that disgusting gunk off me. I brushed so hard I thought I’d lost half the skin on my body. But worst of all, I had to undo my braids to properly get the sticky residue out of them.

When I finally came out, I found Sage waiting for me in the kitchen, sitting on one of the stool, their arms crossed on the counter. They looked pretty damned tired and I could see their throat had turned red from the Rook’s hold.

“Hey, I’m squeaky clean now.” I said, putting a hand on their shoulder.

“That’s nice” They said, turning around to face me. There was a pause before they spoke again. “You undid your hair?”

“Yeah, I had to.” I said, feeling a bit depressed out it. I’d only kept the braids in for two weeks. And not only would I have to wait before I could put them back in, lest I damage my hair, but I wasn’t sure how soon I’d have the five to six hours it took to braid them…

“Well, I think you look great like this too.” They gave me a smile and I could feel my heart warming up. I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Thanks.”

“So, we’ve missed like half of science class. Guess we should just wait for the next one.”

“Eh, honestly I’m so done for the day. The gunk gave me a headache and the refractory period is just kicking my ass on top of the usual.”

“So you’re cutting class?”

“Yeah. Want to join me? It’s going to be a heck of a lot less boring with you around.”

“That sounds fun and scary. Think we’re going to be in trouble for it?”

I shrugged. “Either way, classes are recorded so we won’t be missing anything.”

“I guess we can stay in then.”

“Awesome. Say, do you want to hang around my room? Rowan typically only goes there to sleeps so we’ll be alone for as long as we want.”

“Okay.”

“But first; Food. I’m starving.” I went into the fridge and found a tray of leftover sandwiches from the night before. I took a whole bunch and stuffed them down my face at record speed.

“You weren’t kidding when you said you were starving.” Said commented, wide eyed.

“Well, we skipped lunch and I hit the refractory period of my power, which made it worse.”

“What’s it like hitting a refractory period?”

“You’ve never had one?”

“I’ve never used my power enough.”

“Well it comes into two flavors of suck; weakening and shut down. Weakening is the first to come; your powers stop responding as quickly and you need more concentration and effort to do less. Shut downs happen when you’ve pushed past your limit; Your powers just stop working and it’s weird, it’s like a piece of you is missing… Either way, fastest way to recover is plenty of high calorie food and rest.”

In answer, Sage nodded, absorbing all that information.

“So, my room?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

I took lead and guided them to my room, holding the door open and letting them in first. Sage took a long look around.

“Obviously this is my room. Uh, please avoid touching anything, no offense but if things aren’t in order it makes my OCD act up.”

“Oh alright… Well, your room is pretty much identical to mine. Say, is that yours?” Sage said, pointing to the Bass that leaned against the wall.

“Yeah. It was a gift from my mom a few years back. I’ve always loved the way bass sounded so she got it for me on my birthday after plenty of begging for one. I still play it, although I do most of my music with synthesizers now. Mostly drum and bass or electronica in general.”

“Oh cool. I primarily play the piano as well as some cello and the flute. I did a lot of classical music.”

“That’s pretty cool. We could start a band.” I joked. “The Enbies of Ravenhold.”

“Oh yeah, bass and piano. That’s going to be a hit.”

“Totally.” I said in a super serious way, which made them laugh.

“You know, I’d love to hear your music one day.”

“Maybe you will. Plus, I’m registered for music as my art elective.”

“Me too.”

“Guess you’ll hear my play sooner than later.” I said sitting on my bed, Sage sitting right next to me. “How about a movie? Anything you want.”

“Sure, do you have any musicals?”

“I can get anything.” I said.

I booted up a streaming site and soon found a cute animated musical adventure based on Igbo mythology. The two of us huddled close under the cover, back to the wall with my laptop on my lap.

Although I couldn’t focus as my head just started throbbing.

“Are you alright? You don’t look so good.” Sage asked as if they’d read my mind. Which was a possibility, but I knew they wouldn’t do so without permission.

“Eh, I’m kind of beat from the fight and everything.” I said, rubbing my temples.

“I could help… If you want me to that is.” They said, shifting uncomfortably.

“Alright.” I didn’t even think about it.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I trust you.”

They even huddled closer to me on the bed and raised their hand, softly brushing my cheek. We closed our eyes. Immediately, I felt the contact happening; My body becoming less tense, the pain fading away and that warm caring presence inside my head.

I could feel the warmth of their breath on the skin of my neck. My heart started beating faster and my breaths got sharper. I could just feel how close we were…

“Are you alright?” They asked, breaking the contact.

“Yeah, it was just a little intense…” I said, looking away. “The movie’s still playing.”

“Right.”

Our focus went back to the movie. Or rather Sage’s did, while I just got lost in my own thoughts. I was accurately aware of just how close we were and my heart was beating like crazy, my skin burned bright hot. Somewhere along the way, Sage’s head became propped up against my shoulder.

Here I was, snuggling in bed with my brand new crush… It was simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

However I couldn’t help but think back to Sheila, I felt like I was betraying her. I know we weren’t really together anymore, but in a way we still were. After all, she’d only broken up to spare my feelings…

And what would Sage think if they knew about Sheila… I couldn’t hide it from them. It wasn’t right. I had to talk to them.

“Sage?” I softly asked, a noose forming in my stomach.

“Uh?” They intoned lowly.

“There’s something I want to tell–”

I didn’t finish my sentence as Sage answered with a light snore. Exhaustion had gotten the better of them. They looked so peaceful sleeping against my shoulder, I couldn’t bring myself to wake them up.

“Goodnight sleepyhead.” I muttered, running my hand through their hair.

I guess it could wait…

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