Origins: Jaime 2

Into Darkness: Part Two

Four years ago

“Subject F-19a6.” The voice coming from the speaker said, stirring me from my slumber.

I stumbled off the uncomfortable mattress and to my feet. The cold concrete floor of the cell chilled my toes. With the days of pain I’d endured after the tests they’d performed on me and the time I’d spent in the cell, I’d lost track of how long I’d been there.

“Lift the weight.”

I stepped toward the large lead weight that left on the ground and extended an arm, letting my powers run through it. The weight raised a few inches above the ground. I could feel my power straining in my mind. I struggled with it as long as I could until my power shut down.

“Six point nine seconds improvement.” The voice noted. “Impressive.”

The voice went silent only to be replaced a minute later by the sound of footsteps beyond the cell door. The small opening in the door opened and a tray of food was passed through. A bottle of water, some disgusting loaf of unrecognizable foodstuff, like always.

Every day was the same. Or I assumed it was, no natural light or clock to tell me the time. I went back on the bed, hoping it’d end soon…

***

The routine repeated itself several more times, I don’t even know if it was once, twice or three times a day, before it was broken. That time, the door opened for food but there was none, only a folded piece of paper. I took it and unfolded the note.

Be ready to escape. Stand Back! Was scrawled on the paper in a hasty handwriting.

I blinked but didn’t hesitate. Whatever that was, it was my only chance to escape this hell… I retreated to the end of the room and soon after the door blew off its hinges. Although it flew at me, I didn’t have to concentrate that my powers  batted it away.

I little dazed I stepped out of the cell only to run into a frazzled ginger woman wearing a lab coat, dark bags hung under her eyes and she shook lightly.

“Good you’re out…” She muttered in a panicked look. “You have to help me get out of here! Quick before the guards arri—”

“Wait!” I stopped her. “Where are we? Who are you?”

“I’m Meg… I’m a researcher, they’ve been keeping me captive same as you… Forced me to do things…” She said, eyes tearing up. “But you have powers you can get us out.”

I looked back at the exploded door.

“I smuggled some chemicals from the lab to free you. But I need you to get past the guards.”

I didn’t have time to consider her words that shouting down the hall caught my attention, a handful of men in dark military-style outfits coming our way, armed. They raised their gun at me and I froze. Flashes and roar of gunfire consumed all my senses And I closed my eyes, expecting the worst…

But nothing happened…

“Damn mutant!” One of the men shouted. “Overwhelm tactics; stingers.”

I opened my eyes and found the bullets riddling the hallways’ walls but I didn’t have a scratch. Meg who’d hidden behind me had been spared. I looked back at the men and saw them readying grenades. I didn’t even need to think; I raised an arm and held them, the men screaming as the grenades exploded in their hands. One second they’d been standing there, the next there was blood everywhere. I stood there, paralyzed in front of the scene…

“We have to go!” Meg screamed. “Before others arrive.” She grabbed me by the arm and dragged me a few steps before my brain could wake up.

We ran and she lead us, knowing the complex we’d found ourselves in, making us pass through corridors, labs and other rooms. Guards intercepted us, but I dealt with them easily, pelting them with whatever I could get my telekinesis on. My powers were nothing like they’d been during Juvie; I was stronger, my focus was clearer and I could sense things… Before it took me hours to recuperate after using my powers, now minutes was all I needed.

“We’re almost there. Past this door we can steal a car and get out.” Meg said.  

She opened a door with a card taken from a guard and we found ourselves in a hangar only to be faced by a small army of guards.

“Bravo!” A man said, clapping as he come forward from the group. Unlike the rest, he was dressed in a tailored suit. “Most impressive.” At his side I recognized Mr. Neville.

“You bastard…” I grunted at him. “I’ll kill you!”

I raised my arm to get a better grip at him but something hit me in the spine.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” Meg declared, whispering in my ear. The panic in her tone was gone. “Thank you for your cooperation, this demonstration was just what I needed.”

I couldn’t move, my muscles tightening. I tried to focus my powers but I couldn’t find that space in my head where I called the force from…

“As you saw, the enhancement is permanent it’s been three weeks since the treatment was administered and the subject is still improving.” She began, speaking as a matter of fact. “Basic parahuman abilities have been augmented by a ten-fold level, adrenaline fuels the ability further, secondary abilities have been fully developed and refractory periods have been shortened by eighty-three point seventy-nine percent. Subject is still healthy and psychologically stable.”

“You surprise me, Circe. It seems my wife’s faith in your abilities was well placed after all.”

“Enough with your empty praises, Alcastiel.” She snapped. “Our business is concluded. You know what your part of the deal is. Don’t disappoint me.”

“What about the test subject?”

“Kill her, keep her, release her. She’s yours to deal with.” Circe said. “The paralysis is only temporary.”

“Mr. Neville,” the man she’d called Alcastiel began. “I think I’ll leave her in your custody. Give her the standard treatment, make her cooperate. I believe she’ll be a great asset.”

“Yes sir!” He answered, nervously.

He retrieved a suitcase from the trunk of a car, opened it and came toward me holding a syringe of muddy orange liquid.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” He said as he jabbed the tip on it in my arm.

***

Bound, gagged and blindfolded they dragged me out of the complex I’d been held in, into a car and then into a basement after a long drive. Every day, Mr. Neville would come down into the basement and give me menial orders, meaningless tasks. I’d tried screaming for help and fighting, but all that lead to was agony as he prodded me with some instrument.

I was half-passed out from the hunger, I wasn’t fed if I didn’t obey, when the cringing of the door brought me to my senses.

“I told you before. You should’ve listened…” Someone said, the glare behind them hid their features but I recognized her voice. Roxanne took a few steps forwards and out of the light. “If you just do as they say, everything’s fine.”

“What the hell is going on here?” I said, grabbing her by her shirt.

“You’ve become a weapon. The sooner you accept that, the easier it’ll be for you.”

“You—” 

“You can let me go and get something to eat or I can knock you out.” She said, taking a candy bar out of her pocket. “What will it be? They’re gone, we’ve got some time.”

I let go of her shirt and slid down the ground. She opened the wrapper and snapped the bar into bite sized piece, putting one in mouth’s reach.

“What do they even want?” I asked, after a few pieces.

“What every secret organization wants; Power, control, money, loyalty.” She said with a shrug. “Doesn’t matter really. It’s not our job to think, to question.”

“Can’t we escape?”

“No.”

“Why n—”

“The drug, the orange one. Did you get it?” She asked.

I nodded.

“You’ll need it every three days from now on. If you don’t it’ll hurt… At least until you croak. I tried going off, didn’t work. Almost died from the puking alone, and it was just starting.”

“So what, we just become their bitches?”

“We survive, it’s all that matters.”

Origins: Jaime 1

Into Darkness: Part One

Four years ago

The clock ticked loudly as I sat in the corridor next to the director’s office. I’d been in the parahuman detention center for nine months now, ever since my power had manifested. Over my left hand, the stress ball they’d given me floated a few inches above my fingers even though it was just foam, it took all of my will to keep it floating.

“Miss Santiago.” The Director said in his thick gravelly voice, drawing me out of my focus and making the ball fall down. “Come on in.” It wasn’t a suggestion it was an order.

I grabbed the ball from the floor and came into the office with him. A man I’d never seen before was standing by the desk, dressed in a monkey suit with oiled hair. As I sat down, the smell of tobacco, which had long ago tained the room itched my nose, reminding me of my own father… I grit my teeth at the memory.

“This is Mr. Neville, he’s one of the foster parents whom we work with rehabilitating people like you.” The director explained.

“Foster parent?”

“You’re being released into his custody starting today.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Jaime.” Mr. Neville said, giving me an all too wide smile. “I hope you’ll fit in right at our home.”

“Of course, we expect you to behave exceptionally.” The director snapped. “You’re lucky to get a new chance after what you did to your last foster parents.”

“It was an accident…” I grumbled. “I can barely move a stupid foam ball now.”

As much as my previous foster father had deserved it, I hadn’t meant to crack his skull… My powers had just decided to manifest for the first time as he ‘disciplined’ for dropping the milk carton and had sent a the granite dining table crashing into him…

Because of my non-answer, the director glared at me, all through my stay he’d treated me like a criminal.

“I’ll behave, I promise.”

“Good. We’ll hold you to it.” He said with a satisfied grin. “Go pack your things now.”

I nodded and went back to my bunk where an old sport bag waited for me. I didn’t have much to pack; everything I’d owned had gone up in flames when my father’s house had burnt to the ground, the same night he’d passed away and had left me scarred from all the burns. What little I had was just clothes my previous fosters and juvie had been generous enough to give me. Once it was all in the bag, I went to the entrance where Mr. Neville was waiting for me past the security gate. The guard let me through without a second thought.

“If we hurry, we’ll make it in time for dinner. Do you like chicken pot pie?” He said putting a hand on my shoulder. Which I jerked away.

“I do.” I lied. There was little more I hated than flaky pastry, but I had to behave.

He nodded and we went out the door and into the large parking lot. He guided us to a boring looking gray car and sat down in the passenger seat while I sat next to him.

As he drove through the suburbs, I examined him. There wasn’t anything remarkable about him; he was tall but not notably so, he wasn’t muscled or big, just sort of there. Everything about him was boring and average. He sort of gave a car salesman kind of vibe.

But what did he want with me? That was what I wanted to know… People don’t do kind things for no reason; they want something in return. At least it probably wasn’t for my body, there was no way he couldn’t be disgusted by the scars… It was probably money, he had to be paid a fortune to handle one of the ‘tough’ kids with a history of violence and superpowers.

“This is it.” He said parking in front of a yellow-painted bungalow. “Your new home.”

We got out of the car and I followed him inside where a middle aged woman came to us. She gave a hug to Mr. Neville and then turned toward me.

“There you are.” She said with a large smile. “You have no idea how happy we are that you’re finally here.”

“Right…”

“We’ve been waiting for months to get our newest foster child. Oh but where are my manners? I’m Matilda and if you let me, I’ll be your mom from here on out.”

I nodded. She was probably full of shit.

“John my dear, why don’t you show her her room? I’m sure Roxanne would love to meet her.”

“Of course.” Mr. Neville answered.

He went upstairs and I followed him. He knocked on the door of one of the rooms and a girl with long black hair opened it a moment later. She was a year or two older than I was, wore a baggy hoodie and ripped jeans.

“Roxanne, this is Jaime. As we’ve talked, she’s going to be joining us.”

“Okay.” Was all Roxanne said before stepping aside.

Mr. Neville gently pushed me forward and I went in. The room had two beds and one side was decorated with posters while the other had been left blank.

“This is your bed.” Roxanne said pointing at the undecorated side.

“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.” Mr. Neville said before leaving us.

I put my bag on my assigned bed and took out my things, putting the clothes in the nearby dresser.

“So… How are they?”

“I’ve had much worse.” Was all she said with a shrug. “Just do as they say and everything’s fine.”

I nodded and took her words in. Soon after we were called for dinner and even though I hated chicken pot pie, I forced myself to eat. Better make a good impression rather than risk being sent back to juvie…

***

Days passed without anything happening. The Nevilles were strict about doing tasks when asked, but that was it. Roxanne remained weirdly distant, answering my questions vaguely, she’d also often disappear in the middle of the day without a word. Rather than send us to school, the Ms. Neville was in charge of teaching us.

After about a week, Mr. Neville had me take a ride with him to the doctor’s office for a checkup, which I didn’t protest even though I couldn’t stand doctors. He drove us to a small private clinic and we sat down in the near empty waiting area, it was only the secretary and us there.

“While we wait, why don’t I get you something to drink? What do you like?” He asked.

“Lemonade?” I said with a shrug. “But anything’s fine.”

He nodded and got up, going down the corridor before coming out a minute later with an open bottle of lemonade with a straw in it. I took it and sipped on it absently as we waited. For an empty clinic, it was taking forever.

After a while, my eyes struggled to stay open. I moved my arms to rub them and my whole body felt lethargic. I stumbled onto my feet but tumbled, Mr. Neville catching me.

“Jaime, are you alright?”

“No I—”

I didn’t finish my sentence that everything went dark.

***

I woke up with my head buzzing, everything in my sight was wobbly or maybe that was just my head. I tried to move, but something was restraining me.

“She’s awake.” Someone said. I looked at the source to see a woman in surgical gear.

“Very well.” A man answered, coming closer, wearing the same medical gown and mask.

“Where am I?” I mumbled, my mouth pasty and struggling to move. I tried to move but the restraints covered my whole body.

“It’ll be easier if you don’t resist.” The man said, putting a hand firmly on my chest to stop me squirming. “I’d say you won’t feel a thing, but I’d by lying. I’m really sorry for that.”

“Doctors. Hurry it up, we have three more subjects to go through.” A third voice said from behind me, this one also feminine.

“Of course, director Circe.” The woman answered.

She came closer with a large syringe and hold my arm with her free hand. I tried to squirm but the man held my arm down. In the panic I didn’t even think to use my power… The needle went into my arm and soon my body burst into searing pain and I lost myself in the screams.

Origins: Charlie 3

Aftermath: Part Three

Eight Years Ago

I stayed at my new father’s house for weeks, seeing the nice alien doctor lady frequently while Ian took care of me. One night as I was coming out of the bathroom in my pajama, he was waiting for me outside.

“Did you brush your teeth?”

I didn’t answer him, looking away.

“Go back in and do it.” He said sternly.

I didn’t argue and went in, dreading the minty grossness that came with it. When I was over with, Ian escorted me to my room where Grump, his giant fluffy dog who’d cuddle me when my fear got the better of me was already waiting on the bed. I hopped under the covers and he came and nuzzled me.

“Now, Charlie there’s something I need to tell you.” Ian said, sitting on the bed.

“What is it?” I asked, feeling my heart speeds up.

“Monday morning, you’ll be going back to school. You’ve already missed almost two months of school and that’s enough. If you miss anymore, you’ll be held back…”

“Why do I have to go to school?” I frowned.

“You can’t stay here forever Charlie, you need to get an education. And beside, you need to be around people your age, I know you love Grump but he can’t be your only friend. And this comes recommended from Doctor Sij herself, you don’t want to disappoint her, do you?”

“No…”

“So you’ll go to school and be a good student?”

I nodded and he gave me a hug.

“Goodnight Charlie.”

“Goodnight Ian.

***

As promised, Ian dropped me off to the Island’s only public school two days later. When the teacher introduced me to the others, all eyes fixed right on me. I wanted to runaway and hide. But I couldn’t, and if I did I’d disappoint Ian and the doctor…

I spent most of the first session with the teacher who taught me all the different geometry shapes so I’d be able to follow the assignments. A few students introduced themselves but I didn’t pay them too much attention. When recess came, since it was rainy we all went to the cafeteria where I got a cookie from the ladies behind the counter. As I left the register, a girl planted herself right in front of me arms crossed over her flannel shirt. She was tall, had short hair and dark tanned skin like me.

“I’m Marianna.” She said with a big smile. “What’s your name?”

“Charlie…” I mumbled.

“Do you have a table already?”

“No…”

“Then you have to come sit with us!” She didn’t give me the chance to consider, getting behind me and guiding me to her table. I didn’t resist, I didn’t know what she’d do if I did… We reached a table filled with boys and she pointed at them one by one. “That’s Kevin, Sebastian, George and Thaddeus, but he prefers T.D.”

They all spoke up at once and I just froze as they bombarded me with questions.

“Guys! Don’t crowd her!” Marianna said.

“Where are you from?” The one she’d identified as George asked.

“Queens.”

“I mean really, really from you know?”

“I don’t?”

“Ignore him. He’s dumb.” Sebastian said, George protested but Sebastian ignored him. “Do you play MonsterMaster?”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a card game.” He said taking some cards from his pocket. “You make a deck of monsters and you fight with them.” He said before launching into an explanation, I didn’t quite understand but I didn’t interrupt him, that would have brought their attention back to me… I nibbled on my cookie as he did and Marianna offered me some cheese slices from her lunch bag. “We can play at lunch, I’ll show you.”

I nodded. I still had no idea how to play but that seemed nice. Recess ended soon after but T.D and Marianna were in my class, I hadn’t noticed them. The two of them stuck to me like glue through the day. Like promised they taught me how to play that card game, although I knew they’d let me win.

When my first day back at school was finally over, T.D went away with his father but Marianna stayed with me.

“You have to come eat dinner at my place tonight! I know my parents won’t mind.”

“I don’t know… I should ask Ian if I can…”

“Is that your dad?”

“He is now…” I answered, biting my lips, trying not to think of it. Marianna tilted her head but I didn’t volunteer an explanation.

I looked around and found him waiting by his car. I went his way and Marianna followed me.

“Hey there.” Ian said, smiling as I came close. “New Friend?” His gaze shifted to Marianna.

“Can I have dinner at her place tonight?”

“Have they invited you?”

“They don’t mind, I bring people over all the time,” Marianna said.

Ian looked at her for a moment.

“Alright, you can go.” He said with a deeper smile. “But first…” He opened his pocket and took out a small phone, putting it securely in my hand. “You remember my number?” I nodded. “Either way it’s coded in the phone already. Call me when you want me to come and pick you okay? Or if there’s anything you need.”

I nodded and he gave me a hug.

“Have fun.”

“‘Bye.” I turned back and faced Marianna as Ian got back in his car.

“No way, you have your own phone?” She asked and I nodded. “If you let me play games on it, I’ll let you try my skateboard. My mom only lets me play in the car so I’m quiet.”

“I don’t know if there’s any games…”

“I know how to get them.”

I nodded again.

“Now come on, let’s go or we’ll be late for dinner.”

Just like that, she took my hand and guided me toward her mom’s car on the other side of the yard.

Sky’s The Limit: Part IX

Sky’s The Limit

Part IX: Yet to Come

I woke up sometime later in the bed alone, dimly aware I should be worried about something but everything was too comfy and warm and soft and lovely for me to care. I blinked my eyes open again and registered where I was. Panic struck me and I sat up, checking the clock and groaned.

“Afternoon sleepyhead, or rather evening,” Allison joked, appearing in the doorway armed with what smelled deliciously like hot chocolate.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” I cried. I immediately regretted it, realising I had raised my voice. Allison themselves looked a little unsure, still holding the hot chocolate.

“Sorry,” I sighed, rubbing my eyes. “I shouldn’t keep falling asleep randomly like this. It completes throws my sleep schedule out and exacerbates my narcolepsy more,” I explained, not that it excused my yelling.

“It’s okay,” They replied. “ I didn’t realise. Next time I’ll wake you up,” they promised. They put the mugs on their bedside table and sat next to me, suppressing a giggle.

“What?” I asked, still feeling mildly irritated.

“You have cute bed hair,” they said, reaching a hair to fluff it up more. I reached up my own hand and cringed a little. My hair felt so dry and brittle.

“I should probably not bleach it again for a while,” I murmured.

“What’s your natural hair colour?” Allison asked, silently handing me hot chocolate.

“Thanks,” I whispered. “And it’s brown, not easy to make white,” I laughed.

“You should ask Caroline, she seems to have gotten it down,” Allison suggested.

“I might. Should probably ask how she keeps her hair looking all nice and not like this…” I replied, sighing.

“For the record, I think your hair is great,” they said, a small blush creeping on their cheeks. I felt myself burn up a little at the compliment. Did they feel the same about me as I did them?

“I think yours is so much better. Your braids were the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” I complimented back, grinning.

“Oh you big flatterer,” they said, laughing. “But if you like braids so much, I’ve got no choice but to do your hair now. And I won’t take no for an answer.” I blinked at her determined tone before letting out a small laugh of my own.

“As if I’d ever say no to you,” I said, hoping the meaning carried. I really wouldn’t say no to anything they wanted to do with me. The thoughts made me blush further.

“Turn around and prepared to be bored for a while,” they said, laughing more.

“Well, we can watch another movie. I can show you one of my favorites,” I suggested.

“That’d be great.” I quickly found one of my favourite films and relaxed, feeling their hands brush and work my hair. Their touch was soft and gentle, I caught myself before I let out a sound of enjoyment. That might have been a bit too comfortable. Although spending time with them always did feel that way regardless. I wondered if we would ever move past the friendship growing between us. I was happy to have Allison in my life as this or as more. There wasn’t much point overthinking it for now. The year had only just begun and I was sure there was plenty more silliness and drama to come.

When the movie was finished I went back to my room to grab a change of clothes and shower. I got dressed and settled down to do some homework. I was just wearing jeans, plain shirt and a black hoodie, my hair now a bunch of small braids. Admittedly this was about masculine as my clothing ever got and I was pretty sure I hadn’t had a more masculine day here yet but those were always rarer.

I looked up as the door opened and Allen walked in, immediately taken aback by my appearance.

“Hi,” I said. “Did you take notes from history? I’m stuck on something.”

“Erm, yeah,” He said, recovering from his surprise. He reached into his backpack and handed me a notepad. I blinked at the random doodles outside the margins.

“I didn’t know you could draw,” I commented.

“I don’t,” he replied.

“Maybe you should, you’re not half-bad,” I suggested, copying what I needed onto my pad. “You don’t use your pad for note taking so you obviously enjoy it.”

“Drawing is for girls,” Allen said off-handedly, flopping onto his bed. I frowned and looked up at him.

“Drawing is drawing. You can’t gender an activity,” I replied.

“Yes you can. You can gender everything. You wear skirts when you feel girly, right?” he replied.

“I wear skirts because I like wearing them. The fact society generally sees them as feminine is society’s issue,” I replied.

“Well you would have a lot less issues if you dressed as you are now, just saying.” I started at his words before narrowing my eyes.

“Actually, I’ve barely ever encountered issues. I surround myself with accepting people. The only person who has ever given me real grief about being myself is sitting across from me.” He opened his mouth to reply and stopped.

“I wasn’t trying to-” he cut himself off. “Sorry.” I let out a sigh and stood up.

“I’ll study downstairs actually,” I murmured.

“Dinners ready, by the way,” he said as I walked through the door. I nodded continuing to head downstairs. The year was just beginning, and I had a feeling there were going to be a few more clashes before Allen actually accepted everyone, if ever.

Adventure: Part XVIII

Adventure of a Lifetime

Part XVIII: Dinner with the Colemans

Charlie called a cab for us, which headed away from town and into the woods until it reached a large gated fence. After Charlie gave the driver a keycard to open the door, he drove us through the gate and toward a large modern mansion; a huge open construction made of glass steel and concrete. There was a two door garage, a skate park and a large garden. I couldn’t even see the perimeter walls from the house itself.

“Holy crap.” Caroline muttered seeing the place. “That’s your place?”

“Yep. Welcome to my home.”

We got out of the taxi and Charlie guided me inside. We came into a large open plan room, much like the House back at Ravenhold, but here things were more luxurious; rich woods, polished marble and plenty of glass. Charlie’s dad came toward us, wearing a loosely buttoned shirt and jeans.

“Hey dad.”

“Good evening Ian.” Caroline said. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Ah yes! You’ve finally got my name down correctly.” He said with a grin before he gave me a quick hug.  “And you’re very welcome. I’m just glad Charlie’s got friends and is seeing people again.”

His words brought back my thoughts from earlier about Charlie’s friends… I looked at Charlie but she didn’t say anything. Instead she suggested we drop the abgs up in her room and I followed her upstairs into a blue-painted room dominated by a massive king-sized bed. Alt-rock bands posters hung on the wall, and one of the corner was dominated by a large gaming rig.

“Nice place.” I put my bags on the bed and sat down on it, it was less like being on a mattress and more like sitting on a cloud. “Damn that’s soft, I could totally go for a nap now. Any chance we can sneak it off to our dorm room?” I asked lying back.

“Sure, but we’d have to ditch one of the bed.”

“That’ll work; You can sleep on the floor.”

“Hey!” She answered with feigned indignation.

“Fine, you can get part of the bed.”  “But it’s totally mine now, see I’m marking my territory. Mine, all mine.” I mushed my face on one of the pillow as a show.

“Yes, your highness.” She conceded.

There was a yell from downstairs, which sounded like my name. Or Ian was just saying something that sounded like in ‘Ro-ine.’ I got off the bed and went downstairs, where I found Ian waiting for me with a gift box in his hand.

“Oh my god! You got me a gift?”

“You could say that.” He said with a smile.

He gave me the box and I ripped the wrapping to shreds. Inside of it was a folded outfit along with a pair of goggles. I ran my finger over the blue fabric, feeling the silky texture of it and the difference between it and the small white wave pattern over it. It was a hero’s costume. My superhero costume.

“You’re kidding me.”

“We’ve received them two days ago for preliminary approval. I thought giving you a sneak peak would make for a nice gift.” Ian explained.

I unfolded it and took it out of the box, getting a better look at it. It was a simple set of tights with a white wave pattern to it.

“The headgear was built specifically to help you with your deafness. Why don’t you try it on?”

I gave him the costume and picked the large silvery goggles on. As I finished putting it on, Ian showed me how to boot them up and a heads up display appeared on the lenses.

“Does it work?” Ian asked. As he spoke, text matching his words appeared on the HUD’s display with an ‘unknown’ tag.

“Best. Gift. Ever!” I couldn’t resist pouncing a hug on him.“Thank you so much.”

“You can thank Ravenhold, I’m just the delivery boy.”

“Well, thank you for letting me try it regardless.”

“Why don’t you put it on? Heck, Charlie why don’t you join her? Show us the unbeatable duo of Housatonic and the Magpie.”

“Yes!” I turned toward Charlie who’d just stood by as I tried the goggles and snapped my finger at her. “Girl, get in costume.” I ordered her, which has Ian smirk.

Ian showed me the downstairs bathroom and I quickly changed out of my dress and into the costume. Although at first it was slack, the moment I finished zipping it in, the fabric magically adjusted itself until it fit just right. I’d heard of smart fabric being a thing, but it was the first time I’d ever seen it in action.

When I came out, Charlie was already in costume. A sleek black bodysuit along with a white belly. Her face was hidden behind a large mask with a bit of a beak-like protrusion on it and a short cape on her back. Although costumes could look silly, there was something in the way she carried herself that negated that; She looked like a true badass.

“Darn, look at you!” I practically ran to her and put my hands on her shoulders, as if to check if she was real. “A true mini raven.” The joy of the moment twisted my mouth into the largest smile I’d ever put on.

“Up for a picture?” Ian said phone in hand, drawing our attention.

I went to Charlie’s side and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, dragging her closer. Ian grinned at my gesture before snapping a few pictures of us.

“Alright, you two might want to get changed back before the caterer arrives.” He said putting the phone away.

“Right.”

I went back into the bathroom before getting out of the costume — at least after a minute or two of checking myself out and taking some selfies. When I came out I found Charlie’s little brother, Jason, koala hugging a man I’d never met before.

“Did I miss something?” I asked Charlie.

“Jason’s other dad decided to pay us a visit.”

“You must be Caroline.I’ve heard a lot about you.” He said coming up to me. “ Nice bracelets.” He then added with a grin, pointing toward my trans and ace pride bracelets with his chin. “I’m Simon Sinclair, Jason’s papa.”

“It’s really nice to meet you.”

“I’d shake your hand, but I seem to have them full with a very clingy little guy.” He said, making Jason pout.

“That’s alright.”

There was a buzz at the gate and Ian went to get the food while Charlie showed us the way to a room by the end of the hall. It was a large reception room where a table had been set there waiting for us while a sound system let out some relaxing ambiance music.

Ian came in along with the catering crew. We all sat down as they served the first of many courses; a trio of amuse bouche.

“How is it?” Ian asked as the second course; lobster bisque, was served.

“It’s fantastic, I wasn’t expecting nearly as much.”

“I hope I didn’t over do it.” He said with a smile. “I thought I’d get the best since it is kind of your early birthday dinner.”

“It’s just perfect. Thank Ian.”

As we ate, I mostly listened to the conversation; about Ian’s work as the Raven, Simon’s progress on his engineering thesis and Jason’s loudly and passionately giving us an impromptu exposing on the lifecycle of New World leaf-nosed bats, however he was stopped when the music changed.

“Papa! I like this song, I want to dance.” He said getting up and jumping in place.

“Your desire are order, little guy.” Simon said.

“Is Jason always this adorable?” I whispered to Charlie. He’d seemed kind of grumpy in the car several nights before, but it was late then…

“Only around his dads.”

I watched them dance an adorable but clumsy slow together for a moment before speaking up.

“But you know, he’s right. This is a good song.” I said.

“Are you asking me to dance?” Charlie asked, raising a brow.

“Is dancing not part of your super ninja-hero repertoire?” I teased her.

“Need I remind you I actually took classes, and not just ballet?”

“I tried to scrub the ballerina Charlie image from my mind, it was too disturbing.”

“And now I’m morally obligated to change your mind on that front. You’ll see I’m as graceful as they come.”

We got up and Charlie took the initiative, taking my hands and giding them to the right places.

“Just follow my lead.”

She lead me into a slow dance, bodies close together, I could feel her breath on my skin, her eyes focused on mine. I didn’t think I just followed her lead, just lost in the moment.

“What did I say?” She asked with a boastful grin as she spun me around.

“You’re putting me and my own skills to shame. I guess you really are multi talented.”

He pulled me closer, ending the movement and our bodies brushed together. There was a moment of silence as we breathlessly gazed into each other’s eyes. Sadly the moment was ruined by my aching bladder.

“That was really nice.”

“It was.” She muttered.

“Eh, I’ll be right back.”

I practically ran to the bathroom, leaving her behind. With my bladder relieved, I came back to the reception room even though they’d served the meat course Charlie wasn’t there. The door to the balcony was open and I saw her standing there, gazing out at the sea. I came closer, the chilly breeze caressing my naked legs, the sound of my chromed leg hitting the balcony must have alerted Charlie as she turned around to face me.

“It’s nice out here.”

“Yeah…”

There was a moment of silence as we both looked back at the waters

“Carol-” “Char-” We both began speaking at the same time before shutting up together. We couldn’t help but laugh.

“You go first.” She said.

I took a second to gather my thoughts before speaking. “I just wanted to thank you. Meeting you and becoming your friend was by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” I stepped forward and hugged her, feeling her breath on my neck. She had a certain stiffness to her body. When I let go of her, I still found her hand and held it. “So, what was it that you wanted to say?”

She took a deep breath, swallowed her saliva and looked away briefly before looking me straight in the eyes.

“I like you.” The words came both hesitant and rushed at the same time. The words set my chest ablaze, my heart beating like crazy. “I mean not as just a friend… I’ve liked you for—”

She didn’t finish her thoughts as I pressed my lips against her, I hadn’t thought, I’d just acted.  When I pulled away, I couldn’t breathe and neither could she, my skin burned bright red. I couldn’t help but shyly look away, when I looked back, I saw that she was smiling, and so was I.

“I like you too… I think.” I mumbled, looking away again. “I’ve never felt this way before, these feelings are all so new and confusing… But whenever I’m with you I feel all warm and fluttery and it makes me so darned happy.”

“Sounds like you like me alright.” She said, her timid smile growing into a grin.

“I can’t believe I just kissed someone for the first time.” I let out a nervous chuckle.

“It was my first too, y’know.” She said rubbing the back of her head. “So… What does this mean for us?”

“I’ll be honest, this whole thing terrifies me. I’ve never thought about anyone the way I think about you, I was secure in my identity as aro-ace, but not so much anymore… But what is life worth living for if I run away from the things that scare me?”

“So does that mean you want to be my girlfriend?”

There was something about the word girlfriend that sent a pleasurable shiver through my spine. I tried to answer but the emotions were too strong, all I could do was nod.

“You know, that word; girlfriend. It sounds amazing when you say it.”

“So, do you want to be my super cute girlfriend?”

“Yes, I want to be your girlfriend…” She took her hands in mine, squeezing them tighter than ever, my eyes drawn to her lips, stained by my lip gloss. “So… Do you want to try kissing again? ‘Cause I really want to.”

“What do you think?”

We closed the gap between us, sharing our second kiss; more than just a peck this time. Losing ourselves in the sensation.

I didn’t know what this would bring, what it meant about who I was, but that was okay. We had all the time in the world to find answers, they’d come in time. For now, we could just enjoy the moment, enjoy this feeling.

Adventure: Part XVII

Adventure of a Lifetime

Part XVII: Going out

After a quiet Friday, I was teaching Allen how to make fresh pizza during Saturday’s lunchtime when Charlie came up to me, sitting cross the counter as I worked the massive dough.

“Hey, my dad wanted to confirm if you are still up for dinner at my place tonight?” She asked.

“Of course. What time?”

“Seven, he likes to have dinner late.”

“Alright, that’s good for me.” I answered with a smile. “Leaves us plenty of time.”

“Yeah…” She mumbled, nodding absently “So… I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me.” She then asked. I stopped what I was doing and stared at her, my heart just stopping.

Holy crap! Has she just asked me out?

She must’ve realized what she said because panic flashed across her face. “To the mall. I mean as an early birthday present kind of thing, how about a shopping trip on me?”

I couldn’t help but snicker at the sound of just how far her foot was up her mouth.

“That sounds great.”

“Alright. I’m gonna go…” She muttered before skipping back to the couch and smashing her face into a cushion in embarrassment.

I finished lunch prep quickly before taking a shower and getting changed out of my flour covered clothes. When I came out, Allen had taken the pizzas out just as I’d instructed and the others were already swarming the kitchen. I waited until the others were served before getting my own share, eating along Charlie.

“Ready to go?” I asked, once we were finished.

“Yeah. The bus should leave in…” She stopped to check her phone. “Nine minutes.”

“We better hurry up then.”

“Yes Ma’am.” She answered with a grin.

We put our coats and shoes on and went out the door. I couldn’t resist taking her hand in mine. She didn’t seem to mind as she laced her fingers with mine, making my heart beat just a smidge faster…

We hurried to the gate where Shavek, the bug person let us through and boarded a special bus waiting only a few steps away. It was about twenty minute ride into town. I didn’t question her when Charlie stopped us at an intersection, then followed her out of the bus and down two streets until we reached an L-shaped strip mall.

“It’s kind of a small place, but some of the shops are decent.”

“Are you kidding? There’s like twice the amount of stores in this spot than in my hometown.”

“Eh, guess I’m used to people thinking Havenport is a tiny backward place.” She said with a shrug.

“They don’t know tiny and backward until they’ve been in the country. There aren’t even any stop lights in my hometown!” That made her smirk.

“Well, you’re free to pick whatever you want, it’s all on me.”

“Thank you.”

I took her hand again and dragged her forward, exploring the wonders Havenport’s shopping center had to offer. After a few minutes of window shopping, I pulled us into a store that specialized in girl’s clothes. Charlie looked around without much interest, there wasn’t  anything in her style.

“I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you don’t come in here often.” I teased her.

“I’ve been here a few times with friends. But yeah, not my place.”

That remark made me wonder. Where were Charlie’s friends? I knew they wouldn’t be at Ravenhold, but she hadn’t mentioned anyone or had any contact beside Ian…

I continued browsing, grabbing a few cute shirts, a skirt and some new sneakers. When we passed in front of the swimsuit area I couldn’t help but stop and examine what they had until my eyes stopped on a polka-dot bikini, which reminded me of a little naked alien…

“Isn’t it a bit cold to be getting a new swim suit?” Charlie asked.

“Oh it’s not for me, it’s for Ahti. You think Ahti would like a bikini or trunks?”

“Not a fan of Itharii streaking?” She answered snarkily.

“Is it weird that it makes me feel weirdly self conscious about my body to see them naked? Like I feel that I don’t get the same freedom and carefreeness…”

She gave me a shrug in answer. “I don’t know. As for your question, why not both?”

I looked around and found girly trunks a little further, getting one of the more neutral pairs. We continued shopping, I even picked an amazing lacy dress which I tried on. It was a little short, but I’d worn shorts under my previous dress so it wasn’t an issue.

“What do you think?” I asked, coming out of the booth.

It took her a moment to answer, as if she was just smitten by my appearance.

“It’s beautiful.” She said, mumbling the words. “Couldn’t be more perfect.” She added with a shy smile.

“Thank you.” I took her hands in mine and smiled back at her. “I think I’m going to wear that one tonight.”

With that, I changed back to my old clothes and continued shopping. When we were done, I had a few more clothing pieces, a box of chocolate homemade truffles from the candy-store, some accessories for my camera and even managed to get Charlie to sit by while I got myself a manicure.

“It’s six to four.” Charlie said checking her phone as we got out of the Salon.

“We still have plenty of time to kill. You know what would be nice? A movie.”

“Your wish is my command, milady.” She declared, giving me a bow.

“They better be.” I answered, haughtily. “Now come minion.”

Charlie gave me a look and it I couldn’t hold more than a second before cracking with laughter.

“You know with that tone of voice, you’d make a credible supervillain, plus there’s the way you kicked Michael— The Rook’s butt. But you’d need a snazzier name; Wavemistress, Tsunami, something like that. Don,t get me wrong, Housatonic is catchy but it doesn’t have the evil pizzaz.”

Although she’d meant it as a joke, the thought flustered me. I’d make a good villain? Like father like daughter… I didn’t share my thoughts with Charlie though.

“Caroline?” She asked, raising a brow.

“Sorry, got lost in my thoughts… Movie?”

“Of course.”

Thankfully there was a movie theater adjacent to the strip mall and we went there. Since it was part of  my early, birthday gift she let me chose a the movie and I picked something musical, animated and light hearted. After a movie and way more popcorn than is healthy, we walked out of the theater still holding hands. I couldn’t help but notice some people were giving us some looks. Did they think Charlie and I were a thing? Charlie’s invitation came back to mind; to go out with her… Was this a date?

I felt my skin burn at the thought.

“Are you ready to go for dinner?” Charlie asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“Absolutely.”

Unlikely Hero: Part III

An Unlikely Hero

Part III: Unexpected Friends

I spent a few hours outside practicing flying, if I was going to be a hero being able to move about was the first thing I had to do. Going from point A to point B wasn’t hard. What was hard however was fine control or doing stuff while flying. It takes a certain kind of zen to not have your every movement alter your course. You have to divorce your body’s movement from your intention to move for lack of a better way to describe it.

By the time I came back to the house almost everyone was gone to sleep. However when I looked around, I saw that there was light coming of the tv in the living room. I walked up to it and found Rowan laying down on the floor in front of the TV which played late night shows without sound but with subtitles.

Rowan was kind of odd; —He…? She..? Whatever— was large and although humanoid in shape, Rowan was always hunched over and walking about on all four. Rowan’s skin was pitch black and in the penumbra, their shape blurred in with the shadows. Their limbs ended with wicked claws. A strong mane of hair grew down from their head and to their lower body.

I came up next to them and sat down on the couch.

“Hey, you’re Rowan, right?”

“Yep.” Rowan’s voice was all kind of deep and growly.

“Let me guess; you can’t sleep either?”

“I don’t really sleep. I mostly just take naps.”

“Oh.” I said. There was a pause. “Awkward question; Are you a boy or a girl?”

“Neither. Use they/them pronouns for me.”

“Oh okay.”

I didn’t really get it, but it wasn’t worth arguing or asking questions, all that would’ve done was annoy them. It was best to roll with it really. I got up, went past them and into Mace and I’s room where he was already sleeping. I switched my sweat drenched shirt out and sponged myself with a clean towel. I considered going to sleep but my stomach was growling, reminding me I hadn’t eaten in longer than I could remember.

I went back out and looked around the kitchen for food. Although there was plenty of pizza remaining, I didn’t feel like eating any. After searching through the pantry, I found boxed mac n’ cheese and opted for it. It was one of those things I ate all the time at home; fresh food was unheard from in our house.

“Hey Rowan, do you want some mac?”

“No. I don’t eat pasta anymore.”

“Oh alright.”

Once it was done, I served myself and stuffed it down my throat, gorging myself. Although the hunger went away, pigging out brought the usual guilt and disgust it generated out… With all the stress and exhaustion of the previous days, I didn’t have it in me to resist it, going to the bathroom…

Once I was done, I dragged my feet to my room, Rowan took a whiff of the air as I passed and their head turned toward me, staring but otherwise remaining silent. Although I just knew that they knew…

***

My first day of class went past fairly quickly, I don’t know what I was expecting from the one true superhero school, but our first day consisted purely of mundane class subject; english, math and history. Although our teachers had been nothing but mundane; Joshua Martin the famous, but now retired, hero of Detroit and A Gimelian dude calling himself Professor Apex. Although I’d met Gimelians, those ape-like sentient beings from a parallel earth, online before it was my first time seeing one in person.

Since it was only a half day we had the afternoon off. During the lunch period, I absently nibbled on a burger without appetite when one of the other; a white haired girl called Caroline proposed we have a power reveal party around dinner time which I guess was a cool thing.

After coming back to the house, I had plenty of time so I decided to boot up my computer. I wasn’t on for more than five second that my the chat window exploded with messages, I sifted through them until I saw Raaltrasha’s. Over the last two years, the Gimelian girl from Brooklyn been the closest thing I had to a best friend even if we’d never met in the flesh.

GimelGirlGaming: HOLY FUCKBALL TYLER YOU’RE ALIVE!
GimelGirlGaming: WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED DUDE? IT’S BEEN THREE DAYS.

BigBadPuppy: Hey Raal…

GimelGirlGaming: Don’t just ‘Hey Raal’ me. I was worried sick, we all saw the news and you’ve been gone since…

BigBadPuppy: Sorry, the last few days have been crazy…

GimelGirlGaming: Did you get shot? Are you hurt?

BigBadPuppy: I’m fine. Shit’s just been crazy.

GimelGirlGaming: Come on, what happened?

BigBadPuppy: What did the news say happened?

GimelGirlGaming: Student shot up the school, a parahuman student stopped him…

BigBadPuppy: That was me.

GimelGirlGaming: Wait, back up. Since when are you a parahuman?

I paused for a moment, trying to gauge how much I should tell her.

BigBadPuppy: Three days ago. It happened during the shooting. And well long story short, I’m at Ravenhold now.

GimelGirlGaming: Wut?

BigBadPuppy: Yeah.

GimelGirlGaming: Oh come on! I’ve been trying to get in for three years and you just get in like that? >.>

Although Raal didn’t have any powers, and as far as I know no Gimelian does, she was crazy smart and when she wasn’t studying or gaming, she was building gadgets to fulfill her dream of being a superhero. If anything, the heart should’ve picked her; she was smart, courageous and driven to help others… I was none of those things…

BigBadPuppy: I didn’t really care for it, but Centurion convinced me to go.

GimelGirlGaming: Centurion? As in head of the Legion itself?

BigBadPuppy: The one and only.

GimelGirlGaming: asdfghjkl

There was a minute or two before she messaged me again.

GimelGirlGaming: Lucky bastard.

BigBadPuppy: Lucky’s right… Look, just promise me you won’t tell the others, I don’t want this to get out just yet… But I’m the new Orion.

GimelGirlGaming: You’re kidding? O_o

BigBadPuppy: *sigh* Wish I was…

I started explaining what had happened, omitting the Orion part to the others, virtually all of whom were fellow gaming friends, when activity started buzzing around the house, with people moving things out back.

BigBadPuppy: I’ve got to go. I’ll be back later tonight.

GimelGirlGaming: You better be. Otherwise I’ll find you and kick your ass. I already ought to for making me worry.

BigBadPuppy: Sorry… I should’ve told you I was fine earlier.

GimelGirlGaming: Take care Tyler. Also; keep me posted, you stole my Ravenhold dream which means you HAVE to tell me everything about it.

BigBadPuppy: Yes Ma’am! See you later.

GimelGirlGaming: Bye.

I logged off with a smile and joined the others in the backyard. They had prepared a buffet but I didn’t feel like eating, I’d eaten a burger at lunch, that was enough. I scouted the place around, finding Mace obviously flirting with a dark, broody looking chick called Amber. Our class was really damn girl heavy, with only one other guy beside Mace and I: Some indian guy called Sanjay.

I came to him and waved.

“Not eating like the rest of us?” He asked. His accent took me a little off-guard, I hadn’t expected him to speak in a thick, posh british way. Which admittedly, might have been shitty on my part…

“I’m not feeling like it.” I answered with a shrug.

There was a moment of silence as he didn’t seem to know what to say.

“So, what do you like doing?” I asked.

In answer he just gave me a shrug. Somehow, I’d found someone worse than me at being social…

“Do you like video games?”

“Not really. Never had the time.”

“Not even the popular ones like Dragon Dynasty or Heroes of the Metropolis?”

“Again, No.”

Things went quiet again. So much for that conversation. Thankfully someone came toward us and joined the non-conversation, a heavy set asian girl, who admittedly was pretty cute… Her name tag declared her as Annabelle.

“Oh what are we talking about?” She asked.

“Just games. Ever heard of Heroes of the metropolis?” Although technically we hadn’t been talking about it as that conversation had been stillborn…

“Hell yeah. I got three pages of maxed out alts.”

“Damn.” I answered. With the very high level cap, maxing a character could take a well-over week  of non-stop power-leveling, three pages meant she’d done that to over thirty characters.

“I’ve got just about any build, but I mostly play my tanks or sometimes healer, I prefer to have some control over the group so I don’t really do DPS, mezz or buff.”

“Yeah, me neither. I mostly heal.”

“Say, did you see the new story pack coming out? They put up a trailer for it saturday.”

“No way, I was too busy.”

“You have got to watch it.” She said with a smile, putting out her phone and typing stuff on it. “Let’s sit.” She nodded at a pair of chairs and I followed her.

Together we watched the new Shadow of Axis-Earth trailer, and then chatted about everything gaming related until the power demo finally got started.

Coming to Ravenhold hadn’t been so bad. In a way it was kind of weird; it’d taken me becoming a parahuman to stop standing out like a sore thumb and make a friend in real life…

And on top of it, she was cute and nerdy…