Chased by the Past
Part VII: A Raven’s Message
I was pretty sure neither me or Sanjay slept well last night. I feigned being asleep anyway until he got up and left for the shower. A few minutes later I followed, pulling on my usual ripped jeans and a blue t-shirt, complete with usual hoodie as always. I took a breath before walking downstairs. I could hear the others talking and eating breakfast. I reached the downstairs corridor and froze. Allen was also there, walking to breakfast himself. His nose looked red and sore, his left cheek puffy and bruised.
“Morning,” he said.
“Morning,” I echoed.
We stood there in awkward silence for a moment until eventually I sighed.
“I’m sorry for punching you,” I said, practically forcing it through gritted teeth. “You still messed up, but I’ll cover for you as Sage did,” I added in a quieter voice.
“Thanks,” Allen mumbled, looking downwards with what looked like shame on his face. One difficult conversation at a time, but if he was still feeling this way in a few weeks I made a mental promise with myself to help him talk it out; and prayed someone did for me beforehand. We walked into the breakfast room where Sanjay was leaning suspiciously close to the door, had he been eavesdropping?
While I had never exactly gone out of my way to talk to people, I was very aware that suddenly I was the one they were avoiding. Was this what it had been like for Allen his first few days? I shook my head, I didn’t care. It wasn’t like any of the friendships I made here meant anything now. It was just a case of maintaining face until I jumped ship.
Mr Martin stopped by shortly after breakfast and led us to an assembly with the family. Of which I had none. I saw the headteacher for the first time and listened to a history of the academy; how it was created as part of the first Raven’s will after he died in some heroic battle. As we were leaving Mr Martin stopped to give me a brief telling off for yesterday, then someone parents stopped to talk to him and I could sneak away. First things’ first, pranking Charlie.
I went to the library, did a quick internet search and printed off some pictures. Thirty minutes later and Charlie had something interested to look at when she next went to bed. The fact she was too short to get them down was an added bonus – something I ensured by going into the utility closet and hiding the step-ladder in Sanjay’s lab. I figured he’d be out all day with his family.
Prank finished, I headed out to the gym. Not like I had anything else better to do since everyone else was out. I headed towards the arena area and noticed there was more of a crowd today than usual, which made sense. There were probably proud relatives watching their kids in there. I shook my head, I’d not let my being an orphan bother me, I wouldn’t start now. I’d closed that box a long time ago and it was going to stay that way. The Syndicate was my family.
I managed to find Leonine easily enough thankfully.
“Up for a spar?” I asked. She was taking a drink from her water bottle and already sweaty.
“Always,” she replied with a cat-toothed grin.
“Actually, I need to speak with him.” We both turned and I saw Raven standing behind me.
“Oh wow, what rules did you break?” Leonine whispered.
“I’ve lost count,” I murmured. I waved her goodbye and followed Raven into an empty sparring room. He grabbed a wooden staff and threw one to me.
“You want to fight?” I asked.
“I need to make sure you’re progressing,” He shrugged.
“Suit yourself.” Who was I to say no at the chance to beat the great Raven in a fight? He waited so I attacked first, launching myself bodily at him, swinging the staff out towards his abdomen. He sidestepped the blow and simply held out his own staff. By that point I had too much momentum so my neck hit the staff and I slid onto my back with a painful thud. I muttered a curse, reaching a hand round to the back of my head.
“Still too eager,” Raven sighed.
“What, you reading my school files now?”
“That is my job. So far you’ve continued to be rebellious. And then yesterday you instigated a dangerous situation.”
“Allen started that,” I muttered.
“You escalated it,” he shot back, his tone told me he wasn’t going to put up with my backtalk right now so I kept my lips sealed, reminding myself I had to behave. Expulsion not only meant jail for me, but that I couldn’t carry out the mission. He was the one who knew where the element zero was but there was no way I could outright ask that.
“You’re right, I fucked up.” He hesitated, apparently not expected me to concede so quickly. “What?” I yelled. “I apologised to the guy, what more do you want?”
“Did you really?” Raven asked, sounding skeptical.
“The guy’s a bigot, but I know when I’ve fucked up,” I replied, my jaw tense. Raven studied me for a moment, apparently deciding I was telling the truth.
“You’re a janitorial duty for a week. Stanko needs help keeping his lab clean,” he said.
“Stanko?! C’mon, any teacher but him,” I said, standing up.
“Then maybe you’ll think twice before hurting a classmate and sneaking off site for hours.” He put our staves down and turned to leave. “You’ve got one strike left Jaeger,” he called as he left.
“Shit,” I muttered. I rubbed my hands over my neck, it was still sore from hitting the staff. I was going to have be very careful over the next few weeks. I had the satellite images from Kellen but I would need to wait a few days at least before snooping around. Otherwise it would look suspicious, something I couldn’t afford right now. Leonine was waiting for me outside and frowned at the red mark on my neck.
“He kick your butt then?” she joked.
“Something like that,” I said. We went down to the underground tournament area. This week it was a rainforest set up. Teams were randomised and the idea was to get the flag in the middle of the room to your team’s base. We were put into the same team with three others. I blinked as Harley waved at me from the other team, smirking. I laughed and shook my head at them. I also noticed there was a Tzari on the other team which surprised me. We went to our separate arena entrances and waited for the mental grate to lift, letting us into the arena.
The other three on my team introduced themselves. Thomas was a inventor type parahuman, equipped with plenty of devices in a utility belt, he was also a third year. I imagined he and Sanjay would get along great. Katrin was from Leonine’s class so when Leonine told me she was a capable fighter I had no reason to doubt her. Our fifth was a girl called Gabriella, she was a fourth year so she was the most experienced of us all.
All things went in this arena, you tapped out when you were beat, the expectation was that everyone was smart enough to stop before any serious harm was done. I’d seen James on the opposite team a few times in here, he was probably the one we had to worry about. He was a second year with flight, strength and was near-invulnerable to everything. Which meant I didn’t need to hold back. I grabbed two handguns and some throwing blades in case. Tom grabbed them from me without asking and attached a small device to each other.
“They’ll blow up when blood touches them,” he explained.
“Nice,” I smirked. The other two one the other team were twins with harmonic powers over ice and fire. Together they were formidable so our first job was to separate them somehow. Katrin loaded herself with a utility belt and various close combat weapons. Leonine had a sword but mostly relied on her natural fighting assets.
“Not bringing anything?” I asked Gabriella.
“I don’t need to,” she shrugged, her brown curls shifted with the movement. She me gave an appraising look briefly then turned her attention to the arena. I couldn’t help mirroring the action, even if I wasn’t particularly interested in finding anyone. Afterall, no harm in looking.