Nine Arc I: Unruly
The car ride over to the bus stop was awkward and quiet. It was strange being out in the world again, though. Seeing the trees pass by along with the people on the street had many thoughts come and pass in my mind. I was all giddy and anxious. I had no idea how to fit in here and I damn well knew I couldn’t just “be myself”.
“Don’t be nervous.” Turner spoke up from beside me.
“I can’t help it…”
“I know, but over thinking it won’t help you at all. Just try and relax and focus on getting your situation in order. Don’t forget, you’re not alone.” He brought out a phone and handed it to me. “That reminds me, this is for you.”
“Um, thanks…?” I accepted it and turned it on. There was a single number in there.
“It’s for whenever you want to talk. It’s currently on a pay as you go sort of plan. I’m sure you’ll see its’ use once you make some friends.”
“I…doubt it, sorry. But thank you, anyways.” I set it away and looked out the window.
“We’ll be there soon. Are you sure you want this?” He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye as he drove.
“Yeah, I do. I think it’s the only thing I’ve ever really wanted. Or least, all I can remember wanting, anyway.”
Turner was quiet for a moment, his disposition tense.
“Thank you for…uhh…believing in me. I’m sure you know that you’re the only one who has.”
“Well, I hope that’s changed now, even just slightly?”
“Yeah. Maybe a little.” I found that there was a faint smile on my face before I blinked and went back to be tense.
When we arrived there, I caught sight of a number of other students. If I thought I was nervous before, it was nothing compared to the anxiety I felt now. One thing I didn’t have to worry about, though, was sticking out. It seemed that this Academy accepted all types and creeds. I guess the doubt I still had applied to myself because that really was the one thing I knew I couldn’t trust.
Turner and I sat in silence for a brief moment.
“Hang onto your acceptance letter, alright? Be sure to call me once you get there, alright?”
“Y-Yes, okay. Thank you, o-I mean…Turner.” I hesitantly got out and looked back at him once more before walking off.
I slept most during most of the bus ride despite how noisy the other students were being. Some had tried to talk to me, but I wanted no part of it. I decided to sleep on the way there instead of continuing to stress out over it. I woke up several times on the way due to the others being noisy and I was really close to letting my irritation show, but I told myself over and over that I couldn’t afford to be so reckless.
After an awkward arrival and a forced shopping trip, I was too exhausted to go meet the others I was going to be living with. It turns out that even if I didn’t use my abilities, the limiters drained my energy. I don’t know what kind of cruel double-edged-sword type of shit they were trying to pull with them, but I had to admit that it made getting to sleep hell of a lot easier. I didn’t think it was worth having my other side too close to taking over all the time, though…
I hadn’t even bothered to put anything away and just left them in the bags before going to sleep for a bit. I didn’t want to make a bad impression if I was tired and stressed as fuck. I found I wasn’t pleasant to be around when that was the case. While I slept, though, I did sometimes get a few glimpses of those memories that had been supposedly erased. They’d fade away second after I woke and would leave me dazed and confused.
My rest had been cut short when the door to the room slammed behind someone who’d came through. It took my eyes a second or two to adjust to see who it was. I assumed he was another student and I kind of panicked over what to say.
“Wow, are all of you this noisy?” I asked, sounding a lot more nervous than I intended.
“Yep.” Was all he said.
“Riiiight…So you are who?”
“Grant.” He replied in a disinterested tone.
“Okay. I’ll try to remember that. They want me to go by Ivan, but you can call me Nine if you want.”
The other student didn’t look at me and I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t want to talk. My guard went up when I noticed something coming towards me. I had no idea what it was supposed to be, but it was small and furry.
“Oh, what is this? Some…kind of cat?” I asked, taking a wild guess.
“Killer is a fennec fox.” He looks over at me with a serious look in his eyes. “Hurt him and I will kill you.”
“Wasn’t planning on doing that…They say I’m supposed to ‘Maintain a low profile’.”
“Heh, I was told some similar.”
I wasn’t really sure how to take that.
“Yeah, so I’m not here to cause any trouble, okay? Or, at least I’ll try not to…”
Grant was quiet for a painful amount of time before he finally replied, “I won’t cause any trouble for you so long as you leave me alone.”
“Alright. I can agree to that.”
“So, why aren’t you with the others?” I asked, instantly feeling stupid because he’d practically just told me he didn’t want to be bothered!
“I’m not…a people person.”
“Oh. Okay, I get that. I just, sort of fell asleep when I got here…”
“I can see that.”
“All I ask is that, uh, maybe keep it down while I’m asleep?”
“Sure thing.” He replied, still in an absent tone.
“I get a little…bitchy otherwise.” I said as I took notice to the fox who clearly wanted to be petted.
“You can pet him if you want.” He sighed.
“O-Okay. Thank you.” When I reached out towards the fox, it came over and curled up next to me.
I spent a while thinking about everything. Just this morning I was continuing to rot away in that cold cell and now I was here…To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. Feeling tired once more, I glanced over to where Grant was, seeing that he turned away.
“I’m gonna head back to sleep, so g’night my friend.” I said in the most genuine way I could manage.
“Yeah.” He replied and the fox went back over to him, as if it had been called.
Before I drifted off, I did ponder for a moment if I should go down and meet the others. I decided against it as I was just too exhausted currently. I knew that if I was going to do more than just sit around all day that this was how things were going to be. Or, at least as long as I wore the limiters. I wasn’t sure how long I’d had this fear of taking them off, but somewhere deep down I didn’t want to risk it. An awful feeling of dread came over me before I eventually fell asleep.
I woke in the middle of the night. It seems I was unable to escape that dream. Seeing that red everywhere and the surprise in an unfamiliar person’s eyes…Where could that have been from? Had I done that? Either way, it wasn’t possible to head back to sleep when I was this upset. Heading over to where the others had been earlier, I hoped to at least talk to someone. I didn’t think I could be alone right now, as pathetic as that sounds.
“Yo.” Someone said from nearby.
It took me a second to realize they were talking to me.
“Who’re you?” She asked, sounding rather standoff-ish.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“Yeah, but I asked you first, so common sense would dictate you answer first.”
“Common sense? Whatever could that be?” I replied, sort-of second-guessing my choice to come down here.
“Who are you?” She asked a little more forcefully.
“Ehh, fine. They want others to refer to me as ‘Ivan’ here, though I prefer Nine. Good enough for you?”
“Yep. I’m Gloria, or 098-X.” She shrugged. “Depends on if you wanna be my friend, or my enemy, which one you call me.”
“I’d rather not be anyone’s enemy here…”
“Then, I’m Gloria.” She smiled.
“Cool, then.” I took a moment to think. “So, what are you up to? That is…what friends ask, right?”
“Yeah. I’m hanging here.”
“You can’t sleep, either?”
“Circadian rhythm’s all fucky! I sleep seven hours every two days, so I’m up for the next…18 hours.”
“Wow, I’m totally jealous.”
“Don’t be jealous, I hate it!”
“Because I gotta do this! When everyone’s asleep.”
“You could, like, learn a new language, or master a hobby…?” I suggested even though I assumed she wouldn’t take it seriously.
“Hah! What, you expect me to learn at a school?”
“Isn’t that what it’s for?”
“As far as I’m concerned, no.”
“They’re just gonna try and teach me not to use my powers, given what they are.”
“O-Oh…Yeah, I can imagine that being the case for some of us…” I started to feel a little nervous as I didn’t really want to think about it that much.
“I’m very killy. Ravenhold does not like killy.”
I sat down across from her, but didn’t say anything else. I wasn’t sure if I could encourage such a thing here without being punished for it later.
“Anyways, what’s your power?”
“Um…it’s a couple of things. On that paper, I’d written down ‘matter manipulation’, which I know is rather broad…It’s more like the ‘touch things, they explode’ sort of deal.”
“That is…certainly manipulation. I suspect most things do not explode when regular people touch them.”
“Taking the sort of reactions it gets, I’m guessing not.”
“Cooler than what I can do.”
Before I could ask, my eyes could barely pick up the sight of something being shot towards me. It landed just inches away. “That. Conotoxin, it’ll stop your heart, muscles, your nervous system, everything.”
“I mean, I’m damn accurate with ’em, and they kinda…grow back but other than that, nothing special.”
“That’s interesting, to say the least. I mean, it’s not something you see every day.”
“Eh. Killy!” Gloria shrugged.
“I won’t lie, there are people who’d deserve it.”
“Try telling a teacher here that. Hell, I have, I’ll save you the trouble: they disagree. Violently disagree.”
“Are they really like that? Like, all of them?” I asked, feeling discouraged.
“Everyone I’ve met.”
“Shame.” Was all I could think of to say. It certainly would be such a drag if I had to deal with the cut-and-paste sort of ideals heroes tended to have.
“Yep!” While, I wasn’t paying too much attention, I saw her fall over out of the corner of my eye.
“Are, uh…you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I just…fell. All fine.” She cracked her neck and knuckles, having me flinch at the noise.
“Ehh…good to know.”
While we were both silent, I noticed someone else walk into the room. Another unfamiliar face.
“Whoa, didn’t expect anyone else to be up this late.” He said.
“I take not many of us actually sleep here when we should be…” I frowned, starting to feel a lightheaded from exhaustion.
“Who’re you?” Gloria asks.
He grinned, “I’m Leopold Dean! Future Legion member. Just call me Leo.”
“I just slept too much after classes.” Leo sat down next to Gloria. “I got bored in my room. Who are you two.”
“Gloria, or 098-X. Here on parole, you?”
“Im, uh…eh, just call me Nine.”
“Nine and Gloria…good to know! I’m here on recommendation.”
“What brings you here? What sets you apart from the unwashed masses outside this school?” Gloria smirked, her tone was sarcastic, yet cocky.
“I’m going to be the best here there ever was It’s only natural I go to the best school.” He boasted so proudly, it almost made me feel sick.
“Oh…oh dear. But…what can you do?”
He smiled brightly and before us appeared a sword seemingly out of thin air. “I can summon any weapons I want. As many as I want.”
“Another hero, huh…” I said, mostly to myself while a number of unpleasant thoughts entered my mind.
“Cool.” Gloria reached out towards the sword and as if in response, it fell into her hands.
“It’s up to me if I have it float or fall. You like it?”
“Eh, it’s a lil’ too big for my tastes.”
“I’ve got all sizes.” Leo said as he summoned several more for example.
“So, why do you wanna be a hero?” Gloria asked.
“It’s what I was meant to be.” He replied, somehow completely confident in his answer.
“What makes you think that?”
“You sure you don’t wanna be a villain? I hear it’s a pretty slick gig depending on who you’re with.” I said as I recalled a few moments in the past where I’d actually enjoyed playing that same role.
“I just know.” He summoned a sword of black metal. “As for villains…my blade will taste a lot of their blood. Despicable is all they are.”
“Then you’ll hate me.” Gloria chuckles.
Leo laughed and stood up. “I don’t hate. I just serve justice.” His tone then went serious for a moment. “Anyone who thinks it’s right to rape, murder, steal, or any other horrid crime needs a blade through every limb.” He smiled brightly.“Don’t worry, you’ll see.”
“So who decides if it’s justice? You?” I asked, doubting that Leo really believed in his own words.
“The masses. The good of the many outweigh the good of the few.” He walked towards the door. “I want to protect everyone, though. That’s what the best does.”
“So, you’d leave behind those who, in some case wouldn’t have had any other choice? Or leave them to your ‘justice’ as you put it?” There was no possible way he could be so blind. There just wasn’t!
“If their demise saved many more, I would in a heartbeat.” He smiled again.
“Then you really are an idiot.”
“You’re welcome to believe what you want.” He said, releasing control of the blades and having them disappear. “Just don’t cause harm to anyone and we will be just kosher.”
“Whatever, Hero.” I mumbled.
“Enjoy your night. I think I’m ready for sleep. It was good meeting you two. Let’s be the best of friends!”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. He really was serious. I knew heroes had their ways, but this really was something else. Back when I’d done work for that company, I just thought it was a joke or a game to them, but this guy actually believe in everything he thought heroes were.
“Am I the only one who can’t stand that fucker?” Gloria, speaking for the both of us, pretty much.
“Ugh, I know, right? I wonder how many of -those- we’ll have to deal with?”
“I wanna beat him up.” She said and I wasn’t sure if she was at all serious.
“I don’t think they’d allow that. Not saying that I wouldn’t join you, though…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll just set up a fight between him and me.”
“He doesn’t know one dart would be enough, right?”
“Absolutely! I could kill him, or paralyse him. Fun fact about the paralytic: you’re still conscious, you just can’t move for shit. I ‘unno, Ravenhold might be a little taken aback if I ‘accidentally’ kill what seems to be a model hero for them.”
“What can I say? ‘Accidents’ happen.” I shrugged.
We spoke for a bit more, the air was still awkward and uneasy. I thought that what Leo believed in could be dangerous in the long run for him. With those beliefs, he would make a hero, no doubt. A stupid one, but one nonetheless.