Freaks Like Me: Part I

Avery’s Story: Freaks Like Me

Part I

CONTENT WARNING: MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS

I hope he doesn’t find out— did I lock the door— that a big dog— I hope Carly’s free— I’m so fucking tripping—

I raised the volume of my headphone until my ears hurt, the voice dimmed just a little. The bus was loud, but it wasn’t my ears that were hearing things, thoughts drifted carelessly thrown about and laced with anxiety, excitement or fear, all caught by the anomaly inside my brain.

I slipped the collar of my hoodie in my mouth and chewed on it, the mechanical back and forth grinding of my jaw was a soothing thing to focus on.

Gross, the girl in front of me thought. She wasn’t the first to think so, she wouldn’t be the last. I always stood out, I was always abnormal and I couldn’t not know it… It wasn’t the mind-reading, that they couldn’t know. I chewed things, I smelled things, it was the way I dressed always the same even in the heat of summer.

My stop came and I walked off the bus, the cacophony of thoughts left with the bus and only the thoughts of those few pedestrian to replace them. I walked quickly, needing to get home.

For me, home meant a five-thousand square foot house within the Westbrook estates of Edmonton, so posh there even was a golf course as our neighbors. I walked through the front garden only for dad to open the door, his anger was blazing, I could feel it burning.

“Where were you?”

“Outside.”

“Where outside?”

“Just outside.” I mumbled, trying to pass by him.

“Avery look me in the eyes.” Dad said, grabbing my chin and raising it.

I broke away from his grab. “Don’t touch me!” I screamed and the porch’s light bulb sparked and died.

He stepped back, anger was gone from his heart, now frozen. I stepped past him and walked toward the stairs to my room.

“Avery, we’re not done talking,” dad said, catching up.

“Why not?”

“You had mail today. Very interesting mail.” Again, anger came back to the front of his mind.

“You read my mail?”

“I’m your father Avery, that letter concern me. What were you thinking, applying to be… one of these freaks.” He spat. He meant superheroes, I’d applied to join Ravenhold Academy, the most renowned of all of them.

“I’m already a freak!” I screamed at him. “Beside, I thought you’d be happy if I were gone.” I said.

“Avery—”

“You can’t lie to me, dad. You’re embarrassed of me.” I said. “You tried to have me cured, you made me into one of those freaks.”

“We just wanted to help you, Avery.”

“I didn’t ask for it…” I snapped. “I was happy being me…” I turned around. “I’m going to bed.”

***

It was always the same scene, seven years old, strapped to a table. The room stank with antiseptic, the doctor wore ugly green scrubs.

“Stay still Avery, this will just take a minute.” He said, his voice detached.

Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a nurse draw liquid out of a bottle into a large syringe. The doctor took it, his hands covered by blue glove. “You shouldn’t struggle, this will make you better. We’ll make you normal…”

I wanted to scream but my whole body was paralyzed. The needle drew closer and into my right eye.

***

I woke up screaming again. Mom came in, in her bathrobe.

“It’s just a dream, baby girl.” She said, cradling me.

“It was real once…” I muttered. Seven years, seven years of the same nightmare, waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, of being ‘helped’ by Doctor Fontaine… Every night it was needles and electroshocks…

She held me until the drumming of my heart slowed down to its normal pace.

“Your father told me about the letter you received.” She say lowly. “Why would you?”

“I want to do something good…” I said. “I want to stop being such a freak, learn to control what happened…”

“You don’t have to leave for that.”

“You don’t understand, mom, I’m dying here.” I said. “I can’t stay imprisoned here forever, all alone, I’m not a princess in a tower. There’s people like me out there, I need to not be a freak anymore…”

Edmonton had never had an extensive parahuman scene, Canada as a whole had always been quieter on the cape scene. But in the United States, it was different, there were so many heroes and villains, New York had become a mecca for the caped world.

A world my parents had always been afraid of, they were normal, baseline was the official term. But me, I wasn’t even a mutant like most parahumans, just a freak of nature damaged by experimental treatments…

Mom was quiet, “I’ll talk to your father…” She finally said, before leaving the room.

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God’s Gonna Cut You Down: Part I

Penny Origins: God’s gonna cut you down

Part I

July 2016; One Month Ago

Although the Huntsville lockup was filled, I sat in a holding cell of my own. From the one next to mine came the moans of gangbangers, at least those who hadn’t been taken to the hospital.

“Will y’all shut up,” I said, “Those were just gel rounds, consider yourself lucky.”

One of them swore back at me, but I ignored him, lying down on the cold metal bench and using the cowboy duster I’d worn as a pillow. I closed my eyes for a moment and breathed in, slowly taking in every little sensation my body told me.

I could feel a crack in my right ribs, burning with every breath, the skin above it was sore and bruising from catching a bullet. My armor had stopped it, but its force I had still felt. My knees ached from the falling and tumbling, it was different out of the gym without a mat to protect you. Most people would cry or scream, but I relished the pain, there was nothing better to make you feel more alive.

There was a buzz through the holding area, but I ignored it until my name was called by a smooth, yet deep voice.

“Penny!” Dad called.

I opened my eyes and saw him going through the corridor until he stopped before my cell. I got up and walked to him.

“Hey dad…”

His lip quivered for a moment, he wanted to spoke but couldn’t find the word. “You’re okay…” He finally said sobbing.

“‘Course I am.” I smiled, a little half-chuckle escaped my chest, bringing a sharp pain with it.

“Penny, this isn’t the time for jokes.” Dad snapped. “You’re in jail and… the charges, they’re bad. It’ll be okay, I called our family lawyer. You haven’t said anything have you?”

“‘Course not, I don’t talk to cops.” I said. “They ain’t my friends and ain’t here to help me. My only friend here is the fifth.”

“Good, good.” Dad sighed in relief.

Soon after, our lawyer Mr. Lenards arrived and they transported us to an interrogation room.

“Please, my daughter is not a danger to anyone.” Dad pleaded as they cuffed me tightly behind my back, not that I couldn’t easily escape.

“I think her cell neighbors would like beg to differ.” The officer, a fat man with a bad mustache said.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the detective and lawyer going back and forth, sometimes the lawyer would feed me lines. After a few hours the interrogation ended and I was sent back to my cell to await my plea hearing in the morning.

***

“Penelope Henry.” A guard barked out in the middle of the night, waking me up. I opened my eyes and saw pornstache again.

“What is it?” I groaned.

“Get up. You have a visitor.” He said sternly.

“At this hour?”

“Yes, now get up and put your hands through the door.”

I got up and put my hands through the door as he’d asked. He cuffed me before opening the door and pushed me forward, a baton at my back while one of his fellow officer held a shotgun raised and ready to fire.

“Move!” Mustache said, pushing the baton into my kidney. His voice trembled, his hands were unsteady. I was Fifteen years old, five feet one inch , a hundred and ten pounds and they were terrified.

They pushed me forward to the interrogation room and I complied, I had no reasons not to. The Room was dark, but I could see a silhouette inside by the window.

“Thank you officer, I’ll handle it from now.” The figure said in a feminine but commandeering voice.

The officers closed the door, leaving me with the strange woman in the dark, only a little light coming through the window. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see she was wearing slender body armor, her face was covered by a scarf.

“You’ve made quite a spectacle.” She said.

“T’was my intention.” I said, stepping up my accent. “Put the fear of the almighty in ‘em.”

“Cute.” She said. I could see it, but I had a feeling she rolled her eyes. “The state doesn’t look kindly to vigilantism, especially not when it makes their own men seem incompetent. The 6th Street Saints who plagued the city for months taken down by one measly teenage girl.”

“Someone had to do it.” I answered. “Couldn’t let ‘em get away with everything they’d done. But now, I reckon this ain’t all legal, cause I don’t see my attorney here.”

“I’m not with the prosecution, now, if you don’t want to hear me out and have a chat then, I’ll leave and you can go back to your cell.”

“Alright, then, let’s talk.”

“Sit down.” I didn’t argue and the woman walked to the door’s side, flicking on the lights. I finally had a better view of her. Short brown hair poked out of the scarf and goggles hiding her face. The skin of her exposed fingertips was pale.

“You’re Partisan of the Legion. Enhanced agility, dexterity, danger sense and expert marksman.” I said, remembering her statistics like it had been yesterday.

“That I am. But we’re not here to talk about me, we’re here because of you.” She said. She opened a box on the table and took out two revolvers; one black and one white, both with engraved words in gold along their barrels; justice and vigilance. “Where did you get those?”

“Made ‘em.” I said.

“I’ve seen your website, Pretty Penny’s Armory.” Partisan said, examining Vigilance. “Impressive work, but this is definitely something else.”

PPA’s was my way of getting some pocket money; custom order firearms modifications, you could say I had a talent for it.

“I’m a multitalented gal.” I said with a grin.

“You’re a hypertech mutant.” Partisan answered. “This isn’t skill, this is you altering physical properties of the world around you to enhance objects like these revolver, negating recoil, enhancing power, and nullifying the effect of wind on the projectile.”

“Guilty as charged.” I answered. “‘Course, I reckon ‘em girls could beat any professional made revolver even when my juju fades.”

She let out a ‘uh.’

“Now, Ma’am, I reckon you ain’t here to place an order, so why don’t we get on to the point of your oddly timed visit.”

“That you are right on.” She said. “As I said, you’re in big trouble. Do you know how much time two dozen aggravated assault charges can land you in if you are judged as an adult?”

“Two to twenty years apiece.” I answered. “So forty-eight to four-hundred and eighty years.” I answered, another mutation of mine was exceptional memory. “I looked it up.” I said.

“I think you see the crap you’re in then.”

“Maybe the judge will like my personality.” I answered.

“Judge Hunt is not the most progressive judge when it comes to parahumans.” She said. “I could help you.”

“And why would you do that?”

“We’ve all made mistakes. But first I need you to do me a favor.”

“What would that be? I’m quite talented modifying glocks.”

“Funny.” She answered flatly. “Tell me everything.”

“Well ma’am, that’d take a while.”

“I’m here all night. Now, why don’t you start at the beginning?”

Another New Life: Part I

Another New Life

Part I

September 5th 2016

I don’t think Charlie liked me much. I tried my best not to bother her, but she still seemed to hate me.

I kept my eyes down as I put the stuff Ian gave me in his car. I only looked up at Ian when he spoke.”I have to welcome the new student, Kioshi, you can join the crowd of students, you’ll be assigned to a class. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“And if you need something, call me okay?”

“I will.” I lied, giving him a grateful smile.

The car ride to Ravenhold was quiet but short.

“Here we are, your new home.” Ian announced as we exited the car, “Charlie will be staying there too from now on, but I checked the roster, you aren’t in the same class. Kioshi, your house will be just to the right of the entrance. Charlie, yours is right past the parking lot. I hope you’ll get along with your classmates.”

Charlie sighed, “Yes dad.”

“Thank you.” I muttered, my heart loud in my chest. More change…

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, dad.”

I tried to take in Ravenhold Academy but everywhere I looked there was more to see. I don’t belong here.

“Kioshi?” Ian asked, coming closer, “Will you be alright?”

I jumped at his question, then nodded.

“Well, you have my phone number, and I live right next door. Valeria Contreras will be your homeroom teacher, you can also go to her if you need help. Don’t worry, she’s been briefed on your condition and she won’t judge you.”

I nodded to show I understood.

Ian looked back toward the gate as cars and buses arrived at the parking lot. “Looks like the other students are early. Ready to go join them?”

I shook my head, then sighed and nodded.

I wandered towards where the students gathered, leaving behind the bag of clothes Ian had bought me and taking only the backpack of my things Nana and Aaron brought me.

I kept to the back of the crowd of new students, keeping far enough away that no one would touch me.

“Students,” A loud, booming voice quieted most of the talking students. I looked up to see Ian standing in front of the crowd in his Raven hero costume.“Let me welcome you to Ravenhold academy. I know you’ve come from far and wide to be here and the journey’s been long and tiring so I won’t hold you for long. Each of you have been selected by the Legion; because we think that you’re worthy, that you have the heart to be a hero, because you want to make the world a better place or because you needed a second chance to become better.” Better…  The word sat heavy in my empty stomach. “Whatever the reason, Ravenhold welcomes you as its first year class of two thousand sixteen. Over the next four years we’ll make heroes out of you, it’ll be hard, it’ll be dangerous, but I know you will persevere. And for those who truly shine; both in deed and character there will be a place for you in the Legion.”

A group of men stepped forward and one of them handed Ian something. “When I call your name, you will go to your assigned guide.”

I went where I was told to go and put the name tag they gave me on my shirt.

“Please follow your guides, they will show you around.”

Once again I kept to the back of the group and kept my eyes on the floor as we walked. My legs ached and my throat burned. I wanted water but didn’t dare ask for any. I kept my coughs as quiet as I could.

We stopped in a huge house. Our guide told us the rules before leaving us alone. The group all left in different directions through the house. I turned invisible and teleported in front of the room guide. I found my name and the room number next to it. I teleported up the steps, finding my room quickly, hiding from everyone else. I hooked my backpack on the frame of one of the beds and crawled onto it. I leaned against the wall and pulled my legs close to my chest, waiting.

The Valkyrie’s Daughters: Part XI

The Valkyrie’s Daughters

Part XI: Catching up

Things happened and were said, but my brain wasn’t there. Slowly sound started making words again and words became sentences.

“So, what is everyone doing after classes today?” Someone asked, I think it was Avery. My brain wasn’t good at telling which voice belonged to who.

“I don’t know. haven’t thought about it.” Was all I answered, my octopus still in my mouth, I tried to think of anything, but my mind was blank.

“I don’t know either. I wanted to get to know more of our classmates though.” Riley was easier, they were the british one.

Then I lost track again. I heard the words but not the person.

“Me too. Probably I’ll avoid that Nine person though.” “I don’t know either. I wanted to get to know more of our classmates though.” “Nine?” “The one Drew said was rude.” “What did he do?” “Yeah. From what I saw you’d be good to avoid him. To say he’s a creep would be an understatement.” “But I am excited for today.”

I had no idea what to say anymore…

“I’m really excited to have more classes. They should be fun. Just… maybe not the fighting ones.” It was Avery,

That one I knew. “I don’t think we have combat today.” I said. “Maybe you can check the schedule on your tablet?”

I saw Riley looking at theirs for a moment.

“Oh, good. I don’t like combat. Why can’t I be a sidekick or something?” Avery said.

“There’s been psychic heroes; like Indigo or Esper. Legion too.” I said. “You can help with the psychic villains, there’s a lot of those.”

“But I don’t want to fight.” Avery said, that was good, being a cape had lots of fighting… “I would have to hurt people and that’s just not good. I get that you might need to, but I don’t want to be the one that does it. I’d rather just be someone who helps behind the scenes, you know?”

“I’m not big on combat either, but I really want to be able to help people with my powers. I’m sure there’s something you could do that doesn’t involve combat.” Drew said. “Michelle’s right! You can be a hero without having to physically fight.”

“Excuse me y’all. I have to uh go do something real quick.” Riley said.

“Okay?” I mumbled as they teleported away. I blinked and looked at the others. “Are they okay?” I couldn’t tell…

“I don’t think so. Any idea where they would have gone?” Drew asked.

I didn’t. This morning was just very confusing…  “Their room?” Was all I could think of.

“Maybe. Let’s check.” She said. “Do you think I said something wrong?”

“I don’t know. They looked at their tablet before leaving, maybe that was it?” It was dumb but it was all I could think off…

“I hear them talking to Teddy. Sounds like it’s around the bathroom. Wanna go see if they’re there?” Avery said.

“Yeah sure. Lead the way.” Drew said.

“Sure, follow me. I hope they’re okay.” Avery answered.

I followed quietly, maybe Riley just needed to go potty… Did they go potty with Teddy? Did Teddy needed to go too? Did— This wasn’t helpful thinking. Riley came out of the bathroom, I could hear flushing. Maybe they just did need to use the bathroom…

“Hey! Are you okay? We were worried about you.” Drew asked.

“Uh, yeah…” Riley answered, looking away, I looked where they looked and saw nothing.

“Are you sure?” I asked, hopefully they could tell us, because I had no idea… People are hard to understand… At least with papa and mama knew to tell me what they were feeling… It’s odd how allistics can just tell how people feel…

“Completely fine, just feeling a little nauseous is all.” Riley said.

I frowned, nausea wasn’t good… “Oh okay. Are you going to be okay for classes?”

They showed me their thumb and I blinked. Oh wait, that was a thumbs up. Maybe I needed a break from classes…

“Alright… if you need anything were here. You can tell us if anything’s wrong.” Drew said, putting a hand on them even though Riley said they were fine.

“I’m fine now, really.” Riley said.

“Okay…” Drew said. “What time do classes start again?”

“Eight. We have time for breakfast.” I answered. Breakfast was just what I needed, maybe then I could think…

“Good. I’m hungry.” Avery said. “Maybe they have chicken nuggets for breakfast. Or bananas. Ooh, maybe there’s smoothies!”

They all started talking about breakfast and I got lost in the words, they become nothing but noise…

***

We got breakfast, I got some sausages with toasts, which I ate away from the others, I needed some time with less words, let my brain get better at processing everything. I was almost done with my breakfast and making my brain work again when Ike came by.

“Ike?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“Did I do something wrong yesterday?” I asked. “You got all quiet.”

“Nothing….I… I probably should’ve just said but I didn’t bring any swim stuff and I get self-conscious of my chest… I mentioned top surgery to my mum once and her reaction was so bad I just kinda ignore it.” I blinked… That was a lot of words. It took me a moment to understand all of them.

“You could have kept your shirt on.” Was all I thought about.

“I can’t swim with my binder on.” Ike explained

“And I know if I had to remove it, you would’ve been totally fine and looked the other way, but I just felt embarrassed about having to strip off on the beach like that,” Ike rambled before sighing. “Sorry, I should’ve just told you all of this then, but I was feeling really good helping someone learn and doing something I enjoyed. I thought if I tried to swim it would undo all of that,” they sighed again.

I blinked. That was a lot of words. I think I understood most of them. Maybe. “Binder don’t sound fun.” I said.

Ike laughed, “They’re not. I’m worried about combat class with it to be honest.”

Michelle frowns. “I don’t think you’re supposed to do that.”

“Probably not, but I really don’t like seeing my chest. My ‘girl’ days are far and inbetween,” they laughed. “Are you looking forward to classes?” they asked.

“I always wanted to be a hero, but I didn’t have powers before, I kind of feel sad that Valkyra died she was someone I really adored and worshipped but now I have her powers and I want to make her proud.” Michelle says, quite rapidly.

“I’m sure you will,” Ike smiled. “I was used to feeling different, now I really am and-” they paused mid-speech, I think they were making a face. Odd. “Do you think people deserve second chances? Or… fourths?”

“I don’t know.” I said.

Ike gnawed their lower lip, mom didn’t like when I did that. “I don’t know either.” they sigh. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“I need to get my makeup done.” I said, getting up. I took a few steps before stopping. I always forgot goodbyes, Mom always told me it was important. “Bye Ike.”

“Bye.” Ike said.

I went into the bathroom and took out my makeup kit. I only had thirty minutes left… This was going to be a challenge… I’d done make up for many years but I’d never gotten good at it, I didn’t have the dexterity for it.

“Hi Michelle!” Drew said coming up to me. Unlike me, her makeup was flawless, so pretty… I was kind of jealous.

I wiped away my third attempt at eyeliner, it looked like a toddler had done it. “Hey…” I mumbled.

“What’s up? You seem frustrated.”

“It’s so hard.”

She came up to me and put her own makeup bag on the counter. “Here, need help?”

“I’ve been doing it for years but I never get better.”

“It’s okay. I’m pretty good at it now, but that’s only because I’ve practiced a lot. You’ll get better.” She said, I wanted to tell her I had practiced so much… “What are you going for? Like, do you want it to look dramatic or more natural?”

“Natural.” I said. “I do too, but I’m just so clumsy.”

“It’s okay, I’ll help if you want. Here,” she pulled out an eyeshadow palette and a brush from her bag. “Close your eyes.”

I did as she asked and she got to work. “Thank you. I wish I was as good as you, you’re really pretty.”

“Thank you. You’re rather cute yourself.” My cheeks got very warm. Was I pretty? I never really thought I was… I always thought my nose and lips were too big, I didn’t have pretty eye color… I was too dark skinned for Germany…

I opened my eyes and saw what she’d done. The eyeliner was sharp and perfectly applied, the eyeshadow made my eyes pop out.”It’s amazing!” I mumbled.

“It’s nothing, really.” She took out a tub of lipstick and I parted my lips so she could apply it. “Perfect.” She said once she was done. My lips were now a nice dark red that just looked so pretty without standing out too much.

“It really is perfect!” I big smile formed on my lips. “Can I give you a hug?”

“Of course.”

She opened her arms and I hugged them, with both my hands and my wings, tightly wrapped around her. She hugged back very tight, that was odd.

“Is everything alright?” I whispered, still keeping her in my arms.

“Just thinking about my dad. I really loved him, and I miss him every day. But you know…” She squeezed even harder. “I think I might just be alright now.” She answered in a low tone.

We let go and I saw her wipe her eyes.  “Yeah. I’m fine.” She said, grabbing her bag. “Come on, let’s see if we can go find the others.” She pat me on the shoulder. I remembered hearing that when people are honest they touch you… or something like that.

So I nodded and followed her out.

Kioshi Origins 3

July 29th 2016- Evening

I crouched, resting my chin on the crib railing and staring down at the sleeping Hikari. She made a weird, uncomfortable face and began to squirm. I stood up from my crouch, reaching down into the crib to pick her up.

“Kioshi! Stop picking her up everytime she makes a weird face! Babies make weird faces!” Mother shooed my hands away from Hikari, “She’s going to get to the point that she can’t sleep without being held if you keep coddling her!”

I backed away, “But-”

“No but’s. It’s time you headed out anyway!’

“Right.” I went invisible and teleported out of the house. With a brief pause to crack my neck, I started jogging towards the target…

I teleported through the window of the darkened jewelry store, still keeping invisible as I went between the cases, dumping all the jewelry I could into my backpack. It was quick. Less than 10 minutes.

And it fell apart even quicker.

I teleported out of the store and was hit with lights, shocking me out of invisibility for a second, “Hands up!” I turned invisible again but something exploded by my feet and another on my shoulder.

I needed to get out of there.

But the lights blinded me, I couldn’t see where it was safe to teleport to.

I tried to sneak away, past the lights, so I could get out of there. There were more shouts but my heart was beating too loud to make out the words…

And then there was a hand on my arm, my knees on the ground, a hand on the back of my head, forcing my head into the pavement…

… into the pillow, a hot hand on my hip, pulling my hips up, reaching for my…

“No!” I screamed, bringing my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around my head.

Then I felt the rough material of my shirt… I slowly pulled my arms away from my head and opened my eyes.

I sat in a small, dark room with two men staring at me from across a metal table. There were strange looking cuffs on my wrists and my head felt heavy. I stared at the door. I didn’t know if the other side was safe but it was my only chance. I tried to teleport… but nothing happened. More than nothing. It felt like something was missing.

“What’s your name, kid?” One of the men asked.

I continued to stare at the door, trying to teleport. Mother told me to never talk to cops.

They continued to ask questions while I stared quietly. Eventually they gave up, leaving me alone. My head felt strange and uncomfortable and it was all I could focus on in the silence. Until someone else walked in.

I glanced up at the man in the black outfit and bird mask. I looked down at my hands, tugging at the cuffs, wondering if they were why I couldn’t teleport.

“You have quite the track record, kid.”

Don’t talk to cops or heroes…

“You’ve gotten quite talented at it too.” The man laughed, then added, “reminds me of someone.”

Talented? Me? My ears twitched at the thought.

“You have no legal ID’s, no fingerprints, no DNA records except from other crime scenes, CCTV visual identification software have picked up nothing on you before past few months. All we know about you is that you’re a Syndicate chimera. Where did you escape from? A lab…? A fighting ring…? A sex slavery operation…?”

The word sex sent a violent shiver up my spine.

“Nothing to say?” The man asked, putting his hands down on the table.

Does shaking my head count as talking? I decided it didn’t and shook my head.

The man sighed, “You’ll be happy to hear that considering your situation, the DA will offer you a plea deal; Four years probation, most likely at the chimera refuge. If you refuse it, it’s a coin flip. Lockland until you come of age or as you aren’t an American citizen, deportation.” He paused briefly, then continued, “Shame though, you’re talented, you could use those gifts for something better, make something out of you… but clearly, cooperation isn’t in you.” The man started to walk away, slowly.

Better? Like what? What could I possibly be good for besides sex and stealing?

“Wait.” I said, before I could stop myself, looking at the man as he paused without turning around, “Yes?” he asked, not even looking back at me.

“What… is something better?” I asked, a strange, sort of hopeful feeling in my chest.

“Well if you don’t feel like living among other chimeras in a tropical paradise, we could put you to use, send you to Ravenhold in a month’s time, make a hero out of you. Of course that’s provided you plead guilty and accept the plea deal.”

“A hero..” Aaron’s words were stuck in my head, ‘a hero, like I always wanted to be…’ I looked him in the eye when he turned around and nodded.

“Are you saying you’d like that?” I nodded, “I’ll make some calls then. Your court-appointed lawyer will be here within the hour to discuss your options. You should see a judge for your plea hearing by morning.”

He took a step away then paused and looked back, “Before I go, what’s your name, kid?”

I’m not supposed to talk to cops and heroes but what if I could become a hero…? “…Kioshi.”

“I’ll see you at the hearing, Kioshi.”

July 30th- Morning

Once the courtroom cleared and I had plead guilty, the man from the interrogation room, the hero Raven, walked up to me, “You made a good choice, kid.”

I nodded, unsure how else to respond to the odd praise.

“Come with me,” Raven said, pointing to the door with his chin. I nodded and followed him as he led me to the men’s bathroom. He moved quickly, avoiding people. Once we were in the bathroom he pulled out a bag and handed it to me, “Here’s some clothes, get changed.” He entered a stall.

I got dressed quickly in the hoodie and jeans in the bag, still in the open bathroom.

Raven came out of the stall, dressed in business clothes and no mask. “There’s a month before Ravenhold begins, you’ll be staying with me. I thought it’d be better than sending you to Lockland to wait.”

He’s letting me stay in his home? His personal home? “Thank you.”

“I have a car parked out back. Oh, call me Ian.”

I nodded and followed him out of the bathroom and out of the court house. A guard let us out through a back entrance. He headed for a blue SUV. “You’ll get to meet my daughter, my son, and my dog once we get there. It’s a long drive, though, I warn you.”

I nodded, getting into the passenger seat. Ian drove the car out of the parking lot before stopping. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, handing it to me, “Is there anyone you want to call?”

I took the phone but kept it in my lap, staring down at it. I wanna talk to Nana and Aaron but… “You won’t know where it is?” I don’t want to get the Phantoms caught.

“Have you ever heard of the gentleman’s agreement?” He asked, his tone serious.

I shook my head.

“Now, law enforcement doesn’t give a crap, but it’s an unwritten rule of being a cape; don’t kill people, don’t fuck with someone’s civilian identity,” Ian explained. “It goes both ways for villains and heroes, sure not everyone follows it, but those who break the agreement can expect hell to pay. So your friends, until they put on their capes, we’re not touching.”

We don’t wear capes? I didn’t correct him, instead I dialed the Phantom’s house number, hoping someone would pick up…

“Hello?”

“Nana,” I whispered.

“Kioshi?” She asked, I could hear Hikari fussing in the background.

“Yeah…”

“Are you okay? Where are you? How are you calling me?”

“I’m fine, not sure, and the Raven let me borrow his phone.”

There was a pause, the only sound coming through the phone being Hikari’s half cries. Then Nana whispered, “…Oh…” I heard her pull in a deep breath, “Are you coming back?”

I held the phone tighter and pulled my knees up to my chest. “No… I’m going to a place called Ravenhold Academy.”

“I’ll wake Reese up! We’ll find you and come get you!”

“No, no!… I think… I want to go.”

Nana didn’t respond for a while. I waited for her as she hushed Hikari. It was a long time before she spoke again. “We will still come see you, bring you your things… make sure this is what you want.”

Nana hung up before I could say anything in response. I glanced nervously at Ian, worried he’d heard but he kept his eyes on the road and nothing in his expression changed. I put his phone down in the cup holder between us and turned to stare out the window, pulling my knees into my chin.

“We’re here, kid.” I woke up to a somewhat familiar voice.

“Who’s that?” A less familiar voice asked. My head hurt, I didn’t want to open my eyes at all.

“He’s named Kioshi, I’m taking care of him for a few weeks before he’s set to enter Ravenhold.” A hand gripped my shoulder, sending an uncomfortable feeling down my back. I threw his hand off me, pushing away from the door, my seatbelt stopping me from getting too far.

“Hey, it’s just me.” Ian said softly, backing away. “We’re here.”

I glanced around the space behind him. A short girl stood behind him, a large, fluffy dog at her heels. And behind her stretched a large, beautiful, expensive house. I unbuckled the seatbelt and slide out of the car.

“Let’s get you upstairs and settled into the guest room… Charlie, can you get Kioshi something to eat, I’m sure he’s starving.”

“Alright.” The girl answered, uninterested.

I followed Ian through his home, up the stairs, pulling the hood of the hoodie he gave me tighter around my face. Eventually we reached a room with light blue walls and furniture that looked fancier than any I’ve ever seen. “This will be your room, I hope it’s alright?”

It’s too good… Why would he give me such a nice room? The last time I was in a room this nice…

I swallowed down my memories and suspicions and nodded at Ian.

“Alright, one last thing. Can you give me your hands?”

Why? Why? WHY? I held my hands against my chest and shook my head.

“Relax kid, I’m just going to remove those cuffs,” Ian held his hands up.

I slowly held my hands out to him. He removed the cuffs and my head finally felt right again. “There you go.”

“Oh and I know what you’re thinking. You can try to escape, you might even make it back. But once you do that, it’s over. You’re a fugitive, the day you get caught again, if you’re lucky they’ll send you to Lockland to finish your sentence. If not, maybe you’re judged as an adult or they increase your sentence.” His voice wasn’t threatening, just matter-of-fact, “But you stay here and in a few years you walk free, your criminal records are wiped and you can do whatever you want, you can be a hero or retire. Either way, people pay good money to hire Ravenhold graduates, even if it’s just to teleport around, delivering parcels. Just think about it before you make a decision.”

I held my hands against my chest, “Thank you… I won’t run..”

He smiled, “Alright, get some rest kid.”

The short girl entered the room, carrying a menu. “Fridge’s empty. Want to order something?”

Feeling the emptiness in my stomach, I nodded.

July 30th- Evening

When it got dark outside and the house fell silent, I moved through it invisibly, pulling useless decorations that looked expensive into a bag. As many as I could fit, until it was almost too heavy to lift.

Then I teleported out of Ian’s home and into the front driveway, I did a dozen or so small teleportations until I was a couple of miles away.

When I felt that  I was far enough away, I curled up around the bag of goods on the side of the road and waited. After about 20 minutes a pair of headlights blinded me as a car pulled onto the shoulder. Nana fell out of the backseat and ran towards me. I had hardly stood up when she threw her arms around me. I hugged her back as I watched Aaron slowly come out through the passenger door.

When Nana let me go I bent down to pick up the bag and place it in her hands. “I got the jewelry taken from me but that might make up for it.”

Nana hugged the bag to her stomach and leaned forward. “You really aren’t coming back? Are you sure? I don’t trust this.”

Aaron came up beside Nana and frowned down at me, “I agree with her… This seems fishy…”

“I think Ian is a good person…” I focused on Aaron. “If I stay there I have the chance to be a hero… and if I can than you can.”

“You’re going to Ravenhold Academy?” Aaron whispered, his eyebrows pulling together.

I nodded, “You should join me when you can.”

Aaron looked away, “I- I don’t know…”

“If anything bad happens, try and call us. We’ll come get you.” Nana said, still looking worried and unconvinced.

I nodded, “I should get back before they notice.” I gave Nana another hug, the bag smashing between us as she hugged me back with one arm.

“Aaron, can I have a hug?”

I don’t know why I asked, he just looked so confused and far off and it was the only thing I could think of when I saw his face over Nana’s shoulder.

“You know that’s dangerous! My powers-”

I let go of Nana, “That’s only a problem is it’s skin to skin, right?”

“Yeah, but-”

“You won’t hurt me.”

Aaron bit his bottom lip as I pulled away from Nana and wrapped my arms around his waist, laying my head on his chest. After a few strong beats of his heart, he briefly and gently hugged me back. When he let me go he did so carefully. “You should get back.” He turned and walked back to the car, his ears red.

“Please don’t die on me.” Nana muttered, concern in her eyes.

“I promise I won’t.”

I waved at Reese in the driver’s seat as Nana climbed back into the car. I couldn’t see if he waved back.

July 30th- Night

I teleported back into Ian’s home, near to the base of the stairs. Something came towards my face, landing by my feet, “You’ve got guts coming back.” the girl, Charlie, barked.

Startled, I turned invisible. She leapt forward to tackle me and I teleported partly up the steps to avoid her.

“Oh no, you’re not getting away like this!” She leapt for me again, catching my ankles. I fell, my shoulders hitting the stair. But the pain felt strange and muted and I couldn’t feel her hands anymore. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t move I was being held down, I was-

“Charlie, let him go.”

“He stole from us!”

“Charlie, honey, we’re billionaires, a few cluttering trinkets aren’t going to be missed. Come on, let him go.”

Charlie mutters something I can’t hear and then there aren’t any hands on me anymore. My head felt clearer.

“Sorry.” I whispered, not moving but ready to run.

“It’s alright. I hated that ivory Buddha.” Ian said, walking down the stairs to me and holding out his hand. “Come on kid, it’s late, better get you to bed.

I stood up on my own, not taking his hand and started walking towards the guest room.

Once I was back in the guest room Ian asked, “Did you do everything you needed to do?”

Is he mad? Is he not going to let me go to Ravenhold now? Is he going to send me to jail? I nodded.

“This time, I can overlook it. But it can’t happen again. Okay?”

No yelling? No hitting? I nodded again and whispered, “Sorry.”

“It’s alright. Get some sleep. If you need something, come and ask.” The tone of his last word was commanding and I felt myself nodding to his back as he left.

Kioshi Origins 2

January 13th 2016 – Evening

I stared at the piece of paper that had fallen to the floor when I opened Nana and my bedroom door. I recognized a few of the letters but not much more. Aaron came out of the room across the hall, yawning. He smiled and came towards me when he saw me, “Hey, Kioshi! Sleep well?”

I nodded, my mouth dry.

He glanced down at the paper in my hands, “What’s that say?”

I shrugged. I licked my lips in order to p

ush the words through them, “I can’t read…” My cheeks grew hot and I looked away.

“Oh… Can I see it?” he asked. I handed him the paper, not looking up. “Oh! It’s a note from Mother. She wants you and Nana to meet her in the backyard when you wake up.” He handed the paper back to me. I glanced up, accidentally meeting his kind eyes. My ears burned as I turned to go back into my room to wake Nana and get dressed.

When I left the room again, Nana following behind me, Aaron was still waiting. “I want to see what she wants… If that’s okay with you,” he smiled brightly at us. I nodded, looking away and hurrying down the stairs.

Mother greeted us with her hands on her hips when we stepped into the yard. “How long were you planning to sleep?!” Twilight fell around us so she kept her voice quiet but it was still strong enough to shake me. Dead grass crunched beneath my feet. A tall fence surrounded us, blocking the outside from view.

Nana thumped her barefoot, crossing her arms over her chest.

Reese stepped out from behind Mother, grinning arrogantly, “It’s about time the two of you pulled your weight around here.”

“Nana is pregnant!” Aaron’s indignant voice sounded from behind me.

“We won’t make her work when she is closer to her due date,  but we can’t keep taking care of them for free.”

“But-”

“I want to help!” I spoke up, cutting Aaron off. I glanced over to see his look of concern. I repeated, quieter, for him. “I want to help.”

Mother clapped her hands together, “Excellent! Now come closer, let me teach you everything you need to know about the world.

February 23rd 2016 – Morning

“Damn Kioshi! You’re getting better at lockpicking than I am!” Reese laughed, following me into the Phantom’s home. He dropped his arm around my shoulders…

… “Kioshi? You okay?”

I blinked, my eyes refocusing on a gloved hand waving in front of my face.

I glanced around, my head feeling full of cotton. I was sure I had just walked through the front door with Reese but I was in the upstairs lounge with Reese nowhere in sight.

“Kioshi?” Aaron leaned closer, peering into my face, worry in his eyes.

I nodded slowly.

“Okay…” He drew out the last syllable, not looking convinced. He straightened up and glanced away, rubbing the back of his neck, his cheek red. “So uh, a while ago you said you couldn’t read and since you seem to have some free time finally I was wondering if you maybe wanted me to read to you because I was about to sit down and reread my favorite book and-”

I nodded when he paused to take a breath. He grinned, “Alright!”

April 3oth 2016 – Morning

Aaron never took off his gloves. Even as spring settled in and it grew warmer he still kept all his skin except his head covered.

His voice was soft and deep and soothing as he read to me. I curled up in a holey bean bag chair, watching through heavy eyelids as he sat on an old worn armchair, his eyes flicking back and forth across the page. His smooth voice halted. He struggled to turn the page with his gloves on.

“Are you that cold?” I asked.

He looked up at me, “Cold?” his eyebrows knit together. He looked down at his hands for a moment then his eyes widened, “Oh you think-” he laughed nervously, “I guess you would think that. This…” he held his hands up. “… is because of my powers. I suck the life out of everything I touch.” He clenched his fists, his eyebrows coming together and his lips trembling slightly. “I was so excited when I first let out an energy beam, I didn’t even notice that the dog that bit me was dead. I thought it was my chance to be a hero like I always wanted.” He stood up. I winced at the sound of the book in his lap hitting the ground. “But someone who killed his mom when she was bandaging his leg can’t be a hero! Someone who kills anything they touch can’t be a hero!” Aaron began to pace, filling me with his nervous energy. I got up, wanting to do something, anything to help. But I had no idea how to help. “I’m lucky Mother and the Phantoms took me in-” Aaron stopped his pacing and wrapped his arms around his body, “there’s no way anyone else would…” His voice was hollow.

I picked up the book and carefully unbent each page before holding it out to him. “I’m sorry about that I’ll get back to the story,” he said, forcing a smile and reaching for the book. He took the book and collapsed back into the armchair. “Please sit back down, I’ll read some more.”

Instead of curling back up  in my bean bag chair I stood in front of Aaron, taking one of his hands in both of mine and pulling it up to touch the back of his hand to my forehead, “Kioshi, what-”

“I want to help but I don’t know how.” My voice sounded louder than I wanted it to. “Tell me how I can be useful to you.”

Through my grip on his hand, I could feel the tension leave his shoulders. “Oh Kioshi, you don’t have to be useful to me, you’re my friend… but I appreciate it.” He pulled his hand out of mine. When I looked up his head was already down, searching for our spot in the story, “Let’s just get back to reading.”

July 7th 2016 – Afternoon

I covered my ears, my fingernails digging into my temples and my eyes screwed shut. I didn’t want to hear Nana scream or see her writhe in pain.

The baby is coming.

That’s what Mother and Reese kept saying over and over and over again. I didn’t know why that had to hurt Nana. I don’t think I like this baby very much.

I wanted to help but Mother didn’t want us in the room. She ordered us upstairs and for a while I obeyed with Aaron and Reese. But when Nana called out my name I couldn’t sit around anymore. I teleported downstairs and Mother begrudgingly let me give my hand to Nana to squeeze.

I think it hurt…

It took hours before Mother was holding an ugly, squirming, screaming thing. Nana’s hand slipped out of mine, falling onto her chest.

For a few seconds there was something almost like calm.

Then fear filled Mother’s face. She pushed the baby, now wrapped in an old towel into my arms and called loudly, “Reese! Call Mia and tell her Nana’s bleeding a lot!” Then Mother turned to me, “Sit on the couch and watch the baby.”

I did as I was told. I didn’t look at Nana’s pale, sweaty face. Instead I glared down at the ugly thing that caused Nana so much pain. “If she dies,” I whispered to it, “I will kill you.”

Surprisingly, the baby stopped crying when I spoke to it…

I wanted it to start crying again. Without it’s sound the minutes of nothing went by so slowly.

Eventually a woman with brown skin and curly hair arrived to help Nana…

… I awoke to Mother pulling the baby out of my arms. “Nana?” I asked, glancing around.

“She’s in your room… She’ll be fine-” I pushed past Mother, standing up and teleporting back upstairs.

Nana laid in our bed, her face still pale and sweaty but as I got closer I could see that her breathing was even. With a sigh of relief, I slipped into bed next to her. I put a hand on her neck to feel her warmth as I drifted off to sleep.

The Valkyrie’s Daughters: Part X

The Valkyrie’s Daughters

Part X: Overwhelming Friendship

By the time we went home, I had a feeling I had done something wrong. Ike had just gotten quiet and withdrawn, but I couldn’t think of why… They wished me a good night and we went our separate way… I wasn’t tired yet to I went out for flight practice. I was getting better.

After a short night of sleep, I came out of my room still in my pajama. I stretched only for Avery to run up to me.

“Michelle! Hey, I was just wandering and it’s great that you’re here because I’m really bored and… wait, did you just wake up? I’ve been awake for over an hour. I didn’t sleep very well.” They said really quickly. I blinked and they sighed. “My hearing forgot to turn off and everything was loud.”

“I did. That doesn’t sound good, are you going to be okay for class today?” I said, frowning. “I stayed out late yesterday with Ike, then went to practice flying again.”

“I’ll be fine. I remembered to turn off my hearing now and I didn’t even hear you coming! Wait, you went fishing right? How was that?”

“It was so fun, I caught a huge fish and it was sooo good.”

“Ooh, that sounds cool! I don’t really like fish unless it’s breaded. Otherwise it’s slimy. Do you wanna go back to my room and talk for a bit in there before we have to go eat? I don’t wanna talk to new people.”

I took a second or two to process all that that before nodding. “Sure, it’s upstairs?”

“Yeah, follow me.”

I did. “I think I did something wrong with Ike…” I said as we reached the stairs.

“What happened?” They asked, turning to look at me, but just like me, Avery didn’t do eye contact, instead looking at my chin.

“I don’t know, we had a good time and then they just started playing on their tablet and kind of ignoring me… All after I asked them if they wanted to swim with me.”

“Maybe they’re self-conscious about their body? I know I don’t like swimming sometimes if I feel particularly bad about mine. Or they had a bad experience with swimming. You just gotta ask them, even if you’re sure that you messed up.” They sighed. “I had to do that once. I didn’t like it but it happens.”

“Maybe you’re right. I should talk to them later.”

“Yeah. Just don’t force them to tell you or you might push them away.” I nodded and we went up.  “Well, here’s my room. As you can see, it’s just like every other room.”

“Cool. I haven’t been upstairs yet.” I said. I looked around and saw Drew on her bed. I waved at her. “Hey.”

“Oh, look Drew’s back here! What’s up?” Avery said.

“Hey Avery! Hey Michelle!”Drew said, waving back. “Have you been by the kitchen? Watch out, There’s a massive creep in there.”

“Who was it?” I asked frowning.

“I think his name is Nine or something?” She answered, her arms wrapped around her torso. “I’m sure you’ve seen him, he has green hair and horns. Anyway he was being really creepy toward this guy Ryland about his friend, saying how he was ‘delicious’ and other shit. I left before it got physical. I didn’t want to get caught up in a fight.”

“That’s gross.” I said. “And I’m kind of hungry now…”

“I’m kinda hungry too, all I had was some juice.” Drew said. “We still have some cookies left over from last night. Want some?”

“Oh, do we still have oatmeal?” Avery asked. “Michelle, you gotta try them, they’re the best ones we made!”

“Yeah, we saved some just for you because you said they were your favorite.” Drew confirmed.

Right then, Riley appeared out of a portal right next to me. I froze. I hadn’t expected that…

“Good Morning!” They said.

“Riley! While I feel like I should be concerned that you can come and go from rooms whenever, I’m happy you’re here!” Avery said. “Want a hug?”

“I love hugs!” Riley said, Avery welcoming them into their arm.  “You give hugs that are almost as good as Michelle’s!” I blushed at the thought of my hugs being good.

“Hi Riley, want a cookie?” Drew asked.

Riley let go with one arm and picked a cookie from the plastic tub. “Y’all are great! Making biscuits last night was so fun we should make a regular thing of it!” They said, making me wish I’d been there.

With everyone in such a small room, I felt a little overwhelmed.

“Sorry that it’s so busy. I didn’t expect this to happen.” Avery said, coming out of Riley’s arms and coming to me.

“It’s fine, it’s fine.” I repeated, flapping my hands a little, focusing on the moment. “You said you still had cookies? Can I have one?”

“Yeah, here!” Drew held out the box to me. “You’ll probably like the oatmeal ones the best.”

I picked some of the oatmeal ones and popped one into my mouth. It was soft and chewy, just like I prefer them to be. “Those are good.”

“I made them! We have three types, they must be around here somewhere. Except I probably ate all of the chocolate chip oatmeal ones.”

Riley whispered to their shoulder and then sighed. “Sorry can Teddy have a biscuit? I told him they were yours and that he could have mine but he wants to try the oatmeal.”

I handed one of my cookies over to them. They picked it and brought it to their shoulder where it quickly disappeared in a shower of crumbs. I squinted my eyes and a darkish red blur on Riley’s shoulder. Was that Teddy?

“I think I can see Teddy… It’s kind of blurry.” I said.

Avery then came right into my field of view. “Michelle, I found the last chocolate chip one! Want it? I didn’t actually eat them all! I had a stomach ache yesterday after I tried to eat them all.”

I blinked and Drew laughed. “I told you so.”

I looked at Avery and then at the cookie they hand in their hand. It took a second for my brain to process it all and take the cookie. “Oh, thank you.”

“That must mean the wings are magic!” Riley said, bringing my attention back to them.

Wings? Magic? My brain was lagging behind, only remembering what I’d said to Riley about Teddy after a moment. “My sister says they are…” I mumbled. There was so much going on, it was getting really confusing… I popped my necklace into my mouth and started chewing, stimming always helped me focus.

“Sorry if I’m a bit much in the morning.” Riley said, I think to me, but I wasn’t sure of anything at the time. “I know not everyone is completely awake yet at this time.”

I felt the need to explain, people always thought I was weird. “I’m just not used to being with so much people at the same time.” I mumbled or tried to, my octopus still in my mouth.

“Teddy that’s rude!” Riley said out of nowhere.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“Okay…” I bit down on the octopus, everything was just getting so incomprehensible.

They continued talking and I lost track of everything. I liked my new friends, but I had a feeling everything was going to be confusing and overwhelming… I was used to only having Lina… Hopefully I’d get used to it soon…