Gunslinger Gal: Part III

Gunslinger Gal

Part III

The door to my new room was already open, hanging off about an inch out from the frame. That meant that my roommate Lumas was there, or that something was incredibly wrong.

What kind of name was Lumas? Definitely not one I’d heard before, maybe they were from another country. I pushed the door open and saw someone whom I presumed was them.

Lumas was standing before one of the bed, just sort of awkwardly staring at it. A giant tee-shirt about three sizes too big reached down to their knees and obscured their shape. It was old and worn, like most of their outfit. And with their hair was shaved to only an inch, I didn’t feel safe making any gender assumption.

I went to the other bed, dropping my bag which had Lumas jumps a little. “Howdy, Partner.” I said, tipping my hat.

“Howdy?” They stared at me, their expression vacant. Then they sighed. “That’s new. Hey.”

“I’m Penny Henry.” I said, grabbing some of my clothes and putting them in the drawers under the bet. The room was quite posh, with large captain-style beds. “What’s your name, Sweetheart?”

They tilted their head just a smidget. “No, its Lumas. Why would you think it’s sweetheart?” On their hand, little darks scales or shells fragments formed but they paid it no mind.

I just had to laugh, surely they were an interesting type. “Just a pet name, Lumas. We’ll be rooming together, so we ought to get along, don’t you say?”

They nodded slowly. “I guess. Still, most people who give me pet names tend to want something else.”

Something else? Lumas seemed sweet, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was odd about them, and I don’t mean them scales.

“All I want is a friend,” I said, “and perhaps a hand reaching taller shelves.” Lumas wasn’t the tallest folks around, but height had never been one of my blessings.

The plates on their hands faded. “I guess. I’m not that much taller than you, though.” Their gaze went down toward my revolvers. The plates came back, but their expression remained blank.

Darn it, what were they thinking? And what did those bits on their hand meant?

“I saw there happens to be pizza downstairs, are you hungry, Sweetheart?”

They shrugged lightly. “I’m fine,” they said, but I could hear their stomach growling.

“Are you alright, ’cause you don’t look mighty fine to me.”

Clearly, they weren’t the trusting type, I’d have to work on that.

They shook their head and sighed. “I’m fine. Just.. you said pizza?”

“That I did.”

They took of their backpack and put it down on the ground, a good feet or two from the bed. Was something wrong with their bed? They seemed fine to me.

“Fine. Let’s grab some then.”

I nodded and opened the door. “After you, sweetheart.”

Their hand scaled up again as they passed through the door. I wanted to ask, but I did not feel like Lumas would be the question answering type. Oh well, what was the harm in trying?

“I don’t meant to pry, but your hand is doing that thing quite often, might I say.”

They stopped, looked at their hand and then shook their head. “Can’t control it all that well. The weapon didn’t exactly come with instructions either.”

That wasn’t much of an answer, it was a weapon? Didn’t look like any kind of weapon I was acquainted with. I let my mind drift back to the sea, asked the hypertech bit of my brain for possible answer, but none came, this wasn’t anything in my repertoire…

“I see.” Was all I could answer. There was already a gathering of folks in the kitchen, Lumas had stopped by the door. “Do you want to mingle or would you rather grab some and find a quiet place to be?”

Their eyes slowly went over everyone. “Don’t really like crowds,” they said after a pause. “What about you? Don’t let me stop you from ‘mingling.’ I’ll be fine on my own.”

“I can meet folks ‘nother time, better get to know you, Sweetheart.”

I’d be lying if I said Lumas hadn’t sparked my curiosity, beside we were going to be rooming together, it was best to get to know them.

“Whatever you say.” They said with yet another shrug.

We went into the kitchen, I scanned the boxes until I found meatlover’s pizza and grabbed a few slices. I gave a few waves to the people in the kitchen but paid them no mind otherwise. Deryn was there, I gave them a wink and a grin before focusing back on Lumas.

Lumas, whom had taken half a pizza and stacked it on a plate. They had quite the appetite it seemed.

“Would you like to sit outside?” I proposed to them. I’d seen patio doors at the back.

Lumas looked around, this time a bit more frantically. “Yeah. Outside is good.” Once again plates formed.

We went out and found that the house had quite the backyard; a wooden deck with tables, chairs and a barbecue, an in-ground pool of good size, and a little cultivated garden further back.

We sat down on the patio and Lumas jumped into their pizza.

“So, sweetheart, what’s your story, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“From another world. Not sure you want to know the rest.”

Now, who in god’s green earth would be satisfied after hearing that? Lumas was a dimensional alien? Maybe that explained much, although they looked human.

“I ain’t met much dimensional traveller folks before.”

“This is the only other dimension I’ve been to, other than sanctuary. Better than mine.”

Sanctuary was the world’s answer to dimensional refugees; a self-sustaining city on another world where there’d never been any humans.

“This is my home world, never left it.” Dimensional travel wasn’t something most people could do, if you were lucky maybe you could get an earth Bet or Gimel visa, but it was expensive and quarantine and decontamination procedures made it inconvenient.  “Are you one of them refugees?”

“I guess so. Some group called the Wanderers picked me up.” They said, like they’d announced something boring and mundane, not that they were acquainted with one of the most mysterious figure in all of history.

The wanderer and his namesake group were these strange dimensional explorers, they didn’t belong with the United Nation’s survey corp.

Everything Lumas said was only bringing more questions…

“What brought you to this here school, sweetheart?”

“Trying to control this and maybe to some good.” They said, not quite sure of their words.

“I see, how long has this been a thing?”

“Forty eight days.”

“That sure ain’t much. What’s it do, other than give you odd lookin’ hands when it feels like doing it?”

Lumas closed their hand and a sword appeared in it, it couldn’t quite be described proper. It was black, just black that’s what it was ‘made’ of, and it moved— no, it swirled. Looking at it made my headache.Then it was gone and their hand had a gauntlet, made of that same blackness.

“It’s a weapon. A lot was sacrificed to make it.”

“I see.” I nodded and rubbed my temple.

“Why am I even…” they sighed. “What about you? What do you do?”

I took out my revolvers, making sure to keep them pointed away from Lumas and my finger away from the trigger. I didn’t keep them loaded, but my Pa had always taught me to handle weapons like they were loaded.

“Made these, used ’em on some bad fella home. Got sent here,” I said. “This one’s Vigilance, the one’s Justice.”

I’d gone a little melodramatic naming them, but when you dressed like an old west gunslinger, drama was part of the act.

Lumas’ eyes widened. Small plates once more formed on their hands. “Cool…”

“But you, sweetheart, ain’t got a thing to fear.” I holstered them back. “I only shoot ’em bad people who hurt folks.”

They shook their head. “Been shot before. Wasn’t fun.” They didn’t feel like explaining, just eating more pizza.

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Not saying I expect you to shoot me. Obviously you gotta be halfway decent to want to be a hero.” They sighed. “I’m not good at this…”

“That, you sure ain’t.” I had to laugh at the self-awareness. “But there ain’t anything’ wrong with being’ awkward, sweetheart. Makes ya all the more charming.” I added with a wink.

They raised a brow. “Charming? That’s another new one.”

“Are you doubting’ me sweetheart?”

Darn it, I was back in flirting mode.

They took a bite of pizza, chewing it for a moment. “Hard not to doubt someone you just met.”

“Fair enough, sweetheart,” I said with a smile, “I’ll have to reiterate when we know each other further.”

“Ok. I guess I’ll wait and see then. Who knows, right?” The bits on their hands grew further, into the begining of claws, but then vanished again. Lumas was staring at their hand.

Then there was a knock on the glass door. I turned around and saw someone standing there. They were short, four and a half feet, but didn’t look like a kid, the proportions were wrong, it was more like someone had shrunk down a teenager… Their clothes were ill fitting too, much too large for their size.

I waved at them and they opened the door. “Come on out, hon!”

“Are you Penny?” They asked in a quiet and squeaky voice. “There is something at the door for you.” As they spoke they shrunk another two inches.

“That I am.” I looked at Lumas, making sure I wasn’t the only one seeing this, they were staring too. “I better go check on that, sweetheart.”

Lumas nodded.

I turned around and the new comer let out a squeaky “hi” at them, shrinking another inch before running away. That had been something odd alright. Then again, so was Lumas.

I was starting to think maybe a southern girl with cowgirl fantasies weren’t the oddest thing. I reckoned I might be normal up here in Ravenhold…

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Freaks Like Me: Part VI

Freaks Like Me

Part VI

I didn’t sleep much that night.

I just kept tossing and turning in an unfamiliar bed. It was too soft and the sheets were rough on my skin. When morning came I needed to ask mom if she could send me my own sheets.

I must have fallen asleep at some point because when I opened my eyes Drew was already gone, her bed was done up all neat. I could feel her presence downstairs, along with over a dozen more, it was a real cacophony in my mind…

The sun was already up so I decided to get out of bed. I went to the bathroom and washed my face and teeth, but I didn’t feel like taking a shower. The morning was already far too stressful for that.

Dr. Laurie always told me it’s okay to conserve spoons when you need to. She was my therapist, the only one I trusted, she’d let me see into her mind… So I could know that she wasn’t another Dr. Kalvert…

I splashed my face. No more bad thoughts.

I took out my phone and checked my schedule app;

MORNING
1. Wake up,
2. make bed,
3. wash-up,
4. teeth brushing,
5. get dressed (Remember deodorant),
6. breakfast and medicine,
7. text mom,
8. Freetime before class,
9. Go to Class

Having mom’s schedule was a reassuring presence, I pressed my finger on each of the completed tasks, ticking them off the list. Damn it. I’d forgotten to make my bed. I went back to the room and did my bed before changing my clothes.

Undies and shirts you changed everyday, pants you could keep a second day if they weren’t soiled. Did my hoodie need changing? I wasn’t sure. I took a whiff, it didn’t smell bad to me?

I put my dirty clothes in a bag like mom had taught me. What was I going to do with them? Mom always washed at home…

I took out my phone and texted mom.

How do I wash clothes? <

I put it down and walked out of my room before I remembered that you’re supposed to say hi to people…

Also, hi mom. <

Phew. She hadn’t answered my message yet.

People-ing is dumb and complicated. Why can’t hi’s and byes be inferred? That’d be easier and faster…

I walked downstairs and went for the kitchen, breakfast was the next step. I froze at the door, there were so many people inside, they were all thinking so loudly, I couldn’t follow anything but the occasional fragment…  

Drew noticed me and came over.

“Is everything okay?”

I shook my head. “Too many people.”

“Oh.” She smiled. “Do you want me to get you a plate? You can eat somewhere more quiet.”

I nodded and she got went back in, grabbed some food from the counter and came back with a plate.

“Living room?”

I nodded again and we went in the living room, we were alone there for now. I sat down and Drew put down a plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and beans on the coffee table.

“Are you okay, you’re kind of quiet?” She asked.

“I just need some quiet time.”

“Oh okay, would you like me to leave?”

Would she get mad if I said yes? She had offered… I just nodded and watched her thoughts, she stayed calm.

“I’ll see you in class then.”

She left me alone and I could breathe. I slouched in the chair, it was only the second morning and I was beyond exhausted… Maybe mom had been right… Maybe this wasn’t for me.

The people in the kitchen were having fun, but I just wanted to crawl back into bed and hide… How could people handle so much at once? My chest hurt, I couldn’t breathe… Should I call mom? What was I going to do? This was all just too much change all at once…

My phone buzzed and I was on the verge of crying.

> Morning sweetheart. I believe in you.

I wasn’t on the verge of crying anymore. I hit the call button.

“Avery?” Mom answered, her voice was tired… She must have just woken up. “Avery, are you crying?”

I couldn’t answer.

“Listen to me, baby girl, it’ll pass. I know you’re scared right now, you’re in a new and scary place, but I’m here for you okay?” There was a pause. “I might not believe in superheroes, but I believe in you, I believe you can do it and make yourself proud.”

She kept talking and I listened to her voice, I missed it already, she always knew what to do in any situation. I wiped my eyes clean with my sleeves.

“Thank you mom…”

“I love you darling.” She said, I took a deep breath. “Now, here’s what you do with a washing machine.” She continued explaining, it was really complicated, you had to split whites and colors, know how much soap to put and the right settings, then you had to dry it, make sure the lint screen was clean. “I think that covers it. I need to go and make breakfast for your dad, will you be okay?”

“I think so.”

“Never forget how much I love you.”

“I love you too mom.”

We hung up and I took a few deep breaths. My stomach was rumbling and I needed my meds, that meant eating first. It was cold by now, but I’d always been a slow eater so that was how I usually ate my food.

After taking my medicine, I got up and went back to the bookcase I’d scouted the night before. Books were nice, they were always there when I needed an escape.

Grant Origin 3

Grant Origins

Part 3

“I would call your name, little one, but I don’t know it. Shall you open your eyes and greet me anyways?” The voice that spoke to me was feminine and unfamiliar, but warm, gentle, and calming. I sat up, yawning. I could feel the grass between my fingers.

Wait grass? I forced my eyes fully open and got to my feet, stumbling a few steps on the grass wet with dew. “Where am I?”

“You are with me, little one.” The voice spoke again, this time it wasn’t calming, it was full of power and strength.

“Where?…” I spun around in place, desperately looked in the cracks between the trees that stretched up and up surrounding me on all sides. My eyes caught sight of something moving. The fox from before. He sat in front of me, staring up. I crouched down to nearly his level, wrapping my arms around my bare legs. “Are you the one talking?”

The voice laughed, “No, little one, that is not me.” The fox cocked it’s head to the side, watching me closely. “But he will lead you to me.” The fennec fox turned and slowly started walking into the dense forest. “I promise I will not harm you, little one.”

I don’t know why, but I actually believed her words. And followed the fennec fox.

The forest was full of trees that did not belong next to each other and animals that hid before I could get a good look at them.

The fox stopped in front of a curtain of a weeping willow’s leaves. “Come in, little one.”

With a deep breath, I parted the leaves and stepped forward.

A Girl and her Dog: Part I

Lucy’s Story: A Girl and her Dog

Part I

Half a year passed by at a crawl, I must have written and rewritten a dozen essays and letters. I had mom pick the best ones to sent with my application when July came. Every day for the next two months I checked the mail a dozen time over.

What were the chances they’d pick me over thousands of applicants? With my epilepsy and my lack of conventional powers, what good could I be? But despite that, I wanted to be a hero more than anything in my life.

One night in late august, I came home from the pool when I found a letter in the mailbox. It was addressed to me, personally from Ravenhold Academy.

I grabbed it and ran inside the house.

“Mom! Mom!”

“What is it conejita?” Mom asked, coming out of the living room with a smile.

“I got my letter from Ravenhold!”

Mom’s smile turned. “What does it say?”

“I haven’t opened it yet.” I answered, tearing the envelope open. Immediately a plane ticket fall out. I bent down and looked at it, it was for september 4th and going over from Miami to New York. “I think that’s a yes.”

“Dios Mio…” Mom muttered.

“You don’t want me to go, do you?”

“I’d hoped they would say no…”

“But this is my dream…”

Mom came and hugged. “I know…”

“Are you going to stop me?”

Mom held me for a moment. “I don’t want to kill your dreams. Even if I wish you still wanted to be a baker.” She sighed and kissed my forehead.

“I can be a baking superhero.”

Mom laughed a little, when she let go of me, I saw that her eyes were turning red. It was my turn to kiss her forehead.

“Maine is so far away… I’ll miss you so much.”

“I’ll miss you and dad, and Carolina, Sofia and maybe even Mateo.”

“Maybe?”

“Mateo’s a butt and he steals my cookies.”

“You should change your hiding spot then.”

“I don’t want him to not have cookies, I just want him to ask.”

Mom smiled. “Don’t ever change.”

“I won’t.”

***

The day of departure came and even though I was leaving at four in the morning, everyone came to see me off. Mom was crying, and Carolina held her tightly as dad gave me one last ‘make sure you call everyday’ lecture before it was time for me to leave.

It was a three hours flight from Miami to New York, giving me plenty of time to catch up on shows I’d missed the past few months, being so busy with my application. A lot of people stared at Mr. Kibbles on the plane, but I didn’t mind them. Neither did he, he was that good a boy.

After the flight, I walked over to a bus terminal and joined other prospective students boarding two busses; there were so many different kind of people; some had wings, tails, some were aliens, even. Going through the bus’ aisle, I stopped next to a blonde girl, she had the hem of her hoodie in her mouth. She seemed nice.

“Hi! I’m Lucy!” I said, smiling. “Can I sit here?”

“Of course.” She hid her hand down her sleeve.

I sat down next to her, Mr. Kibbles sat down in the aisles, partially under our bench. I saw my benchmate looking at him strangely, like most people did when they first met him.

“Oh, that’s mr. Kibbles, he’s my service puppy.” In addition to being a very good boy, Mr. Kibbles had been trained from birth to alert me of incoming seizures. “He’s very nice.”

“I see.” She mumbled.

I had to laugh at the way she was so timid. “You know, you didn’t introduce yourself.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m Avery. I’m from Edmonton, Canada.”

“I’m from Miami. Can you believe we’ll be Ravenhold students?” my heart was beating at the thought, this was real.

“It’s sinking in.” She giggled nervously, her arms were up against her body with her sleeve covered hands hanging out at the front. “Are you a mutant? I’ve never met a mutant before!”

“I am.” I’d tested positive to the blood tests since the accident. For some reasons, mutant had their own blood type; Type V, so now I was BV-. “Just don’t ask me what my power is, I just know Mr. Kibbles is a good boy.” Mr. Kibbles yipped in agreement and I rubbed his head. “What about you?”

She weaseled in their seat. “Well, I don’t know how it’ll help as a superhero, but I’m a psychic.”

“Woooaaahhh. So you can read my thoughts?”

That had to be so cool, I kinda wished I could read Mr. Kibbles’ mind, he was smart, very smart compared to other puppies, but he still didn’t speak. What would he think of?

“Well, unless I’m touching someone, just the ‘loud’ thoughts.” She made finger quotes over the word loud. “I can sense feelings.”

“What makes a thought loud?”

“That’s still cool, you can be in bad guy’s heads! Know what they’ll do!”

“That’s way better than me, Mr Kibbles just does all the work.”

“Well, he looks strong. I’m not. What if a bad guy gets me? Mr. Kibbles can protect you.”

I nodded. “Do you want to watch cartoons? I got the latest Steven Universe.”

“Sure!”

I gave her one of my earbuds and put on episodes I’d missed recently. We watched some cartoons for a while until Avery fell asleep. They looked tired so I let them sleep. I on the other hand couldn’t even think about sleeping.

Only five more hours on rainy roads to Maine.

Five more hours and I’d be a superhero in training.

Grant Origins 2

“Don’t leave me waiting, Leah.” Dad growled as I opened the car door and sat down. “And what happened to your skirt?”

“It got ripped.” I answered, staring out the window.

He gripped my chin with a strong ist and forced me to look at him, “How.”

“It had hole, got caught on something, and ripped.” I focused on his other hand on the wheel, keeping my eyes away from his face.

“Bullshit.” He let me go with a shove and pulled out of the high school parking lot.

Not a word was spoken on the way home but a threat hung in the empty air. When we got inside the house my father crossed his arms, “Go to your room.” With a long exhale, I trudged down the stairs to the basement as he watched and closed the door behind me.

I used to wish I could move into the basement. But in my imagination I got to keep all my stuff. And the door wasn’t locked behind me.

I pulled off the remains of my skirt and blouse and threw them on the floor on my way to the bathroom. I got the Ace bandages out from its hiding spot in the back of the medicine cabinet. I took off my bra and wrapped my chest, as tight, as flat, as I could bear.

As I closed the medicine cabinet I caught sight of the makeup Sierra left with me. An icy hand gripped my heart. I shut my eyes and quickly closed the cabinet, leaving the bathroom.

The fox from before sat on my bed, the scrap of my skirt still in its mouth, “What the hell? How’d you get in here?”

The fox bolted off my bed when I approached it with my arms outstretched to catch it. It dropped the piece of skirt and bolted for my backpack. It bite and scratched at my backpack’s zipper, “Hey! Stop that!” It ran away again when I got closer, running me all around the basement. But it kept going back to my backpack. “What do you think is in there? There’s no food.” I picked it up and started unzipping all the pockets and dumping the contents on the floor. “See not a thing to eat.”

The fox dashed forward, picked something up out of the pile on the floor, something small and badly wrapped in wrapping paper, and dropped it at my feet.

It was that weird piece of jewelry I found half buried in the empty lot two blocks over. I cleaned it up and wrapped it, hoping to give it to Sierra as a gift. I picked it up, my hands shaking slightly. “Why…?”

I held it to my face, a lump forming in my throat, and tears starting in my eyes. “I forgot to give it to her… and now she’s gone.” I choked on my words. I don’t know why I was telling the fox this, not like it could help me turn back time or bring her back. “And I’m missing her funeral.” I let out a loud sob then muffled a second one, sliding down to my knees. The fox climbed onto my lap, curling against my stomach and waiting with me as my anger completely melted into grief and I let my feelings out.

An hour later, with my head pounding from dehydration, I curled up on my bed, clutching the weird jewelry to my chest. I didn’t protest when the fennec fox curled up next to my head.

Gunslinger Gal: Part II

Gunslinger Gal

Part II

Dad and I went out to McDonald’s for breakfast. Once that was done, I got a message from my probation agent asking to meet me. Dad drove me back to the hotel.

“Who is that?” She asked, seeing my dad.

“My dad, he made the trip to bring my stuff.”

“I see, well you will have to ride the bus, it’s part of the requirement.”

“It’s alright.” Dad said. “We understand.”

We drove to the bus station, there were dozens of people, maybe close to a hundred. Some normal, some otherworldly. I’d never really sought out the parahuman community before, this was something new.

Ravenhold students packed into two busses.

“I’ll see you when we get there?” I said, turning to dad.

“Of course.” He kissed my head and I wrapped my arms around him

After one long hug, I went into the crowd and joined the line coming into one of the busses.

Most seats were already taken, about halfway in I saw someone sitting alone, dressed in a beige wool sweater and jeans. Although I’d first thought of them as a girl, I’d later learn they were non-binary. But most importantly, they were cute.

Their eyes were set on a worn paperback book.

“G’mornin'” I said, “Would you mind if I sit by you?”

They looked up, brushing their medium length hair away from their face and smiled. “Not at all.” They removed their earbuds and closed the book.

It put my bag on the rack above us and sat down, offering my hand.  “I’m Penelope Henry, but you sugar can call me Penny.”

I have one true weakness; I can’t stop myself from flirting with cute people… And I can’t count the number of times that didn’t work out well.

They took my hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you. I’m Deryn Evans.” On their lap, they had a bag, I looked at it only for a little kitten to poke their head out.

“Quite a lovely name,” I said, “and who might this fluffy critter be?”

“Thank you.” Deryn opened the bag and their kitten popped their head further out, with finely manicured hands, they scratched the kitten’s chin. “This is Hermès.”

“Hey little olympian.” I said to the cat, taking that voice I only used for Piper. “Hope you,re comfortable cause this is gonna one long road, kitten.”

Deryn laughed softly. “It’s a good thing he’s fine with car rides. Do you have any pets?”

“That I do, Piper’s ridin’ with pa out back in the truck. I’d be too but ’em legal folks say I have to be on the bus proper.”

“Is Piper a cat? It would be nice for Hermès to have some of his own here.”  Deryn keep scratching and Hermès started purring like an engine.

I chuckled a little, people always thought I was a cat or dog gal. “She ain’t a cat, she’s a ball python. But I tell you, sugar, she’s a sweet an’ innocent little noodle.”

“My mom had a ball python named Rudy, but he died a few years ago. Lived to be about thirty though.”

“Piper’s seven now. Got her when she was this tiny little adorable noodle.”

“Hermès is about three months now. I remember when he used to be so small you could hold him in one hand.”

“Look at that cutie.” I gave Hermès my hand and let him smell me. “If it ain’t too pryin’ how did ya get onto this bus? Did ya get volunteered too?”

They shook their head. “No, I applied. I want to learn how to control my abilities better.” They paused for a moment. “How about you?”

“I introduced some unlikeable fellows to these here ladies.” I tapped my revolvers. “Not fatally, just a few broken bones from gel rounds. An’ let say ’em police ain’t too kind on that. They volunteered I do some paroleging rather than juvie.”

Deryn nodded, their expression remained pleasant. “Ravenhold seems nice though so maybe you’ll like it?”

“Well I ain’t against it even if I wasn’t the type to really think ’bout becoming a cape.”

“Yeah. I’m not interested in the loud, flashy cape deal myself. Doesn’t really fit me, or my powers.”

Hermès rubbed his head against my hand and I scratched his neck. “What might those be if I may ask?”

“I’m an empath. It means that I can sense and influence people’s emotions. What about you?”

“Hypertech, it’s how I made my gear. And I’m stronger, tougher and faster than most folks.”

“That’s really neat. I’ve never met anyone with hypertech. It sounds very useful.”

“It can be, but it ain’t like people think, we don’t just magic up gear outta nowhere, we gotta work for ’em,” I said, “and we ain’t all versatile, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout medical stuff.” I felt my smile fade for a moment, but put it back up.

Deryn nodded. “That makes sense.”

“Although, I don’t mean to be rude, but if you don’t wanna be a cape, why apply to Ravenhold rather than look for an apprenticeship with another empath?”

“I thought about that, but…” They shrugged. “I do want to help people, and maybe I shouldn’t completely rule out becoming a cape, but Ravenhold fit what I was looking for better than an apprenticeship would. The social aspect, the variety of classes,” They paused for a moment. “Just seemed right.”

“That, I reckon is a very good reason, sugar.” I grinned. “I apologize for my interrogation, ain’t proper when first meeting someone new.”

“It’s alright, I don’t mind.”

“Well Sugar, I hope you find everything you need there, and who knows maybe we’re gonna be classmates.”

“That would be great.” They smiled.

“I reckon it’s be so, I know we just met, but I am getting a good feeling from you sugar.”

Now they were grinning. “You too, Penny.”

“Some people would be wary of the pieces and the shootin’ bits.” I joked, “But I guess you can see into my heart an’ see I’m a good god fearing gal from Alabama.”

They laughed. “Something like that.”

“Well, Deryn, if you ever need a tech solution of a problem, you can come and see me and I shall do my best. To assist. Ditto if you need something shot.”

“Will do. Hopefully it won’t come to that last bit though. And if you ever need anything I can help with, just tell me and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Well I reckon I can make some gag rounds if you need someone annoyed.” I winked, “Turn their hair all pink, or make ’em sound like one of ’em chipmunks.”

“You can do that?”

“I can do lots of things, sugar.”

“That’s really amazing.”

Deryn and I kept chatting, it was then they told me they were non-binary, I introduced them to my dad and brother, they told me about their mothers. It was strange to talk about these things so openly, Alabama wasn’t always the most accepting of place.

Eventually we decided to watch a movie to pass the time. Thankfully, I’d brought my special headphones I’d made for Mina and I to share. When you can’t hear anything under a hundred decibel, you need something special.

Eight hours on rainy roads and a stint on a ferry passed like it was nothing.

“That was quite a trip.” I said stretching up as the bus stopped in front of what I presumed was the school ground.

“Yes it was.” Deryn said.

We grabbed our bags and followed everyone outside, walking a little further to a wrought iron gate. One of ‘em big legion heroes came out and gave a speech, but I wasn’t all that interested. Deryn however seemed really into it.

The Hero started calling out names and assigning them to classes and Deryn turned to me.

“It was really nice meeting you. Do you want to trade numbers?” They took out their phone.

“Sure thing sugar.” I smiled and we traded numbers. “I hope we’re gonna meet again soon.”

They smiled back. “So do I.”

Not long after Deryn was called to join class four, leaving me to wait for my turn. Dad made his way through the crowd and put a hand on me.

“Are you ready for this?”

“As ready as I can be.”

“Who was your friend? I didn’t want to interrupt.” He asked, a big smile on his face. Dad was very well aware I had a preference for girls and non-binary cuties.

I felt my cheeks flush. “Name’s Deryn.”

“She seems nice.”

“Deryn’s a they, non-binary.” I corrected him. “And they are.”

“Gotcha.”

“Penelope Andrea Henry?” The Hero called out. I raised my hand.

“See you later pa.”

I went through the crowd.

“Penelope, you’re in class four.” He said, pointing at the group with a thumb.

I walked over to my group, the same group that Deryn was in.

“Well, sugar, looks like we ain’t gonna need to call each other to meet, but I reckon I’d still like keepin’ that number.” I said with a big grin.

“Me too. I’m really glad we’re in the same class.”

“Sugar, I have a feeling we are going to get together mighty well.”

“As do I.”

In Deryn’s bag Hermès meowed in agreement it seemed. Soon enough the students were all assigned to classes and we were assigned to follow a giant statuesque woman to our dorm.

“Guess we better follow ’em tutors to our new home.”

We were lead to a big brick building, there were only sixteen of us to share this big house. Two stories tall and it wasn’t narrow nor short.

“We’re in the same class, but now, let see if we have the luck of being’ in the same room. Cause sugar, if we are, that sound like a divine sign to me.”

“That would be nice.”

“What d’you say sugar, want to go in together?” I offered Deryn a hand and they took it.  “I probably ought to warn ya, I’m one of ’em touchy feely kinda gal.”

“That’s alright, I don’t mind at all.”

We went in together, the door opened into a long hallway with a half dozen rooms split to either size of us and stairs going up and down.

“Rooming arrangements are in the kitchen!” Our teacher informed us.

Deryn and I went in, and the kitchen was something else entirely. It wasn’t even big rich folk’s house kitchen level, it had everything you needed to start a restaurant! I could see myself making many meals there.

By the entrance was a cork board and on it was the rooms. I checked the list and found my name next to someone named Lumas.

“Well, darn. I’m rooming with some folk name Lumas.”

“I’m with someone named Lucy.” Deryn said, It was fair to say we were both disappointed.

“It’s quite a shame, sugar, but at least we shall see each other all the time, after all we just a few doors down.” I offered with a slight smile.

“You’re right.” Deryn smiled. “We’re also in the same class, so it’s not like we won’t see each other during the day.”

“But I guess for now, we ought to start unpacking.”

“You’re right.”

We went upstairs and found our rooms. “See ya ’round sugar.” I said before going into mine.

Grant Origin 1

Grant Origins: Part I

June 2016, four months ago

I dug my fingers into the hole in the skirt my father forced me to wear as I waited for him to pick me up from school. My near empty stomach churned and growled and sticky Pepsi ran down my back from when someone dumped it on my head on their way past me. I ripped the skirt further, he’ll beat my ass for that… oh well… not like it matters.

My watch started ringing out an alarm but I didn’t move to shut it off. Or even look at it.

Sierra’s funeral was happening now. Right this very moment. I felt like I should be crying but really I just want to scream. I ripped a piece of my skirt off and threw it on the ground. I wanted to fight someone, hurt someone, get back at the people who did this to her, to us.

A small noise caused me to look down. A strange creature sat at my feet, holding the scrap of my skirt in its mouth and staring up at me.

Is that a fennec fox… What the fuck is a fennec fox doing here?

It cocked its head to the side, then turned around, pointing off into the distance.

I crouched down, “Wanna show me something?”

It turned back towards me and seemed to nod.

Then my father honked his horn impatiently, forcing me to leave the fox waiting, feeling vaguely guilty.