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