Gadgets & People: Part XI

Gadgets & People

Part XI: Fixing Things

Even though I’d been the last person to go to bed, I was the first person up the following morning. I put on a tea kettle before quickly going to the shower. When I came out someone else had come out, someone definitely new.

I’d seen my share of Gimelian before, those ape people from a parallel earth, but not in our dorm. She had short khaki fur that was shaved on the sides of her head while the top had been left long and dyed neon blue. She had piercings on her face and earlobe stretches.  She wasn’t wearing much either; a long worn and faded shirt and maybe underwear beneath but that was it.

“Uh… hello.” I said with a little wave.

“Hi.” She said, smiling before taking a bite of an apple. “I’m Raal. I’m a friend of Tyler.”

“I’m Sanjay.”

“Ooh, the tech guy.” She was definitely excited about that.

“That’s me.” I said with a shrug. “How do you know Tyler?”

“We’ve been online friends since forever. When he told me his parents were no shows on Friday I jumped on the first bus.”

I nodded and got myself a banana from the fruit platter.

“I was wondering, any chance I can see your tech?” She asked a little nervously before speaking again, this time more enthusiastically. “I’m a tech person myself, I could show you what I’ve done.”

“Eh, why not.”

She run to Tyler’s room and came back carrying a bag along with what looked like a rifle. She handed it over to me and I took a moment to examine it. It was some form of pulsed particle rifle. It obviously wasn’t of  professional make, there were loose wires and the thing had been obviously welded from spare parts. For amateur work using spare parts, it was impressive.

“What is it? You’re frowning.” She said, putting a hand on her hip.

“Well, design wise, it’s impressive…”

“But?”

“It could probably double as an improvised bomb the way those fusion cells and the capacitor are rigged.”

“It does tend to overheat, still working on fixing that, but getting the right materials can be a little hard with my funds.”

The fact she had fusion cells to begin with was impressive, they didn’t exactly grow on trees.

“I could hook you up.”

Her eyes went all wide and full of stars. “You’re serious?”

“Eh, I’ll write them off as damaged, what’s a little corporate theft and fraud?”

“I don’t want you to get into trouble.”

“Bit too late for that, I kind of gave a friend stuff before.”

I showed her to my lab where she geeked out over every single thing in there while I grabbed some spare component and had the maker fabricate some I didn’t have on hand. That done, I let her tinker with her weapon, upgrading it, before making an external casing for it.

At least now I was secure in the knowledge she wouldn’t lose an arm in a malfunction.

***

Soon enough I said goodbye to Raal, went back inside for my morning prayers and meditations and then got ready to go to classes.

Unlike the other times we’d seen him, the Rook was unmasked and he wasn’t carrying his arsenal.

“Good news student, no tough love from me today.” He said with a grin. “Bad news, this week is exam week. You’ve been with us for four weeks now and it’s time for us to get an idea of how much you’ve been learning. Today is a basic physical exam. I want to see how well you can carry out the techniques I’ve been teaching you. Mr. Martin and Myself will observe and we will let you know when it is your turn to go to the Medical Centre for some physical checks to make sure you are fit to carry out the exams over the coming days.”

Rook directed us to perform a series of exercises, noting our times as we did. I found that part rather easy, but I’d always been top shape thanks to good genetics and a little exercise.

“Now get into pairs.” Rook ordered as we finished the first part. “You’re not fighting but I want you to show me the techniques I’ve been teaching you.”

Rook had been less tough on us on the lessons following the first; instead he’d focused on teaching us the fundamentals of hand to hand combat. Although I normally did alright, this time I found myself struggling against Jaeger.

“You need to use your hips when lifting, not your arms.” Jaeger whispered as I tried to throw him over my shoulder and onto the dojo mat.

“Right.”

By the time the martial arts exam was over, I was disappointed in myself and my performance. I definitely needed more training… Jaeger got called to see the Doc just as lunch break was called so I went to the cafeteria by myself and quickly ate a falafel pita sandwich. Eventually It was my turn to be called to the doc.

I felt familiar jitters in my body when I came into the clinic… I’d never liked doctors… In fact I’d never come to see Doc Venus other than that one time I’d escorted Jaeger.

“Sanjay Pichai.” Doc Venus called.

I got up. “It’s me.”

“Sanjay, I’m glad to see you, please come in.” She stepped aside and let me in. “Haven’t seen you around this office.” I wasn’t sure what kind of tone I was meant to get from that last remark.

“I didn’t really need any medical attention.”

“I see. Are you always this anxious when seeing doctors?”

I blinked.

“I can smell stress hormones very easily.”

“I’m sorry…”

“No need to apologize, phobias are by their very definition irrational, it’s not a conscious choice. Beside, it’s normal to be anxious at the prospect of seeing a doctor, you don’t typically see doctors when healthy.”

I nodded and she guided me to her exam table. She brought over a big machine full of scanners and similar things. I tensed up but let her go through with her exam. As she performed some tests, I noticed her pausing and staring at her instruments a few times, she then redid the tests again.

“Is something the matter?” I asked.

“Must be a glitch in my diagnostic tools. Let me check something at the back.”

She got up and left me alone in the room. I closed my eyes and focused on taking some deep breaths, trying to keep calm.

After several long minutes she came back.

“Definitely glitches, I got a new one.” She said raising some techno diagnostic wand.

She quickly went over the tests again.

“I can say that you’re a perfectly healthy and ordinary human teenage boy. Yes.” There was a pause. “How is your relationship with your family?”

“Good I guess, well with my mom and sisters… I don’t know about my dad.”

“Right. I believe your father works in robotics?”

“Used to. Now he’s mostly working on hardsuits and mech. Not much choice, AIs and automated systems are on the out since Hyperion.”

“Ah yes, is there a lot of problems with your dad?”

“I wouldn’t say problems… I guess we just don’t connect as father-son, more like coworkers.”

“Well, that’s all I needed from you Sanjay, but if you’d like to talk about things, my door is always open, I’m a trained and licensed psychiatrist you know.”

“I will, thanks.”

She guided me to the door and I was relieved to be out of there. She was really nice but sadly my dislike of doctors was stronger…

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Chased By The Past: Part XIII

Chased by the Past

Part XIII: Progress

“Good Afternoon Jaeger,” she said.

“Hey,” I replied, sitting on the bed. She attached some electrodes and ran some basic checks. ECG, simple eye and reflex tests. She also took some bloods and checked my sugar levels. I thought that would be all but she turned to speak to me again afterwards.

“How are you settling in?” she asked.

“Fine,” I replied.

“You making friends?”

“A few,” I said, shifting uncomfortably.

“Good,” she said, her cranial decorations moving in a happy fashion. “I know you said no at the time but if you ever want to know your life expectancy don’t hesitate to ask.”

“I’d rather just live without thinking about that,” I chuckled.

“I understand,” she nodded. “This isn’t just a physical exam but also a psychological evaluation, so can you take a seat?” she motioned to the chair opposite hers. I felt my muscles tense immediately but left the bed and sat as asked.

“Let’s start with your family history,” she suggested.

“I have none,” I shrugged. “Only child, never met my dad, mum died before I could remember,” I explained.

“What about your adoptive family?” she asked. I hesitated, I knew my records were sealed; I fully intended to let the Raven know what Charlie did however a quick look told me a lot of my file was redacted anyway.

“I was adopted by Heppenheim, he’s the one who did this,” I said, gesturing to my body as a whole.

“Is it okay if I ask what you had to do for the him?” she asked.

“For Heppenheim? I mostly just assisted him in the lab with his experiments. After my failed chimerization no one bothered me,” I explained.

“So you were never in the rings or trafficked?” she asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Not really?” she repeated with a questioning expression.

“I was thrown in the ring once by a different boss and… yeah,” I trailed off uncomfortably.

“Jaeger, this is a safe space. Everything you tell me will be kept between us,” she told me. “It’s important to talk about the experiences you went through, it’ll help you process,” she explained.

“I process just fine,” I muttered.

“Do you ever experience flashbacks or nightmares?” she asked. I set my jaw into silence and she let out a soft sigh.

“Jaeger, I can’t pass you if you’re not open to talking about these things. We need to know that you’re able to cope with a stressful situation without potentially being triggered. It is completely expected that someone in your position would have complex post traumatic stress disorder.”

“I told you already that I’m fine,” I insisted.

“Jaeger, you need to talk to me,” she pushed.

“About what? That was I indoctrinated into the Syndicate with a horrible test that involved killing to survive? That I had to abandon good people along the way? That I’ve been abandoned by people who I thought I could trust? That I was mind controlled by a fucked up pedo who sexally assaulted me?” At some point while talking my voice had grown louder and I had stood up, my body was shaking. Doc Venus reached into her desk and removed some tissues to hand to me. I didn’t even realise I had started crying.

“Take as much time as you need. I won’t send you back to class like this. However, I will insist you start therapy,” she explained as I furiously wiped my eyes. I didn’t have the energy left to argue with her. I managed to calm down after a minute and excused myself.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied. My voice felt thick and heavy and I recognised the familiar disconnect. I hadn’t experienced it much since getting to Ravenhold. In fact I’d been surprisingly present. I was used to feeling a detachment between my mind and body whenever I was doing work for the Syndicate. It was how I dealt with what I did.

“Jaeger, I can’t tell you this will get any easier, but everything you’ve just told me was really good progress. And I’m not obligated to tell the school officials any of what you’ve just told me. It’ll remain between us,” she explained. I nodded, vaguely relieved. I wasn’t sure about her calling what just happened ‘progress’ though.

My duty is to my patients well being, and your wellbeing is very dependent on not going to prison,” she finished.

I left the clinic room and headed back to the house to shower and change. I checked my tablet and saw that we still had an hour left for lunch. Apparently extended so that Doc Venus could see everyone before this afternoon. Sanjay, Mace, Yougen and Jamie would be the last ones Doc Venus would see in that time. I’m guessing mine was the longest appointment because of the psychological evaluation. When I got to the cafeteria Sanjay was already gone, heading for his appointment I guessed. I joined Charlie and Caroline who were holding hands. They were being particularly sickly in their affections of each other today for some reason.

“Are you grabbing anything to eat?” Sage asked, who was also sat at the same table.

“Oh, yeah, I should probably eat,” I replied. I stood up and grabbed some rice with chinese style chicken and vegetables in it. I listened as the others talked around me, not really there, and ate my food. When I was finished I just left without really saying anything. I returned to the house where a few of my other classmates were. I opted to go straight upstairs and when I opened the door I saw Sanjay was home, looking at his school tablet.

“Hey,” Sanjay said, looking up from whatever he was doing.

“Hi,” I replied, sitting on my own bed. “How long until we have to get to the gym?” I asked.

“We should probably head out in ten minutes,” he replied. “How did the appointment go?”

“Fine, usual crap,” I shrugged.

He arched a brow. “Are you sure?”

“Yup,” I replied curtly. I had no intention of repeating back any of what I told Doc Venus to anyone else, let alone him. “How about yours?”

Sanjay just shrugged. “Doc said everything was perfectly normal…” He trailed off.

“That’s good,” I said.

“I dunno, Doc Venus was kind of weird, she left me for a while but then told me the instrument had a little glitch and everything was fine.”

“She is an alien. Maybe it was just a case of different social norms?” I suggested, frowning.

“I guess, it was my first time meeting her and I’m not exactly an expert on Venusian social cues…”

“She knows her stuff,” I shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Right, say would you mind practicing combat maneuvers with me later? I thought I was better than what I did this morning.”

“Sure. Maybe it was the pressure of the exam? I know you’ve done fine with your suit,” I replied.

“Maybe.” He shrugged. “Still wouldn’t hurt. Although we have the afternoon exam to survive first.”

“Yeah, never a boring day at Ravenhold,” I chuckled.

Sanjay laughed. “That’s true. Well, I better get suited this time, see you in a few?”

“Yeah,” I replied, standing up and heading downstairs. The others who were here already having left for the gym. Outside there was a brisk breeze and I pulled up my hood for the walk back to the gym. From the way students were talking all of the classes were going through exams. I hadn’t even thought to contact Harley and ask how they were doing. I decided not to yet in case they were busy.

The gym had been organised into a jungle gym of apparatus, with the swimming pool integrated into the course. It was pretty obvious the goal was to get through the obstacles as fast as possible. Seemed fairly straightforward but I expected physics hijinks knowing this school so far. Juggernaut waited until everyone arrived before addressing us.

“Good afternoon students and welcome to our monthly obstacle course.” She made a sweeping motion at the course behind herself. “The rules are simple, you must make it all the way across in the least amount of time, you must not cross the hazard stripes to stay on the course, but apart from that anything is fair game to get through.”

Sounded simple enough. Everyone lined up at the start of the course. I slipped immediately into echo. It would allow me to know where the others were so I didn’t collide with them and I would be more accurate identifying obstacle in echo than with my own eyes. I saw the distortion in echo when Juggernaut said go, everyone immediately responding. I purposely held back to avoid someone knocking me back. I made a point of seeing where others went wrong if they fell or slipped so as not to repeat it. There was one moment where myself and Charlie were on the same set of bars but she slipped. I knew I could’ve reached out a hand and helped her, but instead I focused on my own finish line.

I hesitated when we reached the pool. I had no choice but to leave echo. The sound distortion in water made using echo far more difficult. I prepared to dive across the gap into the water when something wrapped around my ankle and yanked me back. I nearly fell onto the ground where the hazard strips were but just about managed to hold on. I glanced up and spotted Charlie sticking her tongue out at me before jumping into the water. I muttered a curse as I tried to pull myself up, but the splashing water had made the landing slippery. I was about to fall down any moment when Sanjay caught up and yanked me back up.

“Thank,” I murmured.

“Teamwork and all, right?” he replied, grinning behind the suit.

I came in fourth in the end, with a finishing time of 22 minutes and 46 seconds. Charlie had nabbed second place, beating me by 31 seconds. Based on her smirk she was going to lord this over me for a long time. Tyler came in first place, being able to fly probably helped a lot. Ahti came last, although they had done really well in the swimming pool. We were sent back to the changing rooms to shower. As I yanked on a fresh set of clothes I could feel growing agitation, my body was restless, fidgety. When we returned to the gym we were told where to go tomorrow morning for the next part of our exam – written tests. I just about bit back a groan. Now I remembered why I had skipped school so much.

Chased By The Past: Part XII

Chased by the Past

Part XII: Restless Night

Harley was still laughing when we reached my room. I shut the door behind them and pushed them into it, quickly stifling their laughs.

“Oohh, you look mad,” they murmured at my annoyed expression. “You gonna punish me?”

“You just never stop, do you?” I asked.

“I thought you liked the sass?” they threw back.

“I do,” I laughed. They grinned and pulled me closer to them. We kissed for a few moments before their phone buzzed in their pocket.

“As kinky as I can be, I think you should answer that rather than using it as a toy,” I said, breaking the making out session. They huffed a breath and picked it up. They began speaking in Romanian so I assumed it was their mother. I sat on my bed and waited. After a few more sentences they ended the call.

“Sorry, I gotta go say goodbye to my mum,” they explained, leaning over to kiss me goodbye. “How about we pick this up another time?” they suggested.

“Sure,” I replied. I showed them to the door and we passed Allen in the downstairs hallway.

“Oh my, you’re a cutie,” Harley purred as they passed each other. Allen’s eyes become saucers and he shot me a panicked look. I was just covering my mouth and trying to stifle a burst of laughter.

“If you ever get bored you hit me up, okay?” Harley finished with a wink. They sent me a wave bye and left the house.

“What the…” Allen trailed off, struggling to find the words. I could see Caroline behind him was also amused.

“That’s just Harley, don’t worry,” I explained. I left Allen alone with his confusion and went back to my room. I slumped back onto my bed, focussing on the ceiling. I didn’t feel like going back downstairs to socialise with the others. I knew Allen and Ahti were going to be watching horror movies this evening. Maybe others with join in. I wasn’t really interested in those type of movies. I wasn’t scared or anything, the suspense was nothing compared to a real stake out. And torture scenarios are boring when you’ve carried out the real deal. I shook my head to clear the thoughts and instead grabbed my tablet. I may as well try to do some homework.

I managed the English and Science okay then an hour later I began mathes and immediately hit a brick wall. I peered out our window and saw the lights were on in Sanjay’s little lab. I wouldn’t disturb while he was busy though. I gritted my teeth and stared at the screen, wrecking my brains for the knowledge I knew was there somewhere. I let out a defeated sigh and decided to go downstairs for a snack. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed an apple. I paused in the living room doorway and saw Allen and Ahti were watching films along with Tyler. I turned to leave and found Sage on the landing, frowning.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Is it just me or…” they trailed off.

“Allen is a prick, is that the confirmation you were after?” I asked. They laughed and shook their head.

“Don’t worry about it,” they said, shaking their head. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I shrugged, taking a bite into my apple and joining them in leaning on the bannister.

“You know if you ever need to talk to someone, I’m right here,” they said. I hesitated, narrowing my eyes for a second. I didn’t know how much I could trust Sage at the end of the day. They had mental manipulation abilities. Maybe now they wanted to genuinely help people, but majority of the time parahumans like them always slipped to darkness.

“Or not,” they said, backing away with palms up. I realised as they turned and left that I’d been glaring and internally cursed. I rubbed my eyes and sighed. Everyone wanted me to feel ‘safe’ here. Everyone just wanted to ‘help’. I didn’t feel like either were possible.

I returned to my room and continued to try and solve the problem. I heard Caroline call for dinner and ignored it. I didn’t feel very hungry right now. I managed to finish one, I think, but the next one was just as hard. I muttered a curse and plopped onto my back on my bed with the tablet lying next to me. My eyes were sore and tired and my brain was too fuzzy for this. What use was this mathes going to be anyway? I’d gotten by fine without it before Ravenhold. I shut my eyes, exhausted.

White walls, red liquid floor. It the was up to my knees but no source was in site. I fisted my hands and walked forward, making the red water splash onto the walls, leaving veined lines tracing back to the water. I kept walking, taking tight corners as they turned up, trying to find my way. I glanced down and realised the water level had risen to my waist. I muttered a curse and started to increase my movement. It was more difficult to keep going now, the water’s resistance was getting stronger and I could feel solid masses in the water brushing against my legs.

That’s not the best way, let me show you

I froze at the sound of his voice and looked around me, but I was still surrounded by white and red. I shook my head and kept walking, the water level was approaching my midsection. I lifted my arms up and watched the liquid drops fall lazily from my palms.

Try this one, it’s more effective

I felt a shudder run through my being as I realised what memory my ears were reliving. I broke into a sprint. I needed out. There was a door here somewhere, an escape. A way to wake up. I just needed to wake up.

Wow, you’re a natural

No, no, no, no, no. I repeated the word like a mantra in my head, covering my ears with both hands as if that will somehow keep his mental words from reaching me. I squeezed my eyes shut and kept running. The water was up to my chest and was it my imagination or was the ceiling lower than before? I ignored the growing fear and kept moving. One more step. Another step. I just needed to get out. That’s all.

What happened, where were you?

I slipped at the sound of Kellen’s words, yelling out as I did. I immediately choked and coughed as metallic tasting liquid filled my mouth. I resurfaced, now swimming, gasping. There was little point pretending anything other than blood was dripping from my face.

What’s happening to me Kellen

My young voice sounded quiet and scared. I gave up walking, sinking under the bloods surface. It was dark and putrid down here, but it was calmer. My body felt numb, emotions distant. It was easier to exist.

I don’t know, but we’ll get through it

When I woke up the light burned my eyes. I could feel tears on my cheeks which I quickly wiped away. I glanced at the clock and saw I’d been asleep for two hours. Not that it helped, I felt more exhausted now than I did before I fell asleep. I looked back at my tablet but wasn’t any closer to figuring out the last question on the homework. Nor did I feel inclined to go back to sleep yet.

It was cool outside with a light breeze blowing. I knocked on Sanjay’s lab door. I knew the code but he tended to be cranky if I just let myself in and took him by surprise. Especially if he was working on something delicate. I heard footsteps and Sanjay opened the door. He took one look at my face.

“Nightmare again?” he asked.

“Something like that,” I replied. He waved for me to come in and I did, tablet in hand. He cocked an eyebrow at it and I sighed.

“I tried, really hard. I even managed to answer some,” I explained.

“Sit down,” he said, an amused smile playing on his lips. I sat next to him and listened as he explained the steps I needed to take to figure out the equation. Sanjay didn’t just ever give me the answers. Homework completed I looked around at his latest project. He was creating some kind of blueprint, not that I understood a lot of the notes or the parts detailed. I watched him work for a bit while I checked my emails. There was a notice that we would need a medical tomorrow. Great, just what I needed, more doctors poking at me. Although Doc Venus was pretty nice, far better than the police medic.

“Is something on your mind?” Sanjay asked while he worked.

“Yeah,” I replied. He sent me an enquiring look but didn’t push. I tried to find the safest words to use, a way to ask without telling him everything.

“If you had to choose between two things you really cared about, what would you do?” I asked. He stopped what he was doing and thought about my words. He scratched the back of his head before resting both on his hips.

“I… don’t know. I guess you would have to decide which one mattered more,” he said.

“You’re meant to have all the answers, Mr smart guy,” I muttered before letting out a laugh so he knew I was joking.

“There are different types of smart. You’re not as dumb as you think you are,” he shrugged in response. I felt my cheeks blush a little and looked away from him. I changed the subject and kept him company for a little more time before going to bed. Hopefully this time I would get some decent sleep.

The next day when we walked into our first class, Parahuman Combat, with the Rook Doc Venus was also present. Allison was on religious leave. I also noticed Mr Martin was observing from the far corners of the room.

“Hello everyone. You’ve been with us for four weeks now and it’s time for us to get an idea of how much you’ve been learning. Today is a basic physical exam. I want to see how well you can carry out the techniques I’ve been teaching you. Mr Martin and myself will observe and we will let you know when it is your turn to go to the Medical Centre for some physical checks to make sure you are fit to carry out the exams over the coming days,” he explained.

“Miss Yeun,” Doc Venus immediately called out. Annabelle followed her and I could tell by the nervousness in Amber’s movements that she wanted to follow. They went out of the classroom and to the clinic I assumed.

“First things first, you will do some basic fitness. You’ve done this enough time in the classroom that I expect you all to manage this fine. Run three laps, then do twenty push up and hold a plank for twenty seconds. Rinse and repeat three times.” Didn’t sound too difficult. Although I could sense some of the other’s apprehension.

“Are you waiting for me to sound a horn? Go,” he commanded. We immediately as a group began our laps. Push ups were easy but the difficult part was the plank. The first set was fine but the second set was more difficult. The third one I’m pretty sure I just about managed it. Most people can’t hold a plank for more than ten seconds at most, not that I was really watching any of the others. I needed to pass these tests and stay in the school or the mission would fail. And worse I’d be back in jail. Annabelle didn’t return but during the first part Amber, Rowan, Allen and Tyler were called. Just as we all finished Tyler returned and Sage was sent off.

“Not bad,” Rook said as his only comment on the first part. “Now get into pairs. You’re not fighting but I want you to show me the techniques I’ve been teaching you. First, throwing and blocking a punch, throwing someone over your shoulder and breaking out of a hold.” Out of habit more than anything I paired up with Sanjay. He went first throwing a punch which I easily blocked and it was the same when it was his turn. Sanjay thankfully wasn’t wearing his armour so throwing him over my shoulder and onto the mat was easy. He’d be a couple pounds heavier with that suit otherwise. When it was his turn to throw me over his shoulder he didn’t quite get the technique right and struggled.

“You need to use your hips when lifting, not your arms,” I reminded him.

“Right,” he said, and tried again, this time managing it. He smiled his thanks and helped me stand. Next up was breaking out a hold which again I managed no problem but Sanjay struggled with. Without his suit and the extra power behind it he was handicapped. He tried three times and managed it though. During this time Charlie, Caroline, Yikaru and Ahti had been called. Next up was me while the others finished up. As I was leaving the Rook told me to grab a shower and head straight to lunch afterwards. The next part would be this afternoon. I felt sweaty when I got to the clinic but imagine Doc Venus expected this.

Broken Dream: Part IV

A Broken Dream

Part IV: Life and Death

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, I left the house and went looking for the clinic. I found it quickly and registered to see the doctor. Someone else went before me but soon enough it was my turn.

“Ryland Cook?”

“That’s me.” I said.

I got up and came to meet the doctor. It was my first time meeting a Venusian in the flesh, those big blue lizards with four eyes and little tentacle on their face, but I was familiar with them, having watched quite a few shows about them. The darkness of her blue scales told me she was female.

“Pleased to meet you Ryland, my name is Szijkith Sja Szjjil, but please feel free to call me Doctor Sij or Doc Venus.”

“Doc Venus?”

“Students gave me the nickname, I’m really fond of it. Now, if you would please follow me inside.”

I did and we sat down in her office. She grabbed a tablet and focused her eyes on it for a moment before looking back at me. “What can I do for you.”

“Well, there was this pamphlet…” I dug in my pocket only to realize I’d left it on the brunch counter. “The one about transgender healthcare…”

“Of course. I have your medical dossier and it says you have a diagnosis for gender identity disorder and have been taking puberty blocker for three years now. But you haven’t started testosterone.”

“My doctor thinks I might change my mind.” I rolled my eyes. “Even though this is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I see.” She turned around, fiddled with her computer for a moment and something started printing. “Well, luckily for you, I believe my students have the right and aptitude to decide what happens to their body. Also, I have your mother’s consent, that helps.” She grabbed the set of paper from the printer and gave it to me.

“If you’d please read and sign this if you agree to proceed with the treatment.”

I took it and quickly read through it. It was a list of side effects and potential risks, although there was a disclaimer that many of the heightened risks were the same cis men would experience. Once I was done, I grabbed a pen and signed the thing.

I gave the documents to Doc Venus and she took them. “Thank you.” She put them inside some filing cabinets. “Now for a very important question; would you like me to administer your first dose?”

Her words sent a happy tingling in my stomach and a grin on my face. “Yeah.”

She went to a medical cabinet and took out an ampoule of clear liquid, then grabbed some latex gloves and a needle. “I love giving HRT. It’s all about making someone more comfortable in their skin. There’s no life or death, no injuries, just making someone happy.” She said as she drew the dose.

“I guess, that’s a change from all the bad thing you must see as a doctor.”

“It is, but I would never give up my job. Now, if you’d please turn around and hike down your pants?”

***

I was still on a high when I made it to our first class of the year; Superhero Ethics. The classroom building was a large ‘C’ or ‘U’ shaped building that wouldn’t have looked out of place on any old school campus.

The teacher wasn’t there just yet so I took a seat, most of the others weren’t there yet. There were just enough seats for our full class and I silently prayed for Gloria to be away from me. I wasn’t too keen on Kayla either, she seemed nice but a little too touchy feely…

Instead, a guy I hadn’t met yet came toward me. “Mind if I sit down?” He asked. He was kind of tall and slender. His hair was dark and slightly messy. He had a star wars shirt on. He was kind of cute too… Even if I tried not to think about it.

“It’s fine. I’m Ryland.”

“Hey Ryland, I’m Erik,” he said, sitting down.

“Your accent, are you european? I mean, probably, but I don’t know much about Europe, you know how the american school system is.” I chuckled nervously.

“I’m dutch,” he smiled.

“I’m from California, well kinda, I used to live in Oregon.” I bit my lip. Why was I so nervous? “So… what bring you here?”

“I’m from Rotterdam. And to learn how to use my new powers I guess. Bad lab accident and rather than falling sick I got weird abilities,” he laughed.

“Oh, that’s really lucky. I kind of just stumbled upon a weird meteor bit and didn’t think about whether grabbing it was a good idea…”

“Sounds like a more interesting story to me,” he shrugged. “So other than powers what did you get up to in California?”

“Eh, I spent all year working on getting here after I was rejected last year. It was my boyfriend and I’s dream to get here.” I tried not to think of Gabriel, instead focusing on anything that came to mind, I sort of stared at Erik for a moment, mentally filling every detail about him to occupy my brain…

“Well, congratulations on getting here,” he replied. “Is he in another class?”

“No… He couldn’t make it for personal reasons.”

“Ah, well here’s hoping he can join us next year, eh?” he continued, his tone cheerful.

“That’d be really great.” I didn’t bother explaining how Gabriel, even if he woke up, would’ve lost his powers along with his fragment…

A woman walked in —saving me from any further thought about Gabriel— the exposed parts of her skin softly glowed and went through the whole rainbow of colors. She wore dark clothes that seemed to block the lights.

“Good morning everyone.” She said, grabbing a marker and going for the whiteboard. “For those of you who were a little too excited to remember me guiding you around, my name is Valeria Contreras.” She wrote down her name in a rather neat cursive upon the whiteboard. “I’ll be your supervising teacher for the year, so if you need anything or have questions about the school, please come to me.”

She then walked over to a large metal cabinet in the corner of the class. “My other job as a teacher is to teach you the fundamental ethics required to be a superhero and not some unstable vigilante.” She took out some spiralled books and passed them along. I looked at the cover and it said ‘Legion’s pocket book to procedures and the law.’

“Now, before I bore you all to death making you read, why don’t we have a little debate?” She went back to the board and made a little grid with ‘Pro vs. Cons.’ When she was done she turned to the class. “I like to open every first year’s class talking about one of the longest running question in the cape world.” She grabbed her pen and wrote something.

To kill or not to kill?

“Now, this is just a debate, it doesn’t have to reflect your personal opinion. Feel free to play devil’s advocate. So, why don’t we start discussing the pros of killing?”

“Stops someone for good,” Gloria stated, pretty simply. “And if you’re a Cape, or whatever, you’re probably going to be catching the people in the act, so it’s not exactly like we’ll go around galavanting and murdering people on the street if we decide to, you know, toss the guy who almost released a hypertech virus on a city out the window.”

“That’s a good point.” She wrote down Gloria’s idea on the whiteboard behind her.

“They don’t get to escape from Jail.” Freyja the pregnant girl from the night before said, boredly.

“It’s not like escaping from Mingulay or the Freezer is easy.” Her winged twin said.

“Tell that to the people who died on bloody Monday.” Freyja answered back with a laugh. “You’d think a norse death goddess would understand grey morality.”

“And handing them over to the legal stuff might not be as solid and close-and-shut as you think,” Gloria said, “after all, we’re talking about a justice system that’ll let murderers, rapists, and terrorists go free so long as there’s not enough evidence against ’em. Now, I obviously don’t think we should kill every dangerous chap, particularly since some of them are either so incompetent or simply need a couple years of re-education, so handing them over to law enforcement can be a better option. Hell, I’m an assassin, I was created to kill people, and now I’m here, debating if killing people is ok.”

“All very valid concerns.” Ms Contreras said, although she did shoot a worried look at Gloria. “Now, why don’t we talk about why we should not kill?”

“Killing is something only villains would do.” One guy said smiling a cocky manner. I think his name was Leo. “We, as heroes, are better than them.” Gloria clearly struggled to not burst into laughter.

Much to my relief, Erik agreed with Leo, meaning there was at least one sane person in the class. The debate continued on for a moment and thankfully Gloria seemed to be in the minority. Which wasn’t too surprising, we had signed up to be heroes. It became pretty clear, however, that Gloria was a frickin’ psycho…

Lionheart: Part V

Vanessa Marino, Leonine

One year ago — October 2015

The clinic was not too far from the administration building that Lucie had shown me the way to. We walked into the reception and Katrin showed me how to sign up to see the doctor, apparently there was also someone who took care of those metal arms and legs some people had.

I took a seat only for Katrin to speak up.

“Well, I’ve got to go to classes and refresh my doubles, but I’ll have one of them waiting here for you when you get out, okay? I’ll show you the way to your first class.”

“Thank you.”

I waited for a little while until the a door opened.

“Vanessa Marino?”

“That’s me. I came as soon as you asked.”

I got up only to see who or rather what had called me. Standing in front of me was a huge blue lizard in a white coat, it’s triangular head had four eyes and little dangling bits at the crown and jaw. I blinked. What was that thing? I’d never seen anything like it… It wasn’t a chimera, that I could tell, it was too well formed, its body was something you couldn’t just manufacture on the spot.

“Hello Vanessa, I’m Doctor Sij.” It said.

“What are you? You’re not a chimera are you?”

“No, I am a venusian.”

“A venusian?”

“My species come from another world, an alternate version of the second planet away from Earth’s sun called Venus in English, but we call it Sjarikt. I came to earth when I was younger and decided to become a doctor for humans.”

“Why for humans?”

“I always found your species fascinating and wanted to help.” She said, showing me her teeth in an odd smile. “Would you please follow me inside my office?”

I followed her inside and she had me sit down in a chair. She fiddled around a clipboard with strange letters I didn’t recognize.

“I’ve gotten results from your fellow chimeras from the Atlantic city pit, you all seem to have received the same cocktail of drugs; anabolic steroids, testosterone, mixed with excelsior and erythropoietin.” She said.

“I don’t know what any of those are.”

She went over each of the drugs, several times she had to stop and explain again because there were so many words I didn’t understand.

“— and so we will slowly get you off the drugs, if we stop at once it could be very dangerous to your health. One thing we need to discuss is testosterone, I was told you are a girl, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Testosterone is the primary male sex hormones in humans, since it was added to your drug regiment it caused you to develop much like an adolescent boy would have; increased body hair, deeper voice, facial hair. If we stop that, your body will slowly begin to feminize itself; you’ll grow breasts, your body hair will lighten—” for a moment she kept describing what would happen, making sure to explain it’d take a few years for it to take full effect. “—Is that what you would like?”

“Yes.”

“Alright then.”

“I would normally never recommend the use of Excelsior or administer it to someone who request it, but as you are already addicted and seeing your circumstances, there is minimal harm in maintaining the treatment, but serious risks in stopping it.”

“Harm?”

“There is preliminary evidence Excelsior can cause neurological damage later in life such as dementia or alzheimer’s disease. However I’m afraid that as a human chimera, your natural lifespan is likely to be rather short, very few chimeras live to see their fiftieth birthday.”

I wasn’t sure how much fifty really was, I knew how to count a little but it just seemed so big…

“The gene therapy and mutagens used to create chimeras typically lead to some significant damage to DNA which in turn leads to an increase in the risk of cancers, the only preventive measure would be ablation of the affected tissues.”

“Ablation?”

“We would need to remove the parts affected by the chimerization process. I’m afraid that include your hands, significant amount of skin as well as many areas of your face.”

“No!” I jumped away when I realized what she wanted to do to me. “Don’t cut me…”

“Vanessa, I’m only discussing all the options.” She came closer and then sat on the ground next to me. “We are not the Syndicate, here you choose what happen to you and I will fight tooth and nail anyone who’d attempt to force you to go through medical procedures you don’t want, even if it would be for your own good.”

“You’re not going to do those things?”

“I would never do anything you don’t want me to do.”

She got up and offered me a hand. I hesitated but then took it, she helped me up and then sat back down.

“I’d like to run a few tests and establish a personal baseline for your health. Would that be okay with you?”

I nodded and she took me to another room.

“Now, if you feel any discomfort or anxiety, you can tell me. We’ll stop and try to make the tests more comfortable for you and reschedule if necessary.”

We went through some test, first drawing blood, I had to close my eyes and remind myself over and over that it wasn’t the same thing as back then, she was there to help me. Then there were most test, one of which had me lying down in a tiny metal tube, it was noisy and scary, I felt trapped.

“Vanessa, are you okay? Your heartbeat is speeding up.” The doctor’s voice came from a speaker.

“It’s very small in here.”

“It’ll be over in just a minute. Why don’t you close your eyes and tell me about your friends?”

I was surprised by her request but did as she said.

“There’s Isabelle, I really liked her, she was really nice but she often has these nightmares so we’d sleep together at night, that way I’d be there whenever she woke up. Then there’s Mark, he’s big but so nice, he taught me how to read a little, he loved to make stories too.” In the moment, remembering my friends, I forgot about the machine, I forgot about feeling trapped. I continued telling her about those who’d been with me all this time, choosing to remember the good moments that had kept us going.

“Vanessa?” the doctor interrupted me.

“Yes?”

“We’re done here, you can come out.”

She took me out of the machine and I never felt so relieved in my life.

“This will be everything for today, you did really well and I’m proud of you. Let me show you out unless you have any questions?”

In the moment, I couldn’t think of anything, I shook my head vigorously. She lead me outside and just as promised I saw Katrin was waiting for me out there. I didn’t have the time to take a step toward her that Lucie was now there, right in front of me.

“V!” She said. “Zwantedmetogiveyouthis.”

She then practically pushed an envelope in my hand. It took me a moment to realized she’d even done that. I opened it and saw money. If it was a lot I didn’t know, I’d seen it before and knew what it was for but what a dollar, ten or a hundred meant in term of what you could buy was beyond me. All I knew was that a chimera was worth three thousand dollar, five thousand for the pretty ones…

“What is that for?” I asked.

She took a moment to breathe.

“Zainab said you might want stuff.” Lucie shrugged. “Like clothes and… things…”

She then took another thing out, it took me a moment to realize what it was, one of those old pictures, the one you can hold in your hand. It had everyone in it, in a big house, you could see the sun through the window and they were around a table filled with food.

There were four words clumsily written on it with a marker. It took me a moment to decipher them; Wish you were here.

My chest felt so heavy all of a sudden… Had I made the right choice leaving them? Zainab had said I could go and be with them if I wanted… I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Are you alright?” It was Katrin.

“I don’t know.”

“Wellimoutnowseeya.” Lulie said after looking at Katrin weirdly. With that said she disappeared.

“Is there something wrong between you and Lucie?” I asked.

“Ugh… It’s complicated.”

“Complicated?”

“We… Used to date.”

“Date?”

“Um… You know, be together? And do adult things.”

I looked away, my cheeks and chest getting really hot. “Oh…”

“Didn’t work out too well, because personal reasons I kind of don’t want to get into… Now come on, let’s get you to your first class of the year; gym.”

Lionheart: Part IV

Vanessa Marino, Leonine

One year ago — October 2015

One of the Katrin guided me outside of the house and into a little park that was further. There were people about, just enjoying their afternoon without a care in the world. There were even some dogs too.

“Do you like spicy food or mild?” Katrin asked as we walked.

“I don’t know, I haven’t eaten normal food often.”

“Normal food?”

“My owners and handlers feed us a special diet, to make sure we were in perfect condition.” The only time I’d eat other foods where when one of the VIP guests had me spend time in their lodge.”

“Wait, back up… Your owners?”

“I was in a chimera fighting ring or lab for almost as long as I can remember.”

“Oh my god…” She put her arms around me and I had to resist the urge to claw her away, instead just tensing up until she let go, which she did almost immediately. “Sorry, I’m the touchy-feely type.”

I just nodded in answer. That done, Katrin and I headed for a little wheeled stand were a man was standing, the smell of meat cooking on a grill tickled my nostrils.

“Hello Steven.” Katrin said.

“Kat. What can I get you?”

“One chorizo dog and one Italian sausage dog.” She said before handing the man a bill of money.

The man took two different sausages and put them inside bread, adding some vegetables and then drizzling some sauces on top of the meat before wrapping it in paper and giving it to her. She walked a little further and sat on a stone bench and so did I.

“You try this one first.” She said giving me one. “It’s mild Italian sausage with grilled onions, red peppers and a tomato sauce.”

I took it and then I took a bite, it was amazing; sweet, spicy, salty, hot, and fatty. Everything mixed so well.

“That’s so good.”

Katrin smiled. “Well try this one now. Whichever you prefer is yours.”

We exchanged hotdogs and I tried the second one. It had cheese, grilled red pepper and some leafy green I didn’t recognize. As I chewed a piece my mouth started burning.

“It burns.” I said, panting.

“You get used to it. Guess that one’ll be mine?”

I gave it back to her and took a moment to recover. I wanted to scratch my tongue clean of the spiciness. The Italian one was a much better and I ate it so quickly I wished I had more.

“How was it?”

“Much better. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. C’mon, I’m sure the others are dying to meet you. It’s not everyday someone new joins the house.”

As we walked back she told me the story of how Steven had opened his stall in front of the gate and to avoid all the traffic going in and out the school had allowed him to install himself in the park.

When we came home, I got to meet everyone and it was very overwhelming. The only people I’d ever really known, I’d known since we were little kids, so being expected to just bond with these new people was kind of terrifying. What if I messed up? We were so different, how could we ever really mesh together?

***

I woke up very early. I never slept much usually. Katrin was still asleep, well one of her was, the others weren’t there. I got up and careful not to make any noise walked to the door, opening it and taking a peek outside. There were already two people outside, one of whom was Katrin, the other was a boy I hadn’t met yet.

I glanced around. Was I allowed to leave? I had to be, the others didn’t seem to ask permission to go around. Who was even in charge here? I really needed to find out. I hesitantly walked out and joined the two.

“Halló.” The boy said. His accent wasn’t American. “I’m Ragnar. You’re Vanessa, right?”

“Yes.”

“Good morning.” Katrin said with a yawn.

“You look tired.”

“This me has been up all night.” She took a sip of coffee. “Soon as other me wakes up, I’ll dismiss this me and pop two fresh new me for the day. The third’s in the library cramming for our history test later.”

I didn’t really understand anything she’d said, but I didn’t ask for details, I wasn’t sure if that was wise to.

“Are you hungry?” Ragnar answered. “I made banana pancakes.”

“I never had that, but okay.”

He raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask, just getting some flat little things onto a plate and putting some melting butter on it. He put the plate in front of me with a fork and knife.

“Enjoy.”

I nodded.

“So, who is in charge here?”

“The headmistress, I guess.”

“This is her house?”

“No, she runs the school.”

“But who is in charge of the house?”

“Nobody.” Ragnar said. “Every now and then our teacher Sam check in on us and make sure we’re keeping the house clean and intact but other than that we do what we want.”

“You’re saying there’s no rules?”

“Well, as a group we’ve agreed on a few rules; after ten it’s sounds off, we split the cleaning chores evenly.”

“And no peanuts anywhere in the kitchen, my sister and I are allergic.” Ragnar added.

They continued explaining how the school worked, the classes, going out, missions and everything until a phone rang. Katrin picked it up and answered.

“It’s for you Vanesa.”

I came up and picked the phone. “Hello?”

“Good morning.” Someone said on the other hand. Their voice was odd. “I’m doctor Sij from the school’s clinic. I’d like to meet you this morning, would that be alright with you?”

I froze, doctors never meant anything good. “Yes…” I said, my voice shaking.

“I’m looking forward to meeting you. I’m sure one of your classmates can guide you here. See you later Vanessa.”

“See you later.”

The doctor hung up and so did I.

“I need to see the doctor. Can you show me where the clinic is?”

“Sure, but don’t you want to change clothes first?” Katrin asked, a frown on her face.

“Am I supposed to change clothes?”

“Well, you wore them all day yesterday and slept in them, they ought to be dirty.”

I’d only worn them for a single day, they weren’t really dirty by my standard, but here things were probably different…

“I guess I’ll get something else.”

I went upstairs and found the other Katrin was now awake, but barely. She was rubbing her face and yawning.

I opened the bag Zainab had given and spread the things out on the bed, I looked at everything one by one. There were two t-shirts, one with what I think was writing but it was weird, the other had some symbol on it, I’d seen it on people before but didn’t know what it was. There was also a long sleeved plaid shirt, one of those sweaters that go up to your neck, a black hoodie with a zipper. Then there were pants on top of it; two pair of jeans, one ripped and the other not, slim black pants with an elastic band, beige cargo shorts…

I’d never had so many options… There were some many things, what was I supposed to wear? What if I was dressed wrong?

I could feel my heart racing and my breathing get stronger. I felt a hand on my arm and jerked away, claws out and turning to face the threat, but it was just Katrin.

“It’s just me.” She said, raising her hands. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s so much stuff, I don’t know what’s right to wear.” It took me a second to realized I’d shouted at her. “Sorry…”

“It’s fine.” She said before looking at the clothes. “If you think this is a lot, then don’t ever look in my closet.” She laughed. “It’s kind of cold today so what about this top,” she picked the turtleneck “with those nice jeans?” she picked the one without holes in them. “I think that’d look nice, don’t you?”

“I guess.”

I removed the clothes I’d been wearing, they weren’t really dirty, but I guess you’re not supposed to wear the same clothes twice in the outside world.

“There you go, you look perfect Nessa.”

“Nessa?” I paused, the nickname brought bag old foggy memories… Memories of before all this…

“Is it okay if I call you that? It’s shorter and I think it’s kind of cute.”

I nodded. “You can.”

“Well, I’ll add your dirty clothes to my laundry and I’ll wash them later, okay?”

I nodded and she put it in a basket by her bed.

“Now, let me show you the way.”

Together we left the house and toward the center of the academy ground where the clinic was.

Number: Part II

Number

Part II: Infection

Through dinner that night, there was a kind of silent energy between Yougen and I, a mix of excitement and anxiety. A fight had broken out upstairs and it had sort of threw us off our moment, we hadn’t had the time to talk about what had happened.

I went to bed with a thousand thoughts burning through my mind that I wanted to desperately tell Yougen but with everyone around, having a moment of privacy could be hard…

On the next morning not long after breakfast all the returning parents came back and then left with their kids, going to a teacher-parent meeting in the administration building, I opted to go out and take a run through the school grounds as I would often to in the mornings before class.

When I came back, I jumped in the shower to wash out. Thanks to my black blood strain, I didn’t really sweat but grime still got on me. As I came out of the bathroom I saw Yougen was busy at the stove, a few things going on at the same time. I looked around and nobody else was in the house.

“You know the cafeteria’s open today thanks to the parents, right?”

“I know, but I thought I’d try my hands at making something.” She said with a smile. “I did a little when I was down in New York, but the people housing me were nowhere near as well equipped or stocked as here.”

“Who were they?”

“A really nice older black couple Macy and Jean, they were a foster home for parahuman children. There was two other kids with me, younger; Marie-Lou and Brian, they were twins and total brats.” She said with a chuckle. “What about you, where did you stay before you came here?”

“Legion headquarters, Erna, eh Indigo, set me up. She’s the one who got me into here.”

“Eh, lucky you. I had to apply.” She said with a grin.

“How’s the application process?”

“Weird, like it doesn’t really ask about experience or anything. Instead they want an introduction letter and for you to write an essay on a superhero related topic.”

I took a moment to think about it. If I had to guess they cared more about character than aptitude, you could teach the latter, the former not so much.

“Since we have the whole house for ourselves and it’s still a nice and sunny day, want to have a little picnic outback?” Yougen proposed.

“That would be nice.”

“Can you get a big blanket and a grill from the storage closet? I remember seeing one when doing laundry.”

“Sure.”

I went and gathered what she needed along with a bag of charcoal. I went out and set it outside in the garden, keeping the grill down to a low level. When I came back into the house, Yougen was putting some sealed containers into a big lunch bag. She gave it to me to carry and she went out back. I helped her out of her chair and onto the ground, leaning against the tree I’d set the blanket against.

We then took out the food out of its bag. It wasn’t much; a fresh miche of bread cooked in the morning by Annabelle’s parents, cheeses, spreads and dips, a pesto pasta salad Yougen had just made, cookies, potato chips, cold cuts and also a pack of uncooked sausages for the grill. I helped her lit the grill and she started the first batch.

“This is nice.” She sighed, content. I sat next to her against the tree and she rested her head on my shoulder.

“It is.” I whispered. “Not thinking about survival, training, exams or any of that stuff. Just enjoying the day.”

I turned to look at her and our eyes met. She slightly leaned toward me and dropped a soft kiss on my lips.

“You know about last night…” She began. “We never got to talk about what that makes us.”

“We didn’t.” I looked away blushing, chewing on a piece of bread quietly for a moment.

“Are you having doubts, regrets?” Yougen asked, clearly alarmed at my silence.

“No!” I dropped my food down in the panic of answering her. “It’s just this is all kind of new and crazy; I actually like someone and she likes me back! I’d always kind of thought with everything that had happened to me it would never happen.”

Yougen chuckled at my answer. “You know, I had the same fears, that I’d never get to be with a boy or girl…” I reached out out she took my hand in hers and we sat there, quietly focusing on that contact. “Do you like boys or only girls?”

“I’m not even sure myself.” I sighed. “With the militia I never really had the opportunity to explore my feelings about it.”

She used her arms to drag herself closer to me and she wrapped her arms around my chest, dragging me into a hug.

“But I like you, I know that.” I whispered to her ear. “And I want you to be my girlfriend.”

“I would love to be.” She said with a grin. I repositioned myself to better kiss her, putting an arm on her thigh only for her to jerk a bit.

“I felt that!” She said, looking at her leg.

“You felt it?” I blinked.

“I’m not supposed to feel anything in my legs, but I left like a light jolt!” She exclaimed, excitement over the news, I wasn’t so thrilled. “Are you alright, Yikaru?”

“Maybe you should see the doctor? It can’t be normal for that to just happen. I want to be happy and all, but I’m seriously worried.”

“You’re right.” She sighed. “I guess we can finish lunch first?” She gave me a pleading look.

“That would be an acceptable risk.” I said with a grin. I put my hand on her cheek and drew her closer a real kiss this time.

After finishing our meal and cleaning up I escorted Yougen to the Doctor’s office. Doctor Szijkith was an oddity, even for this world, an alien doctor in love with humans. She was however clearly qualified.

When we came in and asked to see her for a consult she looked jubilant at the idea of having an excuse to chase away questioning parents here due to the open doors, well as jubilant as Venusians could look, they didn’t really show emotions well. Yougen explained what had happened and the doc happily ran some tests after which she had us wait a few minutes in her office.

“Found anything?” I asked once she came back into the office. Next to me Yougen looked a little stiff so I squeezed her hand tight.

“As is my job and was requested of the Legion, I studied your combined conditioned. Although many things are different, the one trait you both share are a filament growth coming out of the brain stem and wrapping itself across the spine.” She took out a folder of X-ray pictures from under her arm and showed it to us. “Here is the picture I took of Yougen when she first came a month ago and here is a random archive image for comparison.”

Although it was hard to tell what was happening, having never seen those kinds of pictures, the one with yougen had mass around the spine.

“And here is the one I took earlier.” She flipped it and the mass had grown just a smidge. “As you can see, the fibrous growth has begun breaching the gap between the severed vertebrae.”

“Is that good or bad?” I asked.

“This is something entirely new never encountered on this earth. I have no idea. How are your infection level Yougen?”

“42.7 for the last nine days.” She answered.

“So 1.3 higher than at the beginning of the month.” Doc Venus confirmed.

“Her infection is progressing?” I asked, alarmed at the news.

“It has, slightly.” The doctor confirmed. “But this could simply be from the increase in usage due to Ravenhold’s demands. From that data you both gave me, I believe it’s possible it will stay stable and with Yougen’s mass and age she’s still far from the danger zone.”

I wasn’t particularly relieved. Our place here was entirely reliant on using the blood’s powers, it wasn’t like we could hold out on doing that.

“I’ll still recommend avoiding extraneous usage of your abilities as much as humanly possible, but for now you’re discharged.”

“Thank you doctor.” Yougen said.

We went out and back toward the house.

“Guess I’m already scaring the crap out of you on our first day as girlfriends…” Yougen sighed after a moment of silence.

“You’re not the only infected here.” I reminded her. “And taking care of you is kind of part of what I signed up for as a girlfriend, didn’t I?”

“I guess you’re right. I’ll have to make up for it.”

“You don’t have to.” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s not start keeping scores? We just gotta do our best for each others.”

“Okay.” She nodded.