Reprisal Part I – Episode 10
(Sorry for the late release, I had issues this week with really refining it and other health stuffs. Trigger Warning – Contains references of homophobic, sexist slurs)
I awoke to my still cold room at 3 am. Fallon who’d been sleeping on the floor by my bed had tucked the futon nicely back on the top bunk and made it, apparently without waking me and left. There was a strange desolateness in her absence, and an odd eery calm in the air. In my strangely lucid state I felt as though my world had been deprived of something. Moreover, today meant a return to the same world from which I wished to recede. The past two days were the first time in a long time my essence and my state of being felt like they made sense to me. I pondered on the moment of this unusual relationship, and the desire to feel her close again, and a startling uneasiness inside me thinking about the world in which we lived. I thought about the dream I’d had, and a few similar ones I’d had while coiled up in her arms. Her absence felt deafening inside me. I knew in some small part that I wanted to wake up next to her a lot more. But she wasn’t here, and as if from the back of my mind I felt a subtle fear. The fear that we’d never have that again. The fear that reality would come crashing down, or perhaps even the fear of something worse than I could imagine. But now that she had touched my heart, I couldn’t pretend she hadn’t. It was like some long distance relationships, where you love someone, but they were too far away for you to see. Having those feelings stirred inside you, but being unable to requite them when you feel them was a jarring feeling. Even in the 2 years of dating and a little over a year of marriage to Yuzuho, I never once experienced such a feeling with her. Moreover, I was having dreams about her again, after nearly 8 years since the last time. Being lonely, and being isolated makes your mind into a muck of things. Dreams of romance always precipitate new romantic new interests with me.
My time with Fallon had felt like a dream, and she wasn’t yet so thoroughly ingrained into my psyche that she took starring roles in them yet. So, I had dreams about old loves, loves lost, and past crushes or romances fluttered about my dreams these past few days. Even had one with a childhood crush that had disappeared from my life many years ago. They were just in there as cameos, and didn’t represent a desire for those who were in my dreams, per say. As my mind began to wonder in my dark room, I thought about this. She captivated me so… She’s probably the initial reason I came to love women with glasses, after growing up, transition and the whole lot. They didn’t have to always wear them, just as long as I saw it sometimes. First crushes always seem to stick in your mind for the longest. Of course, back then it wasn’t cool for boys to like girls. But I admired her, as much as I had a crush on her. She was smart, and always had this aloof mysterious gaze in her eyes. Soft rounded features, glasses and a fringe cut. I can’t say, without doubt or some form of uncertainty, that the women I crushed on over the years didn’t have anything to do with my own appearance as my identity blossomed. I had a fringe cut, and I had always carried reading glasses around with me before breach. But it wasn’t just the women I loved, or adored, but there were many women I looked up to as a role models. My 3rd Grade teacher, an older, bespectacled but gracefully attractive woman with graying blonde hair. Mrs. Opal. She was the smartest teacher I’d ever had, and was the only atheist in our school. It was a recently secularized Catholic School, and I don’t remember why, but they were forced into a position where they weren’t permitted to limit admittance anymore. Most of the teachers were old teachers at the school under the same former School Board Director, Pastor and Principle Rodger Haskins.
The school hired on a larger staff, including Mrs. Opal, and started having regular children attend classes. The school still had religious elements, and there was still certain odd requirements at lunch time, like saying grace. But they were optional. Many of the teachers were still nuns and priests working for the Catholic Church, but circumstance created this “odd mix”. Much of those 2 years I attended are really blurry now. But Mrs. Opal was disliked by much of the staffers, teachers and principle. But she was the best science teacher they could get on such short notice, and to be honest she was better than many I had in preceding and following years. I wasn’t in her 4th grade class, as she taught 3rd – 6th grade science and earth science. But she was the first woman with which understood my “lack of religion”. I hadn’t been given any religious rearing, so I was different from most of the kids, many of which were there in earlier years when it was a closed campus. Of the children who started attending the year before, most had a religious upbringing. There were 6 churches in the 8 block X 8 block which was my neighborhood, to include 1 synagogue, and the school which was catholic affiliated and still held Sunday Mass. My mom’s house was situated smack dab in the middle of it, with the little park in front of the school being between the house and church/school.
I came home from that park with bloody noses often, as I was small and usually getting beat up. You could see the steeples at the top with a Gothic brass cross adorning it. I always hated the sound the bells made on Sunday, as they’d always wake me up. That year, the sound of those bells would change to me as I’d come to dread them. The school was very pretty inside, but for the most point, it was just very old. Many years later it would no longer be a school and become a historic site. I toured it once to see it in its much more defanged state.
We had 4 periods a day, Math, Science, Languages, Social Studies/Geography. Mrs. Opal and her desire to actually assert her authority protected me a lot throughout 3rd grade. But as the “femme boy” in class I got picked on a lot. She was the only teacher shielding me from worse on the school grounds. But this year I had a different set of teachers. She was the only one who seemed to actually understand me in some strange way, and was the only one who told me that there was nothing wrong with me being exactly how I was. It was just after spring break, and the halls had the smell of sunned wood throughout them, as well as that churchy, dusty smell. I was walking down the hallway from math, and suddenly I felt a whoosh of air, and the sensation of being lifted off my feet and swung through the air. I was small, so that didn’t take much, and then a moment later I felt a solid object against my hairline above my forehead and nothing but stars after that for a moment. Needless today, crowds of kids who had witness the tall, angry girl who seemed to have a vendetta against me, started taunting me. They shouted obscenities at me, like faggot, sissy, and telling me I’d go to hell. My vision was blurry and I was really groggy, and I wasn’t able to stand up, I floundered a few times and fell back down. I was confused and disoriented, and at seeing my struggle they then proceeded to kick me while I was down, my head was throbbing and I could feel blood coming down my forehead. One good kick made it through my guard and kicked me in the face. My lips and nose pulsated with intense pain, and began to get warm and bleed.
I don’t remember much after that. I know that Mrs. Opal heard the commotion and came out to break it up. I had gone limp on the floor, and was shaking apparently. I woke up in the ICU with bandages on my head, and horrible dizziness. Took nearly an hour to compose myself as all I could do was dry heave and vomit into a plastic bucket. Once I was starting to feel better, though being medicated and unable to stand on my own, my mom explained to me a second-hand account of what had happened. The girl, which for the life of me I can’t remember had picked me up and tossed me against the wall. She was a slightly heavyset girl, and was the tallest girl in 5th and 6th grade at 5’5″. She’d grabbed my by the belt and hood of my hoodie and thrown me against a metal locker. The impact had instantly split my scalp open about half an inch, and gave me a severe concussion. A few kicks to the head later I’d passed out and started convulsing on the floor. It was 4am, and I’d been out of it for around 14 hours. They got me stabilized after about 2 hours, but I didn’t wake up right away, and when I did I wasn’t coherent. My mom held my hand and cried a lot when I woke up. She held me in her arms for what felt like 10 minutes weeping and sobbing.
I laid in bed for a week at home recovering, and when I was finally cleared to go back to school I was too afraid to leave the house. After that we moved out of that neighborhood. Because of my “awkward sense of self” we ended up moving once more before we found a school that I wasn’t horribly bullied at. I rolled my legs off the bed and stared at the floor. I hadn’t really remembered that incidence with much clarity outside of flashbacks that clearly before. I’d grabbed my glasses of my nightstand while thinking of all this, pushing the teal light to turn the refraction on and off watching how it distorted the images behind it. I slide them onto my face and walk over to the sink, turning the light on at its lower setting with 2 fingers. Still feeling the ill feeling in my stomach, I hunch over the sink and look into the mirror. A slight sense of relief washes over me… I mean, I am myself after-all. I am in my chosen form. For someone like me, seeing one’s self in such a way does feel kind of good when you are feeling out of it. I tilt my mark into the light, and look at its sheen. It’s a little strange, I don’t remember it being as bright as it was, and its greenish tint in the light was now slightly more bluish. My face is still a little paler than normal, but overall it was an affirming sight. I’d often wondered as a child how often cisgender people saw their own face and felt how I did, and then after I transitioned, wondered if the feeling I’d found was more similar as of now to how they felt. Hating your own face, and body… Well, that’s not something I’d wish on anyone. Any reality that makes death seem like a better option is not a reality worth living, though I will say there are options better than death if you look for them.
“Alira, don’t be so dark and morbid”, I whisper to myself. Waving the light off I walk over to my window, hoping to see the comforting fluffiness of Minnesota snow to comfort me. I see snow falling. Growing up, I always found something peaceful and welcoming in the fresh snow of Minnesota. When I was young I remember standing on the porch, bundled up in Amma’s homemade clothing, my mom’s hand me downs, and drinking a cup of cocoa as I watched the cool fluffiness of it all. When I was in a bad mood, or when I was upset, that was where I’d be. Memories, but this place was a cold shell of the Minnesota I remembered. Here, it’s been snowing on and off for 3 days or so now. There is a hefty, thick coating of snow on all the trees now, and the plowed roadway is basked in a gentle blue from the moon peaking through the cloud cover. I slide the window open and stick my head out to cool the hot, clammy, nervously uncomfortable sleep I had after Fallon had left. I see something protruding from the side of the building to my right. I look over and see someone sticking their head out their window, and it startles me so much that I bang my head on my window frame while reeling myself back in. Sticking my head out ever so slightly I look again, and it’s Fallon sticking her head out the window. She’s in her pajamas, and she’s been sticking her head out the window so long that there is a few light puffy patches of snow on top of her black hair. “Fallon”, I say. She looks over at me, and even though I can’t see much expression on her face in the moonlight it feels like she is smiling at me. Her face seems somehow affectionately looking at me. We hear a truck coming down the road and the sound of a marching team following it. The headlights illuminate and make the snowy road glitter. We both duck back inside to let the truck pass and the team marching behind it with beacon style flashlights. We both resume hanging from the window, me in just my bra and panties.
“You should make sure to drink more, you look paler than usual”, says Fallon now staring off into space again. “Is that an order”, I retort attempting to make something of a jest. “But we’re the same rank, I can’t give you orders” she says glancing at me for only a moment with a serious look on her face not realizing the joke. “I was kidding, it’s nothing”, I reply looking down at the snowy road, “I’ll be going back today. It’ll be… Fun. Scratch that, it’ll be a mess. I really don’t want to go back. My first day of classes, first day in glasses, and the month I spent getting there were quite troublesome.”
Fallon now trailing a large fluffy snowflake to the ground with her eyes says, “Hmm. Wasn’t this what you expected? Didn’t know something like this would happen? Or did you think that military school would be clear sailing?” She asked in earnest, though with most people I would assume that they implied something else in saying it. With her, I knew better, as if she was in my head. I started wishing for her to hold me at that moment, inside my head. She turns to me in a much more serious tone, “Don’t do that.” “Do what?”, I inquire with surprise to her reply, “Stop wanting me. It’s hard for me to feel that without (she is hesitating as if holding back)… Ya know?” I kind of wince a little and apologize with an abrupt “Sorry about that”, and I am compelled to duck back inside by the cold. Shutting the window behind me and shivering to shake off the cold, I hear a knock and the keypad buttons beeping. It’s Fallon, and she opens the doorway to the dimly orange lit hallway, and then shuts it. I can see her hand motioning to me in the darkness to come forward. I am standing in front of her, and she reaches up and pulls me down ever so slightly to kiss me. All the jitters, and ache washed away again she speaks to me, “I know how you feel. I just ask that you keep a better handle on it, okay?” I wrap my arms around her, and she responds in kind, warmly. She walks over to the fridge and opens it. Pulling out one of the night rescue drinks, then she peels back the aluminum and hands it to me. “Drink”, she demands, “And get at least another hour of sleep.” I do as she asks, and sit down on my bed.
“Good night, Alira”, she says then walks to the door and looks at me while holding the handle. She presses her lips into a light smile then closes the door behind her. I roll back onto my bed
I was almost out as soon as my head hit the pillow. The rescue beverages had a non-addictive sedative in them that worked particularly fast on tempests. I awoke at 7:20 to the sound of Sheila opening the door with a food tray in hand. I frantically looked at the clock and was shocked that I’d over slept, and begin hurriedly trying to get out of bed, but am too lethargic still. “Your recovery time was set to end at 7 am, not 5, Ensign”, she says while sitting on my bed and setting the food on my night stand. “Eat, get ready, and make sure you are at class at 8:30 with everyone else”, she commands on her way out. On the mornings we had PT we would have 25 minutes of calisthenics, shower, than go to breakfast. But unlike the other wings we had PT (Physical Training) so seldom that it was uncommon if we did it more than once a week. Medical wing students bodies were under especially high biological pressure when it came to electrolytes, and as a result PT was actually unhealthy to do more often. We were unable to sustain electrolytes like speed or power users who were able to compensate with caloric intake. However, all tempests had ridiculous metabolisms, so it wasn’t like we needed to lose weight. We burned off more than 2000 calories a day just sitting on our butts. High body temperature, and chronic deficiencies of the sweat glands in power users usually ended in fatalities. But healers and speed users could get by, or even self correct. I drank the drinks on the trays and ate, and as quickly as humanly possible pulled my glasses off my pillow and dressed and headed out the door.
Tempests powers put strain on our bodies, but usually for most it actually extended natural life span. The only exception being upper tier 1 power users. Their bodies usually burned out in around 40 years. The classrooms had special circulation systems you wouldn’t need in an ordinary school. The heat exchangers were slightly more powerful than those in conventional conditioning systems because we all had a normal body temperature of 101 degrees F. 30 Tempest in a room was the equivalent of sitting in an air-conditioned computer lab of the 20th and early 21st century. The classes used to be segregated by power types, but power users would short out the lights and blow the A/C if their were 30 of them in a room.
I walk the 19 flights of stairs down to the floor my class is on. The air goes eerily silent as I exit the stair well, and join the mass of students all heading to their own classes. Many are ignoring me, and others are trying to get out of my way. Most seem to be aware of the incident of 3 nights ago, and seem leery of me. One blonde haired boy standing by the rescue fountain pulls away as if to let me use it. I am not used to this sort of behavior out of people, but I hear the power users are accustomed to he. It was in one of the longer conversations we had, me and Fallon, about the school, and the environment of it. I see Fallon coming down the hall in the opposite direction, likely coming from the chow hall. I walk towards her, but she pretends not to notice me. As I get close to meeting her in front of the classroom a couple of imposing boys step in front of me. They consist of: 2 tier 1 power users and 1 tier 1 speed user. The quintessential “Jocks” of this school. Everyone backs out of the way as if waiting and watching for a gunfight to break out like you see in the old western movies.
“That move you did the other night, ‘Healer’, do you know what that is… ‘Healer’”, says the dark-haired boy who looks like a total beefcake. His arms are as big around as my thighs. “Um, what?”, I say very quietly. “‘Healer’, do you even know what you did? You did something you probably shouldn’t have, being marked and all. I mean, you don’t want anyone to think they want to challenge you to see what you’re sandbagging, do you?”, he continues in an arrogant, firm tone.
“Because if you ask me, I think you almost pulled off a God’s Strike in the arena last night, ‘Healer’”, he says now leaning into me intimidatingly. The two boys on either side of him who are far less imposing chuckle at the burly, precocious, teenaged looking boy. “My name is Cadet Captain Bueller, but you can call me ‘Fuel’. I am a high-end power user, and in my 2 years at this school I have never seen anyone cut Crowder down to size and I think I’d like to know how you did it. How’d you take down the school’s champion spear team captain and make him look like such a punk in the process.” He had a deep, macho voice, kind of like the voice of the Italian body building men who would hit on me all the time when I moved to New York. Yep, he was most definitely “jacked and tan”. He was also nearly 6’6″ and towered over me. I couldn’t help by bow back a little to look up at him. “I’m going to knock you down… It’s for you own good. Don’t resist me, or else it will hurt more. I know you don’t see this now, but one day you’ll thank me”, he finishes and begins to hulk himself and power up his bluish lightning and raise his fist. His friends stand back, and without a seconds delay he swings. It was like instinct, and in an instance I’d raised my hands to block, and braced my feet against the floor. His fist hit with incredible force and had a strong electrical force behind it. I pushed back by with my energy, effortlessly. I’d completely canceled the force of his punch, though to be honest it too my entire body to stop one punch. The force of the punch resonated in the hall, and many students jumped at the sound, but everyone looked on with vague expressions or surprised looks. “Kid, you aren’t helping your case”, says the burly macho man standing over me as he retracts his fist, “But you have gusto…. I like.”
“But, let me give you a word of advice… You’re not going to be happy about refusing me. Well, unless you’re… Never mind…”, he continues, “Let’s go guys.” And at that he walks away, and his two friends follow him. I look up at the clock and realize the time. I rush into the class, darting through the door just in time for the bell to ring.
“Everyone take your seats”, shouts the instructor, “Where’s Crowder?” Cadet Ensign Crowder is mysteriously missing. It’s shameful to lose a match to a marked individual, so I have no doubt that there is a connection there. The seating is now a little differently arranged, and a different classmate is now in his seat. There is an empty seat sort of close to me, which is a little odd. Fallon is seated at the back directly across the room from me still. She looks at me, and I look at her, and then our attention is summoned forward. “Everyone’s attention please”, says Instructor Barclay looking down at his PDA, “With the withdrawal of Cadet Crowder, we have a new student today. I’d like to introduce Charles Dawson. Please do your best to welcome him.” He is a tall, model-like, suave looking man with medium length blonde hair, blue-eyes, and the kind of “make the girls swoon” kind of attitude. I look at him and to the empty desk and muddle to myself, “Shit”. He elegantly walks down the aisle throwing his charm out. The girls in the room are watching him intently, even rubbernecking a bit. I look up at him with a baffled, and then look away grunting with my annoyance. He slides gracefully into his seat and I can see some of the girls blushing at him, and scowling at me. He leans over to me, and says, “Did you fall from heaven? Because damn I’d like to get your digicard.” (Digicards are the chipped cards that create private lines between you and the person you give them to. They print out of your console with a chip on them.) I hear a few surprised gasps from the girls in the class, and I turn to him and give him my classic “I am not amused” face. I then point to my tattoo and say, “You may want to reconsider.”
“Damn, and I thought I was straight”, he says back with a sly, suggestive smirk on his face. I just blink my eyes at him, and then pull my tablet out of my bag. With a cracking sound Barclay slaps the board with his pointer causing everyone to jump from their enamored looks, and hateful glares directed at me. Our eyes become affixed to a green screen then filled with information that we must write down. The text is big enough that I can see it without my refraction on, but for whatever reason it’s more comfortable to read with it on. I try to glance over at my strange, new, flamboyant classmate, Cadet Ensign Dawson. He is a baby-faced, but still mature looking young man. I imagined to myself that if I weren’t a lesbian I’d be “swooning” too. He catches me making passing glances at him, and smirks at me. I roll my eyes at him and resume taking down the notes on my tablet as the instructor lectures. I type rather fast, and the cadet notices this and keeps looking at my typing and making a strange face at how quickly I am clicking off on the buttons. With my medium length nails it’s hard to not notice my typing. The key pad attached to the tablet has a clicking sound that they make when I push the buttons, and my fingernails only had to that sound. My typing sounds like that flurry of clicking sounds.
I see him attempt to mimic my speed and skill at typing for a moment then he stops and makes a grunting noise and starts pounding the backspace key. “Hey! Hey! How do you do that?”, he whispers loudly at me but I ignore him. “Hey!”, he says again but now reaching out to touch my shoulder. I turn to him “Just take your damned notes and stop pestering me”, I whisper shout back to him. Barclay notices and makes an obviously loud throat clearing sound, and we both immediately snap back to the task at hand. This ‘high schoolesque’ environment, on some levels has a familiarity that can lull one into complacency. I think about this while typing my notes and try to work to keep myself on guard. I’d already been challenged on my first day back by a burly, Italian-looking man, and been hit on by a French flirt. This place was nothing if not also lively. I didn’t want to let the environment of this place lure me into the same state of complacency that allowed for the incident that led up to my duel happen again. I was intentionally wearing my combat accoutrements for boots instead of the standard school uniform boots, which honestly were quite similar and permissible to wear. I felt safer knowing that my blue cards were not removable. This place certainly was throwing one punch at me after another. I couldn’t afford to be caught off guard. And then, there was the matter of my feelings for Fallon, and the fact that since I’d been marked my sexuality never came into the picture. There was no way they could “mark me again”, and the gay/lesbian brand was basically already a part of my brand. It did happen that symbols could be added, but in my case, it just wouldn’t happen. And then there’s the matter of my power, looming once again, seemingly inescapable. I blocked the punch of a 6’6″ meat cake of a man who was also a tier 1 power user, and it seemed almost instinctual and automatic for me. I wondered to myself while I continued to rattle off my notes into my tablet, ‘What was his objective?’, ‘What was he trying to prove’. I was so lost in thought for a moment that I actually typed that in my notes.
I never liked standing out in school. My first time through a high school like environment I hid in the shadows and was happy with being in obscurity. I didn’t really care to be noticed, and to be honest, I didn’t terribly like being in the limelight. Secretly though, I did long to be something amazing that people would look at, but that was just a childish fantasy… Or was it. Classes progressed, and the hallway interchange was always the most hazardous for me. I was always happy when I was affixed into my place, as I felt safer once I was settled in. Didn’t matter if it was the cafeteria, or the lab, my room, or the classroom. I didn’t remember much of what I’d learned in high school the first time, but some of the things we did were redundant, as if I knew them already, and others were different. As the bell rang, Prince Charming decided to make another pass at me, and I shut him down again. As I stand there at the door, I notice Cadet Ensign Partridge staring intently at me from the other side of the door frame. She just watches me, as I mentally prepare myself to enter the hallways I have come to fear of late. I am hungry, and that force begins to drive me forward. She continues to watch me now standing besides me. I look over at her, much to her shock and ask, “Want to have lunch with me?” I cool sweat of nervousness washes over me for a moment thinking about the fact that I just blurted that out without thinking. I immediately begin to apologize “Sorry, you don’t…”, when she cuts me off with “Sure.” It was just awkward with her watching me, and I wanted to break the tension. I still dreaded what my first day back would contain, but I was at least a little at ease with her gesture of comfort and eagerness to actually join me. So we walked down the hallway, and off to lunch both wondering what types of responses this odd duo would receive. Fallon suddenly popped up on the other side of me, and Partridge and Fallon stared at each other for a moment as we progressed down the hall. I reeled my head back a little and swapped glances back and forth with them for a moment. The duo, was now a trio, and surely the oddest spectacle walking down the hall that day. A black sheep, vampire-like girl, a spritely, upper-class, privileged girl, and a sin-branded, transsexual girl. And odd trio, indeed.