Reprisal Part II – Episode 11

(Trigger warning – This chapter contains references and graphic depictions of violence, slurs and transphobic slurs that may be triggering for some readers.  It also contains material that may be emotionally difficult for others to read.  It was difficult for me to write, as it made even me cry while writing it.  So I can only imagine how others will respond.  Reader discretion advised.)

As we progressed down the hall, our odd trio certainly drew looks from the other students.  Some looks of surprise, others of shock, and dismay.  The black sheep, the outcast, and the Regent Administrator’s daughter.  The only thing that could have made their expressions more intense would be if we walked holding hands.  Indeed… Odd.  People cleared a path for us, and it was as if we were celebrities already.  As we entered the mess hall the chatter stopped for a moment has half the students by the doors stopped to gawk, some with food still in their mouths, others dropping their forks.  I didn’t like the tension, nor the attention.  It made me nervous.  I looked down at Fallon for support, but she just silently shrugs.  Today’s special is artificial bacon cheese burgers, real baked fries, and protein and electrolyte enhanced sweet peas with artificial butter.  This junk tasted like space food, however, we had a special treat today… They boiled the burgers in real beef broth today, so at least they would be moist, and at least let me imagine they were real burgers.  Not that it was helpful, I was mostly vegetarian before breach.  However, when I was starving in the temple, it’s hard to get around it.  1 meal a day and 20 sports drinks was enough to make me want to vomit.  Probably why I avoided drinking them unless Fallon gave me or requested I’d drink one.  She was turning me in a masochist with some habits it would seem.  Not that it was torture, but the drinks would make me nauseous.  I mean, come on, they’re basically a sports drink with electrolytes and soy bread dissolved in them.  Not that they were disgusting, but the texture reminded me of the temple.  Sometimes when I’d drink they made me sick.  It was like a protein shake, only more homogenized in the mixture so that it wouldn’t clump or curdle, no matter what temperature or conditions.  I couldn’t stand the banana one… It tasted like pink bismuth syrup.  Yuck.

I got two burgers and ignored fries and opted for extra peas instead.  They had other food, but their numbered protein food supplements were far less appetizing.  The power users and some of the speed users spoke highly of it, but their higher caloric regimen made it make sense for them, and disgusting for most everyone else.  The stuff was meant to look like food, but it looks like little less than moisturized food pellets.  Kind of like cat food.  They resembled what they were meant to be, but they tasted nothing like it.  Well, maybe a slight hint of it.  By the way, it smelled kind of like cat food too.  Thus far the trio was still intact.  We decided to take our seats at the same table altogether.  I kind of gathered that Fallon took advantage of the extra party to “not feel odd about hanging out with me”.  Or at least, felt safer in doing so.  Plausible deniability.  Someone once accused the Regent Administrator’s daughter, Partridge, of being a lesbian.  It only happened once.  The kid who did it mysteriously disappeared, and since then no one has wanted to spread rumors.  To be honest, I’d have picked a different table if I’d known in advance what was going to happen next.

Sitting now and eating, suddenly the table bowed a shook a little.  The slap of a tray table was quickly followed by the massive body of Cadet Captain Bueller sitting down next to Partridge, directly across from me.  His heavily laden metal tray looks more like something you’d feed your dog than a human being.  “Oh, god!”, shout Partridge, “I can’t believe you’re going to eat that stuff.  It smells like pet food.  What the heck is it?”

“Wholesome nutrition, Girl.  Wholesome nutrition.  You should try it.  It’s cram packed with every kind of protein, amino acid, and vitamin you could ever need.  Ambrosia!”, says Fuel.  “Don’t call me Girl!”, says Partridge now furiously staring at Fuel while he eats.  “Sorry, but you are just so tiny, I couldn’t help it”, he responds, clearly confused by her response, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Well, everything is big to you, you ogre!”, she growls back at him.

He puts down his fork, and pounds is massive pecks, and lets out an “Ahhhhh” shout like a monkey man.  “That’s what you’re expecting me to do, right?”, he says with a defiantly sarcastic tone in his voice.  The ensign rolls her eyes at him.  She then stares at Fallon, then me, then does a spitting laugh.  She then breaks into full on laughter, and I can’t help but join her.  Fallon giggles silently to herself while staring down at her tray.  “Humph”, Fuel says with a proud smirk on his face.  His hands are so huge, that using the same forks as us makes it look like an adult using a child sized fork.  He doesn’t suffer from Gigantism, but he is still a massive person with bulk in both build and muscle.  “Partridge, Roe, Rutger, what are your names?   What do you want me to call you by?”, asks Fuel now sitting with folded hands over his miraculously empty tray.  “Alira”, I say as he then looks to my right as she responds, “Fallon”.  “Well, it’s certainly not Girl!”, barks Partridge.  “Well, if you don’t want me to call you “Girl” or any other name, then you have to give me a better name”, he responds.  She clears her throat, puts down her fork, and paps her mouth with a paper towel and then stands next to Fuel, “My name is Sarah Ellen Partridge, the 4th daughter of the Regent Administrator of Diocese of Zion Education System, Nun Zoe Partridge.”   She reaches out her hand in a lady-like way, as if she were a noble of some sorts from ancient times.  He off-handed shakes her hand in a way she sees as inappropriate, and she begins to scowl at him.  “You know, a man of your rank and stature should be more gentlemanly, and you should learn how to treat a lady.  You’re starting to come across as incorrigible”, she continues.  He smiles really big and turns to his left straddling the bench of the seat he is on, and offers his hand in a greeting, “Bret “Incorrigible” Bueller, but everyone who knows me calls me Fuel.  Nice to meet you.”  She stares down at his massive hand and reluctantly gives it for a shake, to which he shakes vigorously causing her whole body to shake.  The way in which he shakes her hand is so puerile in nature, and she just looks annoyed and not the least bemused by his child-like gesture.

She snatches her hand away, and rubs it a little.  Perhaps his hand shake was a little too vigorous.  She rolls her eyes again and sits back down, but only after Fuel resumes sitting in a way that doesn’t make her feel uncomfortable.  “Your such a child, you know that”, she exclaims!  He just gives her a big, cheesy grin and begins to drink the 4 sports drinks on his tray.  “How did you eat all that cat food, err, um, I mean food!”, I ask him finally having a moment to verbally respond to my shock about what he ate, and how quickly.  “Meow!  How do you think I ate it, Meow?  I put it in my mouth, I chewed and swallowed… It’s not that hard”, he retorts sarcastically.  I look down and play with my food, embarrassed that I actually said what I thought his food was.  “Meow”, he says again to drive the point home even more.  I nervously giggle, and suddenly after a moment he bursts into intense deep belly laughing so loud that other students start looking at us.  “Meow, mew mewow wow, mew meow!”, he says, now only slightly chuckling, “I am messing with you Allie!”  Hearing him call that sends cold shivers up my spine, and causes me to freeze and go white a little.  My reaction stops his laughing, and causes Fallon to notice my building sense of distress.  I feel shaken.  There is only one time in my life I can recall someone calling me by that name, and it’s incredibly triggering when someone does.  “You okay, Alira?”, he asks now, showing genuine concern.  “Was it something I said?”, he inquires again, “If it is, just say so.”  “That name… don’t use it…  Please”, I say trying to look up at him while hunched over in this uncomfortable feeling.  “It’s a deal.  I won’t use it anymore.  I don’t know what you’ve been through, but whatever it was seems to hinge around that nickname”, he responds trying to comfort me by talking in a softer tone.  “Pardon me for using it, I didn’t mean to bother you so much with it”, he responds again now looking at his watch, “Shit.”

“I don’t have much time left, I have lift team after this”, he says now working to finish his other three sports drinks.

To my left I see some timid tier 2 being put up to something, and apparently it has something to do with the table we are sitting at, possibly even me.  A moment later the kid stands up but hesitates.  The other two kids near him get up and push him towards our table, towards me.  He has something eerily familiar in his left hand that he is trying to hide.  The kids that pushed him are hunched over their table, watching and snickering.  He is short, and quite frankly, he looks like a computer nerd.  He approaches the table but stops about 2 meters away.  He is reaching out his hand as if trying to duck under some invisible, dangerous force in the air.  As he irks closer nearly his entire body is turned away, but he is still reaching towards the table with whatever is concealed in his hand.  Finally, he get’s his hand on the table.  He hesitates to remove his hand from the table several times, and has been their now for almost a minute covering it, darting his head to look at us and see if we are responding.  Instinctively, I reach into my blue card pouch and conceal a card under my hand as well.  I slowly slide the card across the table until my middle finger is touching his.  He looks at me, and I can see the fear in his eyes, and tell he isn’t doing this of his own will.  Using my fingernails I pry my fingers under his and feel a rigid card underneath them, confirming my suspicion.  Pushing my hand farther underneath, I shove my blue card under his “most likely” red but he resists.  “I won’t hurt you.  Trust me”, I say to him looking sincerely into his panicked hazel eyes.  He releases but is unsure of what I am doing, and I slide my hand the rest of the way under his and push my card the rest of the way under his with my thumb.  He has sweat a little, but now he is blushing instead.  Gently now, I slide my hand back out, and he is a little more panicked looking, but as his hand rests against the card on the table again he starts to relax.  His card was warm and slightly clammy from perspiration, and mine was cool and dry.  There is no doubt he knows the card has changed, but to what.  He seems confused.  I pull card out from under his hand and put it under the table.  Setting the card on my lap, Fallon’s eyes go wide as she sees its recognizable crimson color.  The boy closes his eyes and sighs for a moment, then peaks under his hand, first at arm’s length then crouching and getting closer to look.

He sighs in relief when he sees the blue card I deposited under his hand.  Without revealing it, he pulls his hand away from the table and nervously smiles at me, then at Fuel.  His forehead is covered in perspiration now, and his glasses have slid down his nose because of it.  He slowly backpedals away, to about 2 meters, and then darts way after pushing the glasses back up with his free hand.  Fuel looks at me, “Was that what I thought it was?”  Slowly and covertly, I slide the card on the table, so that only those at the table can see.  Fallon and Sarah gasp at it, and Fuel just goes, “Humph”, and cracks his knuckles.  The kids at the table appear to be angry that I blue carded their unwitting plaything in their attempt to bully him.

“He doesn’t strike me as the kind of kid to buy red cards, Alira.  I bet those boys over there put him up to it.  I’ll have to have a ‘talk’ with the one.  He is year 1 team.  I can put the screws to him”, says Fuel, now visibly showing repressed anger.  He’s angry over someone carding me I think, as I say, “Don’t worry about it.  It’s not big deal.  Happens all the time… I’m used to it.”

“As you know, healers are a rarity, especially tier 1s, and this school is trying to take you out like it’s going out of style.  Let’s just say, I owe my life to a healer”, he responds with bazaar intensity while holding up his forearm.  There is a huge nasty scar on his arm, on both sides, as if someone stabbed him between the radius and ulna and pulled the knife all the way down to his wrist.  “The girl who patched this wound died after she healed me.  She was only a tier 3.  It was before I enrolled.  I was walking down the streets of the Old Vatican, and I saw an exiled girl being attacked by a couple of men with knives.  I ran down the alley before I even thought twice about it.  I’m always a fool when I see a woman, whether she be in distress or otherwise.  It’s probably the Italian in me, and growing up in the Vatican, or its desolate remains that is.  I saw a lot of violence, and a lot of death.  I saw horrible, inhuman things done to exiles, and citizens alike.  The empire doesn’t care about the little people, so I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing”, he finishes with a sombre and contemplative face.

“What happened?”, Fallon asks.

Fuel stares at Fallon with the space between his brows deeply grooved, and you can hear the sound of his teeth grinding.  He leans his face over into is interlocked hands, sighs, then sits up straight in his chair.  He clears his sinuses by sucking in through his nose and closing one nostril at a time with his index finger and thumb.  Sarah grimaces at him, then resumes intently waiting for the conclusion of his story.

“I said, ‘Smettila, pezzo empi di merda!’, or something to that effect and I powered up.  It was the first time I hit my high tier 1 threshold.  But one of the men with knives was a tier 1 or 2 speed user.  I spend 15 minutes trying to deflect his blows, and I was lucky all by six times… None of the first five were remotely life threatening, and I managed to keep my magnet field up the whole time.  Except that this was my first time using that much power, and I began so show signs of tempest sickness.  The two other men were using her as a hostage, and I was covered in at least 4 dozen little cuts in addition to the major ones.  I stopped for a moment to vomit, and he lunged at me.  I blocked with my arm, but he stabbed through my arm just past the elbow.  I reached up with the knife still in my arm, and with him still holding it and grabbed him around the neck and started to squeeze.  He wheezed a little, but was unable to breathe, and was slowly cutting his way up my arm to get me to release, but I was infuriated and I didn’t desist.  I turned his body to the wall and thrusted him at the wall with such force that his head made a sound like a melon.  He died instantly, but I’d already crushed his throat according to la polizia.  The final thrust had carved the rest of this cut into my arm, and after a few moments I collapsed barely able to stay conscious.  I’d lost a lot of blood, so much so that I couldn’t sustain the field over my arm holding the blood it, if only a little”.  Fuel is now cupping his face with his hands and rubbing slowly.

He drops his hands, and rests his chin supporting it with is thumb, “I laid there, dying.  The other two men heard the sirens and ran, tossing the girl to the ground has they fled.  Our fight was kind of noisy, and I may have destroyed a few windows, a couple of cars, and destabilized buildings on that block with my 15 minute fight.  Just maybe”, He smirks.   “She crawled over to me with fresh scratches and bruises on her arms in the shape of a man’s hand. She ignited her flames, which were only enough to barely cover her hands and began trying to treat my wounds, but with her power it was going to take longer than I had.  I told her, ‘Go! Salva te stesso. Tu non vuoi essere qui quando arrivano qui.’ Basically, ‘Go, save yourself.  You don’t want to be here when they get here.'”

“‘La mia vita è già incamerata. Ho sofferto troppo. Ogni giorno è come oggi! Io sono un guaritore, e io sono l’unico che ti può aiutare. Hai sacrificato per me. Tu sai che io sono stato esiliato. Sei la prima persona che ho incontrato da quando sono atterrato in questo posto dimenticato da Dio, che si curava di me. Che tipo di persona sarei se ti lascio morire? Non so cosa posso fare, ma ci proverò. Se questo è lo scopo della mia vita, allora così sia. Preferisco morire che continuare a soffrire, se si sono risparmiati. Se fallisco, sarai il mio angelo custode? Vuoi aiutare la mia anima al cielo? Per favore?’  Basically she said, my life is forfeit.  This is life for me everyday.  I am a healer, and I am the only one who can help you.  You sacrificed for me. You know I have been exiled. You’re the first person I’ve met since I landed in this God-forsaken place that cared about me. What kind of person would I be if I let you die.  I don’t know what I can do, but I’ll try.  I’d rather die to save you, than continue to suffer.  Will you be my guardian angel?  If I fail, will you guide my soul to heaven?  She asked please.  She wasn’t afraid, or scared… She seemed happy somehow, to help me, even if it meant her death.  She screamed at the top of her lungs and with all her might she ignited her whole body in green flames, and almost immediately I could see the signs of tempest sickness starting.  I had to speak over the sound of her flames, ‘Se si usa così tanto potere che ti ucciderà!’  If you use that much power, you’ll die!”

“‘E ‘la mia vita, è la mia scelta’, she shouted at me through the roar of her flames with a smile on her face, “It’s my life, it’s my choice.”  Her rampaging energy apparently peaked at tier 1 before it extinguished her life, according to surveillance footage.  She was actually closing my wounds, a feat a tier 2 can’t even do under such conditions.  She was not able to regenerate much blood, but as I felt life returning ever so slightly to my body, I watched her life fade away…”

“…As soon as she’d mostly closed my wound she collapsed.  I irked my way up against the dumpster with what strength I had left and pulled her up and cradled her in my arms.  She was shaking horribly, and had tempest sickness deathly bad.  Her body felt like it was going cold already, and her lips had turned pale-blue, with a rapid shallow pulse.  She was delirious, talking to herself as if she was dreaming, and watching things that weren’t there and whispering gibberish.  Her pulse became thready, and she stopped shaking.  She looked up at me and asked me, ‘E ‘questo il paradiso?’  (Is this heaven).  I looked down at her and said, ‘Assolutamente. Sì.’  She closed her eyes and clutched me tightly, ‘Grazie, il mio angelo’.  She never woke back up, and the Vaticano Polizia never have healers on staff for those sorts of incidences.  She was still holding me when they arrived.  I told them what happened, and the church agreed to posthumously forgive her sins and give her a proper burial.  The facts of what happened got me noticed by a papal sponsor group.  2 years later I enrolled, and here I am.  She thought I was her angel, but it was she who was mine.  She had more courage than 100 men, more fortitude than anyone I’d ever met.  We didn’t even know each other, outside of that moment in time.  Her name was Angelique, it means Angel.  Ironic, isn’t it?”, he finishes with a much more easy and upbeat tone in his voice.  “Let me give you word of advice, ‘guaritore’.  Be on your guard.  You may have stayed fate with that last battle, but you are in more danger than ever before now that people have become suspicious of your tempest.  I tried to warn you, and give you a chance to opt out, but it’s apparent you have fuoco in te.  Not a bad, thing.  But, a dangerous recipe if you aren’t up to the challenge.  Every second of everyday, from reveille to taps, you’re in grave danger.  Keep that in mind”, he says sternly with a sense of seriousness on his face and a tone of deep concern in his voice.

“I don’t want to see what’ll happen if you don’t, if you aren’t.  But I won’t lie.  A part of me is morbidly curious as to what exactly you are, and to what you are capable of.  By the way, why would such a gentle spirit as you be branded?  How do you do the things you do?  That’s the kind of stuff that makes me wonder, eh?”, he says and finishes in a question.

“I’m a transsexual.  As for the rest, I know as much as you do about my potential, which isn’t much”, I say in response without even batting an eyelash. “Una donna è una donna.  See ya… I gotta run.  Just take what I said to heart.  That’s all I ask”, he says in a tone almost as if to beg me to hear his plea.  “We all bleed don’t we?” he says while walking away.  As he approaches the door and begins to skip and dance.  Myself, and the rest of the trio at the table just stare at him dumbfounded, and he turns to us and does a courtesy bow, then turns and disappears into the hallway which is much dimmer than the cafeteria.  I turn back to Sarah and Fallon and we all have the remnants of tears in our eyes from his story, “There is more too that big oaf than I thought”, says Sarah while chuckling a little.  “The bigger they are the softer they are”, I say.  I feel faint from the currents of emotions I have felt today, and I feel a little weak.  I am worried about his warning.  We all giggle to each other, and each in our own way we work to rebalance ourselves.

Afternoon classes were easy as we were required to draw a meditation image for our power control segment of class so I was able to space out a bit and forget about what happened that day.  Because of his story, I drew what I thought Angelique might have looked like.  It was the most lucid image I’d ever drawn.  Being a healer also makes us mildly empathic, not meaning we can read people’s minds, but somehow feel their emotions by touching them with our fields.  Through it, we can draw images that represent something someone remembered or envisioned.  I lost myself in the image, like I was in a trance drawing it.  Barclay came around at the end of class, and his jaw dropped when he saw the image if the angel on my tablet.  “What exactly are you, exile?”, he asked me, “In my 25 years at this school I have never seen anything like that.”  The emotionless old man seemed in some way stirred by my drawing, both pleased and stunned in disbelief.  It was as if he was realizing for the first time that I was human.  He stood there for what seemed like 5 minutes staring into the image.  “May I have a copy of this?”, he asked.  He handed back my tablet and held his out in front of it eagerly awaiting my response.  “Sure, I don’t see why not”, and with a five fingers on the screen I flick them at his tablet, sending him the image.  The green-light flashes orange at the top of my tablet like an HDD device indicator light, and “Sent” pops up on the screen, then disappears.  He walks back to his desk, and resumes staring at the image.  The bell had already rang, and everyone was already cleared out, and I sat there waited to be dismissed.  “Sorry, you may go now”, he says.

I walk out in the hall, and remember the last time I did this at the end of the day, and feel a little uneasy repeating something like that today.  I sighed in relief a little as I realized that I’d been carded at lunch, meaning I couldn’t be carded for another 6 hours, by which time lights out would happen.  I walked down the hall, and into the stairwell.  I stared at that rescue fountain on the way by, and felt that mild sense of unease rise, then fall as I walked away.  It was strange though, because as I climbed the stairs I heard several doors on the lower floors open, and heard footsteps climbing them rather rapidly.  However, when I’d stop to see who was climbing them, the running would slow to a walk.  It made me suspicious, so I picked up my pace going up the stairs, and the others in the stairwell responded in kind.  My only hope was to get to my room before they did.  I leapt up the last 3 steeps and dashed through the door.  There was already 3 students from Warrior Wing (Blue Dorm) in the hallway.  They were arguing with Sheila, and Fallon was unable to get past them to go to their room.  Three boys emerged from the stairwell, two where the ones aggravating the boy who carded me a few hours before, and much to my surprise, the 3rd was Cadet Crowder.  They’d ambushed me.  Fallon stood against the wall, paralyzed and expressionless, and Sheila stopped arguing with the boys and starting heading for Crowder.  “Get out of he…”, she says as Crowder throttles her against the wall silencing her with fear in mid-speech.  “Stain, where do you think you’re going.  Hey, I just wanted to say hello, and congratulate you on a good match the other day.  What’s with the cold reception”, exclaims Cadet Crowder, who has apparently been demoted to Cadet Basic.  He is wearing his uniform but there are no shoulder boards which means he has been pulled from class and is out-processing the academy.  “You don’t belong here, Crowder.  Will you be so kind as to leave.  Now!”, I demand, furious that he would invade so far into my sanctuary, the dormitory where carding was not allowed.  Sheila was unable to say anything, and I stood there with the boys surrounding me and Fallon.

“You think you’re really safe here, tranny?”, he says angrily, “Did you think I wouldn’t know what your mark meant?”  Sheila looks over at me as if she’s had some sort of epiphany.  Fallon looks to me for refuge, but I am clearly beginning to feel shaken by all this.  “So how about you apologize for humiliating me the other day, stain?  Abominations should apologize to those of us with the blessings of God on our side, they should thank us for our charity, should they not?  Come on now, you don’t want to seem ungrateful now do you?  It’s only because of benefactors like those in my family that you can even be here, so in my opinion, you owe me”, he states with this gracious, forgiving false messiah pose he is putting on.  The other boys seem to agree, a few nod, and one says “Yeah”.

He breaks formation and gets closer to me, and grabs me around the shoulders as if to be friendly, but has a deceitful glimmer in his eye.  “You tried to kill me.  I am not here by the graces of the church, I am here because of the tyranny of men like you.  And I owe you nothing, you’re nothing more than a bitter child, trying to bully people into conforming to your inflated ego!”, I shout at him defying him with every ounce of strength I have, defying him with every gesture my body can display simultaneously.  He picks my up by the shoulders while powering up, and power slams me against the wall causing a thud that almost anyone in the their rooms on that hall could have heard.  My head hurts, my ears are ringing, and my shoulders hurt from the amount of force him put into it, so I slump down against the wall and hold my head where it hurts.  Fallon begins to move, hoping to help me, but one of the boys grabs her by the arm so hard she yelps, “Ow”.  “Trying to help your little friend, eh?”, says Crowder, as the boy tosses her into his waiting grasp.  She struggles to get free, but can’t.  He is powering up again.  I feel my heart pound once really hard causing my entire visual field to pulse with it, I feel emotional pain well up inside me, and my head stops throbbing.  And again, and again.  Each time something rises in me, and just like that night I am forced to my feet by this feeling in me.  A dim, barely visible, grey aura forms around me, and I scream “Stop”.  Each of the boys is knocked back a few inches and the doors rattle in their frames, and Crowder is knocked onto his back side, and Fallon is sitting on the floor staring at him lying on the floor because he released his grip.  He quickly starts crawling to his feet while retreating, “You’re a p-p-p-pa-paa… We’re reporting this.  You’ll pay for this.  I promise”, he turns around and runs smack into Cadet Ensign Dawson, who is standing their like a wall.  “What are you doing in this dorm”, Charles says.  “Chevalier Dawson, pardon me, I didn’t realize you were in this hall.  Forgive the intrusion, we got a little lost and we’re leaving now”, Cadet Crowder says now clearly panicked by Charles’s presence.  Dawson is in the white version of the school uniform, and on his hip is a finely engraved rapier in its sheath.  He pulls it out and points it at Crowder who is now terrified.  The other boys are white as sheets and the two boys behind Charles make a dash for the stairwell and disappear into it.  Only their echos can be heard disappearing into its depths.

“I was on my way to practice, and I realized my sparring partner wouldn’t be there.  Would you mind sparring with me?”, Charles asks Crowder with a confident almost triumphant smirk on his face.  “I mustn’t, I have been reprimanded, and I am to pack my things and leave the school tonight.  I have been called home on urgent business”, says the ensign now looking towards the exit, and thinking of an escape strategy should this one fail.  “Shame”, Charles says while resheathing his blade, “After your performance the other day I was hoping to see if it was an off day, or if you were truly that inept as the schools Champion Spearman and Team Captain.”  “I suggest you leave, you’re delaying my departure”, says the chevalier while removing the glove on his right hand.  Crowder throws up his hands in surrender and side steps around Charles, who now has his glove in his still gloved hand.  Charles holds up the glove as if he is about to throw down the gauntlet.  The other boys flee in terror followed by Crowder still holding his hands up while walking backwards.  He reaches behind him, opens the door, and darts down the stairwell.  Charles looks at me, “Pity.  I was hoping for a little more bravado from those boys.  All this, and my partner really is out sick.  I’ll lose my edge soon if stay so… Sedimentary”, finishing in a sigh.  With his gloved hand he lifts Fallon to her feet then walks over to me.  He grabs my hand with the one without a glove and kisses my hand.  I was surprised by this, and reeled back a little in surprise.

“Are you okay, Madame?”, he asks me as he looks up at me from is face still hovering over my hand.  “Yes, I’m fine.  My head hurts a little still, but I am otherwise fine”, I say a little beside myself, and unsure how to react.  “Well, that is good.  I may have had to ventilate their egos if they’d harmed you”, he says then releases my hand, “I bid you adieu.”   He walks back down the hall, and I call to him, “Thank you”, to which he replies, “For what?  Dames, avoir une bonne soirée..”  He bows and walks back into his room as I crumple my brow and press my lips together in confusion.  Quickly turning my attention to the dorm captain,”Sheila, are you okay?”

“I am, but you’re not”, she replies with concern in her voice.  “What do you mean?  I am not injured”, I announce as she interrupts me.  “When news of this gets out you’ll be tested.  A power user team will be testing you, and they have been known to kill tempests who have been falsely alleged to be paladins.  You’re in trouble, and you don’t even know how much.  Their brutal, and they are allowed to pick anyone to ‘test’ you, and that person must comply.  If they don’t they could be in huge trouble, even face the headmaster if they don’t carry out their orders to the to the T”, Sheila says, now brushing the dust and rub marks off her clothing.  “(Sighing) This is such a mess.  I’ll have to write a report on this… I’ll accidentally omit your power usage.  Such a pain”, she says while yawning and opening the door to her room, “Stay out of trouble for a while, will you?  You’re making my job tough.  Good night”.  She enters her room and gently shuts and locks the door behind her.  I turn to enter my room, and as I pull the door open Fallon puts her hand on my back.  “It’s okay.  I’ve already started coming to terms with fact that this place wants me dead.  I’ll just have to figure some way out, not to worry.  I’ll be okay”, I say to try to reassure Fallon of something not even I am sure of.  She wraps her arms around my waist, “Don’t do anything foolish.”

“I won’t.  Do I strike you as the foolish type”, I tell her but her face doesn’t seem to be buying it as I look around at her.  “I am starting to wonder”, she states almost sounding sarcastic, “I won’t always have the power to patch you up.  And besides, if you do I’ll just have to stay with you again.”

“You aren’t making me want to be less foolish, you know that”, I retort with a one breath laugh.  Fallon lets go of me but is still leaned against my back, and she pinches me on the inside of my rib cage causing me to wince, “Hey now…”  She has her face against my back, and is clutching the fabric of my jacket tightly with both hands.  “I’ll be fine.  I have survived much worse situations.  Trust me”, I say and she lets go of my jacket, though I am sure she was aware of my own uncertainty.  “You’d better.  I don’t think I can handle anymore nights like the night of that… Well… you know… You saw.  You were there”, she insists with an unsteady fluctuation in her voice. “We shouldn’t be like this in the hallway, and I have to change for dinner.  Will you be coming?”, I inquire turning back to her, trying to change the tone to a more casual one that wouldn’t draw attention, while talking softly.  “No, not tonight.  I’m really tired.  I’m going to bed early.  I’ll see you tomorrow at class.  Make sure to get plenty of drinks at the cafeteria, will you?”, she prods while poking me in the belly.  I touch her face with my greenish flames, and let them flow into her.  In doing so, for the first time I can sense the pain she feels, both from being shaken, and from worrying about me.  Her face lighten up warmly from my touch, and she smiles with more expression than I’d ever seen in her.  She pulls her self back a little and jumps when she looks at my flames.  She looks around the hall, then opens the door to my room and pulls me inside.  “Hold out your hand, Alira”, so I comply and I am confused about what she is doing.  She holds up her hand and ignites her hand in flames.  “Look at your flame and then at mine!”, she commands clearly spooked by what she is seeing.  I look at my flames, and for the first time I notice something… Off… Fallon’s flames are as they normally are, yellowish-green with a slight hint more green.  But mine…  They are ever so slightly more cyan than the normal green.  It’s not like the turquoise flames at all either, as its much brighter than normal, and far more turbulent.  “Alira, are you making your flames that color?”, she asks quizzically, to which I reply, “Not in the least, I haven’t done a thing.  I am not shifting my flames into the wound healing type at all.”

“Shift them in to your wound healing spectrum would you”, she commands more insistently now than before.  “I can’t do it on command, you’d actually have to be wounded for me to do it”, I say exasperated.  She whips out a combat knife from her boot and slides the blade across the palm of her hand.  “Shit”, she screams, and while still fidgeting from the pain she holds her hand out to me,”Heal this, quickly please… It really fucking hurts… Quickly!  Damn it, that was such a bad idea… Crap.”  I reach out my hand and think about healing the wound… What happened next was beyond my comprehension…  My flames turned blue.  Her wound healed nearly instantly and I didn’t have to touch her hand at all.  Every hair on my body stood on end as I retracted my hand and became enthralled by my bright cyan flames.  Fallon looked onwards baffled beyond belief, and her attention shifts back and forth from my hand to hers, “Normally you actually have to touch the wound with the flames to heal it, or at least project them at it.  And it takes minutes, not seconds to heal a deep wound like that.  You healed enough wounds over the years to know that”

“Do you think it could have been my power and yours compounding each other”, I ask hoping that it makes sense for things to work that way.

“No, Alira.  Even if 3 normal tier 1s worked on the same person it would still take around 30 seconds to heal a total dermal lacerations, and that is going full tilt.  Even high-end healers can’t heal a person in under a minute solo, and I wasn’t using my power, and I am only a tier 2”, says Fallon without breathing in once.  Fallon is out of breath bends over and braces her upper body with her hands on her knees.  The black uniform shows nothing of the remnant blood on her hand.  Catching her breath now, “No one has cyan flames.  Not even paladins or trancers.  What in the hell is going on?  Powers aren’t fluid, they don’t flow into one another.  Moreover, they may have color differentials, and there is a clear point when the power stops being one and becomes the other instead, and the spectral gap is rather noticeable.  Speed users range from deep red to full orange, healers range from yellow-green to turquoise, as you know.  And lastly, power users vary from blue to violet, some even into near ultraviolet.  No one has light blue flames, Alira.  Not even the seated pope!”

“Where’s my pendant!”, I shriek with brilliance, “It may just give me some clues as to what is going on.”  I shuffle around through my night stand.  I finally move the right sock and hear it’s beads scratching against the wood at the bottom of the drawer.  I yank it out and clutch it in my hand tightly to make it emit light while staring at the ceiling, hoping beyond hope that this strangeness is nothing.  I look down, and slowly open my hand hoping for some sort of affirming sign, and Fallon looks on with me.  But as I open my hand my pendant only deepens the confusion.  What does this mean???  What does this strange sign mean?  What is going on?  What can I do?

To be continued…