Grey Skies – Episode 14

(Trigger Warning – Depiction of violence and usage of transphobic slurs, and other slurs and bigotry relevant to this fictional story.  Reader Discretion advised.)

I can’t recall having so many nights in a row that seemed so empty, not at any point in my life.  I know of times of not being able to remember them, but these dreamless nights were different from that.  Perhaps it was the heavy fog of the medication, perhaps I was indeed dreaming it, but simply couldn’t recall even having them to know.  I went to sleep happy that I got to see Fallon, so I guess I couldn’t hope for much more.  But as I began to wake, and think about what would come next a sense of unease crept over me again.  The Paladin Wing’s reputation preceded itself as being one of the dorms you never want to go.  I’d been warned about it a few times, but never did I think that I would be going there.  And the thing about the hospital here is that you are generally discharged once you are strong enough to walk, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Being branded, I wasn’t likely to afford any special considerations.

Most of the paladins were power users who later found they could heal themselves, and lets just say that this little band of jocks and meat-heads was about as gentle as a chainsaw.  Paladins were reinforcement troops, not front lines, but they had all the tempering of those who’d been there, or would one day go there.  To say they were sympathetic to the suffering of others, would be like saying potatoes couldn’t be poisonous.  These people were varied degrees of toxicity to the health and sanity of others, some being palatable, while others being about as good as drinking strychnine.  The power teams were generally brutal as well, but far more disciplined than the paladins.  Being someone who could fight battles of attrition with a smile probably had something to do with that.  This is not to say that they were psychopathic, but they were more violent, and they could fight without stopping for far longer than anyone else.  It wasn’t uncommon for them to start fights, pick on other students, or get into bloody brawls even with their own.  Their was also very few female paladins, and even less who were marked like I was.  I didn’t like the idea one bit.  I pretended to be a sleep when the admissions nurse came in, but she messed with my IV and it tickled forcing me to laugh, and give up the façade.  I wasn’t in pain anymore, and my BTTG looked fine, and the admissions nurse would only come in when they were considering releasing you from the clinic.  I could see it glowing on my cheek, especially since I wasn’t wearing that mask anymore.  As I expected the nurse made me get out of bed, though I still medicated.  “Ups-a-daisy!  Come on, we have to check you out now that you’re out of the woods”, she says to me while pulling my IV connector out, and pulling me to the edge of the bed.  It didn’t hurt much anymore, and I was able to stand and use the restroom in the room without incident.  When I came out again she said, “Alright, take a seat, and I’ll get that IV out.  Once I pull it out you’ll find your uniform in the corner.  Once you are dress come down the hallway and check out.  We’ll have a nurse check on you in your room later if you feel ill.  Since it’s a weekend you’ll only need Monday off from classes and activities.  Okay, there we go… It’s out.  I’ll leave you to it now.”

She makes sure the bandage is affixed properly, pulls off the BTTG, tosses it in the trash chute and walks out.  I reach for my uniform, and as I do I notice a discrepancy.  Someone has removed all my shoulder boards, and replaced my jacket with the one with teal boarders, and placed teal shoulder boards on them.  There are no dots affixed to most Paladin Shoulder boards, just a teal shield.  Your overall power is usually affixed to the shield later.  All this really meant was more tests, except that this time it would be against non-organic, unmanned targets.  Paladins came in to types, attack and defense.  Some paladins could raise large shields, while others had strong offensive power. Power users were similarly specified.  Fuel was an offensive power user, and had low defense and was unable to defend while attacking, which explained how I was able to hit him accidentally.  Defenders auras were indigo in color, while attackers were more blue.   But something didn’t make sense still.  I was defending when he attacked, and my aura didn’t have much indigo in it.  So how did my aura attack him?  Answers and revelations seem to lead to more questions.  I put the uniform on, and as I walk out I get lots of odd looks.  Paladins were almost never women, but I guess in their minds it seemed plausible.  I mean, I was marked as a transsexual after all.  I really didn’t like the implication of being a paladin for many more reasons that I was permitted to discuss.  Women could be paladins, but it was infrequent as hell.  Who ever had replaced my uniform knew that it would draw this kind of attention, I reason to myself.

The head nurse checks me out.  Out of the corner of my eye I catch something familiar.  Eduardo is standing next to me looking down at me, “So, they are letting you out already?  I’m a little surprised, menina.”  My jaw just drops and happy surprise envelops my face and wrap my arms around him vigorously.  He chuckles at me, and pulls me back from him to talk to me, “Got time for an early lunch with a old man like myself?”

“Sure, of course I do”, I respond with a big smile on my face and a tear in the corner of one eye.  I am so happy to see him, but with his job it’s been so much longer since I’ve seen him.  “Make sure to check in at your dorm after you go eat, okay?”, says the admissions nurse.  I just nod and walk out with Ed.  “Feels like it’s been an eternity, doesn’t it?”, Ed says to me with his arm around my shoulder.  “Sure does.  What brings you out here, well, aside from me being holed-up in the hospital?”, I ask Ed looking up at him as we walk.  “Well, I brought Danielle out here to see you.  She was quite insistent on coming.  Unfortunately, she got called on an urgent matter and she couldn’t be here today to check on you.  But it would seem she was worried for naught”, he continues with that same old fatherly tone, and the vaporous reminders of his cologne bellowing about his robes.  “I was 4 inches shorter last time you saw me.  I was just noticing it now”, I say to him now looking around as we walk into the courtyard that connects the hospital area and the cafeteria for the hospital complex.  This place had a lot of courtyards like this, most of them were rather fancy, but this one was rather plain.  It had a few bushes and shrubbery, and a lot of ornamental rocks, and a rock garden with a fountain in the middle made of, you guessed it, rocks.  “It has been a long time child, indeed.  So, I read the citadel report on my way in”, Eduardo says now leaning over to me a little more now.  “Um, I… Uh…”, I chuckle nervously as he shakes me by the shoulder gently.  He laughs at me loudly then continues, “I knew you were different the moment I saw your determination that day when we handed you over to the temple, menina.  Alira, you aren’t like the other people here.  I am sure you are aware of that, but I don’t think even you are aware of the full extent yet.  A bênção de Deus, that is what we call it were I was raised.  Blessing of God.  You have it my dear.  I know you don’t believe in such things, I know that with your mind you can’t.  But what else would you call it?”

He stops and crouches down a bit to be near the same elevation with me, and puts both hands on my shoulders.  “Menina, you have a great gift, and I don’t believe you have taped even a fraction of it yet”, he assures me while staring deeply into my eyes in an intense way, “You’ll change this world.  How you do it, and what you do with it is up to you.  That day you nearly died at the hands of Bishop Francis and his lackeys I felt a power in you that shook me.  I’ve never felt nor seen an aura like yours.  I’m a man of the faith, but I am not blinded by the roles I play.  I can see things as clearly with my eyes as can any man.  I know what I saw.”   He leads me to the fountain in an indirect route to the cafeteria door.  He points at the fountain, “See that fountain?”  I nod while saying, “Yes.”

“You are more like that fountain that you know.  Most of us, we are affected by our tempests in an orderly fashion.  Very forma ordenada.  But you… You seem to flow into it.  For you, a tempestade, it’s like water.  One does not end where the other begins”, Eduardo says while sitting by the fountain, facing away from it, while gesturing me to sit as well.  As I sit, I look up in the mostly overcast sky and back to Ed, “Menina bonita…  Minha filha…”  He rubs my shoulder and his face is embolden with paternal charm and love.  “What do you mean?  I’ve never once heard any of this before”, I say to him with my face turned up to him questioningly.  “Show me your tempest, Aaina.  Desculpas, Alira”, he says looking at my hands.  I bring forth my flames and their hue is blue once again with flickers of green and cyan in it.  The flame is slightly erratic, like when small amounts of combustible vapor or aerosol touches the flame and ignites.  “My, my, my…”, says Eduardo confident and assured in his conclusion, “What have we hear.  They say you are a paladin now, but these are unlike the flames of a healer, nor a paladin.  I can see your emerald flames, as well as the amalgamation of a power user.”

“But your flames… They are unrested, uneasy.  There is chaos, pain and uncertainty in those flames, but a strange sort of order to it as well.  As well, you just came out from the hospital with tempest sickness bad enough to kill most people.  But your flame, it’s defiantly there as though it matters not”, Ed says then closes my hand while I extinguish the flames.

“Seja cauteloso.  Beware, for you tread on uncertain grounds, menina.  This power you have, it could consume you, maybe even destroy you.  This fire burns of anguish and loss, and unrequited things.  Perhaps it’s your past, perhaps it’s something in your future.  Who knows.  Only you can decide what you do with those flames… Seu destino é seu para fazer.  It is your fate to decide.  You must…”, Eduardo is interrupted by a beeping in his pocket.  He pulls out his old PDA Bible, and pushes a few buttons, “Forgive me, I must be going now.  Rain-check on lunch, perhaps?”

“Anytime”, I say and nod to him.

“Wonderful.  I’ll leave you now.  Be careful, and make sure you eat plenty to recover.  Danielle would murder me if I didn’t remind you.  My other daughter seems to be beckoning to me”, he says while standing and also helping me to my feet.

“Tell Danielle that I was really happy to see her, and that I’ll miss her”, I say to Eduardo as he walks away.  “She knows.  But I’ll make sure anyways.  See you later, filha!”, he shouts back to me while doing his signature finger wave.

As he disappears around a rock I decide to head back to the dorm first.  On my way up the stairs I see the in house cleaning stuff carrying my things down the stairwell.  Rushing up the rest of the steps I burst through the door to see Cadet Sheila talking to some other dorm captain.  As I get closer and the glare from the window at the end of the hall diminishes I can make out teal shoulder boards.  And his name is Cadet Captain Rush.  The irony that I was “rushing” up to bump into a “Rush” crosses my mind for a moment.  I shake my head and recompose myself again.  As I walk up Captain Rush turns to me extending his hand, “Hello Cadet, I’m Cadet Captain Theodore Rush.  I am the dorm captain of Paladin Wing.  I saw to having the staff move your belongings and other personal effects to your new room.  Additionally, I had your uniform accoutrements replaced while you were sleeping.  Being immobilized, it seemed like the best thing to do to speed up your recovery and beginning duty with our group.”  He is efficient, as his handshake was also used to pass my new door card.  He has dark brown hair, but it almost appears to have a mild greyish hue to it, like an elderly person.  He is very dark-skinned with solid black, square-framed glasses and is quite lanky; however, he has a frame such that it could hide is real physical prowess.  His tone is incredibly professional, but also strangely calm.  Kind of like the voice of someone who could tell you that they ran over your cat without flinching or showing emotion.  I realize that I am lost in thought and come back to with an extra long blink and a flinching motion, “Sorry…  My name is Cadet Ensign Roe, Alira Roe.”  He barely reacts to my delayed introduction, and only raises his eyebrows a bit while the rest of his face remains expressionless.  In fact, he probably has the most expressionless face I have ever seen.  “I’ll go and await your arrival at the Paladin Wing, and Welcome”, he says as I face him, come to the position of attention, and salute.  He salutes me back and then leaves.  As he passes I can smell the notable odor of cocoa butter.

“Good luck.  I think you’ll need it.  I lodged a formal protest to them moving you, but there wasn’t much I could do.  I don’t think people who are high-ranking healers are suited for the Paladins, but that apparently wasn’t enough”, Sheila turns to me and says.

“Did they leave anything that I need to collect from my room?”, I ask her in a daze of sorts.  “Nope, I just got done inspecting your room and changing the codes, but I haven’t locked it.  If you’d like a once over feel free to do so.  Otherwise, lock it up for me before you leave”, she responds while walking into her room and closing the door behind her.  I walk into my room.  Mind you, we aren’t allowed to decorate our rooms, but it looks uncharacteristically empty to me now.  The linens on the bed have already been changed, and it almost smells as if my personalized odors have been purged from it.  It feels cold and unfamiliar, even though I slept in it just over a week ago.  I walk in to the bathroom and catch something out of the corner of my eyes in the shower stall.  “Hmm, I guess they didn’t get everything”, I say to myself in its echo chamber that tiled bathrooms usually are.  I exit the room holding my shampoo, conditioner and loofah, and activate the locking mechanism.  As I turn to exit I see Fallon standing outside her room staring at me.  We awkwardly look at each other standing in the hallway without saying a word.  Then I notice her cheeks start to turn red, and tears begin to well up in her eyes.  She opens her door and walks inside locking it behind her, as I attempt to reach out my hand to her.

I walk up to her door, and pause by it for a moment.  I don’t know what to do right now, and I don’t want to make a scene in the hallway.  So I walk on.  As I go down the stairs I have this intense lump in my throat and I feel like I just want to bawl my eyes out… Or scream, or…. Just something.  “GOD DAMN IT!”, I shout out in the stairwell while kicking the metal railings.  A few tears escape as I try to choke them back, and swallow my pain.  Out of the corner of my eye, something distracts me… When I felt this emotion well up in me I noticed a subtle translucent white aura around my hand.  I pull my hand to my face and I can still see it.  But the more I focus on it the harder it is to see, and soon it fades away completely.  The momentary distraction was enough to cause me to stop crying, so I wipe my eyes and head for the courtyard by the cafeteria.  The paladin dorm is on the other side, through the stadium courtyard, through the warrior wing, and the courtyard outside of the cathedral.  It’s another triad dorm housing the Paladin, Tactician, and Striker wing.  The trancers lived in the nunnery in the Rose Courtyard, as they didn’t need a full-sized dorm.  I was a paladin, a fighting healer.  Tacticians, which I used to think were called technicians, are speed using healers.  Lastly, Strikers were the merger of power and speed.  The only tempest with lower life expectancy than high-end power users were strikers.  They say, “The brightest candles always go out first”.  If strikers were candles, then they were surely burning at both ends.  Strikers were also mentally unstable quite frequently.  If warriors were the first line of defense then paladins were their back-ups.  Tacticians were elegant, and also known to be rather aloof, and detached.  Ironic that they’d also be healers.  This school had a rather apparent hierarchy.  Warriors, Paladins, Tacticians, Healers, and Couriers (speed users) with Strikers and Trancers being something of “the innate black sheep”.  Combat wise, strikers were as strong as Paladins, but they were ultimately disposable, short-lived, erratic, and had to be watched at all times, not to mention had the weirdest diets.  They are basically semi-insane kamikaze fighters, just not built to last.  Knowing your power makes you disposable on the battle field and that it cuts your life terribly short is more than enough to fuck with your head.

In the courtyard by the cathedral now, the courtyard on the opposite side of the Rose Courtyard, I can see the Paladin Wing.  The Courtyard on this side is a large grove of fruiting trees.  Apples, pears, peaches, some unidentifiable trees, and such.  Little was left on the trees at this time of year, and spring was not that close.  They wouldn’t begin flowering or growing leaves again terribly soon.  I took note of this place in my mind, as I kind of delighted myself in the idea of visiting them when they were full of fruit in the end of the summer to early fall.  I walked inside the dorm and checked the number.  22nd floor room 2205.   Hiking my way up the teal clad stairwell I wondered what kind of things I would discover inside.  Walking through the doorway I saw Captain Rush standing there in front of me, “Welcome home, Paladin.  This is where you will be staying.  Stand fierce, PALA-DINS!”, he shouts to the other cadets standing at attention in the hallway.  “Cadets! This is our newest sister.  I expect you’ll be on your best behavior, and teach her the paladin way”

“PALADINS FIERCE, HUA HUA HUA!”, the other cadets shout in unison.  There is 1 other cadet in the hall that is a girl, and the rest are all guys.  “First rules first, no loitering in the hallways.  Second rules second, no fighting or power use in the dorms.  Third rules third, infractions will result in drills.  Do I make myself understood, PALADINS!”, shouts Capt. Rush in a military drill sergeant type way.

“Lastly, Cadet Roe, you will address me as Captain Rush.  Understood?”, he says now facing me again.  “Yes, sir”, I say while saluting him.  “While in the dorms, on drills, or during competition you will respond PALADINS FIERCE!  That is all.  Return to your rooms, or leave for chow”, he adds.   “PALADINS FIERCE”, I shout in unison with the other troops, but drop off when they finish with “HUA HUA HUA!”

I do an about-face and head down to the cafeteria, but I am not entirely sure where it is.  However, they are all on the same floor and there are signs on the walls.  I find it, and enter.  It looks like a reversed mirror image of the main-wing’s chow hall, but this one is much, much darker than the other, and there is no windows.  Because the latrine is outside of the cafeteria it is also a little bigger.  As I walked up to the line I was thinking to myself about how I wished I could go back to the Angel Wing, not to mention missing Fallon.  This group was a lot more militaristic than the medical wing.  As I grab a tray and set it down on the slide railing I feel a fist pummel my abdomen.  I double over and knock the tray off the railing.  “Oh, sorry Stain, I didn’t see you there, HA HA!”, says one of the cadets I saw out in the hallway just a moment ago.

“Don’t forget your place.  But, if you do, we’ll happily remind you”, he says then walks into the line in front of where I am.  I am still in a weakened state, and it takes me significantly longer to recuperate than normal.  I set the tray back down and begin to burn and “avoid person” image into my mind.  He is a boney-faced boy with dirty blonde hair, cut into a high and tight.  He has blue eyes and a staunchly arrogant look seemingly burned into his face.  He is wearing the weekend button up with the sleeves rolled up to show off his lean muscular physique.  He doesn’t look like someone I want to bother with.  I get my food which is very much like the cat-food junk I always tried to avoid.  I guess, now, it couldn’t be help.  Finishing in the line, I was a little confused as to where to sit.  This room was different.  I decided to sit at this mirrored cafeterias comparable table, as it was the farthest from the doors, and closest to the drink fridges.  A part of me wished that Fallon would walk up and toss a few down in front of me.  Damn it… This isn’t helping… I can’t get her off my mind… Shit… A group of boys from the paladin wing walk past me, making sure to bump into or elbow me in the back of the head as they pass.  I can hear them murmuring after they’ve passed, “I can’t believe she was a dude”, “No way, she’s way to cute to be a tranny”, “I thought we were getting another girl, not a guy in drag”, “I heard she’s already been snipped.  There’s no way they’d let them dress like that otherwise.”

The girl I saw in the hallway comes and sits down and in the middle of the table on the opposite side.  I see her begin to eat and I space out into my food.  I eat a little and look around again… She is sitting closer to me.  I do a double take.  I resume eating, but this time as I do I hear her try quietly sliding down the table, and her with it.  I pretend not to notice as she irks closer and closer, eventually she is close enough that I can’t pretend I don’t see her.  So I look up at her.  She looks like a female body builder in the face, and I can tell even through her weekend clothes that she is rather built.  She appears either Hispanic, Asian, or a mix of the two, and she has jet black hair tied up into a thick braid.  “That’s a rather crazy looking mark you got there…  So…  I saw what happened…  Don’t worry about those guys…  I can snap them in two while eating…”, she says to me.  She has a strong, deep, but still somewhat femmesque voice.

“Emilia”, she says while holding out her arm, as if to arm wrestle.  “Alira”, I say while grabbing her hand in a similar fashion.  She begins to push my hand over… It would appear she literally intends to arm wrestle me.  I push back, but it’s clear her strength is superior to mine.  “Don’t push with your arm.  I’ll tear your muscles if you try to overpower me like that”, Emilia says still now showing any signs of strain, “Use your tempest.  Picture a force in your mind pushing on the back of your hand.”  I do as she says, and suddenly I feel strain on my muscles drop to zero.  There is a blue aura coming out of the back of my hand as she interjects, “Good, good, now I am going to do the same, you do what you can to stop me.”  The pressure returns as blue plasma arcs out of the back of her hand.  She starts pushing my arm down, and I start straining again. But now my blue flames emerge and my hand goes dead even with hers again.  Her plasma turns into a brighter blue pushing forces of blue aura and plasma and our arms sway my way again.  My blue flames begin to sputter with green, teal, and cyan into the strange erratic pattern that Ed had remarked of.  I begin to push back against her, and she starts putting her strength into it as well, and showing some strain.  Slowly my arm gets closer and closer to the table.  She’s winning, however, she seems to be putting a lot into it.  Arcs of plasma begin to come out of the back of may hand too and I stop her advance 2 inches from the table.  The other students are looking at us with strangely amused faces.  With a popping sound a large blast of plasma shoots out of Emilia’s hand, firmly planting my hand against the table.  I have lost, not that I am surprised.

We ease our powers off, and she says, “Not bad… Not bad at all.  I actually had to try. HA HA.  Oh, by the way, Fuel is my brother, like literal…  Well, genetically we’re half siblings, but.  He told me to keep an eye out for ya.”

“Why am I not surprised by that remark?”, I say back to Emilia with a chuckle.  “He’s a big knuckle-head, but he is a good guy.  I heard you floored him when he was in offensive mode”, she replies back to me with a curious air.  “Friggin’ dolt.  He did it on purpose too, no doubt.  He felt a little guilty for what happened to you after though… He didn’t want to fight you, ya know?”, she adds.

“I know, believe me, I am well aware of that.  I don’t understand how I was able to release an offensive attack while I was in defensive mode.  They spend enough time going over that in class with us that I had a clue about it.  All this… it just confuses me, really”, I reply with a confusion in my voice.  “Well, you ain’t like anyone I’ve every seen.  Not a paladin.  No one.  People don’t have blue, or even cyan flames, not even while fighting.  Fuel wasn’t kidding when he told me that shit.  I almost don’t believe it myself.  You’re an odd chica”, Emilia says while gorging her face with protein dinner rolls dipped in protein-electrolyte enhanced gravy.  I feel a bit wobbly for a moment, and have a brief brown-out.  “Whoa! You okay girly?”, she inquires with a concerned look on her face.  “Yes, I am just still a little exhausted”, I grab one of the special 24 oz drinks from the fridge and stagger a little heading back to sit down.  I chug it as fast as possible, and I start to feel a little more stable.  “Just warn me if you think you’re going to fall out on me, okay”, she adds while resuming her relaxed position of sitting/slouching.  “Sure”, I say after catching my breath from drinking.

“Emilia?”, I ask.

“Yes?”, she responds.

“Do you ever think these powers, these abilities… Do you ever think the cost is just too high?  I mean, I understand that there is a cost for everything.  You can’t start a fire without energy, can’t buy a loaf of bread without money.  These things I understand.  But I feel like, if… just if… If I could get rid of this power and live in a world where I didn’t need it… I would.  I think.  Don’t get me wrong, in a world like ours, I am fortunate to have them.  I’d have died without them.  That’s not what I mean… Well… Maybe that’s what I mean.  Some days… Some days I wish I knew that after death we just start over again.  Some days, I just want a fucking reset button.  A button to just stop the pain, to stop the hurting, and perhaps to start over and have a better chance to get a good start in this world.  So much, so many opportunities, and so much…  So much… I lost so much”, I say while trailing off into thought.  I can feel a few tears effortlessly overflow from my eyes and fall onto my tray, one making a sound against the metal.  “I don’t know, kid.  I really don’t know.  I don’t think having these powers causes war, pain and strife.  People find ways to bring those things into the world regardless of your ‘talents'”, she says somberly, “But… And the big but, is this…  We don’t really author our fates… I mean.  We certainly act within them, and co-author them…  But…  Power is just an illusion, and so is free will.”

I stare up at her awkwardly from my tears with a blank face, “What?”

“What?  You thought I was one of these automatons?  HA… HA HA!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!”, she laughs at me.

“Shit woman, I almost got branded for it.  They tolerate me here because I am useful.  Nothing more, nothing less”, Emilia says with a defiant smirk.

“Look chica, I can see it on your face.  Someone afforded the protections I was… Well, lets just say that I had back up, a unique privilege of heritage.  In the Vatican, I had lots of privileges other children didn’t, though Fuel less so until he became a tier 1.  I was always a paladin.  From day 1.  Me and fuel though.  We used to clash.  He hated me for it.  But that was another life.  People like us, those who remember too much.  It’s tough.  We remember all the people we lost, and most of us come into this ‘New World Order’ to be branded.  Most of us die.  When you look at a persons face you can see their life.  When I look at your face I see a beautiful girl, but you look so sad.  There is so much weighing on your heart, and unlike some of these automatons here, you have a conscience not guided by delusions of grandeur or fallacies.  It’s enough to break you if you let it”, she says while eating between each sentence then finishes eating her food.  Unable to eat more, I stare down at my tray.  “But, I see what Fuel likes about you, and why he worries.  Chica, I need to get upstairs now, but I’ll escort you to your room.  Try to sleep on things.  I don’t really have an advice to give other than this…  While I don’t believe in fate, I believe there is something special about you, and your power.  Something we have never seen.  And from what Fuel conveyed to me, I am less worried about you, and more worried about whoever gets in your way”, she says while standing up.  I grab my tray and walk to the window, and set the tray down and walk out with Emilia.  I still feel a little woozy, but I am okay on my own.

She apparently lives directly above me on in the dorm.  As I follow Emilia up, I notice just how muscular she is.  I can see her muscle tone fairly clearly through her weekend clothes and her calf muscles are so large that it distorts the shape of her boots a little.  You can even see her quadriceps through her sweat pants/slacks, though considering the day of the week I don’t know why she is wearing normal uniform boots.  If her and Fuel were to arm wrestle I don’t know who I’d place my bet on.  Fuel was bulkier, but she was more lean and cut it would seem.  We passed a few “Sparkies”, what Emilia and some of the students called the Strikers.  Strikers tended towards offensive power, and were defensively weak.  And their powers tended to look a little like a sparkler, so I saw the connection.  Don’t know why though, but she liked pushing doors open with her pinky.  We exited the stairwell, and one guy was standing out in the hall, and their was gospel music coming out of the room and another boy in the room.  Emilia put her hand against my stomach as a cautionary reflex.  We walked past the guy in the hallway, and everything seemed fine.  I was further down the hall than I was in the other dorm, and there was a green tag on my door I had to remove to set my code.  One door from my room I heard a buzzing to my right inside a room.

A sensation like being hit with a semi-tractor/trailer throttled me from the right side and throw me sideways against the wall.  Now laying on the floor my head was throbbing, I am a little dizzy, and my ears were ringing.  My body hit fairly hard, but I didn’t notice much pain this time.  The doors in the hall rattled for a moment when I was hit.  Emilia immediately shoves the door open that was rattled loose in the direction of the blast.  Still laying on the floor trying to collect myself I hear Emilia and a male student grunting.  She comes out of the room holding him up by the neck, and slams him against the wall.  “What the fuck you think you’re doing Frazier?”, she shouts at him.  Cadet Frazier is 3 inches taller than Emilia, but the difference in their strength is noticeable.  He’s a blonde haired kid with a mostly shaved head, and a tattoo sleeve most likely made before breach, as it’s terribly faded.  He isn’t weak, but he can’t break free of Emilia’s grip.  His face is turning red and veins are bulging from his forehead.  “Frazier, don’t make me teach you… AGAIN!”, says Emilia.  Captain Rush comes out of the stairwell, “Cadet Violetta, put the cadet down and explain what is going on here!”, he shouts.  She drops him and stands at attention, “Frazier send a power blast through his door and hit Cadet Roe, Captain Rush sir!”

“Cadet Frazier, you are aware that power usage is forbidden!”, Capt. Rush shouts again not looking at him.  “Yes sir”, he irks, still unable to talk normally from Emilia’s fearsome choke slam.  “It was an acc… Accident.  Sir.  I was doing martial arts in my room, and got… (coughing) Got carried away”, he continues while still coughing a bit more.  “Unlikely story.  Hazing is also forbidden cadets.  That’s not my rule, that is school rules.  Don’t for get it!  UNDERSTOOD!”, he barks now, with several more students now standing at attention at their doors.  “PALADINS FIERCE! HUA HUA HUA!”, all the students in the hallway shout.  Frazier climbs the wall to his feet again.  “Frazier, that makes 11 Demerits now.  Please, give me a reason to hall your ass out of here.  You’re a real thorn in my side, you know that.  Return to your rooms cadets”, orders Rush, “Emilia, pick Roe up off my deck, and to first aid protocols.  Make sure she’s okay before you leave.  Rodger?”

“Rodger”, she responds while yanking me up by one arm into a one arm carry.

I still feel dizzy, and it’s possible I have a concussion.  “Wait”, I say to Emilia, “Where are my glasses?”  She looks and they are on the floor where I fell, and still carrying me she picks them up off the floor.  She grabs behind my knees and cradles me in her arms effortlessly while placing me up on my bed.  The fresh linens smell of unscented fabric softener and the light odor of pine scented floor cleaner that permeates linen exchange.  Much of my things are still in boxes, or plastic coverings draped and placed around my room.  At least tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ll have more time to get everything squared away.  I wondered why they’d moved my stuff for a moment as Emilia takes my vitals, and I recalled that since I’d been here I’d been on medical leave twice already.  It was less than a month still and I’d been out of commission for nearly a week and a half already.  “Hold still”, Emilia says while holding her hand over me.  Her hand begins to glow of her turquoise flames, and my head pain begins to ease.  While she administers first aid, it’s as if I can feel her strength pouring into me.  It’s different from when Fallon or Danielle healed me, because theirs was more comforting than empowering.  “Ow”, she says then flicks her wrist a little to shake off the pain, “I don’t think you realize how tough you really are, chica.  The unique property of my healing skill is that I can almost telepathically detect the levels of physical pain people experience, and if it’s my first time with healing them, I can even feel past pain.  The kind of pain you’ve felt would kill most men, and a few women”, she says and finishes in a chuckle.

“Really though, I am surprised you could walk in the state you are in”, she continues.  “I never sense any of those things when I heal people”, I respond to the thought she set in me.  “How could you?”, she adds with a contemplative look on her face, “Your empathy does more than enough without it.  And, there is so much power flowing out of you that I’d be surprised if you could receive as much information the other way.  You know… I’m curious, could you show me your tempest?  I’ve heard rumors, and well, can’t blame a girl for askin’.”  Igniting my hand in blue flames, she is taken back a bit, “Whoa, that is pretty crazy.  Patterns and field types do vary with hybrids, but they never blend.  Blue power, and healing flames.  So bizarre.  Well, chica, I’ll leave you now.  For tomorrow though, I recommend that you take odd meals, like 6:15am, 10:30am and 3:30pm.  There should be no crowds then, and less chances of trouble.”

“Thanks.  I appreciate you looking out for me, even though we just met”, I say to her appreciatively.  “No problem, this place has too much testosterone as is. I can’t let the only other girl on my hall get taken out by those dicks, can I?”, Emilia says with a big smile on her face, “Even if you have to stick yours to your ass (laughter).”

I kind of rise up from my laying position in surprise, “How did you know?”, I say while she pushes me back down on the bed.  “I had to sign for your pharmacy order and deliver it to your room while you were holed up in the East Wing ICU.  They don’t give those sorts of things out willingly without a lot of red tape.  And, well… You know, it’s not like anyone with a cerebellum can’t look up the accursed symbology.   I don’t know how you managed it but being transgender up in this place is rare enough, getting transition treatments is un-fucking-heard of.  Wait, unless you went the other… No.  That wouldn’t fly, they’d never let you wear a female uniform if that was the case.  I dunno”, she says now with a befuddled look on her face.  “I completed transition before breach.  The reason I was allowed hormones was because of the contract The Church has with the Islamic Healer Pacifist sect I was part of.  Their particular breed of Islam adhered to a hadith about transgender people who permitted my presence as such”, I explained.  “Well, whatever the reason, it’s a welcoming change to the mundane way of life in these dorms.  Anyhow, you rest now and I’ll catch you later.  Oh, and you’re welcome.”  She walks out of the room, and leaves me to my thoughts.  I walk up to the door and secure my door codes, wishing that I could lock out the whole world right now.  I wish for only comfort, and all this place brings me is pain and strife.  I wonder to myself, is it really worth all this?

To be continued…