Chapter – XVI
A sharp knock at the door broke the uncomfortable morning silence. The silence wasn’t uncomfortable because of anything anyone had said or done. Instead it was uncomfortable because nobody in the common room could get comfortable, and were all trying valiently to not complain about how sore they were.
When nobody answered the door, the knock sounded again. The room’s three occupants looked at each other, playing something of a game of chicken to see who would be the first to haul himself out of his seat and open the door.
“Hey guys! Anybody alive in there?” Of course it was Robin’s voice that pierced their quiet bastion of misery.
“Pete, you’re closest, you get it.” Tom said.
For his part Peter didn’t even bother admonishing Tom for not using his proper name. Instead he grimmaced as he levered himself off the couch, then shuffled over to the door and opened it to admit their red headed friend.
“Robin, please come in.” he said. He may be tired and sore, but that was no reason to be impolite. After all, it wasn’t Robin’s fault they were in the state they were in, and the girls workout had been just as brutal as the one they had been put through. It was that last fact that made him blink as Robin practically skipped into the room.
“Hey guys!” she said without preamble “I found out they serve a real breakfast with eggs, and pancakes, and bacon, and everything in the campus center on the weekends. You guys want to come down with me? I don’t want to eat alone.”
“Not to sound rude, but why don’t you go with your own roommates?” Tom asked
“Meh, they’re being lame.” Robin replied “They just want to lay in bed all day. I figured you big, strong men would be up to going down and consuming mass quantities.”
“Okay, that makes sense, but maybe I should have asked this first. We can barely move, how the hell are you so freakin’ perky?”
“Its your power, isn’t it?” Peter said “It works on you as well as others.”
“Yep, I told Max my power was awesomeness. I guess my healing helps me get over workouts faster.” As she finished Tom mumbled something that Robin chose to believe was a pained groan, and not the “Lucky bitch…” it sounded like he said. She really did want some company for breakfast, and besides, he wasn’t wrong. Well, probably about the ‘bitch’ part, but she did think she was lucky not to be hobbling around like everyone else.
“Come on guys, lets go.” Max said, speaking up from his seat on the other side of the room. “She’s not going to give up until we go with her, so we might as well just save some time and just go.”
“Where are we going?” Erik said, emerging from the bathroom, his hair still wet from the shower.
“Robin found out about a special weekend breakfast down at the campus center.” Peter said.
“Oh, sweet! I’m definitely in, I love breakfast. Just give me a couple minutes to get dressed.”
“Awesome!” Robin said “because right now I think I am going to eat all of the food.”
“Could one of you guys give me a hand?” Max said, looking at the people in the room who were already standing. Erik chuckled softly, stuck out a massive hand and hauled Max to his feet. “Thanks,” Max said “You guys can wait here for a few minutes. Coach Strong said that I need to take the hard way from now on, so I’m taking the stairs. Besides, I think I need the practice walking. I’ll see you down in the lobby.” Max turned and headed unsteadily out the door.
“Who’s Coach Strong?” Robin asked after the door closed again.
“According to Max, he teaches one of the upper-classmen classes and is something of a strength and conditioning coach.” Peter said. “I don’t know if you saw it, but Max passed out durring gym class. He said he woke up in the infirmary and actually asked Coach Alex for extra credit.”
“Wow,” Robin said. “He actually asked to have extra gym? I didn’t know he was into that sort of thing. Hey Tom, did you happen to see him unpack some whips and chains? That’s the kind of think a roommate might want to know about.”
For his part Tom laughed, but also ran through something of a mental checklist of what he had seen of Max’s belongings. Asking for extra workouts after going through gym? There was definitely something not right about that guy.
About that time Erik emerged from his room dressed and ready to head out. “You guys ready to go?” He asked “Because I am going to ham on some bacon!”
At that moment Danielle Malone was on her way to get breakfast herself. She had just come from being examined by doctor Miles. They poked, prodded, scaned, and charted her after every new experience, and the first day of class was no different. Doctor Miles had said that they were still trying to get a handle on her condition, and seeing how she responded to new stimuli was an important part of that. Having to get examined out after every little new thing that happened was annoying, but at least Doctor Miles was nice enough to let her get checked out in his office rather than the infirmary. She said it was more comfortable, but between her cancer treatements and… The accident, the thought of being in a hospital made her nauseus.
But everyone at the HCP had been really nice to her since she’d gotten here. Before all the support staff had gotten in, Coach Alex had even run to get groceries to stock up the little kitechette attached to her room under ground. She wished she could be up in the dorms like a regular student, but Dean Smith didn’t want her above ground any more than absolutely necessary. He said that he didn’t think Trans-Human knew what she was, but the Dean didn’t want to take a chance while he was still on the loose.
But now the HCP facilities were fully open, so that meant she could use the teacher’s lounge, which served hot meals all day. They still didn’t really know how her new body worked, but at least she could still enjoy food. So with a tray bearing a bowl of oatmeal, some milk, and fresh fruits, Danielle went to look for a place to sit down and and eat before getting on with her day.
“Hey Malone! Come here and have a seat.” Danielle’s head snapped around and after a second’s hesitation she went to sit across form Coach Helen.
Helen smiled a bit to herself as the young woman made her way over to the table. A lifetime of combat training had ingrained habits that were hard to break, if she even wanted to try. Habits like sitting with her back to the wall and close to the door, where an intruder would likely look last. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that Danielle hadn’t noticed her.
She knew that doctor Miles would have given her a thorough workup, but since Danielle was now in her class, she wanted to keep a personal eye on how she was responding. Besides, the girl was basically a prisoner in the HCP until they knew she was safe, helping her feel a sense of community would help her stay grounded.
Helen set down the newspaper she had been using as a blind and picked at the last of her egg whites while Danielle made her way over to the table. “I know doctor Miles took a look at you this morning, but how are you doing?” Helen said after Danielle had sat down and gotten comfortable. Fortunately for the young student, the chairs were engineered to hold up to Kevin’s considerable bulk, so they could bear new body’s weight.
“Doctor Miles says all my vitals are normal.” Danielle answered.
“That’s not what I mean,” Helen said. “You’re getting back out around people your own age, and yesterday you got more real exercise than you have since before you got cancer. How are you feeling?”
“Oh,” Danielle said “I guess I’m feeling okay. I mean, I feel a little weird. Like, I feel like I should be really sore, but I’m not. That workout yesterday wore me out, but I woke up this morning feeling like I always do, but I feel like I should be sore. Does that make any sense?”
“You know, I think it does. As far as doctor Miles can tell, your brain is identical to before your accident right? Well, that means its still expecting normal sensations. But having nanobots repair the damage you did to your muscles and joints overnight isn’t normal. Your brain is expecting the pain signals from normal muscle soreness, but it isn’t getting them. It happens sometimes when healers take care of injuries.”
“Okay, I guess that makes sense.” Danielle said, though there was still doubt in her voice. “Oh! I almost forgot, I think I made a friend yesterday.”
“Who was it? Don’t tell me it was Christina Ross.”
“No, no. It was a guy named Tom.”
“Oh-ho! A boy? That might be even worse than Ross.” Helen said with a laugh. “You think he’s cute?”
“What? No! Nothing like that!” Danielle exclaimed, her matte eyes widening and more than a slight blush spreading across her face. “He surprised me, and I accidentally hit him. Then we just talked on our way to gym yesterday. I didn’t even get his number…”
“Right, right. Whatever you say. But don’t worry about it, he hasn’t quit and he hasn’t been cut, so he isn’t going anywhere. You can get his number on Monday.” After a breath, Helen’s posture changed slightly. “You said you hit him, what happened there?”
“Nothing much, he surprised me and I hit him with my forearm out of refelex. I didn’t even I even hit him hard, but he gasped and acted like it hurt.” Danielle said, poking at the limb in question. It looked just like any other normal eighteen year old girl’s forearm, and dimpled like flesh would when poked.
“I wouldn’t worry about it.” Helen said. Her voice was reassuring, but inside her brain was whirring. “I’m sure Coach Alex gave him plenty to take his mind off of it.”