Chapter Ten – Relax
Brashmoore and St Mary’s campuses were located deep in the English countryside. This was in part to avoid having too many humans and reporters trying to get onto the highly secure and well-guarded grounds, but also to protect those same people from unexpected losses of control by Supers who were learning the limits of their, often destructive, abilities.
They weren’t, however, completely cut off from all human contact. Roughly five miles to the east of the outermost grounds was a small town that had long been a source of labour and goods for the school. Here is where some of the more paranoid (or perhaps prudent) teachers lived, along with about fifteen hundred people.
Somewhere down the line, a previous dean of the schools had realised that having roughly 100 energetic teenagers and early twenty year olds, all cooped up in the same area for long periods of time, did not foster a sense of calm. Instead, these students often went looking for ‘new and exciting’ recreational activities whenever they were permitted free time, or so the dean had put it in his letter to the school board and DFH. For, despite all of them training and aspiring to become future Heroes, they were all still young and reckless young adults.
And so, in what was perhaps the wisest decision any teacher has ever made, he allowed that each weekend, the students, in groups of 30, would be allowed to descend upon the nearby town to let off a little steam.
Ash was one such ‘rambunctious’ student making his way down the winding country road towards the town. It appeared summer had not yet released its grip on them as the day was uncharacteristically warm and sunny. After the failure of his ranking matches, the adjustment of a new school and the increase in school work, today was the first day Ash found himself able to relax. He still had another gruelling three hour gym lesson that afternoon, but for now, he felt at peace.
As Ash scanned the scenery growing steadily closer before him, he spotted Neil making his way down the road. The boy had raced ahead of the main group and Ash was surprised he hadn’t run all the way there. Neil had been acting strangely since Monday and Ash was worried his loss had hit him hard. Having watched the videos of one of Eric’s other matches, Ash had a pretty good idea of the advanced mind’s peculiar quirk.
From what he had pieced together, Eric seemed to think he could communicate with deceased spirits of people close to his opponent. Although much of what was said was spoken too quietly to be heard or blocked out altogether for safety’s sake, Ash had been able to hear enough to get the general idea. Whether or not he really did speak to spirits, using the pretence to explain intimate knowledge about your opponent was a powerful psychological trick.
Especially for someone like Neil.
“Hey Neil,” Ash called out, picking up his pace so he could walk with his friend. “How are you man? I haven’t seen you much outside of gym class.” This was true since neither boy shared any classes together beyond those in the HCP.
“Oh hey Ash,” greeted Neil, the smile not quite reaching his eyes. “I’ve been busy getting the hang of everything here. I’m doing ok, you?”
Ash nodded, giving his friend the once over as casually as he could. “I’m great, looking forward to Sunday.”
“Too right you should be.” Neil agreed, a bit more of his usual spark creeping in. “You’ll give everyone one hell of a shock when you kick that other kid’s shapeshifting butt!” The pair laughed and Ash was glad to see his friend breaking out of the gloomy mood he’d been in all week.
“Seriously though Neil, I saw what that telepathic kid did in the rankings. You sure you’re ok? He seems pretty ruthless when it comes to intimidation tactics.”
What spark had returned to Neil face fled when Ash said the name Eric. Mentally he began kicking himself for trying to broach the obviously difficult topic. Neil’s expression fell before hardening into an emotionless mask.
“I said I’m fine Ash. Drop it.”
Ash bit his lip, wanting to say more, ask what had happened, but he knew his friend well enough that if he pushed him on this, he’d likely scare his friend away completely.
“Alright, sure,” he mumbled, trying not to antagonise the situation further.
There was a pause as the two boys carried on walking towards the town. It was an awkward silence that sat on Ash’s shoulder like a sodden blanket. But he said nothing more, staring at the pavement beneath his shoes.
“Any idea where a good place to get some food is?” Neil asked, the lightness to his tone clearly forced. Still it was a peace offering and one Ash would take.
“Anya mentioned that there’s a good fish and chip shop in town. She said that she and Mrs Collins would always go there when Anya visited.”
“Fish and chips it is then.”
Together the two boys walked into town. A tense but solid truce between them.
“No, I’m studying.”
“Oh please! You can study all you want tomorrow! Just this once! Please!”
Anya squeezed her eyes shut in frustration. Karissa’s wheedling tone had been bugging her for the past ten minutes and she found her patience quickly wearing thin.
“For the last time I am studying. I don’t have time to go shopping with you. Wallingford isn’t that big anyway so I don’t know what you’re hoping to find.”
Karissa thumped both of her hands on the desk causing Anya’s pens to jump into the air. She glared at Anya her heterochromatic eyes determined.
“We’ve been at school less than a week, the homework we’ve been given is hardly that difficult or time consuming, what could you possibly need to study for?”
Anya suppressed an annoyed sigh. Sadly Karissa had a point about the studying, but then it had been the only excuse she’d been able to come up with when the purple haired American had come bounding into their room wittering on about her shopping plans. No way was she letting her Saturday morning get derailed like that.
Another desk thump.
“And for the millionth time already, we’re roommates. Call. Me. Kris!”
The ferocity with which Karissa, Kris, shouted at Anya startled her a bit. She admitted she didn’t really pay much attention to her roommate, but this fiery streak seemed out of character with the normally placid girl. Maybe it would be worth her time to get to know the other girl a bit better.
“Alright, I’ll go into town with you. I could use some more shampoo anyway.”
Kris squealed, a high pitched note that caused Anya to wince until she was suddenly pulled to her feet and spun around by the hyperactive girl.
“This is going to be great! I’ve already asked Amelia to meet us for lunch in town so we’d better hurry if we don’t want to be late!”
They were going to hang out with Amelia? Had Kris mentioned this when Anya had tuned her out, or had the girl omitted that little piece of information until she’d agreed? Either way this didn’t cause Anya to feel like retracting her agreement. Rather the thought of being able to talk to the top ranked student was something Anya had been trying to do at every available moment this week. Annoyingly she never seemed to be around at lunch, nor did she leave her room very often. This lunch date could be the perfect opportunity.
Once they’d both grabbed their bags and gotten ready (a process that had taken fifteen minutes thanks to Kris insisting that Anya change into something ‘more appropriate for going into town’) the girls headed out of the dorm block. They managed to get to the gates just in time to leave with the next group of students. Apparently Amelia had gone down in an earlier group, so it was just Anya and Kris making their way as a pair surrounded by a group of Upper Sixth.
Slightly ahead of the group of older students, Anya thought she spotted Ash’s roommate, the Australian summoner with another student in their class. She wasn’t sure quite who it was at this distance so she tapped Kris on the shoulder and pointed them out.
“Who’s that with Derek?” she asked.
“Oh that’s Tom. I’ve been totally shipping them all week. I think Derek’s completely clueless though.”
Anya furrowed her brow, completely at a loss as to how to respond to that statement.
“What do you mean you’re ‘shipping them’? Shipping them what?”
Kris gave her a look that said ‘are you serious?!” before doubling over with laughter.
“Oh boy do I have a lot to teach you Annie!” she cried before throwing her arm around Anya’s shoulder.
I’m never going to get her to stop calling me that, am I. Despite her annoyance at the new nickname, Anya couldn’t quite suppress her smile.
“You sure you’ll be alright getting back?” Amelia’s roommate was hovering over like a worried mother hen. She’d been kind enough to offer to help Amelia make her way into town, her blindfold meant that she could make out outlines and shapes, but for navigating new places Amelia had been glad of Molly’s help. The older student had offered to use her powers on Amelia so she could actually see where she was going, but Amelia pointed out that outside of school grounds, even using Molly’s less noticeable talents, the usage of powers wasn’t allowed.
She wasn’t actually sure how the teachers would find out about unauthorised usage of powers, but she wasn’t willing to risk her friend getting into trouble. Molly had let the argument drop, but she made up for Amelia’s lack of ability to see her surroundings by showing her where everything was, as well as introducing her to many of the town’s residents. Naturally shy, Amelia hadn’t quite known how to react to all the friendly introductions, but the townsfolk were very welcoming.
Now Amelia was seated outside one of the town’s small cafes enjoying the sunshine. Molly was fussing, trying to ensure she was comfortable being left alone.
“Don’t worry so much Molly, I’ll be fine getting back to campus. I’m meeting with some friends, I’ll be fine.”
“Yes but what if someone comes over and bothers you? Or if your friends don’t find you?” Her worried tone warmed Amelia. For the past six years since her powers had emerged, only her father had ever really sounded that way towards her. It was nice to know she had made a friend like Molly so quickly.
“In case you’ve forgotten, I’m the top ranked student in my year. Also, there are only, what, four cafes in town? They’ll find me.” She smiled at the older girl. “Now go find your friends!”
Molly sighed. “Fine, I’ll leave you be. If anything does happen you have my number!”
Amelia chuckled as she listened to her roommate leave. Whilst it was wonderful to have such a caring friend, Amelia found herself a little stifled by the girl’s overwhelming presence. She was one of the cheeriest and most affectionate people Amelia had ever met, it was all rather overwhelming.
Out in the sun, the sounds of a calm morning surrounding her, Amelia felt herself begin to unwind. Time passed and Amelia was left alone by the other patrons of the café. She was just starting to wonder if it’d be worth risking a peak at her phone to check the time when she heard a familiar voice heading towards her.
“… and that’s what shipping is! It’s something I did a lot with my sister back home and- Oh look there’s Amelia! Hi!”
Amelia easily made out the forms of two people making their way over to her, one of who was waving excitedly.
“Kris,” came Anya’s exasperated voice, “I don’t think she can see you waving.”
“Actually I can,” Amelia admitted. “I can make out shapes and movement, just not in a great amount of detail.”
She’d debated for a long while about whether or not to keep up the pretence of not being able to see but had decided that most people would figure it out when she navigated her way around without needing a walking stick or cane. She could have bluffed by saying it was something to do with her power, but the truth would be far easier to explain.
“Hi Amelia,” Kris sang, surprising the other girl by hugging her before taking a seat.
“Hello Kris,” she greeted, smiling.
“Hello Amelia,” warily, Anya took her seat as well.
“It is good to see you again Anya,” Amelia smiled. “I hope there are no ill effects remaining from our match?”
Anya shook her head slowly, her eyes fixed on the smiling blindfolded girl in front of her. “None except that I can’t seem to remember anything that happened up to the point where I surrendered. In fact, when I came to, I didn’t even recognise you, though Kris assures me you’ve been in gym since day one.”
Amelia chuckled and nodded. “A side effect I’m afraid. Memory loss is part of my power, it can be quite disorientating, hence my concern.”
Anya felt her suspicions lessen. If the memory loss was a side effect, then perhaps the girl wasn’t deliberately trying to confuse or disorientate her for future battles.
Slowly the three girls began to relax, forgetting briefly that they were competitors, instead acting like the sixteen year olds they were. For a while the conversation stayed on mundane topics like Kris and Amelia’s classes together and which boys the girls, mainly Kris, thought were cute. Inevitably however, the conversation turned once more to powers.
“So you really aren’t blind?” asked Anya tentatively.
“No. The blindfold stops me from meeting other people’s gazes enough that they won’t be affected by my power, whilst still allowing me limited vision.”
“But why wear the blindfold at all?” Anya pressed. “You’re a Super, you can control it, so why bother?”
Amelia hesitated a little before giving the response she and her father had come up with. “I’m training actually. I could only use my power for a few seconds when I first developed it. I’m constantly turning on and off my power to work on speed and duration.”
It was the best reason they could come up with without Amelia having to pretend that she really was blind for the entire year. Hopefully though, given how HCP’s were supposed to continually push students to improve, the others would buy it.
“Wait even now?” Exclaimed Kris. “But it’s the weekend! Surely you’re not training on a weekend!”
Amelia smiled in the direction of the other girl. She’d been chatting with Kris all week, partly since the girl kept apologising for what had happened the first day, and because they actually shared three of their classes together. Kris had somehow managed to wrangle a seat next to her in every one of their lessons. She was unsurprised by the girl’s outburst given the American’s obsession with boys and fashion. She didn’t seem the type to believe in extra training.
“Actually I’m not using it right this second,” she admitted, “but as part of my training I’ve given myself certain queues that, if I hear, I have to react to and use my power. It means later, when I work in a team, if I’m in a tricky situation, my teammates can tell me when I need to use my powers. Not making eye contact with people is difficult so I always need to be sure that I won’t accidentally look at someone on my side when my power’s active.”
“That’s a really well thought out training plan. I’m impressed by how much you’ve thought this out.” The begrudging respect in Anya’s voice helped release a little bit of the tension in Amelia’s shoulders. Ever since her match she’d been worried the other girl might not buy her story, or worse, jump to the right conclusions. She’d have to bring up her fake regime in other conversations to make sure everyone else believed it to. Her plans needed her to stay in the HCP undiscovered for as long as possible.
“Thank you,” she responded simply before steering the conversation to other topics. “So Kris, didn’t you say you were doing Healer training. What’s that like?”
Tuesday Afternoon, the day after rankings – the infirmary
Kris and two other Lower Sixth students stood in the underground infirmary. Like the combat cells and the school’s other HCP training areas, the infirmary lay below ground somewhere roughly between the two main sections of schools’ campuses. The space was a large and clinical looking room, much like the receiving area of any ER, or at least that’s what Kris was assuming. Thanks to her early development of her abilities she hadn’t needed to go to a hospital in years.
The room contained a number of beds, some larger than others, some with odd looking extensions, each with a heavy looking curtain that could easily surround the beds. Kris could also see a number of rooms with cots inside, the large windows looking in had the letters I.C.U or R.C.U stencilled on them.
Dr Alba Sol bustled towards the three young healers, a smile on her matronly face. She wore the same lab coat Kris had seen her in when she’d introduced herself last Saturday. Although a different colour, the jumper she wore beneath was the same knitted pattern.
“Good Afternoon,” greeted the elderly Hispanic woman. “Today I want to get an idea of your abilities and how best you can currently utilise them to help others. Once we’ve established where you are currently and what you can do, we’ll start on teaching you basic medical practises and techniques. For the most part this year you’ll be using your powers only as directed. In your second and third year, I’ll be teaching you more in depth medical practises, including surgical and medicinal techniques. Should you make it to fourth and fifth year, that is when you’ll be able to start experimenting with other aspects of your abilities.”
Kris was a little disappointed to hear they wouldn’t be experimenting with powers until the fourth year. She was about to raise her hand to ask why but one of the other students, a boy who’d introduced himself as Rob, beat her to it.
“Why can’t we experiment with our powers ‘til then? And why bother with mundane techniques at all?”
Dr Sol’s expression was so disappointed, Kris couldn’t help but feel ashamed to have even questioned the woman silently.
“’Why bother with mundane techniques?’ My dear child, how familiar are you with the variety of Healer’s there are out there?”
“Umm, I know there are a lot, some can do more than others, obviously, but I mean we all heal people don’t we?”
Dr Sol shook her head before turning to Kris.
“Miss Brashmoore, tell me, how does your power work?”
Kris straightened a little, unsure what the woman was getting at but decided to go along.
“I summon constructs in the form of butterflies. Each has its own ability or speciality and I control which ones I summon. For example I can summon a butterfly that will heal wounds, another to wash away fatigue and muscle soreness and a third that can purify the body of most poisons.”
“Thank you dear,” the doctor said. “You see Mr Burke, Miss Brashmoore here has quite a diverse range of techniques with which she can heal people. Others however have powers that work differently. We have one Upper sixth healer who heals by accelerating the body’s natural healing rate, and a first year in university who can only heal wounds she can see currently.
“If I were to let either of them experiment when healing their patients, they could do something unexpected with the powers that harms the patient. The first year might try healing what she can’t see and accidently worsen the problem. Without a further knowledge of the body’s mechanics and how it is supposed to work, at best experimentation will only worsen the injury, at worst, it could kill the patient.”
Kris felt her stomach twist at the thought of her powers killing someone she was trying to heal. The other healer, Rob, looked just as queasy as she felt at the suggestion, his face visibly pale.
“Now,” continued Dr Sol, “Let us move on and discuss how you can currently heal people with your powers. Mr Zammit, you can start us off. You’re a summoner correct?”
The third boy, Derek, nodded, his face serious.
“Yes, I summon beings of immense power. Allow me to show you.” He cleared his throat. “Oh Great Spirit, heed my call! Come forth, Justine!”
As Derek finished his, incantation?, a bright flash of pink light filled the area. As Kris blinked the flash from her eyes, she realised that there was now a fifth person in the room. Standing before the summoner stood a miniaturised person. Perfectly proportioned, the half sized woman wore long white robes that pooled on the floor, lacy edges trimmed a deep rose. She carried a large leather bound tome in one hand and a gnarled staff in the other. Kris noted that the summons was also rather pretty.
“I’m a summoner,” Derek stated, “and whilst I can’t yet tap into Justine’s powers myself like I can with one of my other summons, Justine can cast healing spells of varying complexity. The bigger the spell though, the more mana it takes.”
Doctor Sol blinked, her confusion mirrored on Kris’s own face. Spells? Mana?
The summons, Justine, seeing the two other women’s confused expressions, sighed exsarsperateldly, before straightening and facing Dr Sol.
“Dr Sol,” Justine began, her voice quite normal despite her small stature, “what Derek is trying, and obviously failing, to explain is that I am the one who does the healing. I can cure most cuts and bruises though the bigger and more complex the problem, the more energy he has to supply, or as he calls it, mana. Broken bones I can also help to speed along in healing. I am also quite good at curing poisons, paralysis and several maladies, particularly if the problem is inflicted by another Super.”
Dr Sol’s expression had morphed from confusion to thoughtfulness through Justine’s speech. “Why do you find Super inflicted problems easier?” she asked, head cocked to one side.
“Because Derek’s power seems to view life as a game. He summons what he believes to be game characters,” she explained. “Other Supers are the enemy and, in games, only the enemy and some terrains can inflict damage. This isn’t true in reality, but I would find healing a broken arm caused by a car accident harder to heal than an arm broken by a strongman.”
Kris was rather stunned to hear that a Healer’s ability could be affected by the cause of the injury as well as the injury itself. She was very grateful her own power’s had no similar limitations.
“And have you used your power on a lot of different wounds? How do you know what you can and can’t heal?” The doctor’s next question made sense when considering her earlier speech on the dangers of experimentation.
“Again, Derek’s power works off the assumption he’s summoning game characters. In his games, I would be classed as a ‘cleric’. They are well known for being able to cure many injuries and wounds. I know what I can and can’t cure from Derek’s knowledge of Clerics. It’s instinctive.”
“Good.” Huffed the doctor, clearly glad at least one part of this duo understood how the healing worked. She looked once more at Derek. “You need to summon her each time boy?”
“Yes Doctor,” Derek answered.
Dr Sol nodded. “Get rid of that silly incantation, it’s a waste of time. Otherwise you’re welcome in my infirmary.” She turned to face Rob who’d been looking at Derek in awe. “Alright Mr Burke, how do you heal?”