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Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Short Story · Fantasy · #1415635
hidden school for people with mystical powers (CLOSED)
[Introduction] Clandestine is a very large school and hidden grounds located in an unknown area. It could be America, it could be Africa, it could be Russia- no one knows, not even the students. It is designed for all youth who is discovered to have magical powers (albeit flying, invisibility, etc.) It is like a boarding school- they are dismissed home every summer. Each student has one, and ONLY one supernatural characteristic. They cannot be all-powerful, everyone has a weakness somewhere. I would like those who partake in this story to be serious writers and write long chapters, with a lot of thought entailed. You can create obstacles, romance, betrayal- anything you want as long as you do not kill off main characters (unless you have their permission). I choose the names, but appearance and personality is up to you. Tell about your relationship with the other characters, unless you are a loner or don't associate with them. Remember, no one is defined by one certain thing. Do not concentrate solely on the power your character has- they are trying to live normal teenage lives!

characters:

Nairi: female (TAKEN) power over water
Rumic: female (TAKEN) ability to freeze
Roselai: female (TAKEN) retrocognition
Jessamine: female
Astrid: female (TAKEN)
Sonora: female (TAKEN) ability to transform objects

Cyrus: male (TAKEN) mind-reader
Ryne : male (TAKEN) telekinetic
Wesley: male (TAKEN) shape-shifter
Kieran: male
Dameus: male (TAKEN)
Cael: male (TAKEN) heat power

those are your choices. of course, you can create friends of your own within your chapter that are not on my list. your relationship, if you have one with the others, is entirely up to you. if there is a name you absolutely love and want it instead, feel free to adopt it, as long as it is easy to spell and not too outlandish.

***new****
you have 3 days to post your addition, and then you get skipped. after your first two posts, you can wait longer. for now, i'd like to keep it quick to get the ball rolling.



Moonlight fell in strips across my coverlet, shadowing Jessamine and her sleeping figure. I sat up against my pillows, trying to stifle the rustle. I had fought tooth and nail with her when we first came to Clandestine, because both of us wanted the bed next to the big beautiful window.
My eyes ran up and down the walls, examining the mural I knew by memory. Jessamine and I had painted that mural last winter, bit by bit. Every now and then, when the mood swept us, we smudged tiny little additions. Painting is a strong passion of mine, and I tended to focus on the sea instead of the castle itself. The sea in the mural was almost lifelike; I had painstakingly capped every individual wave with light falling from the huge white painted moon.
I slowly rose from the bed and made my way over to the window. The rumbling undertow of the sea gurgled and spurted and called to me. I lifted the pane and clicked it into a higher setting. The salty sea breeze ruffled my long, reddish-gold hair, and I closed my eyes, trying to imagine belonging to it again. After admiring the endless black mass of water longingly, I returned to the edge of my bed.
There it was, still on my nightstand.
No matter how many times I had avoided it all day, I was aware of its presence. Sitting right on top of my Managing class book: Your Powers and How to Control Them. The envelope sat facing me, as if daring me to open it. I glared at it indignantly, suspiciously. I thought about the trouble Clandestine had taken to conceal itself, and how many different addresses the mail is diverted to before it ends up here, on my nightstand, an absolute abomination. The first letter I'd received from her in four years.
I seized the envelope and slit it open. The letter was tissue-paper thin, old floral stationary I recognized. She used to pen Aunt Margaret with that paper.

Nairi,
I guess you are in eleventh grade now, unless they do things differently where you are. I just thought I would tell you that I've been very busy these past few years and did not get a chance to write. Alex (that's my new husband) said I ought to let you know, we are moving. So...don't write back because this won't be the address anymore. We are moving pretty far away, just to be rid of this place. Well, that is pretty much all I have to say. Oh, yes, Calvin says to tell you hello. He's a big brother now, actually. You probably didn't know this but I had another little girl.
I'm not going to make the same mistake with her as I did with you- she's never going to the ocean as long as she lives.
Mom

I raised my eyebrows, letting the disdainful piece of hurried writing fall into the trashbin. She got remarried and had another child, and was moving somewhere I would never be able to find her. I guessed a dry climate, away from pools or rivers. After all, she didn't want another mess like me. In my mind's eye I could still see the newspaper clipping my mother used to thrash in my face. "TWO-YEAR OLD ONLY TSUNAMI SURVIVOR". There I would be, my inky black and white toddler self sitting high in a tree, crying. I had caused that tsunami. I had killed eleven-hundred people before I learned how to master the toilet.
"Stop thinking about it," I whispered out loud. I thought about my friend Wesley, how close we used to be before I discovered his parents lost their lives in that tsunami. After that, I could not talk to him again. Every now and then he stops me in the hallway on the way to class, trying to get through to me, but I could not force out words. How do you talk to someone whose life you ruined? He has no idea I caused that natural disaster- he always that my gift with water was amazing.
Resting my head against the pillow again, images of Wesley clouding my thoughts, I thought for the billionth time in my life about how that "gift" had cursed me.

A Non-Existent User
Being the new kid isn’t easy, my father’s voice rung in my head. You got to be tough…like metal or those people will eat you alive.
Man, was he not kidding. I hadn’t been in the school for more than a few minutes and already I had people pushing me. Not the way I expected, though. In my old school I had been discriminated for my telekinesis abilities—not only discriminated—beaten, thrashed to the point of near death. Here, I was immediately pressured to show off my talent…but I guess that’s why I had come.
“Hey, you!”
I turned to see a boy my age walking toward me.
“You’re Ryne, right?”
I nodded.
“Great. I’m Wesley. You’ll be bunking with me.” He began down one of the many halls, gesturing for me to follow. I picked up my suitcase and fell in step with him. “My former room mate just graduated that’s why you’re bunking with me.”
“Graduated, eh? So does that mean he’s going to start saving the world like Super Man?” I smiled sourly, still uncomfortable with this whole Clandestine school thing.
Wesley laughed. “No. He actually wants to be lawyer. Lord knows why.”
“I thought this place taught you how to use your…ability.”
“It does. It also teaches you how to avoid bad people so you can live a relatively normal life if you want.”
“Bad people?”
“Governments mostly. Governments that would use us to better themselves in the world.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Yeah, I know the type.”
Finally we stopped at a door as Wesley dug in his pocket for the key. I looked around suspiciously. When I found myself in a mirror across the hall, I paused, annoyed at what I saw. With longish black hair, bright blue eyes and a face that appeared to be smiling whenever I relaxed, no one would have suspected I was harboring such sick feelings toward life. The fact was…I was hating it. I loved my gift; telekinesis was the best thing about me. When I was moving things around with my mind, I was home, yet it had managed to make my life living hell.
My father had been the only one to accept me and now he was gone. He had wanted me to stay, but the last bout with the Law had convinced him it was time to do something. He discovered the Clandestine School after months of research or, should I say, they had discovered him. And now I was an official transfer student of Weirdo High.
Click! The door swung open with a soft whine. I stepped into the dorm room. Home sweet home...
Tap... tap... tap...

Rumic grit her teeth as she tried to concentrate on her textbook and not the annoying sound coming from behind her. She got along with others well, especially Roselai and Kieran, but there were times when she just needed to get lost. The massive school library was the one place where she could feel at peace among the masses of other students. At least it was until now.

Tap... tap... tap...

The words blurred on the page as the rhythmic noise grated her nerves. Rumic was sure the tapping was going to slowly drive her crazy. It was just a bad coincidence the tapping sounded so much like the sound of dripping water. Triggering her subconscious, her mind flooded with memories she would rather not live through again.

"Stop," her smoky voice whispered to the unknown. The air around her drop a few degrees in temperature.

Tap... tap... tap...

A leaky faucet that changed her fate.

Hour upon hour as a toddler, Rumic had been trapped in a playpen. There were times when the sun would rise and fall before anyone would let her out. She'd come to know hunger, pain, and neglect well. Sometimes, after another attempt to climb out had failed, she would cry loud sobs of frustration in the hope someone would find her. She had no way of knowing she was better off in her crib than out on the dirty, trash ridden floor beneath it.

Tap... tap... tap...

The day seemed to be melting with heat, the small t-shirt she wore sticking to her dark skin. It had been another day of failed attempts. A deep hunger gnawed at her stomach.

Rumic wanted nothing more than a drink of water from the sink. She could see the droplets fall into the drain but had no way to reach them. Soon her mouth was so dry her bottom lip began to crack.

Tap... tap... tap...

It mocked her. Rumic just wanted it to stop. She cried but the wetness of her tears did nothing to stop the torment. With all the strength in her tiny body, she hoisted herself up to the standing position and gripped the rail of the playpen, rocking it back and forth. So caught up in her effort Rumic didn't notice the changes happening around her.

The atmosphere had chilled until her labored breath came out in a white puff. Everything in the rundown apartment was covered in a thick layer of frost. The air was so cold a drop of water from the faucet froze in mid-air before it fell and broke in the basin of the sink.

Frightened, Rumic screamed. But the shrill vibration was too much for the brittle panes of glass to take. The windows shattered into a million pieces, drawing the authorities to the neglected apartment.

Tap... tap... tap...

"Please, stop." Rumic asked again, the muscles in her body tense. But whoever was tapping either could not hear or didn't care to stop. Finally, the last thread of her patience fraying, Rumic slammed her book shut and slowly rose from her chair.

The boy with the offending pencil in his hand couldn't sense the danger as Rumic approached his table. Unaware, he bobbed his head back and forth to a metal song blaring from his headphones. Rumic planted both of her palms flat on the table and leaned forward, waiting to capture his attention.

He frowned at the shadow blocking his work. Goosebumps formed on his skin from the sudden cold. He looked up and his eyes widened in astonishment.

Rumic could only imagine what she looked like to him. Although she'd been at Clandestine for years, most people were still shocked at her appearance. Whether it was her silver and white hair curling against her near black skin or the starkness in her grey eyes, Rumic didn't know but she didn't mind using it in times like this.

"This is a library." Rumic took the pencil from his still hand and placed it in her palm. "Its in your best interest to be quiet."

The boy's mouth hung open as his pencil covered itself in ice. Rumic, not taking her eyes from his, tapped the frozen pencil once on the table, breaking it into three blunt pieces. Her full mouth twisted into a smirk. "Happy studying."
A Non-Existent User
After Wesley let Ryne into the dorm, he took a quick second to steal quick glance at whatever it was that made Ryne frown so suddenly. What he found was a teen roughly 5’11 with hair the same color as melted chocolate, and amber brown eyes (these were almost catlike, but more rounded). His hair looks wild but somehow attractive at the same time. After adjusting his dark green almost skin thigh shirt he headed into the dorm, where he found Ryne laying on his new bed. At first Wesley didn’t think much of it that was until he noticed stuff flying out of Ryne’s bag onto the shelves. For about a minute Wesley just stood there trying to process what was going on.
“I’m telekinetic.” Ryne said without looking up. ”what’s your ability?”
This was a sensitive subject for Wesley because in his eyes he was a failure as a shape shifter. He was only able to take on the characteristics of animals; this often meant he ended up with things like dog ears and a tail, maybe claws. To him it was embarrassing when changing into a fish he had aqua blue hair, gills and fins that was about it.
”I shape shift, but I guess you could think of it as being a hybrid.” Wesley said with his head down.
“What’s wrong with that?” Ryne asked
“Well all the other shape shifters can change all the way they don’t end up with some freaky hybrid thing.”
“id imagine it has its ups and downs, not just downs”
“well… it is nice to not have to change all the way to have the eyes of a hawk or the smelling of a blood hound.” Wesley replied cheering up.
“See its not all bad” Ryne said then he threw a pillow at Wesley.
“Ok I guess not that your unpacked ill finish showing you around.”

It took till about lunch time but Wesley and Ryan had toured the whole school; they had even saved Rumic from getting in trouble with the librarian.
“Thanks for taking me to the “office” guys.” She laughed as the three entered the huge cafeteria. Wesley sniffed the air.
“Smells like there serving pizza today” he exclaimed excitedly.
On there way to the lunch line Wesley spotted Nairi and Jessamine sitting across the hall, he waved and Jessamine waved back. As usual Nairi looked away with her head down, this always hurt Wesley on the inside he just never let it show. Him and Nairi used to be best friends but one day for whatever reason she just stopped talking to him. Hell she never even look him in the eyes anymore. Rumic knowing Wesley well enough to know something was wrong put her hand on his shoulder.
“I guarantee its not you..” was all she said.
Then she put and ice cube down his shirt, Wesley jumped around trying to shake the ice cube loose. Finally after he had his laughs Ryne got the ice cube out of Wesley’s shirt but not before rubbing it around his back for the ice to chill his whole back. Forgetting about Nairi’s strange actions for the time being the three got there pizza and set off in search of a place to sit.
Jessamine threw her head back and laughed. "It's been too long, Nairi," she said.
I grinned at her. "I KNEW you liked him, Jess. You thought you were sooo discreet, but I knew it."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, now you can read minds like that kid in our history class?"
I slid down the wall onto the floor. "I wish! That would be great...that kid freaks me out, though. I try to close my mind so he can't read it, but you know he can get through anyway because he always knows the answers to everything."
Rumic and Wesley sidled over to where we were sitting lazily on the floor in the empty cafeteria. "What's up?" she asked. As predicted, he hung back a bit behind her, as if afraid I might kick him. Someone else was with them.
"Hey Nairi," Wesley replied casually.
"Who's your friend, Rumic?" I asked her. She shrugged somewhat, her expression bored.
"He was with Wesley. His name is Ryne."
"Hello, Ryne." I replied. He nodded his head.
"What can you do?" Jessamine asked eagerly. He bit his lip, and looked around the cafeteria. Spotting a water fountain, he focused his eyes on it, and jets of water splurted out.
I smiled, playing the game. I forced the water to stay in the air, and collected it into a cloud which hung above Rumic's head. She instantly froze it, and it fell around us into tiny molecules of ice.
"Telekenetic," I murmured. "Very impressive."
"So was that," he responded. "So what, are you telekenetic too?"
"No," I shook my head. "I could only do that because it was water. I can manipulate water."
"What can you do with it?" he pressed, interested.
"Freeze it, melt it, evaporate it. I can make it move, I can shape it."
"Is it just water or any liquid?" he wanted to know. No one else was very curious about my power. I thought his was a lot more interesting. "Can you manipulate..say...tea?"
I sighed. "Nope, just water. I can take the water OUT of the tea and do stuff with it."
"It's really cool," Wesley added. I gave him a ghost of a smile. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kieran, a friend of Rumic's, sauntering into the gymnasium. i jabbed Jessamine and she giggled.
"What?" Rumic asked, turning around, but he was gone. After a few moments of silence and Jessamine trying to keep a straight face, Rumic said, "Well, I gotta go. Roselai's waiting up for me. See you guys later."
"Bye, bye," Jessamine told Wesley and Ryne, as if dismissing them. Ryne followed Wesley down the hall, leaving us alone again.
"You're so mean," she whispered when they were out of earshot. I widened my eyes to look innocent.
"What are you talking about?"
She stood up and stretched, and helped me to my feet. "You know exactly what I'm talking about, Nairi Calson. You've ignored poor Wesley for the ten thousandth time this year. I'm surprised he still tries to talk to you."
"Yeah, well, it's like I said. It's awkward."
"You were a baby!" she exclaimed. But it was useless, we'd had this talk many times before. "He would know you couldn't control it. None of us could control our powers when we were little." she paused and yawned. "I want some ice cream. How about we go beg some out of Roselai. I heard she had three gallons of it in her mini freezer."
"You're only saying that because you think Kieran will be up there!"
"Shhh!" she hissed. And then she flipped her hair. "I only sort of think he's cute, anyway. It's not like how you used to think about Wesley."
I bumped her into the wall as we were walking. "Shut up, Jess. That was the ninth grade."
"And tenth."
"We have to study, anyways," I told her airily. "We've got a test in Mutant Psychology tomorrow morning and YOU cannot afford another 'F'."
I thought about my only night class, Art, three hours away. Wesley was in there. Maybe I would finally say hello.

A Non-Existent User

“So what’s with you and that girl?” inquired Ryne as he and Wesley made there way from the cafeteria.

“Huh?” Wesley looked up from the floor, startled. “Girl? What girl?”

He rolled his eyes. “You know, the one that gave you the cold shoulder?”

“Rumic?”

Laughing, “No, the other one that gave you the cold shoulder…Nairi.”

“She’s an old friend…Well, we were childhood friends anyway.” Wesley looked away.

“Ah, I guess that’s why she didn’t look you at all but for a quick glance. Old girlfriend, perhaps?”

“Nah…never.”

“Not pretty enough, eh?”

The boy shot him a slightly affronted look. “Why are you so interested?”

Ryne smiled and shrugged the question off. “You’re right; she’s plenty pretty, but…maybe a little bit…mean? Redheads do tend to have fiery personalities. If you’re not careful, you might just get burnt.”

“She can control water, Ryne.”

“Good point.” The two laughed, leaving the awkward conversation behind in the hall way.

“So where do you go to have fun?” Ryne was glancing about curiously. He desperately wanted to get somewhere open where he could practice his telekinesis without almost hitting someone in the head, not that it wouldn’t be funny if he did. “You know, fun fun.”

“Follow me.” Wesley smiled knowingly and threw his head in the direction of a two glass doors leading outside.

The courtyard was generously scattered with kids, ages ranging from ten and up. Some of them were playing, some experimenting with their abilities and some just laid in the noonday sun, soaking up its warmth.

Ryne breathed in a mouth full of fresh air, intrigued by the marvelous sight. None of them were afraid, he realized, not of discrimination nor the of the thought of waking up to find themselves wired up like some sort of machine…the distance beeping of a life maintenance computer the only sound in the whitewashed darkness…

“Something wrong?”

Ryne shook his head, banishing the memory. “Yeah. Fine…So let’s see it?” They began walking, dodging by a few fourth graders in play.

Wesley frowned. “See what?”

“Transform…or what ever you do. Take on the aspects of a…” Ryne paused in thought. “A tiger.”

“A tiger?”

“Yeah, they’re tough, feisty and dangerous. Perfect for scaring off unwanted people.”

Wesley looked like was about to say no, instead he shrugged and became still, sweat gathering on his brow. Suddenly sharp, orange ears sprouted through his hair, his teeth became jagged and pointy and long black claws grew on his fingertips. He looked down at his work without pride, then glanced at Ryne who grinned. Curious, he felt for a nearby object, and once finding a stone he put to work his mental muscles and lifted it slowly from the ground. When it was level with Wesley’s head, he sent it hurling at him as fast as he could.

A deep, guttural roar soured through the airs as Wesley turned and sent the rock flying, chips spurting from where his claws had met it in mid-flight.

Ryne blinked, impressed. “Damn, you’re fast.”

Shaking his head, the boy returned to his natural shape. “No, the tiger’s fast.”

“Well, one of you was fast. No one has ever dodged, much less warded off something I sent at them.”

“So you do that a lot, hit people in the head with things?” He grinned at the notion.

“Of course. Haven’t you scared someone coming around the corner in the hall by looking like a crocodile or something startling? Too fun to resist in my opinion.”

“I’ll have to try that sometime…”





A Non-Existent User
Roselai squinted at her computer screen as she tried to pinpoint where the structure of the paragraph went wrong. It was the climatic point in the story but it didn't carry the pizazz she was looking for. She sat back in her chair and frowned, drumming her black silk gloved fingers on the desk. Something pivotal was missing.

The stereo blared with Janis Joplin and every once in a while, when the mood struck her, Roselai would chime in with her off-key vocal styling. Usually the loud music helped her think but the writing which had captured her interest an hour before seemed to had disappeared. She need something to spark her imagination again. Maybe...

The door burst open with a breath of cold air. Roselai's bow shaped mouth curved into a mischievous smile. "Ah, the ice maiden has returned."

"Funny." Rumic threw her things on her bed before closing the door behind. "You know you have class in like fifteen minutes, right?"

To Roselai time had no true meaning or consequence. It didn't bother her a bit that in less than thirty minutes she had an advanced calculus exam - which she still hadn't studied for. Nor did it disturb her that a twelve page term paper was due in two days even though she still had yet to start it. She thought of time as a cyclical commodity. If she didn't use it now she could always catch it on the flip side.

It drove her roommate nuts.

Roselai swiveled her chair back toward the computer. "Just give me a second. One more sentence and then I'm done." She could hear a disbelieving snort come from behind her.

"I'll believe that when I see it. I stopped trying to get you out of the door on time over a year ago."

"Says the girl who drags her feet when gym time comes around." Roselai lowered her head closer to the keyboard to hide her smile. Rumic was the first person to befriend her when she arrived a few years back. Now, they were like sisters as well as best friends... even if they did bicker like old ladies.

"Listen, cupcake-" Rumic fell silent, her sarcastic remark forgotten as she caught a whiff of the air. "Are those dark chocolate chip cookies I smell?"

Roselai hit the backspace key a few times while pointing with her unoccupied hand to the kitchen. "Mom sent her monthly care package. She also sent snickerdoodles."

The dorm room they occupied was one of the biggest at Clandestine. In order to accommodate Roselai's "special abilities" the school placed her in a room with a full kitchen, bathroom and laundry. The two of them were lucky, at least Roselai liked to think of it that way. She thought of the large space as sacred, a place where she didn't have to worry about touching the wrong thing. She could relax here without fear.

Rumic bite into a cookie with a look of pure joy on her face. "Mmmm. Your mother should be sainted."

Roselai chuckled. "I tell her in my next letter." She clicked off the stereo. It was crunch time. She needed complete musical silence while she approached the end of her masterpiece.

"How's the fam?" Rumic asked around a mouthful of cookie. She held the plate of cookies close to her body, hording them. It would take a nuclear blast to get them out of her hands.

"They're good. Clementine is dating another rodeo star and Dad is thinking about getting a couple more heads of cattle." She blew a honey brown curl out of her eyes as she typed away a mile a minute. This was it - she could see the finish line in the distance. "Mom's a little concerned."

"About what?"

Roselai waved her leather gloved hand absently in the air. "Some news special about the possible existence of "gifted" people."

"Gifted? As in our kind of gifted?" The atmosphere in the room dropped a few degrees.

She shrugged. "I guess. Don't worry about it."

Roselai moved her fingers furiously across the computer keyboard as if she her life depended on it. She had one sentence left before she was... "Finished!" She jumped out of her chair and did the Snoopy Dance but stopped dead when she caught sight of the clock. She was going to be late. Again.

"Crap! I have to go!" Hurriedly, she scanned her clothes make sure all of her skin was completely covered and grabbed her book bag. Dashing out the door she nearly collided with Nairi and Jessamine but she didn't stop to chat. "Sorry I can't stay but Rumic is inside. Just don't forget to wear a pair of disposable gloves before you touch anything!"

And off she ran.
A Non-Existent User
Sonora curled up in the window seat and gazed through the streaky glass. She wished someone would clean it, so she could see better.

She knew she could, but her talent was frowned upon for so long she was afraid to use it. However, it seemed to be encouraged here. But she didn't want to draw attention to herself, and destruction of school property was a good way to get noticed.

Instead, she twirled a pen in her hands. At first she simply changed the color, then as she grew thirsty, turned it into a cup of water and took a drink. After that, she turned it back into a pen and left her seat.

Even though she preferred to be alone, she grew lonely. The other kids seemed to have so much fun with their gifts. She longed to be a part of it.

She walked down the hall, pondering her situation for the thousandth time. Most would kill to be able to transform other objects, she knew. Yet she longed to be able to change her own shape, as she was so unhappy with it. Her mother often built on this desire, telling her her hair was too fine, her hands too big, her nose too small.

With a sigh, she paused in front of one of several gilded mirrors and peered in. She knew if it weren't for her parents, she might be happy. She wasn't ugly, more plain. Yet it hurt that she couldn't please them. If only she were enough.

Disgusted, she turned all the mirrors into paintings and continued on. Her stomach growled at her, so she aimed for the cafeteria. She was perfectly capable of making her own food, but she didn't feel like working for it quite yet.

"I hope they have Mexican." she said to herself, longing for something spicy to take the bitter taste from her mouth.


Cyrus leant against the wall with his arms crossed, gazing out through the opposite window into the courtyard. A sea of students passed him by in the hall; some in groups and others by themselves. It was noisy in the passage and he began to regret standing in the middle of it.
         He was waiting for someone and as usual they were late. There was one thing he hated above all other trivialities, and that was waiting for people. It felt like a waste of the day. Cyrus flipped his hand palm up and checked the time. Some of the students glanced at him nervously, as though he had the intention to hit someone with it. He saw this and ignored them indifferently; these reactions weren’t new, he was accustomed to it.
         Cyrus looked down the corridor, feeling the last of his patience fraying. He didn’t see the man he was waiting for and his eyes rested on a security guard among the students. His eyes were a solid jade without a pupil but they hadn’t always been that way- it was something that had changed his first year. Was it a testament of his excessive use of telepathy? Probably.
         The guards were a new addition to the school- nearly a year now. The school board members decided they needed hazard control after an incident with a pyromaniac and without delay, Clandestine had security. They all wore the same uniform; black pants that were made of a tough material and long sleeved shirts with high necks. The sleeves didn’t end at the wrists but extended over the hands, cut off at the fingers like fingerless gloves. Embroidered on the back of their shirts was a steal grey symbol, outlined in florescent green. Cyrus couldn’t tell if it was foreign or invented; either way it meant something or else there’d be no point to it.
         The guard slowed down feet away from him, looking back at a girl running passed and his thoughts were evident even though he hadn’t read them. If he remembered correctly, the girls name was Roselai. The guard looked up, seeing that Cyrus had been watching and smiled evilly.
         “I wouldn’t be smirking,” he said without tone to the guard. “There’s a word for people like you.” Unashamed, the guard scrutinized him. Some of the students noticed them talking and became wary, but didn’t stop to wonder.
         “Cyrus, isn’t it? Reeves adoptive son,” the guard said. His tone suggested that he held Mr. Reeves in high esteem, and immediately corrected his attitude. “I read your file,” he explained, when Cyrus sustained silence.
          “We’re not on a first name basis,” he replied coldly; he could not have cared less that some guard had read his file. The guard smirked again and Cyrus watched as he continued down the hall. The mockery in his smile didn’t go unnoticed; he knew the guard could suppress abilities, but he was an idiot if he believed he had the intention to waste it on him. In truth, anyone could learn to close their minds off to him, but he wasn’t about to share it with the school. Out of all the diverse abilities, his was thought the most invasive. And it was. But he didn’t care. It was his gift.
A hand gripped his shoulder while he’d been looking the other way and he turned sharply. Cyrus didn’t like people touching him; it felt like a violation of personal space, but he relaxed when he saw it was the man he’d been waiting for. Ash was a member of the school board and was also his adoptive father. He was young for a man in his position; in his late twenties.
         “Sorry. The meeting went longer than I had anticipated,” Ash said as a few girls glanced his way, their attraction apparent but Ash appeared oblivious to it. “Let’s walk…”

They were out in the courtyard and Cyrus looked up at the sky; the glare stinging his eyes. Fake grass had been laid out across the expanse and there were some kids running around nearby like they’d had too much sugar.
         Clandestine high was a school for the gifted, kept hidden from the rest of the world away from the normalcy. The school system set up for them had been skillfully organized- enough that it unnerved him at times. Everything they could need was supplied. He took immense interest in the place. It was still new to him, even though this year would be his fifth; the novelty not having worn off.
But. Perfect places don’t exist, he thought. No one was exempt from that truth.
         Clandestine had found him through an orphanage agency. That was how he’d met Ash and as a boy he remembered how much he disliked him. It brought a smirk to his face. Cyrus didn’t see Ash as his father- he never had; he might never. Ash had never even called him his son.
         “What?” Ash asked, having seen his smile. Cyrus shook his head. The orphanage didn’t need to illustrate their relief at his departure with words or thoughts for him to have known. It was evident through their manner and expressions. He had, after all, made their life as much of a hell as they’d made his.
         They stopped a fair way away from everyone else and Cyrus crossed his arms, his weight on one foot, listening to his surroundings. It’d taken him a few years to get used to the environment- to accept that this place would be his home. Not that he had ever had one. He often wondered what would happen to him once he passed the final year. Cyrus lit cigarette, pondering over the possibilities. What future did any of them have?
         “Did you want to talk to me about something?” Cyrus asked. He was not using his ability out of respect. When he did use it, he filtered the thoughts. It was one of the first things he was determined to learn. He remembered the days when he couldn’t control it and he shuddered.
          The mind was a complicated maze. Most people were oblivious to how many thoughts they produced in a matter of seconds, each to their own separate topics; the most problematic usually loudest. It’s like standing in a circular room with many doors to choose from, all of them talking incoherently. No mind the same; every mindset different; and the shape unpredictable- usually taking form of how someone saw them self. He’d hate to know himself as indepth.
         Ash had been in deep thought but had come back to life with a grin. “Nothing in particular. I thought I’d be a responsible adult and hang out with you.” It probably looked odd through the eyes of the students that they were father and son by law. “I won’t be around as much next week so…”
Ash became interested in something to their right and Cyrus followed his gaze. There were two guys standing within eyesight; one he recognized as Wesley, but didn’t know who the other was. Whatever had happened, he missed it.
Ash was looking at him with his ocean blue eyes. There seemed to be something calculating about his eyes, like he was planning and weighing the consequences of each action. “Have you heard about the school dance yet?”
He hadn’t expected this as a topic for discussion and gave him a look of revulsion. “No.”
         “It’s next week. I expect to see you there,” he grinned playfully, “with a girl.”
He shook his head once and some of his black hair fell over his eyes in strands. “Not a chance.”
Ash laughed softly. “Its compulsory- everyone has to attend. Clandestine is celebrating its 21st year.”
This annoyed Cyrus. Being dragged to socials came in par with waiting aimlessly. He couldn’t understand how Ash put up with it as a school board member. Just because he did didn’t mean he had to too as well. “I’ll make an appearance…” he lied, subtly dismissing the subject.
         “I’ve got big plans for the school this coming week,” Ash said seriously, studying him closely. “Don’t let me down, I want you there to be apart of it.”
Cyrus took his time to reply. “What for?”
         “I want to introduce you to some people. It’s only right someone I know meets you. Not even my mother knows about you,” he added humorously. Cyrus studied him quietly, containing his surprise. From what he knew Ash wasn’t in contact with his family. He never talked about it and Cyrus wouldn’t ever ask. The subject was clearly off limits. Most of his life was; but then again, so was his and not for the same reasons. Another thing that surprised him was that he was talking like a father should when he was proud of his son. Cyrus took a long drag of his cigarette, choosing not to say anything.


The corridor was quiet with the exception of the hum from the lights drilling into his head. He felt a headache coming on and put a middle and index finger against his temple. Around his wrist was a black and bottle green beaded bracelet.
         It was the early morning, nearing 4 am. Only the occasional teacher or guard made their appearance at this hour. He was the worst kind of insomniac and rarely slept; when he did it never lasted longer than several hours. Students knew to stay out of his way when he finally did sleep because he woke up in the worst moods. Today was probably the nicest he had been in awhile.
         He walked listlessly around the school, searching for something to occupy the time. Cyrus pondered whether he should head back to his room that he shared it with Ash, but it didn’t amount to any decision. There was an indoor pool room at the far end of the school and he walked toward it for no particular reason.
         It was a cold night and the warmth emitting from the water in the pool was welcoming. He decided on impulse that he’d take a swim and got changed in the boys change room. Cyrus stretched, emphasizing his muscles as he came out into the pool area and stopped when he saw he wasn’t alone.
         She looked a little shocked, as though she hadn’t expected to see anyone there, especially him. Her red hair was vibrant and she looked familiar but he couldn’t place a name to the face. She glanced at the water and he thought he saw something like fear in her eyes; whether it was him she feared or the water, he didn’t know and didn’t care. Cyrus ignored her and walked over to the edge of the pool. He could see out of the corner of his eye that she began anxiously rubbing her hands together.
         “That’s probably not a good idea, while I’m here,” she said.
Cyrus faced her and gave her a strange look. “Why?”
         I’ll probably drown him… No, I have to stay calm. Don’t think much, he can read minds.
He kept his gaze on her for a moment, and then turned to the water. Cyrus tuned it out so that her thoughts wouldn’t reach him. “I’ll risk it.”
She glanced at the water again, then back at him. “Cyrus, isn’t it?” She looked as though she wanted to stall him from getting in. In normal circumstances, they probably wouldn’t ever speak to each other. He nodded without turning and got in. She glimpsed at the middle of his back where he had a barely visible tattoo of an upside down dragonfly. There was a chemical in the ink that made the silver appear only in direct light. The warmth of the water washed itself over his skin and he suddenly felt refreshed, as if he’d come back from a years worth of sleep.
         She looked away as though she couldn’t watch. “We take the same history class.” She seemed to be talking just to distract herself. Cyrus swam out a little but was facing her still. Now that she mentioned it, he realized that’s where he’d seen her.
         “So,” she drifted, “do you usually go for a swim this early in the morning?”
         “No. I don’t sleep.”
She looked at him thoughtfully and visibly relaxed a little. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here… I thought I’d try and tame my ability. This seemed to be the perfect place to start…”
Cyrus idly swam in the same spot. “Water ability?” he guessed, thinking about her earlier thought.
She nodded. “Do you mind?”
         “No.”
Nairi sat on the edge of the pool and put her bare legs in the water. She was dressed in shorts and a warm jacket. She put out her arms and he watched in curiosity as a handful of water rose, and then slowly formed shapes with it, but gradually the water wouldn’t hold together. It continued until all of it had fallen back into the pool.

His hair was slightly damp when he entered his room.
Ash was standing in front of a mirror putting on a tie and Ash looked at him through the reflection. “Where have you been?”
Cyrus shrugged a shoulder. “Around.”
         “Hmm… Something has come up. After today, I’ll be gone for two days.” He paused, looking suddenly serious. “There’s something I need to talk to you about, but it can wait until I get back.”
         “Wouldn’t it be easier to say it now?” Cyrus asked, staring back at him in the mirror.
Ash finished with the mirror and walked over to him. He gripped him by the shoulders gently and Cyrus realized that his thoughts were closed off. Ash kept his expressions in check and Cyrus wondered what it was he had to say. “… I’ll be seeing you soon.”
He watched him leave, and knew that his parting words weren’t what he’d wanted to say. For some reason, he had this bad feeling stirring inside the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t explain it. Had something happened without him realizing it? If so, what was it? And how did it affect him?

That morning, Cyrus had an encounter with the same guard from yesterday. They didn’t exchange words, but as they made eye contact the guard smirked at him and he felt him purposefully open his mind to him. It felt ominous.
         I’ll let you in on a secret … You’re all in for a rough ride. And laughed in his head.
Cyrus sneered at him, dismissing it.

“See you,” I told Jessamine, ducking into the classroom opposite hers.
“Write me a note, Nairi!” she said.
Miss Furland was pacing up and down the room. I sat down at a table with Roselai, dreading Managing Powers class. However, I could tell that today’s lesson was going to be a bit out of the ordinary.
“You are in your eleventh year,” she replied. “And we are going to discuss some information that Headmaster Houvas believes is crucial to our existence as mutants. He believes that in the future, if there were ever to be problems between normal humans and mutants, we have the lower hand. Their numbers greatly exceed ours, and, for the first time in Clandestine history, we teachers have been instructed to do something drastic.”
Everyone immediately fell silent.
“As you know,” Miss Furland continued, her expression emitting a serious tone. “Headmaster Houvas does not have a singular power. He has two major ones- teleportation, and mind and memory manipulation. He has many other gifts he does not consider powers, but I certainly would. We are supposed to encourage you to place all your strength and concentration into the power you have been discovered to have. However, it does not mean you don’t have others, dormant ones, probably similar to the power you already know to exist.”
I sucked in my breath. “Miss Furland,” I spoke. “Are you telling us that we might have MORE than just one gift?”
She nodded. “It is possible. Not for everyone, but some people do have multiple powers. Usually one is stronger than the others- which is the one you are all sitting in this school for. Remember, we are mutants. Mutants are constantly mutating. The reason why you didn’t know this is because all you know about the supernatural you’ve learned here. We’ve not been given permission to tell you this because it is actually quite dangerous for our community. The more powerful we realize we are, the more chance there is of people discovering us. Headmaster Houvas is a radical in his day. He believes Clandestine was not built to shut you all out, to teach you only how to conceal your powers.
“Mr. Houvas warns that if there shall be a war between us and everyone else, we should all learn how to protect ourselves to the maximum. We cannot believe ourselves invincible just because we can walk through walls or sprout wings. Against those with guns, our capture would be inevitable.”
“Is there going to be a war?” a voice inquired. I glanced over. It was Ryne, the new kid.
“Whether tomorrow or in two-hundred years, one is inevitable,” she said. “And the time has come to prepare you for the worst and make you the very best you can be.” She paused and thought for a moment, her skin color brightening and fading as it often did with her ranging emotions. “But there is something extremely important you all MUST understand. Your dormant qualities will be hard for you to control if you discover them, and usually secondary powers only reveal themselves when you are under tremendous stress, or the power knows it needs to be used immediately. A lot of mutants go through life not knowing it is a power, just some odd quality about them. If they were to focus it, shape it, grow it, they would find themselves much more powerful than before. It will be like you were when you were young and could not control your newly-acquired powers.” My mind flew back to the tsunami newspaper clipping for a moment, and I shut it out.
I glanced over at Ryne, who was listening with rapt attention. His sleek black hair fell just to the middle of his neck, framing a slight natural tan. I was so busy thinking about his edgy voice and how Amanda Barkins was sitting way too close to him in my opinion that my elbow gave way on the edge of the table. My books slid off onto the floor, and my pencil rolled up the aisle, landing with a ‘ping’ on his table’s leg. Miss Furland shot me a disapproving look. Ryne leaned down, picked up the pencil, and walked over, handing it to me. How could I not have noticed his eyes the other day when I met him? They were the clearest, palest blue eyes I’d ever seen, which made his hair look even softer and darker, like a raven’s. I lowered myself in my seat.
“Thanks,” I muttered. I used my shoe to scoot my books under my table, so that I could pick them up later after I managed to quit blushing. Instead, I accidentally tripped him a little. He caught himself, but gave me a quizzical look. His eyes were even prettier now than they were three seconds ago.
“Oh, Lord,” I spoke under my breath.
“What was that, Miss Calson?” Miss Furland replied, annoyed. At this point, my face was probably every bit as red as my hair.
“I have a question,” Roselai piped up, saving me. “It’s about those of us with dormant powers. How can we find out about them now, without having to wait for them to reveal themselves? I mean, what if they never do and I had some secret, amazing gift?”
“It’s crucial for you all to realize that if you were to discover secondary powers, you’d not use them with ill intentions. We’d be considered even more dangerous in human eyes, and there is definitely truth in that. We shouldn’t have to hide them, but to flaunt them or use them for personal gain at the expense of another is what we’ve been trying to prevent. We’ve been encouraged to lay low and manage what we know we have, and not go looking for more. But Headmaster Houvas, for whatever reason, has changed the curriculum. He wants you to go looking. He wants you to challenge yourselves and others, to think deeply about odd circumstances in your life and something you may have missed. Maybe you are someone who can breathe underwater, but you got into a sort of jam where you couldn’t use that particular gift, and something else happened to save you, and you’ve forgotten.”
Roselai looked at me, perhaps because I can breathe underwater, but I was focused on the person sitting ahead of me, diagonally on the left. It was an absolute struggle to concentrate on the droning of Miss Furland when someone ten billion times more interesting was right there.
I wondered why I hadn’t noticed him in any of my other classes. Was he in the others? I would certainly start keeping my eyes peeled, not that I was interested in him. Of course I wasn’t interested in him.
He coughed and I jumped in my seat. Roselai slowly turned around to face me, her eyes wide and incredulous. I felt like someone had sucked all the air out of the room. My eyes continually darted from where he sat to Miss Furland’s face, trying to maintain the demeanor I was paying the least bit of attention. I hoped my dormant power was the ability to read minds. I wanted to know what was going on in his.
When the bell finally rang, I gathered my things and swept out of the room, completely absorbed in my own thoughts. “What’s with you today?” Roselai asked just before turning down another hallway.
I slowed down and wondered if Jessamine was out of her other class yet. I didn’t notice a figure strolling easily alongside me. “You tried to trip me,” a matter-of-fact voice said. It was Ryne.
I stopped and studied him. I didn’t know him well enough to decide what his expression meant. “I wasn’t trying to trip you. I was sliding my books back under the table.”
“No, I’m pretty sure you were trying to trip me. What is it, do you just hate the male species in general?” I stopped short.
I was taken aback. “Okay, fine then. I was definitely trying to make you fall. What are you talking about, do I hate the males species?”
“So you do like men, then?”
My mouth fell open. “Excuse me? Yes, I like men. What are you getting at here?”
He shrugged. “Just trying to understand why you’re so bitter.”
He couldn’t have been more off the mark about me. I became defensive, trying to avoid his pretty blue eyes so that I could think more clearly. “What’d I ever do to you?” I exclaimed. “I’m not a bitter person at all, and I’m not sure how that idea fell into your head. If you want me to hate you, I certainly can.”
“Why would I want you to hate me?”
I stared at him, completely baffled. “I don’t know! Why are you making assumptions?”
“I see,” he murmured. “You’re one of those misunderstood people.”
I put a hand on my hip. My defensive attitude seemed to amuse him. “Oh, you think you’re funny, don’t you.” I gave him a ‘you-don’t-intimidate-me’ look.
He shoved his hands in his pockets and lifted his jaw, looking down on me in a studious manner. His blunt, blatant attitude made me feel like I was being X-rayed. “I don’t know, Nairi. I think you might be one of those girls who ignores boys who care about them and tries to trip everyone else.”
I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but his eyes were intense. He didn’t even blink. I decided he was serious, and quite possibly a psychopath. “You go ahead and think that,” I said. I spotted Kieran and ran over to him, taking his arm. “You see! I don’t hate men,” I shouted. He leaned against the wall. Kieran raised an eyebrow, and Ryne cocked his head to the side, as if he still didn’t believe me. He was either smirking or smiling- I couldn’t tell.
But then, as I had my head turned, I didn’t realize I was walking too fast, pushing Kieran along with me, and right into someone ahead of us- the kid who can read minds, Cyrus. Cyrus's jade eyes swept the scene, and he guiltily looked away, as if everyone expected he wished to know our innermost thoughts. Kieran slid against the wall, tried to catch his balance, and fell on the floor. I tried not to make eye contact with Cyrus, and reached down to help him back up, my face heated. I had made Kieran trip.
"Is he bothering you?" Cyrus asked. If I'd felt X-rayed before, it was nothing to right now. I tried to block him from penetrating my mind.
"No, I'm fine," I muttered. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that Ryne was doubled over, laughing at me.
A Non-Existent User
Ryne hadn’t paying attention. In fact, Ryne hadn’t been paying attention for the last half-hour. Mrs. Wright’s annoyance of that certainty was easily recognized.
“Mr. Hawkens…”
He looked up, curious, and greeted the scowling, overly make-upped face with a grin. The teacher frowned deeper. “You seem somewhere else, Mr. Hawkens.”
“I would like to be,” answered Ryne carelessly and immediately regretted it. The woman’s face went slack and she rolled her eyes.
“Come here.”
Ryne picked himself up from his chair and followed Mrs. Wright across the room to her desk, where she snatched up a pad of paper. He wasn’t all that comfortable with the eyes of his fellow students’ watching him, but he endured it best he could.
“You’ll find Headmaster Houvas in the cafeteria.”
Ryne took the piece of paper covered in Mrs. Wright fancy handwriting, and with a glance at the class, he went out the door. The hall was abnormally empty and for that he was thankful. Being seen with a note from Teacher sending you to the principle was not his idea of fun. Yet he chuckled nonetheless.
How touchy these super-hero teachers were that a mere brazen comment could get them brandishing their notes for the principle. Slowly, he ambled down the hall toward the cafeteria, looking blankly down at the note. He didn’t read it, it wasn’t his to read, instead he simply examined it.
It was no surprise when the note came to float before his eyes. And it was even more anticipated when sliver’s of yellow paper began to fly off it in a splash-like pattern until all that remained was thousands of little pieces dancing around his head. It was ironic that Ryne had been around to hear Miss Furland’s speech about secondary powers. A wicked grin fell across his features. He didn’t really consider the ability to take things apart as another gift, rather he saw it has a concentrated version of his one, a more powerful, effective one. Of course, it had its limitations, like things of especially dense mass was impossible to work with and it was extremely exhausting keeping track of so many single objects, but he had never let that fact get to him.
Remembering Miss Furland’s speech got him thinking about Nairi. Ryne could not deny that he felt slightly guilty for the way he had treated her. Something about her had got him riled up and when he was riled up there was no stopping him. His father called this the Stupid Ryne Effect, his mother called it hormones.
He gathered the yellow tidbits in his hand and frowned and shoved them in his pocket as he turned into the cafeteria. It was buzzing none stop with the chatter of girls and boys. It was the third breakfast of the day. Standing on his tippy-toes he searched gaggle of people for an older face among the young. He had never met Headmaster Houvas, but he’d heard enough to know the man was older.
“You’re looking for me,” a soothing voice at his left announced. Ryne turned to see a man with a deep blue eyes looking at him, a light smile playing on his lips. He had long white hair. Ryne thought he wouldn’t look too out of place sitting on a Harley, wearing a headband and sunglass while pointing his fist at him.
Ryne sat across the table from the man. “You’re Headmaster Houvas?”
A slow nod, and the man said, “I am.”
“Ah, great…well.” Ryne wasn’t sure how he was going to do this. Mrs. Wright had sent him with a note and he was afraid that the absence of one looked suspicious. “Mrs. Wright sent me.”
“I see. That can only mean you did or said something you shouldn’t have.”
Ryne grinned, about to reply with some smart remark, but the old man cut him off.
“I hope you appreciate this place, Ryne. I know life has been tough on you, which in my opinion should make you one of the more grateful people in this school. My people are here to help you…Respect that…savor it.” And without another word, he downed the rest of his coffee and left.
Ryne tapped his finger absently on the table in thought. He jerked slightly when the bell rang and cursed. He had class in ten minutes….

“So who you gunna ask?” Wesley was bugging him about the dance again. Ryne shook his head, laughing, as he tossed the tennis ball at the ceiling. It hit with a loud puck and came falling back into his hands. Again he threw it.
“I’m not asking anyone. How ‘bout you, Wes, who’ve you been thinking about asking?”
“Ah, well, I dunno, there are so many choices.”
“Yeah, in your dreams. Oh, ask Peg, she’d go with you.” Ryne teased.
“Fossil face? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“C’mon, she’s cute...”
Wesley raised a disbelieving brow.
“…ish.”
Wesley turned back to his desk where he had been writing up a report till Ryne came in.
“I’m starved. I’m going down to get somethin’ to eat, want to come?” Ryne sprung to his feet.
“I’ll meet you there,” his roommate answered, and he went out.
He decided to take the long way to the cafeteria, heading for the exit. Smiling, he welcomed the warmth of the sun as he stepped out.
“Hey!”
He ran directly into a certain someone he hadn’t been expecting to see for a while.
“Taking a new approach are we, Nairi?”
The girl glowered up at him. “Are you joking?”
Shrugging, he knelt to pick up the book she had dropped. “Yeah, I guess.” He offered it to her and she took it. He smiled, saying, “Sorry. This one was my fault. I wasn’t looking.”
“So you’re not blaming me?” she asked in mock disbelief.
“Not this time, though I could if you like.”
“I’ll pass thanks.” She made as if to leave, but Ryne stopped her.
“You don’t have a date for the dance, do you?”
She stared at him, but didn’t answer.
“I know this may seem a little weird, seeing as I barely know you and all, but…Wesley doesn’t have a date yet and I think he’d like to go with you. So if he asks could you say yes?”







A Non-Existent User
Ms. Furland stopped Roselai with a hand on her arm just as everyone began to fill out of class. Roselai had a feeling her teacher wanted to have a serious discussion on her assignment about possible mutant historical figures, which as it turned out, was inconveniently turned in five days late. There was an excuse on the tip of her tongue when Ms. Furland raised a hand to stop her from speaking.

"No, Miss Miller, this has nothing to do with your paper." Ms. Furland's eyes narrowed. "Although I do expect to talk to you about your constantly untimely manner of turning in projects."

She sighed and motioned for Roselai to take a seat across from the teacher's desk. When they were both comfortable Ms. Furland folded her hands and placed them on the small space left that wasn't covered in files and papers. "Headmaster Houvas wanted me to talk to you about your powers."

Roselai frowned. She suddenly felt very uneasy. "What about them?"

"Your progression with abilities has come to almost a stop. The charts of your skill tests show that you've hit a plateau. This happens on occasion with some of the students, but your history professor Mr. Chavez tells me you won't participate in the fact finding missions. Would you mind telling me why?" Her tone was kind and concern as her peered into Roselai's sky blue eyes.

"Ummm... its boring?" Her answer was weak and Roselai knew it. She cast her head down, letting her hair cover her face. Nervously, she pulled at one of the finger seams of her gray satin gloves.

"Are you still having nightmares about your powers?"

Roselai's head shot up. "That was a long time ago."

"Not that long ago. I know the experience at the burial grounds must have very frightening especially at such a historical place. But its important that you overcome your fears and move forward. You need to explore you potential. Think about it."

Potential. I really hate that word, Roselai thought as she walked down the hallway to her next class. Why couldn't they use something like ability or capability or even aptitude. Just not potential. It was so... expectant. Roselai made a mental note erase the word "potential" from all of her writings when she got back to her room.

She bumped into Wesley on three doors down from her class. It started in a few minutes but she stopped to chat. The class would still be there when she was done. "Hey Wesley," Roselai greeted him with a smile.

"Hey there Rosie." He was one of the few people she'd let call her that. Personally, she didn't like it much but the way he said it made it harmless. Wesley reminded her an awful lot like her favorite cousin Bruce back home in South Dakota.

"Where are you headed?"

"Going meet with Ryne to get some food. Wanna join?"

"Can't" She pointed to the classroom door over her shoulder. "Got class."

He laughed at the pouty face she made but his face quickly turned sober. "Do you have any idea why Kieran and Rumic are fighting?"

Her face split into a beaming grin. "Its a long story. Let me tell you on the way to the cafeteria."

"What about your class right now?"

Roselai tucked her arm into his as he escorted her down the hall. "What class?"
"No."

"Please Rumic. Where's your school spirit?"

Rumic slammed the door to her locker closed. "Probably the same place I left my patience."

Lorette, the girl who'd been bugging her since first period, pursed her lips as she thought of another attack plan. Rumic did her best not to roll her eyes. It would take a lot more than a little nagging to get her to budge.

"Its your civic duty to-"

Rumic cut Lorette off with the raise of her hand. She looked at the dance coordinator like she was a bug. "Civic duty? Not throwing your trash on the ground or picking up after your dog is a civil duty. Providing dancing snowflakes and crystals in the auditorium during the ENTIRE dance is a migraine and a pain in the neck."

"But the committee voted on the Winter Wonderland theme and you're the only one who could provide the decorations we need." Lorette's face was flushed in eagerness and desperation. She reminded Rumic of a hyper Chihuahua, annoying little bark and all.

"Why don't you make snowflake cutouts or something?"

"Its not the same." Lorette’s voice went up an octave on the last word, alluding to the sonic scream she was best known for. Rumic liked her eardrums exactly the way they were so she decided it was best to depart as fast as possible.

"I’m sorry but you're going to have to think of something else." Not waiting for another argument she was sure to win, Rumic slipped one strap of her backpack over her shoulder and walked away.

Once outside and around the corner Rumic sighed and waited. She ticked off the seconds one by one on her fingers - five, four, three, two… The screech of Lorette’s scream shook the walls of the school building. A lone window shattered on the third floor. Birds burst through the trees, flying away from their unknown predator with a high pitched scream. Students talking stopped in mid-sentence while others walking on the pathways hit the decks.

Lorette really needed to go back to her anger management classes.

--8--

Rumic came upon Roselai and Wesley in the cafeteria almost doubled over in laughter. She set her bag on the chair next to Wesley’s and raised a white brow at the duo in question. He simply shook his head as he tried to breathe again while Roselai had hers buried in her folded arms propped on the table, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably. What was the matter with people today, Rumic thought as she gazed down at her friends. Had everyone one off the deep end?

Ryne sauntered over and stood next to her. The odd expression on his face quickly turned to one of confusion. He looked at the two chucking idiots then Rumic. “What’s so funny?”

Roselai pointed one gloved finger without lifting her head. Giggles rang in her every word. “Its Rumic’s fault.”

“My God,” Wesley said as he gasped for air. “I can’t believe you did that. To Kieran of all people. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” she said defensively. A flood of color washed over her face. She was just thankful her complexion was dark so no one could see her blush. “If Kieran hadn’t made that stupid X-Men joke I wouldn‘t have frozen his swim trucks.”

“He was wearing them when you did it!” Roselai said incredibly.

“What joke?” Ryne looked even more confused now.

Wesley stopped laughing to fill the new kid in. “Rumic has certain views on the whole X-Men thing.”

“Those comics are the bane of my existence.”

“Oh, I get it.” A mirthful gleam lit his eyes as he scanned her up and down. Rumic pointly raised her brows at the obvious exam but said nothing. “Come to think of it you do kinda look like Sto-”

“NO!” Roselai and Wesley shouted in warning.

“Just in the nick of time.” Rumic snapped her fingers in an “aw shucks” motion. “You saved this boy from becoming a popsicle.” With her wallet in the back pocket of her jeans, she made her way to the endless food line, leaving the Three Stooges to laugh themselves to death.

The line was moving at a snail’s pace. What had probably had only been ten minutes felt like ten years. To kill time, Rumic was politely talking with a boy from her Advanced Mutations class when suddenly the doors to the cafeteria slammed open from the other side of the room.

“RUMIC!!!” Everyone watched to see Kieran angrily stock in with his icicle ridden gym bag fisted tight in his hand. He looked like he was ready to kill someone and that someone was obviously her. She tried to edge her way back toward the shadows.

“Where’s the Ice Queen hiding? RUMIC!”

Uh-oh.

As stealthily as possible she backed away from the line towards the exit. She could handle Kieran most cases but when he was really upset it was next to impossible to calm him down. Rumic was so fixated on getting out of the line a fire she didn’t see Sonora walking in her path with a tray full of food. They awkwardly bumped into one another sending the messy Mexican food flying into the air. The two girls watched in slow motion horror as the enchiladas came tumbling back down to Earth. Stop, Rumic yelled in her head as she threw up her hands defensively to shield herself the impending doom.

The seconds ticked by in silence. She waited for the goo to cover her arms and drip all over her nice white tunic. But the longer the nothing happened the weirder the situation grew. Slowly, she unfolded herself from the cringing position and looked around the crowded cafeteria. What she saw shocked her right to the bone.

Everything was frozen in action. Not the ice covered frozen she was used to but a full stop of motion that have nothing to do with frost. The tossed food was suspended in the atmosphere mere inches above her head. Rumic waved at the air below the tray. Nothing. She took a step forward and pocked Sonora lightly in the arm. No reaction. She screamed at the top of her lungs hoping against hope the people would snap out of it. Nada.

“Oh my God. What have I done?”

Sudden fear gripped her senses as she frantically backed away from the scene. This couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t her power. The chant echoed repeatedly through her head, making her too distracted to see the upended chair right behind her. Her feet abruptly flew out from under her as the mis-stepped on a chair leg. But before she could hit the ground two large hands wrapped around her waist, catching as she fell.

The first thing that went through her shocked mind was how warm the hands felt against the fabric of her shirt. Because of her mutation she was always several degrees cooler than normal, making her skin feel extremely cool to the touch. But whoever held her radiated heat like the sun. It was very… comforting.

Rumic twisted around to see the face of her catcher. Her glacial eyes collided with jade ones. Recognition dawned quickly as she peered at the mind reader. Their gazes held for a moment longer than necessary before he finally broke away to analyze scene around them. All the while he still hadn’t let go.

“You do this?” There was no censure in his voice, just a slight curious inflection as if he were looking at a piece of art he‘d never seen before.

“Yes.” Rumic swallowed hard. “I-I don’t know how though. Everyone seems to be stuck like this.”

“You’re cryokinetic.”

“How did you-” She laughed nervously as she rolled her eyes. “Of course. Stupid question.”

“There are thousands of ideas speeding around inside you mind.” Cyrus gave her a hint of a smile. “Stop thinking so hard and things will start moving again.”

She looked at him skeptically. “That simple, huh?”

The sarcasm in her tone didn’t pack the usual punch but Rumic was too freaked out to care. The only viable solution on hand said she needed focus - which was a little difficult given the situation. Throwing logical to the wind, Rumic took a deep breath, closed her eyes and concentrated on the thump of her heartbeat. The steady rhythm narrowed her thoughts into one single focus.

“Good.” Cyrus whispered in her ear. “Keep going.”

Rumic felt the air around the two of them begin to stir. The beat of her heart picked up in speed but she fought the urge to break concentration. Time stretched for what seemed like centuries until finally the loud thunk of a tray hitting the ground broke her meditation, filling her ears with people talking.

Her eyes burst open to quickly search the room. Everybody was milling around like nothing ever happened. The only person looking a little lost was Sonora as she stared down at her pile of food in bewilderment. Rumic knew the feeling wel. She felt amazed, thrilled, confused and scared all at the same.

“Nice job.”

The close sound of Cyrus’s words made Rumic realize that they were still touching. Embarrassed, she took a step back to shake the odd warmth in her system. The hem of her shirt rode up slightly over the hand at her waist causing the heat of his thumb and the cold of her skin to audibly sizzle in contact as they depart. Rumic shivered.

“Ummm… thanks.” She looked down at her shoes, not sure what to say. “It was nice meeting you.”

There was a long pause before he said, “Nice meeting you too.”

She watched him leave the cafeteria with a strange sense of loss. She knew she should have say something else but her brain was in such chaos at the moment she simply let him go without another word. Rumic didn’t know what frightened her more - the fact someone had left her speechless probably for the first time in her life or the fact she had just frozen time itself.
A Non-Existent User
For once, Sonora was grateful for her gift. She was able to reform her clothes so that they no longer dripped, but her hair was another story.

She turned to Rumic to offer the same gesture. After all, it wasn't her fault. The girl let her, and Sonora even found she was able to clean the mess on the floor. She didn't transform her food, however, since she no longer had an appetite.

Once she finished, she saw Rumic looking at her, almost with pity. For some reason, that made her usually mild temper flare, but she pushed it back down.

"Do you have a date to the dance?" Rumic asked.

Yeah, definitely a pity question.

"No." Sonora shook her head. "I'm not even sure I want to go."

"What? You have to! I'll.. I'll freeze your jeans if you don't."

Sonora smiled for what felt like the first time in years. "I'll think about it."

A little embarrassed, she walked down the hall to the bathroom. She bent over the sink and let the water run over her sauce-covered hair. It felt really good, especially when she turned the cold all the way up.

She began to wonder about the dance. It hadn't even been an option to her before, since she was too involved with her studies to make many friends. But now that she thought about it, it would make a nice distraction. She could more than afford a lower grade.

With that decision made, she stuck her head under the dryer. It felt like it was burning her skin after the cold, but she stayed under it. Her hair was too long to leave wet for long.

"So, I guess we finally know what your gift is."

Sonora straightened and looked over at the girl. She didn't know her name, but she'd seen her around.

"I guess so." she replied.

"I was wondering when you'd use it."

"I try not to."

"Why not?"

She paused. "I don't know. I don't like drawing attention, I guess."

The girl nodded, and they stood in silence for a few seconds.

"So, what else can you do?"

Sonora laughed. "What do you mean?"

"Like, can you shape shift? I saw one guy who could."

"No. I just turn stuff into whatever I can picture. I can't do anything with the living, though."

"Huh. Well, I'll see you around, then."

"Wait."

She felt suddenly stupid as the girl turned around, but her curiousity was aroused.

"What's your power?"
Cael had been watching the girl from the library for a few days now she was so cool literally. He had been listening to his favorite band with his headphones on, and that particular song really got to him. “ACDC- Highway to Hell.” Cael began tapping his pencil thinking he was alone only to find Rumic in his face telling him off, at first he was taken a back by the way she was talking to him and when she froze his pencil he was fascinated with her, she was like him only his opposite.

Cael was sent to Clandestine the night he burnt his home down with his parents still in it, his father suffered 3rd degree burns trying to save him as he was sitting in the middle of a room that was on fire oblivious to being in any danger at all. Cael watched as she walked off, he then ran a hand through his wild long dark red hair.

Looking at the frozen pencil that was left on the desk Cael looked around to make sure no-one was watching then waved a hand over it to melt all the ice away. “What a waste of a good pencil.” Cael said aloud to no-one in particular.

Cael had been trying to find a way to approach Rumic and he also made a mental note not to make jokes about how she looked like “Storm” from the X-Men, though she really did, “Actually that makes her look kinda hot.” Cael said to himself, but pushed the thought from his mind.

Cael knew almost everyone, but he stayed away because he did not want anyone to find that when they would all go home he was the only one to stay at the school, because he had no home or parents to go to and spend the summer away. Mr.Houvas would always hang out with him and try to encourage him to make friends with the other students, but Cael did not want any of them to feel pity for him.

Cael was in the cafeteria when it seemed that Rumic and Kieran were going to get into it then everything just froze, not knowing what to do Cael just sat still waiting to see what would happen next ready to bolt at the first sign of real trouble. Hearing someone scream Cael made his way silently to the cafeteria door easing it open ever so slightly looking back at everyone stopped like some sort of living dolls kinda freaked him out.

Cael went to the headmasters’ office for help, when he told Mr. Houvas about what happened, Mr. Houvas laughed, he actually laughed not your funny “ha-ha” but all out almost falling on the floor laughing. Cael watched in awe as the man that he would spend his summers with laughed at what he just told him about everyone in the cafeteria being frozen. “Cael there is nothing to worry about.” Mr. Houvas said between fits of laughter. “If I’m correct it should just be Rumic’s second power starting up, you all have more powers then you know. Have you discovered your second talent yet?” Mr. Houvas inquired.

“Well…no, I think I only have the power over fire, I mean I’m able to generate heat, but as for something else no sir I haven’t.” Cael said feeling silly for bringing this news to Mr. Houvas attention. While Cael stood there he wished he could just go back to before he came into the office and told Mr.Houvas about the cafeteria incident, he wished he could be back at the moment it all started. That’s when it happened. Cael felt weird like he was on an elevator going down then it was as if everything phased out, then back in again, Cael was once again sitting at the lunch table listening to nearby conversations and not taking part in any of them he once again saw how everyone just stopped, only this time instead of easing close to the door to go out he went toward where the scream came from and saw it was like Mr.Houvas had said.

Cael watched as Rumic and the guy he knew to be Cyrus spoken while they embraced. Cael saw Kieran still holding his frozen gym bag, he quickly waved a hand to melt the bag the rest of the way not a second later the cafeteria came to life as if nothing happened. Cyrus walked away and left Rumic watching him go then Rumic began apologizing to the pretty girl who had enchilada sauce all over her.

“What the heck just happened here?” Cael asked himself. Cael went back to the headmaster’s office. “I’m sorry to bother you during school hours, but I needed to know something.” Cael said to Mr.Houvas sitting down in one of the big comfy chairs in front of his desk. “What is that you need to know Mr. Lucas?” Mr.Houvas said briefly looking up from the book he was reading. “Well, I was wondering if I came in here earlier. I mean before right now?”

Mr.Houvas closed the book he had been reading and sat it down on the desk then looked at Cael he looked closely at Cael. Cael stirred he did not like when Mr.Houvas looked at him like that it was like he was reading his mind. “What happened Cael? Why have you asked me that?” Cael did not want to say what he thought. “I’ve just been so busy I was just wondering.” Cael lied and tried to help cover it with a little laugh that was not convincing in the least.

“Cael, no, you have not been in here today other then right now as far as I know. Are you sure that’s all you have to tell me?” Mr.Houvas asked Cael. “Ok…I have been in here today well I think I’m not sure anymore. There was this thing in the cafeteria and Rumic froze everything then I came here to tell you and you laughed and then I wished I didn’t tell you and that I never came back here and I was in the cafeteria before all this happened and suddenly I was there again, only this time things went different. Now I think I did find my second power, I think I can go back in time.” Cael said finishing looking absolutely flushed with beads of sweat rolling down his light colored skin, and his green eyes tearing up. “Well, I’m proud of you Cael, don’t worry everything is going to be fine, just try not to use this ability too much who knows what could happen?
A Non-Existent User
After Wesley was finished laughing his head off he remembered something that made him sick to his stomach. Hopping up to his feet so suddenly Roselai and Ryne jumped in surprise.
“What’s wrong dude?” Ryne asked with a questioned look.
“This isn’t like you Wes” Roselai stated her voice full of concern.
“Its nothing I just need to go to the bathroom is all” Wesley said his face serious and his voice gloomy. As Wesley left the Cafeteria he could hear Ryne say something about the bathrooms being in the opposite direction, but he didn’t care as soon as Wesley stepped out of the Cafeteria his body became slightly lager and his torso became more muscular, taking off his shirt to allow room for the two snow white wings that rested beautify on his back. Spreading his wings Wesley gave himself a running start and soared into the sky. Tears already streaming from his face he needed to get away from the school before anyone saw him like this. Circling above the school Wesley’s eyes scanned the outskirts of the school grounds, searching for somewhere empty. At last he had found what he was looking for diving at a 45 degree angle he could have sworn he heard Nairi’s voice in the distance. *That’s impossible she hates me* he thought and kept on at full speed loosing himself in a forest of green.

There he made yet another transformation, Black cat ears sprouted from his messy hair, followed by a pure black tail and to finish the transformation claws. Running through the forest weaving through trees and leaping over bushes Wesley’s eyes never stopped scanning for a good place to mourn. Today was the anniversary of his parent’s death and he had almost forgotten. Finally coming to rest in what seemed like the perfect spot Wesley sat on a rock surrounded by pine trees. The sent of pine helped clear his mind. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a picture with a man that had the same color hair as Wesley the only differences where the eyes and the fact that the mans hair was combed. Wesley had tried on many occasions to comb his hair but it would never stay down it just loved to run wiled. People had always told Wesley he looked just like his father, with the exception of his mothers eyes and even those weren’t exactly the same, they just had the same color. in between the man and woman there was a baby roughly the age of one with wiled hair and almost cat like eyes. A drop of water hit the baby on the forehead then another. Wesley wiped his eyes then the picture, looking up he noticed someone in the bushes coming towards him. There was no point in hiding. He was just going to have to face whoever was coming his way.

To his surprise Nairi emerged from the bushes, he could hear her panting she must have been running to catch up with him.
“What are you doing here all alone? Didn’t I promise that we would remember them together?” Nairi asked smiling although obviously uncomfortable.
Wesley couldn’t help but smile *maybe she doesn’t hate me after all* Wesley thought as Nairi came to sit on the rock next to him.
A Non-Existent User
Dameus rocked his head slightly to the beat. He dared not sing, lest someone look at him strange. Not many mixed kids listened to heavy rock. Or was it metal? Dameus never figured out exactly what the genre was, be he was sure he enjoyed it. His tray was already back on the stacks. He had always finished his food fast. He sat near one of the windows of the cafeteria, staring out of it as his head still rocked to the music. A second went by, and it seem liked everything stopped then, until he heard a crash. He stopped it and looked up. One of the girls, Sonora, had spilled food all over herself. He would've gotten up to help, as a gentleman would, but he knew he didn't need to. She cleaned up the mess without even touching it. Dameus saw movement out of the corner of his eye. A guy he knew, Wesley, had bolted right out of the cafeteria like he had forgotten something. His friends at their table had looks on their faces that said, 'What just happened?' Dameus kept the music paused and approached Ryne.

"Dude, what's wrong with Wes?"

"Dunno." Ryne answered, somewhat surprised by the strange boy. Dameus knew that was seen as odd, so he didn't press the conversation further.

"Oh, ok." Dameus said and left.

Out in the hallway, Dameus saw another girl he knew, Nairi. Well, he didn't actually know anybody, but he had seen them so long he knew who they were. She sped in the same direction as Wesley, out the school's front doors. Dameus sighed. 'Why don't two just go out already?' He thought. He turned on his phone again, and one of his favorite songs came on: Nickelback-Figured You Out. Dameus mouthed out the words as he strode down the hallway, thick arms in his hoodie pockets.

"Gimme it back!" A boy screamed in the hallway, running superspeed but ineffectively around a tall teenager. He was almost as big as Dameus, which was big. He shoved the teen, who dropped the lunch bag, which was picked up quickly by his younger brother. The teen took a swing, but Dameus ducked and grabbed him by his neck, choking him. His skin paled out, and his features began edging out and taking on a metallic sheen. His eyes began crisscrossing in color (if you get what I mean), and he hissed at him.

"No good being superstrong if you can't breathe." Dameus said, his voice deeper and rougher. He pulled up his free arm, and did something to bring a metal spike shooting from his forearm.
"Mess with my little brother again, and I'm running this through you, got it?" The teen nodded as best he could. Dameus threw him to the ground and he began gasping for air. His features returned to normal and the metal spike withdrew.
"Good."

After he had checked on his brother, Dameus still had sometime before the bell rang for his Mutants in History class, so he decided to travel the hallways. He stopped upon Kieran, still red-faced and slamming his locker door shut before folding his arms and leaning on the wall. Dameus went opposite of him and did the same gesture.

"You alright, man?"


Cyrus closed his eyes for a moment, trying to will away his headache that was gradually worsening. Headaches were a frequent addition to his day, but this felt was different somehow. He rubbed the back of his neck, as though it would help. The present in front of him did nothing to improve it.
         He was in his room, standing in front of his bed. On it, there was a suit with a note. He didn’t need to read it; he knew who it was from and what it was about. He would wear the suit to the Winter Wanderland ball. The thought made him shudder. There was no way out of it. He was going- whether he liked it or not.
         Cyrus looked away, as though the mere sight was offensive and walked out onto the balcony outside the room. He breathed in the cold air, feeling the chill on his teeth. It was windy and he leaned on the handrail with his hands. The view took up a mountain and at the base of it was a forest. The fresh air appeared to calm his migraine.
Not for the first time, he wondered where Clandestine was.
         He lit a cigarette and looked the courtyard over once. There was a large statue of a crow at the back, its wings splayed. It symbolized Clandestine and the artist was unnamed. The eyes of the bird were sapphires and judging by the size of the stones, they were worth a large sum. Cyrus often wondered why the creator hadn’t left a name. If it’d been his achievement, he would’ve signed it with pride.
There was a group of younger kids crowded around it, chaperoned by a teacher. At orientation, it was tradition to welcome the new students in front of it, as though it were the guardian of the school and needed to meet the new faces; to know who it was protecting.
         The day had been slow. Cyrus lowered his eyes, idly studying an old scar on the back of his hand. It’d been uneventful, for the most part. There was that incident at lunch, but it was hardly worth thinking about. His days here didn’t leave him with many impressions, apart from the school itself. That was fine with him though. Education was short-lived; it was out there that interested him. He wanted to live. School was like a means of procrastination from living in the real world. This wasn’t living. It was like being asleep, waiting to wake up.
         Something small and cool hit his cheek and he looked up at the cloudy sky. It began to shower with rain. Cyrus took a long drag of his cigarette, and then tucked the smoke underneath his hand so it wouldn’t get wet. More drops fell. He liked the rain. He hated the wind though. Cyrus looked down and watched all the kids running for the building before it began to pour.
Too late.
He finished what he could of his cigarette and flicked it off the balcony with a thumb and middle finger.


During that afternoon, the hall was noisy.
The last of the sun was disappearing, casting a dim pink and orange glow over the school. Just as he thought of how weak the lighting was inside, the lights flickered on around throughout the corridors.
Cyrus side stepped away from two kids, who would’ve smashed into him if he hadn’t seen it coming. What was with these hyperactive kids? Maybe they needed another eye, for actual seeing.
         He was on his way to the library. Cyrus liked to read, especially psychology books. Reading was his relief from his sleepless nights. There were some fascinating books; one he’d just finished a few days ago on methods of torture and how the human body/mind responds. To say the least, the book had been disturbing, but strangely engaging.
         The two kids who’d almost collided into him ran passed again, laughing as though it was the funniest joke ever. It was irritating. Cyrus looked away from them, and saw Nairi. She gave him a small smile of acknowledgement as she tucked a piece of her red hair behind her ear, and Cyrus returned the silent greeting with a nod of his head. She was with a group of friends, and they passed each other without a word.
         “Since when were you and he on any sort of page?”
Subtle, he thought. It sounded as though the shock had been too much for her friend and had forgotten how to whisper.
Nairi and he had spoken once before. She was a nice girl, but it hardly made them friends.
         He continued down the hall. It noticeably decreased in temperature and he thought he saw mist expel as he exhaled. For a moment, he thought he imagined it. But he hadn’t. There was no mistaking it the second time.
A girl with curly white hair approached him. Cyrus recognized her as the girl he encountered in the cafeteria. He didn’t know her name. She’d never told him, and he never asked.
         People didn’t usually approach him; he was the type who always took that intuitive. Cyrus wasn’t a kind person, but he wasn’t unkind without reason.
         The two of them stopped in the corridor. It wasn’t like he had a choice; she purposefully stood in his way. Cyrus creased his brow, and his jade eyes slowly studied her; not in a kind way, but in a way a scientist would study a foreign animal.
She was a little taken aback from the unfriendly gesture, and he saw uncertainty there in her expression. “Hey…” She smiled, a little surer of herself, as though she had imagined his expression. “We met earlier, remember?”
         “Yeah.” He waited. Some students looked at the two of them in surprise, like they were friends. They weren’t. Cyrus didn’t know her. And she didn’t know him.
She gave him a look, between confusion, hurt and maybe a bit of anger. “I’m Rumic. I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself before… Just wanted to say thanks again.”
Cyrus put his hands into the pockets of his pants and his bracelet made a tacking sound as the beads rubbed together. “Don’t thank me. It meant nothing then, and it doesn’t mean anything now... I helped- I didn’t save your life.”
They stared at each other for a moment. He could almost hear her mind ticking as he waited. Cyrus looked over and noticed a guy watching them; the guy was vaguely familiar. He’d heard he was the Headmasters pet. Not his impression, the students. Initiation told him that this guy had something against him; it was written in his eyes. It didn’t bother him in the slightest. It wasn’t his problem.
He smirked at the kid, just for fun, and then turned back to Rumic before leaving to the library.

Later that evening, he was walking from the library to his room with a book in his hand.
         There was a lot of noise coming from a room further down the hall, and there appeared to be a lot of students inside with an excited air about them. It was a commotion, to say the least. He paused beside the door and peered in, wondering what was going on.
         There was a teacher in the middle of the room, waving his hands and gesturing to one wall, and then drawing shapes in the air with his hands at a different wall. The groups of students around the teacher were nodding, or shaking their heads, and some laughed.
         Cyrus, still in the dark about what was going on, tuned in to a conversation two girls were having.
         “I’ve already ordered my dress. I bought it from that fashion magazine- you know the one I mean. Lidia, that’s it. It’s the perfect dress for the Winter Wonderland theme,” one girl said.
Her friend played the roll of envy; her mouth open as though she couldn’t believe her friend had bought a dress that many of them would kill for. “I’m so jealous. I already asked my parents if they would pay that kind of money for my dress. I wouldn’t even mind if it were the least expensive in Lidia’s designer collection. All of them are gorgeous.” They both nodded knowingly and laughed.
         “You’d better hurry up and get a dress then. The ball is only four days away! I can’t wait. It seems so far away- four days.”
She nodded. “You’re right… I think the school board knew what they were doing, holding the ball here. It’s so spacious… lots of room for everyone, and a bit extra.”
         “I hope the guards aren’t invited. They freak me out a little.”
The other girl nodded. “So, have you got a date yet?” Her friend laughed at this question- as though it were a stupid one.
Cyrus withdrew before he heard anymore and could slowly feel his headache returning.
He couldn’t wait to lock himself in his room, away from that looming day. The day of the ball.

Nairi ran a finger over the imitation silk. The color was an emerald green, and the dress was pretty enough, but what she really wanted to do was stuff it back into her dresser and skip the stupid dance altogether. Jessamine grinned, modeling a yellow chiffon number which really complimented her dark skin. “Aren’t you so excited?” she spoke gleefully. “Oh I just died, Nairi. I almost died when Kieran agreed to go to the dance with me.”
Agreed? Nairi shook her head, brushing off Jess’s usual tissue-paper-thin conversation topics. Nairi personally would never go to a dance with someone who was very obviously grasping at straws for a date and didn’t really like her. She would also never go with someone she was settling for herself. What is the point of saving face if you’re unhappy?
“Not really, Jess,” Nairi replied, eyeing her shoes for the evening. They were Jess’s strappy silver sandals, and she was dreading wearing them for hours on end. She donned a pair of dangly silver earrings and sighed. “Don’t know why I’m bothering to make myself presentable. It’s too bad I’m going to miss the marathon on TV Land.”
Jessamine frowned. “You really should have gone with somebody. I thought I heard in the hallway that someone had asked you?”
Nairi shrugged and yawned. “These events are pointless, Jess. It’s just a party based around a bunch of girls who spend way too much money on dresses and treat their dates like an accessory. You should have heard Lizzy Abbots in English yesterday, talking about her boyfriend’s tie and how it matched her dress. She ranted about it for an entire half an hour! And of course the rest of the class was spent bragging about Daddy’s wallet and how he bought her an enormous diamond necklace.” She rolled her eyes. “Superficial morons, that’s what I think of them.”
“You’ll have fun,” Jess pressed, more for her own benefit than Nairi’s. “Mr. Houvas said that the dance might have to be cut a little short, so you won’t have to suffer for too long.”
“If it weren’t mandatory I would still be in my jeans,” Nairi responded woefully. Jess raised an eyebrow impatiently as Nairi slipped into her heels. They walked out of the room and shut the door behind them. Kieran approached a very giddy Jessamine and reluctantly allowed her to lead him down the stairs into a swarming gymnasium. Nairi could see from the top of the stairs that the place had been transformed into a beautiful dark ballroom with shimmering dancing strobe lights.
Nairi spotted a shadow leaning against the wall between two statues across from her. She recognized the sleek black hair and jade gaze. Cyrus, with no regard for Clandestine rules, was casually smoking a cigarette, his tone emitting that of strong annoyance. Nairi got the impression he wanted to get the dance over with as much as she did. He gave her a slight nod, but she didn’t know whether that constituted a conversation or if he wanted to be left alone.
He strolled out of his hole and let the cigarette fall to the floor. He twisted it with his shoe and left it sitting there. “Where’s your usual flock of airheads?” he asked.
Nairi blinked but wasn’t surprised. He seemed the type of person to despise anyone who traveled in groups. Protection from vulnerability, she thought to herself. “They’ve migrated,” she answered. He smirked. She’d been in classes with him for as long as she’d been coming to Clandestine, but never really had a conversation with him prior to a week or so ago. Just standing in the same room as him, keeping her composure under the scrutiny of pupil-less eyes, made her nerves quake with vulnerability, wondering if he could see her thoughts. “Are you reading my mind?” she finally asked him.
He didn’t skip a beat. “Yes.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What am I thinking, then?”
“You don’t want me to say it out loud,” he replied.
I’m not offended, she thought loudly.
“Why not?” he asked. “Everyone runs from me. I’m a walking invasion of privacy.” Whether he was proud or jaded she couldn’t tell.
"It’s a gift. No one should expect you to ignore it."
He shrugged and leaned against the railing. Nairi continued down the stairs, flooding her mind with a thousand meaningless thoughts so that he’d have a difficult time dissecting it. She glanced around the room nonchalantly, wondering where Jessamine and Kieran had gotten to, and if Rumic and Roselai were nearby. There wasn’t anyone here she wanted to dance with, but some conversation might pass the night more swiftly. From the looks of the place, all of the teachers either decided to flee the scene or chaperone from hidden areas, because Nairi didn’t spot any of them, except for Ash lurking by the punch table in the left-hand corner of the room.
"Hello Miss Calson."
Nairi turned. It was Mr. Houvas, smiling. He looked even older in this lighting, his eyes wary but still twinkling. "Everything looks lovely," Nairi replied.
"Enjoy it to your fullest," he said, eyes darting to the left-hand corner of the ballroom. He nodded and took a step backward, swallowed by groups of carefree chatting teenagers.
She took a breath and plunged into the crowd of glittering faces.
A Non-Existent User
Breathing in and out, Ryne peered at himself in the mirror. It had taken him almost an hour to get ready, due to the complicated tux and his inexperience with it. Wesley had come and gone. Now he was alone, left to observe his appearance with a lackadaisical eye and smile. As far as he was concerned, he looked good…like always.

Now. He frowned. His date….

Somewhere Amanda was waiting for him, waiting to walk into the dance on his arm and smile that cheesy smile of hers’. He still wasn’t sure how he got himself into taking her to the dance…It kinda just happened; she had been talking, fast, like she always does. Reluctant, he had been listening—suddenly the subject of the dance came up and then she was asking him if he wanted to go…with her. He had been so surprise that he stared; evidently she had taken his silence as acceptance.

Truthfully, he didn’t mind. He had planned to go by himself or not at all…still Amanda was a pretty girl and he couldn’t complain.

Yanking on the end of his suit jacket, he smiled at himself and made for the door, the words, “Time to party,” on his lips.

He met Amanda at the entrance of the dance. She sized him up with her big blue eyes, a possessive smile twitching her full lips, and said, “God you look good.”

Ryne had to admit she looked good too, dressed in a moderately skanky blue gown that shimmered like the stars, spaghetti straps and a low neck that made him blush. Her hair was done up with curly strands hanging down like golden ribbons and her face was covered in makeup, perfectly applied. “You ready to go?” he asked her, offering his arm.

“Only of course.” She took it and smiled alluringly. Clearing his throat, he entered the throng.

“C’mon, let’s dance,” he barely heard his date over the blaring music, but he let her grab his hand and lead him to the dance floor…not that he had a choice; Amanda could have picked him up and thrown him across the room if she wanted to.

Her arms came around his neck as they swayed around the dance floor. Ryne found he was nervous, not only because the girl had just about plastered herself to him…there was some commotion going on near the entrance. The guards…they were acting funny, pulling kids aside and talking somewhat forcefully to them, though it was impossible to hear what they were saying.

Finally the song ended and Amanda released him, but he was soon seized again by someone from behind. Ryne struggled against the hold, but who ever it was, wouldn’t let go.

“Let me go, damn you!” he yelled.

“Sorry, kid, but you know I can’t,” a deep voice whispered in his ear. “Didn’t think you’d be seeing me again did ya, Ryne Hawkins?”

He froze. “What the hell is going on?”

“You’ll soon find out.”

Suddenly Headmaster Houvas voice was heard, loud and commanding. “I would like everybody to listen up…The cops are on their way with the intention of arresting everyone in this building. I don’t like that, so if you would please gather what you need and head out to the front, there are buses there ready to take you away.”

Everyone was too shocked to react at first, and then they burst into action…panicked action. Ryne stared and nothing in particular. His inside felt like they were going to fall apart, his heart in his ears was louder than the beat of the drums.

“So now you know, eh, Ryne? Did you really think you’d be able to escape? Foolish boy. I knew I’d find you because I always find you.”

“Let go of me.”

“Why?”

“Cause I got to go.”

“Damn straight; you’re going right back to the Compound.”

Ryne gritted his teeth. “You want to bet?”

He could feel the man smile. “Always the gambler. Well, not today, buddy, you’re going without a fuss…or else.”

“Or else what?” Ryne’s eyes darted about as he searched for some kind of object to use as a weapon.

“Let’s leave that to your imagination…”

A spoon! Ryne closed his eyes and breathed slowly in and out. He had to relax if he was going to do this. His mind reached and a moment later the spoon rose….

Zap! Pain flood through his body and his capturer let him fall to the ground. He moaned as conscienceless threatened to leave him, his vision blurring. The vinyl floor was cold against his bare hands as he attempted to lift himself. A kick to the gut put an end to that. Rolling to his back, he glared up at the calmly face of Agent Corwin, his lips pulled back in a disgusted leer.

In his willowy hand he held up a tazer. “Technology. You got to love it. With the simple push of a button it makes us as capable as any of you freaks.”
A Non-Existent User
"I feel ridiculous."

Roselai inwardly rolled her eyes as she pulled a brush through her hair one last time. The distress of her roommate was starting to border on craziness and she feared it was contagious. For the past few days Rumic had been acting like strangely out of sorts, like the world had dropped out from under her feet and she didn't know how to balance herself. Roselai had experience her friend like this before but found this time seemed to be different. The fact she was fretting over the prom outfit Roselai had to basically force on her was just the tip of the iceberg.

"You look fantastic. The silver makes the colors in your eyes shine."

"I don't want my eyes to shine." Rumic frowned as tugged at the hem of her silver halter top, uncertainty written all over her face. "This isn't a good idea. I should head to the library instead."

"Now you are being ridiculous." Roselai stood up from her computer chair, smoothed the non-existent wrinkles from the blue satin grown her mother had made her, and placed her hands on her hips to stare down her friend. The commanding role was usually Rumic's routine but Rosalai knew how to get the mad on when necessary. "It took me over an hour to wrangle you into those clothes. There is no way you're going to simply blow off plans for prom so you can hide away in the library stacks. Put a smile on your face and march out that door, young lady."

The entire room seemed to stand frozen in time. There was a pregnant pause as Roselai pointed sternly to the door with her sapphire colored gloves. The corner of her mouth twitched but she held it back.

"Feel better?" Rumic asked.

Roselai grabbed her matching shawl off the back of her chair and marched to the door with her chin high in the air, the backs of her high heels clicking a steady beat on the hardwood floors. "I'm a whole new woman."

-_-_-_-


The doors to the ballroom swung open to the heavy blast of music. The massive crowd of dancing students told Roselai that the dance was in full swing. Excitement was the one word she used to describe the scene. It was dark, glittering, swaying mass of excitement that centered around the moment captured in roaring, crappy music. Ah, the golden years of teendom.

"I told you this was a bad idea," Rumic screamed in her ear over the loud music funneling in through the speakers.

"Stop being such a party-pooper."

Roselai grabbed her reluctant friend by the hand and pushed her way through the throngs of people to the table holding punch. She took a glass of the red liquid and surveyed everyone around her as she took slow sips. As a rule she didn't dance - the was too much of a chance for accidental contact. Instead she watched and observed the world around her. It suited her writer sensibilities just fine.

Scanning the crowd she spotted two familiar faces with a grin. Roselai elbowed Rumic in the side. "Look, Kieran and Jessamine are headed in our direction. That boy sure can dress up nicely."

"Bloody hell," Rumic replied under her breath before downing the contents of her cup in one gulp. "I'd better head out. The last thing needed in the place is a confrontation."

Roselai tilted her head sideways. "You're not jealous he's with Jess, are you?"

"Ha. I'm not jealous, I'm just wary... my luck with guys is been very bad these days."

Interesting.

Before Roselai had time to question her further, someone bumped against her, sending her absently into the arms of one of the guards. The hem of her glove snagged on the nail of his pinkie, bringing her skin into contact with his. The shock of the touch had an immediate reaction. Roselai's vision focused into a single tunnel as she sped through the events of the man's troubled life - the first breath of the newborn baby boy made her lungs spasm for air... the soft, soothing voice of his mother drifting off... a punch from the playground bully landed sorely in her midsection... her ears rang as the man's father yelled at the top of his lungs about how no son of his would quit high school... the slick feel of mud coated her face as he made his way through the boot camp training course... the exhilaration of kissing his new bride... the intense pain of losing the woman to a stray bullet in the park... the sting of alcohol down his throat as he drank away his wages... accepting the tempting offer of money from a man known as Corwin.

The newfound revelations seemed to scream through her system as she struggled to ground herself back in reality. Somewhere in the background Roselai heard someone say her name. But her reply was caught in her throat as the sharp pain of electricity hit her side, dissolving her world into blackness.
The white fabric of her lace skirt swished around her calves as Rumic threaded her way through the swarming masses of people with the determination of an escaped convict. The fact she was wearing a shirt that lit her up like a disco ball only had a small bearing on her actions. Conflict was headed her way in the form of a rented tux and yellow gauzy fabric. This is what happens when she gives up a tranquil night in the library.

A stray thought ran through her brain, a wish for the loud pounding of music to stop before the top of her head flew off in pain. There was a brief moment of trepidation and hope that the freak occurrence in the cafeteria would repeat itself. But to her relief, or grief, nothing changed. The music was still too loud. The people were still dancing too close. And the exit was a lot further than she wanted it to be.

Rumic's forehead creased as a wayward curl fell over her eye. The past few days had been awkward to say the least. First the strange walk down memory lane with the guy she'd dubbed the Pencil Boy. Then the "incident" with Kieran and the joke that got out of hand. Of course, she couldn't forget the fiasco with the mind reader who wouldn't introduce himself and brought a whole new meaning to cold. Rumic knew she had to face a simple truth... she had no idea how to handle the males of the species.

She didn't know what made her glance back toward Roselai - the lights, the music, the collective chaos. But the scene in her line of sight made her already chilled body go completely cold. Only twice had she seen her friend in the grips of her retrocognitive powers and each time Rumic was thankful for the control she had over hers. There was no control to be had with Roselai's powers except to ride out the wave of time before. It left her almost incapacitated, helpless and vulnerable - emotions the both of them feared most.

As Rumic moved back through the crowd, along her peripheral vision she caught sight of others being herd by the guards and strange men in suits. Ryne, Sonora, Wesley, Kieran, Niari and Jessamine all were being pushed around while others tried to head for the doors. She didn't know who to help first.

The dilemma was taken out of her hands however when a firm hand closed over her mouth and another wrapped around her waist. Hurriedly, she was dragged off into the shadows of the dance floor away from the view of the guards. The moment the hold on her released, Rumic lashed around to confront her attacker only to come face to face with Pencil Boy and his flaming red hair. Her lips curled back in a growl of frustration before she began to storm away to aid her friends. The instant hard grip on her forearm stopped her in her place.

"Let go of me!" Rumic struggled to be released from the hold but Pencil Boy held tight as his deep green eyes bore into her as if searching for something deep inside.

She tried to freeze him out, physically cooling her skin almost to solid ice, but the colder she became the hotter his touch got. She was used to some reaction when people touched her, like with the mind reader, but never anything like this. he was literally burning through her defenses. Reason replaced reaction as she attempted to talk her way out of getting free. "The others need help... they're my friends."

"I know. But you can't help them if you're tazered which is exactly what will happen if you keep going on the same path you've chosen." The hand on her forearm slid down to her hand. The surprisingly deep timbre of his voice tempting her to trust him. "Come with me. I know a short cut we can use. We'll find Mr. Houvas, he'll help."

The look of uncertainty must have been evident on her face for he added in a hurry, "I promise we'll help them."
A Non-Existent User
At this time, Sonora would not have traded her power for any other, except maybe teleportation or invisibility. But she was able to hide just fine after creating a door and wall. It left her exhausted almost as much as she was afraid.

She felt tears streak her cheek, leaving small spots on the front of her halter top. Whatever was happening was just beginning to sink in.

As the room cleared, she slowly opened the door and peered out. Two others she knew emerged. Rumic and... oh, she could never remember his name, since they'd met only briefly.

She quietly stepped out, only catching their attention when she was right behind them.

"What happened?" she whispered, looking around her.

"Police." the boy muttered bitterly.

Sonora tilted her head back and pressed her palms against her eyes. "I can't believe this. What did we ever do wrong?"

They didn't have to answer. She knew.

They were punished for simply being there.

A fire rose inside her and she clenched her fists. "What can I do?"

The boy gave her a ghost of a smile. "That depends. What can you do?"

She took a punch glass and formed it into a taser. "Something along those lines."
Cael looked momentarily stunned when she transformed the punch glass into a tazer. “Hmm...You just might come in handy, what’s your name?” Cael asked.

“That’s Sonora; I accidentally spilled food all over her in the cafeteria
Come on, we have to hurry. He said once again grabbing on to Rumics’ hand, followed closely by Sonora.

“Where are we going?” Sonora asked confused

“We’re going to see Mr. Houvas.” Rumic replied trying to hurry to keep up with Cael.

The three of them rounded a corner, and came face to face with two packs of agents, Rumic was tazed, she crumpled to the floor unmoving to Caels' horror, Sonora was struggling in the grip of another agent, and was being dragged away, and eventually tazered as well.

“Don’t fight us boy. Come nice and easy and you won’t have to be tazed like your friends there.” The agent threatened in front of Cael holding out the tazer in his hand so that Cael could see.

“Ok, I won’t fight this anymore, how good of a memory do you have?” Cael said cockily.

“Huh?” The agent said signaling the others to surround Cael.

“Bye.” Cael said feeling the ground drop from under him, letting his power take him back to the time he wants it to.

Cael was back in the hall before taking that fatal turn that got them caught previously, Cael stopped, and pulled Rumic and Sonora into a nearby closet. “Hey, what are you doing Cael?” Rumic said trying to find his face in the dark closet. “If we had gone around that corner, we would have been caught.” Cael said trying to keep his voice close to a whisper.

“How do you know that?” Sonora asked trying to be equally quiet.

“It’s a long story, I’ll explain some other time.” Cael said impatiently trying to see if it was safe to leave out through a crack in the door.

“Come on, let’s go.” Cael said before slipping out of the door.

Cael moved quickly and quietly down the hall followed closely by Rumic and Sonora. Sonora still held the tazer she created. “Hey, you there, stop!” Cael saw the agents coming toward them from toward Mr. Houvas’ office.

Cael had enough, he felt his power flow through him, his eyes flashed a violent red glowing slightly, and he raised his hand, and felt his power building. Cael felt tired, he could release the power he had built up. Rumic saw what was happening; she grabbed a hold of Cael hands, her skin so cool to the touch seemed to burn as she held onto his hand. A blue aura surrounded her body, as a red aura surround his, she held up her right hand toward the advancing agents while he held up his left, their powers were in sync with each other.

Sonora hung back making sure no-one snuck up on them from behind, so she did not see the large form of ice and fire that Rumic, and Cael had created, and sent toward the oncoming agents how now turned, and ran.

“I think that took care of them.” A voice said from behind that Cael knew so well.

“Mr. Houvas, how did you get back here?” Cael said incredulously

“All in due time my boy, right now we need to be elsewhere follow me the three of you.”
A Non-Existent User
Dameus checked himself in his roommate's mirror. 'I look good' he thought to himself. Katherine would agree. He left for the ball.

He found Katherine waiting near the food table, looking nervous and scared. He almost didn't recognize her without her glasses.

"Wow." He said, playing up the no glasses thing to make her smile."You look..." He acted speechless.

"Weird?"

"No. Beautiful." She smiled. Perfect. He looked out into the crowd of teens. They had already started."You wanna dance?"

"Sure." Dameus smiled and took her hand and bowed, then pulled her onto the dance floor.

Why he tried to teach her the waltz he would never know. Dameus wouldn't have time to think about it. Mr. Houvas voice broke through the music, stopping everything. Dameus looked up. Katherine took her head off his chest and looked up as well.

“I would like everybody to listen up…The cops are on their way with the intention of arresting everyone in this building. I don’t like that, so if you would please gather what you need and head out to the front, there are buses there ready to take you away.”

Everybody started filing out of the auditorium, some mumbling, some trying to run as the guards stepped in and slowed them down. Dameus took Katherine's hand and was about to pull her along when he saw a couple people drop out mysteriously. They had fallen or something of the like, but nobody was paying attention and there was too much commotion anyways. Dameus grabbed Kat by the shoulders, and bent down to look her in the eyes. She looked scared.

"Kat, I need you to get on the bus and go. I need to check on a few things."

"But Dameus..."

"No Kat. No buts. I need to make sure nothing's wrong. I'll check up on you afterwards." He kissed her on the head and lead her to the door. He made sure she had gotten on the bus, then waved by to her. She waved back and he came back inside. He hoped she wouldn't be hurt by that.

Inside, Dameus took off his shoes and the tuxedo jacket and shirt, then climbed up a wall while nobody was looking, his nails lengthening and hardening until they became a shiny silver. He looked around at where the people had dissappeared, but found nothing, even from his vantage point. He saw a group of familiar looking people move out of the auditorium, and he followed. They quickly hid in a nearby closet as two groups of agents rounded a corner. He flattened himself out as best as he could, and luckily none of them looked up. What looked like Cael and two other girls exited and they went down the hall, followed closely by Dameus.

Dameus had morphed by the time they had run into the next group of agents, molding plates over him and covering his face with a particularly gruesome skull mask. They had come from Mr. Houvas' office. Cael and who looked to be Rumic held hands and shot a beam of fire and ice that blinded Dameus' now sensitive eyes. He hissed as he covered his eyes and dropped from the ceiling, crouching as he landed. He heard footsteps behind him as the fire/ice attack recceded, and he jumped back onto the ceiling. Mr. Houvas came around the corner.

"I think that took care of them.”

“Mr. Houvas, how did you get back here?” Cael said incredulously

“All in due time my boy, right now we need to be elsewhere. Follow me the three of you." They followed the older man. "You too, Dameus." Mr. Houvas said without looking back. The others did though. They were shocked to see the strange boy changed and on the ceiling. He was just as shocked as they were that Mr. Houvas had known he was there. Dameus prided himself on being unaturally quiet when he wanted to be. This was a first for him. He dropped off and followed them.



There was a faint tick from the clock in the background of the room. Even the old walls that often creek were void of noise.
         “You look sharp…”
Cyrus turned away from the mirror to face Ash with a cringe on his face. He was in a dark grey suit with a white ironed shirt; wearing a buckled belt. His hair was neatly gelled back, but his fringe refused to stay away from his forehead.
         Since Ash’s return, they’d hardly said a word to each other. He had come back with a forbidding air about him, and there was an evident, unidentifiable wall between them. Cyrus knew something was not right, but he figured Ash had his reasons if he chose to keep it quiet.
Ash laughed unexpectedly, despite the mood he’d been in. He was still there, somewhere behind that dark veil. “What a priceless expression.”
Cyrus gazed at him. “Don’t hurry for the camera- I’ll be wearing it all night.”
Ash walked over, placed a hand on his back and steered him out onto the balcony outside their room. “Let’s have a cigarette before we leave.”

Cyrus shut the sliding glass door behind them, separating them from the warmth of inside.
         Ash was what people call a casual smoker; he smoked for enjoyment. Only a smoker would ever understand the terminology. It wouldn’t make sense to most people.
         Cyrus rubbed his forehead with rough, callus fingers; he was experiencing a headache. It wasn’t a bad one; just a dull ache at the back of his head and a tightness across his brow. Regardless of his migraine, he had a sly thought. “I thought I’d go insane when you weren’t here.”
Ash raised an eyebrow at him as he flicked on the nightlight above their heads. If it was said to anyone else, they might not have known that that was about as affectionate as Cyrus got. He could read the disbelief in Ash’s expression like words on a page. “ … I wasn’t sure what I would do- without any cigarettes.”
Ash managed a smile, but it didn’t have its usual spark. “What am I? Your personal Smoke Mart?”
         “Yeah. Normal kids get an allowance. I get cigarettes.”
Ash took two smokes from the deck while listening. “That’s one way of putting it… I wonder how you’d fair without me then …”
He shrugged; doubting that would happen any time soon. If it did, he might actually quit… Nah. Cyrus would find a way. They both lit their cigarettes and Cyrus sat down on a chair they kept beside the door, while Ash leaned on the handrail away from the night scenery.
         There was a haze of light above the clouds, hiding the moon from view. It was a freezing night and he could smell rain on the air. He was thankful for the jacket, even though it wasn’t what he was used to. Cyrus felt a pulsing sensation spread right through his head and he groaned in irritation.
Ash gazed at him curiously. “What?”
Cyrus shook his head. The end of his cigarette lit up like a beacon as he took a drag, and the temporary light illuminated his features. “My migraines are getting worse.”
Ash appeared interested. “… How long has it been going on for?”
Cyrus shrugged. “Hmm, about a month. This week has been something else entirely…”
         “Your headaches usual get worse before you die.”
They used the word ‘die’ for when he slept- because on the rare occasion that he did, it was so deep he was impossible to wake. Maybe, if he rested his eyes he’d die before finishing his smoke in hopes he’d have to miss the ball. Hopeful, he closed his eyes.
He heard Ash walk over and grab his shoulder with a grip that made him wince slightly. “Don’t even think about it,” Ash told him, grinning unsympathetically.
Cyrus laughed softly. “It was worth a try.”


Ash went on ahead to the ball without him as Cyrus stayed back to have another cigarette outside.

Standing at the threshold of the room, he looked up at the ceiling. He was reminded of a book he’d read recently called the Black Room; which was another word for torture chamber. This was a torture chamber.
There were large silver snowflakes hanging from the high roof. They twirled slowly, catching the light and reflecting it over the students. The lighting seemed to make his migraine worse, so he refrained from looking up again. The atmosphere was ecstatic, and the music loud. The song that played was Hook Me Up, by The Veronicas. He had the urge to leave. Immediately.
         The room was circled with white flamed torches lit all around, adding ambience to the theme. The railing that fenced off the floorless void in the middle of the room emitted a mist, as though someone had painted dry ice over it. Across from him were two statues, and at either side of the doorway were pot plants covered in a generous layer of frost. Cyrus noticed two guards nearby with straight faces, and looking a little tense. Who could blame them? He was tense. The only thing the guards had in common with him was the monotony of it all.
         Laughter drilled into his ears as a group of students walked passed. His eyes followed them momentarily, recognizing one of the girls he’d heard talking about a dress a few days earlier. The white dress glittered as though crystals were attached to the dress. She was a Cinderella look-alike, with her white gloves and glass slippers.
That’s it; he’d seen enough… Cyrus took a step back but someone took hold of the sleeve of his jacket.
         “Think of it as a type of training. Adapt to your surroundings,” Ash said over the music and winked. Cyrus watched Ash descend the staircase. He needed another cigarette. Badly. Surely, he deserved it for making it this far. Cyrus made his way over to the statues and positioned himself between them so that he had a good view of the entrance/exit. As he lit a cigarette, a guy wrinkled his nose up at it and then coughed as though he were dying from the smoke. “You know, there is an outside area on the floor below us.”
So?
         “Don’t like it?” he asked irritably, exhaling deliberately in his direction. It was rhetorical; not to be answered. “Move.”
The guy shook his head and disappeared down the staircase.

His eyes trailed over toward the entrance as Nairi and two of her friends enter. She was in a simple, green dress that caressed the floor behind her when she moved. Her head was turned, visibly observing the room as he had done; a ray of light passed over her neck, causing her earring to twinkle.
         The volume of music dimmed till it was a gentle hum in the background, similar to standing in an elevator with the radio on. Her thoughts drifted to him from across the room and her ocean blue eyes turned to him, as though his mind had gently caressed a corner in hers, alerting her.

Cyrus took hold of the railing and the mist radiating from it wove in and out between his fingers. He casually watched the back of her fiery red hair as she descended the staircase. It was ironic that after their conversation she immediately began trying to repel him from her thoughts. She must’ve had something to hide, there and then.
         In the room below, he saw people dancing with their partners over the vinyl floor. It was very colorful to watch from above but it clashed. He creased his forehead when he realized he couldn’t see any teachers, and then wished he hadn’t. There was a quick, sharp pain spitefully followed by more intense pulsating. Cyrus checked the time and to his immense misfortune, only twenty minutes had gone by.
         There was a table to the side of the room where delicious hot food steamed temptingly. The sight made his stomach tighten with hunger. He may as well brave it, and he took a deep breath in preparation. There was no better way to kill time than eating. Cyrus put his hands into the pockets of his suit pants and descended the staircase in no hurry. He dodged his way through the crowd toward the table, ignoring some of the student’s stares.
         Ash was nearby, talking quietly with the guard he didn’t like. The guard noticed him and gave him a smirk. Cyrus ignored him and scanned the food. He picked up a spring roll and ate it. Not bad. He had another one, savoring the taste and wondering why they never served it in the cafeteria.
         There was an unmistakable, resounding noise as someone above closed the entrance doors. He felt a strange sensation as if he were trapped in and wouldn’t be able to leave until it was officially over. It was a comfort to have the door open. Cyrus looked up the stairs and could see the top halves of two guards standing in front of the door. He noticed the Headmaster of the school to his right, gazing up at them too. At least the Headmaster was present, and he wondered what happened to all the teachers. It was hardly fair that everyone had to be there, and they weren’t. Most of the students appeared ignorant about these small, insignificant details.

Cyrus’ eyes fixated on the girl coming down the stairs, like an insect attracted to the light.
There were so many new students that it was hard to keep up. And in a school like theirs, it was easy to miss people.
It was the first time he’d seen her properly. The first time didn’t really count, because he hadn’t actually seen her. The second time had been right before he came inside; it had been too dark.

         There was a scream from upstairs and Cyrus’ eyes trailed upward. It was an urgent scream, not playful.
The Headmaster turned and his eyes rested somewhere behind Cyrus. He followed his gaze which was on the guard beside Ash. They were staring intensely at each other. He felt a chill that had nothing to do with the air drifting in through the open glass doors of the balcony. The guard laced his fingers together and flexed them out, cracking his neck from side to side with a jackal of a grin.
He realized his heart was beating heavily; pounding in his chest in unexplained unease. Some of the other students must’ve felt the same way, because they were also looking up curiously.
         Cyrus creased his brow, wishing he hadn’t as an adult he had never seen before, who was so obviously out of place, hurried down the stairs. His eyes were fixated on a particular student and Cyrus had learnt it to be Ryne. Ryne was oblivious to the attention as he was presently occupied with his partner. Maybe it was instinct, but he felt he should be prepared for something.
         He skimmed through the strange occurrences in a matter of seconds. There weren’t any teachers, but the rest of the school was present. His eyes quickly scanned the room and counted twelve guards within the vicinity, including the ones that he remembered upstairs- most of which were on his floor. The top floor wasn’t very big because it was more or less a pathway to look down upon the room. The doors were closed and guarded. There was that man, reaching the end of the staircase. And the Headmaster was staring at the smug guard who looked ready for a fight.
No. He was thinking too deeply; he was misinterpreting everything. He let it go, feeling paranoid; rubbing his forehead as though it would ease the pain. If Cyrus had been looking up, he’d have seen Ryne being taken hold of forcefully.
         “I would like everybody to listen up…” the Headmaster announced. Cyrus winced at the booming voice, but listened as attentively as he could with his eyes closed. “The cops are on their way with the intention of arresting everyone in this building. I don’t like that, so if you would please gather what you need and head out the front door, there are buses there ready to take you away.”
He slowly opened his eyes; his mind blank. It wasn’t the best reaction, but who in Clandestine could take that seriously in the instance it was said. He’d lost a few seconds standing there inertly before his mind began to work. Cyrus’ eyes slowly traveled up as a strange sensation took over him, like he was waking up and seeing things for the first time. The urgency ran through him like a ruthless force.
Ryne took a hit from a tazer and the man then kicked him in the abdomen.

He didn’t hesitate; his migraine not allowing any thought.
         Cyrus threw a forceful kick to the back of the man’s knee. His leg gave way immediately. Cyrus raised his arm, throwing a punch to the side of his face. Warmth filled the cracks in his skin. Blood. Not his. The tazer slid across the floor.
         “Get up,” he told Ryne who blinked groggily up at him. All the students were running around noisily and the screams started. The noise fed his migraine. He instantly felt unstable on his feet and nauseous. He closed his eyes tightly, as though it would shut everything out. The man he’d punched groaned on the floor.

The Headmaster spoke again.
         “For those who don’t make it, I suggest to go into hiding to the best of your capability. The time has come to act without guidance from adults. The teachers and mentors to you are incapacitated and will not be able to make yours decisions. I regret to leave the school and all the students I care equally for.
         Do not listen to their bribes. Do not let them demean your undeveloped powers; they’re weak in comparison to their weapons. Do not let them take you.

Cyrus felt Ryne’s mind in a rage and knew that he’d gotten up even though he wasn’t watching.
         “Pig!” Ryne kicked the man on the ground, hard, and then moved toward the staircase with everyone else, helping a hysterical girl on the way.

         Try and understand what I’ve done. I need you on my side.
Recognizing Ash’s voice, Cyrus opened his eyes. What was he talking about?
The breeze drifting into the room picked up, and the flecks of rain outside coated a meter or so of the floor into the room. There was faint thud, thud, thud. At first, he thought it was his head pounding but it grew louder. Then the alarm sounded throughout the building, drowning out the previous noise. Cyrus managed to shield his face from the force of the wind. His head was surely being ripped open.
A high beam light emerged across from him outside the balcony. A helicopter appeared, staring in like an overgrown insect. The light pierced through the gaps between his arms, through his eyes and into his head. The penetration was surely going to split the back of his head open. The pain left him immobile.
Ash walked out from behind the table of food, most of which had been blown across the floor. “Garth, get Cyrus out of here! I’ll take care of Houvas!”
Who the hell was Garth?

Cyrus was on his knees hyperventilating and didn’t know it; his pulse reverberating throughout his body. His vision went black but was still conscious.
Then, it happened. Images flashed vividly inside his mind.
He saw Ash and the Headmaster close the gap between them, their faces etched in hatred.
He saw student’s hands being bound behind their backs; tears streaming down one of their faces.
There were several kids lying lifeless over the floor.
Rage filled Cyrus’ insides.
And the guard he didn’t like was feet away from him…


*


That night, only several people actually managed to escape. Some were friends and others were students they’d never known; had never bothered to say hello to.
Those who made it on the buses were never seen again, but are safe.
And those who thought had escaped woke up in a strange place under the control of the ‘organization’, contained in three separate locations.

© Copyright 2008 Oceania, xx-xx, LdyPhoenix, xx-xx, Scheherazade, xx-xx, mirror on the wall, Lonewolf, xx-xx, (known as GROUP).
All rights reserved.
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