Chapter 5


Sunlight streamed in through the window, the cool air drifted in through the window.  I finally awoke to the chiming of the noon signal.  I collected my thoughts and changed into an exact copy of my uniform.  (I’m not stupid.  If I look good in something, I’m going to wear it.  Simple logic.) 


‘Let’s see… schedule for today…go out and visit with Sarah at lunch, practice Mindforce techs, then relax and watch ‘Robot Wars’ and ‘Beat the Crusher’ on the TV. Then, that party tonight…aw, shit, I’m late already!’


I ran a wet comb through my hair- tamping it into some sort of organization that wouldn’t be mistaken for a dead animal, and walked down to the café.    I arrived there to find Sarah with a half-finished meal in front of her and a cross look on her face.


“Jay, you’re late again!” she snapped.  “One time a week we get to see each other and talk, and you don’t even show up on time.  Do you hate me or something?”


I shook my head.  “No, just had a bitch of a night last night, and I’m wondering if I didn’t dream it all.”


“What?  Did Flare school you again?  Or did you embarrass yourself with Blazer again?”


“Not exactly…” I told her with a grin.  With a smirk on my face, I proceeded to tell her the previous day’s events- with much embellishment, of course.


“Wow.” Sarah’s face paled and she shook her head.  “Who did you pay off this time to make you look good?”


“Sarah, this isn’t like last year when I got caught running around in a cupid outfit on Valentine’s Day.”


Sarah laughed.  “I still say you looked like some sort of an escaped mental patient.”


“Well, let’s leave that in the past, where it belongs, or I’ll bring up the-“


“Don’t even go there, unless you want to go to the party tonight in a body cast.  Speaking of which….”


“Yeah, it’s a building-only party, but I think I can talk Alex into letting you come.  I think he’s either in love with or afraid of you.”


“Why?  I just go up to him, tell him if I don’t get in I’ll make sure he won’t have a date, and then he lets me in.  Simple.”


I rolled my eyes.  “Well, no matter how much he doesn’t want to admit it, I think he likes you.  Last underclassman who tried that was picking “Nevermelt Ice” out of his ass for three weeks.  Remember?”


We both shared a little laugh as we let our memories visit that day.  Some hotshot had tried to figure out a way he could sneak into Alex’s year-end bash last year.  He almost pulled it off, posing as the beer man.  Only problem?  When someone asks you “Where’s the beer?” and you say “I didn’t bring any”, you’re not only going to look stupid, you’re going to get on someone’s bad side.  Anyways, Alex finds him and accuses him of not bringing enough Foster’s to the party.  (So we like imported beer.  Big fat hairy deal.  We’re not the ones paying for it.)  The guy goes “What?  I didn’t bring any whiskey, only beer!”  That was when Alex beat him like a baby seal and spun him around, sending him out the door with a shower of “Nevermelt Ice”.  Guy couldn’t sit down for a week, couldn’t feel his rear for a month.


“Anyways, tell me one thing.  Who actually pays for the stuff you guys drink?  Last one you went to, you put away a half case by yourself.  (Don’t freak out.  My metabolism runs so hot when I charge up, it burns the alcohol out of my system.  I call it a curse; Alex calls it ‘any brewery’s worst nightmare’.  {AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I don’t condone underage drinking.  You’ve got better stuff to do than lay around puking all night, right?})”


I shrug.  “Alex is the one to ask about that question.  He gets it, I just help dispose of it responsibly.”


Sarah shook her head.  “Every other party here at the school has to pay for any alcohol they drink.  You guys seemingly have an endless supply for free.  Something’s up.”


I shrug yet again.  “Well, you got me on that question.  You coming tonight?”


Sarah snorts.  “Of course.  Nothing better to do, as usual.”


I get up with a smile.  “All right, then.  I’m off to my practice.  You want to join me?  Or are you going to keep picking at that salad?”


She shoots a gaze at me that could make jerky out of a yak.  “Is that a challenge?”


I shake my head.  “Call it what you want, but if you want to come along, let’s go.”


She gets up, drops the money on the table and scowls at me.  “You want to lose that bad again?  Or are you hitting the Foster’s this early?”


“No, just wanted to practice with someone actually competent enough to fire more than things that destroy a large area.  Like that last guy, fired a…. what was it?”


“I believe it was called a ‘Trimetra Rana’ (Copyright 2001 by Mox Jet.), but the rest of the school called it a ‘large explosion that could be felt for ten miles’.  Whatever happened to him?”


“The administrators came, took him away, and we haven’t seen him.  He’s possibly doing a long stint in Hell.”


“Not pretty.”  Sarah flinched as she thought about what that meant.  No human contact, no outside contact.  Many are the students who go in strong and hearty, but come out weak and frightened.


“So let’s go.  All this talk’s making me depressed.”  Sarah suddenly rushes ahead of me and leaps into the air, coming down and looking like she’s riding a surfboard in midair.  (If you haven’t figured out by now Sarah’s a wind user, then go re-read everything else.)


I prefer to walk to the training grounds, taking my time to think of what might happen tonight.  ‘Let’s see…have a good time with Blazer tonight, hang around after the party, a little of this, a little of that, and we might have-‘  WHAM!


I gain consciousness gazing at a rather large lamppost in my face.  “Okay… this’ll teach me to think sexy thoughts in the middle of the day.”


I haul myself to my feet and go running the rest of the way to the grounds.


The training grounds happen to be the only place open 24-7-365.  Students go here to use their power in a semi-controlled enviroment, against simulated foes and other targets.  It’s cutting edge virtual reality, better than you’d find anywhere. 


We reach the grounds, unlock a room with our ID cards- no retina scan, not since the time a cadet faked a retina in the bio lab in the science building and got into a private workout.  Yes, cloning has been doable, they just haven’t been able to do an entire person yet.  I select “Gradual” on the skill monitor- this setting starts out with small targets for your weakest skills, then as you progress up the scale, towards more powerful and difficult, the targets begin to shoot back and move faster, as well as become larger.


We watch the graphics in the room surround us, and begin the countdown to activation.  I take this time to fire up the old metabolism- let’s just say there’s a reason I get away with running around all year in my uniform- and start the fire.


The countdown reaches ‘zero’ and the workout begins.  It starts with a single unarmed target- coming at me.  I reach inside, pull a small piece of the fire raging inside into my power, and channel it down my arms and out my fingertips- it seemingly crossing the room in a second and invoking a small burst of fire that incapacitates the target.  It continues with one at Sarah- she using an attack of “Wind Missile” to knock her target out.  I keep looking around, and spy a group of targets coming out of the east.  I ready my mid-zone technique and let it loose- pulling the fire from my internal source and casting it upwards, letting it take the form of burning chunks of ash- “Ash Rain”.  The tech happens, the targets get neutralized, and I stand there looking as if I won the ten million on “Survivor:  Caloris Basin”.  Sarah looks over at me and scoffs.


“Big deal.  Watch this.”  As the next group of targets comes rushing towards us, she reaches inside her and pulls out a windstorm- but it’s getting absolutely freezing in here.  I watch as a whitish wind, trailing something goes in and slashes through the group multiple times.  I look on with my jaw at my knees.


‘So that’s why she hasn’t been calling lately…amazing.  I wondered how long it’d take someone to figure that one out.  Especially with the harsh winters we get up here.’


I look over at her, shaking her head.  “Stop training.” She called out, and everything ground to a halt. 


“Jay, what’s wrong with you?  You’ve seen that tech hundreds of times.  Are you all right?”


I shook my head.  “I don’t really know.  My mind’s just been occupied lately, and I’m nervous about everything…”


Sarah placed her hand on my shoulder.  “Go and relax, Jay.  Lay down, watch some TV or something.  You’ve been pushing yourself too hard lately, and you’re only nervous over tonight.  It’ll be fine.  Just wait.”


I sigh.  “Maybe you’re right.  I just can’t get the question of where the free stuff comes from out of my mind.”


“Jason, you sound….weird.  You’re not making any sense. What’s wrong with you?”


I looked over at my sister and shook my head.  “I honestly don’t know.”


I turned away from her, and walked back towards the dorms, leaving her standing there. 


Once back in my room, I flopped down on the bed and turned on the TV.  I turned it to the BBC station and watched “Robot Wars”- mainly homemade robots beating the snot out of one another- and started to think. 


‘Sarah’s got a point.  Where does all the free services and stuff come from?  Free beer, available tables at the local restaurants, not having to pay for laundry, and conduct that would shame any other school.  What’s going on here?  All the training, all the sex that everyone knows is going on, everything- why is it happening?’


I rolled over and pulled the covers up.  ‘I’m tired…maybe if I sleep on it I’ll feel better…”


I was out like a light, my internal alarm set for two hours later.




To Chapter Six

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