My supplies are stacked neatly at the end of one of the beds. A number one shines on a small golden plaque. Other numbers are attached to the other beds in the room, six in total. I see two and three, but am confused that they skip to twenty-three, twenty-four, and twenty-five. I am the first one to have arrived at this dorm, so I have no one to ask.
This should change once my first dorm mate arrives, but her familiar hostility prevents me. She glares at me. “You have got to be kidding me,” Genevieve says. “I don’t even know why we have to bunk with other people when we’re in a damn castle this size, but of all the people to bunk with, why the hell did it have to be with you?”
I have no way of replying to this that won’t make her even angrier. I could point out that rooming together was meant to force our cohort to get to know each other better since we were supposed to, for all intents and purposes, be a family of sorts from here on out. I could mention that even if the numbers meant nothing, random chance would give roughly a one in four chance of ending up in the same dorm, assuming the twenty-five of us were split up as equally as possible.
I resist the urge to curl up in a ball and keep my back straight, staring at her directly. I try not to patronize her by claiming ignorance as to what exactly I’ve done to her, but this does not leave me with a lot of conversational leg room. It’s possible that remaining silent won’t be any better and I resolve to try and say something when the girl with glasses comes in.
I’d sat next to her in the assembly hall, but most of her emotions had been drowned out then by the crowd. Now though I can get a better sense of her. Her abilities are…rapid analysis displayed on her glasses. But that makes no sense, a power like that couldn’t possibly get someone into this program.
I try to glean more, but there’s a mental block in place. It’s different than the others. Not a forced placement like Blue’s, or a power resistance like Genevieve’s. The closest feeling is to Gravitas’ careful avoidance of thinking about particular subjects on any level, but I don’t think Mary’s is a choice. I’ve felt this before, in people with severe trauma. Repressed memories, always creeping at the edge of their active cognition but blotted out.
I wonder if they have anything to do with why she was accepted, because Mary has no more idea why she’s here than I do, same as in the assembly. She is not surprised when she sees her stuff next the number twenty-five plaque. “Dead last,” she says. “Well, can’t blame them for that, I couldn’t even throw a punch. Hi, I’m Mary Lou.”
She puts out her small hand for me to shake, which I take cautiously. “Hi, I’m –“
“Pyrrha Valkyrie,” she finishes for me. I knew she recognized me, admiration flowing through her. She flushes red as some green lines flash across her lenses and I realize that she can read my emotions as easily as I can read hers. I’m not sure how I feel about that. She whispers “I didn’t realize that was one of your powers.”
“It’s not something I like to advertise,” I whisper back, wondering if Genevieve had super hearing with all of her other enhanced abilities, hoping our exchange is cryptic enough that it wouldn’t matter. The tall blond has flown over to her bed and retrieved her toiletries, and is now studiously ignoring our existence on her way through the door to her private bathroom. She might have a grudge against me, but it looks like for now she doesn’t feel like involving other people in it.
“Me neither,” Mary says in understanding. “But analyzing people is my only power, so I’m a little of out of luck.”
“Pretty sure it’s not your only power,” a familiar voice comes from the hall. Blue enters the room, glances around, and strides over to the bed labeled twenty-three plopping himself onto it after leaning his axe-polearm against the frame. He’s in a surprisingly pleasant mood given he was killed a third time in his last match. “You wouldn’t be accepted here if that was all you could do. You know that, so I’m guessing you’re here because you want them to tell you why they think you’re so dangerous. Hi, I’m B.B., though Pyrrha’s nicknamed me Blue if you prefer that.”
Green lines flash across her glasses and Mary’s eyes widen in shock. Her power has identified Blue, at least superficially, and she is much more surprised by who he is than who I am. Her thoughts instantly fragment, a practiced maneuver more akin to Gravitas’, and I realize she’s actively trying to protect Blue’s secret from me. Admirable. I gather he’s somehow related to someone, an entire roster of the world’s greatest heroes and executioners scrolling through her mind too fast for my power to sort through. But I could have guessed that already from his invincible weapon.
“It’s nice to meet you Blue,” Mary says politely, recovering from her initial reaction.
“Three girls and one guy,” a newcomer says, strolling through the door. “I could see them putting me with girls given the team I play for, but my Raydar isn’t going off when I look at that handsome young gent there. So I’m assuming that’s not the basis of room assignments?”
Mary points at her twenty-five then my one. “Balanced team units.” Blue snorts. “Ostensibly balanced team units,” Mary amends hesitantly. Her powers may have identified Blue but they haven’t figured out his abilities, at least not yet.
The new guy is short. Not quite Mary short, but close. He has green eyes and is incredibly toned. He strolls over to the bed labeled Twenty-Four and I sense a lot more frustration with his low rank than Mary or Blue have. He has a similar confidence to Blue, but his power is laid plain in my mind and I can understand the confidence. An energy sword the size of a city. Ragnorak; he can summon it in an instant and could lay the landscape around him to waste with a thought.
Limited applicability though. Only useful against fliers without causing collateral damage equal to or worse than the attacker. Not a power he can use in close quarters. Maybe if he were fighting in an empty desert or plain, but during the matches today he had to sit there and take whatever punishment his opponents dished out.
“I’m Ray. Ray Highstorm,” he says after a moment. He’s holding back a chuckle of agreement with Blue’s snort at how the teams could possibly be balanced when matching up the currently highest ranked fighters with people who only lost because they were intended to be Last Resorts from the very beginning. His unuttered point was a valid one, but I decide to reserve judgment. Whatever the professors’ real intentions, they’ve been doing this for a long time.
“Guess I’m the last to the party, eh amigos?” another man says, strolling into the room. He looks at the last bed and exclaims “That’s crap! Why am I only third? Model girl and Barbie didn’t even fight me. I bet I can take either one of you.”
I realize I’m model girl and Genevieve is Barbie. Not very flattering and I’m having a hard time holding back distaste for the newcomer, especially given the inappropriate thoughts already flowing through his head. For a minute, I thought I might not have any male roommates whose emotions would inherently drive me up a wall. But I can already anticipate what this guy’s twilight dreams will be about and am half in agreement with Genevieve’s distaste for room sharing.
“Emilio Garcia,” Mary starts. “Extremely powerful telekinesis through contact. Champion of Destrian’s Youth Leagues, but dropped out of the World Championship due to family issues before facing the Consolidated State’s Pyrrha Valkyrie. I won’t say why, but you wouldn’t have won for the same reason Genevieve lost to her. And the reason you’d lose to Genevieve is that even though you’re technically stronger, the speed with which she can deliver blows would overwhelm your current abilities. I can give a play by play of most likely moves if you would like, but the only way Miss Sol wouldn’t trounce you would be a colossal act of idiocy on her part.”
Genevieve was trying hard to stay aloof, but I could feel a slight sense of satisfaction emanating from her as she came out of the bathroom and flew silently to her bed. Emilio was unconvinced, but he shrugged and said “Pues, guess that explains that then.”
Blue smiled broadly and laughed. “This should be fun! But I think it’s time for me to call it a night. Getting killed so many times really takes it out of a guy.” With that everyone started making their way into their own bathrooms, which there was an immense amount of relief for. They were tiny things, barely enough room for a shower, toilet and sink, but it was the only private space we would be getting during our time here. And however strong my power was over open spaces, it was substantially reduced through the thick walls, allowing me to reflect on my day in a hot shower with relative peace.
I don’t know whether coming here was the right choice. I probably won’t for a long time. But whatever else might happen, it looks like I’m going to be in for an interesting ride.
-------------------------------- End of Day One ---------------------------------