“You’ve all had a rough couple of days,” Dean Gravitas says. Zhe wears a flowing scarlet cape today and is holding a sleek black cane in one hand. “I am glad to see so many of you still with us. Today you will be allowed to reflect on the tasks that will be asked of you in the coming months and decide if you want to remain here. I believe every one of you has what it takes to remain here, but this is something that you must decide for yourselves. It is up to you how personal you want your reflection to be, though I would encourage you to take this time to get to know your team better and try to relax a bit. There is no question that there will be a great deal of stress during your training and in your roles. But if you do not take times like this to appreciate your comrades and the little joys in life, then it will be all the harder on you during the trials you will face down the road.”
“Of particular note is our waterpark,” Professor Karim.
“There’s a waterpark on the island?” Shawnee asks exuberantly, her blue hair standing on end in her sudden excitement, a slight crackling coming from her body.
“Yes, Miss Nephilim, but please try not to electrocute any of your classmates if you make use of it,” Gravitas says with a smile.
A boy I’ve never heard speak before raises his hand from the back of the class.
“Yes, Mr. Gate?” Gravitas asks.
“If it is not too rude to ask, could you explain why you have a water park on this island?” he says, curiosity at the peculiar addition to our training facility flowing out of him in waves. He is a tall, slender boy with black hair and dark eyes.
“Of course, Mr. Gate,” Gravitas says, smile widening. “That is not rude at all! We simply had to do something with the crater last time someone blew up half my island. And it seemed like a good way to convince Professor Grimes to come work for us and help prevent another such unfortunate occurrence.”
Gravitas might be good at hiding his real thoughts, but Professor Karim doesn’t quite have his knack and isn’t wearing his little interference crown today. His opinion is that the one who really wanted the water park was just Dean Gravitas.
“Come on, ladies and gentlemen, please go explore the island. Don’t just wait around here,” Gravitas claps and gestures towards the door.
“Sounds good,” Ray says, turning towards the door, gesturing the rest of us to come with.
Twenty minutes later we were sitting in a half circle overlooking a lagoon. What was once a crater was now outfitted with twisting slides leading from the top down to the water below.
“Impressive,” Blue says. “Guess that’s one way to take a tragedy and get something positive out of it.”
“No entiendo, amigo,” Emilio says. “What’s the tragedy?”
Blue does a face palm. “Failed psych test, before Professor Grimes was hired. The girl took out her whole class and most of the existing staff. Gravitas and Professor Karim were the only survivors that I know of. The dearth of executioners in the following year is estimated to have allowed the mass casualty events in Sarakas, Border City, and Mohave. It might not have been as bad as it was if D’Ender hadn’t put so many military units in the ground the year before. But as it was, there was short staffing all around. Do you not read your histories?”
“History is a sad tale of crazy chicos doing stupid things amigo. Never touch the stuff,” Emilio says.
“What do you touch?” I ask, trying to keep any judgment or sarcasm out of my voice, genuinely curious.
“Art mostly. Super realism and 3D street art is my favorite, but guess I just like concrete style work,” Emilio says. Genevieve’s mouth drops open slightly and I hope my own surprise doesn’t show too much. It’s a more sophisticated response than I would have expected of him given his usual mental state, but I guess I haven’t seen his best sides as yet.
“Huh, cool. You should show us some of your work sometime,” Blue says. “Now what I really want to know, is if we throw Mary down a waterslide whether it’ll cheer her up any. What do you think, Mary?”
Mary looks up from where she’s been dwelling on her own thoughts. Her repressed memory was coming back in fragments and I saw a flash of blood on her hands.
“Sorry,” she says, voice practically squeaking. “What were you saying?”
“Sounds like a yes to me,” Genevieve says. “Seriously, what has you so down? You did better than any of us at the tests.” Genevieve did just fine herself at killing her criminal yesterday. The idea doesn’t occur to Genevieve that just because Mary can kill without hesitation doesn’t mean she’s unaffected by it. Or if the thought does occur to Genevieve, it is such an afterthought that no trace of it gets through her power resistance. Right now all I sense from her is the competitive feelings at knowing Mary, last ranked in combat power for our whole class, did better than her.
“More of a trial than a test,” I say, cringing a little inside as I realize that Genevieve might take my innocuous statement as a challenge.
Mary saves me by responding to Genevieve’s initial statement. “I think I might have had some practice before now. But I still don’t really know why I’m here.” She says it in almost a whisper and Genevieve frowns in puzzlement.
“You think?” she asks Mary. “What is that even supposed to mean?”
“Yeah really,” Emilio says. “What do you mean practice? You haven’t been killing puppies or something loco como que, have you?”
I hate it when he breaks into Desterial. My power would translate the sentiment of straight Destrian just fine, but the broken grammar of the mixed language gives me a slight headache. I know it pisses our classmate Jira Hellsing off too. Ethnically Emilio’s full Destrian, but his family was in the Consolidated States four generations before it annexed Destria in the first move to become the Consolidated Empire. Jira’s seven-eighths Destrian born in the heart of Destria and gets angry every time she overhears Emilio butchering her language. But something about her gift caused her skin to turn snow white and Emilio claims he can’t take her seriously when she doesn’t even look Destrian. Naturally this makes her even angrier and leads to her storming away, cursing CS assholes.
I wonder if I should grab Mary and go sailing down one of the waterslides after all. It would be a good escape from these intense questions and Emilio’s little annoyances. But I need to try and get the team playing well together and ditching out on my not so favorite members isn’t a good way of ever getting us on the same page. Besides, Genevieve is sitting on the edge of the crater closest to where a waterslide entrance begins. We’d have to rush past her in a very discourteous manner.
“Please,” I say. “Mary’s dealing with the issue with Professor Grimes. Might we focus on happier subjects on our day off?” A flash of intense deviousness comes shooting off of Blue and I see that he’s stood up without me noticing. I am almost certain he just used his power but still have no idea what it is. I look to see if Genevieve or Emilio noticed anything amiss, but Blue had waited until neither of them was looking his direction.
“I have a question for you Mary, the resolution of which I think will in fact make for a happier subject,” Blue says with a wide smile that reaches his sparkling blue eyes. “Why do you question your place here?”
“Because all I can do is analyze things,” Mary says. “I can’t fight on the level of an executioner needs to, not even close.”
“I have several bits of good news,” Blue says. “Firstly, the level your analysis powers are on makes you a perfect partner for multiple executioner power types, especially in the evolving environment of early warning technology. I could go on extensively about your abilities being perfect just the way they are and the numerous ways they would be useful in field work. But that would be boring, so how about you close your eyes and I test a hypothesis of mine?”
Blue is exuding excitement, but whatever he’s planning is being screened by his mental gaps. Mary stares at him with her glasses, but even her analysis ability’s method around Blue’s mental blocks are not giving her any information about what Blue is planning to do. It’s confusing her, but she decides to trust him and closes her eyes.
Blue silently pulls out a different pair of frames from his pocket and deftly switches them out from behind Mary, carefully keeping to her side. The lenses are red. “Ok, no idea what’s going to actually happen. But figure you should try seeing the world through some rose tinted glasses for a bit.”
“Are you just making some kind of jo-“ Mary begins, but is abruptly cut off as her eyes reach halfway open and energy beams flash out of her lenses, blasting Genevieve off the edge of the crater. “Take them off! Take them off!” she shouts, squeezing her eyes back shut. Blue promptly swaps them out, but neatly places the red pair of lenses in Mary’s shirt pocket.
I see Ray looking over in bemused concern from where he was doing a kata with Grant Li, though he is not sporting the guns Grant is so rarely without. Grant continues his kata, ignoring our little drama.
“You guys ok over there?” Ray shouts. Blue gives him a thumbs up, totally unconcerned about Genevieve.
She comes flying back up over the edge of the crater spouting curses. “What the hell was that?” she shouts, looking around in fury. I’m not sure if she’s confused from the blast or if she wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on to put together that it came from Mary. Either way, she’s looking around for the culprit, staring at each of us in turn. Emilio points to Mary. “Seriously?!” she asks.
“Yep,” Blue says happily. “That was at least a class three energy blast. Amazing!”
“You could have killed me!” Genevieve shouted, outer clothing in rags. I blush slightly, given even the bikini she had underneath is a little worse for wear.
“Not likely,” Allie pops her head up from behind Genevieve, floating over the crater on one of her bubbles. “You’re top of the line damage resistance material. If Mary could kill someone of your caliber by accident the Professors would have told her the instant she arrived. And the staff are playing hide and seek out here. I saw the blast from all the way across the water park, so I’m sure MediKate could have come resurrected you in time even if you had died. Staff has darn fast response times to this sort of thing if there’s an issue.”
Blue rolls his eyes at Allie, his mind going completely blank. “I’d say that was a successful test. I would bet a great deal Mary has a blind spot to her own ability so that she can’t see its full potential. But if she experiments with lenses, I doubt this is the only new trick up her sleeve.”
It was a rather abrupt way to demonstrate his findings, but I’m impressed that Blue figured out the secret to Mary’s abilities. I grow concerned about Mary though as I look at her, eyes still shut tightly.
“Mary, it’s ok,” I tell her. “Your normal glasses are back on. No one’s hurt. You can open your eyes now.”
But Mary doesn’t open her eyes, and I can feel the emotions roiling off her in waves. She’s no longer thinking about us at all, as all she sees is red, the pieces of her past finally falling all the way into place.
Her memory hits me like a sledgehammer, and it takes all I have not to scream.