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World Building

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
In a remote part of Colorado, the Generis have established a school, Haven. Haven exists on a piece of private property, hidden by trees and optical illusions that keep wandering backpackers away. Some of the protections are very subtle, just a feeling of "not that way," others are less subtle, like the wall surrounding the school grounds for people who just don't know how to mind their own business.

The Generis are unique, special. Each one has a power, separating her from the average human she walks among. They are a rare thing, but not rare that they haven't caught the attention of the US government. Living as a Generis comes at price. Undetected is safest.
 
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Brooklyn's Backstory

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
Brooklyn lay on her stomach under her bed. Her heart pounded as she pressed herself as far as could into the wall. She opened her mouth so no one could hear her breathe. A lavender comforter cascaded almost the floor, obscuring most of her vision. Yellow light from her window illuminated what she could see of the door.

She’d heard her mom’s boyfriend coming down the hall. The footsteps were muffled by carpet, but distinct. She wished it was her mom, but her mom didn’t make that much noise. It’d been too late to leave her room.

The footsteps stopped outside her door. She stopped breathing. She heard her own heartbeat, felt it beating faster and faster as the seconds ticked by.

The door opened. His bare feet crossed to her bed.

I shouldn’t have stayed in here. But where else could she sleep?

He cursed. He stepped back from the bed and took a small circle around her room, then left, leaving her door open. The hallway was a black mouth, waiting to devour her.

Heart still pounding, she counted off the seconds. She breathed through her mouth. She stayed still. Her heart started to slow, but she didn’t move. She waited longer than she thought it would take him to walk back to his room, longer than it would take him to fall asleep.

She waited.

Her neck hurt when she finally moved. She crawled out from under her bed and stood up.

He appeared in the doorway. She screamed. He moved toward her so quickly. He yanked her by the wrist back to her bed. She screamed over and over. He covered her mouth with his hand, but she bit him. Her heart pounded wildly.

He threw her with such force against the bed she saw stars. The room started to shake lightly.

“GET AWAY FROM HER!” Brooklyn’s mom appeared in the doorway. She brandished the bronze floor lamp from her bedroom.

Mom! Relief flood her.

He laughed. “You don’t have the nerve.”

Her mom’s boyfriend pulled at her pants. Panic set in. Nothing could save her.

Brooklyn’s mom screamed and lunged into the room. The boyfriend punched her, sending her staggering back.

The room began shaking more violently. Ballerina figurines fell off Brooklyn’s dresser and crashed to the floor. The boyfriend hesitated, looking around.

Books appeared to jump off the shelves toward them. Brooklyn ducked and ran toward her mom as books pelted the boyfriend from all sides. Blood dripped to the floor after one collided with his nose. Everything in the room seemed to be alive, spinning, breathing, dangerous.

The boyfriend’s cursing quieted when one hit him firmly in the back of the head. He dropped to the floor.

Brooklyn clutched her mom with wide eyes as everything but the furniture careened around the room.

“Run Brooklyn!” Her mom shoved her toward the door as the bronze lamp moved toward them. It made a sickening crack as it connected with her mom’s head.

Brooklyn screamed and flung herself at her mom’s body. Blood pooled around her head. Everything in the room continued to move. Her mom’s body was heavy. She pressed her head to her mom’s chest.

Her body was warm, but held no comforting heartbeat. Her chest didn’t move up and down. She grabbed her mom’s head, petted her hair. Blood covered Brooklyn’s fingers. She screamed again and clung to her mom’s body, tears running down her face. She stayed that way for a long time, chest heaving, sobs growing louder and louder.

At some point, everything in the room crashed to the floor. At some point, someone knocked on the door.

Brooklyn pulled herself up and answered it. Two policemen were at the door.

“We got a call about a domestic¬¬¬–” one of the policemen started to say. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Brooklyn said. She started crying again. “I d-don’t know.”

One of the policemen pointed to her hand. “Where did all that blood come from?” he asked.

She led them back to her room. She stopped at the doorway, kept her eyes on the floor. A shattered ballerina looked at her from the floor. She looked away.

If I hadn’t screamed, maybe that’d be me instead of her.

The police investigated, but unable to fully piece together what had happened. Brooklyn was too small to have caused the damage to either adult. She said no one else was there. There were whispers of something else, but Brooklyn tried not to listen. She ended up at a group home with three other kids.



~Three years later~
“Give it back.” Brooklyn stood between two boys from her group home. They stood in a wide alley lined with brick buildings a few blocks from their “home.”

“Make me!” the taller one said.

“But it’s miiiine!” yelled the younger one.

Brooklyn sighed. It was weird having other kids to worry about outside of school. They didn’t have the history that siblings would, but she had all of the responsibly of a sibling to make sure these idiots ended up home safely.

“If you don’t give it back to him, I’ll tell Stacy you were the one that peed in her bed last week,” Brooklyn said.

“Like she’d believe that!”

“Unlike you, I don’t make it a habit of lying to her all the time. She still believes what I say.”

“Fine, then–”

Three older boys near the end of the alley caught Brooklyn’s attention.

She dropped her voice, “Listen, let’s just go home and I’ll steal ice cream out of the garage freezer for both of you. Let’s just go.”

“No.” The older boy smiled.

“Either way.” She pushed them gently. The younger on moved, but the older one stood firmly.

“Come on, Danny! Let’s GO!” she whispered. “It’s not safe here.”

“You’re just trying to get back home because you know Stacy’ll be on your side.”

“That’s because I listen!” Brooklyn pushed him harder.

“Stop it!” Danny yelled, yanking his arm from her grasp.

“Drop your stuff,” said a voice from behind them.

Brooklyn bit her lip and turned around, her heart rate rising. Why couldn’t they just move?! She took a step forward, putting herself between the kids and the three hooligans.

“No way!” said Danny. “Make me!”

The shortest hooligan waved brown hair out of his face and smirked. “Have it your way.” He made a show of moving aside his jacket and pulling a six-inch knife from a sheath wrapped around his waist. The others followed suit.

Brooklyn swallowed back the ball rising up from her chest and threatening to strangle her. She had to keep it together for her “brothers.”

The other two were looking at her, their eyes wide. She set down her backpack.

“Your bracelet too,” said the blond hooligan.

Brooklyn fingered the charm bracelet her mother had gotten her for her eighth birthday.

“You can’t have that,” said the youngest orphan.

The short leader stepped, forward, waving his knife. Danny jumped forward and punched him in the stomach.

“You can’t hurt him!” Danny yelled.

“Danny!” Brooklyn screamed as the knife grazed the boy’s arm. A ribbon of blood instantly formed along the cut. The hooligan didn’t stop.

The ground gently rumbled below her feet. A trash bin behind her shook violently.

Brooklyn held her breath. It was happening again. The leader hooligan tripped over something and lost his balance. The knife flew into the air. It started spinning. It cut another line of blood on Danny’s arm before landing in the leader’s chest.

The guys stood there for a long moment, staring at the knife. His mouth was open, like he didn’t understand what was happening. Blood soaked his shirt. Brooklyn look up to see his friends running.

She grabbed Danny and the little’s hand and ran out of the alley, leaving her backpack behind.

When she got home, she took her “sister’s” purple backpack, dumped everything on the floor and surveyed her shared bedroom. She couldn’t carry much, so she’d have to make it count. She filled the backpack with clothing, snacks, water and A Little Princess, her favorite book.

She desperately wanted the happy ending the book had, but she didn’t even know who her father was so that was out of the question. “The state” certainly hadn’t been able to find him or anyone else related to her in their quest to find her a home.

She put aside the thought of family. She put aside the love she’d developed for the kids here. The best thing she could do for them was leave. Whatever had happened in her home and back in that alley, it seemed to be following her.

Danny caught her in the hallway.

“Where you going with Kelly’s backpack?” he asked.

“To the library…Got a test to study for,” she quickly.

“But it’s Friday. Can’t we play instead?” he asked.

She looked into his honey eyes and smiled. For a moment, the only thing she wanted to do was grab a ball and go play out back with him, pretend everything was okay.

“Maybe later.”

“Okay.” He drooped and walked slowly away. He turned back, “Promise?”

His look was so expectant, she wanted to be able to keep a promise like that.

“Promise,” she said breathily.

He walked away.

Brooklyn walked out the door. And never came back.



~Seven years later~
“You look like a girl who needs a drink.” He was tall, toned and hot.

“You look like a guy not old enough to buy one,” she said, laughing.

The sun hung low over the river. She sat on a big rock in navy bikini. The rock was wet from people using it to launch themselves into the river. Her purple backpack was on the far edge of the rock, away from the water.

The boy lifted a camelback. “Is that any way to talk to someone bearing gifts?”

“There’s more?” she asked.

“Sure, I brought the gift of my company,” he said.

“Mhm.” She turned back toward the water. “Don’t ruin it.”

He dropped down next to her.

“I was kidding,” he said. “But you did look lonely up here by yourself.”

“So you came to rescue me, huh?”

“My civic duty.” He took a drink from the camelback.

“What’s in there anyway?” she asked.

“Actually, I’m not sure,” he said, inspecting the clear plastic tube filled with a light red beverage.

She laughed. “And yet you’re drinking it anyway.”

“It was given to me by a very trustworthy stranger.” He smiled, his eyes soft. “My buddy made it for our trip down the river today.”

“How’d that go?”

“We haven’t gone yet. For some reason, it takes an act of god to get 14 people out the door at a reasonable hour. My name is Zachary, by the way.”

“Brooklyn.”

“What are you doing here, Brooklyn?” he asked.

“Same as you. Out with friends, but mine got here around 10.”

She watched the way the water moved, always flowing, going forward. It was like life. You don’t get to go backward and you don’t get to hold onto more than you can carry.

“Where are they?” he asked, glancing around.

Most of the people nearby were on the rocky beach stretching out to their right. She gestured vaguely in their direction.

“Hooking up, sleeping, sunbathing.”

“Zach?” A short, blond girl appeared at the edge of the rock. Her expression was cautious. “You coming?”

“Is everyone actually here?” He said, looking back over his shoulder at her.

“Yes.” The girl didn’t even glance in Brooklyn’s direction. Brooklyn felt sorry for her. It was just as obvious this girl liked him as it was he had no idea.

“So, mysterious, lonely Brooklyn, you wanna come with us?”

“I’m mysterious now too?” She giggled.

“Well I’ll see you over there,” the girl said loudly. She hesitated, then walked away.

“Who’s that?” Brooklyn asked, nodding at the girl’s retreating figure.

“My buddy’s friend Heather. They hang out a lot.”

“She likes you.”

“She does not.” His face flushed.

“She does.”

“We should get going.”

“What makes you think I’m going?” Brooklyn raised her eyebrows, teasingly.

“Don’t ruin it.”

Brooklyn laughed and grabbed her backpack. “Come on. They’re waiting on you now.”



~ Six Months Later~

Brooklyn stood in the doorway of their apartment, watching Zachary sleep. His breaths were soft and even. He looked amazing, even in the dim light. She adjusted the strap of her backpack, willing herself to let go, to say goodbye. Three months was a long time to stay anywhere.

SunBun raced into the room and jumped onto Zach’s chest. He groaned and his hand felt around her side of the bed. He opened his eyes a little and found her standing there watching him.

“Are you okay, Babe?” Concern replaced his lazy, sleepy smile.

She closed her eyes. Walk away. It’s the right thing to do. Do for him.

“Come ‘ere,” he said, reaching toward her.

Her resolve broke. She walked toward him slowly, trying as discretely as possible to drop her backpack by the door, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she said, crawling on top of him and rest her head on his chest. He wrapped both arms around her and she breathed in his scent. It was already her favorite. It was then that she realized she was in trouble.

The next day, when he went to work, she picked up her backpack again and forced herself to walk out of the house. It was dusk and it would be hours before he knew she was gone.

She pet SunBun goodbye. She locked the door behind her. She held the key close to her heart before heading for the stairs.

She jumped when she reached the landing. Zach was at the bottom of the stairs, leaning against a column with his arms crossed. His lips formed a thin line, wrinkles creased his forehead.

“I’m not stupid, Brooklyn.”

She raced down the last few stairs and threw her arms around him. Why was he making this so hard on her? His body was rigid. He refused to return her hug.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked. “I thought things were going really well.”

She closed her eyes, hoping words would come to her, something, anything that would shatter this moment into a thousand pieces. She couldn’t tell him the truth. She covered her face with her hands.

Zach pulled her hands away from her face and they locked eyes.

“You’re running from something, aren’t you?” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Yes.” She couldn’t tell him she was running from herself, but it was already more honest than ever been with anyone else.

“You’re safe here,” he said, wrapping his arms around her. “I’ll protect you.”

Who will protect you?

“I c-can’t…Zach…”

She’d ended up telling him a version of the truth. How it’d be dangerous for him for her to stay. How the thing that was after her never left her alone for longer than six months at a time. How she didn’t want him to get hurt.

Then he smiled.

“What I’m hearing is we’ve got three more months,” he said.

Tears streamed down her face. He held her.

“Zach, I c–”

“Don’t ruin it.”



~ Two Days Later ~

The smile wouldn’t leave her face. No one had ever made as big of a deal out of her birthday as Zach. Most of the time, she pretended she didn’t have one. It reminded her too much of her mom, but Zach had been too persistant.

They’d spent the day shopping. Not her usual kind of shopping with the five finger discount, no Zach had paid for everything. It didn’t matter what she picked up, he paid. At first, she’d tried to force his bluff with a $200 bottle of perfume, but when he hadn’t backed down, she started choosing more reasonably priced things. Which of course he noticed and called her out on.

They splashed through the fountain. He’d insisted she get her hair done. She’d given him a look. What guy on the planet thought of those kinds of things? But apparently, his sister had thought Brooklyn would love it. Tracy had been right. Brooklyn did love the way her curly, frizzy mess had been tamed into perfect, silky spirals.

They were both laughing as Zach opened the front door and pulled her into the apartment. He lifted her into the air, swung her around and set her down.

At that moment, the lights flipped on and a crowd of his family and their friends screamed, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROOKLYN!”

Adrenaline coursed through her. The room started to vibrate.

No!

She turned and ran as far as she could out the door and down the stairs. It would not be Zach, not his family, not their friends.

Not Zach. Not Zach. Not Zach.

Panic gripped her. Her heart pounded. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Brooklyn!” Zach called from behind her. His long lengths carried him to her and he grabbed her arm. “Where are you going?”

The smile dropped from his face when he saw her tears.

“What’s wrong, Babe?” He pulled her into his arms.

Her eyes scanned the parking lot, but nothing moved here. She breathed out a shaky breath. She dropped her head into his chest.

“Our six months are up,” she whispered. Nothing he could say now would change her mind. The only way to keep him safe was to leave.

“What?” He lifted her chin so she’d look at him. “What’s going on? I thought you’d love this.” He looked from their apartment back to her.

“I do,” she whispered.

“Then why?”

She forced a smile to her lips.

“I’m just not used to people making this big a deal out of my birthday,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t call her out. “It reminds me of my mom.”

She hoped the dose of gilt or pity he might feel for her would overpower whatever questions were forming behind his honey eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Babe…” he whispered back. “We don’t have to go back up there, if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s okay. Everyone went through all the trouble.” She shrugged, but she could tell by the intensity of his gaze and the creased on his forehead that he wasn’t convinced.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him back toward the party.

“Don’t ruin it,” she said, forcing a smile to her lips. She would do what she needed to do to protect him. Anything she had to, to protect him.



~Six months later~

“Tell you what, drinks are on me if I lose, you if I win.” One hand rested on her hip, the other on a pool cue. Brooklyn’s head was already a little fuzzy. They were lucky this place didn't check IDs.

Zachary put a hand on her other hip, pulling her toward him. Their mingled between them, smelling of cheap beer. “I can think of a better way to spend our time,” he whispered in her ear.

“You’re just trying to get out of the deal.” She pulled away, laughing. “Loser buys the winner as many drinks as she can handle.”

“Have it your way.” Zachary laughed. It was beautiful, so carefree she could almost forget how close everything was to changing.

Brooklyn racked the balls, lined up her cue and took her shot. A perfect break.

“I’m solid,” she said, swaying a bit.

“You sure are.” They both laughed.

A couple rounds later, Zachary hadn’t won a single one.

“Why do you torture yourself like this?” she asked. “You should just give up and buy me the bar.”

“If I did that, you wouldn’t need to come running to me every few minutes for a drink.” He walked over to her, his feet sticking to the faux hardwood. He put his arms around and breathed in her scent. “Have I won enough points to keep you?”

The smile slid from her lips and she turned toward the pool table.

“Stay with me? You might decide you like it here. You said the store here are better than the last few places you’ve been. We’ve got the river where we met and the best worst pool player you’ll ever meet.” He ran a hand over her hair, down her back.

She smiled for a moment, remembering how they’d met. She’d give anything to go back to that moment or to make this moment only a few weeks or a few days from that moment. But it wasn’t.

“You know I can’t do that,” she said quietly.

Six months was the longest period anyone had ever been safe around her, but she usually didn’t stay this long. Couldn't risk it. Someone might get hurt. Worse, she might get attached.

“Can’t or wont?” He let go of her. “You know one of these days when you’re ready to settle down, all the good places and people will be gone. Stay here. It’s nice here. There’s that fountain in the park. We can get a cherry tree and some flowers, spruce up the place. We can have a big party to celebrate you deciding to keep me. We’ll make a whole thing of it. I’m thinking we invite all our friends, my family and a priest. And we just stay there forever until there isn’t enough room for all the kids, which let’s face it is gonna be quick. We live in a one bedroom.”

The word “we” cut into her skin like ice. She looked into his beautiful grey eyes. For that moment, all she wanted was that party, those kids, but there was that gnawing sense under all of it that he was describing a fairytale, something that could never be. Like her finding her Little Princess ending.

“I’m not saying we do that all at once, but I think my cat needs some new things to pee on, so we should start with the plants.”

“Zach,” she said almost too softly for him to hear. “Don’t ruin it.” She downed both of their shots before looking back at him. “We both knew this was temporary when we started it. Why can’t it just be that fun thing we did for a while? I’m leaving in the morning. Is this really how you want to spend our last night together?”

He swallowed hard and looked at the floor before looking back at her. “Of course not.”

“Do you want to remember me forever as the girl you couldn’t outdrink? You’re already two shots behind.”

He forced a smile. “That’s because you drank mine. And anyway, that's not what I meant. Let’s get out of here.”

She moved her eyebrows up and down in a flirty way. “Sounds good.”

He grabbed her hand and took her to the very rock where he first saw her. She kept smiling, pretending she was fine, swallowing back tears, one at a time. He took her to the one spot in the world she couldn’t pretend leaving was okay. And somehow, that was perfect.

Five hours later, Brooklyn stood in the kitchen she’d grown to think of as hers. She yawned.

I have to go. Even as she told herself this, she had a hard time believing it. It’d been so long since anything bad had happened. Maybe all that stuff was gone, like bad luck she’d finally run out.

Thinking of Zachary asleep upstairs, knowing she’d never find anyone else like him was the reason she had to leave and the reason she didn’t want to the most.

She brushed aside memories of walks through the park fountain, hikes through the mountains, shoplifting at her favorite stores. Her throat hurt from swallowing back the tears, but each memory threatened to crush her and it was easier not to think of them at all.

She had already packed. Her worn, purple backpack was already on her back. She walked into the living room and pet their cat, Zachary’s cat.

“Goodbye, SunBun,” she said softly.

“The cat gets a goodbye but I don’t?” Zachary stood in the doorway, his arms folded across his chest. He pressed his lips tightly together.

“I thought it would be easier–”

“For you,”

“If our last moment together was happy,” she finished.

She moved toward him, wrapping her arms around him. He held her tightly for a long moment. He pressed a phone into her pocket.

“Wherever you go, you can always reach me. My number’s in there and I put a charger in your backpack last night,” he said softly.

“I can’t take this.” She handed it back to him. She didn’t trust herself not to call him. All the would keep her going was knowing she was protecting him. She couldn’t handle a life line, couldn’t promise herself he’d be safe that way. She’d tried so hard to make him like all the others, but he wasn’t.

“I know.” He held her again for long time. In her ear, he whispered,

So I'll let you go
I'll set you free
And when you see what you need to see
When you find you come back to me

Take your time I wont go anywhere
Picture you with the wind in your hair
I'll keep your things right where you left them
I'll be here for you

Oh and I'll let you go
I'll set you free
And when you see what you need to see
When you find you come back to me
Come back to me...


He squeezed her tightly. When he finally let go, they both had tears in their eyes. She’d tried to swallow all of hers, but there were too many.

He opened the door for her and stepped outside. Just before she turned away, he pulled her into a passionate kiss.

“I love you,” he whispered, “I will always be here for you. If you need me. Or if you ever cease your nomadic wanderings and need a place to rest. Promise me you’ll come back one day.”

“Promise.” The word broke on its way out and she turned away from him. Like the promise to Danny, it wasn’t one she intended on keeping, but she couldn’t say no to him.

She kept walking, letting the tears fall down her face and no caring who noticed. She usually tried to forget people the second they were gone from sight, but Zachary didn't disappear so easily.
 
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Evy

*
It took her forever to make a move. She just stood there, watching as the people stood by the ATM, withdrawing money. Sweet, sweet cash. It was as if one half of her didn’t want to do it, and the other that did want to was too afraid of getting caught. But since she had to get food somehow, she didn’t really have a choice. Leah moved forward, walking as if she was just going to withdraw some money, too. The difference was that she wasn’t carrying a bag or anything wallet-like. Nobody seemed to care anyway. She stroked a black strand of hair from her face. She wasn’t looking like herself. Her red curls were gone and so was her green eyes. Instead, she was taller and more muscular, with black, shorter hair. As she stood behind the woman in the queue, she flexed her fingers, ready to try and grab her wallet from her purse. As she reached out, Leah could hear her own heartbeat in her ears. She had done it once before, a couple of days ago, but the owner of the wallet had cancelled the card, making it useless.

The obtaining of the wallet was quick, the woman had forgotten to close her bag fully. As Leah quickly walked away with her newfound item, she thought about how many times her mum had told her to keep her bag shut and never let it out of her sight. Anything to keep people from stealing stuff, just like she was doing right now. She stopped behind two buildings, her breathing was quick and it was almost as if she could feel her heart through her chest. She opened the wallet, quickly pocketed the small amount of cash that was in there and looked at the card. Brenda Wilson.
“Thanks for the donation, Brenda” Leah muttered to herself as she pocketed the card and moved out on the main road. Her hands were slightly shaking, but she shoved them into the pockets of the hoodie she was wearing, a navy blue one with NASA written over the chest. One of the few possessions she had taken when she had run away from her home.

Since Brenda Wilson would most likely have already discovered what had happened, Leah decided to buy something to eat as quickly as possible. Her stomach agreed by grumbling slightly. She looked around, watching the people walk by as if she was just any normal girl looking for somewhere to eat. Nobody looked at her twice, but it felt as if they were anyway. Ever since the police had come to her house, Leah had felt as if she was being watched, as if everyone in the world were looking to find her. She had to tell herself that they weren’t, most people didn’t know who she was anyway, and especially not now when she wasn’t even looking like herself.

A bell made a soft chime as Leah walked into the nearest coffee shop she could find. It was quite empty, much to her liking. At the counter, a teenager that looked like he hated his job was standing, barely noticing that he had a new customer. Leah ordered a cup of tea and two cheese sandwiches, which was cheap enough to not require a PIN code when paying with the card. Brenda Wilson hadn’t cancelled her card just yet, and Leah was happy when she sat down with her tea and sandwiches.

As she grabbed her cup, her hand was trembling. She winced slightly, as a strange feeling rushed through her body. It wasn’t pain, but it wasn’t comfortable either. She had discovered that this happened when she had obtained another form for too long. This meant that she was about to be evicted from this form not too long from now. At least she would have time to finish her food. Leah swallowed and exhaled slowly, before digging into her sandwiches. At least her stomach was content for a while. She exhaled slowly again, and waved with her hand in front of her face. Had they turned up the heat in here? She moved in her chair, wiggling the hoodie off of her body, revealing a black t-shirt. She placed the hoodie on the radiator under the window she was sitting by, before she returned to her cup of tea. She had to hold the cup with both hands to make sure she wouldn’t spill the content.

Once she had eaten, the strange feeling moved through her body again. It felt as if something cold moved from her head, and then spreading all the way through her body down to her toes. She definitely had to get out of here now, unless she wanted the whole café to see her change form. Leah rose from the chair as calmly as possible, though she was swaying slightly as she moved from the table. She threw a glance around the café before exiting. There, she picked up the pace. She had to go somewhere remote to change. Both of her hands were clasped into fists as she crossed the street, and turned right into an empty alley. Good thing this was a good part of town, otherwise this could have been a completely different alley.

It was as if her body knew that they were somewhat concealed. Leah’s knees gave up, and she fell to the ground. The impact made her wince, and the cold sensation washed over her again. She felt dizzy, and tired as if she had been running a marathon. She looked at her hand as it changed in front of her. It became smaller, and so did the rest of her as the black hair turned into long, red locks and her body became shorter. She was still wearing jeans and a black t-shirt, but she looked completely different. She was no longer portraying some stranger she had seen a while ago, she had turned back to herself.


---


The thing about being able to hear thoughts, is that most people are thinking way too much. This was something Adam had quickly discovered. People thought about everything. From what they were going to wear to prom, to what the world would look like in 300 years. Honestly, it was exhausting. There wasn’t really a way to turn it off, either. This was one of the reasons Adam loved the sea so much. In the water, he wouldn’t hear a thing. Sea creatures didn’t think the way humans did, so it wouldn’t bother him as much. Water and music, the two things that would keep him sane.

On this particular day, Adam was quite tired of people in general. Not that he wasn’t a people person, he loved being social, but sometimes it was just a bit overwhelming, considering that he took in the world both verbally and mentally. No, he needed a break from people thinking about what other people thought about them. Adam would gladly give them the answer, because he knew exactly what people thought of each other. He knew who had a crush on someone else, and he knew who was jealous of who. It was quite the knowledge treasure, but it was exhausting at times.

“Hey, Adam! You’re up for some basketball later?”. Adam turned to see who had spoken, and saw his friend Michael. Michael never wore a shirt, and was only dressed in a pair of black trousers. On his back were two enormous angel wings, the reason he couldn’t wear a shirt. None would fit him.
“Of course, I just need to do some studying first” Adam said with a smile, holding up the book he was carrying.
“Fish stuff again?” Michael said with a grin.
“You know it” Adam replied as he lowered the book, and Michael slapped him on the back before walking by.
Man I wish I had the discipline to study like that, Adam heard Michael’s voice in his mind. He grinned. At least Michael had the decency not to think rude things about Adam around him.

There was a spot nearby the tiny lake that Adam had found not too long ago. It was perfect for some quiet time, because it was right in between a couple of trees, right at the edge of the huge yard that surrounded the buildings that created their Haven. Nobody seemed to walk there, because it was far away enough for him not to hear people as clearly. They were still in his head, but not as strong as when he was standing in the cafeteria at lunch. Adam grabbed the headphones from around his neck and pulled them over his head. The headphones closed in around his ears, and he turned on the noise-cancelling function. He picked up his phone, which made a sound telling him it had connected to his headphones, and he turned on Spotify. He found a good song and put it on, blasting it on high volume. The voices were gone, and the only thing Adam could hear was the voice of the singer and the lyrics. He took a deep breath and leaned back, using the tree trunk as support. He opened his book where he had finished it last and started reading. Shark biology was definitely more interesting than learning about who was in love with who.
 

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
It was so unfair! Jase was legally an adult. He hadn't broken any laws. (They wouldn't have thought to outlaw this, it was so outside the realm of ordinary most people lived in.) Yet here he sat on the hard plastic chair in this prison. The choice had been between this joke of a school and solitary in an actual prison, so it really hadn't been that much of a choice. Who wants to spend that much time alone?

He'd already been warned. Twice. That the offer of solitary was still on the table. He probably didn't have many chances left. Which was why he was sitting here smiling and pretending to take notes while some old bat went on about how part of controlling your powers can down to controlling your emotions or some shit.

He didn't need help controlling his power. He was good at it. Hence the prison offer. He wouldn't have wound up on the Generis' stupid internal police radar if he wasn't. Though how that had even happened was a mystery. It wasn't like he bragged about his power. It was better if people thought they had a choice.

Anyway, none of that mattered. What mattered was that the Generis were currently trying to mold him into a "model citizen." He'd considered pretending to be reformed so they'd let him go, but that sounded like a lot of work and he'd probably just end up back here anyway, or worse, in solitary. (You can't make someone do your bidding if no one is there.)

He sighed. Loudly. So loudly, two people glanced back at him. He flashed them a smile and looked back down at his "notes," which were really more of a schematic of the admin building.

When class was over, he shoved his notebook and pen in his bag, flipped it over one of his shoulders and made a beeline for the door. Once outside the room, though, he was at a loss. Is there a party tonight? Was there something, anything to look forward to in this bleak existence?

He didn't hate his life. In fact, prior to about three months ago, he'd loved it. It's hard not to love your life when you have more women, power and money than you know what to do with. But the Generis had so kindly frozen all of his assets. Maybe they considered it an incentive or something, for improving himself. They hadn't really gotten into what would happen when he "graduated." Maybe they didn't think he could do it. He wasn't sure he could do it. Or more accurately, it wasn't something he wanted.

The impasse was brutal.


When he didn't see Adam in the dining hall, Jase made is way outside. He danced through the halls and out in the bright sunshine. Afternoon rays tinted everything in a beautiful golden color as he walked toward a group of trees. His bag swayed behind him as he meandered through the trees. Adam could be literally anywhere right now. Jase was just about to give up and get something to eat, when he spotted Adam leaning against a tree, his headphones blasting music so loud even Jase could hear it. He went everywhere with those things.

He rested a hand on Adam's shoulder and Adam jumped. Jase laughed as Adam pulled off his headphones.

"Don't turn the music up so loud if you don't want people sneaking up on you." Jase was still laughing. Seriously, there was a certain irony to being able to sneak up on the one guy who can hear everything you're thinking before even you can. That was something that had bothered Jase at first. He didn't like being so transparent. No one needed to know what happened behind his bright smile.

"Why are you still here?" Jase asked. "How can you stand it?" He almost didn’t say the second part out loud, but it’s Adam would hear it regardless. Might as well say it.


Adam had decent control of his powers. He'd even started attending a university at one point, but Jase couldn't remember if he'd finished the degree or not. He couldn't imagine anyone staying here intentionally.
 
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free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
The next afternoon, she’d found the phone from Zach in the bottom of the backpack. She ran her hands over it, picturing him holding it as he snuck it into her backpack. She held it over a trash can, willing herself to let go. Leaving had been too hard this time. She never should have stayed this long... She sighed and shoved the phone back in bag.

It was hard to be mad at herself for holding onto Zach. He was the best person she’d ever met. She’d imagined staying so many times, lying in his arms in the middle of the night. But the memories of why she couldn’t stay never left her alone for long. She’d already put him in enough danger by staying as long as she had.

It was selfish. Staying had been so stupid selfish. She wanted to be like her mom, protecting the innocent, even when the odds were stacked against her. But she hadn’t been, not with Zach.

Never again.

She tried to find a new guy in a new city when got off the greyhound bus. She headed for downtown and hung around an area that seemed popular. She always seemed to end up in the right place. There was a cute guy playing a guitar under a young tree.

She walked up to him with her usual bounce and confidence.

“Hey you,” she purred.

He smiled back at her, but that’s as far as she got. She didn’t care what his favorite band was or what he was studying in college. And for the first time, she could pretend she did.

“See you around,” she’d said about ten minutes in.

“Wait. Can I have your number?”

She thought about telling him no, but an idea crept into her head, a way to set Zach free. She gave him Zach’s number.

The second she was out of sight, she dashed into the public restroom. Tears streamed down her face as she imagined the look on Zach’s face when that guy called. She could feel the pain of him thinking about how quickly she was moving on, forgetting him. Maybe he’d wonder how little he meant to her. Then he wouldn’t wait for her. He’d be free.

She wasn’t sure which was worse: the idea of him waiting for her forever or the idea that he might actually move on.

She blew her nose in toilet paper and splashed water on her face. Something in the mirror caught her eye. She walked into a stall, on the floor was a wallet.

She thumbed through the credit cards. There were a lot of them. The ID belonged to an old guy. Not the weirdest thing she’d found in the lady’s room. Jackpot. There was a lot of cash. Why so many older men felt the need to be a walking ATM, she never understood, but she certainly wasn’t complaining. Now she could keep moving for a while and not have to pretend for anyone.

She dropped the wallet in the trash can and stuffed the cash into a hidden pocket in her backpack. Cards were easy to trace and cameras were everywhere these days.

Now what?

There had once been a list of cities she’d wanted to visit. She’d already been to a number of them. She didn’t really care when she ended up, so she asked the next person she passed where she was from.

~

The past two weeks was a blur of Greyhound busses, strange cities and food she couldn't taste. Brooklyn didn't feel like herself anymore. She felt like a ghost, wandering from place to place, always moving, never home.

The city made her feel tiny. The buildings were so tall and there were so many people, she was just a face in a crowd, just one tiny grain of sand on the beach. The city pulsed with its own heartbeat. Everywhere you looked, something was happening.

She walked around for a little while, spent the night in weird little motel and got up the next day with the same question that had haunted her before she got here.

Now what?

She found herself drawn in by a cafe. The coffee smelled good. It had a welcoming vibe. The place was brightly lit, with large windows facing the street. A girl sat at a table eating and there was a guy in line, but otherwise, the place was deserted. Which was fine. For once in her life she just wasn't in the mood.

After placing her order, she leaned against the wall. She unzipped her backpack and dug the phone out of the bottom. She stared at it for a long time before turning it on. When it powered up, she typed in Zach’s atm pin code, but the phone didn’t open. She tried a couple other numbers like his birthday and hers before she tried the day they met. The phone unlocked.

Her heart raced when she saw the three voicemails he’d left for her. She quickly turned the phone off and shoved it back in her backpack before she could change her mind.

Why do you have to be so stubborn?

She leaned back against the wall. The sound of a chair scraping the floor caught her attention. A young man swayed slightly, using the table to steady himself. His face was pale. Brooklyn wondered if he was okay. The second the young man was outside, he took off, balling up his fists as he moved. Brooklyn glanced back at the table she'd been sitting at and noticed a sweater draped over the radiator right by the guy's chair.

Brooklyn rushed over, grabbed it and took off in the direction she'd seen the young man go. She made it outside just in time to see him turn into a narrow alley. She hesitated just on the other side of the corner. For a normal young woman, it probably wasn't safe to follow some strange guy into an alley, but she knew ultimately, it would only be dangerous for him. And that only seemed to be true if he tried to hurt her.

Just as the guy came into view as Brooklyn rounded the corner, she watched him go fuzzy and shrink down into a young woman with bright red hair. Brooklyn's mouth dropped open. She'd never seen anything like it. In fact, until that moment, she thought she was the only one who's life wasn't perfectly normal.

She moved closer.

"Does that happen a lot?" she whispered.

The woman collapsed, and Brooklyn closed the distance between them and put her hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Are you okay?" she asked.
 

Evy

*
Leah used her hands to keep herself slightly above the ground. Her limbs were aching a bit, they always did that after a change as if she needed a reminder of what she had done. Her red curls were slightly tangled and had fallen in front of her face, and as she stroked them back, she realised she wasn’t alone in the alley. A voice asked if that happened a lot. Leah whipped her head to the side, and saw a girl standing not too far from her. The girl moved forward, asking how she was and placed a hand on her shoulder. Leah instantly moved back, further into the alley. Still on the ground, her green eyes studied the girl as she scrambled together, moving her aching limbs and got up in a standing position using a rubbish bin to her right as support. Again, she studied the girl who didn’t seem to be scared, or on her way to call the police.
“It happens when I want it to” she said, answering the girl’s question. Leah brushed off some dust from her jeans, and noticed that the girl was holding her hoodie. Right, she had taken it off in the café.
“Sort of, at least” she mumbled, because changing wasn’t something that she had a lot of control over. It was easy to keep the change once it was made, until the time was up, it was the changing part she hadn’t really control over just yet. It had been more than once she had woken up as a dog or a cat, even a deer once. She had even found herself as another person when waking up. It was strange, and Leah knew she needed to get her changing under control, which was why she tried to gain information about the Haven and get there as soon as possible.

Leah blinked, it felt as if she had been staying awake for too long and needed to sleep. But first, she had to get out of this situation where someone had seen her change. Leah glanced down on her right hand, which was still holding onto Brenda Wilson’s card. It was probably useless by now, but she would still try it again. Maybe there had been enough cash for a motel room or something, it would be nice to have a door to lock for the night. Leah returned her gaze to the girl, nodding.
“I’m okay” she said, letting go of the rubbish bin and took a few steps to the side, still keeping the distance from the girl.
“Could I have my hoodie back?” she asked, nodding towards the hoodie the girl was holding. It wasn’t especially cold outside, but Leah’s blood was rushing through her body and she was going to be cold in a while, after the adrenaline settled. And she really liked that hoodie, it reminded her of when she and her dad had visited the NASA visitor centre in Houston. He had bought it for her, and luckily she had gotten a bigger size, because it still fit her at 18.


---


Adam looked down in his book, his eyes moving across the pages, his brain soaking in the information it contained. The perks of having online classes, was that he wasn’t disturbed during exams. When he had his exams in person, he could hear every single person thinking about what to answer. Of course he had used it for cheating when he was younger, but now that he had found something he really found interesting to study he didn’t need to cheat, he got good grades on his own. The music helped him focus, and he had a pencil in his hand, writing down stuff on yellow post-it notes. He attached the post-its to the side of the pages before moving forward in the book. It was a good system he had come up with, and it made him remember much better.

As Adam turned the page and looked at a picture of a shark’s skeleton, something was placed on his shoulder. He jumped, the book almost closed itself in the movement, and he pulled his headphones off. A laugh entered his brain, as well as thoughts of the person who had come up to him. Jase. Adam rolled his eyes and grinned.
“Most people respect what the headphones represent and don't sneak up” he said jokingly and stood up from the ground. He left the book in the grass, still open. As Jase asked him why he was still here, Adam’s grin widened.
“It’s not a prison, Jase” he said, smiling.
“I’m still here because I can always get better, I want full control over my powers so we don’t upset the people that don’t have them. It would only take one angry politician to make life way too hard for us” he said with a shrug.
“Plus, even you must agree that the food here is great” he added with a small laugh. He knew that Jase wasn’t comfortable here, he had heard it so many times in his mind, but Adam tended not to use the information against people. It was really unfair if he did, because people couldn’t help what they were thinking.

Adam looked up in the air as a ball came flying. It was a football, heading towards them from the football pitch. Someone with a lot of power in their kick must have kicked the ball, because it was way too far from here to be a normal kick. Adam watched the white and black ball fly through the air, it would end up right in Jase’s face if they remained standing where they stood. Adam reached out with his right hand, holding it out towards the ball. It stopped in the air not too far from them. Adam let it stay in the position for a few seconds, before flicking his hand. The ball flew back into the air, and landed on the football pitch. He turned to Jase.
“See? I couldn’t control that before I got here. It would have smashed your face if I couldn’t” he said with a smile.
 

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
Gravel crunched under Brooklyn's feet as she automatically took a step back when the girl retreated. She hadn't meant to frighten her. Maybe nobody was supposed to see that? Brooklyn laughed to herself. Of course nobody was supposed to see that. That's why we're in this alley!

Brooklyn's mouth dropped open at the answer to her first question. She can control it? Brooklyn had originally thought maybe this girl had her own curse, but maybe not. Brooklyn's curse did what it wanted. She could pretend, sometimes for months at a time, that it wasn't there. But it always came back.

It had never occurred to her to even try to control it. That wasn't possible, was it?

Brooklyn moved some of her curly brown hair out of her eyes.

It was the "sort of" that made Brooklyn think maybe this was the same as her curse. But being able to control it sometimes? That was too much to hope for. She tried not to let herself go down that path.

"How do you do it?"

Brooklyn gripped the hoodie more firmly between her fingers when the girl asked for it. If she gave it back now, there was a good change she would never get an answer.

Glancing down, it didn't really look like much of a bargaining chip . It was old and faded. The word NASA had so many lines running through it, you almost couldn't read it anymore. Maybe this girl would just shrug and walk away and Brooklyn would be right back where she started.


~~

"I know. I'm in a class all by myself. I think I'm developing precognition, actually. I knew you needed a distraction." Jase laughed again. "Research shows studying for more than three hours a day shortens your life."

"Says the guy here by choice." Jase smirked. It wasn't worth arguing over. And he definitely didn't care about "upsetting people that don't have them" part. That was their problem.

"See, I would agree with that, except I had world class chefs making me dinner most nights, so..." Jase shrugged. That was another thing he didn't talk about with most people, his business. But it's hard to keep secrets in a friendship where one person can hear literally everything you're thinking.

Some might assume that would've repelled Jase, made him keep his distance, but there was something refreshing about not having so many secrets, even if only one person knew them.

For example, Adam was the only one, other than obviously the Generis' secret police, who knew Jase's nickname had been Vice because before coming here, he'd been able to get all of them, for a price. Whatever your desires, he made it happen. But only for the obscenely wealthy. It hadn't been worth the exposure otherwise.

Jase followed Adam's gaze to the football headed straight for him. He watched it, wondering how close Adam would let it get before stopping it. It barely got within five feet. Jase was rolled his eyes. "It's not even fun, without the element of danger."

Jase laughed at Adam's comment about how you can always get better. "Seriously. You need practice?" Jase made direct eye contact with Adam, which was not required for his power, but definitely seemed to help solidify the connection.

"Do you think I really need the practice?" he asked, the world's biggest grin on his face. He was careful with his words. “Are you offering to help me practice?” The dare was implied.
 
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Evy

*
Leah looked at the girl, who seemed hesitant on giving her hoodie back. Instead, she asked questions. Leah didn’t like questions like that, it sounded too much like something the police would do. Though she didn’t really have much of a choice but to answer, she didn’t want this girl to run around and scream about what she had seen. Leah shrugged.
“Well, I don’t really know” she said, and it was true. It had taken her hours in her room to even figure out what was going on at first. When her first change had happened, she had been in chock. She had been in her room, randomly thinking about her neighbour. Suddenly, the cold sensation had rushed through her, and she had turned into the middle-aged woman who lived in the red house next to them. It had been mind-blowing, and Leah hadn’t dared leave her room for hours, even after she had turned back. She had been sure she had been hallucinating, until it happened again a while later.
“I just think of someone, and it happens” she added, stroking a strand of hair from her face. Her green eyes studied the girl, why was she so interested? Why wasn’t she running away, trying to contact anyone that would take Leah away? If she was someone like Leah, why wouldn’t she say so? Leah decided to keep the distance between them as her mind was rushing through all the questions she had about this stranger.
“I’m going to learn exactly how, though” she said with confidence though she wasn't sure why she was telling it to this stranger, as if it would keep her from calling the cops or something. During the last week, Leah had heard rumours about a safe Haven for people like her. She had met a girl, Eliza, who had also heard this. They were going to look for it, but needed cash for the bus ride. Hopefully whatever Brenda Wilson had had in her wallet would be enough. Leah couldn’t be more excited to leave this town and look for a future where others were like her. She had to hope for this place, she didn’t have anything else to hope for at the moment.
Leah glanced down at her watch. She was supposed to meet Eliza at the ticket booth in ten minutes. She hoped the girl didn’t have any more questions for her, and that she would hand her hoodie back and just be on her way. She wanted to get out of this town as soon as she could. This girl was not going to be in her way of freedom.


—-


Adam smiled.
“I definitely need practice - if I had mastered it, I would have been able to let it come within an inch from your face before stopping it. I didn’t feel safe enough to do it. That’s why I’m still here” he said, grinning at his friend’s comment about helping him practice his own powers. Mind control wasn’t really the power you wanted to be on the receiving end of. Adam had heard what people felt when he got in their mind to speak with them non-verbally, and he could only imagine what it would feel like to be forced to do something, too.
“If I get to practice my hovering of people above the roof with you, I’m game” he said with a small laugh. He bent down and picked up his book from the ground, closing it as he straightened up. The post-it notes was sticking out from everywhere in the book, with sloppy writing on them.
“So, besides of you being pissed at the world, how did your class go?” he asked, looking at Jase.
“Besides from you obviously developing the ability to foreknowledge” he added with a grin.
 

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
Brooklyn’s shoulder’s slumped when the girl said she didn’t really know how she did it. So the part about it happening when she wanted? That was a lie? Just trying to make herself bigger in a situation where she…what? Felt threatened?

Heat crept into Brooklyn’s cheeks. She hadn’t intended to be threatening. At her height and with her personality, she didn’t think she’d ever been able to intimidate anyone even when she tried. No, whatever this curse was, that was the most intimidating thing about her.

She tried to crush the disappointment that was coursing through her veins like sludge. She hadn’t really expected it to be true, had she? And she was holding this poor girl’s gross old hoodie hostage for no reason.

Brooklyn felt herself deflate the rest of the way, like someone had let go of the end of her balloon. The girl’s explanation of how she “made it happen” broke whatever similarities Brooklyn had been trying to build between herself and this girl. They were nothing alike. Brooklyn was a monster and this girl just had some cool, if also very weird, ability.

She sighed. It had been too much to hope for, anyway.

“How?” Brooklyn only half cared about the answer to her question. Had she really been stupid enough to hope? But at least, for this next question, she had someone to talk to and she didn’t even have to pretend not to be heartbroken. Then she would give the sweater back, apologize for being a jerk and go back to answering that unanswerable question about what she was going to do with her life now.



“I may not be able to read your mind, but I don’t think you’d have let it get that close anyway,” Jase said.

“Deal.” Jase didn’t have to think about. He held out his hand to confirm the trade, even though he was pretty sure Adam wouldn’t risk his life like that. The idea of flying sounded like fun and he didn’t really care how it turned out. Either he lived and Adam could add a new skill to his repertoire, or he didn’t. More likely though, Adam would try something safe, like keeping him hovering an inch off the ground and at that point, it was like, why bother?


“Couldn’t tell you. The deal was I had to be there. They didn’t say anything about how I spent that time.” Jase smirked. “I’m all about the fine print." He paused for a moment. "Speaking of fine print. How would you like to help me with something? You know that assistant head master who was pushing for me to be sentenced to solitary after that girl complained I 'used my powers' on her friend?" It was irrelevant to Jase whether or not those assertions were true. (They were.) "Well, I have a little something planned for that asshat. You in?"
 
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Evy

*
Leah was starting to lose her patience. Why was this girl bombarding her with questions, refusing to give the hoodie back? Leah returned once again to the thought that this girl might be like her, someone with powers. The fact that the girl hadn’t run away screaming yet pointed in that direction at least.
“There is a place for people like me, a place to meet others, and to learn how to control it” she said, answering the girl’s question of how she was going to learn more about her power. Or, at least she hoped that would be the way. She still didn’t know if the place existed, but since she had heard about it from more than one person, the chance of it existing kept getting bigger and bigger.

She looked at the hoodie in the arms of the girl.
“Look, could you just hand me my bloody hoodie back? I have a bus to catch” she said, flexing her fingers of her right hand. She was feeling tired and slightly dizzy from holding her change for too long, and she would just go to sleep the second she sat down on that bus. She usually just needed a good rest to get her energy back, and even though a bus seat was very uncomfortable it looked like a soft, big bed with fluffy pillows in Leah’s mind right now.
“Sorry, I don’t really have time to answer questions about something I can’t control or have any knowledge about” she said, rubbing her temple. Her dizziness started to go over in a headache, something Eliza would be able to help her with. One of many reasons Leah just wanted to leave this alley right now.

--

Adam shook his head slightly.
“You’ll get used to this place soon, I promise” he said, gesticulating around him. The area of the Haven was huge, with plenty of stuff to do. There was a tiny forest, as well as a lake. The schoolyard had a lot of different things to entertain the students with. The school buildings were big, too, and they tried to keep everyone content. However, it was apparently hard to keep everyone happy, as Jase was proof of. Though most people had come here willingly, to learn more about themselves and what was happening with them. Unfortunately most came from circumstances that had them running from people not understanding them or that was afraid of them. Not everyone had a good family that supported them as Adam’s had done.

He grinned at Jase’s outstretched hand, but didn’t grab it, and as his friend started talking about getting back at someone, Adam slowly raised his left eyebrow.
“Depends on what you have in mind” he said, slightly cocking his head to the side.
“I assume it doesn’t include flowers and a smile?” he added with a grin. Playing pranks on people wasn’t really up Adam’s alley, especially not if it included using powers to do so. Harmless pranks were fun, pranks that ended up hurting people were not. Unfortunately, Adam wasn’t sure which one of them Jase was about to pull off.
 

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
There are others? Brooklyn's mouth dropped open. There are others. For some reason, that thought had never occurred to her. She'd never met anyone besides this girl who could do anything remotely out of the ordinary. What if... But she couldn't let herself finish that thought. It was still too much to hope for.

"One more question, please. I promise I'll give it back." The young woman was still eyeing the hoodie. Was it just because the air was chilly or did it hold sentimental value? It probably didn't matter. It didn't look like this person could afford a new hoodie, either way. "Where is it? How do you get there?"



Jase rolled his eyes. He didn't want to get used to this place. And anyway, could you really get used to a prison? Maybe. Stockholm syndrome. Did that work with places or only people?

"Definitely not." Jase forced a laugh. "I just need you to help me fill that assistant head master's office with Dixie cups of water."

If it only works with people, then I don't see that happening to me. I won't give up! Jase thought as he lead Adam to a conference room in the admin building. He'd already stashed the Dixie cups, 5-gallon water jugs and their dispenser in the assistant headmaster's office. It's not really the same thing anyway, is it? It's not like the headmaster or his side kick are the ones keeping me here. They just have more power over me than is healthy. Jase laughed and continued his interior monologue.


Jase pulled the door closed after a quick peak around to see that no one was paying attention. Perfect. He pulled the hand-drawn map out of his backpack, and studied it for a moment, focusing on the assistant headmaster's office. Their entry point would be the ventilation duct directly above his desk, which was the perfect height for climbing in and out. (He'd checked.) Then, he went back to his Stockholm syndrome monologue as he climbed onto chair leaning against the back wall.

He slipped the cover off the vent, gripped the interior with as much force as possible with skin on metal and pulled himself into the dark space. He pulled himself forward, to an intersection in the ducts and listened. It was silent behind him. He used the extra space of the intersection to turn around (which wasn't easy!) and poked his head back into the classroom.

"Are you coming or what? Because if you don't, you're still bound by the sacred covenant of friendship and cannot rat me out, no matter how much they torture you," Jase said.
 
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Evy

*
Leah did everything in her power not to roll her eyes when the girl told her to wait, she had only one more question. She arched an eyebrow when she asked where it was and how to get here. The first second, Leah hesitated. What if this girl wasn’t like her, but was retrieving information for the police or something? But then again, the odds for that weren’t very high. Leah looked at the girl.
“Colorado” she said, which was vague enough. Not that Leah had much more information herself, she just knew which state to go to.
“I’m taking the bus with a friend” she added, sticking her hand in her pocket. She pulled out the content which had once been in Brenda Wilson’s wallet. It was definitely enough for them to go to Colorado and back if they’d like.
“There is enough for you to come with us, if you need to”. Leah looked up at the girl as she said this, though she wasn’t sure why she had said it. She had no idea who this girl was, but for some reason, Leah was intrigued.
“It is said to be a great place” she added, discreetly eyeing the girl to get a better look.

--

Adam shook his head slightly as Jase pulled him with him to a classroom. As they walked, Adam listened to Jase’s inner monologue, but didn’t say anything. As they came closer to the school, Jase’s inner voice was mixed with tons of others, and Adam saw this as a good practice to sort out the different voices and only to focus on one. He did just as his teacher had talked about, trying to relax his mind and steer on what to focus on. Slowly, the other voices became more of a murmur and Jase’s was much clearer among them all.

As they entered the classroom, Adam amusingly watched Jase climb into the ventilation system. A lot of work for a prank. His friend disappeared, but appeared quickly again. Adam gave him a grin.
“Another day, mate, I have a meeting with the headmaster”. He looked at his watch. It was true, the headmaster had requested his presence at a meeting, for an unknown reason.
“But my lips are sealed” he added, walking back towards the door.
 

free2bealways

Master Mischief Maker
Colorado. That sounded like such normal place, not where you'd expect some kind of...whatever this girl was talking about. With people...like her. Brooklyn didn't classify herself in the same category, but she was still hoping that maybe, maybe they would know something, anything. Even if all they could do was help her make sense of it. Then maybe she'd know where to go from here.

Brooklyn wondered if it was possible to follow someone on an intercity bus. Probably not without this girl knowing about it. Not unless she stashed herself in the cargo compartment and once had been enough. It got hot in there, was cramped and of course there were no bathroom breaks, no matter how long the trip. But it was a free country and she didn't mean anyone any harm. So what could this girl do? If she reported her for stalking, Brooklyn could just say she wasn't following anyone, they just happened to be going to the same place.

Brooklyn couldn't believe it. Was this girl inviting her to come along? That was...so much easier. She smiled, holding the jacket out for the other girl. "I'm really sorry. I was never going to keep it. I just had to know..." She didn't know how to finish that thought. There were too many questions. She didn't know what to make of the girl's last comment. But maybe it was nice, being surrounded by people who were like you. Too bad the world would collapse in on itself if there were any more people like Brooklyn. She forced that thought from her head.

"I'm Brooklyn," she said with a bright smile. She thought about holding out her hand, but remembered how the girl had reacted when she'd touched her shoulder and thought better of it.

~

Brooklyn watched the world whiz by out the window of the bus. They were on their way! A little bubble of excitement sprung up. At least she had somewhere to go now. Leah sat across from her, next to her friend. It made Brooklyn ache a little as she thought about the person she wished were sitting next to her. But she didn't have time for a pity party. They were on an adventure!




Jase hesitated as he watched his friend walk away. The office was supposed to be empty right now. That's part of what made this whole thing possible. He didn't have time to worry about that now, though. Without Adam's help, he had a lot of things to do. He was getting bored of the Stockholm thing. I mean how much can only person really think about something he doesn't know that much about? A running narration of everything he was doing was out of the question.

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. Murdbot Diaries was one of Jase's favorite series. He'd listened to the audiobook so many times by now, he could recite whole passages with the narrator. This was perfect. Jase continued narrating as he pulled himself though the ventilation. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don't know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays and music consumed.

The assistant headmaster's office would be locked, of course. Unless he had some kind of weird after-hours meeting the way the headmaster did. Which would mean sitting for who knows how long in the cramped space of the ventilation shaft just above the assistant headmaster's desk. But when Jase peer through the slats into the office, it was dark. Yay for small miracles, he thought before picking right back where he'd left off with his narration.

Jase could obviously have picked the lock on the door. They weren't that clever around here. But he didn't want to chance anyone seeing him. Also? It's way more awesome sneaking through the vents like a spy. He dropped down onto the desk and retrieved the cups from their hiding place in one of the many cabinets. He moved as quickly as he could, filling the room in a circle around the desk, but with the cups so close together, they really could have been arranged from back to front, for all anyone was going to be able to tell. This was the boring part and therefore, it was important to keep up his monologue, though that would be become even more important when he was done.

Jase held himself up (barely) and set the last cup down on the assistant headmaster's desk. Then he hung upside-down for a moment, wondering if maybe he'd miscalculated this part. He grunted as he pulled his body up within finger reach of the vent. God, that killed. He was just about to give up and let himself swing back down when his fingers touched the cool metal and he gripped it, taking some of strain off his abs.

When he was back in the vent, pulling himself through to his next destination, he carefully focused on the internal narration of All Systems Red. This was the part where it really mattered. He popped open the the vent and dropped himself silently onto one of the cabinets in the records room. It took a little time to find the right section, but when he did, he sifted through the files until he found the right one. And there she was. He focused on the narration as he pulled her file out of place. With his phone, he photographed all the pages, before sliding it back into the cabinet.

Silently, he pulled himself back through the vents toward the conference room. He picked the closest one this time. He was getting tired of pulling himself along on his stomach, squished into a space narrower than he'd prefer. He paused, just out of sight and listened to the voices come up from below. It was...Adam...and the headmaster!
 
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Evy

*
The girl, who apparently was named Brooklyn, held out the hoodie to Leah. She grabbed it, and held it over her right arm.
“Leah” she introduced herself, before she guided the girl back to the place where Eliza was waiting for her. Eliza was the same age as Leah, though she had blonde hair. Her eyes were dark green, matching the reason she couldn’t be seen out and about: She had beautiful patterns all over her body. Along the lines of her veins were dark green vines that looked like tattoos, across her body and face. As Leah came up to her, Eliza gave her a worried look, and then threw a confused look at Brooklyn. Leah explained that they were now going to be three people to Colorado, and Eliza seemed to catch on quickly. She was very sweet, and didn’t say no very often.
“You okay?” she asked, looking at Leah who was rubbing her temple.
“Just a headache” Leah muttered, and Eliza looked around, to make sure they were alone. Then she placed a hand on Leah’s temple, and the colour of the vines grew in intensity. Eliza’s eyes turned gold, and so did Leah’s. For a few seconds, golden flowers grew along the vines on Eliza’s body, until the two girls’ eyes turned back to their normal colours, the flowers disappeared but the vines remained. Eliza removed her hand from Leah. The headache was completely gone, and Leah felt much better.

The three of them went to the bus station – Eliza was wearing Leah’s NASA hoodie with the hood up to cover her face somewhat. Leah paid for tickets, and they sat down on the bus. Eliza leaned on Leah’s shoulder, their arms wrapped together. They had met not long after Leah had run off from her home, and had become close friends very quickly. Leah pulled up her legs on the seat and looked out the window, watching the outside flash by as they slowly left their state, and she felt relieved. She was finally on her way to meet others like her, and hopefully she could start to control her powers.


--


Adam scratched his neck and walked back to his room. It was a small room with a bed, desk and a wardrobe. Enough for him, though he would have liked to have his own bathroom. He placed the book on top of the other university literature he had in a pile. Out of all of them, post-it notes were sticking out. He had an exam not too far away, and his preparations for it was going quite well. Except for when friends interrupted him for a prank, that was.

He didn’t get too much of a rest before he looked at his watch, it was time to meet with the headmaster. Adam closed his door and traced his steps from before, they were meeting in the very same conference room Jase had climbed through the vents in. Adam wondered how the prank was going. He would most likely get to hear about it from the other students soon. Outside of the conference room, he met with the headmaster who seemed to have come from the school yard. He was a tall man with black hair tied up. He was dressed in a suit, and as always he had a kind look on his face. Adam had first met him when he arrived at the Haven, and had liked him from the beginning. The headmaster opened the door and gesticulated for Adam to go inside, which he did.

The headmaster sat down in one of the black chairs around the table. Adam did the same, placing his hand on top of the table, waiting for the man to speak.
“So, I wanted to meet with you and ask you for a favour” the headmaster said, and Adam just nodded, waiting for him to continue.
“We have reason to believe that there are one – or more – arriving here soon. We would like you to go outside the barrier and guide them here, help them find us”. Adam knew that they sometimes sent people out to help people find the Haven, it was hidden in all kinds of different ways, but he had never been part of it. Until now, apparently.
“You won’t go alone, of course, we will send someone with you” the headmaster said, and Adam nodded.
“Of course, I’ll help you. Who will come with me?” he asked, and the headmaster shook his head.
“We’re not sure yet, we’re looking at the other people’s schedules right now” he said. As he spoke, Adam were listening on the amount of voices that were inside his head. Unfortunately, walls did nothing to keep them out. He tried to focus on the headmaster, but another voice interrupted in his mind, a voice he well knew as Jase’s. He must be close. A thought occurred in Adam’s mind, and he spoke.
“If I could give a suggestion, I’d suggest Jase West to come with me” he said, and the headmaster looked perplexed.
“Mr West?” he said, leaning back in his chair.
“I’m not sure he’s to be trusted like that” he added, and Adam leaned forward, supporting himself on his arms on the table.
“I think this would be a perfect way for him to prove himself, to show that he’s not what you think he his. He is a good guy, he just needs a chance to prove it”. As Adam stopped talking, he could hear the headmaster’s thoughts in his mind. He was actually considering it.
“I’ll have to think about it, I’ll get back to you when I know more about the people arriving and when you’ll leave the premises. I think it’ll be within a day” he said, and the two of them were standing up almost at the same time. The meeting was over, and Adam hoped that this would be a way for Jase to show that he could be trusted. Although it might depend on what kind of prank he had just pulled and when it would be discovered.
 

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