Liedecker Institute #3: Meet the Class Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 1: Meet The Class

Eddie’s proclamation caused Arkose to falter in her swing. It wasn’t as if she entertained the slightest consideration that it really was the extremely bad pick-up line it sounded like; she not only didn’t, but actively hoped it wasn’t. But it was just so awkward in its delivery that it seemed to ricochet around in her head until her concentration broke.

She fixed him with a glare. “I know you aren’t hitting on me—“

“What? No! You’re definitely not my—“ Eddie stopped himself from finishing that one. Nothing good could come from saying those words to any girl, much less one made of solid rock and wielding a wooden sword. He backpedaled with a nervous laugh and rubbed the back of his head. “I mean to say; that wasn’t hitting on you; that was failing really badly at asking you to be friends.”

“People stop randomly asking each other to be friends somewhere around kindergarten.” Arkose informed him coolly.

“Hence the thing I said.” He persisted. “An icebreaker. You know, telling you something about my power…”

“That you’re lucky.”

“Yeah. That I’m lucky.” Eddie slipped back into his easygoing smile. “I know it doesn’t sound as cool as being make of rock, but—“

“There is nothing ‘cool’ about being made of rock.” Arkose rounded on him with a vicious flourish of her sword that made Eddie jump back. “I can’t use normal furniture. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I way a damn quarter ton! There’s nothing cool about it.” She expounded each point with a forward stroke, finishing by raising the weapon on guard and regarding Eddie with her cool, opal eyes. “Understand?””

The smile retreated from Eddie’s face as he nodded. “Yeah. I understand.” He didn’t smile again, but his expression did brighten. “But that doesn’t mean everything has to be bad.” Pushing off the wall, he gave her a small wave. “If you ever want to hang out, I’ll be around.”

Arkose didn’t make an effort to stop him. He was the one that started talking to her without solicitation and she was under no obligation to entertain his personal notions on what was and wasn’t a good or desirable power. She took a deep, rattling breath and resumed her kata. There were still fifty repetitions to go in her routine.

“Hey, Eddie.” Someone just outside the open door of the dojo said. “Did I get that right? I’m pretty bad with names.”

“Yeah, you got it right, Jake.” Eddie hadn’t had time to get too far before the other person had stopped him.

“Actually, I’d rather people call me Jacob.”

Arkose stole a look through the door. She couldn’t see Eddie, but she could see the other boy. He was well built and handsome, the kind of guy she wouldn’t mind saying the kinds of things she had briefly thought Eddie had been saying to her.

The thought made her next swing sloppy. She immediately turned her attention back to what she was doing. There wasn’t a point to thinking things like that, she reminded herself. She was a rock.

Eddie and Jacob had no idea what was going through Arkose’s mind or even that she was listening.

“So, what’s going on?” Jacob asked.

Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Eddie shrugged. “Not a lot. Trying to get to know people.”

“How’s that going?”

“Not well.” Eddie admitted. “I’m not good with talking, I guess. What’s going on with you?”

“Came here to scope out the boxing ring.” Jacob threw a few pantomime punches. “Thought I might hit the heavy bag for a while.”

Eddie scoffed. “You? Like you need it, man.”

“Hey, it’s not all about muscle.” Jacob laughed and kept up his fake jabs in Eddie’s direction. “My dad always says everything’s about skill. If you don’t have it, you can’t do nothing. And if you do have it, you’ve gotta keep it up or you’ll lose it.”

“So you box?” Eddie asked, motioning for Jacob to follow him to where he saw the ring. “Cool.”

“Actually, no.” Jacob shook his head. “But I did play football and basketball before…” He gestured awkwardly at himself. “They had to kick me off the teams or they’d have to change their rating.”

A thoughtful frown replaced Eddie’s smile. “Geez, seems like everyone’s telling me about how their powers screwed them over today.”

Jacob raised his hands defensively. “Hey, I’m not complaining. Okay, maybe a little, but being this strong, this fast, this… me? I’ve been able to help my folks out a whole lot around home. So what if I can’t play sports? There’s more important things I can do.”

“Thank you!” Eddie exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “Some optimism! See, that’s what I wanted to tell Arkose back there, but I thought she might whack me with that stick of hers.”

“Arkose?” Jacob tried to place the name. “The rock girl?”

“Yeah, the rock girl.”

“What’s wrong with her powers?”

“She named off a lot of stuff.” Eddie frowned. “I mean…I get why she doesn’t like most of that stuff, but I still think there’s advantages to being made of rock. She’s just not looking hard enough.”

Jacob let out a long breath. “I’m right there with you. My dad says that my powers are a gift from God and that I’ve got to treat them like it. And if my powers are, I figure all powers are.”

“I wouldn’t say all powers.” Eddie pushed the door open to the next hall. “I mean I read somewhere about people whose powers make their hair fall out or cause them to drain batteries when they touch them. I don’t really see a silver lining there.”

Though he didn’t have a counter to that, Jacob didn’t intend to concede the point. Nor did he intend to argue it with Eddie. Instead, he changed the subject. “So what’s your gift?”

Eddie smiled again and popped his knuckles dramatically. “Me? I’m lucky.”

“What, that’s it? Do you know it’s really a psionic power? How can even you tell?”

“Oh, my friend,” Eddie shook his head. “You make the mistake of thinking that mine is the ‘ooo, I found a penny’ or ‘hey, I hit the lottery one time’ kind of luck. Oh no, no, no.” He wagged a finger of shame at the other boy. “I’m lucky as in freak lucky. Sure, if I throw a dart at random, it’ll usually hit the target, but that’s not the fun part.”

They had arrived that the doors to the room housing the boxing ring. Jacob leaned on it and gave Eddie and incredulous look. “What’s the fun part?”

“The ‘freak’ part.” Eddie announced. “Like this one time, I was in crossing the road and a truck driver lost control. So there I was, truck barreling right for me. When out of nowhere, a manhole cover in the road blows and causes the front tire to give out and causes the truck to swerve—right past me. By an inch.”

Jacob blinked in surprise at this. “Okay… that’s kind of weird. But that’s just once.”

Eddie ducked his head at this. “Okay, but last year, my mom got mugged with me there—right after she’d gotten money out to buy my birthday present.”

“That’s not lucky.”

“You’d think. But, my mom went to the cops and gave them a description and the next day they caught him. And!” He cut off whatever Jacob was about to say. “And, as it turned out, there was a two thousand dollar reward for information leading to the guy’s capture, which mom collected in time to buy me a better birthday present.”

“Okay, so you had good luck twice…” Jacob started.

“Twice? No. I can go on. It’s been like this since I was twelve, man. My dad works as a blackjack dealer; his boss won’t let me on the premises. On the flight here? Me, my mom and my dad all got upgraded to first class because our seat backs broke—all three of them. I’m telling you, Jacob, my power literally is good luck.”

Jacob breathed out a long, amazed sigh. “It’s more than that. You’re saying that your power makes sure nothing bad happens to you and everything good. That’s a little… over the top.”

Eddie looked sheepish and held up a hand in protest. “I didn’t say that. See, it doesn’t work all the time. It comes and it goes. Plus, it’s not mind control. People still want to do what they want to do and sometimes luck doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t get it.” Jacob finally opened the door and stepped in, Eddie following behind him. “You just said that it can stop a truck. Why can’t it stop everything?”

“Like I said, luck isn’t everything.” Eddie says. “I can make a million to one shot, but I can’t make hit a target that’s not there.” He noted the blank look on Jacob’s face. “Okay, think of it this way; if a guy came at me with a gun, there’s a chance the gun’ll misfire. But if he’s standing still and punches me, there’s no real chance of his hand turning into a marshmallow. I get the punch.”

Jacob snorted. “Lucky you.”

“Clever.” Eddie grinned. “Never heard that one before.”

Jacob went over to the heavy bag and jabbed it experimentally. “I try. Hey, Eddie, unless you’ve got something better to do, mind holding the bag for me a while?”

“Sure.” He shrugged. “I’ve got to catch up with my roommate at some point today though, aside from you, him and Xylem, I don’t know anyone else.”

Seriously starting on the bag, Jacob nodded. “I can help with that. I went to the Academy before, so I know people who were there and ended up here now.”

“Really?” Eddie made the mistake of moving the bag aside to see the confirmation for himself. Instead, he saw Jacob’s fist coming toward him. The next thing he knew with any coherency, he was on his back with an apologizing Jacob leaning over him. Luck didn’t factor into human error.

***

Joy Duvall took another bite of the orange she’d grabbed from the cafeteria, savoring the flavor. She liked them best when she deigned to peel them, biting straight through the skin and getting a bit of zest, a bit of pith and a lot of juice all at the same time.

It was rare that she was able to eat them the way she liked them at home because her eldest sister, Glory, deemed it wildly inappropriate. Charity, the sister closest to her in age, tried to defend the fact that Joy’s protmorphism meant she tasted things differently, but Glory was Glory and like their father, couldn’t see ways of doing things that weren’t her own.

But Glory wasn’t around, so Joy pledged to herself that she would have all the oranges she wanted the way she wanted.

A stray spatter of juice fell past here eyes and landed on the floor below her. She looked up at it mournfully.

Joy was clinging to the ceiling in her room, holding on with her clawed feet and the hook-claws on the ends of her second set of arms (really her wings). Her tail twitched unhappily as she pouted over both the lost juice and the fact that she’d have to clean it up.

Her protomorph nature was one of the most advanced forms on record, or so said the doctors her father hired after she’d manifested. None of this bothered her and she really didn’t care if her fur or extra wing-arms, or claws bothered anyone else either. To her, they were an exciting superpower and part of who she was.

Finishing the orange, she let go of the ceiling. With the help of her tail, she turned over in midair and threw out her wings to catch the air and glide down to the sink tucked in the far side of the room. As she was pulling paper towels out, the door opened and Rita, her roommate came in.

Unlike Joy, Rita Clay Thomas showed no overt signs of her psionic nature. Of mixed black and Hispanic heritage, she was of a height Joy, who was rather on the short side, and still had a good bit of baby fat, though she was nowhere near ‘plump’. She had dirty blonde streaks dyed into her dark brown hair, that was kept styled just above her shoulders except for a thick French braid handing just beside her left eye.

She smiled brightly at Joy as she quickly crossed the room and switched on her stereo. Upbeat big band music filled the room. “Hey! You weren’t here when I woke up. Been looking around?”

Joy returned the smile, going over to clean up the mess she’d made. “Yeah, I went exploring. This place is huge!”

“Huge and really cool.” Rita agreed, heading to her closet. The air around her shimmered in time to the music. “I met these awesome kids from the Academy and they just invited me to go check out the city with them.” She modeled a top in the mirror built into the closet door before tossing it back in. “Hey, you went to the Academy, maybe you know them! Wanna come?”

“Sure, who’d you meet?” Joy asked. The job finished, she chucked the citrus scented mess of paper towels into the recycling bin.

“Hightower and Rapunzel.” Rita found a top she liked and tossed it onto her bed. A whirl of color swept around her just a moment before she realized what she was doing and dispelled it.

A displeased hiss came from Joy before she could stop it. “Oh. Uh… That’s nice, but I think I’ll keep poking around here.”

Rita frowned. “You don’t like them?” Carefully, she laid the top out on her bed and went looking for pants. “What’s wrong with them? They seemed pretty cool to me.”

“Because you have cool powers.” Joy scowled but she didn’t let her roommate see it. “Or powers they think are cool.” She climbed over her desk chair to crouch on the window seat. “That’s how things went at the Academy; you were cool if your powers were cool and hairballs like Betty were the ones that decided what was cool.”

“My powers aren’t that cool.” All the humility in that statement was genuine. Rita self-consciously refolded the Capri pants she’d pulled out. “You can walk on the ceiling and see in the dark, I just make illusions—and I need music to do it with.”

“It doesn’t have to make sense.” Joy pointed out. “It’s just how it is. Plus, your powers are still really cool anyway.”

“Should I not go with them then?”

Joy nearly fell off the window seat at the suggestion. “What? No! Go, have fun. If they like you, they like you. I’m just saying they don’t like me; so I shouldn’t go.” She shifted around on the window seat and folded her wing-arms across her chest so they were holding onto her shoulders. The fuzzy membranes made it look like she was wrapped in a blanket.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to leave my roommate out…” Rita said.

Out of the corner of her eye, Joy saw two boys coming into the courtyard. One have his hands cupped over his nose and was visibly (at least with Joy’s telescopic sight) bleeding. The other…

Getting up on her knees, she got a better look at him. “No, go on, really. I’ve got someone I want to meet anyway.” With that, she unlatched the window.

***

Arkose slung the gym bag containing her shinai over her shoulder and stepped out into the sun. Without distractions, she’d been able to finish her kata in a satisfactory amount of time, but made a mental note to only practice at night in the future. Too many of her strokes had been sloppy.

That left her at a loss as to what to do with the rest of the day. The problem with neither sleeping, nor tiring was finding ways to fill the day.

She was on the verge of deciding on investigating the library when she noticed Jacob and Eddie ahead of her, hurrying toward the main building. Eddie was holding his nose and his hands were stained with blood.

“I am so sorry about this Eddie.” Jacob was saying, probably for the tenth time as he led his friend down the hall. “I didn’t expect you to move the bag and—“He made a sick sound, “Look at all the blood.”

“Ib otay.” Eddie drawled dully. “By fauld. I dod tink ib broken. Jub hurt.”

She would have rolled her eyes if she could have. It had taken less than ten minutes for the guy that had been pestering her to get himself hurt. She shouldn’t have been surprised. What was surprising though was how badly the other boy was taking it.

Most guys her age that Arkose knew would have been laughing or at least poking fun at Eddie’s situation, but Jacob was tripping over himself apologizing and looking worried that he might have broken Eddie’s nose.

In the middle of her continued consideration of Jacob, something caught her eye and she found herself watching a frenzied ball of fuzz detach itself from one of the dorm windows and hurtle to earth.

When the fuzz ball finally opened its wings and glided to the ground, Arkose finally recognized it as a girl; one whose mutations seemed to be crueler to her than Arkose’s own. She recognized the girl from seeing her in passing at the Academy, but couldn’t place a name to the large eyed, furry face.

Joy hit the ground on all fours and lost her forward momentum by galloping along that way for a few yards. This was another activity Glory frowned upon no matter how much Joy insisted that it was as simple for her as walking upright and that she ran much faster that way.

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