Hello, thar. Meinos Kaen here!
What a seven days, guys. You wouldn't believe it if I told you. No matter. What matters is this week's first post, which is also the first part of S-ClaSS' second chapter! Last time, Grace had managed to find a way to make Jason behave. Now, where does the story go from there? Only one way to find out...
"... Yes." Grace replied with an amused smile as Sienna broke down in laughter. It had been a week since they first and last talked and the nurse had finally managed to corner her as she headed to the cafeteria to have lunch. She was bound to meet her anyway since the headmaster had told her that that day the whole teaching staff would be having lunch at the same table, since otherwise there would have been little chance for her to ever meet them unless by coincidence.
This time, much to Grace's pleasure, there had been no assaulting nor cutting. She had simply asked how her first week of work had been. She decided that, if she didn't act crazy, she could come to like Sienna. She reminded her a lot of her old room-mate. "Defeated by the threat of pop quizzes! You're a genius! An evil genius!"
"Thanks. I think." Grace chuckled as she remembered the face Jason had made the day she had 'threatened' her students and how subdued he had become in the following days. She hadn't given him any reason to get angry at her, of course, but he hadn't been overly aggressive and rude to her like the first day anymore. "So, we're having lunch with the students?"
"Just in the same room. Most teachers prefer it that way instead of having lunch in their own rooms. Mostly because cafeteria food is free for them. Or they don't like to cook." Sienna chuckled with mirth letting Grace guess that she took quite the advantage of this fact. "So! You're going to meet the whole gang."
"Anyone I should know of before hand?" Grace asked as they climbed the stairs and found themselves in the school's main building, past the security door to the teachers' quarters, disguised on the other side as simply another part of the wall.
"Well... There's Richards. He's PE, both normal and Special. Bit rough 'round the edges. Try not to question his teaching methods or rooting for the other team in the annual varsity match and you'll be fine." She added, adding a bit of information that Grace had missed. Seeing her curious, Sienna continued while they reached the main hall, now bursting with students either heading for the cafeteria or for the gardens where to have their lunch. "This school has an annual varsity match with another private school, the Merville Institute for Secondary Education. MISE in short. Of course this one doesn't get military funds but still they've won the last five years in a row. As a result, it's quite difficult to not do both of the things that piss the guy off."
"Oh." Grace absorbed the information, putting it aside under 'extra-curricular activities'. "Anyone else?"
"Mrs Kaytlin. Math. Late wife of the teacher who bit it during the incident a few years ago." She snapped her head to the side to stare at Sienna so fast that she almost pulled her neck muscles. "So, if most people have a... Not so great opinion of S, she takes that and multiplies it by ten. So, I guess that's one person who will dislike you. Like, for sure."
"You can't win them all." Grace sighed. Then another question came to her. "What about you, Sienna?" This time the nurse turned in the teacher's direction while the duo walked through the lushious gardens of the institute, heading for the building on the other side that served as the cafeteria. "What's your opinion of people like my students?"
"Aaah... Now, that's the question." Sienna grinned and intertwined her hands behind her back. "Well, to answer your question, I don't really care about what people can do with their Skills nor am I convinced that if their optimal use is harming people their possessors have to be watched like serial killers in the making. Once you understand how something works you also learn how to neutralize it. That's how Power Inhibitors are born, after... Huh." The nurse stopped talking. "Now, that's a thought." She retrieved one of her hands to tap her chin. "Weird..."
"What's weird?" Grace asked as they reached the main doors, a hand ready to push the glass door inward retreating as Sienna also stopped walking, her left hand now supporting the right elbow as she tapped her chin in a pensive pose.
"Well, I was thinking... Jason's file was completely inaccurate. Scientifically speaking. Either that or, on top of being an S-Class, he's also a Black Hole." Sienna released her hands as she approached Grace, putting an arm over the teacher's shoulders as she pulled her close. "You see, there's no way for energy to be visible. Forget movies. It's not something you can see or feel itself, just the effects it has on the environment. A power that 'shoots energy' is, to use an euphemism, pure bogus."
"... So?" Grace still wasn't following but she was getting aware of the stares the students were sending their way because of their awkward position.
"So, if whoever first tested Jason missed the target by a mile, how in blazes did they create working S-Guards, which are supposed to be top-notch PIs?" The redhead then understood. "Those things are attuned, specially made for every single S-Class in need of one and manufacturers must know the power inside out."
"That's... True." Grace acknowledged while Sienna let her stand straight again, not moving her head away from her own one, though. "So either that file's outdated-"
"Or they wrote it like that intentionally." Sienna concluded, finally releasing Grace, her lips forming a wry smile. "This beckons more research."
"I agree... But don't we have a lunch to attend to, right now?" Grace commented, pointing at the door. Sienna nodded and stepped forward, opening the door.
Once inside, Grace realized for the first time that the institute really housed 450 students. She had spent most of her time in the last week between the classroom and her room on the teacher's floor which was directly connected to the underground section and as such she had never seen that many students all in the same place since she started teaching in that school.
Queuing for food, sitting at the same table eating and talking. Some at the same time, with mixed results. Part of the ceiling was see-through, made of a transparent material. She wasn't sure it was glass. The cafeteria seemed newer compared to the main building so she couldn't know for certain but she guessed it was still built in the same style, which was for the purpose of containing any incidents that could have happened while the scientists that once called the place home experimented.
The gym was surely built in that fashion. It was an 'original' building which had only later on been re-modeled to be used by the students. Her thoughts drifted on these lines while she walked by Sienna's side, instinctively following her until they found themselves at the largest table of the wide room. "Hello, everyone!"
"Sienna. Grace." The familiar voice of headmaster Roberts greeted them, most of the heads at the table turning in their direction if they weren't facing them already.
"Any tips on today's food, sir?" Sienna asked enthusiastically, eyeing the different dishes on her colleagues' trays.
"The cook put particular care in the beef." Roberts replied and Sienna clapped her hands, excited.
"Two of that to go, then! Come on, Grace!" She motioned to the redhead to follow. Grace smiled a bit embarrassed at the collection of teachers sitting at the table before following. Sienna had already collected two trays when she reached her at the end of the thankfully small line. "Aaah! Meat! Meat! It's so awesome to have a telepath for headmaster, isn't it? Well, it's also a bit creepy, actually..."
"A telepath?" Grace accepted the tray as she parroted the words. "Headmaster Roberts?" Sienna playfully slapped her own forehead.
"Ah, right! You're new, so you don't know about that! The old man is an A-Class!" The nurse declared, making Grace's lips form an 'o' of surprise.
"He can read minds?"
"Read, manipulate, the works." That bit of information surprised Grace and also intimidated her a bit. She wasn't very comfortable around telepaths.
Even if every living human is superior to old Sapiens in every way, most of them are not particularly stronger than each other. These individuals make up 70% of the world population and belong in E-Class, the lowest Class also called the Default Class, which is the origin of the derogative slang Faulties for E-Class individuals.
The remaining 30% are split in Classes going from D to A and S according to the possible uses, limits and the potential for collateral damage of the Skills they posses. The highest the Class, the higher the strength of the ability and the possibility of incidents. S-Class is reserved, by rule, for 'individuals possessing Skills that by nature or because of a genetic defect have no other purpose but to harm people and things'.
Telepaths are usually put in the B or A Class, depending on the extent of the Skill and the power of the individual himself: after all there's a difference between a person able to read the mind of animals and one able to influence the actions of a large group of people at the same time. The Skill's nature itself isn't harmful. Most of the individuals with telepathic abilities choose a career as psychotherapists or other similar ones but there have also been cases of people using them with ill intent.
The scariest thing about telepathic abilities is that unlike any other Skill it's impossible to figure out if and when they're being used unless the user himself purposely makes it so. In a world where the people that can be influenced or directly controlled include individuals able to lift objects which weight in the several tons or break the sound barrier on feet an ill-intentioned telepath is the stuff of nightmares.
Grace had read about the various campaigns that had asked for a change in the placement rules to make Telepaths S-Class as well. They had all ended up in failure, mostly because of one particular detail concerning telepathic powers and S, but the topic was a constantly heated one. “An A-Class telepath. Still, he chose a career in education?” Grace slowly turned her gaze in the man's direction. “That's strange.”
“Not that strange, since he's been this school's headmaster for six years only up to this day and from what I hear, he started working as a teacher only nine years ago.” Sienna commented leisurely as she waited for the short haired girl in front of her to decide on her food already so that she could come up in front as well. Grace turned to her again hearing those words.
“Nine years? But...”
“How did he become headmaster of a private institute of this level? Well, I have a theory about that.” Sienna smirked. “This school is funded by the military, right? Because of that they have a big say in who comes and who goes and how this school works.”
“I know. But how does that tie in with the headmaster?”
“Grace. He had to be doing another job, before becoming headmaster. The guy is like, one hundred and something. So?” Sienna sent a wry smile in Grace's direction. It hit her.
“... He was in the military before becoming an educator?” The nurse chuckled at that.
“Grace, who says that he still isn't? Ah! My turn!” The conversation forgotten at the prospect of food, Sienna left Grace with her new thoughts. At least until they collected their food and returned to the table. She banished any thoughts about the headmaster's previous and actual allegiances from her mind, the new information about his Skill making her wary.
She took a seat between Sienna and what she assumed was Richards since the black haired man was wearing a track suit of all things. “I suppose an introduction is in order, if you'll let me.” Roberts began, gently settling down his glass in front of him as he turned his attention to Grace. “This is Ms Kelly. She's our new All Purpose Teacher.”"Happy to have you on board, ma'am!" Her tracksuit neighbour declared, bringing a hand to his forehead in a sort or mishapen military salute. When he saw Grace's blank stare he laughed. "Ahahah! Sorry about that. I meant 'Nice to meet you.' I'm Richards, P.E.."
"Ehm... Nice to meet you too." As the other teachers introduced and/or greeted her, Grace couldn't help but notice a single woman whose gaze didn't wander away from her direction, not even after the greetings round ended and she started eating.
The woman herself looked a few years older than Grace herself, probably in her early thirties, with long wavy blonde hair that weaved freely past her shoulders. She was wearing what looked like a business suit, the jacket removed and placed on the back of her chair revealing a white long sleeved white shirt.
The gaze she was throwing her way wasn't hostile but it sure was piercing. She was evaluating her. If she had to take a guess, the woman was Mrs Kaytlin. She decided to try and avoid to gaze in her direction again, trying instead to focus on her surroundings. The other teachers, the students... She noticed something. Something missing. A certain trio of people that she shouldn't have had much trouble in finding.
"Somethin' th' matter, miss?" Richards asked, noticing how her looking around had turned from simple distraction to an outright search. "Whit are ye lookin' for?"
"Well... My students, actually." Grace answered and then turned around, this time understanding the man's words since he didn't lay it that heavy with the accent. "I noticed they still haven't come up to eat and..." She stopped talking when she noticed that most of the other occupants of the table were staring at her like she had grown a second head, with a few exceptions: a neutral stare, a cringe and a glare. "Did I... Say something strange?"
"Something crazy is more like it." That was when she heard Mrs Kaytlin's voice for the first time. If it hadn't been so full of spite and anger, she could have called it melodious.
"Crazy? What..." She slowly connected the dots and turned in the headmaster's direction, her eyes narrowing. “Headmaster-”
“Can I talk to you for a minute, Grace?” Roberts interrupted her, raising from his seat with his neutral expression still in place. The teacher observed him for a few seconds before nodding and following him outside.
“A real telepath.” Sienna found no other way to explain the headmaster beating Grace to the punch.
“... Grace Kelly?” And he had also involuntarily revealed Grace's full name to the rest of the teaching staff.
“This place is fine. There's no one in hearing range.” Roberts had led Grace to a spot on the left side of the cafeteria, between the building and the wall separating the scholastic area from the rest of the city. “I understand Sienna told you of my Skill. So you can probably understand why I had to interrupt you so abruptly. Otherwise, I would have had to refuse talking to you in private.” He turned around, Grace standing a couple meters away, the expression from before still in place. Irritation. “I can't very well allow any of my subordinates to disrespect me.”
“... Subordinates. That's a very unusual way for a headmaster to refer to teachers.” The young woman unconsciously squeezed her right arm, never removing her gaze from the man. If he was still reading her mind, he didn't comment on her thoughts. “Where do my students usually eat?”
“Another room in the underground level. Not very far from their own rooms.” Roberts turned to the side, removing his gaze from Grace's direction.
“I see. There's the problem though that there's no written rule requesting it, so I can only guess that it's an unspoken rule or something you tricked them into doing, since it actually goes against the purpose of an S-Class.” She squeezed her arm tighter, to give herself more courage, focus on her irritation to override the fear of suddenly having her brain forcefully shut down. “And I bet it's not just eating. Jason, Thomas and Catarina seldom leave the underground levels, right?”
“... Right.” Roberts turned in Grace's direction again, his face adorned by a small smile which confused the red-haired teacher. He seemed satisfied by something. “It all comes down to the incident with the late Mr Kaytlin of five years ago. Before that, as I told you, there was an S-Class for each year and while they were housed in the underground levels and had to always be under scrutiny by a teacher or someone from security, they could roam the grounds as they wished. They could even leave the school if accompanied by their APT. Just like in the rules.”
“Then... What happened?”
“Tyson happened.” The name didn't ring a bell. “That was his name. That was when no one wanted to take that risk any more. Of other S students running out of control, maybe attacking their retainers.”
“You can't allow that! You can't keep them caged!” There were no reasons to be heard in Grace's mind. “They need to live like normal people! Among others, with their peers!”
“And why would they need to? It is an unspoken rule, as you said, but it keeps risks of incidents to a minimum.”
“Because that's how it always starts!” That was the loudest he had ever heard her speaking. “First you take away their families, then you isolate them, take away everything from them till all that's left for them to do is come to you willingly!”
“... I guess this animosity is a direct result of whatever or better whoever was omitted in your file." She bit her lower lip and lowered her head, directing her glare to the ground. He had instantly recognized the 'Information Not Disclosable' stamp on the section of her file regarding her family. "Who was it?"
"... My younger sister." Grace let out, a bit of her anger fading away. Sadness wasn't a welcome change, though. "She was 16. I was overseas. A vacation, a little luxury before the entrance tests for College." She released her arm, her body relaxing completely. "I couldn’t even say goodbye. My parents didn't... They didn't call."
"I see." Roberts nodded and walked up to Grace. He passed her, patting her right shoulder. "Well, good luck in persuading your students to eat in the cafeteria."
"Heh?" She raised her head again, surprised. She turned around to see Roberts heading back towards the building. "That's it? I have permission?"
"As you've said, there's no rule prohibiting it." The headmaster gave the teacher a wry smile, before turning his head to the front again. "I'm always interested in something new, Grace. As long as it works."
"... Okay." She let out, still weirded out by the simple act of acceptance. "... What did he mean by persuade?"
Yeah, Grace! What? I'm wondering too...
Meinos Kaen out!