Hello, thar. Meinos Kaen here!
We're there. Almost, but not quite. What I'm talking about? I'm talking about discovering just what the hell Jason's power is! :D You have the first hints in this second part of the third chapter, along with a long overdue background for some characters. Also, as you may have noticed, Catarina is the winner! She'll be the next character to be immortalized by Alielle! That said, here's the reading! Enjoy!
"Nothing good on the newspaper, today." Grace mused as she went through her reader, lounging on her bed, killing time as she waited for hunger, so that she could eat a quick meal, make her rounds and then go to bed. Stopping halfway through a pretty gruesome article, she sighed and laid her head back on her pillows, staring at the ceiling. 'I've never been a party girl, but this is ridiculous.' "Why didn’t I accept Sienna's invitation?"
The nurse had passed by an hour or so before, inviting her for a 'night on the town'. She had refused more because she feared she may not get up early enough in the morning than that Jason and the others may go out unsupervised. Now she faced a couple more hours of boredom before sluggish sleep took her, exact like every night since she had moved there. She missed her friends from university and prep school. 'Also, I haven't had a date in months.'
She sighed again, this time fondly as she remembered her high school sweetheart. Peter Milligan. They went steady for all the three years, and even though she had discovered when she left for university that he had been going steady with Susan Hampton too at the same time, she couldn't reminisce about him with spite. He had always been sweet and caring. He had stood by her side when they took away her sister. He had made it easier. He was or at least looked sad when she left. If she hadn't been told, she would have never even imagined him being a miserable two-timer. "... Alright. Maybe I do spite him."
What she remembered with a smile was all the little things, the romantic occasions, the risks he took. That kind of attention. During their second year school trip, he had waited till the teachers had made their last rounds before sneaking to her floor, knocking on her room where she waited-
Knock knock. Daydream stopped abruptly. She shot back in a sitting position on her bed, suddenly self-conscious about her being in an old red track-suit, not having taken a shower either. "... Peter?"
"Who the hell's Peter?" A voice answered. She stared. Then she sighed, recognizing the voice. She stood up, put her slippers on and walked to the door.
"What brings you by, Jason?" She said, laying eyes on the boy as the door slid open. Then, she realized something. "Wait a minute. These are the teachers' quarters! How-"
"It's a shorter trek back to the underground floor. Duh." He completely missed or ignored the point. "I was wondering about tomorrow's, you know, meeting time."
"I would have told you later this evening when I came by for my rounds." She sighed, shaking her head. Then, she noticed something else. She wasn't the only one wearing a track suit.
Jason's one was a dark blue, and he carried a duffel bag. Also, her nose caught the lingering smell of shampoo. He had showered recently. "What? Does blue look bad on me?"
"Huh, no." She had been caught staring. She raised her head again. "So, your 'previous arrangements' were a workout in the gym?"
"Hmm, not really. Otherwise I could have done it tomorrow, right?" He answered, stretching his arms. "Well, if you're going to come by later I'll leave you to... Whatever you were doing alone on a Saturday night." She flinched, the words hitting home. He smirked and turned around. "Later."
"You're not going to tell me what you were doing all afternoon which required you to take a shower, won't you?" 'Meeting time my... He just wanted to throw me some bait.' It was Jason's new way of teasing her. Dangle little secrets in front of her and watch her get curious. I know something you don't. She found herself smiling. At least she had something to break her boredom with. 'Okay. It's physical activity since it made him sweaty. Exactly what kind of exertion, though?'
"Ready, y'all?" Jason stretched as he put on his jacket. Thomas and Catarina were already done, sitting on his bed as they waited. "First breakfast, then evaluation. You excited? I am."
"You're always excited when you can use your powers. Figures now that they’re asking you to." Catarina commented, not really managing to give her words the desired tone of sarcasm.
"I can see you don't share my same enthusiasm." Jason answered as he adjusted his gloves, playing with the magnetic straps holding them in place. The girl offered no reply. Silence reigned until the main door opened.
"Morning!" Two female voices greeted them, one a tad more enthusiastic than the other.
"Morning, teach. And..." Jason reined in a whistle as he laid eyes on Sienna. He noticed the lab coat. Put two and two together as he remembered a woman from the P-Day. P as Potato. The one who found them a table, who he hadn't managed to see up-close. "Please, tell me you're the school nurse."
"Sure am! I'm Sienna! I have been dyeing to meet you all!" The brunette smiled brightly as she spoke. While Thomas and Catarina introduced themselves, Jason suddenly trust a stretched arm in Grace's direction, pointing at her.
"Teach!" He was quite loud, much to Grace's surprise. "I encourage physical punishment for my misbehaviour, from now on!"
The teacher stared. Then gasped in synchrony with Catarina while Sienna chuckled with mirth. Thomas was left confused by the whole exchange.
"Wow." Thomas wasn't exactly an eloquent person, but his exclamation was fitting. The chamber was big, easily half a soccer field, white and bare, walls and ceiling and floor.
"Alright, Jason! You're up first!" Except for the transparent window separating it from the control room where Sienna, Grace, Thomas and Catarina observed as Jason stretched. He had insisted on going first. "Any questions before we begin?"
He smirked. "Just one! Are you single?!"
"Jason!" The two women in the control room who he was more acquainted with chorused their outrage. Thomas let out a 'Ooooh', like he had just understood something.
"Yes, I am." Sienna's answer shocked Grace and Catarina even more, if possible. "And while you're kind of my type, I only date people of legal age."
A snap of fingers echoed from the control panel's speaker, while Grace held the bridge of her nose, trying to ward off an incoming headache. "Sienna, will you please not flirt with my student?"
"Oh, it's all in good fun, Grace." Sienna dismissed the teacher's worries with a wave of her hand. "Also, can't really date in my generation. Most of my peers haven’t aged as well as me." She sighed, blowing some hair up. "My personal limit is within two decades from every current year."
"... Aged?" Catarina parroted. The woman didn't look an year past thirty, if even that.
"Two decades?" Grace forgot the previous incident in favour of analyzing the data just given to her about Sienna and come out with... "Sienna, exactly how old are you?"
"Jason, sweetie, I'm bringing your dummy up!" Completely ignoring the question, Sienna touched the console's screen.
"My what, now?" Jason raised an eyebrow at the strange sentence, while a part of the floor opened a few meters on his right. A polished white humanoid figure raised out of it, standing on a tile the exact size of the missing piece of the floor. It reminded Jason of a mannequin, only made out of one piece. "Ok, I see it."
"Good! Now I want you to remove your S-Guards and give it all you've got!" Jason stared in the direction of the control room. Then, he smiled as his hands went to the clasps of his gloves. He slowly removed them, letting them fall to the floor as he flexed his fingers, enjoying the usual warm tingling sensation on the skin of his hands.
"He's enjoying this way too much." Catarina stated, knowing that expression. The one which promised trouble.
"Huh?" Grace let out, observing as Jason's body shifted in an unfamiliar pose. "What is he doing?"
"I think I saw that in one of his movies." Thomas commented, not really able to put a name to it, having been far too violent for his tastes.
'Weight on the back foot, cover your eye.' "Alright." Lowering his pose, he raised his right arm, holding it in a right angle in front of his face, fist pointing to the ceiling. "Watch this." He pushed on his back leg, breaking into a run. He crossed the few meters between him and his target with short steps, springing into a leap from the last. To the naked eye, air shifted around his fists and forearms. As he landed, he drove his raised elbow on top of the dummy's head, which rocked forward and down terribly from the force of the blow. As soon as Jason found his footing again, he trusted his left arm upward in an uppercut. Again, air shifted in its path. Then, as the fist impacted its target, air ignited.
Grace gasped as she observed the scene on the monitor. The elbow smash had been Jason's way of showing off, and it left her surprised because it looked like a repeated, trained motion. But the uppercut? The dummy bent back at the ankles like it was made of rubber and slammed on the ground on its back, springing in an erected position right after, the chin burned. Like the air itself, which had burst in a blaze, even before Jason had landed the blow. "Pyrokinesis?!"
"Nope. No way." Sienna interjected, as she observed the various readings on the screens in the room. Catarina and Thomas were focused on the few which replayed the scene over and over in various PoVs. "Pyrokinesis wouldn't have been able to singe the dummy, nor would had it been able to move it. So violently, too..."
"Then what is it?" The redhead pressed, suddenly curious. There had been flames. If it wasn't pyrokinesis, what was it?
"Got a theory. I'll go through data later. And Jason, you can stop hitting the dummy!" The nurse said in the intercom, since the S was still landing hits on the humanoid contraption, which now sported three charred black spots. She then turned with a smile to Thomas. "Up to bat: Thomas! But before that..."
"Yes?" Thomas turned to the nurse only to find himself in a headlock. "Wah!"
"Hooold still..." The two females not holding Thomas and a strange metallic pliers-like tool gasped at the strange scene. The blonde obeyed, but winced as he felt a tug at his neck. He gasped softly as an electric shot run through his neck, and with another tug, he suddenly felt cold air against a spot that hadn't felt anything but pain and the chill of steel for months. "There! Couldn't have that thing getting in the way of science, could we?"
As she released him, Thomas immediately brought his hands to the back of his neck, finding nothing but hair and skin. He gaped at Sienna, who was holding his pain with the 'pliers'. "... Thanks."
"No sweat. Now, shall we get down to making some electricity?"
"Nicely done, Thomas! High five!" A slap echoed in the room, two S in high spirits, the one left suddenly tense. It was her turn.
"Hmm, impressive but nothing that's not been seen before, Thomas." Sienna commented as she observed the replays, with Thomas discharging electricity from his palms, impacting a series of dummies. "I already have an idea for a less drastic solution to your problem. We'll have you making College level calculus in a few days. For the time being, try not think too much, alright?"
"T-Thanks!" Thomas beamed. Grace wasn't sure if it was for the prospective of a painless S-Guard or advanced math.
"Catarina." The girl tensed as Grace called her name. "It's your turn." She then turned to the two boys. "Jason, Thomas, can you please head back downstairs?" Thomas and Catarina were surprised. Jason understood.
"Give us some dummies to pass the time?" Sienna smirked and pressed a button. Two dozens dummies in various poses rose from the floor in the evaluation room. "Sweet! Come on, Thomas!"
"Ok." The blonde S nodded and followed Jason out of the room, who gave Grace a look as the door closed behind him. The teacher nodded in his direction.
"Why did Thomas and Jason have to leave?" Catarina asked, suddenly self-conscious about the situation. "And am I not going to-"
"Nope. Your exam is to be had in another room with specific equipment." Sienna said, interrupting the female S. "In your case, I feel it's much more important to observe how your Skill interacts with your body than the effects it has on your surroundings."
"Also, I didn't feel confident in making you try and damage something human-shaped, considering your... Distaste for physical contact." Grace continued, noticing how Catarina's body language took a turn for the worse. "Jason made me notice. And I think it has something to do with your event of surfacing."
"My file didn't have that?" The teacher shook her head.
"It just said household activities." The wording made Catarina laugh grimly. "Catarina, did you... Maybe a family member?"
The dark haired teen tightened the grip on her own arm. The older women noticed how she was having an inner fight. To confide or not. Grace wasn't optimistic, since Jason had a deeper bond than maybe anyone in the world with the girl and she had never opened up to him. All she could hope for was that he had been right and it was a-"Not family." She stopped thinking and started listening. "Oliver. He was a classmate. He lived two blocks from my house. My first crush." Catarina lowered her head, her face now haunted. "My first kiss. A... Real one." Sienna flinched. Grace gasped softly and covered her gaping mouth with both hands. "I didn't swap him saliva, but snake poison." The young S started shaking, hugging herself. "I can still see him, clear as day."
"Catarina, you can-"
"Trashing on my bed, his face swollen... He was bleeding from his eyes!" Catarina didn't hear Grace, or ignored her. "I screamed and mom ran upstairs! And then, she-she looked at me!" Her head was bowed, shielding her eyes from view, but her increasingly strangled voice was signal enough. "She looked at me like I was a monster, a freak! S-She-" A hiccup. "She pushed me out the door when they came!" She broke down and fell to her knees.
Grace observed, and she had confirmation. Catarina wasn't afraid of being touched, she feared touching other people and harming them in the process. That's why she covered herself up. That's why she would push her away if she tried to comfort her. 'I can't do much, can I?' She knelt down.
"N-No!" As she thought, Catarina started trashing and struggling the moment she threw her arms around the young girl.
"Catarina, you can't hurt me!" She suddenly shouted, and the S froze. She pulled back, holding her firmly by the shoulders and staring into her tearful eyes. "I'm a Survivor. You can't harm me. Not with poison." Realization flashed over the black haired girl's face. A tinge of hope. "It's okay." Grace slowly moved her hands to our the back of her head and the small of her back, pulling her forward. "It's okay."
The S sniffled but eventually relaxed. Grace winced when she squeezed her with the tightest hug she had ever received. "I-I'm still a freak." She suddenly let out. "I mean, at worst Jason could be a demolition worker, Thomas a human lightbulb. But me? Poison. Poison just kills."
"Not really. A few also have therapeutic uses, in the right quantities, and many are used in research. You won't believe how many substances' lethality are still unknown to us." Sienna interjected, which didn't help the mood. At all. "Also, I don't think that's all you can do, Catarina." That did. The two other women in the room turned to the nurse, who smiled knowingly. She started walking in their direction. "Cat, most poisonous animals keep their venom in separate sacs and flow through particular apparatuses only. Why? Because they're not immune to their own poison." She suddenly bent down and poked the S on the forehead. "So, how can you gargle it like Listerine and talk about it?"
"Jason, I'm hungry..."
"Using Skills burns more calories than playing football, Thomas!" Jason replied as he trusted his leg upward, hitting the dummy in the face. The thing didn't even faze but shook from the blossom strength. "Figures doing it while moving around!"
"I know that. It's just, it's been almost an hour." Sweat pooling on his brow as he laid on his back, Thomas glanced in the direction of the control room. "Think Catarina's okay?"
"Hmm... Yeah." Jason answered truthfully. He had that feeling, and he usually trusted them. He punched the dummy in the stomach, enjoying the fiery burst and the way the area distorted and the whole figure bent back to slam into the ground. "And if she isn't, I'll need to have a talk with teach. I'd rather not, though."
"Really?" Thomas asked, genuinely surprised. The thought brought a smile to his face. "Then, you're starting to like miss Kelly?"
"I can stand her. Let's leave it at that." The teen stood, catching his breath with deep, controlled breaths. "The people I can honestly say I like in the whole world are only three." He suddenly grinned, a bit lecherously. "Make that four, actually. Helloooo, nurse!"
"... That song started with United States and Canada, right?" Thomas asked, the cat call reminding him of one of the few disks in Jason's collection which he really liked.
Think the reference was too subtle?
Meinos Kaen out!