Hello, thar. Meinos Kaen here!
I'm on an inspiration roll, this week! Two updates in one week! Well, don't want to keep you anymore, also I have a tendency to blurb, they said... So, just enjoy!
-IV-“Thanks, miss Kelly.” Priscilla said as the trio sat comfortably at a table in the mall’s cafe. “Your predecessor threatened to have us both arrested.”
“You’ll find that I’m very different from my predecessors, mister Artilheiro.” Grace replied, smiling. “Asking to talk to me without an appointment isn’t that irregular.” Carlos laughed bitterly at that.
“Yeah… I find it more irregular that we’ve not had real news about our children in years.” The man said, playing with the napkin they had provided him with. “The Containment Rules say that we can request to know about their well-being any given day, but there are no rules about them having to give us exhaustive answers. Or any answers at all.” He gripped his empty glass a bit too hard, if the cracks appearing in it were any indication. “Containment. Like they're... Some kind of disease. They're just kids, per l'amor de-” The next few seconds were epithets that caused Priscilla to blush and Grace to stare, before breaking into a chuckle.
“You really are Catarina's father.” Carlos raised an eyebrow as he recomposed himself, confused. "Catarina has the same habit of being... Colorful, when nervous or under pressure."
"Really?" The man shifted from embarrassed to surprised. Then, melancholic. "I can't really imagine it. When I last saw her she was such a sweet girl. Demure. Polite. Meek."
"Catarina meek?" It was Grace's turn to not be able to imagine something. "I must say, from what I've seen of her up to now, that's the last adjective I would use to describe her."
"It's been years since we last saw our children. We don't... We don't know how much they've changed, nor how they look like." Priscilla continued, showing sadness instead of fond melancholy. She raised her head, staring right at Grace in the eyes. "How's Thomas? Is he doing fine?"
"Yes. He is." Grace nodded, answering truthfully. "He's probably the smartest person I've ever met. Also, he's a very tranquil person."
"Yes... He is. He's always been." She smiled, then shot her head back up as something occured to her. "They're not giving him a hard time, are they? His classmates."
"No. It's just Thomas, Catarina and Jason. Catarina is very friendly, and Jason has been nothing but overprotective of Thomas and her." Grace replied, her mind recalling how Jason's condition for him liking her had been helping the other two S with their problems. "They get along splendidly. They're just like siblings, even if Thomas would probably be the only one comfortable saying out loud." She chuckled as soon as she finished talking, to rid the sentence of any ambiguity.
"Really? I'm so glad." Priscilla sighed in relief, but she didn't smile. "Still, I miss him so much."
"We both haven't seen our children since they were taken from us. Priscilla actually saw it happen. I..." Carlos crossed his hands on the table and lowered his head. "I was at work. I came back to a crowd of friends and neighbours amassed around my house, my ex-wife in tears. My daughter nowhere in sight. I asked what has happened, where Catarina was. And do you know what that... What she said?" The man narrowed his eyes at nothing, his hands squeezing each other as he bit back a bad word to refer to any woman by. "'It can't have been my family. We never went past C class.'" Grace cringed. Of all the things the woman could have said, that was probably the worst. "It's incredible how little you can know someone you decide to spend the rest of your life and have a child with."
"Decide." Priscilla parroted, in a whisper. "Yes, today most people decide when to have a child... Sometimes it just happens, though."
"You were pretty young when you had Thomas, right, miss Ellis?" The strawberry blonde wasn't even thirty.
"Please, call me Priscilla. And yes. I was in high school." She nodded. "His father... Well, let's just say that he wasn't at the hospital the day Thomas was born. I was so scared. I wasn't ready to be a mother, I hadn't decided to have Thomas. I wanted to give him up for adoption." Her eyes started to mist over. "Then I made the beautiful mistake of wanting to hold my baby." A sniffle echoed in the air, and Grace saw with the tail of her right eye their waiter backpedalling and deciding to return later to take their orders. "I couldn't let them take him away. I still can't." Priscilla let out a choked sob. Carlos grasped her left forearm, squeezing it gently. The woman turned the corresponding hand in a fist. "Miss Grace." Tears were flowing freely on the young mother's face. "We didn't come here to hear about our children."
"They want to see you again." She finished. They were both surprised, shocked. Thomas' eyes started to tear up, but in happiness.
"Mom..." He murmured, his lips morphing into a wide smile.
"Hold your horses, Thomas. What they want to do is against the law." Catarina wasn't as optimistic. She bit on her lower lip. "S-Class are removed from their families for a reason."
"Yes. I can't arrange a meeting." Grace replied, dampening Thomas' mood. Then, she suddenly smirked. It amused Jason to no end. "However." The two teens focused on Grace's mischievous face. "If they happen to be in the same place as you and meet you by chance, I can't very well do anything about that, can I?"
"Will you look at that." Jason chuckled as he observed the scene.
"Miss Kelly, what do you have in mind?"
"The school's annual field trip. That's what." The red-eyed teen sighed, deciding that he had heard enough. Anything else, they would tell him. 'Damn. Feels awful, being out of the loop.' Also, it was saturday. He had his usual work-out to go to.
The more he thought about it, the more the matter intrigued him. Mostly because he still couldn't make head or tails of it, even if it had been only a few hours since McFinnegan brought the conundrum to his attention. He had quickly discarded the hypothesis of all the individual's skills being the sole explanation. It was probably a mix of Skills and equipment, but exactly which Skill was what still eluded him. 'Invisibility to technology and telepaths. Shifting mass. Firepower. All of this in one single individual and the Home Department somehow managed to overlook him? I can't believe it.' Then again, it's been years since he had dealt with that particular division of the Department. The ones in charge had obviously changed, but the sheer level of incompetency needed for such an overlook was mind boggling. He couldn't really believe that the head of the HD could-
"Hey, old man." His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar, flippant voice. Putting aside his worries, he turned in the direction of the source, smiling. "What's on your mind?"
"Nothing, Jason." In all reply, the S blew a raspberry at the headmaster.
"Eeee! Wrong answer. You usually know I'm here before I even open the door. Without using your Skill. You had something on your mind." The teen jerked his right arm so that he was holding his duffel bag over his shoulder. "Something big. Care to share?"
Roberts' smile widened. Observant. The boy had taken that little tip from many years before seriously. "An old friend came to visit this morning, looking for my advice on a certain matter." He replied, crossing his arms behind his back as he turned his whole body in Jason's direction. "I haven't been able to help him. Yet. The interrogative he submitted to me is... Intriguing."
"Heh. Once a spook, always a spook, right?" Jason grinned, and Roberts rolled his eyes.
"Again, I prefer the term 'intelligence agent'." Jason shrugged and waltzied in the direction of the changing rooms. Roberts himself was already in suitable attire.
"Whatever you say, gramps." Rowdy. Disrespectful. So flippant.
'Just like me at that same age.' He had gotten that beaten out of him, eventually. He hoped he could do that to Jason a bit earlier.
"Still... Doesn't make sense." A couple hours later, Jason sweated on his back on the floor of the gym, staring at the artificial lights hanging from the ceiling. "I'm younger. Got more endurance. More strength. Why do I still... End up like this, each time?"
"First, you should know that humans in this era don't age as they do in those old movies you're so fond of. If you've paid attention during science." Roberts took deep breaths to cool his body down. "We don't get to look as old as old Sapiens even if we live longer, and our physical and mental capabilities do not decline. Not because of aging. Atrophy, that can happen. And I got more experience than you."
"Still... I'm exhausted. And sore. And got hit. A lot. You didn't. You aren't." Jason said in between pants.
"I am tired. You simply forget to breath abdominally when you get restless." Roberts chuckled. "I think this time it was around the third time I kicked you to the floor."
"Breath abdominally. Right." Calming down, Jason took a series of such deep breaths, eyes closed. Then, he sat up. "Also, we still are doing normal thai box."
"Muay Boran, Jason. That's what you wanted to learn. That's what I'm teaching you." Roberts interjected. Jason waved him off with a hand.
"Yes, whatever. The point is, why doesn't what we do look like it does in the guy's movies?" He got up and struck a pose, feet wide, right arm stretched forward and down. "His pose wasn't all closed up and... Well, it's cooler!"
"Hmm... A good question." Roberts conceded. That was probably the reason why Jason had asked him if there was a way for him to learn such an old martial style in the first place. "The answers are two. First, the man passed as one of the most accomplished martial artists of his time. By the time he made those movies he had mastered muay boran and thai, along with styles of acrobatics and ritual dancing, which he mixed up to create his own style of fighting. Also, those are, as you said, movies."
"Your point?" Jason crossed his arms, unconvinced.
"In movies, you're expected to deliver some kind of flair. Of flashiness, if you will. The fights in those movies are executed with the purpose of looking cool, sometimes putting aside some of the fundaments of such martial styles." Roberts continued, joining his hands behind his back. "I'm teaching you everything. With the purpose being winning an eventual fight as safely and quickly as possible. To be efficient, not to look good." Jason frowned, pouting childishly. Roberts chuckled, amused by his expression. "With time, you may also learn to look cool while doing it, if you master it."
"Master it... Long way from here." Jason let out with a groan, massaging his face. "... By the way, I was thinking, how good is all this in an actual fight?"
"Care to elaborate?" The headmaster inquired while he grabbed onto his nearby towel to wipe his sweat off.
"Not planning to get into one but, I was thinking, the guard is a bit... Static, right? Focuses on blocking. Made sense back then." Jason explained, imitating his teacher and taking care of his own secretions. "Now, though, people can throw lightning and more at you. Can't block that. And unless you're sturdy enough, blocking doesn't do you any good against people able to benchpress China." He paused. "Or Catarina." He quickly added. "And not because of her skills. All in all, wouldn't it be better to focus on dodging than blocking?"
Roberts smiled wide again, hid by his towel. Flippant, disrespectful. But observant, sharp, with an elastic mind. And curious. "You're absolutely correct, Jason." He motioned to him to follow to the changing rooms. "I guess we're gonna modify our training regiment a bit. Focus on mobility, some spring footwork."
"Just like that?" Jason asked as he stepped in and dove for his bag.
"Just like that." Jason sighed, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Old man, sooner or later you're gonna have to tell me why you're acting this good to me. Headmasters aren't supposed to play favourite, right? And I'm an S to boot." The boy grinned as he said that. "Also, what you were doing in my middle school three years ago in the first place."
"That I can't tell you. Sorry." The teen rolled his eyes. Always with the mystery when it came to that subject.
He had come up with various theories over the years, trying to come up with a reasonable explanation to the why Roberts had been in his school building during his first year of middle school, that day, and why he kept on going there, never wasting the chance to drop by and visit him, always in secret. The most validated theory in his mind was that he had had a family member enrolled in his same school. "... Family." He recalled the conversation between Grace and his friends from earlier that day. "Hey, mister Roberts."
"Yes, Jason?" When he called him with 'mister', it meant that Jason was asking a heartfelt question.
"Is there an actual reason why S-Class are removed from their families or it's just the homies being jerkwads?" Roberts was honestly surprised. Jason never, ever mentioned familial subjects.
"Yes, there is a reason why. An actual reason, not a 'conspiracy' reason. For the safety of the S and all the people around him." Robert answered truthfully. "And no, you can't know. Even APTs don't know. It's a closely guarded secret."
"... Okay." The boy sighed, starting to strip. A shower would take his mind off things. That was when a couple of plastic cases containing disks landed on his bathrobe. His eyes lightened up. "The 2005 series?"
"From the ninth to the eleventh. And the Christmas specials." Jason grinned as he collected the disks.
"Allons-y, then." How he loved knowing a headmaster with a taste for old era cultural produce.
"Colonel McFinnegan, sir." The soldier stood up and saluted as the older man walked by his desk and into his office. He followed suit. "How was your trip?"
"Not as fruitful as I would have liked it to be." The man replied as he dropped his hat on the nearby clothes-hanger. "Issue an order to increase security for all the facilities which researched similar projects in the same time period as the ones which have already been attacked."
"Yes, sir. Anything else?" The colonel sat in his chair, molding his body to it before answering.
"Contact the Home Deparment. We need access to their files regarding S-Class individuals." He replied, his voice suddenly steely. "All of them. With a particular haste on the ones regarding the most dangerous and the ones on the run."
"Alright. The next point is... The annual first year field trip, next week." Roberts nodded, acknoweledging the subject as mrs Kaytlin read it from her list to the assembled teaching body. "The location is the usual."
"The Royal New History Complex." The headmaster said. "We'll book with the usual agency."
"Is it a full day trip?" Grace asked. The headmaster nodded, while everyone else just stared at the redhead in surprise. "Will we be having lunch in the complex?"
"We usually reserve a full meal at one of the restaurants. I personally like the sky-themed one." Roberts continued, without missing a beat. Grace nodded and typed it down, her colleagues still staring. "Well, I guess we'll have to add four heads to the number of seats on the train."
"H-Headmaster!" The math teacher let out, immediately catching her tongue before Roberts could level her with a glare. "I mean... Headmaster, what about their quotas?"
"The fund provided by the Home Department more than makes up for it." Grace replied in Roberts' place. "And I can pay for myself, if the school can't cover mine."
"Nonsense, Grace. Of course it can."
"B-But, headmaster... I mean, is this regular?" A sweaty bespectacled teacher for the second year asked, nervous. "S-Class students... On a field trip?"
"There's no rule prohibiting it." Roberts said, leaning back into his chair. "As long as Grace comes along and keeps them under control, I don't see any problem with it."
"... As long as she understands they're her responsability." Kaytlin stated, firm. Grace returned her cold stare.
"I don't need a reminder for that. Thanks, mrs Kaytlin." The young teacher replied, her lips setting in a thin horizontal line.
"Damn." Richards muttered as he subtly scooted away from Grace. "The temperature just dropped something like ten degrees, in here."
Meinos Kaen out!