Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by JunkMail
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Houston, We Have Liftoff.

"Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World."
— Inscription on Columbus' caravels



Two men sat together in the observatorium, at the very top of the highest spire on The Promise. They did this every new year, in some form of tradition. As if it was some recognition process- celebrating a new group coming aboard.

“Hey, Eli,”

The man rustled some, turning his head lazily towards his companion who pointed toward the clear ceiling towards no star in particular.

“That, right there, is why I stay on this ship.”

Eli sneered.

“You could get that view on the ground, man. It’s pretty much the same view.”

“Yeah, but I feel closer. Y’know? Was it Sagan, or Clarke that made that ‘Alone in the universe’ quote?”

“Clarke, Henry. That was Clarke.”

“Yeah- I just… Some part of me thinks that me doing my part here helps us take one step closer to getting there.”

“Cara, how far away is that star Henry’s pointing at?”

”That star is approximately… 290 thousand light years away, Doctor Winzer.”

“Well, Henry, we have a hell of a lot of steps left.”


Archie



"Wakey, wakey! Eggs and bakey!" a voice called out, rousing Archie from his slumber and enticing him to roll over and out of his lumpy cot. He couldn't see the person outside of the door, he never could see anyone that was beyond the door, but he recognized the voice. It was the same one that had come to him cell every morning and every night, and sometimes at lunchtime- but only to annoy him.

"Wow, eggs and bacon today? You're spoiling me." He commented with an ounce of indignation as food was slid under the door and into his room. It most certainly was not eggs and bacon. It was oatmeal and bread. Just like it had been every other day since he had been placed into solitary confinement.

"Trust me, I really fought for your last meal to be different. Better eat up! It's a big day today!" the voice commented sarcastically. There was the sound of whistling and footsteps that faded, and then Archie was alone again with his... slop. He sighed and grabbed the tray, walking to the opposite wall and sitting against the concrete wall. He dipped his bread in the oatmeal and took a bite like he normally did. Despite his conditions, he was beginning to fall into a new normal of sorts. He missed the smell of the sea and the feeling of the sun on his skin, but he had learned very quickly that the fact that they were feeding him at all was a good thing. His eyes drifted to the large, ugly gouges that had been carved into the wall. He hadn't turned in a few days now, but the last time he did had been particularly bad. At least, according to the voice that came to visit him on the norm. His mind drifted to the man's words- last day. Did that mean they were going to kill him? He knew he hadn't been a model inmate by any means, but he hadn't hurt anyone yet. It hadn't been his fault! He curled in on himself further instinctually at the thought. This could be his last day on earth.

The past few weeks had been eventful, but in a bad way. He had been pulled in and out of his quarantined cell and restrained so that doctors could do whatever they wanted with him. When he had screamed and turned in that ever painful way that he always did, they had claimed it was for research purposes in preparation. Maybe they were just finding the best way to kill him? He frowned. Perhaps the worst pain he had felt wasn't the physical pain, though. That never lasted. What stung the most was the look on his adopted father's face when he was found out- trapped like a caged animal and peppered with birdshot, naked as the day he was born in the dirt. Archie averted his eyes from where he had been looking, knowing that his caretaker was not looking at him yet still being unwilling to meet his metaphysical gaze.

A few hours passed, and he spent the time the way he did any other day- which was carving something into the wall. It usually wasn't anything good, since he couldn't draw for shit, but it got his mind working and that was what mattered. He had taken a modicum of humor in scratching numerals into the wall keeping track of how many days he had spent here. Archie heard the marching of feet and turned his head towards the door. He had long since learned not to bother standing, as they would always force him back to the ground anyways. He steeled himself for what was to come, as this could very well be it. At least, if that voice was anything to go by. If he was going to die, he was going to die with dignity. Suddenly, the marching stopped, and all was silent. A pregnant pause ensued, Archie becoming more and more apprehensive of whatever was coming. He felt a heat building in his chest and panicked- he couldn't make a mess. Not like this.

A canister was thrown under the hatch of his door and quickly closed. Archie looked dumbly at the canister for a moment, unsure of what to do next, until it began smoking. Archie panicked further, the heat in his chest willing him towards the back of his cell as it began filling with smoke. His vision began tunneling when his cell door unlocked, and two heavily armed guards stood in the doorway. He tried to stand, his mind no longer functioning as it normally would, but he was swiftly stuck with a needle. His arms were wrenched back, and the heat in his chest was almost unbearable now, as if trying to turn him- but to no avail. His vision began swimming, and he felt all his strength go. He collapsed to the ground under the guard's weight and as his vision began blacking out entirely, he heard:

"Dude! Did you just Bill Cosby him? Not cool!"

His delirious mind was not looking forward to whatever was coming next.




When he came too, Archie awoke heavily restrained, but not in the fun way. He was in what was best described as a modified dolly, with his entire body belted to the device in dozens of places. He couldn't move anything from turning his head, and the heat in his chest was now completely gone. He was alone in a room that had to have... fifty or more seats in it. Some of which were occupied with people restrained, bolted down and tied up similarly to him. What the hell kind of execution was this?

"Woah! Looks like he's awake!" a voice rang out over the intercom. This voice was... nerdy for a lack of better description.

"Where the fu-"

"You're being launched into space."

Archie was taken aback.

"Wha-"

"Yeah, see, I do this a lot, so the line of questioning gets pretty standard. There was an agent in your food this morning, a catalyst that worked with a sedative in that little grenade. Knocked you out. If you look to the left, our friend is here to also knock your powers out. Basically, some higher up decided that we're the last thing besides you and being shot into the sun, so you're taking a trip on the world's biggest rollercoaster."

Archie turned to look at a heavily armed man, similar to the ones that had apprehended him, sitting in one of the seats further away from him. The man, against everything that Archie had experienced with the North American Parahuman handlers, waved at him. As the others began to wake up, the voice answered similar questions, and after a while, it announced that the others would be arriving soon, and to sit tight. Then he heard some mumbling about coffee breaks not being often enough. After a short period, a slow trickle of people wearing bright white uniforms began coming into the room. They were chattering about 'The Promise' and how they'd been invited. Some were talking about their families. All of them had personal items and luggage- it was like they were walking into a plane or something. They had obviously known about this and had somehow agreed to it. At least he wasn't purposefully being killed. The noise in the room grew as the seats were filled- and then promptly silenced when the voice came onto the intercom once again.

"Students, welcome! My name is Elias, and I am required to sound like I give a shit."

That prompted a few laughs.

"So, I gotta brief you all- basically you'e being shot into space towards a hole that's moving really really fast. Kinda like a really big game of pool. If we undershoot, you die. If we overshoot, you die. If you leave the ship now, you probably wont die. Last chance to get off!"

No one moved. Some out of balls, and others out of fear.

"Wow, buncha winners we have here. Anyways, keep yourselves strapped in- and keep your gear secured. Don't want that killing anyone during the flight!"

The comms shut off again, and the chatter resumed. Archie was just trying to remember his family.

Some time passed. Archie couldn't be sure how much, because he didn't have a watch and he didn't even know what day it is, but the intercom came on once more announcing quiet in the launch pod.

They were lifting off soon.




"10!"

The countdown began. Some students were giddy in their seats, thrill seekers eagerly looking out their windows. Others were clutching various religious objects and praying in various languages. Several joined in on the counting.

"6!"

"You ready?" Someone called.

"4!"

"Not even a little bit!" another person answered.

"3!"

"Oh please god-"

"2!"

Some students were holding hands.

"1!"

Silence.

"Liftoff."

For a moment, there was nothing, and Archie wondered briefly if there had been some sort of issue. Then he felt it, the hum of engines so powerful that he could feel them spooling up before he heard them. His stomach lurched as the pod's engines rocketed to life. He and everyone else felt the pull of acceleration as the amount of thrust overcame gravity- and then were pressed into their seats as the rocket picked up speed. Archie was able to turn his head against the pull of gravity and gaze out of the window- a huge white cloud of emerged from the base of the shuttle, then brightness so intense it was almost hard for him to look at- but there was no looking away. This was it. Archie's heart was in his throat as memories of nightmares he’d had popped into his head- of fears he'd had, of his family and friends both living and dead. The flames shooting out of the bottom of the shuttle were scorching a line through the sky, leaving a thick trail of orangey smoke behind them. Within moments the shuttle was soaring high above the Earth, to a soundtrack of cheering from many students. Some screaming in joy and others crying in shock. Then came the first inkling of the rumble that went on to be a wall of sound so powerful it literally shook him to his very bones. The deep rumbling built to a crescendo of popping like the sound waves were ripping the air apart, bursting their way through to them. Had he not been provided context, he would have assumed that it was the sound of an earthquake. It was like one thousand fireworks exploding all at once, with an accompaniment of an Earth-shaking rumble.

"Enjoy your trip. ETA: ten minutes. See you all soon." Eli's voice came onto the intercom.

The launch was immensely powerful, and he truly felt himself in the centre of it. It was like riding an enormous- overpowering wave, or being pushed and lifted by an enormous hand, or shaken in the jaws of some gigantic animal. The pod shook and vibrated, and he was pinned hard down into his restraints by the acceleration. As one set of engines finished and the next started, he was thrown forward and then shoved back once more. The weight of over 4Gs for many minutes had been oppressive, and the sudden shift rocked him once more to his core. As if an enormously fat person had been lying on him, until suddenly, after 9 minutes, the engine shut off and he was instantly weightless. The engines were silent now, but still firing. He lifted his head against his restraints and realized that he had sweat an imprint of his head into the cushion.

Outside, The Promise was rotating around the planet at seventeen thousand miles an hour, and as the pod approached, the port at the bottom of its central spire opened- and the pod flew seamlessly into it. Archie and many other students lurched forward when a series of braking systems enclosed around the pod as it flew through the port's bowels, adjusting just in time to be thrown forward in their seats as other braking systems activated. As it finally came to a stop- the seat belts released from around the normal students.

The whole process of transporting the group several hundred miles had taken twenty minutes.

The doors opened revealing people of all shapes and sizes on the other side. A woman approached Archie and unlocked his restraints, offering him a hand. He weakly raised an arm and took it, and was pulled up slowly but all too quickly at the same time. He fell against the woman, who held him until he was steadied. It dawned upon Archie how fast his heart had been beating, and he placed a hand against his chest and tried to keep himself from coughing.

"One hell of a ride, huh? Nothing quite like it."

Archie noted that her voice had a British accent. He nodded wordlessly, and the woman helped him to his feet. Many of the other students were leaning against the walls of the room or their luggage, and others were walking into a bright corridor outside.

"What's your name?" Archie questioned. The woman smiled and answered easily: "Arianna."

Arianna pointed towards the corridor, and Archie looked to her incredulously. Did she really expect him to walk after all that?

"The first steps are a special thing. It's tradition to take them on your own." Arianna stated.

Archie gulped, and took a tentative step forward. She nearly collapsed under her own weight and leaned heavily onto the wall. Only a few more steps. He repeated this process, gaining slightly more strength as he did so, and eventually stepped into the bright corridor, and followed the large arrows on the floor directing him where to go. When he stepped into what couldn't be anything other than his destination, he was greeted by a massive hub. There was a large variety of people- most of which were those on the pod, but some were others that weren't dressed in launch uniforms. They were dressed like normal people, and they were in a ring around the new arrivals yelling something about 'The Promise' and 'School Spirit'. They were loud and proud. Archie nearly threw up in her mouth- but he couldn't tell if it was because of the kumbaya shit or leftover queasiness from the launch.

Arianna walked up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Welcome to The Promise."

He turned his head to respond, but she was gone. He was pulled by his arm into the group by one of the people who weren't wearing a uniform, and quickly shuffled into cafeteria of sorts. There were tables with food on them along the edges of the room, and other tables with seats- obviously meant for them to sit. There was an empty stage before them, with only a podium at the center. In the background, there was a projection of The Promise's logo, with the words "Be With You In 10 Minutes!" on it. Archie looked between the projection and the tables of food. He supposed that it was time to put something in the tank and maybe meet a few people, assuming he could even eat to begin with.




Today was the day. All of that time being vetted in physicals, taking shots, and having strangers put their fingers in every possible orifice has all culminated to this. Whether you have been excited, fearful, or a combination of both, the time has come.

Today is the day you realize, as you slide off of your bed in your quarantined room and press your bare feet onto the ground, or as your officials pick you up and buy you breakfast on the way to the launch station, that this is a day of lasts. This is the last time you will shuffle into a line to get breakfast, the last time you would see see your family for a long time, and the last time your feet would touch Earth for years.

But it is also a day of firsts. The first day that you won’t have the man breathing down your back. The first day that you will feel completely and totally weightless. The first day you had something to really look forward to.

Today is the day for launch.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by SepticGentleman
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INTERVAL 01 - SPACE VACATION



You have arrived at your destination.

As the new arrivals departed the transport, the cargo hold was left unchecked for a precious few minutes. During that time, one misplaced figure made an unnoticed exit while the staff were occupied with surrounding the incoming parahumans, making sure they were all nice and welcome. And nullified, perhaps.

Promise staff’s planetside clearance team deserved a good lashing for letting this one slip through.

His helmet, gloves, and the stripes on his shorts were all blank - the built-in lights shut off to help in the pursuit of stealth. With no one around, he was clear to climb upside the ship and take vantage in the rafters and ductwork above everything else. A station so complex as this was bound to have miles upon miles of nooks and crannies to disappear into.

About time. What happened, you get stuck in an air duct on the way over?

The upper works were so cluttered that anyone scanning them would still have a hard time spotting the figure. Thankfully, everyone was too preoccupied with greetings and servicing to bother to look up. He made his path through the hallways, climbing like some freakish animal across the ventilation tubes and cable bridges.

Before long, he reached the station cafeteria. Full of new arrivals and staff members seeing to them. Food and drink were bountiful, as were chairs. The projection screen over on the other end was displaying the Promise’s logo, and an assumed ETA on when the proverbial ball would get rolling.

Welcome to your new school/home/prison.

Still up in the rafters, he decided here and now was the best spot and time to wait. He lied down on a length of ductwork, lights remaining blank, and simply observed the crowd, waiting for the orientation process to begin.

Then, after that - who knows? There’s a lot to work with here.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by levinfist
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Amelia





Amelia felt sick to her stomach. And it wasn't just the feeling of not seeing home for a long time. The way her handlers had treated the whole thing. The voice on the intercom's nonchalantness about pretending to care. The sight of one young man effectively tied to his seat like he was some kind of monster in particular nearly made her vomit then and there. All the trappings of 'doing what's best for them' whether it really was or not. At the very least, she hadn't gotten it the worst. She'd walked on board in another white uniform with the chattering masses, but it didn't matter to her. She honestly wasn't sure if she'd rather also have come in restrained. At least then she'd have the look of resistance.

Amelia sat in her seat and waited for the countdown to take off. She glanced around. No one was really focused on her. All glances were directed at the windows, or straight ahead, or the more volatile individuals. The temptation to bail surfaced for a moment. She could probably pull it off. All it would take was a few moments and she'd be right back in her basement.

And then it was too late, and the shuttle began to lift. Amelia considered it for a moment more, before remembering an important lesson learned when she teleported off the top of a moving bus once.

Splat.

So Amelia chose to bare the indignity and go with it. For now. All the same, she tried to focus on the speed and distance of the shuttle. Teleporting off a space station in orbit seemed like a total impossibility for now. But maybe one day she could pull it off.

Amelia fought the feeling of needing to puke as she stepped off the shuttle, but eventually got the hang of it. Of course, the need resurface real quick when she saw the school spirit team welcoming them in. "So, that's how it us, huh?" she muttered to herself. "We've always been at war with Eastasia? There is no war in Ba Sing Sae? Good to know."

Amelia followed the crowd into the cafeteria, an irate scowl on her face all the while. As everyone began to find a place in the room, Amelia did her best to find a place to sit not filled with people she saw as sniveling apologists.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Silver Carrot
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Natalie Ellis





Natalie woke up in full restraints, unable to move any part of her body. For a few seconds, she panicked, and struggled, but she wasn't budging. Then she looked around. The wild, crazy look of a cornered bull left her eyes as her brain kicked in and she remembered where she was. She was safe. They had assured her she'd never be subject to those operations, experiments or tests ever again. They told her she'd be going somewhere safe. More people began to enter the room. Most of them looked under 25, if not even younger. What exactly was happening? She noted that she wasn't the only person that she could see who was restrained. That said, she wasn't able to look behind her, only in front. Other people sat close to her and gave her wary looks. Natalie honestly couldn't blame them.

A man called Elias then briefed them on the situation, and asked them if the wanted to leave. Natalie was silent. She'd miss her family, but the truth is, she couldn't even remember her parent's faces anymore. And they'd probably mourned her a long time ago. Hopefully, someone would let them know that she was alive. All her home, nay, all Earth held for her now were horrific memories. When the countdown started, Natalie braced herself. She wouldn't be able to grab onto anything like this. She hoped the dolly would hold her tight, but considering she hadn't busted her way out of it when she woke up, it was very sturdy stuff. During the journey, a memory came back to her from her childhood. She'd always wanted to go to space and be an astronaut as a young child, and now here she was doing it. She started to sob, and laugh to herself, and the people around her gave her an even wider berth. This attracted the attention of a wary-looking staff member who had her hand on some kind of object attached to her hip. Natalie couldn't see what it was. Natalie apologized, and asked them if they could dab her eyes. They did so with all the care somebody would take if they were petting a wild tiger.

When they landed, which seemed no time at all, a man came over with a clipboard, glanced at it, back at Natalie, and unlocked her restraints, before asking her to present her wrists. She did so, and was cuffed with two very thick, sci-fi looking bracelets joined together with an equally tough looking pole. Now she could look around, she'd see that the other people in dollies had also been released, but she couldn't see any who'd been cuffed immediately afterwards. He motioned her to walk, which she did, gladly. She hadn't been this 'free' in almost two years. Even though she was cuffed. Even though she was surrounded by security and had been sent to a facility in space, this was the best she had been treated in a long time. She followed the arrows with everybody else and was stunned to silence when she emerged from that corridor into a large room filled with people. This wasn't a prison! It was almost a...a space school! Natalie could help herself from smiling. While other people from her ship mingled freely, Natalie was directed to some personnel, who fitted her with a thin metallic collar, and then removed her cuffs, before nodding, smiling, and welcoming her to The Promise. She rubbed her wrists, still beaming, and thanked them profusely.

"Don't get too excited now," one of them explained, pleased to see that she was happy. "You might set your shock collar off. We've heard about your past, and we're so terribly sorry for what you've been through. But we've been sent records of your recovery and rehabilitation. We see it wise to take this measure for now...at least until we're sure you won't hurt anyone else. You understand, don't you?"

Natalie nodded. She guessed she did, though her joy had evaporated. At least she was calm now. But even here she supposed that she was still too different. Once that business was concluded, she joined the others at the food table, and nibbled at a few things. There was one thing everyone else around her had in common; they weren't wearing a shock collar. She wasn't hungry, and gave up eating after a minute.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Luminous Beings
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Lynn

Lynn had never been on an airplane before in her entire life. She had never even stepped foot in an airport.

Lynn hated it. She hated the stupid smug faces as they strapped her in. She hated all the conversations they'd had before about this. She hated turning her arm over for some doc to draw boiling blood from as a man kept his finger on the trigger of a rifle behind her. She hated the quarantine room where she'd done push-ups and shadowboxed until her un-enhanced lungs set to wheezing and her legs gave way, stomach rumbling enough to shake her bones.

The thing she hated most was that they'd taken her powers from her.

She was cold. Lynn had only been cold three or four times before that she could recall. Underneath the far-too-baggy sweatshirt was not much in the way of body fat. Lynn shivered in the recycled air on-board as they ran system checks. A thousand fuckin rockets strapped to this thing and it feels like we're up a polar bear's ass. Lynn was shivering. Her legs couldn't reach the floor of her seat. She was strapped in so she couldn't move. When they began to take off, Lynn's stomach had such a visceral reaction that she was confident she was going to hurl. She forced it down. She was not going to be the little bitch who did this on the first day. Some of these pansies were holding hands or praying or reciting poetry but none of them were hurling and she was not going to be the first, just announcing to the world they couldn't handle themselves. One guy looked to be strapped down even more than she was. Lynn took interest, chewing on a bloodied lip and observing him for a minute. This one is the big bad wolf? Lynn looked him over. He didn't look all that tough. Maybe he killed a guy or something, who knew.

And there was a very small part of her that glanced at the window, and for just a second, forgot the cold and the bitterness and just stared out at all the blue.

They were there soon enough, which was fine by Lynn. She was still shivering from the air. Being cold was the worst sensation that Lynn could imagine. Vaguely, she wondered how much power she burned just staying warm throughout the day. I should probably, like, wear better socks or some shit. They unstrapped Lynn and asked polite questions which she ignored, staring at the headrest in front of her. This shit shouldn't even have been legal. She wondered how long ago they'd had the technology to get this many people to the moon. Certainly not in '69. Lynn hit the floor with shaky legs and braced herself on the arm rest for a moment, regaining her footing. Christ. All of this was fucked up.

Lynn's mind was, above all else, resilient. She had been in too many hairy situations or tough times to really stop and mull over the world around her that frequently. Lynn operated on some pretty simple principles: reject the narrative presented to you, because it's frequently a lie. Avoid complicating that narrative. Fuck over whoever told you that narrative just to be sure. But what she was seeing and feeling was so beyond anything she could have comprehended. She was on a spaceship. There was altered gravity and...Lynn noticed her heart was hammering inside her chest, and she wasn't quite as cold. On her last day on the outside of all of this, some three months before, she'd had to steal a wallet to buy dinner.

She was on a spaceship.

The other principles she could hold fast to. Lynn looked around the pod slowly, marking the faces of all of the Promise staff. There was the lanky bitch that strapped her into the seat. That acne-ridden motherfucker who probably flipped the switch on their powers. They'd made her cold, and small, and made her legs swing off the floor, jostled against the seat because she was just barely tall enough for their rig. Lynn committed their faces to her memory. It did not occur to her that letting someone whose presence catalyzed explosions run uninhibited on a spaceship might have ended disastrously, nor did it occur to Lynn that her thrusting into the back of the seat in front of her unrestrained would have tested even her own regenerative capabilities. Stuff like that complicated the narrative. The narrative was simple.

They might've put her in a golden cage, but there was nobody who could make Cordelia Lynn Holmes sing.

She took a moment to gain her footing, closing her eyes. The cold? Fuck the cold. She was ice cold. Lynn let herself just marinate in it for a moment, getting good and pissed off. She clenched her teeth tight so no one would see them chatter. Lynn's ratty brown hair was pulled back tight as she straightened up and grabbed her luggage - a small, worn backpack, primarily held together by duct tape, and a duffel bag that did not even appear to be halfway full. She managed to sling it over her shoulder with slight difficulty. She walked out, forcing herself to keep her face deadpan as she handled the gravity switch.

Lynn's stomach did not keep so tight a deadpan.

She seized onto the nearest trash can, the smell of vomit flooding her nose (at least I'm not the only one, Lynn barely had time to think) as she contributed to it. Lynn stood back up, shaking, absolutely fuming.

God, she was going to somehow make Acne-Face's appearance uglier once she got the chance. Lynn steadied herself and followed the glowing tiles, trying to stay focused. The truth was that she could hardly handle everything going on. This was easily the nicest place she had ever been in. She was back in a school that was sort of a juvy, and was unsure which one she was better equipped to handle. The truth is that under all the ash and choking sour smoke there was, somewhere, a girl who couldn't believe she was up in the stars. But fuck you if you think for one second you were getting her to come out and play.

Lynn turned the corner to the orientation staff and only refrained from loud and violent cursing due to several weeks of court-mandated counseling. Her counselor had been kind of a total bitch, but he was cool sometimes. Lynn took a deep breath, feeling her fire come back to her. She was warming up, slowly, as the nullifier wore off. It'd been the first time in a little while, and it felt good. Her teeth stopped chattering and her bag was getting lighter and lighter. Slowly, subtly, her hair stared to change color, going from a mousy brown to a bright yellow, bright as the sun they'd been threatened to be shot into. She went ahead into the cafeteria and put her back to a wall, surveying the room. Okay, there was one girl wearing a shock collar. Lynn took a bit of offense to that. They never would've gotten on on her, of course, because she would never let the Man stick it to her like that - but how come they hadn't tried, huh?

Lynn figured she wasn't gaining anything by lingering around, and, paranoia or no, she hadn't had this much food before her in a long, long time. Lynn filled up her tray with as much food as she could carry and settled at a table, paying no attention to where she sat other than to distance herself a bit from those near her. She would've preferred a corner seat but there was no such luck. Lynn ate steadily and quickly, manners disregarded, not once taking her backpack off.

Lynn had seen too many broken promises to really be excited about this one.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by JunkMail
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Matthew

Aside from the sound of easy swing music and the distant but ever humming low noise of generators, a child’s room at the top of the tallest spire, was quiet. The room was adjourned by pictures and sketches in various styles- from the quality of crayons to photo-realistic oil pastel paintings. A boy, no older than seven years old sat by an easel in front of a window that looked out towards space. He worked silently, a pencil in his hand sketching out what appeared to be the beginnings of a new piece.

He spoke up.

“Cara?”

“Yes, Matthew? How may I help you?”

“Could you ask for mister Black and mister White?”

“Of course, Matthew.”

He continued to work, waiting for a sign that the two have arrived. It didn’t take long, of course. Two figures manifested at the other end of Matthew’s room. Two men, perfectly symmetrical in their forms. One black, and one white, both dressed in formal attire. The only differentiation in their appearances were their ties - swapped colors. Their faces were entirely featureless, as if the both of then were walking mannequins. They stood side-by-side with their hands folded behind their backs.

“You’ve summoned us, Master Detmer?” The gentleman in white asked.

”Something you require?” The gentleman in black added. The boy stopped working, releasing the pencil- which kept moving on its own accord. As if it was still being handled by a hand, rather than a mind. The child turned in his seat, studying the two men for a moment before the edges of his lips curled up ever so slightly.

"I'm sorry for asking you to come on such short notice. I just- I just wanted some advice."

”No trouble at all.”

”What is the issue?”

The smile falls away from Matthew’s face and he leans forward, resting his chin in his hands.

“Today, new people came aboard.” He explains, his eyes averting from the two figured and looking down at the floor. “And I see pain.”

”As is the same with many who come aboard this station.”

”Pain. Regret. Things of such sad nature.”

”Rehabilitation is possible, but...

”It depends on the recipient.”

Matthew sighs. “I see... a different struggle. One that few have faced before, here. It hurts. How do you deal with that kind of pain? The kind that makes you want to help, even if you shouldn’t?”

Black and White glance at each other for a moment, thinking.

”The greatest pain can lead to the greatest catharsis.”

”But the solution can’t be something forced upon the victim of such pain.”

”Healing is a gradual process.”

”And the beginning is always the most important part.”

”Wait for this person’s problem to be identified. Not by you...”

”But by them.”

Matthew’s frown deepens, but he nods as he comes to terms with their words. His gaze becomes neutral once again and he looks up at them.

“Thank you, mister White, mister Black.”

The boy turns to glance at the canvas he has been working on, leaning away some so they may see. It depicts a dark room with a lone, bloodied, empty chair. Torn bindings woven are woven into the metal, and a hazy figure is in the doorway.

The words ‘Welcome to AP Biology!’ are written on a whiteboard.


Archie

Archie had passed her three times now.

They were pretty, sure. But that was definitely not the reason why he had found himself orbiting their general presence. He had, for lack of better wording, been made genuinely uncomfortably by the looks he had been receiving from various people wherever he had tried to sit. Conversation quickly died, and while he was not a man of particular intuition he had sure as hell noted the sideways the others had given him and each other. As if they had expected him to explode or something because he had been restrained so much. He wasn't a very confrontational person, and he had been made to feel sufficiently awkward that he had moved from table to table, trying to find his place.

His phone went off.

// Cara: Hello! My name is Cara, The Promise's AI companion. I have instructions for you to
follow when setting up your lodging.
// You will be staying in: Millennium Hall. Single room, number 227.
// Curfew: 9PM-8AM.


That didn't sound too bad, all things considered. His phone dinged again. Supplying a picture.

Archie's jaw dropped. His room was a fucking confinement bunker! A small, twin bed in a room that couldn't have been more than twenty feet along all walls, which were made of concrete! It was almost exactly like his previous dwellings, except he was allowed to leave during the day. He mused that it was a notable step above, and it made sense given what his ability often did, but it still made him uneasy. As if he was a prisoner here still, with the only difference being that he had a new cage. He jabbed his phone back into his pocket and continued his search for a table. He found himself in front of a table with two women that he had passed a few times now in search of a comfortable spot to sit. One had bright yellow hair and the other, stark black. The first girl was notable because she looked like she wanted to fight the whole room. And the table. And her food if the way she was eating was anything to go by. The other girl was far more reserved in the way she acted. She attempted, vainly, to eat, but the silver collar on her neck was visibly upsetting her. He couldn't blame her, though. Not even he had received that treatment and he had been more restrained than all of them. These two women made him uneasy. They were pretty and he was a man, so that part was a given. But they had also been restrained- one of them was still restrained. A part of him reminded him that he had been tied up just like them and he was not a dangerous man. Most of the time. How bad could they possible be?

He hesitantly placed his food down between them, slightly closer to the dark haired girl as to not aggravate the angry looking one any more than she already was. God she looked like the type that would treat his nuts like a speed bag if he even looked at her wrong! He steeled himself and sat down, preparing himself for any verbal lashings that were coming. He looked between the two as if they were both two angry praying mantis' and he was a simply fly that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He caught sight of the dark haired girl's face, and while his apprehension was still there the empathetic side of him swelled. His chest hurt, but not in the way that it did before the other guy came out. He reached out, hesitantly at first, and placed a hand on her shoulder in an effort to be comforting.

"Hey," he said, his lips curling upward some in a dejected half-smile. "Don't let it get you down. All three of us," he began, glancing at Lynn and motioning to her with his off hand, "...had our kink exposed today."

His half-smile broke out into a small grin, as if to signal that is was a joke. He had to tread lightly here, lest he make himself the target of the freak squad that was slowly building. Not missing a beat, he pulled his hand away and put it on his chest to gesture to himself. He looked from the dark haired girl, and then to the light haired girl as if asking the question to both of them.

"My name is Archie. What's yours?"


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Natalie Ellis





There was a little conversing around Natalie but the only attention she seemed to get were people curiously looking at her collar. One girl, with bright yellow hair and a moody look on her face sat a few seats away as if to avoid her, or just avoid anyone. It was hard to tell. She heard mutterings from other students about why she'd need to wear the collar if their powers were being nullified. They really had no idea. Natalie hoped it would stay that way. Here she was, in a place full of people with powers, and she'll still be the lone, single outcast if anybody had found out what she had done, and what she was like. It wasn't fair.

That's when a boy sat besides her, between Natalie and the yellow-haired girl. Even though she was watching him, and could see him reaching out, she still jumped when his hand touched her shoulder. And then he told a bad joke, and Natalie looked away and gave a single dry, humorless chuckle. But at least she was almost smiling now. Her mouth was in a slightly different position than it was, now looking more like a squiggly line than a frown. He then took his hand away and asked for her name.

"It's Natalie," she replied in a very quiet, soft voice devoid of confidence and clearly not used to being used. "Hi, Archie."
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Lynn

Lynn had completely crushed one plate of food - four chicken tenders, fries, and mac and cheese - and set it to the side by the time Archie had come a-knockin'. It would probably take sharper scientific minds than Ms. Holmes' - which is, come to think of it, not saying much - to determine whether Lynn's food consumption was just her power catching up for reheating her, or a girl trying to put a dent in the tremendous caloric debt she'd racked up in her nutritional ledger. Lynn ate quickly and feverishly, not stopping to savor the food or enjoy the flavor. As she ate, she glanced around, and periodically picked up her spoon and surreptitiously held the back of it angled to look over her shoulder. If one were watching Lynn intently, one would have not only fueled Lynn's paranoia, but one would also perhaps see a food baby forming as she ate.

Then this guy comes along.

Lynn did not respond at first. That was a bitch move.

Lynn took another bite (green beans) and chewed. Her hair, from the roots, slowly began to turn a light blue, streaking up towards the ends of her hair. Tightly bound as her hair was today, this was a bit more apparent than it would normally be. Lynn glanced over at him, and hit a wall of sudden confusion. Why had they bound this one up? Lynn figured he had to have some real wild ability to justify it. I could thrash him, Lynn thought, looking him over as she swallowed. Sure he's big, but look at the way he walks. No tattoos, no nothing. Nose was straight. No cauliflower on his ears. Arms had a bit of wear and tear but nothing she'd raise an eyebrow at. Lynn could tell a burn mark when she saw one, though, and the slightest of grins tugged at the side of her lip. Nice to know who's fireproof and who isn't. Hm. He looked like he had a little muscle on him, but didn't strike Lynn as one of those gym rat fuckboys. Hard labor? He had a bit of a drawl, too. Lynn figured he was a farm boy. He was tan, but she could see it was fading a bit. Silver Collar Girl was pale too. Lynn thought on her own confinement for the last bit. They were in cells too. Lynn tugged up one of her sleeves, revealing a tattoo. The sleeve had been rolled up some five or six times, and began creeping back down Lynn's skinny forearm as she turned back to her food.

Then the Addams girl. Lynn didn't pay her much attention. She looked tired. Lynn figured they all were, but this shit looked deeper. She looked like she got laid off or something. What's she hiding? That silver collar certainly wasn't there by her choice. She was certainly frail and skinny too, but not like Lynn. No, this one was skinny by choice. That pissed Lynn off a bit. The girl had close to six inches on Lynn, and Lynn knew where that fuckin' came from.

She swallowed her bite and took another. The girl said her name. Natalie. Wednesday. Natalie and Archie. Hm. Lynn didn't really see what these two were bringing to the table. Archie was trying to make friends, which annoyed her. To Lynn, the only viable form of networking was offering someone a cigarette or approaching them for the sole purpose of informing them that you had followed them on Soundcloud. But, the other side of Lynn's mind thought, They were strapped up for a reason too. Neither looked like they were in the same boat as Lynn was - Lynn didn't see any tattoos on either of them, and she was willing to bet neither of these two had really been in lockup. Maybe a superpowered bender. That made Lynn rethink her initial conversational opener. That meant these two were packing some heat, especially if they still had the anti-werewolf choker on Grey Eyes. As for Farm Boy, Lynn wasn't sure. She'd figure it out. Lynn always got an answer.

Just wasn't always the right one.

The possibility that this guy was hitting on them, what with the sexual kink opener, never once crossed Lynn's mind. She didn't have much experience in flirting. Surprisingly.

So if these two were the big dogs in the joint with her, she wanted to see what the hype was about. They had the redneck bound up like that cannibal guy in that one movie (marking the one and only time Lynn had wanted to be a cop, and the only reason she had not fought her juvy-mandated counseling sessions. She was disappointed with who she was assigned to). They still had this girl bound. Alright. She'll play ball. Lynn figured it was as good a chance as any this guy was trying to see what she was about, and see if he should throw the first punch or not. The dicks were out and Lynn was more than willing to slap a ruler down first. Gray Eyes - Gray Eyes was not having it. Gray Eyes wanted to be alone. Now in Lynn's experience, that usually meant that Gray Eyes was packing a yard stick when everybody else was bringing a ruler. Not that it bothered Lynn. She'd gotten her ass beat by some strong motherfuckers before, and she could take it again. But Gray Eyes - or Natalie, or whatever - really didn't seem interested. This one listens to coffeshop music. Cool by Lynn. Alone meant not starting shit, and Lynn wasn't looking to start shit (at least, this was her internal narrative. Innumerable other sources could contradict this claim). But the fact of the matter was that Lynn knew how the Man played ball. They were being watched. They'd gotten bound up tight. Now these other kids, she was sure they could pull off some fancy tricks too - maybe somebody has .45's for fingers or something - but the three of them were on the radar from the get-go. This was familiar territory for Lynn. But she knew they might need an eye out for each other. At the very least, to make sure one of them wasn't trying to make sure they weren't the only big bad wolf in the woods. I'm nobody's fool, Farm Boy.

"Lynn." Lynn said, taking another bite. She took her time. The blue crept up from the bottom of her irises and her hair alike without Lynn's knowledge, a flicker of red dancing along the edges. Lynn rolled up her sleeve again. She washed down her bite and turned to look at them in earnest, idly twisting a french fry in some ketchup with her hand. "Where are you from?" she asked.

Lynn, in another life, one in which she had a modicum or two more respect for authority and perhaps a stronger sense of legal ethics, would've made a very fine detective. She liked the game. She liked figuring out when other people were planning their sucker punch on her. Then, it was just a punch, and they were the suckers. She'd see what they were up to. She'd see what game he was playing.
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Amelia





Amelia had been trying a place to just at least be left alone. Unfortunately, uniform and not having been wheeled in with the more rebellious types seemed to have marked her as someone "normal" and who "wanted to be part of the program". Amelia was very much not that, and was getting tired of telling people to fuck off politely enough to not get told off. This whole place stank of enforced conformity. Worse then that, some of the new students with her seemed to think the forced conformity was ok.

After pushing her way through the crowd after getting food, Amelia looked over to see a small group of other new students like her out of the way from the others. And would you look at that. One of them was the guy basically strapped to a gurney. The other had a collar that looked like it belonged on some giant serial killer or something. If ever there was an opportunity for her to ditch the sheep, this was it. Amelia made her way over to the trio, and placed her tray down. "I'm guessing that this is the group of people who aren't 'with the program'. Can I hide here with you three? If I have to listen to more of this kumbaya crap I'm gonna puke. And it would be kind of pathetic if I did that after making it through the shuttle ride." Amelia didn't quite wait for an answer, sitting down with what she was desperately hoping were her fellow degenerates. "Amelia. My name."
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Archie



"It's Natalie, hi, Archie."

Archie didn't verbally reply, instead he gave Natalie an earnest smile and nodded. Her jump earlier twisted his heart some. Perhaps it was the southern hospitality in him, or the fact that he recognized the look of grief when he saw it, but it was an emotionally painful thing to see in someone. The more curious side of Archie urged him to press on the issue, but the more tactful part of him won out. He didn't skip a beat, or even recognize that she had reacted negatively lest he embarrass her further.

Natalie sounded like she hadn't spoken in a while. Or at least, didn't speak often. She struck Archie as a person who wasn't confident in her own skin. He, on the other hand was a pretty easygoing person. Sure, he had been dealt a pretty shitty hand in the grand scheme of things but he tried his hardest to suppress that part of him. He had grown up afforded his own space, the means to entertain himself, and warm food every day. That was not to be ignored. Sometimes people leave, and that sometimes is unexpectedly. He had also learned manly life lessons along the way, like how the best fishing rod is a shotgun, and a wench can be one of two things.

"Lynn, where are you from?"

Now, both of these girls looked like they had it rough. Rougher than him for sure, but they all seemed to take different approaches. While he did his best to bottle things up, and Natalie retreated into herself, Lynn here seemed to be a bit more hardened by the world she had grown up in. Lots of little scars here and there, a few tattoos- the most visible of which was a skull on her forearm and the edges of something on her collarbone. He had a lot of scars, too. But his were usually pretty small and relatively shallow. A mishandled fishhook here, a slip of hot metal there. Hers were jagged and looked like they had been deep. He only knew the difference because his adopted dad had a nasty scar from shooting himself in the foot when he was Archie's age and it had gone all the way through.

These scars weren't quite like that, but they were bigger badges than his. He opened his mouth to ask if she had ever broken any bones, but decided not to in favor of not ending up with any himself. Either way, she looked like one tough cookie. She definitely acted the part. He had dated a girl like that in high school, now that he thought about it. "Always liked a girl who was a real spitfire." he mumbled, holding his chin in his hands and spacing out while looking at his food. Evidently not realizing that he said it out loud. If Archie even realized this, he didn't miss a beat and immediately responded to Lynn's eyes and hair as they changed color. "Dude, that's so cool! You're like the lava lamp I had at home!" Oh, she had asked a question. His mind changed gears almost instantly, displaying conversational adeptness that was surprising for someone as unaware as himself. "Colington Island. Little place off the coast of North Carolina." he answered honestly. "Spent my whole life there. Mostly working on boats with my old man."

He didn't really think to, or care to specify that his 'old man' wasn't really his biological father. Being himself, he had forgotten that he was not speaking to people he had known his whole life. "Yourself?"

Another person joined their little table. She had the same 'Fuck your and your whole ass entourage' vibe to her person than Lynn, but had much less of the 'chained attack dog' part of Lynn's personality. Not that either really put Archie off. He was a people person, and no amount of rough edge was going to stop him from at least trying. He had grown up around people like this. His brother particularly was an odd mish-mash of all these people and getting along with him had not been a challenge once Archie figured him out. As long as he didn't touch his stuff and gave him a wide berth when he was in one of his moods, things were okay. Pleasant even. Of course, Archie had no idea what his brother was like now. The last time he had seen him was two years ago when his brother had been arrested and promptly sent to prison for armed robbery and resisting arrest. He furrowed his eyebrows at Amelia's comment of them not being 'with the program'. "We're up here? What do you mean we aren't with the-" he trailed off, quickly loosing his train of thought as she gave her name.

Amelia, she generously announced herself. He broke out in a smile and extended a hand excitedly for her to shake. "Archie, nice to meet you!"

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Natalie Ellis





Archie replied with a smile, and a nod, and began conversing with the other girl, Lynn. Natalie wanted to join in. To say something. But she didn't know what. The only conversations she'd had in the past two years were scientists or therapists asking her questions, and all she had to do was honestly answer. Trying to talk to people her age? This felt so much more complicated. But she didn't want to just say nothing and let everybody else talk to each other. She wanted to talk to people. She wanted to feel normal for once. Still, she listened. Maybe the things Archie was saying about where he was from, or the fact Lynn's hair had changed color, were things she could talk to them about sooner or later.

Then another girl joined the table. At first, Natalie was glad that there was somebody else to talk to, but then the new girl started to talk. She talked about the 'kumbaya crap' that a few moments ago had almost brought Natalie to tears of happiness. It was clear that this girl had joined them because she didn't want to fit in and though hanging with them, hanging with Natalie, would be how she'd achieve that. Natalie's jaw tensed, and she looked Amelia straight in the eyes.

"Maybe some of us want to 'get with the program'," she said, in a noticeably louder, more confident and confrontational voice than she had used to greet Archie. "Maybe I want to join in with the 'kumbaya crap'. Do you know know how much I'd give for one chance?" Her voice was growing louder, and more emotional by the second. "Even just one day of being able to fit in and have a normal life?!"

She was interrupted when her collar made a beep and the green LED on the side turned orange. This calmed her down. She looked down at her clenched fist, and slowly opened it. A metal fork dropped to the table with a clatter, and it was crumpled and dented as if it had been made out of putty. Natalie didn't look surprised or shocked by this, just mortified and sad. A bright red flush had formed on her cheeks and her shoulders slumped. She refused to meet the gaze of anyone around her.

The light on her collar turned green again.
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Amelia





Amelia grinned and shook Archie's hand. "You know, not with the program. You aren't drinking the kool-aid, you aren't-" Amelia turned to Natalie as she started to snap, at first seeming confused, intrigued, and just a biiit ticked off. Of all the people who could want to be ok with the oppressive system they were forced to buy into, why would someone with an actual collar around their neck be one of the people who were ok with it?

And then the collar lit up.

Amelia's light scowl quickly changed to an amused grin as the fork clattered onto the table, twisted and clumped. "Ok. I know I should take issue with what you said, but that was metal as fuck!" Amelia picked up the remains of the poor silverware and looked it over closely. "How did...how did you even do that? Is your deal super strength or something?"

Amelia whistled, before setting the silverware down on the table and taking a deep breath. "Ok. We got off on the wrong foot here, and maybe I didn't explain myself. I don't mean we shouldn't fit in with everyone else. I mean more you shouldn't have to wear....that to do it. I mean, cmon. It infringes on your freedoms and humanity as a person." Amelia kept her voice low as she explained, trying not to draw the attention of any security guards nearby.
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Lynn

No.

No.

This was not the Lollipop Guild, or the YMCA, or the Sunshine House. Lynn was not dealing with any more greasers who wanted to whine about the Soc's. Another girl came up saying they were the outsiders, so she was hanging with them. She also didn't acknowledge Lynn, which did give her a moment's pause. Lynn sized her up briefly. Looked like a Nirvana fan. Looked edgy. Lynn stared at her jeans for a minute. Lynn had tried to take a pair of those off the rack once, or at least ones like em. They were close to a hundred dollars, and this girl had torn holes in them.

Yeah, I bet being one of the cool kids is a real struggle, isn't it?

Plus, Lynn was miffed about the puking comment. She didn't know if that was targeted at her specifically or not, but Lynn wasn't feeling it.

Lynn turned back to her meal, focusing intently on her food. She wasn't going to get in trouble for starting shit on the first day, but these people were making it hard. Farm Boy responded to her, and that did throw her for a loop. North Carolina? An island? Lynn's brain started whirling, but she had no idea of what that place was. A fishing place didn't make any sense. Hmm. She glanced back over at him. Fishing and farming were pretty close. Fishing is just boat farming. She wasn't really that far off the mark, you know. Working with his old man was interesting. Lynn got the feeling there was a missing piece or two in Archie's family reunion jigsaw puzzle, which at least garnered him a notch of respect in her book. Then he made the lava lamp comment and Lynn's eyes narrowe. She couldn't figure out what Fish Farmer was up to. If this was some kind of game, he was either a genius, or playing terrible. She just nodded. I think he's an idiot, and it's not worth getting the needle over an idiot. Lynn told herself. She could almost hear the juvy appointed counselor's smiling words at that. Oh fuck right off, old man. Lynn blinked and stared at her food. Christ, I'm going crazy.

Then he turned the question back on her, and Lynn felt like an idiot. I walked into a conversation. I just wanted to eat. Damnit. "Here and there," Lynn said, taking another bite. She tried to put as much emphasis as possible into the silent period at the end of that sentence so as to deter further questioning. Lynn's plan was to focus on her food until Fish Farm asked another icebreaker or New Girl asked her if they wanted to go throw rocks at the principal's Mercedes when the shy one started to flip her shit.

Now this was something interesting. Her collar blinked some different colors as she got more pissed off. Lynn took note of that, and it sobered her up quick. There are worse things than the needle on this fucking trash can. Still, it made Lynn grin. Okay. She was getting it now. If Archie was one of the big dogs, and this girl was too, Lynn wasn't about to let them be the only ones to hump the fire hydrant.

"Jesus Christ, Spoons," Lynn said. "It's that easy to rile you up? They don't need a collar to keep you in line, just a Valium. At least knock the air out of this one when you go mental," Lynn nodded at Amelia. "If someone complains about fitting in one more time they're going to put you in the next Disney movie." Lynn turned back to her food and resumed eating. "And go bitch about your civil liberties somewhere else. If you don't think this place is wired you're out of your mind, and I'm not going necklace shopping on day one."

Lynn knew the key to this strategic shit talking was the final point. She looked back at her food and did not make eye contact, relaxed and steady. Lynn had been in some rough situations before - she didn't know what these three had done, or what they could do, but Lynn would've bet what few bucks she had that they'd never been in this situation before. Surrounded by people all deadlier than you, maybe who wanted to kill you. Maybe Spoons and Miss Anarchy could wreck her. Lynn figured she could knock out a few teeth at least, but maybe they'd wreck her. Wouldn't matter if they didn't think they could. Lynn wanted them to know, truly, she did not care. At least Necklace had been quiet until she had a breakdown. Good Lord, if this was day one, Lynn was steering clear once prom season came around and she didn't get a ticket. And New Girl was looking for trouble, but she was gonna get the hammer first and fast. Lynn didn't intend to be in the blast radius of either of those two. Lynn finished her plate and slurped on her drink, full and content. She debated asking Necklace to go fetch her thirds, but figured poking the bear that far probably wasn't wise. Never thought I'd be the stable one in the room.
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Waiting up in the ductworks gave D more time to think than he thought it would. He was on his back, fingers locked together, legs folded, one foot kicking to an unknown rhythm.

The question he’d asked himself a while ago, and the one other folks would be asking soon enough - why’d he come up here? Five months working on an up-and-coming career as a professional vigilante, vagabond, vagrant, vandal, other words starting with v… and he suddenly puts it all on hold to sneak onboard a shuttle headed to the most sophisticated space station in the history of manmade manufacture.

Really, why?

Because the Promise is a time bomb just waiting to go off. Lots of people down planetside had that gut feeling - it hangs up in the sky over Earth, sometimes beautifully and sometimes menacingly. You think about what kind of parahumans get brought up here - the ones who can blow up whole cities just by flexing their pinkies, the ones who can rip a person’s conscious self apart and replace it with their own proxy intelligence, or even the ones who can rend space and time apart. Who doesn’t feel an overwhelming sense of dread come over them while thinking about what kind of horrible things are up here?

Well, not Freaky-D. Dread is unbecoming of one such as him. He wanted to come up here because - fuck it, why not? His gut feeling told him that if the Promise was coming around to getting crazy one way or another, then he wanted to see it firsthand! Be the first in line to watch the explosion! He’d tangoed with parahumans before - none of them were quite so powerful, but there were a few you wouldn’t laugh off, certainly. They have special teams down planetside fit to deal with them, with nullifiers and whatnot, but sometimes D wrapped things up before they even got there.

The joy! Being that guy, that Cadillac among men, the one with no powers of their own, overcoming a wall a mile high, made of thousands of bricks that all want to skin your ass raw! There was something beautifully simplistic in it that was hard for D to describe - not that he would, mind you.

Of course, not all parahumans automatically deserved an ass-whoopin’. Some were even fans of his! And who would he be, to turn away a friendly face just because they were better, faster, stronger, whatever, than him?

Really - who would be such a person?

Not him.

Certainly not him.

He turned his head again to look at the surroundings - still no sign of orientation getting started. Oh well. He didn’t want to introduce himself before the staff got their own kicks in - that’d just be plain rude.

So he waited still.
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Archie

"Here and there,"

Archie didn't catch onto her hint at attempting to end the conversation. He smiled at Lynn, and shrugged. "I read that here and there are units of measurement for love. Was never sure if it was measuring distance, or time though."

Archie recoiled some at Natalie's sudden outburst, realizing very quickly that he was not talking to people that knew him, and that these people were strangers. He was not used to parahumans in general, having only heard of them and even having had a negative opinion of them until he had become one himself. It dawned upon him how similar they were to regular people. So easily crushing the spoon was impressive, but a reminder that she could just as easily do that to his neck. He wouldn't dare say it, but he was somewhat glad that the collar had calmed her down.

Her words rang in his head, though. Wanting to be normal and fit in? That resonated with him, now that he was what he was. Even among the freaks he was still a outlier. Maybe not at much as Natalie, but it was still there because of how he was brought aboard. When she slumped and turned away, he didn't think about his next action and simply put his hand on her back again. A wordless expression of empathy, a way to say it was okay. Hopefully that would be enough. He gave Lynn a look that hopefully communicated that he had been spooked and to please not set her off again. Mostly because he was closest to her. Amelia seemed to have a better idea and took it in a positive light, but Archie had the suspicion that drawing attention to her outburst would only make Natalie feel worse.

"So uh, what do you do?" he said, looking to Amelia in an effort to get the attention off of Natalie for her benefit. People liked talking about themselves, right? His brother sure had. "And you?" He questioned Lynn, too.


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Natalie Ellis





"Yeah," Natalie answered Amelia without moving her head. "Super strength is my deal. I'm sorry I got short with you. It's just..." she looks up, and gestures with her head to the people in ordinary clothes. "I don't think that's a bad thing. I wish I could be like them. I wish I could walk around without this collar but I can't. It's not safe."

Natalie ignored Lynn's comment about Valium. She had no reply to that. Or it was possible she didn't trust herself enough to try and stay calm at the same time. Her comment about Necklace shopping also annoyed Natalie, as if this was some punishment you got for bad behavior. This wasn't a punishment, nor a breach of her rights. If they offered her the choice to wear the collar, Natalie would still have taken it. But giving her the choice was a luxury they could not afford with her. Her history and records were testament to that.

The second time Archie put a reassuring hand on her back, she didn't jump, but looked up, nodded ans gave another half-smile, and returned to her silence. Now she was perfectly fine letting them talk to each other. She didn't feel left out because now she thought that getting involved might cause her to snap again, especially if she was talking to Amelia or Lynn.
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Amelia





Amelia smirked a bit more mockingly at Lynn's response, turning a bit to face her at her comments. "Well, at least no one will bother me when I'm around you, so I guess that works out." Amelia gave Lynn a once over. She was....a contradiction to her. She seemed to be the perfect fusion of two different worlds in high school; one she respected, and one she loathed. She had an almost calculating glint in her eye, one that would be right at home with one of the drama queen alpha girls flocked by sycophants. But she wasn't using it to gather favor. If anything, it was the opposite. She seemed to be using it to exude an air of I'm an asshole, stay away. Amelia might not have liked it, but she had to respect it. Even if they weren't friends, they could probably use each other to avoid other people.

Amelia turned back to Archie and Natalie. "Anyway, my whole deal is teleportation. Well.....sort of." Amelia scratched her head. "It's kind of....hard to explain. Basically I can go anywhere I can see or anywhere I know the location of relative to me. But...." Amelia lowered her voice again. "Only when people aren't looking. Some weird...I don't know, the doctors called it a quantum something or other. Basically when I'm being watched I can only go a few yards at a time."
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Lynn

Lynn was content - there was still some game here, most certainly, but she was confident she was at least winning. The punk girl had backed off a bit, and Natalie had gone all quiet. She didn't care if Spoons could pick her up and throw her back to Earth one-handed, as long as nobody was trying to start shit with one Cordelia Lynn Holmes, her pride was intact. Now Archie was the one throwing her for a loop. She had told him the next best thing to fuck right off, but he'd bounced back like a tackling dummy and started talking about love. Love? Who had said anything about that? Lynn shifted in her seat. This didn't make sense. They must have set this up. Surely. All three of them coming here together to sit by her? They were acting like strangers and sizing her up, yes, it was the only thing that made sense, and Lynn wasn't nobody's fool, she wasn't gonna -

Lynn stared down at her plate. It was empty.

She glanced back up at them, chewing on her lip.

None of them looked like they had any tattoos - at least not the kinds Lynn had an eye out for. Noses weren't crooked. Nobody'd been punching their ears. No close attention to color schemes. Boat Farmer either had the best poker face Lynn had ever seen or was on the up and up. Spoons seemed very seriously driven to not start any shit, and Lynn figured that was more parahuman that probationary in nature. Lynn could've put down Amelia's outfit to cover rent at the last place she'd stayed at (there was a brief jolt at that, and Lynn zoned out of the conversation for a second, bitter), which didn't lend her to think she was involved in anything.

Lynn was forced to concede there was - slightly, ever so slightly - the possibility they were just looking for conversation. And if - and Lynn wasn't admitting that this was the case - they were just doing that, she would just look like an asshole if she antagonized them further. And that would prove very bad if Spoons was as big a bruiser as she was letting on, or if Archie's puppy dog act was hiding one mean bite. So maybe she'd just...just let them think it was working, Hrng. She didn't like these mind games.

They were talking about what they did - Lynn was scrambling to figure out what answer to that question she could put together that would not immediately alienate them when the other two started talking about their powers. Lynn wasn't used to people not playing their cards so close to their chest. She wasn't about to spill all her secrets then and there, but at the same time, she'd look like a total bitch if she didn't. Ugh. This is why I sat alone.

"Teleporting's neat," Lynn said idly. She turned and looked at the huge glass window, the planet that was ten minutes and however many hundreds of miles away. She let her eyes linger for a minute and then glanced back at Amelia. She didn't have much hope - and hope was dumb, anyways - given that she struggled to clear a first down if people were watching (God, between her and Spoons, what with the performance issues at this school? Am I the only well-adjusted one?), Lynn wasn't expecting a get out of jail free ticket, but once again, she - through gritted, grinding teeth - was forced to admit it might behoove her slightly to not be a total dick to Amelia. She gave it a moment of quiet, choosing her words. A strand of hair fell loose from where she'd bound it all back, slowly shifting to blue. "I'm nothing fancy. Just a real firecracker."

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Keaton Plasse


Adjusting her grip on her suitcase, Keaton looked around, the action more out of habit than anything. With ship was setting off soon, as announced by intercom, this empty period of time where she was forced to think about her father was. thankfully, coming to an end. Soon, she’d be tens of thousands of miles from him—farther than she could ever be on Earth. ‘The Promise’ had been as much as a choice for her as her choosing to let the black-suited people into her apartment when they arrived, but she wasn’t scared. Wary, perhaps, and too anxious to think about much else at the moment, but not scared. Sure there was plenty to be afraid of on the ship she’d been slotted to live on, but the system had checked them for this long. There was no reason it wouldn’t continue to perform as it had, and though she had doubts as to whether she even belonged with the rest of the parahumans, the line between ‘her’ and ‘them’ was getting thinner by the day. As normal as she felt, there was no denying the interviews she’d had or the ‘procedural tests’ she’d taken, just as there was no denying the sheer number of people in this ship with her.

“Keaton Plasse,” she said when she reached the head of the check-in line.

The attendant with the clipboard gave her a once over, checking her against the screen before nodding and motioning to her left. By her outfit—a different color of the same uniform Keaton and every other student had been instructed to wear—she was a staff member of the Promise program, or at least something of the sort. No powers though, or at least none of note. Otherwise she’d have had a more important job than checking in students.

Lifting her suitcase, Keaton hefted it onto the conveyor belt into the ship underbelly, walking away as it moved down the belt. The luggage had been checked when she entered the building, but down the belt were a few people in uniforms that were more than just standing guard. While Keaton didn’t know what exactly they’d been posted to do, by the looks of it, it seemed they were probably parahumans, which lined up with what The Promise had promised. Parahumans teaching parahumans how to use their powers, or so she’d been told. While she didn’t have any reasons for her trust in the half-promises she’d been told, she was willing to give the ship a shot. Maybe she’d like it there, and maybe she didn’t. Either way, being able to improve her power—or at least begin to figure out where it ended and she began—was a start.

With her luggage was stowed away, Keaton moved on to her seat in the ship, sitting down and buckling in. As she clicked the seatbelt in place, wondering what the point of it was, the seat beside her creaked. A girl sat down, adjusting her red-blonde hair, the gold chains around her neck jangling against the zipper of her black leather jacket. Her hair was probably dyed—or not. Odd color if it wasn’t dyed, Keaton supposed. Judging by the haphazard way she wore her jewelry, Keaton would have guessed that she was the punk rocker type, but Keaton wasn’t getting a yes for that either.

Adjusting her feet, Keaton glanced out the window, then at the girl again, giving her a smile through pursed lips when their eyes met. The girl smiled back, her dark lipstick starkly contrasting her pale features, but Keaton wasn’t paying attention anymore. Was she not naturally pale either? Not blue-eyed like she looked? There was no way those gold chains were real, right?

Keaton exhaled, fidgeting with her hands as she again averted her eyes. Then, glancing around, she stopped on a girl because—it was a boy, right? There was no way that wasn’t a boy. He fit the preppy jock type perfectly, yet she still wasn’t getting an answer. What was going on?

Her eyes skipped over a few members of the crew, and she frowned, her grip around her thumb tightening. Was this what it felt like to be powerless? To be ‘normal?’

“Yoo-hoo, you good?”

Keaton blinked, meeting the eyes of the red-blonde girl again. Then, sighing, she nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I’m good. Just, well, jitters. Never been blasted into space before, you know?”

“Same,” the girl said, her smile almost coy. Although Keaton couldn’t guess the intentions behind the girl’s smile at the moment, it looked friendly enough. The lack of confirmation in Keaton’s gut, though, irked her enough to have her shift her legs again, hooking one ankle behind the other. Was this what life on the ship was going to be like?

Soon enough the countdown started, and Keaton met her seat neighbor’s grin with reluctance written across her face.

“Hopefully this just feels like a strong roller coaster,” Keaton said.

The girl laughed, and the liftoff sounded, the din of the ship making up for the silence in Keaton’s head just before she was wrenched upwards by the force of the ship. Where she’d imagined a roller coaster, it was more like some crazy elevator starting upwards, the feeling of her insides shifting except exponentially stronger. For a moment, Keaton genuinely thought she might die, be sick, or worse, but that passed as cheers faded into existence along with the continued laughs of the girl beside her.

“I wish this was a coaster. I’d do that again!” she shouted over the rumbling of the ship.

“Agree to disagree!” Keaton shouted back. “Ticket prices would be insane!”

“Free ride here! Not my choice though!” the girl shouted, grinning.

Keaton paused, then grinned as well. “You too?”

“Yep, bunch of hosts these uniforms are!”

“Yeah, baggage check lady gave me some real attitude earlier!”

The idle chatter—or, rather, shouting—continued until the ship stopped, and a glance out the window showed that they’d arrived. With a click, Keaton’s seat belt unhooked itself and retracted, leaving her clutching her seat as she tried to feel her toes.

“Upsy-daisy,” the girl beside her said, shooting up from her seat. She stumbled, catching herself on the head of her seat just in time. “Oops. Probably took that too fast there.”

“Yeah,” Keaton said, pushing up on the armrests to rise shakily to her legs. “Woah.”

“Yeesh, least they could’ve done was warn us,” the girl said as they made their way shakily towards the ship’s connecting door. When they reached it, they found that the corridor was filled with struggling students.

“Hold on, I need to get my suitcase,” Keaton said, reminded by the sight of some students inching along with their own rectangular rollers. “Feel free to go on ahead though.”

“This where we part ways then?”

“Yeah. I’m Keaton, by the way,” Keaton said. The girl had been nice, and she seemed like someone Keaton could see herself getting along with despite the entire situation and all.

“Jeira,” the girl said, holding out a hand.

“Nice to meet you, Jeira,” Keaton said, shaking her hand with an amused smile. She hadn’t put the girl down to be a hand shaker. If anything, it was more likely that the girl was—

Keaton snapped her hand back, freezing, and Jeira’s smile inched wider.

“Say, Keaton, let’s be friends. You don’t know anyone else here, right? But I do. I’ll introduce you to them and everything. How about it?”

Keaton stared at her. Her powers—what were they? Mind reading? That was a rare one, apparently, but Keaton wouldn’t be surprised.

“Oh, don’t answer me now. Sit on it. Give me an answer next time we meet,” Jeira said, waving. “See you around, Keaton.”



Keaton fiddled with the sleeve of her jacket as she walked into the cafeteria. She wasn’t hungry—far from it, in fact—but the last time she’d eaten was breakfast and she was due for a meal. Though she’d taken a bit in her room to change and shake off the ride, she was still a bit jumpy, and as soon as she was in the student-filled hall she grabbed a plate and filled it with some essentials before making for an edge seat. After all, the ride had reminded her of something very important: She was dealing with parahumans now, abnormal people, and there was no telling what their powers were.

Sitting down, she picked at her food idly, then looked around. There were plenty of conversations being struck up around the place, and she was stuck here for the foreseeable future, so might as well try and talk to someone else. Second time’s the charm, right?

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T h e P r o m i s e

Her fist connected with the man's face, eliciting a wet splat as blood and saliva were strewn across the floor. The man's head lulled as he recovered from the strike. He breathed, labored and heavy, more blood dripping from the cuts on his face and onto his shirt, unable to wipe away the refuse as he had been tightly and painfully bound to the chair he was sitting in. He was still, indignantly refusing to look his assailant in the eyes.

"I have a client, and I'm on the clock. Talk."

He did not move. Her hand grabbed his hair and pulled his gaze up to his forcefully. He met brown eyes. She would be considered pretty, if her face hadn't been contorted in frustration and she hadn't been the cause of all of his pain. He smiled, "C'mon beautiful, smile more."

The woman seethed, and turned, throwing her arm an impossible distance forwards towards the classroom's human skeleton display. Her body stretched with the punch, and caved the skeleton's entire ribcage in. She wheeled around again and grabbed the man by his bloodied collar- getting right up in his face once more.

"You tell me where Detmer is, or I swear to god they wont recognize you when you're found."

That managed to get to him.

"I- I cant. If I talk, they'll kill me!"

Arianna's brow furrowed, bringing her hand back for another punch, except this time aiming for his femur. "And I'll kill you if you don't."

The whiteboard and classroom, up until this point had already been prepared for the new arrivals of the new school year by the teacher who had been positioned in it this year. The whiteboard read: "WELCOME TO AP BIOLOGY!"



T h e P r o m i s e

A chime went off, in the cafeteria, which very few actually heard. Perhaps the volume, or the friendly tone was the cause, but few actually noticed that the countdown had reached zero on the presentation. A woman, dressed in business attire strode on stage in front of the podium at the center. Other officials flanked her sides, and took their seats in several chairs lined up behind her. The conversation tapered off as they went back to observing the crowds. Occasionally, there would be laugh at the random individual finishing their sentences. A silence filled the auditorium.

’Welcome, class.’ A voice echoed through the stadium, but it was not spoken. Rather, broadcasted into their very minds. The woman smirked, and after pausing for a moment, she continued. "I'll... keep this brief." She began, speaking now. Her tone sharp, and commanding. Her strange nature had to captured the attention of all of cafeteria occupants, whose eyes were now glued to the odd figured on stage.

"Who's that?" one person whispered.

"It's Headmaster Dunbar. Didn't you research the school?" came the snarky, but whispered response.

"As most of you are aware, I am Headmaster Hannah Dunbar. You have been allowed to come to my station in the pursuit of knowledge. While getting here was no easy feat, I'm here to tell you your trials are far from over." Dunbar took a moment to take a sip from a bottle of water that had been placed on her podium before continuing.

"You, students, are here because you are exceptional; I expect you to prove this during your time here. Some of you have been chosen for your academic prowess- you should hold your studies in the utmost regard.” She began, her eyes scanning the crowd. They fell on the freak table. “Some of you have come here to be studied, documented, and to learn control- you are expected to perform at your best.” Her eyes moved further, towards the back of the room now.

“Some are here on lottery, and some are here because they have no choice." The woman's voice was blunt and unforgiving, and more than a few students actually caved under the pressure of his words. She continued. “We also expect you to branch out into the community and create new bonds. The Promise is a place of learning, and a place of growth. Parahumans are a small species, and thusly your neighbors are likely people you will know your entire lives. Use your time and resources wisely, and your time here will be the best you have ever spent.”

She took a break, scanning the room and allowing the student’s words to sink in. “Congratulations on being selected to attend The Promise, and good luck. After all,” she said, raising her hand and pointing out at the great window that displayed the world below them.

“The whole world will be watching.”

The woman bowed, and stepped away from the stage. Another person, a young man this time and obviously her assistant, stepped up to the podium.

“I will now introduce hand the presentation off to the station assistant. Cara?"

”Good afternoon, students!” The AI spoke up. ”My name is Cara. I exist to handle many features of the station, and if you have any questions about anything, just ask via text our out loud if you want. I will answer to the best of my ability. You should all be receiving your class schedules, lodging, and introductory allowance now.”

Several chimes went off as student’s phones received messages from the AI.

"I am also going to introduce the division heads. Each one of these individuals manages an aspect of our station. Some will oversee you personally, while others handle jobs behind the scenes. As I state their names, they will stand.”

“Josiah Stanton. Head of Research and Development.”

A tall, thin man with glasses stood.

“Elizabeth McCoy. Head of Student Relations.”

A woman in a green business dress and vibrant red eyes stood.

“Markus Wrath. Head of Technological Development.”

A large, intimidating man stood.

“Fry Owens. Head of Healthcare.”

A portly man rose from his seat, and waved to the crowd.

“Susanna Castillo. Head of Power Instruction and Control.”

A lithe woman in a full business suit rose from her seat.

“Gennedy Hardin. Head of Security.”

A man with a permanent scowl rose from his seat, which seemed to have caved in some from his weight.

"With that, your orientation has ended. Please follow the directions listed on your mobile devices for gaining access to your lodging. More information will be provided to you as the night goes on. Please see your Resident Assistants or ask me if you have any issues. You are free to enjoy the welcome party as long as you wish. Feel free to speak to or ask the Headmaster of and of the Division heads any questions before you leave."
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