Memories: Fast Times At Mutant High... ((Story))




The overhead lights flickered, their fluorescent bulbs giving off a sickly blue green light that made the sunlight streaming through the blinds all the more distracting for their lack of warm. Eldrath looked at the wall clock, it was third period right before lunch break, mathematics with Dr. Penrose. Like all of the teachers at GIFT Academy, Denise Penrose shared something in common with her students, she was a mutant. Denise's mental faculties had been enhanced by her genetic aberration, giving her the equivalent of a quantum supercomputer inside her skull. She'd been identified as a prodigy at the age of five, done her first doctoral dissertation by age nine and obtained advanced degrees in quantum physics, mathematics, and genetics by the ripe old age of fifteen.

One might very well wonder why such a wunderkind would be teaching basic mathematics to a group of unruly teenagers, even a group as unusual as those that attended GIFT Academy. The answer though would not have satisfied, because it was so simple. She liked it. Working with the kids, trying to engage them pulled her out of the whirlwind that normally twisted in Denise's head, forcing her to slow down and be in the moment. Before her parents had discovered her gift, she had been isolated from them and everything else, a diagnosed autistic. There had been simply too much going on behind the young Denise's eyes for her to pay much attention to what was happening outside herself. Denise remembered how alone she had felt because of her difference and she worked hard to reach these kids in their own personally made mental prison cells.

Not that they were all a joy to teach. Far from it. Mutant teenagers were teenagers like any others, they just could make thing blow up when they had outbursts as opposed to simply storming about metaphorically. Especially when they first came to the school, young mutants had little control over their abilities. They usually had to be tutored one on one, or for the more dangerous youths a whole team on one, until some basic controls could be established. GIFT staffed several PK5's, highly skilled telepaths, specifically for the management and control of difficult students. These psychics could slip behind mental barriers and trigger defense mechanisms that shut down the students mutant powers based on the student's own self preservation instincts. Then gradually, a student could be trained to engage those processes consciously. Once they had become proficient enough to pass what GIFT administration termed as “competency,” the student would then be transfered into to the general population.

Getting them back into the population and socialized was GIFT's second priority after control. Studies had shown that by the time a mutant had reached the age of eighteen, the foundational patterns of psyche had been laid down. If a connection to the social group of their peers and by extension their fellow man had not been established, the subject would likely go rogue, seeing humanity as beneath their concern. Once that had occurred, the best that could be hoped for was containment. Sociopathic behavior among mutants was all too common on the streets of Paragon City. In some extreme instances, GIFT would never allow a young mutant back into society, transferring them directly to the Ziggurat, Brickstown Penitentiary for Supernormal Threats. Such occurrences remained regrettable, but necessary in some cases.

Eldrath lay with her head on her desk, staring at where the sunbeam came through the glass and pooled atop the radiator. She wanted to be out in it, sun bathing. Daydreams flowed through her head, images of lounging by the pool, the sun warm on her bare back while she read her latest dime store drama. She liked those little fluff books, going through one series after another with the voracious appetite of a kid eating twinkles. They offered an escape from the compound, if only into her imagination. She could be out there in some glamorous city, having tawdry love affairs with handsome but nefarious and sexy men, solving crimes... or committing them depending on the book, as opposed to hanging out in this warehouse for mutant misfits, where there were poked and prodded and measured and managed every second of the day.

Eldrath lifted her head and returned her attention to the screen as Dr. Penrose went over the trigonometry homework from last night for the third time... for the slow students. You couldn't get away with much in Penrose's class. Hypermind, as they called her behind her back, had an uncanny knack for knowing when your attention had wavered and she would unerringly pick you out and embarrass you. She would call you up to the board to stumble over the problem you'd missed the solution to moments before. Despite this however, Eldrath liked Dr. Penrose's class. At least the mathematics professor didn't treat them like kids. She challenged them, often leaving them feeling frustrated and defeated. Dr. Penrose didn't pull any punches. She didn't give them the illusion that their problems could be solved quickly or easily. That suited Eldrath, more than she knew.

She'd been at the school for four years now, since her parents had died in the car accident in Western Falls. In six months Eldrath would turn eighteen, legally an adult and technically free, assuming she could pass her psych evaluations, which at the moment didn't seem all that unlikely. GIFT would keep Remy in custody for the time being, though he'd not manifested so much as a flicker of mutant ability since she and her brother had been taken. Grandma Huish had tried to gain custody of her two grandchildren after the accident but the government had stepped in, in the best interests of the community and the children. It had enraged Eldrath. As soon as she'd realized what the outcome was going to be, she'd gathered her brother and they'd made a break for it. They'd gotten about a quarter of a mile before the PK's found them. The GIFT agents had been kind about it, but kind or not a prison was prison as far as Eldrath was concerned. To add insult to injury, GIFT had split her and her brother up, sending Remy to a normals school at the local military base while Eldrath had been sent to board at GIFT Academy with the other freaks.

Eldrath had acted out. All of the students did in one way or another. GIFT Academy had its collection of cutters, druggies, sluts and burnouts, like any high school. Eldrath had grown into a striking young woman in her time at the school and quickly gained a reputation for being a fun study partner when it came to matters of reproductive biology. The troublemakers couldn't keep their exploits from the PK's of course. They were all subject to regular telepathic screening, but it became a point of pride to see if you could surprise a PK with your transgression. Such occurrences remained rare, PK's being fairly jaded, but you could get the occasional brow raise or maybe even a small smile. You had to be careful however, because if you went too over the top, the interviewing PK would refer you to intervention. So the miscreants of GIFT Academy played a balancing game, testing the boundaries and learning from previous students mistakes.

Something hit Eldrath in the back of the head in a rapid fire percussion of tiny smacks and she turned around to glare behind her. Martin Peterson, or Mad Marty as they called him, was sitting three rows behind her looking innocent, which immediately identified him as the culprit of the spit wad volley. Mad Marty's power lay in body kinetics. He could increase the speed his motion and reaction time, moving faster than the eye could see. Eldrath met his eyes and Marty smiled a Cheshire cat grin. Beside him, Danny Bleoch chuckled watching the exchange. Danny's hair hung long over the left side of his face, his limp mohawk laying across his head like the world's most gigantic comb over. The two were bosom buddies, part of Eldrath's clique, but often her nemesis in class just the same. Eldrath rolled her eyes in disgust at them and brushed the wads of paper from her hair with her fingers while they snickered back and forth.

“Ms. Jonasen,” Dr. Penrose said sounding annoyed. Eldrath cringed turning back to face front and the teacher, who now stood looking up from her tablet glaring at the young woman over her square rimmed spectacles. “If you've quite finished have your little exchange with Mr. Peterson and Mr. Bleoch, perhaps you could come up here and solve this trigonometric identity for us.” Snickering sounded behind her as Eldrath rose, smoothing her short plaid skirt down over her hips and trying to summon some sense of dignity and poise as she took her place at the front of the room. Dr. Penrose glanced with a knife slash look at the two boys and they went silent. Eldrath picked up the marker and started writing out the equation with tiny squeaks of the felt pen. Though she had indeed not been paying attention, Eldrath didn't have much problem manipulating the formula. Dr. Penrose smiled and Eldrath took her seat again, making sure to give Marty and Daniel the finger discreetly as she did so. “Paybacks are a [censored],” she mouthed. The pair of hooligans just made faces at her of mock terror.

Period bell rang and it was off to lunch. The students jostled in the halls with a roar of laughing voices as they made their way into the cafeteria. Eldrath funneled into one of the two lines and pulled a tray from the rack, placing it on the rails to slide along with her. She eyed the meatloaf dubiously, choosing instead to assemble a hero sandwich out of cold cuts, with some lettuce that didn't appear too terribly wilted and some of the institutional bland swiss without the holes in it. She plucked a bag of spicy potato chips from the rack, a can of diet soda and a gooey chocolate granola bar that she could pretend was not candy due to the presence of oats within it.

Eldrath sat with the troublemakers clique, consisting of Mad Marty, Danny, Cheryl Futterman, Michael Dolhov, and Karen Winger. Marty generally styled himself the leader of their little group. His with his short crop of red hair and his puckish grin, Marty's speed matched his impish joviality. Marty always came up with the craziest schemes to alleviate the boredom of living at Mutant High, as the students called the GIFT Academy. Danny on the other hand, with his punk rock good looks and his bad boy image, was the school rebel without a clue. Why god had graced Danny with so much sex appeal and so little brains, Eldrath could not figure out for the life of her. His power, Exothermy, allowed him to release and direct energy from the air around his body. The display of pyrotechnics was impressive and he used it to great effect, showing off for girls making explosions to punctuate his bands performances. Cheryl, a petite little mousy girl with blond hair that she kept forever in the most Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island style braids, acted as the group's lookout for their clandestine activities, being a Clairvoyant. Michael Dolhov, and ogre of a young man some seven foot tall and at least 400 pounds of pure muscle (a genetic gift from his father a pro-wrestler) took the role of master planner. Where Marty might come up with the crazy scheme, he always turned to Michael for the plan of how to pull it off. For his part, Michael generally played up the dumb oaf image, but his test scores told the truth. Michael Dolhov could give Dr. Penrose a run for her money. Finally Karen Winder, Eldrath's best friend and confidant since she'd come to Mutant High, took the role of thief. Karen was a phaser by slang lingo. The official name for her gift was Quantum Transport or some such. What it amounted to was that Karen could pass her body through solid objects as if they weren't there. Finally, Eldrath herself rounded out the misfits as their PK-lite. Through subtle mental pushes, Rathi could misdirect and obfuscate their activities. Need the guards to take a nap on duty? No problem. Need a professor to forget your homework was late? Easy as pie.

It was generally assumed by the other cliques, the Young Paragons and the ESPers and such, that they would be facing the troublemakers at sometime in the future on opposite sides of the law. There was definitely an “us” against “them” mentality among some of the more traditional groups, like the Yips. Eldrath and her friends called the Young Paragons the Yips as a way to taunt them, comparing them to the sound that terrified little ineffectual guard dogs make. The Paragons for their part, simply referred to the troublemakers as “The Psychos” or “The Misfits.” It was a label they wore with pride. Tension between the groups rarely escalated beyond pranks, but when it did the results could be spectacular. Danny had been placed under psych probation recently, when a group of Paragons had taken it into their heads to have a game of monkey in the middle with Cheryl's textbooks a few months before. The idiot had damn near destroyed the west wing locker corridor and GIFT PK's had had to knock him out and put him into intervention. Intervention in this case had meant intensive telepathy conditioning sessions and isolation, AKA solitary. A lot of good it had done with Danny's thick skull, Eldrath thought. He would be very lucky to pass psych eval and not be shipped directly to the Zig for containment come graduation.

Eldrath sat down in her group's regular corner of the café. Their table had a view of the main courtyard of the school, a very collegiate vista. Students between classes or on off periods strolled through large lush green lawns, reclined on blankets (or floated above them), and took in the air. Eldrath sighed wanting to be out there among them, but her first off period didn't start until fifth. She still had “Field Manipulation, Theory and Applications” after lunch, which meant another good hour and a half of lost sun. Karen patted her knee comfortingly as she caught the direction of Eldrath's gaze, and Eldrath smiled at her.

Karen had been the life line fate had thrown Eldrath when Rathi had landed in the school. The two had been pretty much inseparable, sharing everything, even a few boyfriends in their time. Karen had a boyish look, not quite butch, she was too waifish for that, but she kept her hair short, in a spiky thatch of brown, blond and black, gelling it up to maximum “sea urchin” as Eldrath called it. Slender in the hips with little or no breasts to speak of, Karen was about as opposite from Eldrath's va-va-voom physique as two girls could be. She had a fair complexion with a smattering of freckles in contrast to Eldrath's dark rusty latin skin tone, inherited from her father's Irish descent as well as her large bright blue eyes. Karen always seemed to pull in the boys that Eldrath would have preferred to date, where as Eldrath herself always attracted guys looking for a booty call. Some days, she didn't mind that. To be honest most days, she didn't. It made her feel good to turn heads in the halls, but she was jealous of Karen none the less. Guys wanted to get into Eldrath's pants, but they fell in love with Karen seemingly at the drop of a hat. Karen always got the devoted ones, the guys that bought flowers, the boys that remembered special days, who bought you cards and held your hand in the hallway.

“Just a couple more hours, hon,” Karen said reassuringly, “then we're free for the weekend. You going to the flix tonight?” She picked up a plum and bit into it with obvious relish. Eldrath nodded taking a sip of her soft drink to wash down mouthful of her sandwich. The school ran movies for the upperclassmen on Friday and Saturday evenings. Besides dances and sporting events, the closed campus offered little else in the way of entertainment and so the films were always well attended.

“I'm going with Carlo, you?” Across the table, Marty and Daniel made retching noises at the mention of Carlo's name and Karen and Eldrath gave them dirty looks. Carlo Montega ran with the ESPers, a group of young PKs that tried to maintain some semblance of neutrality between the waring cliques. He and Eldrath had begun dating about a month ago, after Carlo had begun tutoring Eldrath in her psionic techniques. Their combined make out/study sessions had become grist for the abuse mill once Marty and Danny had found out about them. Now Carlo couldn't be mentioned without a whole collection of vulgar and perverse comments being made, in or out of his presence, which made Eldrath want to crawl in a hole and die... or perhaps seal the two idiots in the hole till they suffocated. The later seemed preferable at the moment.

“Nah,” Karen shook her head, “me an Allen broke up.” Eldrath winced and reached out to squeeze her friend's hand.

“You should come with us then,” Eldrath said, trying to sound chipper. Karen grimaced and smiled at the same time.

“I don't know, Rathi, I mean that's your date night-” The two idiots started up with more gagging sounds and hand miming of fellatio, from the peanut gallery. Eldrath glared and Marty and Danny fell silent again, snickering,

“Oh, Carlo can just deal,” Eldrath continued, ignoring Marty and Danny pointedly. “You shouldn't have to spend the night alone in your dorm room-”

“We'll keep you company, Karen,” said Danny and grinned at Marty, winking lewdly. Karen and Eldrath met eyes and each raised an eyebrow almost in sync. Eldrath pushed with her mind, just a gentle tap, and there was a soft crash as lunch utensils went flying and food spilled from Marty and Danny's trays as they keeled over asleep. Karen giggled and Eldrath gave her a wicked grin putting her finger to her lips.

“Hush, it's nap time,” she said and pushing herself to her feet carried her tray arm in arm with Karen, leaving Marty and Danny with their lunches cooling wetly in the laps while they slept.