Act 1: Chapter 4, Part 5

Posted on June 18, 2017

In Which There is Discussion of Languages, Magic, and Statistics

Megan. First Day of School. After Sixth Period.

Megan did not know how she was going to pass Algebra. Or Common, for that matter. She had tried really hard to pay attention to her Algebra teacher’s first day spiel, but with Chris sitting right in front of her, with his back and shoulders straining his shirt a little bit, and the way his black hair was just a little bit curly toward the ends, and the well-defined muscles she could see in his bare arms, like she knew other Tourney fighters with cool arm muscles but she’d never seen a teenager with triceps like that, not even Lauren’s brother Derrek, and and and… paying attention had simply been impossible. She was going to have to make Chris sit behind her going forward.

It was a relief when the bells rang. As they were packing up their stuff Chris looked at her with this adorably crooked half-smile on his face and asked, “So what you got next? Inquiring minds want to know.”

Megan giggled. “Français One. What about you?”

"History,” he said with a sigh. “Which is like--don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know history, I get that, but man the coverage in school is shallow. Maybe high school will be better, I don’t know, but it’s usually taught in the most boring way possible. Why Français?”

Megan blinked at the switch back to her, having planned on saying something insightful about history, hopefully, she didn’t know exactly what, but… “Um, I think it’s pretty? I don’t know, my parents think I should be learning Nihongo or Putonghua or Marathi or something.” As she spoke, they made their way to the exit. “Seattle didn’t get like a ton of refugees from the République Française after the War, and obviously it’s been a long time too, so the descendants of those we did get are pretty integrated at this point. I don’t really have a good reason for Français instead of something more useful.”

“Gotcha,” Chris said, nodding, as they stepped out into the hall, other students ahead of and behind them. “Nothing wrong with that; if you like Français you like Français.” Megan was looking at him as he talked, and so she saw behind him a girl step out of a neighboring classroom, and the way said girl’s face lit up upon setting eyes on Chris. 

She was tiny, both shorter and slighter than Megan, maybe five one at best if you discounted her heels. Her deep auburn hair was elaborately braided in a manner that would have been beyond Megan’s not-in-any-way-lacking hairstyling skills, hanging down on the right side of her head, long enough that even in the braid it ended just below her breasts. She had fair skin and expertly applied makeup that made the most of it. She was dressed up like she was working in an office, with cute, expensive looking black slacks, a light grey blazer, and a scoop-neck dark blouse that tastefully made the best of what she was working with as far as cleavage went.

And she immediately said, loudly enough to be heard from fifteen feet away in the already noisy hallway, “Chris? You have to be Chris Gramyre, right?” She was approaching as she spoke, as Chris turned to face her. Her voice was a high soprano and her tone was bubbly. Megan could see she had close set eyes the color of milk chocolate; with her small upturned nose and delicate chin, Megan thought she was really pretty.

The way she was batting her eyelashes at Chris as he said, “That’s me alright. I haven’t had the pleasure,” made Megan think that the girl also thought she was very pretty. A pit opened up in Megan’s stomach.

“I’m Circe,” the girl said, holding out her hand palm and fingers down, like royalty expecting their ring to be kissed. For that matter, she wore several rings. “Circe Pendergast.” Oh. Megan didn’t like that, either.

To Megan’s surprise and dismay, Chris reached out and took her hand, bowing as if to kiss it. He didn’t, though, simply lowering his face close to it before rising back up. An expression of disappointment and anger flashed across Circe’s face when he didn’t actually kiss her hand, but was replaced by a pleasant, interested expression before Chris could have possibly caught it.  

“A pleasure to meet you, Circe,” Chris said, his tone mild. “That’s an interesting name.”

“Yes,” Circe said, her smile growing a touch strained, but her tone staying upbeat and cutesy. “Well, my mother became convinced that I was going to turn out to have magic powers while she was pregnant with me, so decided my name must be Circe.”

“Ah,” Chris said, with all apparent interest. “I gather from the way you phrase that your magic has yet to manifest?”

“Yes, that’s the case,” Circe said, her smile fading a little more, her speech less bubbly. “Not so far anyway. It’s getting to be a little late, but I still have time.”

“That you do,” Chris said, with a sage nod. “And if sorcery doesn’t work out for you, there’s always wizardry or dealing with spirits.”

Circe gave a tiny, repressed sigh. Then, tone bright, she said, “Yes, I suppose there is! Still, it won’t be the end of the world if Mother is incorrect about something for once.”

“That’s true, I suppose,” Chris said in an agreeable tone. “She’s right about most things, then?”

“That’s why she’s on the Council!” Circe said, her smile widening again. That’s what Megan had been afraid of.

“Ah. Cool,” Chris said, then looked to Megan. “I don’t know what that means really?” he asked, sort of.

“The City Council is Seattle’s legislative branch,” Megan supplied.

Circe’s smile had grown a shade colder at the exchange, and now she was regarding Megan in an interested manner. “Yes,” she agreed, then said, “You’re Megan O’Sadie; you were a manager for Asphodel’s Tourney team in eighth grade, right?”

Taken off guard, Megan replied, “Y-yes. I did. I mean, I was.”

“The boys on Elysium’s team were pretty disappointed that you stopped managing,” Circe said, putting a hand up to her mouth and letting out half a giggle afterward. “They thought you made matches with Asphodel more fun.”

Megan blinked at Circe. “O-okay?” she said. “I’m... sorry?”

Circe shrugged with one shoulder, the motion dainty, refined, and calculated. “I’m not who wanted to watch you more than the matches of their teammates,” she said. “Don’t have to apologize to me.”

“Well! Interesting stuff, Circe! But I have got to get to History,” Chris said, afterward glancing at Megan with amusement dancing in his eyes. “I’m sure we’ll chat more later.” He stepped past her, and started walking.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get going too,” Megan said. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Circe.”

“A pleasure to be sure,” Circe said with a nod and a smile that bordered on smirk. They both started walking at the same time, passing each other as they did.

Ryan. First Day of School. Beginning of Seventh Period

“Well, won’t this just be a ball,” Ryan said quietly when he joined Angie on the other side of the locker rooms, at the back of the clustered crowd of the class. The teacher was already speaking; he’d been a little slow. Angie’s ear studs worked as a charm that ensured luck in getting to things on time, so she’d beat him out there.

The gym was a gym, one of two in the building: pull out bleachers on one side of the room, not currently pulled out, some basketball hoops, and the floor was currently covered with Tourney mats. Ryan wondered if they would have to put them away, as the last class of the day. That would be obnoxious.

“You look so cute in shorts,” Angie whispered, smiling at him.

“Wonderful, that’s exactly what I’m going for,” Ryan whispered back, as dryly as one could manage when whispering. He hated wearing shorts; they made him look like a little kid.

Angie stuck her tongue out at him, then they both turned to regard the subject of his first statement. Not only were Katie Kay and Nisha in their PE class, but Katier and Lauren were too. They were standing further toward the front of the class and further along the rough half circle the class had formed around the teacher.

Their teacher, a short, muscular woman in her thirties called Coach Vitalarii had been saying, “--sure you’re all very excited that you’re in high school now. You all have probably been fifteen for a while, with all the accompanying privileges such as carrying sidearms, relaxed curfews, supervised alcohol consumption, and the right to get a Beast hunting license. With those privileges, however, comes an element of danger. When out after dark, you may well find yourself the target of a Beast attack.

“Each year, despite the best efforts of our brave militias and Light Bearers, approximately two hundred thousand people in the Union of City-States are killed in Beast attacks, and another half million are injured. Of course, over half of both of those are militia members, and the occasional Light Bearer, but even still, there is a good chance that at least a few of you will find yourself involved in a Beast attack at some point. As such, for the entirety of your secondary education, each Monday we will devote the period to evasion training, including sprinting.”

This last received a few groans. Ryan sighed quietly.

Coach Vitalarii responded to the groans by saying, “Our salted door and window frames make Beasts wary of following us into buildings, particularly houses. Your best chance of surviving a Beast attack is to get indoors as soon as you can. I know a lot of you are excited to start the shooting unit, but as big a deal as we as a society make of your right to carry a sidearm, fighting Beasts is really best left to the professionals. Until you’ve graduated and joined the Militia, you have a much better chance of survival through fleeing than through fighting.”

Lauren still seemed a little unfocused, Ryan noted, as Vitalarii spoke. The other three girls, the Katies and Nisha, kept glancing at Lauren with concern (if not also a little impatience on Katie Kay’s part).

Soon they were spread out through the room, running through basic evasion techniques and rolls, just for Vitalarii to see where everyone was at. Rolls and going prone were easy enough on mats, but soon they were going to be learning to do so on harder surfaces. That was going to suck.

Lauren seemed to have pulled herself together enough to practice evasion. She still didn’t seem like her normal self though. She wasn’t talking to any of her friends, really; the only time the whole class Ryan noted her talking was when the coach spoke to her. She and her other friends did not pay any attention to Ryan and Angie.

“I wonder what Vitalarii thought of Evan,” Ryan mused a little while after they started. “He’s not as obsessive with evasion practice as he is with shooting, but I bet he still puts a lot more time in than most kids.” They had been able to pair off together, what with Ryan being as small as Angie and Vitalarii not knowing shit about them, so they were able to speak quietly without anyone else getting involved.

“Do you think he had Vitalarii this morning?” Angie asked.

“She basically handles all the freshmen PE classes,” Ryan replied. “She’s going to shit her pants when she sees him shoot.”

“I wonder what his plan is for that?” Angie said. “I’ve asked him a couple of times but he’s always just waved it off. He’s flown under the radar for a long time, but now we’ll actually be training in shooting in school.”

Ryan shrugged. “He wants to hunt. The only way he’s going to get to do that is by teaming up with Chris or finding a fireteam, and he won’t find a fireteam without people knowing what he can do.”