Fort Worth was still foreign, but familiar faces soothed Ahsha’s still waxing uncomfortability with the recent move. Sensei, Elder, Uncle Ray Ray, and various others lit up the projection screen with a warm, nostalgic glow; Ahsha was, in that moment, adrift in a photo album. Under this backdrop, her father approached with the boy Sensei and Elder’s contact had brought in. How many years had it been since she’d seen the man in person? A decade perhaps?
Her father’s astral body crept up to her side and spoke soft and direct: “Always anonymity without privacy, my dear.” She looked at the approaching dyad, and caught her father, in a brief comical use of manifestation, sleepwalking. Elder had somehow managed to loop back around the location where Wally and her father had assuredly charmed the meek boy who was introduced to the two by the contact… ‘s contact, and was having his ear gnarled upon by the “Patient Zero” while he kept his focus across the room.
She transposed her critical attention toward the boy. This was the first time she closely observed the bright-eyed pup her masters saw some sort of great potential within, and though it was difficult to put her finger on, there was definitely “something” to him. Eric- as it was inscribed on the bag near Mr. Natiq’s legs, was clearly a fish dropped woefully in a shark tank. Ahsha imagines Elder doing his best supercomputer routine: Mr. Mendev has a 61% chance of failure to meet barest standards, a 33% chance of psychological meltdown, and an 18% chance of being killed within Year One… or something like that.
“Now that the gang’s all here,” Ahsha’s father spoke with a tone so familiar, it was slightly frustrating. “Let’s talk about your banging new crib! — Wait, actually, where are my manners? Hold that thought… I-” Ahsha’s father paused staring off into an imaginary horizon. Sometimes, it really is challenging to accept he came from the same “METRop-ical” origins as the three paternal figures she has spent most of her life with. Even when joking, all three have an intensity that emanates from the depths of their being. Her father, however, “just can’t seem to keep it together today…” he mumbled aloud, perhaps with the intent of being heard.
“The name’s Ramiel, I’m,” he pauses slightly to emphasize,” ‘in charge’ of Housing and Student Life, but you can think of me as your personal ‘Dalia Rama’.” The pun hung, leaving an awkward taste on the palate of the three young adults, “but seriously, if you have any of those personal type of problems, the Academy has a counselor that you can talk to. So… yeah”
Eric nodded along, and Ramiel continued to his point, saving Ahsha from further relative unease, “Now, all of your registered your cellular phone numbers or equivalent network capable devices when you filled that two trunks worth of paperwork out, and my cellular phone,” The suddenly enigmatic rambler pulled the device from his courier-style bag, and held it up as if it were amazing. Eric’s attention was drawn, much to Adrien’s amusement, and with the time cue Ramiel rolled on, “sent out certifications and cookies through our encrypted network. My point is, as I told another one of your housemates, you now have everything you need to know to begin your tenure here. If, somehow, you twenty somethings haven’t accessed your registered device in the last fifteen minutes, you might notice a slight gui change when you look at your phone, or a prompt for it if you have certain device settings. So, without further wait, I’ll leave you to it- Eric, Adrien, and …” Ramiel looked at his daughter, fainted a slip of the tongue, and with a contrived, puzzled look asks, “I’m sorry, what was your name again, dear?”
Ahsha, couldn’t help but smile, and replied in a cordial demeanor.
“I guess I just needed to hear you say it,” her father retorted with a slick grin. “Of course, I remember such a beautiful name. Any who, I gotta go give this formal presentation to the rest of these misguided souls, you kids should go get first eyes on that swanky pad…” Ramiel started drifting slowly up toward the direction of Spaceman’s stage, but turned around leaving the apparent housemates with a final declaration of advice, “…and if you need to know anything, remember – the phones.”
“Well gentlemen, its nice to be back together again,” Aaron bowed to the semi-circle of his former comrades, before letting loose a lopsided grin, “but we have quite a bit of business to discuss, so we’ll have to hurry this whole process along.” Before him stood several former members of the AMPS Alpha Team, Shoal Shade, the necromancer Al’Azar, Mirage (his former fiance, Taylor), Nightshield with his shaven head uncovered showing eyes bleary with signs of a recent awakening, Berlin, and Xavier who had been formerly famous under the moniker “Chemical X”.
“All our assets have been delivered, I have lost contact with the couplet precog Fino, but this usually happens while he’s under the effects of his manifestation.” Ermen spoke nearly on top of Aaron, his intense gaze drawing all the group’s attention towards him, “If my partner hadn’t been so intent on is blatant attempts at seduction, he might have also noticed the anomaly I caught in the auditorium.”
Xavier, the former Chemical X had no apparent creativity in regards to names, chuckled at the barb Ermen had sent Aaron’s way, “So I see you two haven’t changed much in the last decade. I caught the kid too, I sent a sifter out to get some tissue samples off him, then I can do an analysis and give you a better fix on where he’s from. He hasn’t shown up on any records I have, though I suspect you knew that already.”
“Have any of you made an attempt at just ASKING him why he’s here?” Taylor’s voice cut through the meeting with surgical precision, bringing a noticeable wince from Aaron and a roll of the eyes from Shoal Shade, “For all you know he’s just as unaware of the situation as YOU are.” She punctuated the end of this sentence towards Ermen who stood, arm’s crossed, a single eyebrow raised in contemptible disbelief.
“I highly doubt that, your predisposition to trust people due to apparent youth is surprisingly irrational considering your own appearance.” Ermen’s coldly stated rebuttal drew irate stares not only from Taylor, but from Shoal Shade as well. Their obvious disapproval of his previous statement prevented the two women from noticing the entrance of yet another man, one formerly known as Provocateur. The man sauntered up to the group, placing his arms around the shoulders of both Berlin and Al’Azar.
“So what’re you ladies and gentleman up to?” His easy smile helped relieve some of the tension in the room, a quite impressive feat without the help of his manifestation. Provocateur was an enigma within this group, little motivation himself, but always willing to lend a hand to his far more ambitious former neighbors.
“We’re discussing what we’re going to do with this current batch of kids these two,” Berlin pointed his thumb over at Aaron and Ermen, “brought us to train up for the slaughter,” these words were spoken with his usual Virginian drawl, sarcasm dripping from his tongue like molasses, “seems like we’re going to have to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes yet again. Maybe this time they’ll put up all those wanted pictures with my ugly mug on ‘em.” Berlin broke into a wide grin as he chuckled at his attempt at humor.
“Jesus, could you assholes at least pretend that I’m here, and maybe not talk about so much bloodletting and revolution, shit, ya’ll have no respect for my authority!” Xavier let loose a guffaw as he fingered the government inspector ID card on his lapel, “I’m going to head back to my ‘temporary office’. Nice place by the way, how long ya’ll keeping me here? I could become used to this.” With those words Xavier turned and began walking away from the group. Ermen gathered their fractured attention back to himself.
“People, we might have a problem, I still haven’t regained contact with Fino and his RD is on the move back towards the house. We need to start compensating for a possible loss of an asset.”
Aaron recovered from this news faster than the rest (more or less instantaneously), and barked a question at Berlin, “We need to start the exam now, which contingency plan do you want us to run?”
Walter Berlin stared back and forth between Ermen and the rest is helpless confusion, until Ermen took pity on his helpless friend and replied, “Contingency plan three, Walter, we need to run contingency plan three. Get someone on your staff to start putting things in motion, we need to get going.”