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The beginning of the rest of your life

Posted on Thu Jan 11th, 2024 @ 21:53 by Almaz Awate & Claire Cavendish & Sarah Bright

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Commons
3082 words - 6.2 OF Standard Post Measure

Almaz was slowly picking at her food, a comfortable (and quite nice) mac'n'cheese, courtesy of the chef she hadn't met yet. Sarah was sitting there with her, mostly just being a familiar presence and someone for Almaz to metaphorically lean on, or at least the closest thing to something like that that the girl had available to her. Said girl was still wearing Sarah's jacket, even though it was easily warm enough not to need one, but once again that jacket served as something to draw strength and comfort from, a token of kindness when she needed it. Her sports bag with some clothes sat next to her, on the ground.

Sarah continued to sit in silence, eating her lunch while keeping a subtle eye on the new arrival seated next to her. It was clear that Almaz was still pretty shaken up, and didn't seem to have much of an appetite, but she was still eating, however slowly. The librarian wondered whether she was more interested in conversation after all. That would be good, as Sarah was having trouble holding her tongue. She was actually fairly nervous, even though she wasn't allowing her body language to give it away. She was probably going to get chewed out by Claire for bringing her here first, and not the Head Teacher's office. There was also the certainty that eventually students were going to come looking for her to unlock the library. It was the weekend, and the procrastinators would be out in force to try and complete the assignments they;d been putting off all week. That would make things even worse... students crowding her lunch table with Almaz, who was surely just barely holding it together,

"Soo... what do you like to do for fun? Any favorite hobbies, sports, or anything?" The librarian said between bites of her food, hoping to break the ice a little. If Almaz was relaxed, surely that would rub off on Claire, and whoever else happened by.

Almaz remained silent for a moment, contemplating. She wasn't really in the mood for small talk, preferring instead just to get this over with - whatever this was. Though she recognized that Sarah was trying her best to make the girl feel welcome, feel comfortable.

"Uhm - I work out," she said, quietly, not quite looking at Sarah as she did. "Running, fitness. Weights. No reason only boys can be strong and fit," a slight curl of the edge of her lips, in an almost smile. One hand reaching up to wipe her cheek, careful not to dislodge the sunglasses that were hiding her eyes from onlookers.

[Head Teacher's Office]

The doors to the office opened up and Theo peeked in his head, a modest smile. The few times he had been there before weren't quite as comfortable as now. It was a simple errant which he was sent on by the librarian. "Ehm, miss Cavendish, miss Bright sent me. She's in the cafeteria. Eh." There was a moment where he seemingly needed to remind himself exactly why that was again. "She needed a tour."

Claire narrowed her eyes at Theo, wondering if this was some sort of elaborate prank, and weighing whether or not this young man would've been wound up to do it. He certainly seemed nervous, but she'd found she had that effect on most of the students, to her great dismay. Her phone rang, "Thank you Theo, I'll make sure to check on it."


"No there isn't." Sarah said with a small smile, in regards to Almaz's comment about fitness not only being for boys. Sarah respected the effort, skill and discipline that went into athletics in general, but in truth she couldn't much relate to the competitive spirit. Sarah wasn't quite lazy, but she really only moved her body for pleasure, or to pay the rent, and sports or a desire to become fit had never really factored into either. There had been a past interest in ballet, but only because she had crushes on a few girls who did it.

"There's plenty of running trails around the school. Indoors there's a weight room, and a multi purpose gym with a basketball court. Out on the back end of the campus there are also some outdoor fields. And then of course there's the loch for water sports during the warmer months. You might have noticed the boat house on the way in. There's also a fairly well established intramural sports league here, but I'm not as involved in that as some of the other faculty members." Sarah then realized she was rambling, and that she was really an inadequate source for further details on the schools athletic offerings.

This actually seemed to perk Almaz up, at first, though as Sarah rambled she became withdrawn again. Still, these were things she would - eventually - like to explore, if she got a chance to. Running trails sounded fun, a gym - hopefully with weights to lift - swimming in the loch sounded fun as well. Hopefully all he fearmongering and tales of mutants hurting others were at the very least an exaggeration, and she could actually check these things out in time. So far, from what she had seen, this place seemed almost like a normal school. Students, faculty - not wholly unlike the private schools she'd been going to all her life. "That sounds nice," she eventually managed.

[Head Teacher's Office]

Claire put the phone back down after what amounted to a five second conversation. The door had barely closed behind Theo as she got up from her seat and straightened out the blazer she was wearing over the pencil skirt. She took in a bit of a breath, it was always a bit of guesswork when it came to this sort of thing at a distance, but it beat walking all the way over to the cafeteria. She closed her eyes and imagined the hallway outside of the cafeteria. As she released her breath the air around her sizzled and she disappeared.


The doors to the cafeteria swung open again and Claire walked into the room confidently. As was always the case when the Head of the institute entered the room it went slightly quieter. She looked around, giving a small wave and a nod here and there before her eyes found Sarah and an unknown young woman. As she took the first steps in their direction the rest of the chatter rose back up, some relief perhaps to the fact that she wasn't there looking for them.

Claire had a warm smile on her features as she closed the distance to the table the Librarian and the Newcomer had occupied. "Good afternoon Miss Bright," She gave a courteous nod before turning to the girl, still smiling warmly, "Good afternoon Miss.." She left it hanging in the air hoping it would be the least intrusive way to be asked to be introduced.

A gasp from the girl as she laid eyes on Claire. While she knew that the school was full of mutants, to see someone so purple was still a shock to her. She wondered if she'd ever get used to the sight. "Awate," she quietly replied after regaining her bearings. "Almaz Awate." Her voice was soft and quiet, as one might expect, with a slight African accent in her words.

"Miss Awate, a pleasure," Claire held out her hand to the girl. "My name is Claire Cavendish, I'm the head teacher of this institute, which I'm sure Miss Bright has already informed you of." It had taken a second for the purple mutant to process but she realised that she was familiar with the name Awate, it wasn't something she'd immediately bring up, but someone as thoroughly embedded in the anti-mutant movement as Awate Dawit was bound to be connected to her father. And she made it a point to keep tabs on the close confidants of her father. Almaz was also a name that had been in Claire's file on Awate. His daughter. One of two.

Almaz regarded the hand for a moment, before hesitantly reaching out to shake it, her own hand clad in rubber workgloves who's bright orange color clashed with her outfit's muted tones. Afterwards she reached up to take off her dark sunglasses, her eyes bright with the spark of electricity, little bolts crackling out to the skin around her eyes. Nothing said, she didn't think words necessary at this specific moment, and couldn't think of the right ones to say anyways.

Now that explained exactly why she had gotten a call about a car speeding to and from the institute. Though Claire needed to have a word with the speed at which the guards operated and informed her seeing how far along the two women had been in their food. They had been under instructions to keep a low profile, so probably Sarah intercepted the girl before the guards had stepped in. The Head Teacher sat down at the table and continued to regards Almaz with a welcoming warmth, "You have beautiful eyes." She then turned slightly more serious, "Are you hurt in any way? Do your eyes hurt? Are your hands alright?"

Her shoulder was a bit sore from where she was manhandled and literally thrown at the castle's gate, but that probably wasn't what Claire was asking about. Instead she shook her head. "I'm not hurt. My eyes don't hurt either. My hands - I," she trailed off for a moment, glancing at Sarah as if to draw a tiny bit of confidence from the first person she had met here, before she took off her gloves. There was a slight crackle of electricity between her fingers as she did. "It doesn't hurt, but - I hurt our dog. I went to play with him, and - " the girl quickly put the gloves back on, looking away from Claire and Sarah.

Sarah hadn't said much at all since Claire joined them. She did not want to direct any attention her way in case the head teacher was upset over her handling of the situation, and she also wanted to let Almaz tell her own story. Hearing about the dog again made her gently nudge Almaz with her elbow as she ate, a gesture that was subtle, yet supportive. She hoped it would remind her about what they talked about earlier, about how being here would give her the opportunity to train and make sure something like that wouldn't happen again.

Claire gave a slow nod at the mention of the pet's untimely demise. There had been a great many pets that met their fate at the hands of an uncontrolled teenage mutant. It always left a lot of guilt associated with the burgeoning powers. Although, with Almaz, the head teacher also figured it was something else entirely that drove her feelings of guilt. "That wasn't your fault, you know, mutant abilities can be very unpredictable and difficult to control. Especially in the early days of them manifesting themselves." She hoped that, in combination with the soft pat on her shoulder, was somewhat reassuring. It was clear that the first order of business was to try and sit with her to regain some control over the abilities. Failing that, at least a more fashionable stop-gap to the fact that her hands were putting out sufficient power to kill a dog.

While Claire had meant her words to be soothing and comforting, to Almaz they were mostly just alarming. Mutant powers being unpredictable and difficult to control was exactly the foundation upon which her father had built years of mistrust of mutants, dislike and hatred. Stories about what those freaks did, about how you couldn't trust them, about how they were dangerous - how they were the other. How they were unlike us. The right people and the wrong people. Not even truly people, really. It was all presented as being very scary.

But not as scary as how quickly one could go from being one of us to being one of them.

"What's going to happen to me now?" Almaz asked quietly, her voice subdued, as she clung a bit closer to Sarah's jacket that she was still wearing, though it was probably really a bit too warm inside for it.

Sarah kept her mouth shut. She'd already been asked this question, and she didn't know the answer any better now than she had fifteen minutes earlier. In some ways it was up to Almaz what she wanted to happen, but based on what little Sarah knew about the girl's family, there was little to no chance of her life returning to the way it was before. That much seemed certain. Sarah had no experience in helping the kids here with that aspect of their changing lives, and she certainly didn't envy Claire the task. She tried her best not to shoot Claire any looks conveying that sentiment, and chose to focus instead on being quietly supportive, and listening to hear how her superior handled the difficult questions.

"Well, you've got a warm meal, that's one thing checked off. We'll get you some better gloves, I'm sure we can find something a bit more stylish." Claire already knew of a pair in the facilities underneath the institute. She could get them in a hot second given an appropriate shadow. "Then we'll check with administration where we have a spare room. Could be a guest room or in one of the student dorms, whichever you prefer." The head teacher knew better than to push people into joining the institute. People like them already felt like they were short on choices and a lot of them had very inventive ways to get out of the castle walls. Besides, there was no point in keeping them locked up. This place wasn't built to keep bad people in, it was built to keep the bad people out.

Almaz considered for a moment. That all sounded quite - ... nice, actually. But it didn't really answer the real question she had. Well, question ... Concern. Though she was very quickly starting to doubt everything she'd ever been told. But that just left uncertainty. Doubt. When all you've ever known is a house of cards that comes crashing down, you don't know what's beyond that. "After that, I mean? Like - .. big picture?" she asked.

"There's some choices you'll have to make for yourself, choices which I'm sure all of us here would be very happy to guide you through. It's not going to be easy, far from it even, but I'm certain you'll find the path most suited to you. We're just here to make sure you can travel that path." Claire gave a bit of a smile at that, she'd always felt that if the students were given the right tools and guidance they'd come to the right decisions themselves. Nobody was the same, that was doubly true for mutants. "Like with proper gloves."

"Okay ... " Almaz leaned back, taking a deep breath, gathering herself. "I'm not stupid," she added without a hint of malice. It seemed to be more to confirm that to herself rather than to inform the others. "You're all being very nice to me. Welcoming me. Taking care of me. Allowing me time to - well, settle down. You're telling me things like I get to have agency in them," A pause, glancing from Claire to Sarah and back to Claire behind dark sunglasses. "This - ... doesn't fit with what I've always believed," beat. "Been led to believe. Just to confirm - you're not going to hurt me?" The moment the words left her mouth she felt silly for speaking them.

The first time Almaz had asked that question it had just been to Sarah, and she'd inwardly winced. Now, the second time, her wince was much more visible. The way the question was phrased made it sound like it had been answered before, and perhaps not to her satisfaction, or not by one with a satisfying level of authority. Perhaps it would've been best for her to let Claire handle this one too, but for some reason the librarian felt compelled to answer again, as she now felt she better understood where the question was coming from.

"If you came here with an army, deliberately trying to hurt us.... then maaaybe you'd be hurt. But other than that? No, we'd never hurt you. Not even if you accidentally hurt one of us." Sarah hoped her slight touch of humor would help. And hopefully not get her shooed away by Claire. Technically she had witnessed fights between students over accidents, but they'd all been minor scuffles that usually either fizzled out or got broken up by other students before faculty even had a chance to intervene.

Claire tried to keep a stiff upper lip as Sarah talked about armies and people getting hurt. There was never any intention to hurt anyone, she had always thought of herself as a pacifist. More and more the reality of the situation was that they had to be willing and able to protect themselves. The head teacher always felt like she could get her message across with strong words, lately it felt more and more like it would come across a lot better with strong words and a gun. Before her eyes could gloss over as her thoughts drifted away she focused back on Almaz, "Ready for the grand tour?"

The girl considered for a long moment, weighing the options. She ran through everything that had happened, everything these people had done to her - or rather, for her - everything she'd learned back home, believed to be true, but now was quickly learning that it wasn't. Of course, that left her without a foundation to build on, but part of her was hopeful that she'd be given the opportunity to build a new one here. After some time sitting in silence she nodded, reaching up to take off her glasses and pocketing them, showing off her obviously mutant eyes, no longer in shame. As she rose to her feet she also took off the jacket and offered it back to Sarah. "Thank you for letting me borrow this, miss Bright," as she turned to Claire with another nod. "Ready."


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