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Hey look what I can do

Posted on Mon Jan 22nd, 2024 @ 13:42 by Claire Cavendish & Alastair Temple

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Headmistress' office
Timeline: Late November 1992
2539 words - 5.1 OF Standard Post Measure

Al had never been so conscious of his breathing before. Carefully controlling it, almost as if clinging on to the activity to keep his inner self as calm as he could, all to control that new ability. He still didn't know what caused it, but it seemed plausible that Freya healing him could've unlocked *some*thing. Mutant powers acting on a mutant was not always as straight forwards as one might think at first glance. He didn't know, but it had some merit, he figured.

With those thoughts he made his way to Claire's office, there to knock on the door.

Claire had been pouring over the details for the festival, almost nodding away with the letters and numbers starting to dance in front of her eyes as she fought the urge to just go napping, something which was interrupted by a soft and modest tapping. As she looked up and saw Alastair peer around the corner, "'Tis some visitor, tapping on my chamber door." She stood from her desk and made her way over to the small set of chesterfields and motioned for him, "My apologies." She realised he'd probably had plenty of The Raven remarks in his time. "Please come in."

"You know, I really should get around to reading that, some time," Al mused, wandering inside and joining her at the chesterfields. "It's an embarrassment that I haven't yet, with how much I enjoy horror stories," the music teacher offered, before taking a deep breath. It seemed easy enough in his head; new power manifested, the head teacher should probably know about it. But now that he was here, he wasn't sure how to broach the subject.

"So, boss - ... Something's happening to me, and I think I'm developing a new ability." Yeah. That would work.

At that admission Claire had stepped towards the bookcase in the corner and pulled out a leather bound edition of Sir Edgar Allan Poe's bundled poems. She stood with her hands around the hardcover and considered his admission. Then smiled as she stepped closer to him. "Consider this a gift." She handed him the book, the dark blue leather had a raven embossed on its front cover. Silver calligraphy identified the contents of the book. It was an early version, not anywhere near a first edition, but a well kept old edition nonetheless. "And tell me of the other gift you've discovered."

He raised a brow at being handed such a beautiful tome of poetry, especially with the raven embossed on the cover. He couldn't help but admire the book, running fingertips over the cover, noting the age, the wear visible on the spine and the edges. At her chosen word of 'gift' the other brow raised as well, as he turned his attention back to her. His newfound powers could wait. "... Define 'gift'?" Being unused to just being given things, especially things of such age and probable value.

Claire realised that the exchange might have been confusing for someone that had been on the fringe of their community for such a long time, even though his life hadn't really put him in the centre of mainstream society to begin with. It was different sub-cultures and their nuances would be very different from one another. "Well, firstly, the book is yours to keep and do with what you will. Preferably read at least the titular poem, obviously." She sat on the arm rest of one of the Chesterfield chairs, "secondly, you spoke of a new found ability. There's just a great many terms with which one refers to the things mutants can do. Abilities, gifts, talents, powers. I attempted to create a humorous segue."

He gave a low whistle, looking at the book again. "Well, the segue is appreciated, as is the gift," he smiled. "Thank you. This - it's a beautiful book. I'll definitely read the whole thing and treasure it," and he meant it. It was a beautiful piece, with the wear of age just adding personality to it. He placed it aside for now though, turning more serious. "So, the other night, I was out flying and was attacked, I got hurt. So I went to Freya's room, got her to heal me. I think that unlocked something in me. I think I can control shadows now - or at least influence them, manipulate them."

As if to emphasize, he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and concentrating. The shadows around him seemed to waver and dance before pushing out. Unevenly, weakly, but without doubt. As he opened his eyes again and let out a breath they retracted again.

Shadows were something Claire was intimately familiar with, she had spent much of her time in it and her abilities were inextricably linked with the darkness. Still the unnatural way in which it spread filled even her with a sense of dread. "That's an interesting new development." Her brow furrowed as she stepped slightly closer, her curiosity (despite the tendency of killing cats) got the better of her. "How much control do you have over it at this point?"

It helped that neither Claire nor Al were, in fact, cats. "Not much. Very limited, for now," he explained honestly. "Earlier when it just started happening I isolated myself in an unused classroom. I damn near filled the entire room with shadows, I was confused - scared even. Eventually Phoebe happened upon me and helped me calm down, suggested I do some breathing exercise to ground myself, that helped a lot. Now, if I concentrate I can make them push out, but it takes effort. I'll have to train this, practice this."

"I wonder how this interacts with my own abilities." Mutant abilities were weird, and the fashion in which they interacted with each other seemed to defy earlier observations of the abilities on their own. Electricity from mutations seemed to power people that needed electricity to trigger their abilities much different from, say, a taser to the butt cheek. "Perhaps once you get around to honing your control over it a bit more we could plan a training session among ourselves." Her invisibility had developed at a different rate as her physical mutation as well as her teleportation ability. But that had been mere months, not years or perhaps even decades. The surge had affected all of them differently, perhaps in some way it had affected either Alastair or Freya. "Is there anything I can do for you right now? Someone to monitor your situation overnight, perhaps?"

"Nah, I think I'm good. I'm mostly just letting you know that - well, something's happening. Fortunately shadows aren't dangerous, so it's not something that requires a lot of monitoring for safety. I just need to get the hang of controlling it," the man offered, the gifted book still in his lap, fingertips slowly just feeling the texture of the cover. "You mentioned a training session? Is that something faculty does, here?" He knew that students went through ability training, tailored to each individual. He just hadn't heard of the teachers doing the same. But then, he was still quite new to the school.

There was a moment when Claire had a flash of doubt. She could lie about how extensive the training sessions were and where they were conducting them, or she could try and bring him into the fold. She'd spoken to Phoebe about this, something she always did with new faculty, and Alastair seemed to be on the right side of history.. or the future as it were. "There's perhaps one place that I hadn't included in the tour that it might be time to show you." She got up and made her way to the bookcase, not explaining anything more before pulling out a specific book, which triggered a mechanism sliding the case to the side, near soundless. Behind it lift doors opened. She stepped into the lift and turned towards the music teacher with a smile. "Want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?"

Her answer piqued Alastair's curiosity. Rabbit holes? Bookcases? The shadows around him danced and wavered as he placed the book down and rose to his feet. He hesitated a moment, glancing at the shadows, "I need to get that under control before I freak people out," the man offered with a sheepish smile. Though when Claire activated the book and revealed the secret passage he let out a laugh, stepping towards the entrance, looking around, trying to catch all the details. "Never could resist a good secret entrance. Rabbit hole me, Boss."

The doors to the lift closed and with a hum the elevator took them downward. Those with a sense for such things would be able to tell that they were travelling further down than the amount of floors Claire's office was up, such suspicions would be confirmed once the doors opened and allowed them to step out into a section of the undercroft of dungeons, or whatever it would be called in a place like this.

Claire led the way down the hallway and towards the especially constructed gymnasium under the ground. It was much more specialised and a lot more sturdy than the more public one up top. The metal walls and equipment gleamed in fluorescent lights as they slowly blinked on one by one. "This way." She stepped into the door immediately to her left, which was a lockerroom, large metal lockers had names on them that were perhaps not immediately recognisable. Tenebris, Oracle, Dash, Blaze, Snow. There were about half a dozen more which had the no names.

The head mistress passed through the room without giving any of it a second glance, her low heels echoing against the flagstones that had been there since ancient times. A large door at the back of the room required her passkey again in order for it to open. The huge room behind it only seemed small and cramped due to the massive modern jet that sat smack dab in the middle of it. A Concorde 1001, not a commercial plane. They were field testing it, working out the kinks as it were. Above it there were huge hangar doors, with an intricate system that would allow them to open without letting all the water of the Loch drain into Avalon's dungeons.

"Welcome to the headquarters of the Quantum Knights."

Al was not what he would call a smart man. And while in terms of learned knowledge, book smarts, that was true - he was at least street smart. On top of that, a heightened understanding of euclidean space gave him a reasonably to very good understanding of just how deep underground they were. Those reinforced walls gave him pause - you only reinforced walls if you were planning to keep something out, or in. And by how far underground they were, in seemed the more likely answer.

Then, lockers. In a strengthened training room. With obvious code names. After Claire had told him about faculty training together. Combine that with the strengthened walls and the underground location and you had a pretty strong picture forming in the man's mind, only confirmed when they came to the hangar and he laid eyes on the airplane. He gave a low whistle, quirking a brow at Claire. "Ok, this is hella cool. I admit, I'm impressed. Though it raises a question - why? What's it for? This training space, this airplane, everything?"

"Igitur quī dēsīderat pācem, præparet bellum." Claire replied in a bit of a weary tone, as if that was the answer to all of his questions. She looked at the music teacher and realised that not everyone read Plato, or the philosophers that influenced him, even so most people still wouldn't recognise the phrase as it was often rendered 'si vis pacem, para bellum'. It was then that she realised that last year one of her philosophy friends emailed about the phrase showing up in a new hard rock album. "I think you might know it better by the modern philosopher Hetfield." When there still wasn't a spark of recognition, "To secure peace is to prepare for war."

"Yeah, si vis pacem, etcetera," Al agreed. "You'd be surprised how much latin you pick up as a metal musician," a knowing wink from the music teacher, before he turned more serious, even bringing his hand up to rub his beard thoughtfully, looking up at the airplane. "So, you off-handedly tell me about faculty training. You then invite me to see this whole secret, hidden training area and tell me about this initiative of yours, the Quantum Knights, you called it?" A quick glance over at Claire to confirm. "Only conclusion I can come to is that you plan to invite me to join up. In which case, there is one - very important question I need to ask of you before I can say yes."

"It's not as big a leap of faith if you remember that the field leader for the team is called Oracle." There was no vetting someone for the Knights quite like letting Phoebe run through some scenarios and conversations with them. They always kept in mind that it was all potentials, but if nine out of ten potentials came up heads it gave a good indication of what they could expect. "Ask away."

Al pretended to look very, very serious, as he asked, "Do I get a cool codename? Like Mr Crowley!" It was what Robert had always called him, sort of an affectionate nickname, but that wasn't something he was going to tell Claire about. After a moment of being very pleased with his own attempt at humor he turned serious again. "Look Claire, I know this is a dangerous thing, and that you can't promise safety. But if spending some weeks teaching these kids has taught me anything, is that they deserve someone to stand up for them. And if that's me, then, well, sign me up. I'm not sure what turning into a bird is going to help in a confrontation with those who would do the kids harm, but I'm willing to find out. I told you before that coming here has given me a purpose, and I meant it."

"I'm glad that our purposes have crossed paths, Mister Crowley." Claire put out her hand in a mock introduction as well as to solidify the deal that was just struck between the two of them, "Tenebris."

"Shadow, nice," Al smiled, shaking Claire's hand firmly. "I'll go with Mr Crowley. That - ... name has meaning to me," Plus it was a clever play on 'crow' even though Alastair turned into a raven so it didn't quite fit, but Ravenley didn't have quite the same ring to it. And wasn't a reference to a classic heavy metal song, either. He looked around again, then back up at the airplane. "This is all kinds of exciting, right? I'm not silly for thinking that?" he added, sounding even a bit giddy as he did.

Looking back over to the gleaming exterior of Nessie Claire couldn't help but agree. "Very."


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