Unlike the walk to the dorms, Echo walked next to my side, hands in his pockets, eyes back to their untrusting forest-green. Our boots thumped against the tiled floor, the only sound between us.
“What are the others like?” I finally asked, breaking the blanket of dead air.
“Messed up? That’s really the only thing I can say. Victor and I came at the same time here, he’s the leader of our group,” Echo explained. “He has hydrokinesis. Then it’s the siblings who were next. Rooi, she’s got invincibility and her brother Fox has areokinesis. They both have the morbid side of the spectrum while Victor and I were lucky enough to be caught being transported out of Bridgefield.”
“Have the others read my file?”
He was quiet again. The more he went into these silent stages the more I thought he did not talk much and did not know how to react to certain things. His people skills were almost as bad as mine.
“Only Amy, Tango and I have read your file. Them for obvious reasons and I having to help you cope with the huge jump from civilian life to a soldier. Though, your file failed to mention how timid you can be.” Echo stopped in front of the metal doors keeping the mess hall hidden from the hallway. “One tip of advice for the team, be careful what you say around them. They can be unstable sometimes.”
“Does that include you?” Tilting my head, I raised an eyebrow at him. Echo smirked, choosing to shoulder the door open instead of answering.
The doors squealed in protest, revealing the packed hall. Soldiers crowded tables, making a large berth around the table I presumed the team of powered teenagers sat at. Glares followed our backs, stirring up irritation in me. As I passed by a soldier who openly scowled at me, a small flame burst to life on his shoulder. His friend was quick to pat it out for him. Did they know who I was, what I could do?
“They’re scared of us, or at least most of them are. The others hate the idea of us being shoved into their base. That table there-” Echo pointed at a table by a large window circled by toned muscled soldiers who were laughing loudly, “They don’t want anything to do with us but we drill with them anyway. They are Alpha team.”
“Seems like you guys are not being treated well,” I commented as we slowed our pace. “Maybe we can change that while I’m here...”
“I can place it on the agenda, but right now, it’s time to meet the rest of your team.” At that, we stopped in front of the table. Three occupants all laughing at something someone said all stopped when they noticed us.
The first person to catch my attention was the only girl in the group. Not because she was a girl, but because she was so small. When her eyes met mine, I had to stop myself from taking a step back. They were pure gold framed by long lashes and light-red eyeshadow. Her hair was shaved on the one side, dyed an oxblood red. This must be Rooi, the one with invincibility. Her age must have been no higher than fourteen.
Breaking eye contact, I glanced at the face that was similarly sculpted. His hair was sandy-blond, wind-blown wavy. His eyes were a grey-blue, full of life, unlike his sister’s statue ones. Laugh lines were prominent by his mouth and the corners of his eyes. Foxtrot, the one with areokinesis. Most likely my age or a year older.
Lastly was our leader, Victor. His hair was black, cut so his fringe just dipped into his dark-brown, oval-shaped eyes. A dark blue hue dyed the tips of his fringe. As I was studying him, he was studying me. Was he seeing the injured, defensive armour around me or the trembling child underneath?
All three wore the same army issued slacks both Echo and I wore. The only thing that made us different was the fade their shirts were taking on.
“You are supposed to be the top Gifted?” Victor said, tilting his chin up and sneering, arms coming to cross over his chest. “I bet Rooi here can snap you in half without breaking a sweat. What makes you so special huh? Who was hiding you away from Tango?”
“Vic, watch it,” Echo growled. “He got here the same way we all did.”
“Echo, Vic has a point. Can he even do more damage than the rest of us? Since he was found out and spoken of here, him standing right in front of us makes me worried,” Rooi stated, rolling her eyes. “What makes you better than the rest of us? Three powers or not, you aren’t anything special.”
Before any more insults could be thrown my way, a hand dropped on both mine and Echo’s shoulders, making me glance up as a flame sparked to life. The hand slipped off before any damage could be inflicted.
“I see you five have made friends,” The man said, a note of amusement in his voice. He must be Tango. He looked like the movie-star picture of a soldier, the only difference being his eyes. Ocean-blue, hiding the hard-earned experience of warfare behind them. Then there was the evidence of a scar running under his shirt’s collar, ragged and raised.
“What happened to your neck for you to have bandages?” Tango asked, narrowing his eyes. “Echo, I said to look after him not hurt him.”
“I burned off the collar when he was not looking. Don’t talk about me like I’m not here or like I need to be babied. Damian made sure that I would hate any form of pity,” Growling, I knew my eyes changed colour as soon as Echo placed his hand on my shoulder. Unlike his change, mine was a variation of multiple colours, according to Damian, which looked similar to the sunset over a snow-capped mountain. Oddly specific, but that was how he was.
“If we are done here, I’d like to leave. There’s no need to be here to hear any more of your insults,” I spat, shrugging off Echo’s hand.
“Hunter, you need to eat. You’ve been asleep for two days,” Echo tried to reason.
“All I need is an apple, nothing more.” Side-glancing Tango, I saw a fruit bowl at the end of a table with cutlery and jugs of water. With a final overlook of the group, I stalked my way to the table, but before I was out of earshot, I heard Tango’s angry voice asking them what had happened. An unfamiliar voice answered. Foxtrot.
Sitting on the carpeted floor, back against the bed, I ate my apple. The dorm was silent, only the drip from the bathroom and the crunch of the apple providing any sound.
What would I be doing now at the mansion? Most likely lying on the couch with my head resting on Damian’s thigh as we watched one of his many shows. It was not all bad when I was with him. It was those small moments that made me forget about my predicament. It was those moments when the real, caring Damian came out, not the lustful one that came much later in the night.
“Hey.” Echo’s voice pulled me out of my anecdotal thoughts, making me rest my head against the mattress and swallow the piece of apple in my mouth.
“What do you want?” I muttered, studying the core of the apple. He sighed before coming to sit next to me, one leg drawn to his chest, arm coming to rest on top.
“I’m sorry about the others. They don’t know what you have been through since this entire situation we have been thrown into started. I think the image Tango unknowingly created for you made them feel weak and when you showed up, it caused a sense of hate in them,” He explained, his eyes closing when he finished as if saying he was disappointed in them.
“They haven’t seen my file like you so I wouldn’t really blame them for what they said. What did they expect me to look like?” I asked, burning the core into fine dust and blowing it out of my palm.
“I guess when you walked into the mess hall that everyone’s attention would instantly be drawn to you and possibly a stage light would flash onto you as you walked to them,” Echo replied with an exhale of breath. “The image I had was someone who was bigger than you, built with hardened muscle and experience that’s why I reacted mildly annoyed when I saw you even though I had read your file.”
“If that first bit was made to make me laugh, it did not.” Pulling my knees to my chest, I rested my forehead on them. “After reading my file, what were your expectations of me?”
“Not high, but I thought you would be resourceful and adaptable to situations. Your high school teachers also labelled you out as a fighter. Your high grades also meant you were dedicated to what you did.”
“Was there anything about the night I was captured?”
“No, only that you went missing.”
“How come I have never seen you around in Bridgefield?”
“You probably have just don’t remember. I lived in downtown Bridgefield with my brother. Victor lived in the apartment district while the siblings stayed on a farm. Public school for all of us and private for you.”
“Wow, makes sense now.”
“Tomorrow is going to be your first training session with us and Alpha team. You should get some rest,” Echo said after a comfortable silence had settled over us. As he went to stand up, I grabbed his arm, feeling stupid.
“Thanks for talking to me.” I could not look him in the eye until the words left my mouth. Echo was smiling which made a small one curve its way onto my lips.
“You can count on me, Hunter, you don’t have to hide.”
“If I say I have not slept alone in a space by myself since being with Damian, will you bring your bed here?”
“You’re lucky I’m a teleporter.”