Flame and Shadow

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Part II Chapter 15

“Zzzz- huh? Wha?”

I snapped awake, and quickly tried to look like I was paying attention. Something had just poked me to startle me out of my slumber. I turned my head, and saw Kyle at his desk diagonally behind me and to the right. The young man was staring at me, and gesturing with concerned eyes toward the front of the room. I knew he had quite possibly just saved my life.

“Thank you!” I whispered, and turned back to face the teacher. Mr. Stigus, the science professor, was still facing the chalkboard, bumbling about something and drawing obscure pictures.

“Now, if you start with some cells, say, one or two, or even more like 40, or 50 even. Actually, you could have, say, 100. Or 102. Maybe even more, like 110, or 1,000. Anyway, they look like this…”

How could anyone spend so much time and so many words saying absolutely nothing? I tried to keep focused on his lecture, but felt my eyes begin to droop. It’s OK if I just close one eye, right? Nothing wrong with that. Oop. There goes the other one. Give the first one a break…

Before I knew it, my head was sinking down, and off to the side. I’m sure no one will notice if I’m just a little off kilter right? I mean, for all they knew, I was just leaning over to get a better look at the chalkboard. Not falling asleep or anything. Suddenly, I was prodded in my ribs again, and whipped back to a vertical position just as Mr. Stigus turned around.

“So, can anyone tell me how the rate of DNA transcription is affected by inhibitive PGCLA under the conditions discussed?”

Um…I had no frickin’ clue. I quickly looked around the classroom, and, thankfully, it appeared that no one else did either.

“So no one was paying attention. Huh. Fascinating.”

The teacher turned back to the chalkboard and continued drawing very impressionistic diagrams of something related to biology.

Immediately, it felt like the desk was gravitationally pulling my head toward it again. I tried to resist, and snapped back to a normal position, but then my head started tilting backward. When it reached the apex, I whipped back to looking forward. Come on! I can do this! I slapped my own cheeks, and pulled my eyelids open. This was effective for a few minutes…OK, seconds.

“And the Endoplasmic Reticulum is like the post office of the cell, where it sends…stuff to…other places. You know, I used to work as a mailman. There was this one guy I used to deliver to, I think he might have been famous, because I recognized him, but I’m not sure. And there was this one lady with dogs. She had a lot of dogs. Like, at least two. Or maybe more, like, three. But it could have been four, or maybe ten. And once I…”

How was I supposed to have a chance against this onslaught? The classroom began to go as black as death, and I didn’t even hear the thump as my face hit the desk. Papers flew off of the surface to the ground.

Kyle started freaking out, but I couldn’t respond.

“Sera! Sera! Wake up! Mr. Stigus had Shana exiled last semester for sleeping in class!”

Right now, that didn’t matter, I was dead to the world in sleep’s sweet embrace, and almost nothing could pull me out.

Somehow, I survived the class. Mr. Stigus must have been too preoccupied with telling his lame stories to even notice that my spirit was no longer in that room. The ringing of bell had brought me out of the pit, and I hurried out of the classroom. I waited at the door for Kyle to gather his things, and we walked down the hall together.

In the Exosia division, they prided themselves in developing the whole person, spiritually with their chapel, physically with the training sessions, and mentally in a school setting. The Exosia recruits attended the same classes as the ordinary students, and it was almost like a normal school.

“Wow, some class, huh?” Kyle said.

It had been six years since I had joined Nahalore, and he was still my only friend. After seeing my pathetic excuse for fiery powers, Doshi and Sherman had kept their distance. Mahsa was an extremely rough character. I respected her a great deal, but I had never heard her even accidentally utter a word in a remotely friendly tone. I could understand. She had to keep the respect of those under her command. However, it seemed impossible to befriend someone who was like that. I guess I would consider Todd, the chaplain, as my friend, but he was older and very busy, so we didn’t talk too much. It was basically me and Kyle against the world.

“Yeah.” I answered, yawning and stretching my arms. “Those late night extra training sessions are gonna be the death of me.”

“What? Late night training?”

“Yeah, that’s when I really push myself, when no one is around.”

He looked a bit confused.

“I have no natural talent. So if I’m going to be fulfilling any prophecies, I need to work really hard.”

“Why haven’t you told me about this? How long have you been doing it?”

“Oh, a few years.” I shrugged. “And I haven’t told anyone, except Mahsa. I don’t want certain people finding out about it.”

As if on cue, Reese and Bethany approached us.

“Well speak of the devils.” I muttered, before the two came to spread a little joy.

“Hey! Losers!” Bethany called out, and they blocked our path. “How’s life in the slow lane?”

Reese obviously couldn’t miss an opportunity to add his taunts.

“I guess your lack of useful powers affects your learning curve. You wouldn’t last a day in our advanced classes, just like you can’t keep up in training!”

The last six years hadn’t changed these two very much. Reese still wore his dark sunglasses, even indoors, and his uniform jacket was always open. He had grown quite a bit, but his blonde hair was still anime-spikey. Bethany always kept her jacket tied around her waist, and wore a stocking cap. However, she had added several additional piercings around her ears, and had shaved a patch of hair over her right temple. Both of their powers had grown stronger over time, and were both classified as level 6 now.

Kyle shied away to avoid confrontation, but I was never one for that.

“Oh, just peachy. I’d tell you about it, but I don’t talk out of my butt, so you wouldn’t understand.”

“You shut up, little candle!” Bethany shouted. “You’re a pitiful excuse for an Ircabim. You shouldn’t even be here!”

“Well, if they let you in, I guess anyone could come in! Hitler, Sephiroth, Miley Cyrus, Jar-Jar Bi-“

“Shut up, bitch! The fact that they even consider you one of the elect is ridiculous! I don’t believe God possibly could have chosen a bitch like you!”

Students in the hallways were watching us, wondering if it would escalate. I glared with a smirk on my face right into Bethany’s brownish-green eyes.

“I might only be a harmless candle, but I can sure as heck light you up! It’s easy to make you mad, hm…like some kind of angry cow attacking a matador…”

While nasty insults were flying back and forth between us girls, Reese moved over to Kyle, who was trying to avoid being noticed.

“Hey, man, good job staying out of the fight. We guys don’t want any trouble, right?”

With that, he extended his hand as if to give a friendly handshake.

Kyle was wary of any kind words coming from this pair of rabble-rousers, but he didn’t want to look like he was refusing a gesture of friendship. Struggling to position his stack of books in his left hand, he reached out his right to take Reese’s offering. Instantly, he was jolted with a shock of electricity. Reese had performed a sort of supernatural joy buzzer on poor Kyle. The boy’s books went flying all over the floor.

That’s it. I ignited the tiny flame in my hand, and took a fighting position. Seeing the threat, Reese instantly formed a crackling lightning-like spark that traveled between his hands. Bethany also charged her beam powers, causing her hair to float upward from the energy, and her hands to glow pinkish. The energy from the two powerhouses caused the lights to flicker, and an ominous force to fill the air. If there wasn’t a crowd gathered before, there certainly was now. The four of us were encircled by students, who silently prayed that our spat would escalate into a full-fledged fight. Normally I wasn’t really one for violence, but something about the attitude of these two made me want to throw down.

I looked back and forth between my two rivals, ready for whatever their move would be.

“You’d threaten us here in school? I’m shocked!” Bethany feigned offence.

“Only because he messed with my friend.” I calmly replied. “If we weren’t in school here, I’d do a lot worse than threaten you.”

“We’ll beat you right here, right now!”

“Bring it!”

Kyle’s eyes were wide as he tried to get me to avoid the fight, but my gaze was locked on the jerks in front of me. We glared at each other for several seconds, until they noticed a number of teachers pushing their way through the students.

“Ah, you’re getting off easy this time!” Reese spat as he backed away.

“We’ll pick this up another time, losers!” Bethany added.

“I’m looking forward to it!” I bantered.

Bethany raised her middle finger in parting as they disappeared into the crowd. The throng began to dissipate, and I kneeled down to help Kyle gather his scattered belongings.

“Wow!” He commended. “I don’t know how you stand up to them!”

“Ah, they don’t scare me. They’re just jerks who’ve gotten too big for their britches. I guess that’s what happens when they get pumped up with ‘You’re the elect ones! You were predestined to have all of your amazing powers and good looks’, and so on.”

While grabbing his books, I picked up a spiral notebook which had been thrown open. The page was completely covered with one word written over and over again. Curiously, the word was “Sera”.

“Um, Kyle? Why were you writing my name all over this notebook?” I asked, puzzled.

“AH!” He exclaimed, blushing heavily and snatching It away from me. “That’s uh…nothing. I was just…uh…That’s not your name. I mean, it IS your name, but it’s also my notes.”

“Uh huh…”

He looked flustered for some reason.

“Yeah, ‘Sera’ is short for, uh, Saratoga! It was an important battle in the American Revolution, and when I write it over and over, it helps me to remember.”

OK. That made sense.

“Oh…gotcha. There’s just one thing…”

“O-oh really?” He gulped. “What’s that?”

“Saratoga is spelled with an ‘a’. S-A-R-A-toga. Not S-E-R-A.”

“Oh…oops. Haha… Thanks.”

“No problem buddy.”

He was acting a little weird, but it’s probably because he was just still a little jittery from our encounter with Reese and Bethany. I wanted to give him some encouragement.

“Hey, don’t worry about those two. If they mess with you, they’ll have to get through me first.”

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