Staying the Night
Surprisingly, when Rikki went to the motel vending machine, he saw some more cars pull into the same motel, packed up in a similar manner to his.
"They must be other kids off to college," he said to himself. There was a boy who was at least a couple years older than he was and he checked him and the other two kids in and got room keys while the other two, a girl and boy were walking toward the vending machine. Rikki put his dollar in the machine and he pressed the button for a root beer. The machine hummed as it dispensed the soda can and he pulled the can from the machine. He walked back to his room. As he rounded the corner, he overheard one of them talk about Jack Trades. Intrigued, he moved closer to listen, but as he did, their conversation quieted.
"We're going to the same place as you," one of the kids said. "So you might as well stop eavesdropping." Rikki stepped back around the corner. The kid who spoke was the boy about his age.
"Sorry," he said. "How'd you know?"
"We're like you," he said with a half smile.
"What are you talking about?"
"You...you don't know?"
"Is there something I'm supposed to know?"
"The place we're going to is a special place. It's a place for people like us," the girl said.
"What?" Rikki then felt some sort of presence.
Rikki, A voice in his head said. You have a Gift. A Gift some people don't have. He recognized the voice as his mother's.
What? Rikki thought. How?
How else? The kid piped in. Rikki could hear his voice too. It was passed down to you from your parents. It's the same for everybody. Everybody like us, anyway.
He's right. Rikki's mother told him.
So what about dad? Rikki thought.
He's… well, as we call it: 'Ungifted'.
Ok, and when did you plan on telling me?
I was but, I never did get to it. I'm so sorry.
He has a Gift too.
What can I do?
You can absorb all forms of energy and then do what you please with it.
I haven't been able to do that.
You will soon.
Suzy's a telepath like me, but she didn't share it with you.
How'd you know, and why?
Because I'm one. How else would we be having this conversation, and you'll just have to talk to her about it.
I guess you're right.
She's also a bit of a shape-shifter. Her hair changes colors depending on her mood.
Is that what that was? He remembered noticing that her hair did seem to be changing colors one day.
Yes. But you have to promise me that you'll use your power for good. There are some out there who abuse their Gift. You have to promise me.
Of course I will.
Rikki went back to the room he was sharing with Dan and Suzy.
"What took you so long?" Dan asked him as he shut the door behind him.
"There's some kids who are going to the same place we are," Rikki told him.
"Yeah." Rikki then went on to explain to them what his mother had told him. At first they were confused, but Suzy was the first one to understand.
"This still doesn't explain the letters we've been getting," she said.
"Well, my guess is what that kid said is right. This place we're going to is a place for people like us," Rikki said. Dan was still confused at what he was told before they slept that night and was still confused the next morning.
"So the college we're going to is a place for people with special abilities?" he asked as they were having a rather poor breakfast.
"Yes," Rikki answered him.
"Oh, ok. I understand completely now."
"It took you this long to figure out?" Suzy asked him. Dan gave her a dirty look.
"Yes." he exaggerated after a momentary pause.
"I think we should get a move on," Rikki said.
"Agreed," Suzy said.
"Agreed," Dan also said. They climbed back into their cars and Dan continued to lead the way. The other three kids followed. He recognized the older kid's car, a well used dark red Ford Focus, a few cars behind. They continued to drive into the early evening until they came to the state line. They stopped in the small town on the border and Dan checked them in.
"How much farther?" Suzy asked stretching her arms. Rikki checked his phone and he looked at one of the letters he kept.
"We should be there by lunchtime tomorrow," he said. They climbed into their cars and they drove out of the parking lot with the other kids following behind. They continued to drive for a few more hours until Rikki saw a sign that read: "State Line"
"We're almost there," he said to himself. He made a mental note: Three states down, the final drive. They had been driving for four days since they had left the place they called home for 18 years. Now they were just a few miles from college, the next chapter in their life. The exit off-ramp appeared around the next bend and Rikki slowed to take it. Now, they were just about 10 minutes from college. Suzy and Dan followed Rikki down the winding road through the countryside. Rikki saw an extravagant fence gate and pulled onto the gravel driveway and stopped in front of the gate. Rikki climbed out of his car and walked up to it with Dan and Suzy following suit.
"Wow," Dan said looking at the large wrought iron gate. "Impressive."
"Is this it?" Suzy asked.
"Yep," Rikki said. "This is it."
"Will it open?"
"Sure it will," Dan said from where he was standing by one of the large stone pillars holding the gate doors in place. Rikki and Suzy looked at what Dan was looking at. It was a metal panel built into the stone work. There was a small screen with a couple speakers and a slot. Suddenly, the screen flashed on. A male voice said through the speakers: "Invitations, please." The screen read the same thing. Rikki figured something out while Dan and Suzy exchanged mildly confused looks.
"Give me your letters," he said pulling his out from his car. They gave him their letters. Rikki put the letters in the slot beneath the screen. The screen flashed a different color and it read "Authenticating" There was a musical tone and the screen and voice said: "Welcome Rikki. Welcome Dan. Welcome Susan." There was a screech as the iron gate pulled itself apart allowing them to continue on. They climbed back into their cars and continued down the gravel driveway and they pulled up by a large Building. It was made of what looked like sandstone. It had a lot of balconies on one side of it. Rikki guessed that was the students' rooms. It was so large that he thought it must have had at least 50 rooms in it.
"So, this is college?" Dan asked looking about the large house. "I thought it would be bigger."
"I know, so did I," Rikki said.
"Don't jump to conclusions, just yet," Suzy said with a slight smirk. They turned around and a man was standing there.
"Hello," he said. He looked in his mid 30's. He had yellowish blond hair and he was wearing decent dress clothing. Rikki stepped forward.
"Jack Trades," he said shaking the man's hand.
"Yes," the man said nodding. "I welcome you to your future." He noticed the look on Dan's face. "Trust me, it's bigger on the inside." He was talking about the building.
"Alright," Dan said having his question answered. Jack walked them inside. The main room was big and very nice.
"First off, this is not a very large campus, but it is a bit bigger than you think." Jack said. "Everything you need for your future is at your disposal here. Everything you will ever need."
"Everything?" Dan asked.
"Everything. The classrooms are here on the main floor. The dining hall is in the back on the left with the garage to the right. The student dormitories are up on the second floor, boys on the right, girls on the left."
"Wait," Rikki said, "did you say 'garage'?"
"I did. Back on the right."
"Are you a car collector or something?" Jack laughed in response.
"No, I'm not a collector. The garage is for students' cars."
"Where are the teachers?" Suzy asked.
"They are not all here yet. They'll be here when everyone else arrives," Jack said.
"'Everyone else'?" Dan asked.
"The other students," Suzy told him. Jack nodded.
"Some followed us," Rikki said. He then just remembered them. "They must be at the gate."
"I'll go and get them," Jack said. "You three can go pick out your rooms."
Rikki, Dan, and Suzy walked up the stairs to the student dormitories. Rikki and Dan turned left and Suzy started to turn right, but she hesitated, as a sad feeling came over.
"What is it?" Rikki asked sensing her sadness. And just like his mother said, Suzy's hair began to turn a sad shade of blue.
"I don't know," she said. "For some reason, I feel like… we're splitting up."
"Hey," he said putting his suitcase down and hugging her. "We're not splitting up. We'll just be separated… temporarily."
"I know. I just…" she trailed off and sighed. He held up her chin and looked her in the eyes.
"It'll be okay. Just go put your stuff in your room and we'll go sit together in the main room."
"Okay," she said with a small smile. Her hair turned to a happy yellow-orange. They parked their cars in the garage and they put the rest of their stuff in their rooms, which were bigger than Rikki originally thought. They had 2 bedrooms with a bathroom and kitchenette. It was the same on the girls side of the dormitories hall. Rikki and Dan were still contemplating on whether or not they should share a room when Jack had escorted the other kids from before inside. By this time, Rikki and Dan decided that they would share the room the best they possibly could. The older boy, Bob Farley, had a gift of intelligence, but he preferred to use his intelligence as being a know-it-all in the sports section of the world. More specifically, the "blood sports" part to which he applied his knowledge. His friend Tim Martinson, however, did not have a gift of intelligence but remained with similar interests as Bob. The girl they were traveling with, was someone neither of them knew. She was actually a few years younger than Tim. A lot younger. Her name was Cassandra Wheeler and she was 11 years old, but despite her age and interests, she had a knack for being a fan of history and the social sciences.
"Wait," Dan said talking to her. "You're eleven?"
"That's right," she said with a perky tone as she sat herself down on one of the couches. Dan sat on the ottoman in front of her.
"You're 11, and you drove here?"
"Well…not… as such…"
"So how did you get here?" Suzy asked her.
"She had to ride with me," Tim said pointing to himself, with a hint of agitation.
"You don't have to pick on me just because I'm a kid!" Cassandra said.
"Please don't yell, Cassandra," Jack said walking through the room and back out the front.
"More must be here," Rikki said.
"That's right," a voice said. They looked and a boy about Bob's age was coming into the room. His voice sounded slightly monotonous and robotic. "Hello. My name is Will. I am Jack's assistant. Please let me know if you have any questions"
Cassandra raised her hand.
"Yeah, are you human?" she asked. Will brought his left arm up. He touched his arm and a panel on it opened. Everyone gasped. Dan whistled.
"Does this help?" Will asked.
"Oh, yeah. Definitely," Cassandra said just wanting to be away from this person. Jack had came back.
"Oh, he's human. He's also biotech. That's what makes him so special," Jack said patting Will's shoulder. "Yep, and, he's also my son."
"Why the biotech?" Rikki asked. Jack's face darkened.
"There was an accident," he said with a different tone in his voice. "Here. A long time ago."
"I can see that you don't like to talk about it," Suzy said. Jack nodded.
"Now don't be asking questions you don't want to know the answer to." The man walked away. Suzy's hair changed to a sympathetic magenta.
"I feel bad for him," she said.
"You just had to ask that question," Dan said to Cassandra.
"Hey!" she said, obviously offended. "I wanted to ask." She sat back on the couch, crossed her arms and sniffled, trying her best to hold back a tear.
"You're not going to start crying are you?"
"Dude, stop!" Rikki told his brother. "Come on man, she's 11."
"I'm sorry," he said with an unchanged tone. He stood up and walked up the stairs and back into his room. Cassandra was still upset so Suzy sat down next to her and gave her a hug.
"It's ok," she soothed. Her hair was now a shade of a comforting pink. A few more kids of varying ages and races and of both genders came in and Will gave them a similar tour that Jack had given them.
"Will," Rikki called him over.
"Yes?" Will asked.
"When do we start the college work?"
"Not for another 3 days. First we must spend a couple days getting to know each other."
"Okay, thanks." Will nodded and walked off to help someone else.