Carlos Ventresca had stopped paying attention to his teacher’s lecture a long time ago, regardless of his seat in the front row. He clenched his teeth shut and stifled a yawn. Of all the advanced courses his parents were forcing him to take in this private school, A.P. Physics had to be the least interesting.
He loosened the striped tie of his uniform and looked around at his classmates. They were all listening with rapt attention to the lesson and taking notes. A choice few were struggling to understand, their confusion plain on their faces. Carlos had already taught himself this lesson, and every lesson before and after that.
People had been calling him ‘a prodigy’ and ‘the next Einstein’ since the day he was ten years old and scored 160 on the Mensa IQ test he took for fun. As soon as that had happened, his father shipped him off to the most prestigious boarding school in the region; St. Albert’s School for Boys, named after the patron saint of scientists. His father had dreams of him becoming a world famous physicist. The idea absolutely captivated him.
Carlos wasn’t so thrilled by it though.
He had harbored a dream of becoming an author for years. He even started writing his first novel at age six. He had been so proud of it he decided to give the first uncompleted draft to his parents to read and comment. His mother had smiled sweetly and criticized his mistakes gently, her blue eyes shining with pride. All in all, she had been encouraging of the hobby. His father on the other hand, had all but gone into a flying rage.
“No hijo of mine is going to become an author!” he had yelled, his upper lip twitching and causing his mustache to bounce. His mother hadn’t been there to calm him down, so little Carlos had tried to make himself as small as possible. “You are smart, Carlos! You do not need to waste your time with these frivolous interests.”
Carlos hadn’t said a word the entire time. He had just nodded meekly to his father’s every word, forcing himself not to cry. It was only when his father threw the draft into the fireplace and struck a match that the tears started to flow.
“Papi please! Don’t do this! I won’t write anymore, I promise! Just please don’t burn it!” he shouted hysterically as his chest heaved up and down in sobs.
His father turned to him with hard brown eyes. “I am sorry, my son.” He said. As young as he was, Carlos could hear the cold resolve in his father’s voice. “I cannot allow you to throw your life away.” He tossed the match into the fireplace and the draft quickly went up in flames, along with Carlos’ dream.
Carlos’ mother had argued with him over the whole thing when she got home, one of the first times they had ever disagreed. She couldn’t understand his father’s reasoning, being a proud New York-er who believed everyone was free to choose their on path in life. His father stood firm, and Carlos’ dream stayed smothered.
Carlos later learned the reason behind his father’s actions. He apparently had an older brother back in Mexico that pursued his dream of becoming a musician. He never succeeded and never returned home, shrouding Carlos’ father’s family in disgrace. His father resolved to never allow any child of his to follow a career that was based on chance.
Carlos frowned and shook his head, as if the action would shake the memory out of his mind. He hadn’t thought of that day in a long time; he didn’t want to think about it. Thankfully, the bell rang shrilly, announcing the end of the school day. Since he hadn’t bothered to bring a backpack to class, Carlos was the first one out of the class.
In the hallway Carlos hunched his shoulders and raised the collar of his blazer as high up as it would go. He blended in seamlessly with the sea of red blazers that made up his school. He was just another head of messy brown hair. Hopefully, he would be able to make it to his dorm without running into -
Carlos lengthened his strides and quickened his pace, trying to escape the bully’s view. He was not in the mood to run into Terrence, of all people. He left the hallway and made his way to the impeccably kept quad and through a sea of students who were bunched up in groups, laughing together and discussing homework.
His dorm was right on the other side of the quad. If he could make it to his dorm, he wouldn’t have to face anybody until Monday morning. He had enough junk food stashed away to last him the entire weekend; if Adam hadn’t already broken in and helped himself.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed him by the collar of his blazer and yanked him back roughly, nearly choking him in the process. Carlos fell roughly on the neat grass, landing hard on his elbows, staining his blazer and rattling his teeth.
“Running away Ventresca? I never thought you were a coward.” Terrence sneered from above him.
“I’m no coward, Terrence.” Carlos said as he stood up and brushed blades of grass off his uniform. “I just have better things to do than listen to your grating voice.”
Terrence’s blue eyes hardened. “You’d better watch what you say, Ventresca. You could be expelled for saying the wrong things.”
Carlos scoffed and met the bully’s gaze unflinchingly. “As if. I’m much too valuable an asset for the school to lose. Unlike some people.” he said with a condescending tone to his voice.
Carlos knew he had hit Terrence hard; the bully had been trying to get him out of the school from the minute he was enrolled. Terrence had been the top student before Carlos arrived and was jealous of Carlos for doing better than he ever did, without even trying.
Terrence’s face turned deep red and his hands trembled in anger. “Why you little -” Terrence cut himself off, too enraged to continue. Instead, he lunged for Carlos, hands extended in a choking grip.
Thinking fast, Carlos veered to the right and quickly evaded the bully’s grasp. Without wasting another moment, Carlos sprinted towards his dorm, laughing as he left Terrence raging behind him.
“Hey man, you’re all out of crackers and spray cheese. You should really stock up.”
Carlos’ best friend Adam had been rifling through his pantry again, leaving a trail of open cupboards and spilled juice in his wake. He was seated on Carlos’ couch and seemed displeased with the lack of crackers and spray cheese, which Carlos didn’t understand. The bag of chocolate chip cookies he was eating out of was a much better replacement, in his opinion.
“I mean, chocolate chip is great and all, but cheese and crackers is where it’s at.” Adam continued as he ate. “Cookies are loaded with sugar, dude. They’re bad for you.”
“Then why are you eating them?”
“Your lack of crackers and spray cheese has made me desperate.”
Carlos frowned as a crumb fell in the crack between his couch cushion. “Adam, what’s it going to take to get you to stop breaking into my room and eating my food?” he asked as he took a seat next to Adam on the couch.
“Your room has to stop being so awesome first. I still can’t get over it. How come you don’t have a roommate? It must rock.” Adam asked.
“One of the benefits of being the school’s most valuable asset.” Carlos said bitterly. “Don’t you like having Wayne Green as your roommate?” he asked, stuffing his hand into the bag and grabbing a cookie for himself. “I thought you guys got along pretty well.”
Adam crinkled his freckled nose. “He’s cool and all, but his obsession of becoming a firefighter is kind of distracting.” he said.
“Distracting?” Carlos asked through a mouthful of chocolate chip. “What do you mean by that?”
Adam turned to him with a long suffering look in his vivid green eyes. “He likes to practice his retrieval routine by carrying me out of bed in the middle of the night and seeing how far he can go before burning out.”
Carlos winced. “Sorry man.”
Adam shrugged and blew some of his overgrown red hair out of his eyes. “It’s cool. I’m sorry if I bother you by breaking in. I just need to get away from him for a while.” he said. “Maybe you could change your lock?”
“It’d be better if I just give you your own key and save us both a whole lot of trouble.” Carlos said.
Adam nodded vigorously in agreement. “Totally. Maybe I could spend a few night here and get some actual sleep?”
“You know I can’t take your snoring, Adam. Don’t push your luck.”
“What if I buy you earplugs or something?”
Carlos stood up and dusted the crumbs of his hands. “No deal. Now get up, Adam. We have homework to do.” he said.
Adam groaned. “Do we have to do it right now? It’s always so easy!”
Carlos smirked. If you took one look at Adam’s rumpled uniform and shaggy hair, you wouldn’t think he was one of the top three students of his class. “Normally, yes.” Carlos said. “But today we’ve been assigned logarithmic differentiation, which I know is the bane of your existence.”
Adam scowled and gave a resigned sigh. He tied up the bag of cookies and set it on the coffee table. “Fine. You get the textbook and I’ll clear the -”
Adam was cut off by a sudden loud crash. The ceiling caved in, sending down a barrage of bricks and kicking up a plume of dust that filled the room. Adam and Carlos scrambled to the farthest corner of the room, far away from the falling debris. They huddled in the corner, coughing violently from inhaling the dust.
“What the hell was that?” Adam asked between coughs.
“I don’t know.” Carlos said. Squinting through the dust, he was able to make out a hole in the ceiling of his dorm room, as if something had crashed through it.
Through to haze of dust he saw the figure of someone crouched on what used to be Carlos’ coffee table. The figure stood up straight, displaying the slim form of a girl. She stepped forward and into a beam of light. The dust was settling, so her appearance became clearer.
She wore a strange type of sleek silver body armor; like something straight out of a video game. The armor broke into some kind of black fabric at her joints and knuckles, and she wore some kind of strange badge on the right side of her chest. She wore no headgear and her thick black hair was riddled with brick particles. Her vibrant violet eyes scanned over the room; a sharp contrast to her chocolate skin. Unbelievably, Carlos felt like he had seen her before.
Her eyes fell on Carlos and held his shocked gaze. “You.” She said firmly. He voice was rich with an accent Carlos couldn’t quite place. “I have come for you. It is of the utmost importance that we depart now.” she said, walking towards them.
“Who are you?” Carlos asked as she approached, pressing himself against the wall.
“That is unimportant at the moment. We must leave now.” she said.
“Not until you tell us what’s going on.” Adam said.
She gripped Carlos by the front of his blazer with surprising strength and pulled him clear off the ground.
Carlos struggled against her grip and kicked. His feet made contact with her armor, but she didn’t seem to feel it. “I’m not going anywhere with you!” he shouted.
“You do not have a choice in this matter.” the girl said. Still holding Carlos by his blazer, she took him back to the mound of brick she had made on her arrival.
“Let him go!” Adam shouted, running and leaping onto the girl’s back. She didn’t even flinch under the added weight.
“I have orders to bring you to our world by whatever means necessary.” she said, pausing in place. She effortlessly hoisted Adam and Carlos up and slung them over her armored shoulders in a fireman’s carry. “It should not be a problem to bring your friend along as well.”
“Wait!” Carlos shouted. “You can’t just-”
She suddenly bent her knees and with a surge of power and a rush of wind,she jumped and sent the three of them hurtling out of the hole in the ceiling. Carlos and Adam grunted as she jumped, the force of her jump driving their stomachs into her shoulders and pushing the air out of their lungs.
Carlos heard Adam gasp as they flew higher into the air at an incredible speed, the Earth becoming tiny marble in the black expanse of space in a matter of seconds. Carlos was dimly aware of the stars and planets whipping past them in a multicolored blur.
“Brace yourselves.” the girl said.
There was a faint beep and a bright flash of white light so harsh that Carlos slammed his eyes shut and covered them with his hands. His stomach lurched and he threw up, vomit flowing through the space between his hands and onto his blazer and white dress shirt.
“Holy shit!” Adam shouted.
Everything went dark after that.
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