Alicia hurried down the hallways as soon as class let out for the day. She had exactly fifteen minutes to change and report to work.
Her thoughts of which exit to take out of campus and wondering if Van Dorn Street was still blocked by construction, were suddenly disrupted when she passed by a worn bulletin-board littered with flyers.
Her eye was drawn to a fresh stack of dark blue flyers neatly pinned to the top layer. In bold white letters it read, “NEW SPRING COURSE! ETHICAL COMPUTER HACKING; The perfect introduction course for White Hat wannabes. NO PRE-REQS REQUIRED!”
Alicia carefully tore off of of the flyers. “There’s such as thing as ethical computer hacking?”, she curiously thought to herself.
Remembering the time, she quickly folded up the flyer and stuffed it into her purse. She continued on in a hurry with a new excitement for Spring class registration.
“Thanks for agreeing to meet with me, Max”, Celine said as she saw him approaching.
He asked her to meet him on the outskirts of town; the same place he had been frequenting ever since he found out about his origins. It was almost as if it were the only place where he was comfortable to accept the full reality of his life.
“Sure”, he replied, “I’m sorry it took me a week to meet up. Things just... came up last minute.”
“No problem!”, she exclaimed, letting out a nervous laugh.
Max gave her a faint smile then looked away, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach.
Celine sighed, “Well, let me just tell you why we’re here.” She pushed back her corn-colored bangs and continued, “As I’m sure you’ve been told already, we all arrived here twenty years ago with the hopes of a new beginning and peace. But shortly after we landed on Earth, we were ambushed by our enemies - who we call The Outlanders - and they killed many of us and injured even more, including Celeste Vaul; your mother. She formed the plan which involved having you being adopted by the Trentons. When she did that, she managed to convince both the Outlanders and us - the Guardians - that you were dead.” She took a few steps closer to Max. “Only a select few were trusted with the truth: That you were alive and well, living with a human family, oblivious to your origins. One of those entrusted was a man named Kreios - he was one of your parents’ most trusted friends. He’s also the one who sent Remus, Charlotte and myself. The three of us; we’ve been assigned to bring you back to the Guardians and assist with reintegrating you with our people. It’s something we’ve been preparing years for.”
“Then why was it just Remus?”, Max asked, almost accusingly.
“Because Kreios didn’t want to overwhelm you; Remus is the oldest of the three of us and thus he’s spent the most time preparing. But then his tactics... didn’t quite work.”
“Did you all seriously think that I would willingly go with him and leave everything I know behind like that?”, Max heard himself exclaiming.
“I’m sorry Max...I really am. The last thing any of us wanted to do was make you think that all we wanted to do was tear you away from everything you hold dear”, Celine response apologetically. “We didn’t quite know how exactly Remus was going to go about all this. But just know that we’re on your side! I’m here because I want to help you.”
Max was quiet for a moment. “So now what? I get why all of you are here, and I want to learn more about who I am ... but one thing I can’t understand is why am I so important to you all?”
“It’s because your abilities are superior.”
“I know Celest-my mother told my father something about how my...abilities carry more ‘weight’ than others or something like that. But I’m not quite getting it; how can I be of any help to you all if I’m oblivious to who I really am? I don’t even know how to use my abilities.”
Celine smiled, “Learning how to use your abilities isn’t the hard part, trust me! Our abilities don’t fully mature until the age of twenty, even if we grew up knowing to expect them. Many of us had to learn as you are right now.”
“So, what’s the hard part?”
“...It’s accepting that we’re not like everyone else. Max, you’ll probably struggle with this for a long time, even for the rest of your life. I can see it already; you haven’t even referred to yourself as a Tymorrean, not once.”
Max was starting to feel irritated by their conversation.“…Well, what can I say? I grew up just like any other normal person. Then I woke up one day and was told that I’m not human - I’m a completely different species altogether!”
“If it makes you feel any better, we’re very similar to humans. I mean, why do you think we chose Earth as our new home?”
Max looked at her skeptically.
“Max... it’s OK to have these struggles. It’s perfectly natural, and even expected. But you need to accept all of this eventually; you can’t change who you physically are! Nothing will ever change that”, she explained. “But what you can change is your attitude; it’s possible to accept that you’re not human but you’ll always be Max Trenton. And it’s up to you to decide the kind of man Max Trenton will be.”
He sighed, “I can see your point…”
“See! We’re not so bad are we, Max?”, she grinned, “Remus probably gave a bad impression of us Tymorreans but we’re just like any other person you would meet otherwise! ...We just come with a little extra something.”
“Our abilities you mean.”
“Yes! Our gifts; and yours are particularly special.”
He gave her the same perplexing look he had earlier.
“So... let me explain a little bit about Tymorrean abilities. Every Tymorrean is born with two special abilities; one from each parent. It’s kind of like DNA, where some genes are more dominant than others; some abilities are more dominant than others. In your family’s case, the Vaul bloodline always passes on Invulnerability to its’ offspring.”
“Is that the ability that’s supposed to be so special?”
“Yes! Think about it; nothing can hurt you. There’s no weapon that can pierce your skin, no force that can break your bones; you’re the ultimate protector”, she smiled admiringly. “On Tymorre, your family held highly esteemed positions of leadership for generations. They were well-known for their integrity and nobility; they understood the importance of using such a gift for the good of others. It’s almost as if it was in their blood to be great leaders. This is why you’re so important to us, Max.” She started stepping away from him, towards a nearby tree. “There’s also something else; but it would be easier to show you.”
Max watched as she grabbed a large branch off the tree and broke it in half with one end pointed and sharpened like a knife. He flinched when she quickly ran that end across her arm, leaving a bright crimson line of blood.
She then dropped the branch and placed her hand just above the cut. She seemed to concentrate and then a soft blue light appeared from her palm and spread through the wound. The light quickly disappeared along with the cut.
Max stared in awe at her, “You can heal?”
“That’s incredible! Can you heal anything?”
She smiled, “Yes; broken bones, bullet wounds, paper cuts, you name it!”
“Wow... And how is that not greater than anything I can do?”
“Because I have a limit - a lot of us do. I can only heal so many times before I lose my energy, then I can’t use either of my abilities anymore until I get my energy back.”
“How long does that take?”
She shrugged, “It depends; it could be several hours or even a full day. So, I have to use my abilities wisely as you can imagine.”
“Will this happen to me too?”
“No. You have no limits - that’s what I’m trying to tell you right now.”
His gazed drifted downward as he put together the pieces. It was all slowly starting to sink in; the weight have how much power his body possesses. And he still had no idea how to control any of it.
Celine was cut off by the rings of Max’s cell phone. He pulled it out and recognized the number of the carpentry shop.
“I’m sorry, could you excuse me for a moment?”
He walked away a couple of steps while flipping the phone open, “Hello?”
“Max! This is Ray over at the shop. So listen, I hate to ask this of you but could you come in? Paul just called in sick and we got a couple of large orders that need to be taken care of today. Your dad’s out running errands for me and I could use an extra set of hands.”
“Yeah I can come in, I’ll be there in half an hour”. He closed the phone and looked over apologetically at Celine.
“Duty calls?”, she smiled.
“Yeah, I’m really sorry.”
“It’s OK! This is probably a good place to stop anyways for now. I know this is all... overwhelming for you.”
“Yeah, that’s a good point.”
“I have one thing to ask you. Next time we talk, would it be alright if I brought Charlotte? I think it would be good for you two to meet - more officially I should say!”
“Great! Well... I’ll just let you call me next time you’re ready to talk.”
“OK, until next time...”, she started.
“Thank you”, he gave her a faint smile, “I mean it”.
She smiled back, “Of course! After all... you’re one of us.”
Kyra drifted down the sidewalk, past the shops in Humbleton. She was staring down at a shiny red and white brochure that read “BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC”. It’s one of the top college music programs in the country.
Today Ms. Greene - the school’s chorus and music teacher - had asked Kyra to meet with her after school. Kyra had a habit of singing to herself no matter where she was, especially when others weren’t around. Apparently she had an audience a few days ago on her way back to class from the restroom. Ms. Greene excitedly insisted that Kyra meet with her “just for a few minutes”. Kyra humored her and agreed.
“Kyra, someone with as much raw talent as you shouldn’t let it go to waste! You’re so young too - imagine how far you can go with a little top quality training and guidance!”
Ms. Greene apparently had a friend who taught at Berklee, though she felt Kyra could still get in even without outside help. But she still offered to help Kyra in any way she could to get into a good performing arts program if that’s what she wanted.
Kyra appreciated what Ms. Greene was trying to do; she really did. After all, that’s what good teachers do. They see the potential in their students and are willing to go to any lengths to bring that out. Kyra told the woman that she would think about it; she didn’t tell her that she had no intention of applying anywhere though. If it even smelled of a moderately good music program, she had to stay far away.
She threw the brochure away in a nearby trash can and continued on. She hugged her arms to her body trying to press out the empty feelings and ignore the nausea in her stomach.
Kyra missed her bus when she stayed to talk to Ms. Greene today, but she didn’t care by this point. At least the weather was nice now that it was November.
“Do you need a ride home?”
Kyra jolted out of her thoughts and looked up to see a familiar red, beaten-down pick-up with Max Trenton leaning out of it.
“Sure”, she answered absently.
She climbed into the cab of the truck while Max shifted back into gear. They continued on in silence.
Normally, Kyra would hate the large awkward silence that hung between them right now and she would start filling it with whatever random nonsense that popped into her head. Today though, she just didn’t care.
Max shifted uncomfortably in his seat but didn’t say anything. She then realized why things were a bit tense right now and sighed.
Max looked over at her confusingly, “What?”
“My mom. You know; the awkward elephant in the room right now? We both ran into each other at the cemetery where our moms are buried and now we’re not sure what to do? I’m just breaking the ice; my mother killed herself and that’s why she’s buried six feet under that field now.”
Max looked solicitously at her while she continued keeping her eyes straight ahead.
“I’m sorry”, he said.
She shrugged, keeping her gaze forward, “You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I was two, I don’t even remember her. She’s just a faded photograph to me.”
“Then why were you sitting at her grave?” Max wanted to ask, but didn’t.
Max turned his attention back to the road for a few moments.
“My mother died giving birth to my sister. I was eleven when it happened.”
Kyra stayed silent, her gaze changing only slightly. “I’m sorry”, she whispered.
“It’s OK”, he spoke softly, “Bad things happen; it’s just part of life.”
“Yeah... Was your sister OK?”
Max beamed, “She was perfect, and still is!”
Kyra looked over at Max who still kept his focus on the road but had that brightened smile on his face now. She found herself smiling too, even if it was just for a moment.
What do you know, Max Trenton does have some life in him after all.
Three Days Later
“Thanks for meeting with me again, Max. You’ve already met, but this is Charlotte!”
“Good to see you again, Max!”, Charlotte exclaimed while extending her hand.
Max took it, “Likewise.”
“Max, how have you been doing since we last talked?”, Celine asked.
“What do you mean.”
“I mean, how is all this new information sitting with you?”
Max looked from one girl to the other, finding himself a little uncomfortable in their presence still.
He shrugged, “I mean... the whole finding out I’m-an-alien thing takes the cake. It’s all just downhill from there.”
Celine looked at him sympathetically while Charlotte furrowed her brow as if she was concentrating on him.
“Celine, may I try something? I think it’ll help”, she asked.
Charlotte took a few steps forward towards Max so that she was standing right in front of him. He looked down at her curiously, while she looked up and smiled.
With no warning, she swiftly kicked his legs out from under him. He hit the ground with a hard thud and felt all the air rush out of him.
“What the hell was that for?”, Celine grunted through clenched teeth.
Charlotte was still smiling, “Trust me on this one! I’m just trying to get the ball rolling here.”
Max caught his breath again and sat up on his elbow.
“You mind explaining what you just did to me?”, he said angrily.
“I’m sorry Max; the point wasn’t to attack you, it’s to show you what you’re really made of. How do you feel right now, physically?”
Max thought about this for a moment. The wind was knocked out of him for very briefly, but otherwise he actually felt fine. He didn’t even feel sore.
“I don’t feel anything”, he replied begrudgingly.
Charlotte grinned, “See? That’s what we’re trying to show you right now!”
She offered a hand to help him up but he brushed it away and stood up by himself.
Charlotte continued, “I’ll be honest; life probably really sucks for you right now doesn’t it? And I can see why; none of this is easy to accept. But it’s not going to help you right now if all we do is stand around and talk about how hard this is. What we can do is help you get used to your abilities right now. It will help, trust me.”
Max brushed the dead grass off his shirt, “So you plan on doing this by beating me up?”, he said sarcastically.
Celine interrupted, “Max; I’ll admit that Charlotte and I discussed this before meeting with you today. The part about getting you used to your abilities I mean. I didn’t know that surprise attacks were on our agenda though”, she said while shooting an angry glance at Charlotte who only gave her an innocent smile. She turned back to Max, who still didn’t look too happy, “But I have to admit she does have a point. Look, you won’t have to make any decisions any time soon OK? We’ll just take this one step at a time and just focus on your abilities. Deal?”, she extended her hand.
Max looked at both of them again. Charlotte still had that mischievous grin on her face, while Celine smiled faintly as if she was trying to hide the desperation she was feeling. But both of them had something that Max couldn’t put into words. He didn’t know these women very well at all, but his instincts told him to trust them.
He slowly reached out and took Celine’s hand. “It’s a deal, then.”