“Mom, I’m off to school.” Edward’s voice trailed behind him as he made, in hurry, for the door, walking through it, not waiting to hear a response from his mother. Not only was he late, he had also missed the two school busses.
Class was awkward that morning. All eyes were on the biology teacher going back and forth on something about human evolution. However, there he sat at the back, uneasy. The class was nearly full, all seats occupied safe for one, the very seat next to him. Against his will, his eyes darted all around for Sasha but couldn’t find her. This habit was one which until yesterday had been a thing of appeal and thrill for him. With caution however now involved, it was with a sweet-bitter taste in his mouth.
And just when he was about to give himself a deeper reprimand on the potential consequences of his actions, in she came, hurriedly, smiling.
“Late again,” the teacher mumbled to her hearing. She giggled and asked for pardon which quickly was granted. She stared around the class for a free seat, and just behind, her eyes locked with Edward’s. He looked away immediately.
The smile left her face in a breath of air. Replaced by a coldness he could feel all the way from his seat, he hoped she hadn’t seen his gaze nor mistook it for anything. Not that she’d be wrong if she did. Sasha however walked over, taking the seat next to Edward, the only empty seat. A few seconds passed and Edward thought he could maybe take a quick innocent look to his left. Not for anything bad, he thought. Turning his head sideways, he found Sasha glaring right at him.
“What the—?!” He squirmed on his seat, taking his eyes away. Sasha reached for her phone and typed into it, scoffing, then dropped it to the desk before her, turning her eyes back to the teacher.
“Alright. Turn to the thirty-first page of your texts.
That’s our main topic today.” The teacher beckoned on all. There was
unison in the swish of papers, page after page by all twenty-eight students. The
biology teacher was the old-school type. All the texts were on digital screens
just before their desks and available by just a gesture command, but he only
ever liked them using those if he had an example or illustration he needed a
three dimensional graphic design to explain.
Opened, Edward tried to read through the words but found it harder than yesterday. Everything before him blurred and the fonts of the texts doubled out of shape. He winced from the pain as the headache returned, mildly. Reaching for his head with his right hand, he shut his eyes with hopes the pain passed.
“Are you okay, Edward?” the teacher said, having observed one of his students seemed distracted, the very newest.
Edward looked up, and the whole class turned to the teacher’s look. It was him. He cleared his throat, nodding. “Yes sir. Yes I’m fine. Just—” The words were lost to him, replaced by involuntary silence. His eyes were on his hand tucked by the side of his desk just by the wall. While other students didn’t give a hoot about whether or not he was dying, his hand was changing again, the black liquid seeping out of his pores and spreading across his fingers, slowly but steady, densed and smoothened. The further it came up, the heavier the headache got. He gasped, looked up, some of the students were murmuring, some sniggering in mischief, the teacher had lost the friendliness in his initial smile just when he’d asked the question.
Edward shook his head. “No, sir. I’m definitely not okay.”
“What?” The teacher let out a scoff of unbelief, surprised Edward actually said that out.
Edward reached over for his sweatshirt by the desk, shoved his hand into it and rose to his feet, shaking, breath unsteady, deep. “Could I use the bathroom, please?”
* * *
VILLAGE: Numegu, Vistamyl
Villages were not what they used to be if one spoke of the twentieth to twenty-second century. And while still tagged local, it wasn’t for having mud houses or being full of bushes and wildlife who don’t know any better. Numegu was a developing village by consideration because unlike the rest of the city of Vistamyl, it had chosen to, by its native indigenes, preserve nearly all parts of their natural and ancient indigenous cultures, which required keeping most forms of hard technology and industrialisation away from its unified communities. However, every basic requirement for an average life in Vistamyl was accessible to them. Their population wasn’t above six thousand people.
Further within the village, well hidden from plain sight, was an old mansion. It was tall, and usually was referred to by many, habitants inclusive, as The Castle, for loads of things, security and external features being two. Irrespective of its look and age of a hundred years, it was strong and never ventured into, because it was owned by a wealthy business man who was loved by all in Numegu. Trees and underbrushes made a forest around the lands occupied by the Castle, with a tiled pathway leading in and out of the mansion.
The building was surrounded by a round fence made of Ogun steel, believed to be one of the strongest metals on the planet, and named after the man who had discovered it in a mountain back during the eras of the Old Continent. On its inside was a ten-sized plot of land surrounded by a well dressed garden, ponds and an artificial spring. The building was large and over twenty feet tall. Its inside was huge, with roughly twenty-two rooms littered from the top to the bottom. And still extra rooms in case more were needed in the future.
At one of the rooms, which largely was characterized by wideness in both height and size, was the building’s control room. In it, holographic systems floated about, linked to surveillance systems all around the building as well as other buildings owned by Akamike Castle. The systems however kept them up to date on a hundred and more other things, leaving them in a village, but with all city knowledge and information even those within the cities had no access to.
Nellie walked into the system’s room. It was spacious, and all the computer systems combined didn’t take up all the space. By the side upon a podium elated above the rest of the floor was Tanoma and Akamike. Nellie scoffed seeing the sweat trickling down Tanoma’s face, indicating the stress she definitely was going through with her training. It was funny. She could recall four years earlier when Akamike had taken her in as a ward of his. He had put her through so much to control and become one with her abnormalities. Those months were hectic and littered with disappointments for her and Akamike, but here she was, better, smarter, with an IQ above average, capable of efficiently handling the MOAC, and was yet to even hit her peak. Now, she thought, Tanoma would see it as torture, but she knew Akamike. He was going to push her, give her reasons to be better. Someday, Tanoma was going to stand and be grateful to have known Akamike. And like her, love him as though he was her own father.
She got to the operator section, reaches for the dormant chair by the side, last used by Akamike or one of the boys. She raised her hand over it, palm spread for a second. It blinked and came to life, hovering and taking position for her to sit. And she did. It spun around to line her view on Akamike and her currently challenged new sister.
Akamike stood, face remote, yet that did no bad effect on his twenty-five year old looking face. His eyes still brown and light, lips full, body lithe and slender, and hair all gray as though dyed. Yet everyone knew that came natural and evident of his real age. He was older than the thoughts of building the Castle. He watched Tanoma pant, sweat seeping off her face, and attention focused on the erratic streak of electricity buzzing between her hands. Her assignment was simple: expand and condense the charge, but contain its spread. This however was harder than he’d asked for. He knew, but telling her it was hard was just another way of encouraging laxity in the face of multiple failed attempts. So he watched the charge explode in her face every time. It was the fourth attempt that morning and the last three had been more painful than memorable.
“Keep to that pattern and this one’s going to blow up in your face too,” he sighed, watching the electric streaks widen, expanding and slipping off her control. With the look on her face and the sarcastic tone he had up, it almost seemed like he enjoyed straining the little girl.
Tanoma’s breath heightened, her strength was failing her.
Once she let her body excrete electrical charge above 800 volts, stopping or
putting it in control was difficult. Not until it completely all surged off her
system. However, Akamike said it was bad, and she didn’t need to be told it
was. She always got hit by her own streak burst first. However, having being
taught, she knew what she needed to do, but what was needed wasn’t coming forth
positively. Electric streaks buzzed back and forth, first from her body, then
gradually streaking about her, She felt the energy leaving her control again.
She struggled to contain the force with the electromagnetic field she’d created
about the glow in her hands. She struggled to talk and retain concentration,
both difficult as though being choked.
She growled, “I’m trying. I’m trying. It’s just—”
She lost control of it again. The sparks tore through her
hands, breaking through the field and spreading to all corners of her
surrounding but not close enough to touch Akamike. Caught in her own range,
most of the electric discharge struck her. She toppled back to the floor,
groaning from the sting and the defeat. There she lay, moaning from both pain,
frustration and exhaustion.
“Good. Let’s go again, sweetheart,” Akamike
smiled. His very first for an hour since they’d begun. He gestured her to rise
and return to her previous position. She grumbled, displeased, stood, placing
her hands on her waist as she came forward. He threw her a weak smile.
“Until you hurl yourself off the window and land head first at the first
floor, we’re going to keep at this.”
Tanoma was sixteen, slender, had her hair always braided back, black and glittering. Though babyishly cute as professed by all including Panem, she always preferred running on hooded sweaters being one of timid nature, a trait gradually fading since she was taken in by Akamike. She had lost her father to Daemon five months earlier when he with Venom and the clones had come to claim her after her cultivation began. That had been her first encounter with all things Abnormal, the very first time she had met Akamike, and she had learnt what it meant to be Abnormal. Having nowhere else to go, and no known relatives, Akamike took her in with open arms. Though through the cause of time, like all the others, Akamike had developed a fondness for her, seeing her more like a daughter of his than a guest. This was a habit he couldn’t help, probably as a result of how long he had lived on earth. At least those were Dr Ayeni’s theory.
Being an electropath, Tanoma had learned from Akamike that she was full of potential. Through the tests he subjected her to, she knew her abnormalities were rapidly growing, so were her volt generation. Akamike had speculated that if she could hit her peak, she could theoretically transition to atmokinesis, capable of literally influencing the weather in its entirety, ceasing storms, causing tornados and creating lightning. This theory was based off the idea that atmokinesis by default was linked to electrokinesis and a host of other abnormalities, thus the reverse could be the case. However it was not proven.
“Remind me again how your abnormalities work again,” Akamike said.
Akamike shook his head, cutting her off. “Not what I said, but what you know.”
Tanoma sighed, rolling her eyes. “I alter my molecular…”
The chair turned back to face Akamike and Tanoma. Nellie coughed to get their attention. Her face was marked with curiosity. “Sorry to interrupt but,” Having gotten Akamike’s attention, she turned and activated the MOAC’s mirror. The holographic large screen appeared, multiple layers popping up with CCTV recordings from dozens of places across the city. Then just one enlarged for their view. Everything her mind saw, appeared on the screen. “This, is happening right now.”
Akamike saw the reading footage. A boy in a school bathroom, hands on his head. They saw something seep out of his body, moving across his arms as he stared at it, first in fright, then surprise, in thought, as though it wasn’t his first time seeing such. By the screen’s left, the chart measuring the Abnormal frequency generated by the boy as his abnormalities stayed active, kept rising, taking a pattern Akamike found surprising.
“That’s strange,” he said. “Crosscheck that with any Abnormal data we have recorded. Find a match.”
Nellie gave the mental command, and two seconds later the
screen displayed just one match, one dated as old and with very little
information. No face was identified, but just a name, one only Akamike was
“Just one match. No frequency is anything like this one. Freaking rare, and still cultivating,” Nellie said.
“Gyonokinesis,” Akamike exhaled, thoughtful.
“Haven’t heard of that before either. And I have heard literally everyone of them in existence.”
“Me too,” Tanoma sighed, lying on the floor, arms and legs spread and breathing hard from being zapped the fifth. She hadn’t heard a lot anyway.
“It’s rare, and can be dangerous to its user. With this the body excretes a substance called gyonorium, which hardens in contact with an atmosphere outside the body, morphs into the strongest metal on the planet, right above the Ogun steel. Would make him lighter, faster, dense, invulnerable to almost anything,” he said. “I’ve only seen it once. A long time ago.”
“In all your lifetimes?” Which have been a lot, Nellie knew. Akamike nodded absently. Nellie was awed. “That’s very cool.”
“Not if he can’t control the rage and impulse that comes with it. Where’s this footage from?”
“Someone should kill me already,” Tanoma muttered to herself from where she lay, exhausted. Akamike however ignored her whine.
“Say please.” Nellie rolled her hands.
“Please sweetie, quit playing around.” Akamike walked closer, eyes not moving from the screen.
The footage turned to a seconds series of codes and a quick search, then details lined up in display. Nellie read it out. Everything was in her mind. The screen simply was a relay for the others to see her brains and technical thoughts. “A school called Grands; 45th Obi Street. Boy’s bathroom. CCTV Cb33.2. Why would they put a camera in a boy’s bathroom though? Is there one in the girls’ too?”
“Can you get his face?” Akamike said.
“On it,” Nellie said as she made the footage freeze as the boy turned temporarily at the camera without knowing one was there. Codes moved and a search came up. “Got it.” She was smiling. “Ran it through all online medical record systems within the country and found his medical information. “His name is Edward Ajala, aged 17, lives at— not that far from the school. Interesting, they recently ran a medical test on him days back, and it says here they just recently moved down to Ekene District.”
“You could have just searched for his data amongst his school records, rather than slipping into the city’s medical database.” Akamike turned to her, displeased.
She raised her shoulders, indifference in her gesture, rather honing a smile. “Both birth the same result, so.”
“Remind me again, when did the MOAC beginning to directly access my Abnormal codex without my security pass?”
“I upgraded it, linked it to the MOAC’s database.”
“Take it off immediately. Now.” Akamike was nettled and it was in his eyes, one avoided by Nellie.
Nellie shut her eyes, the MOAC’s mirror shuffled, codes coming up and making a dozen list of other codes, then each canceled out till the last. It indicated the deletion being complete. Akamike turned his gaze from the screen. “I told you to not tamper with that device. Not if it isn’t necessary. Worst still, don’t put my codex into it.”
“I’m sorry about that.”
“You better be,” the frown remained on his face.
“I expect you’ve outgrown me listing reasons for that to you.”
Being a technopath, Akamike knew how building was for his little young tech genius. It came with them all. At a very young age she had built her own Picosuit, made of modified fluid bots, her personal variation and alteration of nanotechnology. This suite had earned her accolades from him, as well a suggestion to present it to tech boards for evaluation and social recognition, but she had turned those down, wanting it to be just her idea and sole property.
The MOAC, an acronym for Muse Of All Computers, was built by Usman, a technopathic relative of Akamike’s, although a different variation from Nellie’s. He had later modified it for her use, and she had further modified it to expand its capacity. When first built, the MOAC was a hub for nearly all pieces and forms of knowledge on the planet, automatically updating its database with every new information recorded every second of every hour. Nellie however shrunk and remodelled it, giving it newer features only she could activate, even merging elements of her picotechnology to its nanotech design. And this made Akamike cautious of that piece of technology. In it lay the full manifestation of Nellie’s abnormalities. Yet a little glitch and a fall into the wrong hands, particularly another technopath, that was dangerous.
“Call someone to watch out for him,” Akamike said, turning as the zap from Tanoma knocked her to the ground again. He walked over and helped her up. She was upset and drained. Tapping her head gently, he scoffed, “Give it time. Give me a moment and I’d put you through a surge test.”
Tanoma nodded and shuffled to a nearby chair and made
herself comfortable, recuperating. Like Nellie’s, it could float too, so she let
it hover, for the fun of it. Nellie turned to Akamike, blowing air off her
mouth as the door to the room split open, ushering in Mide and Dike. “I
have,” she said.
Mide walked towards the Tanoma, reached for the bag of snacks she had in her hand, and dug out a handful of herself, chewing and turning to face Nellie. She was five foot tall, in her early twenties, her skin as bronze and darker than anyone else’s in the room. Her hair was just past her shoulders, still wet from recently being washed. “Who rang me. Why?”
Nellie pointed at the screen which still had Edward’s face in full display. “Him.”
“I can see that. I’m asking why me.” She turned to Akamike who was heading out the door.
“Because,” Nellie cleared her throat, voice getting more audible. “There are just three of you in this huge castle.”
“It’s dead on arrival. Don’t waste your time. Never going to happen.” Akamike understood her undertone. It was funny and childish their attempt to smuggle that talk back into discuss. He informed Mide and Dike their designated assignments and walked out, Tanoma hopping down the chair and following him. Both headed for his lab.
Mide laughed. “You guys are still on the league thingy?”
“I’m not, but I just love making trouble whenever I can, even if I have to give Dike and Vincent the impression that I care about being either,” Nellie grinned, avoiding Dell’s scowl.
Dike hissed, ignoring Nellie by choice. He knew his points, his motivations and chose to be optimistic about the outcome if put in practice. At least Vincent agreed with him. Tanoma was still naive and new, thus didn’t know any better. Same with little Peter. Nellie apparently wasn’t being reasonable, as always. Mide, while taking shape of the miniature mother around the building when Aeon wasn’t home, he couldn’t conclude where she stood. Most likely, as he thought, she’d by default take Akamike’s side like in everything else. The fact that she was nearly as stubborn as Aeon was, yet, a likely loss to the ’cause’. He figured maybe the problem was they had way too much girls in the castle, and Akamike was everything any girl would want, irrespective of his age of lifetimes. This was one of those days he earnestly hoped the others returned back to Vistamyl soon.
“You do know Aeon takes stiff-headedness from him; changing his mind by mere whining is next to impossible. Maybe you should leave him be,” Mide scoffed, poking Dike and walking towards Nellie, eyes on MOAC’s mirror. On Edward’s lingering face. “Even I don’t buy the thought of us becoming some super team; sounds too fake and depressing.”
Nellie shrugged, a grin on her face.
“I know you’re in on this too. But I hope you’re not up to something silly again.” Mide brushed her arm on Nellie’s side. She giggled, the childishness appearing on her. “You’ll only get him annoyed eventually, which would make me same.”
“Yeah right,” Nellie laughed. The MOAC’s mirror went off. She made to rise and leave, but instead felt Mide pin her back to the chair with her telekinesis. She could feel the pressure weigh on her muscles, so much it usually felt like being on a dose of paralysis. She looked at her, a brow raised, depicting a query. “What?”
“Connect that to the mirror again,” Mide said, pointing at the device on Nellie’s ear, then leered at the empty space where the mirror ought to otherwise be. Her face donned a rather mischievous look.
“I want to see what’s going on in your head. You get to have all the monopoly and that’s unfair.” Mide raised her shoulders, bending over to Nellie.
Feeling loosened from the force, Nellie gestured on Mide to keep her distance. “Well of course I do. I’m the technopath here, remember? The brains? You’re the hands and feet. Just go watch the boy and let me be your eyes while I’m still in the mood.”
If only there were two technopaths in their possession. Nellie would’ve been long dead by her hands, Mide thought. But then again, judging from what the young girl could do, taking her out wasn’t at all going to be easy if she tried.
“That would be tomorrow. I’m going into the city. You’ve all eaten up everything in all the fridges. Just eat, sleep and go to the best schools. That’s what you’re all good that.” Mide sighed. She stood straight and walked away.
“Like you didn’t enjoy it yourself during your time,” Nellie scoffed, then made the chair spin around.
“Going in alone? Or should I come along?”
“I’m going with little Pete. But I don’t mind a living computer tagging along anyway,” Mide said through a grin, winking at Nellie who sprang off the chair excitedly, walking towards the door to join her.