Canton chroniclesrising.., p.12
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.12

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
 
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  John felt a pinch of guilt at Amy’s words. They had all been way too absorbed with their Powers, the last few days. Besides, Valentine was always so strong and confident. She was the one taking the weaker teammates under her wing, teaching them combat moves. She didn’t need anyone’s help, did she?

  I said I’ll take care of her. And I failed.

  He sighted, and then felt a soft stimuli in his brain. He turned around and smiled instinctively.

  Val came out of the shadows, dressed in a simple black T-shirt and purple silk night-shorts. She smiled at them, a sad apologetic smile, as they all stood up to greet her.

  Amy was to first to hug her, giving her a moment’s warmth before Mike’s arms took over.

  “I am sorry, sweetheart.”

  “We all are.”

  The regret was deep in Sebastian’s voice.

  The knot in his throat wouldn’t let John speak.

  We are all self-absorbed idiots.

  “There is nothing to be sorry about. You had your own thing going on, Powers, special training, all that. I had nothing to discuss, nothing to participate with.”

  “Val, don’t say that. We are a team. We are supposed to be here for each other…”

  “Are we?”

  The four of them looked at her, red and ashamed.

  “I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, neither blame you. And I really do like you all. For the first time, after a long time, I didn’t feel completely alone. And it’s not like you don’t care for me. You told me to be careful and I told you everything is going to be fine. And then suddenly it wasn’t.”

  She sighted and looked at the stars above her.

  “Valentine, listen…” John started talking but Val hushed him by raising her hand.

  “But… you were too pre-occupied with your Powers, and I was too pre-occupied with my jealousy. Fact is… I want to be friends with you. And there can be no friendship based on lies… I was the one Alice Green was after, all along.”

  The surprised gasp from all four was in unison.

  “I’ve known Alice Green my whole life. Hell, we were even at primary school. I’m not going to lie. She was always a sadistic bitch, torturing whatever she could find, from animals to classmates. Her father is a Counsellor, so she was never punished. But, we kind of understood each other. And, for some weird reason she never tried to hurt me, and that was good enough for me.”

  Val took a deep breath, and continued.

  “Somewhere along the way, she tried to make me an accomplice to her violent action. That’s where I had to draw the line. I lost every contact with her and her gang, and started hanging out with the other kids, the victims. Before I even knew it there were two enemy lines. Mine’s and hers.”

  “As we entered High School, I started getting into fights with Alice and her gang all the more often. We were many, but they were violent. Beatings, pranks, you name it… My parents started worrying about me. They found Aldus and spoke to him. The sadistic bastard laughed and said his daughter was just having a phase. He even threatened them, about my safety. Poor people. I fought with them, all the time. They always tried to warn me, telling me it was not my business to save other people. But if not I, then who?”

  “You’re right, Val. Absolutely right. We have to stand against the bullies, no matter what” said Seb, a rare passion in his voice.

  Val smiled bitterly. “Right or crazy, Seb? One day, Alice decided she had enough of my rebellion. She, Toby and Will ambushed me on my way back home, and beat me. It was around midnight, when my parents received the call that I was lying in a hospital bed.”

  “Val…” Mike started saying, already realizing where the story was going. He knew about her parents, all too well.

  “When they found their car, it was already too late. They were way over the speed limit. They died instantly. At least they felt no pain.”

  Val was in that part of her story already, and she didn’t even cry.

  I am getting better at this.

  “My parents were state employees, so I got granted a small apartment, a nice social caretaker and a good sum of money. After their death, I stopped playing the hero. At least, that was what Alice thought. But my anger was burning, slow and steady, every single day.”

  “After four whole years of inactivity, it was my time to ambush her. I send her a note telling to meet on the roof, alone. And she did. She probably thought I wanted to lick her feet or something. Before she even had a chance to speak, I grabbed her by the hair and hold her over the rooftop ledge. That was her favourite torture method at the time, so I wanted Alice to feel like her victims felt. I stood above her as she screamed, cried and cursed, until she promised me she would never hurt another person.”

  “And you believed her?” John’s voice was full of doubt. You can’t be such an idiot, Valentine, his voice said.

  “I did. The next day, they took me to the Mentally Challenged Institute in the East Outskirts. The police just barged into my home and arrested me, even though I was just a minor. Dr. Green’s orders. Figures. The weirdest thing is, I didn’t care. Because deep down, I knew this was bound to happen, one way or the other. I was long overdue for Alice’s revenge.”

  “They threw me at the Asylum. The first year was the hardest. Under Alice’s and Aldus’ orders, the wardens made my life a living hell. Hunger, cold, pain… And much darkness. That’s all I can remember.”

  Everyone nodded. There was no point for details. They had all been witnesses to her test of fears.

  “The second year was a little bit easier. They had already broken me, so the Green family had lost their interest in me. I was just left in a cold cell to rot. Until a new social worker took notice of my story, and its inconsistencies. I was examined by a bunch of doctors, and found innocent. It was in one of those offices, that I met Mike.”

  She took his hand in hers, and Mike blushed faintly, squeezing her palm.

  “It was really difficult at the beginning. Difficult to move on. How the fuck do you move on after this? At least that’s what I thought back then. I fought with depression and my anger for a long, long time. But in the end, I managed to finish University. I even found a job, and some friends. And then I ended up here, with you.”

  “What about Emma, Val?” asked Seb.

  “Emma was always Alice’s favourite victim. She was small and cute, exactly like now, the perfect target. She had to testify against me in the first trial, and that’s how I ended up in the Asylum. But I never blamed her. That’s what I wanted to tell her than night at the stairs. But Alice found us. And the rest is history.”

  Val looked at the floor, silent, drained after pouring her soul out.

  Amy got up and walked right next to her.

  “What now, Val? How are we going to deal with this? I personally want to kick Alice’s butt, if that’s ok with you.”

  Sorry Amy.

  “We let her go.”

  “WHAT?”

  Amy and Mike both asked simultaneously, outraged. Even Sebastian looked at her with surprise.

  “We let her go. A part of me actually wants that, too. Rehberg was there. The whole Academy was there. And the whole scene is recorded. If we pursue this further… we are both out of the Academy. Problem is, Alice Green will find a way to be back again, through her father. Even if she doesn’t, her whole life would be ahead of her. But I… I will end up in the Underground, and that’s the best case scenario. Found dead in an alley being the most plausible one.”

  Val looked at them with hopeful eyes.

  “Besides, Alice agreed not to mention the incident ever again.”

  “Of course she did,” said Amy bitterly. “She was the one responsible.”

  Val looked at her and smiled, but it was a sad smile.

  “I don’t believe anything that bitch says. But she has the means to get away with it, Amy. I don’t.”

  “Valentine is right. This stupid vendetta has
to end. We have more serious matters to address. From now on, we leave the crazy Green alone. And she'd better be leaving us alone too.”

  John was the one to speak, composed.

  Weak moans of protests came out from Mike’s and Amy’s mouths.

  “That doesn’t mean we are letting our guard down. We continue the training. We have eyes on our backs. And if she tries to ambush us once again, we’ll be ready for her.”

  “That sounds more like it!”

  “Can we leave that psycho girl alone for a second, and focus on Valentine’s amazing Power? I think that was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen.”

  Val felt her cheeks burn, remembering the excitement she felt.

  “Thanks, Seb. I guess I know now, how you all feel.”

  “On the contrary. I did some research on the matter, Val. Turns out telekinesis was pretty rare even in the Academy’s golden age, and they had some pretty impressive Powers at that time.”

  “Rehberg mention that too. But why? Why is it considered so rare?”

  “No one really knows. Rumour has it, telekinesis descends from Elizabeth Canton’s own bloodstream. Don’t tell me you are secretly a lost Canton, Val?” Seb winked at her playfully.

  Val burst out laughing, wiping the tears from her eyes.

  “I think the resemblance with my parents is too great and my bank account too small to be a lost Canton princess, unfortunately”

  “Then we’ll just have to let it be. For the time. At least every single soul in the Academy had a Power now. Oh, and we are throwing a party.”

  “What?” Val turned her face to the other three, as they look guiltily on the floor.

  “You all knew about this?”

  “I would gladly explain to you Val, but I have get ready. I am singing tonight.”

  With that overjoyed line, Amy teleported fast away from the balcony.

  John looked at Val, apologetically.

  “Sorry Valentine, I guess we forgot to mention it. We’ve been talking about it for ages, Seb even made a poll at the Heroic News. We all have a Power now, so we decided to throw a party, to celebrate. The Instructors are fine with it, even Vanessa, as long as we don’t tear the place apart. We thought it would be the best for you, to lay some steam you know.”

  “What about Alice?” Val shuddered at the mere.

  “I doubt Alice and her group reads the Heroic News, Val. And she won’t dare show her face in public after the incident. Besides, you’ll be guarded at all times.”

  Seb smiled innocently at her. Val considered the offer.

  Why the hell not? I had an awfully long day. Might as well drink it up until the end.

  ***

  The party was bustling inside the Conference Room. Even behind the heavy closed doors, the music was loud and clear. Mike knocked on the door.

  “I don’t think that’s going to work, Mike. I doubt if they can even hear us,”

  “Password?”

  Mike was enraged at the AI’s voice.

  “We organised the party, you idiot. Why do we even need a password?”

  Seb went in front of the door, saying with a soft sensual voice

  “I have the boose”.

  The door opened up slowly and Nelson came out laughing.

  “Gee, Mike do you always have to be so hot-headed? Seb has the right approach.”

  They high-fived, leaving Mike rolling his eyes.

  “So are we going inside now or what?”

  The boys proceeded, excited. Val was the last one of the group, so Nelson stopped her briefly by catching her arm gently.

  “Are you ok, Val?”

  “Yeah, I guess. I try not to think about it too much.”

  “We’ll make sure it won’t happen again. We are together on this.”

  “Thanks, Nelson. I really appreciate it.”

  She followed him to the centre of the party, admiring the decoration of the Chamber. Blue flashing lights on the ceiling and the pillars, tables full with alcohol and snacks all around the pillar circle, leaving room for dancing in the centre of the room. The podium was re-constructed as a small stage, waiting for Amy to fill it with her presence.

  Suddenly, Mandy jumped out of nowhere and hugged Val tightly, giving her a heart attack.

  “I am soooooo glad you’re still alive, Val! Jesus, when Emma came to find us, we all thought you were dead. Oh, sweet God.”

  She was slightly drunk, crying from joy, but Val appreciated the contact too much to push her away.

  “Everything is ok, Mandy. Let’s just forget about this.”

  Emma was the next to hug her, red and embarrassed.

  “You saved my life once again.”

  “And you mine. But I sincerely hope that’s the end of our mutual rescuing.”

  “We are on the look-out now, girls. There is no need for worry.”

  John was once again with Val, his hand sliding around her waist. It was a nice feeling, a mix of awkwardness and longing.

  “Can I borrow you for a second, Valentine?”

  She followed him on a secluded corner, behind the shadows of the pillars. Amy had just appeared on stage, flashed but utterly happy, singing with her amazing voice. Mike was already spinning Emma on the dancefloor, foolishly drunk. Seb was looking at Amy with a warm passion.

  Val took a big sip of her beer and turned her head on John, meaning to tell him something. She saw him looking directly at her eyes, his expression a mystery.

  “What’s wrong, John?”

  He blushed.

  “Nothing, Valentine. It was a party like this when we first met, right down to Amy singing. I just… I hope you are not still afraid of me.”

  “Is that why you are looking at me like that? You still think I am afraid of you?”

  “No. I just think… you are really pretty tonight.”

  Val sincerely laughed at his comment, since he was obviously joking.

  “Thanks, but I am just in jeans and T-shirt, John. I don’t think I’m all that spectacular. Not to mention beaten up.”

  But John had no intention of stopping.

  “I think it’s amazing you’re here, after what you’ve been through. The strength to share your greatest fear.”

  Val felt the sadness drowning her once again, unsure if this was the end of her conflict with Alice. She lowered her gaze, disappointed.

  John realized the change of her mood at once, turned her around so they stood face to face. He then pulled her closer, with a swift move.

  Val felt the warmth of his body, and trembled. When his lips touched hers, it came as no surprise. She welcomed the faint smell of alcohol in his breath, as her tongue connected with his, in a sweet, sensual kiss. Val’s brain rushed, thinking of the possibilities. She loved the way he kissed her, how real and intimate it felt.

  But it’s not really you he wants, is it?

  She broke away from his grip, already feeling half-empty. John moaned softly, like a wounded animal.

  “What is wrong, Valentine?”

  “You know what’s wrong, John. This is not right. You kissed me because you feel guilty. You’ve been dreaming about me your whole life, never being able to protect me. You couldn’t even protect me from Alice today, as she was about to drown me in that pool. You want to redeem for your actions. But you confuse your sympathy with lust.”

  John touched her again, gently.

  “Val, it’s true that I had a crush on you, even since I was a kid, because of my dreams. And I do feel guilty about leaving you alone, that’s why I want to be with you from now on. And not only as a friend.”

  Val was torn apart from her own confused state of mind, but her logic was stronger than her passion.

  “Then what about your girlfriend, John? The one you clearly still have feelings for.”

  John took a step backwards, snapping out of his trance, waking up for real this time. After a pause, he said.

  “You
are right, Valentine. It feels wrong, playing this game.”

  “I am not saying I don’t have feelings for you, John. When you come clean with your feelings, when you are completely sure that you really like me, and no one else, then we can try once more. What do you say?”

  He nodded, touching her lips with his fingers, kissing her in the forehead this time.

  Damn your idiotic brain, Val.

  John smiled at her, almost realizing her thought.

  “Let’s go find the others, shall we?”

  ***

  “Sounds like a party outside.” Tom Rosenberg was in the Instructor’s office, showing up at short notice.

  Vanessa always thought he looked amazing in costumes, a tall, strangely handsome man at his mid-forties, but even now, dressed in a plain black top and jeans, he was a sight for sore eyes. The music outside was starting to weight on her, lightening her mood.

  Admiring his looks is not acceptable anymore, Vanessa. You ended this.

  “Since the beginning of the Training, we’ve agreed to give them the Conference Chamber for a party, once they all had their Powers. And now they do.”

  “And with live music too. The girl who sings, she is that same girl with the cover album, right? Amy Wyatt.”

  Vanessa smiled at his comment, despite her intention of keeping the conversation totally professional.

  “Impressive knowledge, Tom. I wasn’t aware than men of your age have an interest in the new music hits.”

  Instead of getting angry, Tom laughed.

  “Some do, Vanessa. And if I wanted to be an optimist now, I would have guessed that you invited me here to celebrate as well.”

  It could have been possible, since the students had already kindly invited all the Instructors to attend. In fact, they all were down there, listen to Amy Wyatt perform, trying to keep some order, but ending up being more wasted than the kids. Vanessa wished she was with them, preferably with Tom by her side. If only.

  “I wish that was the case, Tom, I really do. But things are really serious right now. The party was the only good excuse to send everyone else away, so we could be completely alone. I want to show you a video footage”

  He came by her side, sitting next to her and watched the whole assault video from beginning to end. When he rose again, he was speechless.

  “Who are those two girls involved?”

  “The assaulter is Alice Green. Yes, Aldus’ kid, Tom” she added when Tom looked at her with complete disbelief.

  “That crazy, sadistic individual is Aldus’ daughter?”

 
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