Canton chroniclesrising.., p.6
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.6

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
 
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Amy slowly nodded her head, ashamed.

  “Yes.”

  Vanessa smiled, pleased.

  “You can’t believe how glad I am. I would hate it if I had to lose even one of you. We are all part of this operation now. Let this be the start of the New Academy and its brave new Heroes.”

  Claps and cheers were heard. Some people were embracing.

  “It’s kind of scary how many people are exciting about this,” said Sebastian trying to sound disapproving, but his look was also one of a hungry anticipation.

  Val smiled at him, still uncertain herself. She felt a little bad for Amy Wyatt, who had disappeared in the wave of the crowd.

  The girl is right. Council or not, we were dragged against our will. Even for a glorious reason.

  Vanessa took a good look at her watch, before speaking again.

  “I guess you all have a lot of questions on your heads. And truth be told, it’s the middle of the night. I suggest you all take a good night’s sleep, and we’ll talk in the morning. You’ll find all the help you need outside.”

  ***

  In her way out with Mike, Sebastian and John, Val felt two hands attacking her from her coverless left side. Mandy was there, her eyes tired, her face full of excitement.

  “We are Heroes, girl. Aren’t you happy?”

  From this whole evening business, Mandy’s reaction was the least surprising one. It actually lifted Val’s spirits quite a lot.

  “Still a little numb, I would say. But I am trying to deal with it. I see you are totally ready for an enemy face-off.”

  Mandy shrugged.

  “Val, it’s just a project. Come on, don’t be so stiff. It’s not like we are going to fight Wagner or something. The lady even said so herself.”

  “The “lady?” Val said, slightly ironic. Mandy shrugged again.

  “Ok, of course I don’t trust the overly polished lady with the pearly white smile and the almost two much of a goodie attitude, OK? But I am bound to be excited in my life, once or twice.”

  “You are always excited, Mandy, one way or the other.”

  “Fair enough. It’s better to always be excited than never.”

  She stuck her tongue out and Val couldn’t help but laugh.

  “Well if it isn’t another lovely lady in our group tonight! Mandy, right?”

  Mike did a comical little bow, and Mandy looked at him doubtfully.

  “What’s wrong with him?”

  Sebastian shook his head.

  “I think his true self is coming to light after our abduction, Mandy.”

  Mike ignored him. John cleared his throat and ruffled his hair awkwardly, indicating a weird kind of charm.

  He is one of those people with natural charisma, thought Val. Like Amy Wyatt. Even wiping their asses feels charming, damn it.

  But Mandy didn’t seem charmed. Instead, she opened her eyes wide, shocked.

  “Wow, you are the psychopath that followed Val in the club. What are you even doing here?”

  Everyone looked at Mandy intensely. Val nudged her in the ribs.

  “It’s alright now. It was just a misunderstanding.”

  Mandy looked at her, a meaningful look crossing her face.

  “I mean, it’s really nice to meet you. I truly adore psychopaths.”

  Mike and Seb covered their faces with their palms. John gave in and smiled back.

  “And it’s my pleasure to converse with normal people, sometimes. Nice to meet you, Mandy.”

  The glowing Great-Boards hanging from the ceiling, next to the enormous staircases, were of the latest state of art. Sebastian took his time admiring them, giving a low whistle.

  “They certainly didn’t go cheap on us” he remarked. “These babies are really expensive prototypes.”

  “Your Council loves you, Sebastian Standford” Mike remarked, the sentimental wave gone from his voice.

  Val observed the Boards with great interest. There were five of them, five totally flat and thin glass surfaces, full with names and birth dates. The Academy candidates. There were also two numbers standing right next to the dates. Room number and something called a PA number.

  We could use some help.

  In front of each one of the Great-boards stood a hologram of a person, a form of a helpful artificial intelligent. Their AI guide’s looked extremely life-like.

  They really did spent a lot of money in this place, thought Val. Their effort is remarkable.

  Mandy approached one the AIs trying to be as friendly and sweet as possible.

  “Well hi there, kind sir. Could you help us please? We would like to know what those two numbers on the screen are. This PA…”

  “PA number and Room Number. Of course miss Wheeler.”

  “Wow.” Mandy took a step back, surprised.

  Sebastian was drooling all over the hologram.

  “This is incredible.”

  And a tiny bit scary.

  The AI talked.

  “Your PA number is the number of your Personal Assistant device.”

  It showed them a pile of stacked, rectangular, black devices, like small boxes.

  “You all get to carry one with you. It is personally marked with your Data and can be used for communication and navigation. Your Room number is the number of the room you are going to be staying during your Training process. All the rooms are located on the first floor just above the Great Staircase. Male Rooms on the right side, Female Rooms on the left side. You can find a map of the building in the PA. The rooms are divided equally, calculated on your personal preferences.”

  “Meaning?” asked Mike slightly confused.

  “Meaning you, Mr. Barry will be staying with Mr. Stanford and Mr. Lucas over here.”

  The three of them high-fived, excited.

  “We are going to be room buddies, guys. Damn, it’s like a dream coming true.”

  Mike bear-hugged the both of them.

  “Yes, we love you too Mike” Sebastian uttered.

  “And what about us?” Val asked with a low voice.

  “You Mrs. Stone, are paired up with Mrs. Wheeler over here…”

  “Yipee!” Mandy shouted

  “…and Mrs. Wyatt.”

  Everyone fell silent, their mouths hanging open.

  “Amy Wyatt? THE Amy Wyatt?”

  The AI nodded in agreement.

  “Correct. Mrs. Wyatt was one of the last ones left, so we thought it would be a good pair for you two. If there are any complaints, then you can always file for a change.”

  Mandy looked at Val, rising up her shoulders.

  “We’ll just wait and see, Mandy. Maybe she’ll turn up fine.”

  “I think you’ll have plenty of time to clear this issues up” said the hologram, totally professional. “Mrs. Wyatt is approaching.”

  They all turned their backs at the hologram and looked at the blonde girl standing right in front of them. She actually looked a lot more timid than the rest of them.

  At least we all know each other, thought Val. She is a complete stranger. It must be really awkward for her.

  “Hi. Are you girls Mandy Wheeler and Valentine Stone? We have the same room number so I thought I’ll come find you first. Since we’ll be spending our nights together and all.”

  Mandy approached, taking her hand in hers, her eyes glimmering huge.

  “I am really glad, Mrs. Wyatt. I am a big fan of yours. It’s an honour.”

  Amy was turned light red, her face hot.

  “Glad to be sleeping with my fans. Not in the naughty sense of the way though.”

  The boys laughed. Mike looked at the little blonde and sighted.

  “Too bad we don’t have mixed rooms.”

  ***

  After they were done with explanations, and having received their PAs, the company took off with Amy Wyatt at their side, sharing whispers. Val fell a little behind, staying on Amy’s right side.

  “Amy, list
en, I know it’s a little awkward saying this, especially since we don’t know each other and all, but... you were right on what you said to Rehberg.”

  Amy looked uncertain.

  “Val, is it? There is no need for fake sympathy, ok? I screwed up. I can face it on my own.”

  “I am not trying to be sympathetic with you, I am just telling you my honest opinion. You were right telling all these things, because they are true. They did take us by force and didn’t even ask if we wanted to be here or not. Why would I even want to be sympathetic to you? I don’t even know you or know if I like you.”

  She was a little rougher than initially intended.

  Nice ice-breaker, Val.

  Amy was totally taken aback with her attitude, her eyes wide. She was actually smiling, however.

  “You don’t hold back Val, do you? Truly honest. I don’t see that often. You have to forgive my attitude. People call me arrogant because I always tell the truth, even when it gets uncomfortable to hear. I am so used being pampered up, I don’t really understand when someone is being honest with me.”

  Val chuckled. “Yeah and I sometimes yell with no reason at all. So I guess we are even. But seriously, you were right. I mean being absolutely glorious with a Power is one thing and kidnapping is another.”

  Amy looked at her with true interest, and then lowered her head. Under her red cheeks, she was smiling.

  “Thanks again, Val. But what is done is done. I was also a curious coward in the end. If I believed anything of what I said, I should have told Rehberg to stick her new Academy in her stuck-up ass. But I didn’t.”

  She looked disappointed in herself.

  “There was nothing you could do, Amy. Anyone would have stayed. The promises took the better of you, is all. No one can resist being an Academy Hero, much more after seventy whole years.”

  John said with a low voice, entering the conversation.

  They all seemed a lit bit more relaxed, Mandy chattering away happily with Sebastian and Mike about her future Power. Amy looked at John with interest, as he fell back to join the two girls.

  “Thanks, creep.”

  “No problem, Princess.”

  Amy turned red in an instant. But her eyes were at ease.

  Ice broken.

  ***

  “So this is what I managed to learn from this thingy here so far.”

  Seb had been able to decode his PA settings in seconds. Everyone stood next to him, looking with full attention.

  “So, we are standing in the middle of the first floor, directly in the Great Staircase. To our left side, as we’ve already seen, is the meeting Chamber, where Rehberg made her speech, as well as the collection of Great-Boards.”

  Everyone nodded.

  “To our right, the map indicates a big rectangular room called the Main Hall. Further on the back, behind the Main Hall, is the Training Room.”

  “Wow, they really had some imagination with the room titles” Mike remarked.

  “Upstairs are our rooms, like AI Kevin told us. Right staircase for boys, left for girls. On the second floor is the Library. And that’s all there is to it, for now.”

  “Ok, doesn’t sound so bad” admitted Mike. “Pretty straight forward actually. I hope our girls don’t get lost.”

  “If someone like you thinks the lay-out is easy, then we have absolutely no problems of getting lost,” Amy responded.

  “Hmm, the new girl has a tongue for speaking as well as singing. I’ll be damned.”

  Amy stuck out her tongue at Mike.

  “I am glad you are making new friends, Mike. And you, Amy,” said Seb, amused.

  Amy turned at his direction and smiled, and Sebastian’s face shone bright. He cleared his throat.

  “I think it’s also a good idea to exchange our PA numbers, before going to sleep.”

  ***

  They did exchange their numbers, and once they were ready, parted ways at the Grand Staircase. Mike and Seb ascended lazily, drugging their tired bodies, saying their goodbyes to the girls.

  John lingered at the end of the Staircase.

  “Can we talk for a while?”

  Val’s desire for the truth was stronger than her tiredness.

  “Of course.”

  They waited until Mandy and Amy entered their collective room, sitting at the top of the Grand Staircase. Val gathered a bunch of approval looks from girls, who smiled sweetly at John. He just smiled back politely.

  When the parade was done, John started to talk. He told her everything, about his dreams, his visions, the glimpses of her life.

  “I know it’s kind of embarrassing but I feel like you’ve always been my companion, Valentine. Not sexual or anything,” he hastily added, “but just there. Like a friend who moved to another town, but still kept contact.”

  Val was sceptical.

  “Did you also have dreams of other people, except me?”

  Yes, a grotesque deformed man who wants to see the world bleed.

  “No. Feelings about certain events, premonitions, if you prefer, then yes. I could always foresee and prevent or encourage certain people from doing things. But it’s another thing entirely when I see you, Val. The visions I have for you are as clear and detailed as films.”

  “But why?”

  John sighted.

  “I don’t have the slightest idea."

  Val stayed silent for a while, contemplating his confessions. Then she heard John chuckling.

  “What’s so funny?”

  “The last dream of you. I thought it impossible at the time, but now…”

  “John, what is it?” she said smiling, nudging his ribs.

  “You were exactly like you are now, a woman not a girl. You were dressed in total black, standing in a cavern or something similar. In front of you was the desert. Nothing for miles to see but sand and rocks. And then you jerked your hand,” John mimicked the move, “and you produced an aura so beautiful, like a thin veil. A blue one. And you were powerful. I could feel it. And then it was gone.”

  Val’s mouth hung open.

  “That’s amazing. And a little frightening, but still… If you’ve told me about your dream two days ago, I would have called you a lunatic, as I did in the club. But after tonight…”

  “Everything is possible.”

  How I wish that was true.

  John yawned despite his will.

  “I think I am tired after all. I am glad we cleared this up, though Val. And I am really glad you are doing ok. We all have better days awaiting for us, I can feel it.”

  They looked at each other, and for a while, they were just the two of them in the world.

  “I am glad you finally found the girl of your dreams.”

  ***

  Val could hear John’s feet climbing up the stairs in search of the boys. When he was gone, she gave a long sight and started for her room. It had been a long day and the only thing she could think of, was the sweet bed the Council must have provided for her.

  Then something caught her eye. A shadowy figure standing in her right side. Val turned around, assuming an offensive stance, a movement she had learnt so well at her two years stay at the Asylum.

  So much for perfectly safe.

  The shadow walked slowly towards her, revealing the real face, behind the mask of darkness. A short body, thin like a plank, boyish even. Dark-brown curly hair falling to the base of her neck, with two small black eyes, upright nose and thin lips which completed the face of the stranger. A face whose expression was one of pure contempt for the girl standing in front of her.

  “Are you seriously thinking of hurting me, Val? It wouldn’t surprise me actually, from a person like yourself.”

  Val let her hands fall to her sides. From all the shocks she could have received in a day’s time, from her morning dream to the incredible pressure of becoming a Hero, this took the cake.

  “Alice. Alice fucking Green. From all the people
in Canton, from all of the Counties and Provinces, Aurelia thought that you are suitable for a Power. Or did your father pushed you into the Academy against everyone’s will, like he always does?”

  The contempt was gone from the girl’s face, leaving its place to anger.

  “You dare saying that, you filthy poor orphan? You, the one who almost killed me 4 years ago?”

  Val looked at her with an ironic expression. The injustice of the event still hurt her to this day.

  “You are lying, Alice, even to yourself. I wasn’t going to kill you and you know it. I just wanted you to feel the fear all those kids felt when you were bullying them. But it’s not the same when someone does that to you, is it?”

  Val whispered in a low, threatening voice, totally on edge. She was happy to see Alice taking a step back.

  “In fact if we want to talk about destroyed lives, why don’t we talk about my life? How you and your precious Counsellor daddy threw me in that Asylum in hopes of going insane, even dying? You are surprised to see me here, standing in front of you, aren’t you? Because the filthy poor orphan is in fact stronger than you imagined. And that’s what makes you so angry.”

  Alice’s expression changed into one of pure sadistic pleasure.

  “Yes, it’s true. You should have died in there. With the other loonies, like you deserved. But I think, it’s actually better this way. Because now, you are definitely going down and I am going to be there to enjoy it. In fact I will bring you down with my own hands. And not only you, but your new friends as well. Even that cute little boyfriend you were chatting with just a few seconds ago.”

  Now rage fused with panic in Val’s mind. That was how Alice always won in the end. With threats about the people you loved.

  She tried standing up to her, defiant, but her will was already broken.

  “You have a big idea about yourself, Alice. We are not high school kids anymore. Besides, there is a reason why everyone is in this. It’s because of our strength. You can’t take me down that easily. Not this time.”

  Alice turned away from her without answering, like the conversation didn’t hold the least interest for her anymore. She turned around to give Val one last look of pity.

  “Goodnight Val. Enjoy your peace while it lasts. Because in this Academy you are going to be taught the most important lesson of your life. Do not mess with the Greens.”

  Val didn’t know how many seconds or even minutes she stood there, frozen in place. When she was finally, once again, able to move, she walked towards her room, reaching for the inside. Her eyes were watery as she laid drained in her new bed, humming herself into an uneasy sleep.

 
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