Chapter 2 – Secrets
Pentacle's Arena battle has shocked even veteran Arena fighters like Sebastian and Carmen. And the after effects of that battle will impact their lives in ways they could never have guessed. But other issues will muddy the waters even further...
"This day just keeps getting weirder." I said.
"That's for sure." Carmen agreed angrily. I knew she was mad at Emanuel's attitude, but I decided to keep my mouth shut until she cooled down. When she's mad she tends to snap at any little thing, and I really don't like it when she yells at me.
After that the Arena was closed for the day for repairs, unsurprisingly. We went back to our game, but Carmen was too upset to do well. And maybe I was too. We don't like it when people die in the Arena, which is why we always try not to kill our opponents. So far we'd been successful, but we both knew it was only a matter of time. Even Prism had killed a few times, and he doesn't like to kill his opponents either.
We went to the cafeteria to get our dinner, but neither of us had much of an appetite. In fact, I wasn't feeling too good and hardly ate anything at all. If she wasn't so upset over that Arena match, Carmen probably would have noticed and made a big deal about it, but thankfully she didn't.
We just wandered the halls in silence after that. Carmen wasn't really watching where she was going, so I made sure to keep an eye out so Crusher or some other jerk didn't try to ambush us.
I was steering us back towards Carmen's room, as she seemed ready to go to bed already, when there was a big commotion in the halls. People were yelling something, and the yelling was getting closer. Even Carmen took notice of it, and before long we could make out the yells of, "Commission squad!" Like everyone else, we pressed ourselves up against the walls, face first. Soon we could hear the pounding of booted feet as the squad came into sight. Despite all the powerful mutants in this place, no sight was more terrifying for any of us than a Commission squad. They had absolutely no regard for mutant life and would trample any mutant that got in their way.
A few newbies who hadn't been around when a Commission squad came through before didn't move fast enough, and were knocked aside by the squad as they came charging through. Some of them might not get back up. Commission squads never run, but they never walk, either. And they always lead the way with their weapons, which are powerful enough to put a hole through a Super like me without any trouble.
A couple of newbies rounded a corner near us and I managed to snag one of them and slam him up against the wall next to us before the squad got there. His friend wasn't so lucky, and got shot by three different weapons just for the crime of not getting out of the way fast enough. We were all covered in his blood and his friend was getting hysterical. Carmen and I knew better than to move, though, and I managed to keep the newbie from moving, too. Once the squad had passed we ducked into the nearest room, a gaming room, and I pulled the kid in with us.
"They shot John! Help me get John!" he kept screaming over and over again while straining to get free of my grasp. I got a better grip on him and Carmen slapped him. He stopped fighting me and sagged to the floor in tears.
"I'm sorry, he's dead." Carmen said sadly. She took him from me and held him as he cried while I tried to get the pieces of what I could only guess was brain matter out of the poor kids hair. He looked to only be about ten years old, which would make him four years younger than me and Carmen. And his friend just got his head blow off in front of him just because he was in the way. It made me want to rip those Commission goons heads off, but I knew better than to try that. Stronger mutants than me had gone up against squads before, and they all died.
It took Carmen a while to calm the kid down. We found out his name was Terrence, and that he and John had been friends since they were four years old. An unusual situation in this place. Just then we heard the squad hurrying back through. There were no shots fired this time, thankfully. Even so, Terrence was frightened all over again and sobbing on Carmen's shoulder.
Carmen looked up at me and jerked her head towards her room. I sighed and nodded, we'd have to watch out for him for a while or he'd get killed in the state he's in. I went out first to make sure the coast was clear and she and Terrence followed. Most people had deserted the halls after the squad went through the first time, so we had little trouble making our way back to Carmen's room.
It was a tight fit getting all three of us in there, but we managed. Carmen locked the door and Terrence looked up fearfully, finally aware of his surroundings. "So, do you have any other friends?" Carmen asked him.
Terrence shook his head. "John's the only friend I had. He kept everyone else from hurting me." he said.
I groaned, as I knew what was coming next. Sure enough, "Okay, we'll take care of you." Carmen said. She glanced at me and I nodded. We really didn't need someone else to look out for who couldn't defend himself, but I didn't want to leave him alone any more than Carmen did. "What's your power?" she asked.
Terrence shrugged, "I don't know."
"Psychic?" I guessed.
"Probably." Carmen agreed.
"What's a Psychic?" Terrence asked.
"Nobody really knows. I just know that when a power doesn't fit into any of the other types, they call them Psychics. If you are a Psychic, your powers could be just about anything. I've never met a Psychic before, just heard about them." I replied. I'd been working on nerves since the squad went through, but I was really starting to feel lousy. I sat down on Carmen's bed and wondered what I'd do about a bed to sleep on tonight. I couldn't use my room until the door was replaced, assuming it ever was.
"Seb? You don't look so good." Carmen said worriedly.
I shrugged, "Just tired. I guess I'm going to have to try and find an empty room for tonight and hope it's doorplate will work for me."
Carmen frowned, "I don't think that's a good idea. You look...different, somehow. You'd better stay here tonight."
I looked doubtfully at the bed. It seemed a bit small for her and Terrence, how much worse would it be with all three of us? "I don't think there's room." I said.
"We'll manage. You okay with staying with us tonight Terrence?" Carmen said. Terrence shrugged, he clearly didn't have much hope by himself, and was still upset about his friend. With some difficulty we all managed to get changed using the shower cubicle and then climb into Carmen's bed. It was a tight fit, but we managed as Carmen said.
Carmen fell asleep quickly once Terrence cried himself to sleep. Poor kid. I had a little more trouble, but eventually drifted off.
I woke up on the floor, no surprise there. The only surprise was that Terrence hadn't fallen off on top of me! I tried using the laundry chute to get fresh clothes for the day and was surprised when it worked. I thought they only worked for the owner of the room, but maybe not. I felt a little exposed in the room with Carmen and Terrence there, so I went into the shower cubicle before taking my clothes off. That's when I got the shock of my life!
I had all my clothes off and was about to turn on the water before I noticed it. Or, I guess I should say them! Two small mounds were sticking out of my chest. I didn't even realize I'd screamed until Carmen came into the shower cubicle to see what was wrong. "Seb?!" she exclaimed. "What happened?"
I looked at her blankly, not even thinking about the fact I was naked in front of her. Or much of anything else, really. Terrence stuck his head around Carmen and his eyes widened in shock. He squeaked and backed out again, but neither of us paid much attention to him. "I don't know!" I finally squeaked out, and then stopped in further shock as my voice didn't sound the same anymore! What was happening to me?!
Carmen took a closer look and realized what I was so shocked about. Then her eyes went lower and she blushed and turned away. "Uh, maybe you should take your shower and get dressed." she said. She left me to it and I just stood there for the longest time, not moving. Finally, I got the courage up to look down further, but thankfully everything was still there. Although I could swear it was a little smaller...
I shook that thought away and did as Carmen suggested. Once I was clean and dry I picked up the clothes that came out of the chute and was surprised to find a bra among them! For a moment I thought it was because of my changes, but then I realized that this is a girl's room, so of course it would have that. At least, I hoped that's why it was there. I left it alone and just wore the regular clothes which were identical to boy's clothes.
When I came out I found Carmen and Terrence sitting on the bed waiting for me. I sat down heavily next to Carmen and wondered what was going on. Why would I suddenly develop breasts?! And my voice was higher, too, though it still sounded more male than female. At least, I think it did. "What's happening to me Carmen?" I asked after a long, awkward silence.
"I don't know Seb. Did you feel any different yesterday?" Carmen asked.
I thought back over the previous day and winced when I remembered that pain I'd had. "Yeah, now that you mention it I did. When we were in the gaming room the first time I felt a really sharp pain in my chest. It spread through my whole body, and then faded away. And I wasn't feeling too good at dinner, either. Or after we got back to your room last night." I said.
"Seb! Why didn't you say anything?" Carmen said.
I shrugged, "I didn't want to worry you." I didn't look at her as I said it as I knew she'd be annoyed with me. I think she likes to worry about me or something.
"What am I going to do with you Seb?" she said. I shrugged again and was surprised when she suddenly hugged me.
"You're not mad at me?" I asked.
She kept a hold of me as she leaned back to look me in the eye. "A little, but I'm more worried about what's happening to you. Can you think of anything that could be causing this?" she said.
I shook my head, "No, nothing. What could possibly do this?"
"I have no idea. What about you Terrence, ever hear about anything like this?" Carmen asked. He shook his head, his eyes still wide as he looked at me.
"What?" I said.
He fidgeted and then said, "You look different."
"What, you mean my chest?" I asked. He shook his head and glanced at Carmen.
"I think I see what he means. You're face is...softer, I guess." Carmen said thoughtfully.
I groaned and put my head in my hands as I thought about what this could mean. It almost sounded like I was turning into a girl! That's impossible, though, isn't it? Carmen laid her head on my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. Then I had a thought. "He's going to be all over me, isn't he?" I said worriedly.
Carmen looked at me oddly and then grimaced, "Oh, you mean Crusher, don't you?" I nodded. "Yeah, he's going to be even more trouble than before. Wait a minute, how's your arm? I don't remember seeing anything on your arm just now."
"Hey, that's right! My arm is all healed! How's that possible? It should have taken a couple of days to heal up that completely, at least." I said in surprise. Crusher's energy blasts do nasty stuff. A non Super would have lost their arm, at the least.
"Maybe we should ask Avatar about his?" Carmen suggested. I nodded, that did sound like a good idea. He's one of the oldest mutants alive, so maybe he's run across something like this before.
"Who is Avatar?" Terrence asked.
"He's old, really old. He's one of the teachers. Who was yours?" Carmen said.
"Teachers?" Terrence asked, mystified. "I didn't know there were any teachers here."
"They're not really teachers, but the older mutants tend to help out the new kids. A lot of kids are brought here when they're only two or three years old, after all. They wouldn't last long without someone to watch out for them." I explained.
"Oh, yeah, there was someone like that. He watched out for John and me for a few years, but then he got killed in a fight. John watched out for me after that." Terrence said. He looked sad as he thought about his friend. I had to wonder who it was who helped them, as they hadn't taught them much, apparently. But then, Avatar is well known for teaching his charges more than others do, and watching out for them longer.
"Come on, let's go." Carmen said, nudging me and Terrence. She palmed open the door and checked to make sure it was clear before motioning for us to come out. I felt even more awkward now that we were out in the open. I didn't think I looked that different with my clothes covering things up, but Carmen had said my face was softer.
"Come on Seb, you'll be okay!" she said, sensing my hesitance. I sighed and stayed close to her. Terrence didn't seem very confident, either, and stuck close by us both.
We stopped at the cafeteria to get breakfast. Like most, we stayed just long enough to eat the slop and moved on. Avatar lives in one of the older sections, so we had a bit of a walk to get there. I felt like everyone was staring at me and avoided looking anyone in the eye. I breathed a sigh of relief when we got out of the busier areas. The crowds thinned out to almost nothing by the time we got to Avatar's room.
Carmen knocked on the door and waited. We heard some rustling inside, and then Avatar opened the door. He looked like he had just gotten out of bed, which we'd expected since he was on a slightly different cycle than us. "Hey! Carmen and Sebastian, what brings you two here?" he said.
"I thought you said he was old?" Terrence whispered from behind me. I forgot how little Terrence seems to know about this place, or I would have anticipated that question. Avatar doesn't look much older than Prism.
Avatar smiled ruefully, "I am old, kid. I just don't show it! Most mutants age slow, especially Supers like me. I think I'm about seventy years old, but I lost count."
Terrence's eyes widened so far I thought they would fall out, "Seventy?! How old is that?"
Avatar rolled his eyes, "Old, okay? Who taught you anyway kid? Most people can at least count to a hundred."
Terrence blushed and looked down, "Richter." He said it really quietly, which made me think he missed his old teacher. Not everyone likes their teachers, but I guess he did.
"Richter? Bob Richter? Well no wonder! He got killed in a gang brawl a few years ago. You haven't been on your own all that time, have you?!" Avatar said.
Terrence shook his head without looking up, "No, John watched out for me."
"John? The only John I know would be John Hammer, but he's not teaching any more." Avatar said, looking a little confused.
"John was his friend who was also taught by Richter." Carmen explained. "He got killed by a squad yesterday, so we kind of took over for him."
Avatar nodded sadly, "Yeah, I heard about that squad coming in yesterday. Pentacle really should have known better. Poor bastard!"
"Pentacle?! What does Pentacle have to do with the squad?" I asked, surprised.
Avatar looked surprised, too. "You hadn't heard? That's why the squad was here, to get Pentacle. The kind of magic he pulled off in the Arena is a death sentence! That's why he was put in there against fifteen other fighters like that in the first place, to get rid of him. But they must not have realized how powerful he really was, so they sent a squad. I hear he got halfway out of the arena before they caught up with him. Probably would have had a better chance if he'd prepared a trap for them with some of that ritual magic of his, but he was dead no matter what he did." Avatar explained.
Terrence frowned and looked confused by what Avatar was saying. "Are you saying the squad killed him, like John?" he asked.
Avatar nodded grimly, "Yeah, they did. Every now and then someone shows themselves to be too dangerous like that, and they always end up dead within a few hours. The Commission doesn't take chances."
"Yeah, well, that's not why we're here. We need your advice on something that's happened to Seb." Carmen said.
Avatar looked surprised and took a good look at me. I felt kind of uncomfortable for some reason and couldn't look him in the eye. "Hmm, he does look a little different somehow, but what exactly happened to him?" he asked.
"We don't really know. He wasn't feeling well yesterday, and this morning he looks...different." Carmen said, blushing. I guess she was remembering seeing me naked.
Avatar shrugged, "I guess it is a little weird that he looks different overnight, but why come looking for me for that?"
I really didn't feel very comfortable talking about it, so I glanced at Carmen and she said, "Uh, it's not just his face. You must have noticed his voice is different, too."
Avatar looked thoughtfully at me. "Hm, why don't you say something else Sebastian?"
"What do you want me to say?" I asked.
His eyes narrowed in thought and he nodded, "Okay, I see what you mean Carmen. Are there any other changes?"
"Um, yeah. His chest has...grown?" she said.
Avatar took a closer look at me, particularly my chest, and his eyes widened. His skin turned pale and he started shaking. "Shit! I'm sorry guys, but there's nothing I can do for you. I'm sorry, but please don't come back." he said and hastily stepped back in his room and palmed the door closed. We stood there looking at each other in shock before Carmen started hammering on the door. With her strength the door was vibrating with each blow, but there was no response from Avatar.
"Why did he do that?" Terrence asked, confused. I could relate. Avatar had always been quick to help us before; why would he turn his back on us now? And what about my changes scared him so much? He's not the most powerful mutant around, but his experience more than makes up for it. What could make him run for cover like that?
With my hand on her shoulder and some soothing words I managed to calm Carmen down. After taking a few deep breaths she turned to Terrence and shrugged, "I don't know. This isn't like him." She still looked mad, but at least she wasn't yelling or anything now.
"Something scared him, which is frightening enough. What could scare Avatar like that?" I thought aloud.
That seemed to break Carmen out of her mood and she stood quietly for a moment before looking up at me. "I think your change is what scared him, though I have no idea why." she finally said. "Do either of you have any idea why that would scare him?"
Terrence and I both shook our heads. "Okay, we need to think about this. Let's go see if the Arena is running again and watch while we try and figure this out." Carmen suggested. I nodded and we started off towards the Arena.
We had only just gotten moving in the right direction when we found Emanuel leaning up against the wall. He was facing the opposite wall, but somehow we could tell he was watching us. He pushed himself off and stretched. Carmen was still mad at him I think, because she dragged us both past Emanuel. He didn't seem to notice us, but when we were just passing him I heard him whisper, "Follow me if you want answers." Then he turned and walked back the way we came.
To Be Continued…
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