6. East Cronos Institute – 1

Raven spent three days in a holding cell before they decided what to do with her. After a hearing and many sleepless nights, she was guided to a room where her parents and lawyer waited. Suppressor handcuffs still adorned her wrists. She sat down between her parents as they listened to her lawyer. 

“Due to the complicated nature of everything that has happened, the judge has decided to divert the case. Raven will be sent to East Cronos Institute where she will attend reform classes. During this time she will be observed. After three months, the judge will revisit her case. If everything goes well, no formal charges will be issued.” 

Raven swallowed.

“Three months?” her mother said angrily. “She’s going to be spending the summer in a detention center for an accident?” 

“ECI is a reform school, not a detention center,” the lawyer corrected. 

Raven’s father balled up his fist. “They’re criminals, no matter how you spin it.” 

The lawyer adjusted his glasses. “I understand how you feel, but given the circumstances, this is the best solution offered.” 

Raven nodded numbly. It might have been an accident, but it didn’t change that there were nine people in comas because of her. Four students and five staff members, including Dr. Briton, might not ever wake up. She was lucky she hadn’t killed them. 

“How are they able to do this?” her mother asked, her arm tightening around Raven’s shoulder. “She isn’t the first one to have their Awakening cause damage?” 

“That’s true,” the lawyer said, shifting in his seat. His gaze drifted nervously to Raven’s handcuffs. “But your daughter’s case is… unique.” 

The room grew quiet. Everyone had seen the surveillance video at the hearing. What they had seen had been terrifying. Raven’s stomach curled at the memory. 

“I will give you a moment alone.” The lawyer stood and left. 

“This is ridiculous,” her mother said. Her grip on Raven’s shoulder was almost painful, like she could somehow force Raven to stay by her side. “First they refuse to let her come home for three days and now this.” 

Her father clenched his jaw and his eyes looked tired. His fist stayed balled up at his side. It worried Raven how angry and defeated he looked. 

Her mother’s agitated voice continued on. “Don’t you worry. We’ll get you out of there. You shouldn’t be punished for this. They’re all just…” She trailed off as if hesitant to finish that sentence. 

But Raven already knew. Everyone was scared. They were scared of what she had done. Sure, she was a Green according to her Embud, but if she was only a Green then how had she done so much damage? If Micah and Dr. Kesson’s theory was true, then what happened was a short window into her potential magic. There was hope she could control it as it developed. The only problem was that no one had ever presented with their Core abilities and then regressed to a lower level. She was an unknown phenomenon.

Raven forced herself to smile. “It’s okay, Mom. Besides, at least it’s ECI. I mean, it wasn’t exactly the MDE school I wanted to get into, but it’s something.” 

Her mother looked at her, bewildered, and then frowned. 

Raven’s father snorted and unfurled his fist. “That’s a strange silver lining.”

Her mother shook her head and hugged Raven again. Then her father was also hugging her. Feeling their warmth pressed against her, trying to support her, tears began to well up in Raven’s eyes. A sharp sob spilled from her mouth and before she could stifle it she began to cry. Her mom and dad held her tight until the officers came to get her. 

A few hours later Raven was boarding a bus with several other juvenile delinquents. She wondered if they were all going to ECI. Since there were only six of them, Raven was able to grab a window seat. The windows were tinted to prevent anyone from seeing who was on the bus. The other students didn’t try talking to each other. Each one seemed focused on their own issues. 

The guard walked to each seat, making sure the handcuffs were secured. Satisfied, he took his seat and pushed a small button. A prism bubble surrounded each of the teens. Raven looked at it in surprise. She had seen these used on young children to keep them safe in case of a car crash, but never like this. Though when she thought about it, it made sense. If a crash happened, their handcuffs stifled their ability to protect themselves. The safety bubble helped with that. 

“Move out,” the guard said. 

The bus jerked forward as it rose up from the ground. The wheels of the bus rotated until they were lying flat, and then they slid underneath the bus’s frame. With another jerk, the bus began to glide forward. Raven stared out her window. 

Buildings passed by as they drove through Tythion’s main sector. The city was a fusion of magic and technology. Cars hovered through the streets as people dashed around town. She saw a few people tap their necks before talking. They likely wore t-discs on their necks. T-discs were still new. The only people who had them were government employees and the wealthy. Not having being in either category, Raven made due with her normal smartphone. Or she would have if she still had one.

She sighed as she watched the city go by. They reached the end of the main district. The neighborhoods they now passed were a mixture of broken buildings and street construction. Luckily, the hover function on the bus kept the ride smooth. They floated over most of the debris.

Though Tythion was one of the few reclaimed cities, it was still recovering from the chaos of the first Awakenings. Living closer to the main districts made it easy to forget that outside of Tythion the world was still a mess of broken cities and overgrown forests. 

The bus turned and finally stopped in front of a detention center. The wheels rotated back out and the bus lowered and parked. The bus doors opened. The guard went to each teen, one-by-one, releasing them from their safety bubbles. Raven watched them go. She was the only one left behind. Once everyone was off the bus, the guard re-checked her handcuffs. Satisfied, he called for them to move out. Raven sighed and looked out the window. 

She jerked back, biting down on a startled scream. 

Outside the window, hanging upside down, was a familiar demon. Tick Tock waved at her. She stared at him then quickly looked at the guard. The guard narrowed his eyes like he was angry she was even looking at him. He didn’t seem to notice the demon hanging outside her window. She looked back at Tick Tock, but he was gone. 

Am I losing it? 

She twisted in her seat to get a better look outside, but there was no sign of Tick Tock. The rest of the trip Raven felt tense, but there Tick Tock never showed up again. The demon was part of her dreamscape so it didn’t make sense to see him outside of it. Did her Awakening damage her mind? A sinking dread filled her gut. 

The bus stopped and the guard led her off. She took a look at ECI. It was on the edge of the city, near the woods. Most of the woodlands were cleared away, but the forest was still a lot closer than she expected it to be. A tall barbed wire fence surrounded the area like a warning. Behind its coils sat what looked like an almost normal school. It was larger than her junior high. There were two buildings on either side of the main campus and Raven suspected it housed the students. 

Raven had only a moment to take it in when she was led inside the main building and brought to the front desk. The guard signed her in and then a female guard with an ECI badge took custody of her. From there Raven was patted down and inspected before she was handed clothes and told to change. She changed into loose jeans and a yellow ECI t-shirt. Afterward, the guard led her to a large office, leaving her with the ECI principal. 

The principal of ECI was a bulky woman with bright red hair that she wore in a bun. Thin black wire frame glasses rested on the bridge of her nose. An easy smile curled her lips, which didn’t match the hardness of her purple eyes. The woman wore a white blouse with a dark purple skirt and sensible black flats.

Standing to the side with his hands behind his back was a teenage boy with deep cocoa skin. He was around Raven’s height with teal hair and bright pink eyes. He wore jeans and the same yellow ECI t-shirt. He gave her a quick smile and a wink before his features were schooled into a neutral expression.

“Raven Delias,” the principal said. 

Raven nodded. 

“You will answer me with, ‘Yes Principal Kase.’ Is that understood?” 

Raven started to nod again but quickly corrected herself. “Yes, Principal Kase.” 

The principal nodded. “Come here.”

Raven stepped forward.

“Hold out your hand.”

Raven did. Principal Kase slid a ring on her finger. The ring constricted around her fingers, unremovable. 

Instantly, the world became less. Every sound was muffled and dizziness overwhelmed her. Her skin felt pulled and stretched. Raven fell to her knees, tears seeping from her eyes. She sucked in breaths, but the air was too thin. She clawed at her throat; trying to somehow, open her lungs. Her body spasmed in a desperate plead for survival as if it has been cut off from life itself, with just a teasing trickle to prevent her from falling into darkness. 

“Please, there’s something wrong with me,” Raven managed to choke out between gasps. 

“That is the feeling of your magic being completely cut off,” the principal stated. The woman reached into her pocket and pulled out a key. She grabbed Raven’s wrist, yanking the girl towards her. Principal Kase unlocked the handcuffs.

As soon as the handcuffs fell away Raven could breathe again. The relief was so strong, Raven’s leg gave underneath her and she plopped to the ground. She looked down at her finger. The ring had been a suppressor like the handcuffs she had worn. The combination of both the ring and the handcuffs must have had the same effect as a full suppressor. 

“Ms. Delias, remember that feeling,” the Principal said, her eyes cold. “Misconduct at my school will be met with discipline. The worst offenses will end with a complete cut off from your magic. Is that understood?”

Raven reeled in disbelief. Completely suppressing a person’s magic was illegal. Raven looked at the principal’s hard eyes and she knew to say as much would get her nowhere. She swallowed down her complaints.

“Yes, Principal Kase,” Raven said, hating the way her voice shook. 

“Good,” Principal Kase stated. “Your new suppressor will allow you to access the minimum amount of Illusion magic. Your Core will be closed off completely. In certain situations, once earned, you may be able to access larger amounts of your Illusion magic. Until then, follow the rules and do as you’re told, and your stay here will be tolerable.”

The principal turned, directing her attention to the teal-haired boy. She handed him a small plastic coin. “Mr. Wilkens, please explain to Ms. Delias the rules of the facility and bring her to Ms. Baker.”

“Yes, Principal Kase.”

The principal nodded and walked away.

The boy crouched down in front of Raven and held out his hand. A sympathetic smile curled his lips. “Welcome to ECI.”

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