Most of the classes Raven attended were exactly as Ethan said they would be, which was boring. There was a math class, a social studies class paired with a community service workshop activity that involved sorting through recyclables and washing bottles. Finally, the day ended on her last class, Reality therapy.
Raven was curious to see what Reality therapy was like. From Benji’s description, it sounded like it was pretty cool. Following the map on the back of her pamphlet, Raven was surprised when it led to the school’s back entrance. As she got closer she saw nine students standing at the door with two guards. She hurried over.
“Finally she arrives,” a girl with curly purple hair said and rolled her eyes.
“Sorry,” Raven said, feeling flustered. She had no idea that her class would be waiting for her.
“Whatever,” she said, turning her back on Raven.
Raven bit her lip and mentally sighed. That had been the other issue all day. She didn’t seem to get along well with the other girls in her classes. Most ignored her, clustered in their cliques, while other girls just didn’t like her though she wasn’t sure why.
“Everyone, get in line.”
Immediately everyone got into a single file line, while one guard unlocked the door and the other moved behind them. Then they marched outside. The feel of the sun on her face felt great. Raven hadn’t realized how nice it felt being outside after being cooped up all the time.
“Hey, don’t bother about Patrice,” the girl in front of her said, looking over her shoulder. “She’s lashing out because she sees you hanging with Lisa.”
Raven looked at the other girl, surprised she was talking to her. The girl had short green hair that looked like it was growing out of its pixie cut. She flashed Raven a strained smile like she was slightly uncomfortable.
Raven was just happy someone had finally decided to talk to her. She gave the girl a warm smile back. “Thanks. Wait? Patrice? The same one Lisa hit?”
The girl snickered. “Very same one. That girl doesn’t know when to back off. She kept challenging Lisa and trying to start a fight. She finally got what she asked for.”
“Hey! No talking,” one of the guards said.
The girls immediately quieted as they reached an enormous dome structure. The guard scanned into the large front doors and the girls filed in, one at a time. The room was as big as a football field and the ceiling seemed to stretch up forever.
Immediately, the girls moved into their own personal groups and began chatting and laughing. It looked like the no talking rule was lifted while inside the dome. Raven was looking around the room when the green-haired girl from earlier stepped in front of her.
“Hi! I’m Cindy,” she said holding out her hand.
“Raven,” she answered shaking her hand, feeling a little awkward. What teenager introduced themselves with a handshake?
“Okay,” Cindy said, pulling her hand away. “That was a little weird.”
“Yeah,” Raven said. They both exchanged glances and then started laughing. “Are you new too?”
Cindy nodded. “Sort of. Arrived here last week. I got caught doing some deliveries and so now I’m here.”
“Oh,” Raven said, not really sure what to say to that. “Um, so what exactly are we supposed to do in here?”
“Right now we’re waiting for Mr. Davidson. Once he gets here he’ll have us talk about our feelings.” Cindy made a face. “Then after that, he has us run through different scenarios to see how we act. It can actually be pretty cool depending on what he runs us through.”
“Scenarios?” Raven asked.
But Cindy’s attention turned as the door opened and several people came filing in. A mixture of excited and curious murmurs when throughout the room. Raven’s eyes widened as she noticed a familiar figure. Standing with several businessmen and two officers was Syrion.
Queasiness settled in her stomach. The last time she saw Syrion was when he was handcuffing her. It was definitely not a pleasant memory. Was he here to check up on her? She felt her entire body stiffen at the thought. She must have been staring because Syrion’s gold eyes met hers. He raised an eyebrow.
Raven hurriedly looked down at the floor.
“You know Syrion?” Cindy asked beside her.
“Sort of,” Raven said.
“Hello, class,” a man in a burgundy shirt and black tie started. “For those of you who are new, I’m Dr. Davis.” He smiled over at Raven since she was the only new person in the class.
Raven squirmed and gave an awkward smile back.
“Today we have some special guests observing out class. This is Mr. Jon Henderson of Source Constructions. Source Construction is the leading construction company in the reclamation project.” A large man with a shock of blue hair stepped forward looking over the students with interest.
“With him is, Mr. James and Mrs. Cords,” Dr. Davis stated as both adults nodded. Then he turned to Syrion and the two MDE officers. “And this is Mr. Syrion Harrsion, from the MDE. I’m sure you’ve all heard of him before.” The doctor said with a chuckle.
Around Raven, the students nodded stiffly. Of course, almost everyone recognized the famous sixteen-year-old MDE officer. Whether they personally knew him or not, anything involving the MDE had the students on edge.
“Well, let’s get this started,” Mr. Henderson said loudly. “I want to see what sort of potential you kids have. What are you going to have them do? Fight a monster or something?”
Dr. Davis looked nervous. “Maybe we can start with something a little tamer.”
Mr. Henderson frowned. “I didn’t come all the way out here for tame.”
Dr. Davis gave a strained smile. “I see. I’ll see what I can do.” He glanced over at Syrion and the two MDE officers with him, but none of them said anything.
The sound of the door opening interrupted them as a short woman stepped into the room. She was dressed in a white lab coat and her hazelnut hair was tied up into a bun. Thin wire-framed glasses perched precariously on her nose. At the sight of her, the entire class began to shift with excitement.
Raven had never seen the woman before, but everyone else seemed to recognize her. “Who is she?” Raven asked.
“That’s Dr. Brite,” Cindy said with barely contained excitement. “She’s in charge of Rush.”
Raven had yet to get the chance to take part in Rush. On Sunday, when she was supposed to go, she was told they were still working on adjusting her suppressor. Her magic access would be limited to her Illusion magic. But if the person in charge of Rush was here, did that mean they were going to get access to their magic for the class?
Raven’s attention focused on Dr. Brite as she spoke with Dr. Davis, then the woman nodded. She held out her hand and a small hologram appeared in front of her. She typed a few things in and then nodded.
“Proceed,” she said. Her voice was soft but underlined with steel.
“Let’s get this show on the road. I don’t have all day,” Mr. Henderson said impatiently.
Dr. Davis’s smile grew tight and then he looked back at the students. “Everyone we’re going to be doing something a little differently for this class. I’ll be putting you in a more high tension scenario.” He hesitated, his gaze flickering to Mr. Henderson and then back. “If you at all feel uncomfortable or unable to handle the situation I want you to hold up two fingers like this.” He held up his hand with his index and middle finger pressed together. “And someone will retrieve you. You will not get deducted points for signaling.”
“Now please get into two groups of five.”
Cindy immediately grabbed Raven’s wrist, tugging her as if she was a lifeline. “Let’s group together.”
Raven nodded, relieved she didn’t have to stand around and hope someone would pick her. “Okay.”
She and Cindy found another three girls to group up with. They each went through introductions. Jean was a slender girl with tangerine hair that she had in a short ponytail. With her was a chubby girl with freckles named Mary who had the prettiest aquamarine eyes. Lastly, there was an extremely tall girl named Ava. She had long gray hair that she kept pushing out of her face only to fall back again. Like almost everyone in their class, no one was sponsored.
“Do you think they’re going to let us use our magic?” Jean said excitedly.
“Of course they are,” Cindy said confidently. “They’re looking for kids to sponsor. They’ll want to see what we can do.”
Jean practically vibrated with excitement. “I hope it’s a scenario that lets us show our stuff.”
“I hope it’s not too scary,” Ava said.
Raven had to agree. For her first day, she sort of hoped to ease into things instead of being dropped into the middle of whatever this was. Still, breakfast had taught her the sooner she found a sponsor the better.
“Raven Delias,” Dr. Davis called.
Raven’s head jerked up and she looked over to the doctor who signaled her to come over. Looking questioningly back at the girls who simply shrugged, she trotted over to Dr. Davis.
“Yes, Dr. Davis.”
“Ah, Raven. It looks like we have your ring’s signal all setup. You’ll be able to access your magic with the other kids once we start.”
Excitement went through Raven. It had been so long since she was able to use magic.
“Now, I want to point out that you’ll only be able to access your Illusion magic,” Dr. Davis said with a twinge of regret in his tone. “This might put you at a disadvantage compared to the other students who will be using their Core. If you like, you have my permission to sit out.”
Raven didn’t even have to think about that. She shook her head. “I want to do it.”
Dr. Davis sighed, but smiled. “I figured you’d say that. I heard you even got your level 2 permit.”
Raven nodded. “Yes, on the first try.”
Dr. Davis laughed. “Good job. Well, all right. I’ll keep you in, but if you feel like you can’t keep up remember the signal.”
Raven nodded. “I will.”
With that she headed back to her team. The girls were talking excitedly to each other when Raven joined them.
A wide smile stretched across Raven’s lips. “We’re getting access to our magic.”
Jean bounced up and down. “This is awesome.”
Mary put a hand on her hip. “That was obvious with Mrs. Brite here.” Though her aqua eyes sparkled.
“All right,” Cindy said, clapping her hands together and bringing the attention back to her. “You missed it Raven, but we were talking about what our Core magic is. So your turn.”
“Actually I’m not allowed to use my Core magic,” Raven said, tugging absently on the hem of her shirt. “I’ll have to stick to my Illusion magic.”
“What?” Mary said. “Oh no, we’re going to lose. Damn it.”
Jean elbowed Mary. “Be nice. It’s not that bad, is it?” She asked worriedly as she looked at where Mr. Henderson stood with his staff.
“Don’t worry,” Raven asserted. “I can handle it. I actually have a level 2 Illusion permit.”
“Oh! That’s cool,” Jean said, perking up immediately.
“Still not Core,” Mary mumbled.
“Okay,” Cindy said, taking charge once more. “What’s your main Illusion magic?”
Though Illusion skills could change, most people had a main skill that they considered their Illusion magic. Since Illusion magic wavered a lot, it was often better to focus on one and ignore the others. Splitting your attention could make the Illusion magic more unstable. Raven hadn’t shown any additional Illusion magic until the day at the Access Facility, so she didn’t even have to think about the other ones.
Cindy nodded. Then Dr. Davis’ voice broke across the room. “All right, I hope everyone is settled into their teams.”
“Yes, Dr. Davis,” the room chorused.
The doctor nodded. “Then we’ll begin. The group on the left will be team A and the group on the right will be team B. Please get into your spots.”
A red A and B appeared on the floor. Raven and the other girls moved to the B. Once they were in place Dr. Davis continued.
“For this scenario, we will be mimicking the aftereffects of a disaster. Your job is to locate supplies and return it to your base. On the way there will be many obstacles. You will be graded on your responses to the obstacles as well as how much of the supplies you return to base. Does everyone understand?”
Everyone nodded their heads and said yes. Raven looked at the determined faces of her team. She wanted to win. She wished she had more time to hear what the other girls’ magic was. She figured she would have to ask once the scenario started.
“You each will be given partial access to your magic. Since this is limited access be careful how you use your magic. If things get out of hand I will step in. And remember, if at any time you feel the scenario is too much just raise your fingers and one of us will get you.” Dr. Davis pointed to himself and Dr. Brite.
Once he was sure everyone understood, Dr. Davis pushed a button against the wall and a clear plastic divide appeared between them and Dr. Davis and his guests. Dr. Davis touched the plastic and a screen appeared. All at once, the room began to shimmer and right before Raven’s eyes everything changed.
Instead of them standing in the empty Reality therapy dome, they were in a devastated city. Broken buildings were strewn everywhere and smoke was in the air. Parts of the ground had been uprooted in large chunks. It looked like a huge earthquake had happened. The sound of distant sirens rung in the air and Raven could even smell the smoke.
“Wow, this is so real,” Raven said.
Though the other girls looked just as impressed.
Raven looked at them in confusion. “I thought you all have done this before.”
Ava shook her head. The tall girl had been so quiet up until this point. Her voice trembled. “Not like this.”
Mary nodded. “Yeah, this is on a whole other level. “
Cindy moved to Raven’s side. “You okay?”
Raven nodded. “Yeah.”
The girl’s face scrunched up and then she smiled. “Make sure you stick by me.”
Raven agreed. She wondered if Cindy was worried about this being Raven’s first time in Reality therapy.
“Please stay in your designated section,” Dr. Brite’s voice rang out from invisible speakers. “The scenario will begin shortly.”
Raven looked at her teammates. Ava looked freaked out, but the rest had determined expressions on their face. Raven clenched her fist. She was just as determined. She didn’t want to spend her time in ECI as a victim. If she had access to her magic, even only her Illusion magic, she would be safe. She was going to show everyone how strong she could be.
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