A subway station echoes with the sound of running footsteps. A boy in a new school uniform is sprinting along the horrible greenish cream tiled floor of the tunnel, late for his train.
Footsteps echo as a shard of light catches his eye.
A side corridor, dark and brooding, but at the end a train with a horizontal Red Stripe; his train.
Even as he watched, the lights flickered on inside the carriages and with that a realization inside the boy's head.
That must be where the train started from, he could be on time!
Vaulting over an 'off-limits for cleaning' sign, he skidded and landed flat on the floor of the corridor.
Blackness encroached, but moments later he blinked it away; and it must have been moments, for the train was still in the station.
Scrambling, he stumbled to the carriage, still dizzy and light headed, falling forward onto the floor of the train, pass out-thrust triumphantly into the air above him.
It soon became apparent that the train was in fact, totally empty. He didn't have time to dwell on it as the train gradually began to move, picking up speed as the boy picked himself up and sat on one of the seats. Moments later he cursed, for he realized that he no-longer had his bag.
He'd left it back on the platform.
The train continued on and he resolved to get off at the very next stop, go back and look for his bag. He was sure of that he could find it again if he only looked for it and its precious cargo of brand-new schoolbooks.
Futilely, the boy attempted to clean himself up, ending up looking just a shade less presentable than he did when running down the corridor. His new name-tag gleams.
Leo F. Dawnson.
Outside the walls of the subway begin to blur faster and faster. Leo, frowning, considered that perhaps he got on the wrong train after-all, and that this was an express-
In which case, he'd just close his eyes and rest. He was still dazed from that fall after-all.
crumpling into the corner of the carriage he closed his eyes and leaned against the window.
Light assaulted his eyelids and for a moment, he was calm, but puzzled; until he shifted up five gears into full and total panic.
Springing up from his seat, he looked around wildly; his jaw dropping as he rushed to the window and gazed out at the landscape beyond.
He was in the sky. The train was running through the heavens on a twisting, spiraling track.
Below, a green landscape shifted idyllically.
Once again, he relaxed a little. He was still sleeping. He just needed to wake up right away because as everyone knows, time travels differently in dreams…. Although he'd never encountered a dream that felt so… real before. He could feel the pull of the earth, the smell of the train, the warm smoothness of the windows. He could remember feeling them and he could remember how he'd got ot where he was and why he was there… sort of.
It wasn't exactly the sort of non-sequitur you expected from your subconscious.
Leo's train of thought was derailed as the actual train shifted, following the track in a steep dive, causing Leo to fall back against the back wall of the train, now the new direction of 'Down'
Thankfully the sensation didn't last long as the train seemed to level out… before steeply angling upwards.
Lunging away from what was rapidly becoming the top of a very long fall, Leo managed to hook himself around one of those poles people hold onto to keep themselves steady when standing up on the train. He had a moment to reflect how appropriately he was using it, when gravity caught him again; his arms and legs hooked around the pole turning rigid as he glanced over his shoulder to see that the car had been turned almost completely vertical.
He whimpered and leaned forward and clung to his perch, grasping onto the pole for dear life.
The train rumbled on, the track beneath it curving into a narrow spiral which the train followed, first slowly then gradually increasing in speed until it burst out the other side and barreled down the track, on an almost vertical trajectory.
The air began to tingle with static and several other poles in the train began to ark blue sparks as in his sight, the cars, the windows and the seats all began to stretch as though he was looking at a world being drawn out like taffy or elastic.
His grip on the pole began to fail as the acceleration overpowered gravity and began to tug on his arms and legs.
The static was almost audible now, the arcing, more frequent.
Leo's grip failed. He sailed backwards, arms outstretched.
The world… Snapped. His ears popped. The static stopped. He fell, his momentum erased.
In a single crowded moment, the dull carpet, blue bristle seats and yellow metal tubing of the trains interior had switched, not gradually, nor as suddenly as a gap between two frames of film, but somehow, both; as though the floor had always been made of florescent panels and the interior decor a mixture of royal blue and gold.
The doors irised outwards.
Pushing himself off the floor, Leo walked unsteadily to the doorway and supporting himself on the frame, raised up his head and gazed out.
90 minutes earlier:
"You're going to be late!" Leo's older brother prodded his siblings recumbent form, scowled in disgust and rolled him off the bed, sheets and all.
Leo emerged from the tangle of sheeting and covers blinking blearily.
"You don't want to be late on your first day, now get moving, and get that transport map off your desk! You'll just forget it if you leave it there!"
Leo began to wake up and sprang into action "That's right, I can't be late, not today, not for this."
2 weeks earlier:
"I heard you got a scholarship Lee-oohhh." Darrel Bareville prodded Leo again. Most people envisage large, slightly pudgy children as bullies… which in reality made it all the easier for people like Darrel to irritate and antagonize without consequence or conscience.
"I know that school! My brother goes there and he says, that if you don't arrive on time on the first day, they hold up the entire class waiting for you, and if they do that, they tell the older kids, and then, then my brother and his friends come over and make you give them your stuff.
…. Of course, you're aallllwayyys early here, you practically live at the school. I bet you visit the oval on weekends. Anyway, you're totally going to not have any friends there, since you're the only one from this school going there and-"
Leo schooled his expression into the best impression of stone he could manage.
Although he tried to keep his mind on his work, the incessant babble of the bullying boy tended to worm its way in through the cracks in your brain.
Still, practically the entire reason that he was going there as opposed to one of the more nearby institutions was because no one else from Fey-rocks primary would be going with him. Fey-rocks was the kind of school where if a teacher received an unmarked package, they'd check to see if it ticked.
The children weren't dumb, not by a long shot, however they were malicious, scheming, conniving and in cases downright ingenious.
Being of age where it was ridiculous to try and pin anything on them and having access to the internet had spawned an aberration of education, where instead of a boy pulling a girls pig-tails, or dipping them in ink, or setting fire to them, he'd inject atropine into her juice box and use the opportunity to dye her hair green.
It was perhaps the only school in the local area to actually have a fatality rate.
However, since he lived next-door to the school, it would have actually had to endorse human sacrifice before Leo would take up public transport to travel elsewhere instead.
He sensed the ploy rather than actually heard it.
Grabbing Barevilles arm, he dug his nails into the wiry boys wrist, while simultaneously kicking his chair backwards, sliding out and banging into Darrel's shins.
He tried to counter with a headlock, but Leo was more flexible and twisted the hand he still held until Darrel gave up on the lock and instead relaxed into the grip, preparing to counter.
Still seated, Leo hooked one leg around the back of Darrels, even as a steel ruler slid out from the sleeve of his opponents free hand.
Tripping his opponent, Leo leaned forward, slamming him into the ground and causing the boy to drop the ruler.
Examining the cloth clutched in Darrel's hand, the one he'd been about to push over his mouth, he grimaced and looked at the winded boy. "Chloroform? Again? Where do you lay your hands on this stuff anyway?"
Rifling through the pockets of his downed opponent, he found several compact cans of shaving cream, each Icy cold and a narrow row of glad-wrap, as well as the small brown glass bottle containing what was probably the chloroform that had been on the cloth he'd tried to push onto Leo.
Old prank. Knock a sap out, cut open frozen cans of shaving cream, drop them into his desk draw and then wrap it with glad-wrap.
Not only will it ruin what's in there, it will end up at a slight over-pressure and probably spurt out when the airtight seal is broken.
The only real upside of going to Fey-rocks, was that you got not just an education in self defense, but that integral applied theory, that impulsiveness, combat reflexes… that Sense, where without hearing, seeing or smelling the danger, nonetheless, being able to sense it and react before your opponents first strike.
You just can't get that level of training anywhere else, barring perhaps family feuds and being a member of the armed forces in an active combat zone.
All of it really wasn't… right for Leo though. While it might look cool, sound cool and feel amazing to actually dominate the way you could at Fey-Rocks, it really wasn't what he wanted.
Not that he really knew what he wanted, but it had to be better than testing your lunch before you ate it every day.
13 days earlier:
"I have a cracked rib now and it's all your fault. So when you get to your new school, if you're even a minute out, if you so much as bend a single rule, my brother will bring Righteous retribution down on your head!"
Twelve Minutes Later:
"Target Acquired, Unregistered Biological Entity. Initiating Neutralization Protocol."
Behind Leo the doors hissed shut and the train sped off with a soft whoosh.
Before him the city stretched out and up, not just outlined against the horizon but above it.
Massive dirigible buildings hovered in the sky, while smooth towers pointed from the ground their bone white surfaces matte and designs looking more like sky slicers than sky scrapers.
For a moment, Leo just stared, trying to take on, absorb, remember this picture, trying to comprehend what he was looking at in the hope that he might be able to describe it once he woke up.
A synthetic warbling heralded a streak of color across his vision and a brief gust of wind.
He ran to the edge and looked back and forth, trying to see who or what had flown by.
The air shifted as what looked like a motor bike crossed with a Jet-ski, a hover board and a set of gothic plate armor reversed backwards across his vision, the jump-suited rider holding the bike's nose up.
It reminded him of a helicopter in reverse… except that helicopters weren't jet propelled and didn't have streamers of light emanating from beneath them.
The rider let the bike fall level, the front end pivoting down and bouncing like a motorcyclist exiting a wheelie, which really didn't make sense considering there was nothing for it to bounce off…
Leo realized that he was avoiding the point; there was a person on a hover-bike, right in front of him.
"Hello?" He managed to say it without his voice cracking.
The rider gave a two fingered salute, a jaunty wave and then sped off.
"Hey! Wait up!" Leo called after them, running along the platform parallel to the biker.
The biker glanced over and suddenly dropped below the platform.
Leo glanced around. The platform was long and gently curved, but there was…. An elevator!
He sprinted over to the glass tube, meaning he was going too fast to slow down when he realized that there were no doors.
Above the opening in the glass was, in brass lettering "Bounce tube." He was not worrying about that.
He was worrying about the precarious way in which he was teetering on the edge of the shaft's entrance, arms pin wheeling as he sought to throw himself backwards.
His weight began to balance out on the side of the door that had a floor, at least until there was an inrush of air into the shaft, sending him tumbling down the cylindrical glass shaft.