"Jackson! I'm home!" Robin called through the now open door to the small apartment. And even though there was no answer, she continued talking as if someone was listening. "The show went great, in case you were wondering." She quickly deposited her guitar case into the small bedroom just off the hallway. "People kept asking why I don't have a record deal or my own concerts. You know, the usual, she called, walking toward their small kitchen. "So what's for dinner?" Greeted by the sight of an empty stove, she called out in a more irritated voice, "Come on, Jackson! Dinner was supposed to be your job tonight! Please don't tell me that you've been watching TV all day!" She marched to the door, wrenching it open. "'Cause you're gonna get it if you…" Her voice died in her throat.
On their small and very worn couch sat, not only Robin's elusive older brother Jackson, but also a middle-aged Asian man, sitting perfectly upright, almost rigidly.
"Robby," said Jackson slowly, "this is…Guan. He's here to interview you for a spot at his school."
Guan unexpectedly stood up and bowed. "Robin Lo, it is an honor to meet you. Now tell me, have your powers, how you Americans say 'kicked in yet?'"
"Ryan! Turn your music down now!"
After a moment, a scowling teenage boy got up and turned the volume knob with a grudging jerk before throwing himself facedown onto his bed.
"We have company! Honestly, why do you always have to go out of your way to make trouble for Mom and Dad?"
"Go away Sarah," Ryan growled, voice muffled through his pillow. "I don't wanna hear it."
"Well you're gonna hear it," she snapped. "Why do you always have to be such a pain to them? They're nothing but good to us! I mean, look at this place!"
She motioned around the bedroom, easily the size of a large apartment, complete with a large stereo, flat-screened TV, piles and piles of countless videogames and their systems, movies and CD's, and other numerous and incredibly expensive gadgets.
"People can't afford half of this stuff, and you're still an ungrateful spoiled brat!"
"I'll be grateful when this lecture is over," Ryan mumbled through his pillow again.
"Ugh!" Sarah gave Ryan a withering look, and stomped out of the room, mumbling things like, "I don't know why I even try!" slamming the door behind her.
Ryan just lied facedown on his bed for a while longer, not bothering to turn up his music again. He figured that Sarah would just come back and yell and lecture some more.
He didn't know how long he lied there, or even if he dozed off for a bit, but the next thing he knew, something small and heavy crawled onto his back.
"Get off, Tom," he mumbled.
"Can't Ryan," said the small boy. "Mom told me to come get you. Someone's here to see you."
"Tell them I'm asleep."
"She told me to wake you up."
"Ugh, fine!" he snapped. He jerked himself up, sending Tom scrambling off and onto the bed. "I'm going! I'm going!" he yelled at no one in particular. He kicked some of his own possessions aside angrily, stomping his feet and making enough noise as possible, that including slamming the door behind him hard enough to knock down a few framed pictures hanging in the hallway. It was clear that he wasn't going to get any calmer as he stomped instead of just walking toward his destination, not really caring if he banged or knocked something over on the way there.
He was still growling and grumbling to himself when he got to the family's sitting room, which was just as grand and spacious as his own bedroom.
"Ryan!" his mother greeted brightly in what he thought to be a nauseatingly cheerful voice.
"What?" he snapped at her rudely.
She blinked, but didn't say anything. "Come meet our guest, Mister…um, I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?"
"Dashi," said the man. "Just Dashi, Mrs. Conway."
Closer inspection proved him to be an Asian man, most likely Chinese, Ryan observed, probably somewhere in his twenties.
"Oh yes. Well, Mr. Dashi is here to see you, dear. Something about a scholarship?"
"I like homeschool," he snapped, turning back towards the door.
"So I guess my entire trip here was a total waste then, huh?" Dashi called after him.
"Looks like it," said Ryan.
"So you already figured out how to use your powers then, have you?"
Ryan froze, his hand on the doorknob.
"Powers? What powers?" Mrs. Conway said, suddenly alarmed.
"So you learned that you have super speed, super strength, and super hearing all in one afternoon?" Jackson was met by a miserable stare from his usually cheerful younger sister, and a thoughtful one from Guan. "And where was I when all this happened? Oh, that's right! I was just about to teleport home with the dinner that I cooked with my heat vision!" he snapped at the pair, sarcasm practically dripping from his words.
"Jackson, I'm serious! I almost knocked down a building the other day! And I think I might've broken the sound barrier just trying to get out of there! And I could hear the cops from miles away! Do you honestly think I would kid about this?"
"She almost has the same powers as Superman," Guan agreed. "I think he will be an excellent mentor until you can fully control your powers."
"Except I can't fly."
"You already tried?"
"No, I'm just afraid of heights."
"Whoa, whoa! Time out! You seriously believe this? That my sister has superpowers?"
"You're both mental," he decided.
"Perhaps, a demonstration is in order?" said Guan, nodding towards Robin.
She took a deep breath, getting up from her seat and walking over to her brother, who rolled his eyes. She bent over, gripping the bottom edge of the couch, and with one swift movement, lifted it and him into the air over her head.
"Ah, so you have been practicing then!" said Dashi happily.
"Sometimes," said Ryan, shrugging.
"Well don't act so pleased about it!" his mother squealed. "My son, a – a –"
"A hero in training," Dashi finished for her. "At least, if he decides he wants to come to school with us after all."
"I just can't believe it," Mr.s Conway continued as if she didn't hear Dashi's interruption.
I don't believe it!" she decided. "There's absolutely no way that he has any powers at all. He is a completely normal boy with absolutely no abnormalities." She said the last word with a hint of disgust.
"Mom!" Ryan snapped at her, "just watch." An indoor tornado seemed to have taken place as wind blowing from absolutely nowhere swooped in and created a whirlwind of papers, candles, and decorations that flew around and around over their heads. But the storm was only beginning, as the room's electricity shot out from the wall outlets, adding a lighting effect.
"Stop it!" she screamed in terror. "Stop it right now!"
All at once, the whirlwind stopped, dropping everything it was carrying, the electricity zapped back into the outlets.
"You have to fix him!" she wailed. "Take him and fix him!"
"I'll see you at school then?" said Dashi, trying not to sound so pleased at the effect it had.
"I'll be there," Ryan smirked, smugness practically radiating off of him.
"This is so awesome! Check out my little sister the superhero!" said Jackson, extremely pleased with the news. "You're gonna learn how to kick butt, and end up on the news, and get famous, and – and –"
Robin smiled. Jackson had taken it very well. Only screamed like a little girl twice. Now he was almost drunk with happiness. "So does this mean I can go?"
Jackson's excited whoop echoed around the apartment.
"So I suppose that's a, how you Americans say 'totally dude?'"
Robin's smile got wider. "Totally."
Hoh Xil, China
"Wow," Robin said for what was probably the millionth time that day.
And no wonder, by the way. The plane that was arranged to transport her to school largely frightened her due to her extreme fear of heights, but she managed by sleeping through the entire flight. And since her awakening, she couldn't help but simply marvel at her surroundings. They had landed in Hoh Xil, which was supposed to be 4,000 meters above sea level, and 2-million-sq-km, making it the largest area of uninhabited land in China. It held Tanggula Mountain, lakes, and swamps in the plateau, where cold, arid weather, thin air and little access for traffic made mapping extremely difficult, which is the very reason that this was the most suitable location for a superhero school.
The school itself seemed so unsatisfactory after its scenery. It was just a tiny building, not even big enough to hold regular teenagers. But of course, like everything else in this newly found world, there was more to it than met the eye. Underneath this little building, there was an underground labyrinth that ran through every part of Hoh Xil, containing dorm rooms, training rooms, classrooms, and many others that she didn't have a name for yet.
The dorm room, which she was sharing with two other girls, was easily as big as her apartment back home. It had evidently been completely bare and plain, spare the three beds, before the girls got there, as they had already decorated their designated space in the room. But Robin didn't have time to lay out her own possessions, since she had evidently taken too long admiring the outside scenery, and had made it in late. Quickly throwing her suitcases on her own bed, she quickly changed into her new uniform that was folded neatly on the nightstand, consisting of a sort of martial arts uniform, though her shirt was made of red silk and was decorated with a black dragon on the back. Orientation was supposed to start very soon, and being late didn't work when trying to make a good first impression.
Ryan stood in the back corner of the orientation room, scowling at anyone who passed. Most of his new peers were obviously very social, grouping together and chattering about their powers and how well they had been able to control them thus far. He watched as several demonstrated, though nothing really seemed all that impressive to him. After all, they weren't dangerous; they wouldn't last in a fight. They were just kids playing with fire. It was only a matter of time before they were taught a lesson. He rolled his eyes again after watching several foreign boys trying to impress a couple of girls with their powers. They were just stupid. They were all stupid. And he was stuck with them.
At last a gong rang, and the chaos stopped as fully grown men and women marched right to the front onto a platform that served as a stage. He spotted Dashi among them at once, being one of the tallest of them, and probably one of the youngest as well. He caught Ryan's eye, and flashed him a wink before coming back to attention.
One of the older-looking men stepped forward, and spread his arms, in a sign of welcome. "I see that you all made it here safely, as I already foresaw, but it is still very fortunate that everything went well. Now, welcome to the School for Superheroes in Training. We hope you find it to your liking, as it will become your new home until you have proved yourself to be fully able with your powers. Now, I would like to inform you of the ground rules."
There was a unanimous groan from the new students.
"First off, attendance is mandatory for all occasions. Alarms are set all over the school to end each activity, there are Members that can, and will ensure that you get where you need to go when you need to go. There is no excuse for being late. I expect-"
He was cut off as the back doors flew open with a loud BANG as something, or someone, skidded across the floor, slipping in a puddle of water that was left by someone who was experimenting with their powers earlier, and finally hitting the opposite wall with enough force to leave a girl-shaped hole in the wall.
The girl in question crawled back through the wall, coughing and shaking what used to be the wall out of her hair. Finding everyone staring, she let out a nervous giggle and an, "Oops."
"That girl just damaged a section of our school, using her powers when she obviously has absolutely no control over them, making her too dangerous, and was late to orientation!" one of the Members snarled to the others. "That's three broken school rules today! I know a bad egg when I see one, and I say we expel her now before she gets out of hand!"
Dashi laughed. "Always so dramatic, Chase! Come on, it's the first day of school! Maybe she just got lost. I don't think anyone was patrolling the halls today anyway. And of course she can't control herself, no one's taught her anything yet! And as for the damages, well, I always thought we could do with a bit of remodeling."
Robin sat idly on her bed, nervously twiddling her thumbs as she waited for some sort of punishment. After she was ordered back to her room, she slowly unpacked her possessions, taking out pictures of home, clothes, and of course, her precious guitar, probably the most valuable thing she owned. There wasn't much to do, as her roommates were still with the rest of the class somewhere else in the facility,
After what seemed like forever, a knock at the door revealed to be Guan, finally coming to set her punishment. Though what he said took her by surprise.
"A partner?" she repeated, puzzled. "But what about my punishment?"
Guan waved the question away. "Oh, we expected something like that to happen. New students aren't expected to have full control of their powers just yet. Though, I advise that you practice some self-control in the future."
"Yes sir!" she nodded enthusiastically. "But about this partner thing? I thought you said that Superman would be teaching me?"
"Not until later on in your education, once we have more of an idea of the full extent of your powers, and we know that you are able to control them."
"Now, every year, new students are assigned another student that will act as a training partner, as superheroes often have to work together for a common goal."
"The list of your assigned partner is on the back wall," said Dashi. "Have at it."
There was a flurry of movement as people hurried to the back wall to find their partners immediately. The next few minutes were filled with introductions and even more conversation. Ryan, however, didn't move from his spot in the corner until the list was completely abandoned.
"'Robin Lo,'" he read aloud.
Dashi laughed from behind him. "Man, you are so in for it!"
"Why? Who is she?"
"Oh you have got to be kidding me!"
"Be nice," said Dashi.
Ryan ignored him and began to stare down his partner. Now that she was out of the wall, he was able to get a good look at her. She was a very short Asian girl, probably Japanese. Her once black hair had been sheared off and strategically streaked with purple, styled a lot like Rihanna's. But what had really sent him over the edge was that she had a great big smile on her face. 'Oh great, a happy person.'
After hearing that she wasn't about to get punished, Robin instantly became her usual cheerful self, and was ready to meet who might be her first friend at this school.
Guan led her back through the elaborate maze that was the school, to one of the other Members, accompanied by a boy probably about her own age.
Her oversensitive ears picked up the words, "Be nice." The boy didn't say anything, but crossed his arms and stared straight at her.
While Guan and the other Member greeted each other and started up a conversation, Robin took this as her chance to smile cheerfully at her partner. He didn't return it. He was a tall boy, much taller than her, skinny, and wearing the same uniform that she was. Her gaze went up to his tanned face, which was set in a permanent scowl. His messy dark brown hair was stirring with a nonexistent breeze almost menacingly.
"Hi! I'm Robin!" she greeted, sticking her hand out. He didn't take it, and she eventually put it down. "So, what's your name?"
It took him a moment to answer, and she began to wonder if he had heard her when he suddenly grumbled, "Ryan."
"That's a nice name," she complimented, but he still didn't answer. "Anyway, where are you from?"
Like before, he didn't answer immediately answer the question, and instead just let the silence go on for a moment before answering. "Orlando, Florida."
"Ooh! I've never been. Is it nice there?"
Pause. "I guess."
"Cool!" She flashed another smile that he didn't return.
They both stood there awkwardly until Dashi decided to break the silence. "Don't worry about him. He'll come around. 'Til then, time for lunch. Need help getting there?"
"No," Ryan snapped, stomping away from them in the direction where he knew to be the cafeteria.
"Well, I guess we'll see you later! Bye!" Robin waved, jogging to catch up to her partner. Though when she did, it was obvious that he still wasn't going to make an effort to start up a conversation. "So, got any family?"
"Dashi, she's driving me crazy! She won't shut up! She keeps asking me all these stupid questions!" Ryan complained. He put on a high-pitched voice, doing a very cruel but accurate impression of Robin. "'Ryan, what do you do for fun? Ryan, what kind of music do you listen to? Ryan, am I annoying? Ryan? Ryan?' You have to help me get rid of her! Get me someone else! Or you know what? I don't need a partner. I can train by myself."
Dashi chuckled. "You know I can't do that. You're supposed to be working on your people skills, something you're gonna need to deal with people later on."
"Then how do I get her to shut up?"
"Try asking her some questions. Who knows? You might actually learn something."
"Like how to smile."
A full day of physical training was followed by a tired gloom as incredibly sore teenagers moaned and groaned while they moved about the cafeteria the next day.
Up until that point, Ryan played with Dashi's idea. Did it get her to stop talking? No, but it did stop all the questions. But was it worth it? Was there even a difference? No. But right before Robin even got a chance to open her mouth, Ryan cut across with a question that even surprised him: "So where are you from?"
"Los Angeles, California," she answered.
"Cool," he said, trying to sound mildly interested.
"Yeah. Have you ever been?"
"Loads of times."
"Yeah. I go for all the shows and stuff that goes on around Hollywood."
"That's a long way for a show. Do you go by car?"
"Wow! You must be really rich!" she joked.
"Yeah, I am."
"Seriously. I practically live in a mansion, and we spend money like there's no tomorrow on really expensive junk that we don't even need. We're all spoiled rotten, at least that's what my sister says."
"You have a sister?"
"And two brothers."
"Cool. Do they all look like you?"
After a moment's hesitation, he pulled out a folded picture from his back pocket and smoothed it out on the table in front of them. "Family portrait," he muttered. "That's Sarah," he said, pointing to a tall, tanned girl with long wavy brown hair that went to her waist. "She's sixteen now. And that's Josh." He pointed to a boy standing behind Sarah because he was much taller than her. In fact, he was the tallest in the picture. "He's seventeen. And that's Tom." He pointed to the smallest figure in the picture. And like his older siblings, he also shared the naturally tanned skin and messy dark brown hair. "He's four. And that's me," he added as an afterthought. And there he was, scowling, arms crossed, glaring at the camera.
He made to put the picture away, but before he could, she pointed to the last two people in the picture. Are these your parents?"
A pause. "Yes."
"Are they nice?" No answer. "Are they?"
"No, now will you just drop it?" he snarled.
"Well, what's wrong with them?"
"Just drop it."
"You know, talking about it-"
"Would you just shut up and leave me alone?"
Robin fell silent and the conversation ended altogether. Days passed by after that, and since then, there had been absolutely no conversation between them. Training and other activities were done in absolute silence. Even small talk was greeted by a dirty glare, so she eventually stopped trying.
"Alright!" Dashi announced. "Moment of truth! Time to see how far you've come along in your training! You and your partner verses another pair! Last ones standing wins!"
"I'll never understand how you two managed to lose so badly!" Dashi exclaimed in surprise.
Robin hung her head shamefully while Ryan just glared at the floor.
"You would think that super strength would've taken care of a shrinking girl easily! Or a kid with lightning powers would be able to electrocute a fish boy! Seriously, what happened?"
"There was no communication, that's what happened," Chase snapped. "Instead of working together to take down an easy enemy, the two of you ended up fighting blindly and that only hurt your team! Now, the two of you better pull your acts together, because I do not accept students into higher level training until they can learn to work together! Do I make myself clear?"
Robin nodded sullenly.
"Crystal, sir," Ryan growled.
"Good." And with that, Chase marched out the door.
"You know he's right," Dashi said reasonably.
"I know," said Robin glumly.
"Whatever," Ryan snapped.
"Seriously, whatever's going on here, you'd better fix it before make-up training exams next week. Fail that, and you get to miss out on the fun stuff."
"Weapons, simulations, real assignments; you know, hero stuff. Now, I think you've gotten enough lectures for one day, so I'll go, and you two can work something out before us Members have to fix it for you. And the last thing any of us wanna do is get mixed up in teen drama."
"Took you long enough, Dashi," one of the younger female Members smirked.
"I was just telling those two to start fixing whatever they got going on between them, Minerva," Dashi snapped playfully, sticking his tongue out at her.
"Do you think that will work?" said Guan.
Dashi shrugged. "Too soon to tell, don't ya think? Only time will tell."
"And that's the very thing that we don't want to waste," Chase snapped. "I propose that we force those two together and give them one chance to redeem themselves."
"Oh come on, Chase! Someone had to lose; they weren't all gonna win first place!"
"No, but being last place when the other team has a very strong disadvantage is unacceptable! Those two need to know exactly what their expectation are and that they need to meet them."
"And how exactly do you plan on doing that? They already spend training and meal times together."
"Oh, I think we can try a little harder than that. All we need is a little imagination."
"There's been a change in plans. The two of you will be relocating to—"
"What happened to fixing it ourselves"
"Mr. Conway, do not interrupt me!" Chase snarled through gritted teeth. Taking a deep breath, he started again. "Tomorrow morning, the two of you will be transported to an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Thailand, where you will study and train even further without distraction."
"Who are we meeting out there?"
"We contacted one of the retired Members who lives in Thailand, and she will be teaching you what you're missing while you're gone along with what you obviously didn't learn the first time."
"Mira is an old friend of mine. Don't worry, she's an excellent teacher," said Dashi.
"Yes, well, she'll give us an honest review of your progress there, and you'll be back in time for make-up training exams next week. Now, I believe that 's all the information." The other Members nodded in agreement. "So I suggest that you both go back to your own rooms. Don't bother packing anything; you'll have everything you need when you get there. Now get to bed, you leave first thing in the morning."
Robin felt like she had barely lain down when she was roughly shaken awake by Minerva.
"Time to go," she said in a hushed whisper. "Get dressed."
Robin was still yawning and stretching when she finally showed up, and Ryan was already losing what little patience he possessed. Honestly, what was taking so long anyway?
He was leaning up against the wall near Dashi, who was standing upright like the other Members, though the illusion of authority was slightly lost on him since he kept losing his stature by slouching and yawning loudly while rubbing the remainder of sleep out of his eyes. Very unprofessional.
As soon as Minerva walked in with Robin following closely behind, Chase clapped his hands to attention, (startling the sleepy Robin and Dashi slightly), and announced that it was time to go.
As soon as they both entered the elevator, an unnatural swooping sensation came over the students. And not the usual kind that comes from the motion of the elevator. No, this feeling left the both of them slightly disoriented for a minute.
"What was that?" Ryan wondered aloud, massaging his now throbbing temples.
"Your brain was being scanned; the computer was making sure that you're not an imposter. It's more thorough than an eye scanner," said Minerva. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it."
"Say hi to Mira for me!" Dashi called after them.
Instead of taking the planes that had first brought them to school, as Ryan suspected they would be taking, they were arranged to take a small jet that would supposedly get them to their destination much faster. Robin almost fainted when she heard that they were flying over water.
"Did I mention that I can't swim either?" she whispered weakly. Ryan rolled his eyes.
"We're almost there!" their pilot announced over the speakers. "Just a few more minutes!"
Ryan opened his eyes for the first time since he started his little doze when they first took off. The jet itself was comfortable enough, he supposed. Smaller than he was generally used to, but it was alright. It didn't look like Robin thought so though. When she first sat down, she buckled on her seatbelt as tight as it would go, and held onto the bottom of her seat and stared straight ahead as if her life depended on it. She hadn't moved a muscle for the entire flight. Whatever.
Ryan took a deep breath and thought about their trip. It didn't sound at all fair that they were the only ones that had to leave. After all, not everyone could win. Then again, as long as he could get away from everyone for a while, it might just be a relaxing trip. He already had excellent control of his powers anyway.
"Seatbelts on, please," the pilot said again. Ryan reached for his seatbelt, and then was thrown back hard enough for stars to appear in front of his eyes. Highly disoriented and desperate to keep from passing out, he was almost vaguely aware of the jet coming into a nosedive. The pilot was yelling something about an attack, but his voice was drowned out by Robin screaming. And then he blacked out.
Ryan didn't remember anything happening after that. But the next thing he knew, he was being unceremoniously dragged out of the water and across what felt like sand. His rescuer finally decided to stop while he was lying on his back on what might have been a small patch of grass if it weren't for the fact that it reeked of seawater.
"Ryan! Ryan!" yelled an incredibly loud and hysterical voice in his ear, while a certain girl with super strength shook him as if trying to decapitate him, his head swinging with the force.
"I'm up! I'm up! Stop it!"
"You're alive!" Robin squealed happily, enveloping him in a rib-cracking hug. "I thought you were dead!"
"Let go before you kill me!" he snapped.
Only slightly hurt, she gave into his wish. "Sorry."
"Robin, we've been walking all day and we still haven't seen anyone! I'm telling you, we're on some other uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere with no way of communicating with anyone! Those idiots left us here!"
"It's not like they meant to. We were under attack. No one was expecting it," said Robin quietly. "I think they'll figure out that we're lost when they contact Mira and find out that we never got there. Then they'll come looking for us."
"Terrific!" Ryan snarled. "So let's just sit here for a week or two and wait for them! Come on, Robin! We'll have a contest. Whoever drops dead last, wins!" And with that, Ryan plopped himself down into the sand, crossed his arms, and glared at the water.
Robin sighed miserably, and then sat down next to him.
Ryan woke up late the next day in the exact same spot that he decided to sit the night before. In all honesty, no, he didn't actually plan on just sitting there until they were rescued, 'cause that would just be stupid. All he really wanted at the time was to give himself a chance to calm down. But like how everyone had caught onto, he didn't calm down very quickly. Even now, after hours of sleep, his anger had only slightly subsided.
Groaning, he pulled himself up into a sitting position only to find himself alone. Strange.
It only took him a few footsteps into the trees before a red, purple, and black blur shot right by him, carrying what looked like armfuls of fully-grown, very large trees pulled up from the roots off into a short distance before coming straight back, empty-handed, only to bring more.
"Hi Ryan!" the blur chirped happily the second time it passed.
"Robin? What are you doing?"
"Well I thought—" she started, passing him with her arms full of trees. "—that if we're—" She passed him in the opposite direction with her hands empty. "—gonna stay here—we might—as well—have a—home base," she finished, shaking dust off of her hands. "Well, what do you think?" she said, motioning up to her creation: a small cabin made entirely of trees that she obviously found all over the island, elevated off of the ground with smooth rocks.
"Yeah, I've always wanted one!"
Though the building structure was incredible, the inside was completely empty of anything. "I was too busy building the whole place, and didn't even think about what to do for the inside. I think we'll be fine though. We can go fishing and look for shells and stuff that we can use."
"What would we use shells for?"
Robin shrugged. "I dunno, but the stranded islanders like to look for them in the movies and stuff."
After a very lousy fishing day and an even lousier meal of badly cooked fish, the two of them made their way back to their shelter with the hopeful and somewhat desperate thought of, "Tomorrow will be better," going through their heads.
It started raining overnight, and it didn't clear up the next morning. The two of them were left inside all day, waiting out the storm that had blown out there in the middle of nowhere.
It was particularly cold in their little cabin during this time, as neither could very well light a fire without the fear of it accidentally burning the place down. Yet all it seemed like there was to do was to either sit or stand in there, attempting to make the time go faster while they waited.
"About your parents—"
"I told you to drop it," he snapped.
Robin was momentarily silenced, but then she stood up and unexpectedly snapped at him, "You know, you're lucky to even have parents! I have to live with my older brother, who's only a couple years out of high school by the way, in a tiny apartment in downtown L.A., having to skip school most of the time, playing shows and just hoping that by some miracle that I can get signed, and never have to worry about the future ever again! And here you are, a spoiled brat who was born with everything and is still not happy! Are you honestly too stupid to realize how lucky you are? 'Cause if you are, let me show you how many people would kill to be in your shoes."
Ryan didn't seem fazed, because truthfully, he wasn't. "Wow, very insightful," he said sarcastically. "It's almost like the Prince and the Pauper, isn't it? Two people from different worlds, each of them thinking that the other's life is better, and the discovering that they were better off where they started. And they all lived happily ever after, the end. Except that this prince knows that the pauper's life isn't any better, and wouldn't trade them. All that the prince wants is for the pauper to stop asking questions about his family."
"The prince was fine with talking about his family. It was his parents that he got all defensive about, though I can't see why; they look like such nice people."
"Well they're not."
"Why? Oh wait, let me guess! It's a self-image thing, isn't it? Yeah, they are all about having a perfect family, and you just don't fit in the picture, right? So they probably did something to hide you. Hired an actor or pretended that you don't exist or something, except that you found out and have been acting like a jerk on purpose ever since," she snapped sarcastically.
"Bingo," he repeated. He looked at her shocked and horrified facial expression. "You know, for someone with hardly any insight to their own life, you hit that one on the nose."
Ryan meant for that to end the conversation, but it didn't. He lied back down on the floor, and then Robin sat down next to him. "I am so, so sorry," she said. "I didn't mean—I didn't think—I'm really sorry."
"Forget it. Self-image is their problem, not mine. And now they don't have to worry about me getting in the way anymore."
"Won't they brag about having a superhero in their family though?"
Ryan snorted. "No, they don't even know. Well, at least my parents don't."
"What do you mean?"
"My brothers can't wait till I come home wearing a cape. Sarah sees this as a better way to save the world than recycling and stuff. My parents have no idea what I'm here for though. They both think that I'm getting fixed, whatever that's supposed to mean."
"Yeah, but hey, you can never expect people in charge to really accept anything."
"That's not true. My brother was excited for me. He's always excited for me."
There was a very long pause before Ryan responded with, "So the pauper does have the better life then."
"When do you think this rain will stop?"
"Soon, hopefully. Man, I'm starving!" Ryan's growling stomach only accented his statement.
Robin laughed. "Me too." She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on something else, anything else. "Hey Ryan?"
"Am I annoying?"
"What gave you that idea?" he snapped playfully.
"I heard you saying that to Dashi," she said simply. "You know, you can always tell me when I'm talking too much."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"You do that," she smirked.
"For being a jerk?"
"That's it? No, 'I deeply apologize for everything I've ever said and done, I don't deserve you and I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me'?"
"Don't push your luck."
"Whatever," she smiled.
"Took you guys long enough!" snapped a very unexpected voice.
"Dashi?" they both cried in alarm. Both of them were on their feet in a second, scanning the room for the Member, but the room was empty except for the two of them.
"I think we're starting to hallucinate," said Robin weakly.
"I guess so," Ryan agreed.
"Well you guessed wrong then," said another voice.
"Where are you? Show yourselves!" Ryan commanded.
"Fine," Guan said calmly.
"Aw! I thought we were going to sic something on them!" Dashi whined. "I planned out a whole fighting scene between them and a bunch of flying monkeys and everything."
"Oh shut up," said Guan.
And right in front of the confused pair, a very pleased-looking Guan and a slightly peeved Dashi materialized in front of them.
"Congratulations, both of you!" said Guan, bowing.
"Yeah, congrats," said Dashi, jerking almost irritably.
"Guan! Dashi! We're so glad that you're here! We were attacked and then we crashed and then we made this house and then it started raining and then we couldn't get out and then—and then—and now you're here!" she said very fast, cheering and embracing the both of the when she was done. "Now let's get outta here! This rain hasn't let up and we haven't eaten all day! Where's the jet?"
"There is no jet," said Dashi.
Ryan and Robin both took on puzzled expressions. "But then—how did—"
Guan held up his hand to silence them. "Please, let me explain. We told you that for failing your first training exam, you would both be tested further to determine your compatibility for future training, and you were, and you passed. You are allowed your sight now."
Dashi and Guan closed their eyes and bowed their heads, each taking on concentrated expressions. As they did that, the world around the two students began to dissolve around them, colors and shapes fading until an entirely different setting came into focus. By the time that the two Members opened their eyes, the two students realized that they were back in the elevator where they had supposedly left, and the slight headaches that they had been carrying around since then had finally disappeared.
Ryan figured it out before Robin did. "We never left. It was all an illusion."
"Bingo," said Dashi.