Chapter one: "Gifted"
A young girl stood with a tall boy, they looked like the same age, around 16 years old in easy-fit clothes that allowed for movement, the girl in a skirt that showed off her small but powerful legs. They held themselves with an aura of irrational confidence, considering the situation they so recently found themselves in. They were brave, looking at the agents surrounding them with slight curiosity. They boy was the first to move, he took three quick steps away from the girl, as though he knew what was to happen next. The girl had dark brown hair almost black in appearance, hanging in loose curls down to her waist when the boy was near her. The moment the boy moved away, her hair started to lighten to a bright white, morphing before eventually setting upon a colour of the lightest pink. During the strange colour transformation the girl's chocolate brown eyes had slid shut, the process completed, she opened them slowly, an invisible force pushed away the agents surrounding them. The boy, who had ducked as the girl's eyes began to open, stood and smiled at the girl. The young girl smirked back, obviously proud of her actions. Looking around the boy ruffled his tangled ivory hair.
"Would you stop that Alex?!" The young girl's melodic voice was sharp however betrayed by the amused look painted across her face.
"Sorry, I had better get going, it's nearly 7 and mum will kill me if I'm not in time for Steph's dinner. See ya." The boy named Alex replied.
"Yeah, see you tomorrow. Bright and early or Tanner will kill us both. Wish Steph luck from me." And with a nod Alex left the training compound and presumably headed home.
The young girl pulled on a piece of her strangely light pink hair, a bored expression solid against her face. One of the agents she had previously thrown off his feet walked towards her, a friendly smile upon his face.
"Good job Erika!" He patted her shoulder. The agent was slightly taller than the young girl known as Erika. She looked up to his worn face and smiled slightly.
"Yes, yes, she is amazing. Keep moving Browning." A gruff voice called to the agent. Erika turned to the owner of the voice, masking her pleased smile to convey a look of seriousness. The man before her was tall, broad shoulders and a serious expression permanently spread across his face. He wore a heavy overcoat like a cloak of darkness, his piercing green eyes softened slightly towards Erika, causing her façade of seriousness to slip and a proud smirk to replace it.
"Well?" The man's gruff voice demanded of her.
"Well what? I think I did rather well. Not a single agent left standing. Would have been the perfect escape for Alex and I" Erika replied, the proud smirk becoming larger. The agent named Browning stepped forward.
"C'mon Tanner, sir, she did great that time!"
Tanner growled, "What is this business with changing your hair? Keep that fiery temper of yours under control, Morph. Anyone who has met you knows that the moment your hair changes you are about to use your psych. All they need is a second and you are down!" Erika's head dropped, looking away from Tanner and Browning.
"I'm working on it." Tanner's hard gaze softened.
"Alright, Trainings over for now, you and Calister will start again tomorrow morning for another four hours of this practise and his. For now go to dinner." Erika turned to follow Alex's path out.
"Oh and Morph!" Erika turned at the sound of her nickname, "You did well today, just watch your temper!"
Erika nodded and shot a smile at Browning, walking out of the training compound. Shaking her hair out behind her, Erika relaxed from her tensed state, loosening her muscles and sighing softly. Erika's hair gradually changed to a peaceful, dreamy blue of a summer's sky. Slowly she glided down the halls of St Damiens, the semi-boarding school for the "gifted". That's right. "Gifted", but maybe you already guessed that. 4 years. That's how long ago Erika's hair started changing colour, how long ago her life had turned upside down and how long her parents had been dead.
Standing next to the newly covered grave, Erika stared at the slab of stone with her parent's names carved into it. Nearly everyone else had gone to her brother, Ted's, bakery two blocks down on Greensview Avenue. Only three people remained next to her, an older gruff looking man, a girl in her mid-twenties and a tall boy with tousled ivory hair. The boy's eyes burned into her, their sea-blue depths echoing deep sorrow. How did these people know her parents? The question echoed around her head. Erika didn't talk, the three strangers didn't either, sensing she either wouldn't or couldn't reply. They stood there until the sun fell behind the horizon and Erika could no longer see the harsh lines of her parent's gravestones or the soft purple carnations, her mother's favourite flower. Finally Erika turned to the three people who had kept her company during her vigil.
"So?" Erika always had been rather upfront.
"I'm so very s-" The boy started to say before Erika cut him off harshly.
"Stop. I'm so very sick of hearing how sorry people are."
"Good. My name is Tanner, Erika, this is Alex Calister and Judy Hardlowe. I have something very important to tell you." The gruff man had a serious tone that immediately spelt out trouble if you weren't paying attention, that voice made Erika, for the first time in a very long time, stop thinking about herself and listen. Tanner explained that she was "gifted", explained how all of a sudden Erika, who had previously been perfectly normal, now had weird dark blue hair and that she was not alone. Not anymore.
3 days later Tanner was one of her closest and trusted friends. Within 4 weeks Erika had a place at St Damiens, a school for others with these "gifts" like her, the place where Tanner taught. After 5 months Erika was the top student of her year.
Erika came to a stop at the door which had been her home for so long now. She ran her fingers over the golden plate on the door, after 4 years, she really should get her name engraved on the door to her dorm room, like everyone else, but she just couldn't bring herself to do it. It felt final as if she was saying that she belonged here at St Damiens. Almost as if she was walking away from Ted and from her parents. She couldn't do that, instead she kept the small golden plate with "216" engraved upon it. Alex hadn't understood, last time her saw it there, but Tanner had. Tanner had a strange way of always being able to understand her. Even the weird parts. That day, when they met all those years ago now, Erika hadn't understood how he had found her. She had asked Alex about it, wondering what it was like for Tanner to come to him, telling him he was "gifted". Alex had been confused, he had told her that Tanner hadn't come to him, he had found St Damiens when he hacked their computers and read about the school from their own mainframe. Erika had nearly asked Tanner a dozen times how he had found her, how he knew about her "gifts" but every time she backed out. Every time she decided that it was not the time, as much as she wanted to know, part of her didn't want to hear it. Entering her code into the keypad placed where you expect the doorknob to be, Erika opened the door and entered her dorm. When Erika had first walked in the room had a small, single bed against the wall, a dingy desk on the other side of the room and a dresser. After a couple of side jobs with Alex, doing anything from hacking the CIA to a bounty hunter course, Erika had enough money to change up her dorm, it now had a double bed with blood red sheets, A new desk with a brand-new laptop sitting upon it and an untraceable iPhone. Technically the phone and laptop hadn't cost anything, they were proto-types from the Tech lab, extra-credit assignments Alex had made for her. Scanning the room was a habit Erika had picked up, you never know who is after you so you need to watch your back, always. St Damiens is a safe haven for many different types of people, to the outside world it appears as an obscure state school, run by hippies and the curriculum was for kids with "special needs". But that didn't mean that everyone was trustworthy. Erika closed the door behind her, satisfied that nothing had changed in the room since she left it that morning to go to breakfast and classes that morning. Absently pulling the small knife that had rested in a hidden compartment of her skirt out and placing it upon the dresser, with other small weapons. Tired and sweaty Erika decided to have a shower before dinner, grabbed some more comfortable clothes and headed to the shower block. Solely focused on trying to change her hair colour slowly maintaining each colour, Erika pulled through her emotions trying to control herself. It was a hard activity that demanded massive concentration. Her hair had just hit a dark purple of confusion when a wall of muscle bumped into her.
"Watch it! Look where you are going, stupid!" The wall of muscle complained, rubbing his shoulder where my head had hit. Finally looking up at him, the wall of muscle noticed to whom he was speaking, "Oh Erika, it's you!" A wide smirk settled across Baxter's idiotic features, "You, darlin', can bump into me anytime."
As quickly as the smirk had grown on Baxter's face, a look of dismay crossed Erika's. The insufferable prat was a year older than Erika and built like a tank. Nothing annoyed Erika more than the way he strutted round St Damiens as if he owned the place and everyone in it, probably because his father did own St Damiens, as much as a principal does own a semi-boarding school.
"Urgh, Baxter, can you move! You are in my way and I need to have a shower before dinner." Looking up to people is not something Erika enjoyed doing. Not at all. However around the guys at St Damiens, Erika found herself having to look up at them more and more.
"Oooooh! A shower! Lovely! Now I can just imagine you naked….!" Baxter's British accent was strong and thick, Erika could not for the life of her understand how so many girls liked it! Erika rolled her eyes.
"No, you can not nor will you ever be allowed to imagine me naked, now let me pass." Erika closed her eyes and lightly pushed Baxter's shoulder with her psych, it was a strange feeling, Erika's psych was like an invisible part of her, it had developed 3 years ago now and was still very hard to channel and control. However it was strong, so when Erika opened her eyes and Baxter hadn't moved at all or been touched by her psych, it was brand new territory for her. Baxter grinned like a mad-man, holding in laughter at Erika's shocked expression.
"Darlin' you know fighting or using our "gifts" against each other isn't allowed! But don't worry, I will let it slip this time." Frustration grew in Erika's eyes, but she tried very hard to control it. Baxter reached out his massive hand as though to stroke Erika's cheek but at the last second thought better of it and lifted up a lock of Erika's hair instead. The colour danced in the light, a flaming orange. Baxter starred transfixed before suddenly letting go allowing it to fall gracefully back down. Baxter's own hair was a beach blonde that he had allowed to grow long enough to fall in front of his grey eyes that whispered of rain clouds and lightening. "Anyway lucky you bumped into me, I was just looking for you. Here." Baxter handed over a small envelope with "Erika Revenns" scripted in dark ink across the front.
Erika looked up at Baxter, "Can I go now?"
"Sure can doll face! Don't miss me too much!" Baxter winked at Erika before turning around and walking away to talk to some girls giggling down the corridor who obviously were gossiping about how hot they thought Baxter was. Great, more boasts for his ego, Erika thought sarcastically.
Baxter didn't really love Erika, they both knew that, he just loved to stir the feisty little girl up, by doing things like calling her little or innuendos that he knew would end up with Alex and him getting in a fight, if Alex ever heard him. It was a very lucky thing for Baxter, Erika thought, that Alex didn't hear most of his comments. Actually it was probably lucky for both of them… Alex was a terrible fighter, he was around as tall as Baxter but nowhere near as muscled as he was. Alex was a natural genius, exceptionally good at tech stuff. Baxter was all brawn and no brains. Erika shrugged off the thought of the two fighting and tried to continue on with her exercise of controlling herself, heading once again to the shower block but her mind kept coming back to the small white envelope burning in her hands. Opening the door to the shower block, Erika slipped inside and found an open stall. The room was as usual for a Friday night before dinner, full of steam and girlish chatter.
"Annie, hurry up, I'm starved!" One girl called to another.
"Shut it Elizabeth or I will only take longer, dinner doesn't start for another hour anyway, what's your problem?"
"Leave her alone Annie, Liza just wants to go find Joshie."
"Has anyone seen my other sock?"
"Oh no! Not again! My shirt fell in the water!" The distressed call from Melody, a girl a year younger than Erika brought laughter from her teasing friends.
"Ha! You should join a wet T-shirt contest!"
"Mark would love that!" That one was worrying. The only Mark in St Damiens was 3 years older than these girls. Never the less the girls giggled away at their friends remark. Amazing the amount of noise 6 girls could make in such a small space. Erika ignored it all. Focusing on the small envelope in front of her, Erika pulled out the carefully written letter.
Dear Miss Revenns,
I request that you and Mr. Calister come to my office at 10 o'clock tonight. Your curfew will be excused until the meeting is over. Please be appropriately dressed.
Have a splendid dinner,
Erika sighed. The girls had stopped giggling and their chatting followed them out of the shower block, Erika had half an hour before dinner and now she had to tell Alex he was needed back here. She had a quick shower, cold as the girls had used all the hot water, not that Erika minded, the cold hit her warm, sweaty skin cooling her body down nicely. Dressing in light pants, T-shirt and jacket Erika headed back to her room, stopping quickly to dump her clothes and grab her phone and the pocket knife, calling Alex on her way to dinner, leaving a voice mail explaining why he had to be back and an apology for his mother. What on Earth could Loughston want from her and Alex? Maybe he found out about Erika's visits to the garden after curfew. But that had nothing to do with Alex. Maybe they weren't going to be partners anymore. Erika was sure, if she got Tanner to agree, that she could stop that. Alex and her were an amazing team, with her morph abilities and his technology genius. A perfect match when first put together and even better when they developed secondary "gifts", her psych to his mind-reading. Rushing to dinner now with 10 minutes to get to the mess hall through the rain, Erika once again cursed her bad luck when a voice made her turn around quickly and slip on the grassy tiles that paved a way to the mess hall without trenching through mud.
"You look as though you could use an umbrella." The mystery voice said in a deep, sexy voice dripping with arrogance. A warm hand pulled her up, another grabbed her waist to steady her, not that Erika noticed. Dirty blonde hair, beautiful hazel eyes, tanned and muscled. This mysterious stranger smirked and her heart thumped. Ridiculous, Erika thought to herself, completely irrational. Then Erika noticed she was no longer getting wet, the guy held an umbrella over her head, stepping closer to him, Erika was completely shielded from the rain. His warm hand still held her waist; his eyes gazed down at the small gash Erika had earned in slipping on the stone tile, just above her pants, on her hip. Erika felt for the pain and found another on her knee and wrist. It wasn't something that bothered her. She had been through a whole lot worse. But the boy's eyes showed slight concern over the blood slowly oozing to the surface of her skin. Erika found her voice.
"Thanks." He nodded to her but didn't meet her eyes staring at the gash on her hip. "It's just blood, don't worry about it." She shrugged at the guy.
"Wait. Don't move." His hand warm against her waist slid down to gently rest over the gash, causing Erika to gasp slightly and pull away. "I said don't move princess, I'm trying to help you." The guy smirked at her annoyed expression. He could tell this chick hated being told what to do. But out of curiosity of how he was going to "help" her, she stayed put. "This may hurt, sorry. Just think about how sexy I am and you will be fine." Erika was beginning to like this stranger less and less. Sexy… yeah right. Wait, did he say hurt? And then the guy's hand grasped her hip and held causing a burning sensation through Erika and she swore in French at the idiot out to get her. He only smirked even more and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Remember, sexy thoughts princess." How dare he?! Then he let go of Erika's hip and examined it again.
"What the hell? What is your problem? Do you have issues or something? Why would you do that to someone, you creep!" Erika angrily talked to him, trying to keep her temper under control and not to use her psych, taking a backwards step away from him, not caring if that meant she was getting soaked in the rain.
"Whoa, princess. Relax. Look." The guy took another step towards her pointing towards her hip where a second ago, blood had been pooling. Now there was normal, smooth skin. Oh. Whoops. Erika thought to herself. He is a healer then, that meant he was either at the school as a teacher or a would-be agent. Students are accepted to St Damiens from the age of 9 when most kids get their powers, all students above 17 are given the title "agents", meaning they could coach other students and participate in physical exams when required.
"Sorry, I didn't understand. You could have warned me." Mr Mysterious only smirked even more.
"And miss princess swearing in French! Where is the fun in that?" Erika huffed and was about to retort when he phone buzzed in her pocket. Alex was calling her back. Erika sighed looked at the guy smirking proudly in front of her and stared into his eyes as she answered the phone.
"Yeah Alex, it's me." Mr Mysterious looked at Erika curiously at the sound of Alex's name.
"Erika, what time do I have to be back? Steph's dinner finishes in half an hour. What's the meeting for again?"
"The meeting is at 10 and we have no curfew for the night, Loughston got us excused. Maybe come back once dinner finishes here. I have no idea what it is about but he wanted us both." Mr Mysterious's sexy smirk grew again, different this time. It was an I-know-something-you-don't-know smirk.
"Cool. Bye." Alex hung up and Erika looked up at Mr Mysterious before sighing again, he obvious liked knowing something she didn't and wasn't going to tell her, so Erika didn't bother asking. Instead Erika turned away from the sexy stranger and headed for the mess hall. He followed behind her, grabbing her hand and spinning her back around.
"Wait, your hands still injured princess. Let me help."
Nodding Erika held her hand out and this time instead of grabbing her hand her simply pulled her palm up to his lips and kissed the long scratch. The burn this time was a gentle one and Erika swore in French for an entirely different reason.
"Why didn't you just do that to my hip?!" Erika exclaimed as she pulled her hand back and traced the soft skin that only seconds earlier been torn and damaged. Mr Mysterious smirked again. That was getting on Erika's nerves.
"I thought, seeing you had never met me before, you would be opposed to me kissing you there, a hand is slightly more acceptable, but if you want me that badly…" Damn. Erika thought, he was right and she blushed red at the thought.
"Whoa!" Mr Mysterious was staring at Erika's hair. For some reason, she got that a lot, "Don't freak out princess, but your hair is now bright pink!" Erika laughed and turned back to the mess hall walking the few metres before entering the shelter of the mess hall.
"I know, it does that occasionally." Mr Mysterious relaxed a little bit but only a little.
"See you round princess, I've got places to be." And with a wink in her direction and a sexy smirk that Baxter had never been able to master, he walked away as though nothing happened. As he disappeared from her view, Erika realised she didn't even catch his name. Erika shook her head clear and went to dinner.