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Sunderland College [1.1 – A Strange and Sundry Class]

[Author’s note: Sunderland College began as a group story, where I would write prompts for my twelve friends, each of whom controlled one of the twelve protagonists. My friends’ commands would influence the story with each new part that I sent them, and over time, it developed into an incredibly detailed narrative about their school lives and their clashes with evil. I have a great fondness for the characters of Sunderland College, and so I will be starting to post the updates online in order to share it with the public. I might be the writer, but this is their story, and I hope you enjoy the adventures of the Sunderland College students as much as I have.]

 

17th June, 2004

 

Everyone’s sitting comfortably in the hall as they watch the clock tick. It’s almost eleven – almost time for the taster day to begin. The moment the clock strikes eleven, the chatter subsides, flip-phones are hurriedly put on silent, and a man wearing a tuxedo walks onto the stage on the far end of the room. He gives the room a kindly smile.

“It is my greatest pleasure to welcome all of you into Sunderland College today. I am Maxwell Pinnacle, the principal. I am honoured that you have all chosen to visit Sunderland for the taster day, and my staff and I will be working hard to ensure that you experience as much as you can. I sincerely hope that you enjoy it.”

He straightens his bow tie and gestures to a number of adults sat at the side of room – evidently the staff. They don’t look like they’re paying that much attention.

“Now then, why should you choose Sunderland? If you have even a passing interest in Battle Clothing, Sunderland is the place for you. Here, in these halls, you are legally allowed to apply Power, Support or Augment patches to your clothing and transform it into superpowered clothes born for combat.”

To illustrate this point, Pinnacle holds up a patch that is pulsing with a strange power. It’s a mysterious, and yet tiny, object; barely bigger than a bottle cap, but the force it exerts on the room is plain to see.

“As most of you will know, we at Sunderland have close ties to the many different jobs you can get with proficiency in Battle Clothing. Perhaps some of you here want to become models, battling other models in fashion shows to show off the strength of your designer’s clothes. Perhaps others want to become Peacekeepers, working with the police to bring down wrongdoers.”

A small smattering of talk ripples through the hall as young people discuss with the others sat near them about what jobs they’re planning on going into in the future. Pinnacle smiles; he likes the excitement in their eyes.

“Others may want to do more dangerous jobs, like being a Bombardier. It is a difficult role to get into, and requires an incredible amount of physical prowess and strength, but… here at Sunderland, you’d be getting the best possible start if you want to choose these careers.

“There’s plenty more I could be talking about, but you young people aren’t here for all the less important information. If you’d like to form three groups, separated there and there…” he continues, dividing the hall neatly into three. “..You can join the form tutors, who will take you to different areas of the college and let you try out some activities.”

The students begin to organise themselves into the groups and make their way out of the hall, but it’s clear that most of the parents are not happy about having to listen to Pinnacle talk about the boring details.

“Don’t worry about your children, they’re in good hands. In fact,” Pinnacle says, as his tuxedo transforms into a suit of metal, complete with huge metal wings that unfurl across the entire length of the stage. “It should help your children, ho ho, spread their wings a bit.”

 

*

 

Simon Rutledge, long-suffering tutor at Sunderland College, has been given the first group. As they chatter excitedly, he leads them down several corridors, allowing them to see a little more of the college. It’s quite breathtaking – most of the walls are comprised of huge glass windows, flooding the area with natural light. Outside, a training area can be seen, where two students are currently fighting. There are many training areas like it around the college.

“Quieten down.” he mutters, herding them all into a well-lit and spacious classroom. The students begin cluster around the middle whilst Simon logs himself on at the computer in the corner of the room.

Two girls are chatting near the windows.

“God, I’d fuck ‘im.” one of them says. Boo looks up in shock, wondering who would so brazenly announce such a thing.

“Who, Pinnacle?” the friend replies.

“Yeah!” the girl says. “You never know, could help me become a Bombardier and all. I hear Bombardier exams are really tough, so an easy way to get past them isn’t a bad idea.”

Boo tries to block the conversation out, and goes back to her phone.

“Everyone shush.” Simon says. He walks up to the students, who slowly cease their conversations and look at him. “Right, we’re not staying here long, we’ll just be doing some icebreakers; after that, we’ll go outside and try some combat training.”

The students nod and form a vague circle. Simon sighs.

“Stop messing around. Take the desks and move them to the sides of the classroom, make a proper circle in the middle.”

It doesn’t take long to do so, and once it’s done, Simon takes his place at the top end of the circle. He’s a tall man with long black hair and bags under his eyes. He wears sneakers, jeans and a long coat, though he only has one arm in the coat. He glances around at his students, and he doesn’t look particularly impressed.

“Right then. We’ll start by giving our names and one interesting fact about yourself. Let’s start with you.”

“Right!” the girl on Simon’s immediate left says. She nods to the rest of the group. She is brunette and pretty, and has a strong northern accent. Her smile is wide and genuine, though she’s one of the shortest in the group.

“I’m Cassandra Giles, and I got all As in my GCSEs by sleeping with my teachers.”

The group burst into laughter, and Cassandra smirks.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” Simon replies, massaging his temple. “Next, please…”

The next girl is Cassandra’s friend, who is taller and blonder. She eyes the group with much less interest, and shrugs.

“I don’t really like my name, so just call me Ten. And my fun fact is that Ten is short for Ten-Outta-Ten Boobs.”

Another laugh.

“For god’s sake.” Simon groans, staring at the floor; he mutters to himself. “Why do I always get the immature ones? Moving swiftly on…”

“Um…” the next girl starts nervously. “I’m Boo.”

She speaks with a Texan drawl, and it’s clear she’s an exchange student. She’s also quite short, barely above five feet, and mixed race. Her hair is curly and red. Nervously, she stares at the ceiling and desperately tries to think of something interesting to say.

“I, uh… um, I want to become a Peacekeeper.”

“Very good.” Simon says, nodding. “Next?”

“I’m Aubree!” the next girl says. She has long hair, down to her waist, and it’s a dark midnight blue colour. It’s messily-cut. Her skin is tanned, dotted with moles and freckles, and her skin is marked in various places by odd little tattoos; most have little meaning. “My thing is that I like to design clothes. I, uh, have a wild and varied selection, but I like to make stuff with personality!”

It’s clear to see that she’s passionate. She has garish, excitable garb on – a mix of bright colours, sharp patterns and contrasting styles. Though as short as Cassandra and Boo, her platform shoes lift her a little higher than them. Her harshly-coloured makeup makes her seem older, somehow.

A young man steps forward next. He has the look of someone old beyond their years, with pale, smooth skin. He has bright green eyes that you can only look at for an instant, because looking into them feels like hearing the silent scream of a thousand unspoken thoughts. Short, silvery, spiky hair tops off the strange look.

He nods. “I’m Xilog, with a P. You can call me P. My interesting fact is that somewhere, a group of people just like us are probably living their own lives in a world similar, and yet unlike our own. Will they make the choices we make, or will they spiral off in fractal patterns, each choice creating more timelines than the last?”

Simon glances around at everyone else; nobody’s sure what to say or do. Xilog stares.

The next person steps forward. It is only at this moment, when everyone turns to him, that they realise he is stark naked. He’s well-built, and incredibly buff, however. His hair is short and straight, and a rich black colour. His eyes are piercing. When one glances down, they cannot help but notice that he is immensely hung, to the point of having a third leg. Somehow, nobody can bring themselves to laugh, and instead, they wait for him to speak.

“I’m Phillis Singen-Stevens. My fun fact is that I’m a nudist, because I believe we shouldn’t shackle ourselves to clothes for power. My nickname is ‘the tripod’, for obvious reasons.”

“…Right. Hadn’t even noticed. This is going to get me on a watch list…” Simon replies, half to Phillis, and half to himself, trying to avert his eyes. “Well, uh, nice to meet you, Phillis.”

The next person nods. He’s a serious-looking guy with a disinterested, almost bored look on his face. He eyes up the room weirdly, as if unused to seeing so many people in the same room as him. With a shrug, he begins to mutter in a quiet, low voice, but it’s clear he’s trying to be confident and overpowering.

“You think you can introduce yourselves as if you are my equals? I am the great Donovan Bullard – when fate calls, I shall answer!” he says. “The blood of the ancient gods runs in my veins – that is my interesting fact.”

“I suppose that counts as an interesting thing…” Simon sighs. “Next.”

A young man waves to the rest of the group. He’s strange – he wears a mask covering his nose and mouth, and his voice comes through a modulator. The mask has etchings and small symbols painted on it. He wears black knee-high boots with ripped black jeans, and a top to match. He has a leather jacket and fingerless gloves, and he seems to be channelling his inner cyberpunk. His hair is dark blue.

“Hey, my name is Eiden. I, uh, I like textiles and art. That’s why I’m interested in Battle Clothing.”

“I see.” Simon replies. “Nice to meet you, Eiden.”

The next person to go is a young man, who gives a friendly grin. He’s dressed like the most stereotypical hipster, but seems more than happy to introduce himself.

“Hey, my name is Jackson. I like art and stuff, and I design clothes too.”

Eiden eyes the guy with interest, having found someone who shares his love of art. Jackson, however, only has eyes for the impressive physical specimen that is Phillis.

A quiet girl steps forward. She’s brunette and quite smiley, but she also seems to be shaking a little, evidently more than a little shy.

“Uh, hi. I’m Anastasia. My interesting fact is, um, my parents are antipatchers.”

This causes quite a stir around the group.

“No way?” Ten exclaims. “Who the hell can be an antipatcher in today’s day and age? We need Battle Clothing. Sheesh.”

“That is weird.” Aubree replies. “So, are your parents cool with you going to Sunderland?”

Anastasia stares determinedly at the rest of the group. “They’re not happy about it, but they can’t stop me. I know what I want.”

“Good to hear! You go, girl!” announces Cassandra.

“Yes, very good, Anastasia. Right, that’s everyone. We’re going to head outside now and try some combat training.” Simon explains. “You’ll all get to test out some different kinds of Battle Clothing. Decide what kind of clothing you’d like to try out – we have duffel coats, t-shirts, dresses, shorts, skirts and boots.”

“Can we wear multiple things?” asks Cassandra hopefully.

“No.” Simon says, gesturing with his left hand, the one in the coat. “That’s not college policy or anything, but you’re all young, and your body won’t be able to handle the power of wearing more than one piece of Battle Clothing. Most adults can wear two, but you guys won’t be able to manage that until second year at the earliest.”

Donovan grunts in irritation.

Phillis sighs. “Ah well.”

“Once you’ve chosen which Battle Clothing you want to practice with today, we’ll do some mock sparring matches; you’ll get the chance to let go a bit. Within reason.” Simon replies. “Now then, here’s the changing rooms. Choose what you want to wear, and meet me in the field outside in five minutes.”

The students file into the changing rooms, lost in thought as they pick out their cubicles; wondering which clothing they’d like to try fighting with. What powers would they gain?

Sunderland College [1.2 - First Taste of Battle Clothing]

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