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Sunderland College [1.3 – After the Brawl]

12th May, 1992

 

The little girl wakes up to a blast from the other side of the house – seems to have come from the front door downstairs. Her mother comes rushing into the room.

“Don’t ask any questions, my dear, but you have to hide under this bed. Promise me you won’t come out or make a peep, OK? This is really important.”

“O-OK…” the girl replies. She crawls under her bed and watches in fear as her mother exits the room, her blazer transforming into a dragonskin suit complete with wings and a large tail. There’s noises of fighting.

The girl cannot understand what is happening. She hears a scream – it’s her mother, in pain. Her father is still fighting. She can see nothing, even with her door open a little. Her father yells in anguish, and things fall silent outside. Creeping out from under the bed, the girl makes her way to the door and peers out cautiously, the terror gripping her heart as she views the scene outside.

A butler and a maid are stood in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, their feet pressing down on the backs of her parents, who have been soundly defeated. They struggle, but it is in vain.

An unseen figure, standing on the other end of the hall where the girl cannot see, gives a frightening, terrifying laugh. “Ahahah! So you are the famous Fire and Ice? I’ve heard of you. How could I not have? After all, you became the Top Bombardiers jointly several years ago.” the voice says. It’s male, and deep, but the girl does not recognise it.

“Ngh! What do you want with us?” asks her father.

“Hah. That’s a funny question to ask me. You see, I want nothing with you personally.” the mysterious man replies. “My only qualm with you is that you are Bombardiers. And I have been taking great pains recently to exterminate Bombardiers.”

“You…” her mother whispers. “You’re the Bombardier killer. Aren’t you?”

“Hahah!” gloats the voice. “Glad to see I’ve made a name for myself. Yes, for the last few minutes of your life, you may refer to me as ‘Dues’. Because it’s my dues that I’ve come here to collect.”

“Why are you targeting us?” asks her father. The girl watches the faces of her parents, but the words go over her head. She doesn’t understand what is happening, and her head is reeling.

“Well, my job is to slowly eliminate all of the Bombardiers.” Dues replies. “I don’t think I’ll necessarily be victorious. But after… past transgressions on the part of the Bombardiers, this is just a nice way for me to let off steam every couple of years. Kill you, really take the time to savour it… then lie low for a year or two, and the whole process can begin again.”

“This is madness…” her mother says. “You won’t get away with this!”

“I hold political sway like you wouldn’t believe, woman.” Dues smirks. “I already have got away with this. You two… I’m feeling terribly bored. End it now, and let’s go home.”

The girl watches as the maid leans down and slits her mother’s throat. Casually, as if she’s used to it. The butler does the same to her father. His face remains impassive as he performs the dreadful act. The blood begins to pool on the floor as the Bombardiers choke on their own gashed necks.

“Scan around for any witnesses, then we go. Be in the car in one minute.” Dues says. Footsteps are heard, and the front door of the house opens and closes with a heavy slam. The butler scans around the ground floor, whilst the maid begins to ascend the stairs towards the girl’s room. As she reaches the girl’s eye level, they lock eyes. The maid’s eyes are grey and soulless, like staring into a swirling mass of paint.

In blind terror, the girl can do nothing, and remains motionless, staring at the maid. For a moment, the maid lifts her knife, still dripping with the mother’s blood, but she stops. She smiles for a moment, and her eyes become blue and shine with joy. She shakes as if in physical pain, then lowers the knife and begins to walk down the stairs again.

The butler nods at her, and she nods back. In silence, they exit the house.

The minute they are gone, the girl dashes downstairs. “Mama! Papa! Wh-”

Her father remains motionless. She tries not to stand in the pooling blood and instead shakes him, but no matter how she cries, he does not move. She moves over to her mother, but her mother does not reply.

“Mama…” the girl sobs. “I didn’t stay under my bed. Is that why… is that why you won’t move?”

She takes her mother’s hand and continues to cry, feeling like a darkness has seeped into her world, draining away all colours save that of sombre grey and blood red.

“Mama… papa… I’ll be a good girl… just please wake up!”

 

*

 

Phillis is the first to get lunch, and he gets himself a huge meal. He eats quietly, seating himself on a far table by the huge windows in the lunch hall. The sunlight shines through, framing his imposing silhouette.

Cassandra and Ten walk past him, but Cassandra stops.

“Hey.” she says. Phillis gives her a cursory glance as he continues eating.

“Mm?”

“You’re rude.” Cassandra replies. “Just because you’re naked and egocentric, doesn’t mean I wanna shag you, so don’t make assumptions about somebody you don’t know.”

They walk away before Phillis can respond, and begin to help themselves to food.

Donovan, Xilog and Aubree are next into the lunchroom. Xilog makes his way to the serving area, but Donovan and Aubree hang back, continuing to chat about this and that.

Eiden arrives shortly afterwards, eats a brief lunch, then leaves. He seems to be lost in thought, staring at his new boots. Jackson bumps into him at the doorway.

“Hey!” he says. “I didn’t get to say it before, but I think your outfit is really cool. Eiden, isn’t it?”

Eiden nods. “Yeah. Nice to meet you properly. You’re interested in my clothes?”

“Yeah, of course I am.” Jackson replies. “My mother’s a fashion designer, so I’m trying to follow in her footsteps. I’m always looking for new inspiration!”

“That’s cool.” Eiden replies. “I have… similar interests. I don’t really design clothes, but I like to do art in my spare time, and I usually work with textiles.”

“Awesome!” says Jackson, hopping with excitement. “So, are you here to become a model? I want to design clothes and then show them off on the field of battle!”

Eiden shrugs. “Not really. I’d love to be an artist, but I figured that being a Peacekeeper would be pretty interesting. Being an artist isn’t exactly the most… consistent of work.”

“I know exactly what you mean.” Jackson grins. “Anyway, sorry for bothering you – I gotta get some lunch. See you later!”

“Later.” Eiden replies. He walks out, and Jackson makes his way to the serving counter.

The sounds of bragging come from the entrance to the lunchroom as three more people walk in.

“Oh man! Can’t believe I managed to beat you so easily! I was just super strong, like wa-pow!”

“Yeah, you got me.” mutters Clocksworth to a bragging Zaphod. Anastasia, walking with them, tilts her head in bemusement at Zaphod’s blustery tone.

“I didn’t just get you, man, I completely eliminated you! Hell, I could pass this course easily if I keep fighting like that!”

“Yup.” sighs Clocksworth, making a mental note to punch Zaphod’s moustache off at some point in the future. They make their way to the front of the lunchroom and get some food, then go to sit down near to the other members of the class. Anastasia, spotting Aubree and Donovan engaging in conversation, sidles over to join them.

“Uh, hi.” she says. They turn to her.

“Ah, the enchanting girl who fought the Naked Menace!” Donovan announces. “Truly, you fought hard, but the dark gods gave their favour to the frightful Phillis this time!”

“Yeah, it was unfortunate.” Anastasia replies, smiling. “But I didn’t need to win. I just enjoyed figuring out how my new Battle Clothing worked.”

“Yes, that was definitely the best part of it all!” Aubree says. “It’s just cool to meet people on the battlefield, since the way they fight can be so indicative of who they are as people!”

“Precisely!” Donovan replies. “The language of battle is real, and we’re all learning to speak it! Let it be known that on this unhallowed day, the legend of Donovan Bullard began with a cry of victory!”

“I think there’s lots of things that can define people, though.” murmurs Anastasia, but Donovan has wandered off and is no longer listening, seemingly content to shout blustery and vaguely ominous threats. “What other interests do you have, Aubree?”

“I’m glad you asked!” Aubree replied, ecstatic. She goes to her pockets and pulls out several small objects. When Anastasia looks, she realises that they’re dead bugs. They’ve been preserved in small blocks of glass, which only serves to magnify their corpses, revealing every horrible limb and segment in copious and unnerving detail.

“Oh, wow, that’s… uh. I have to go, I have, ah… I’m allergic to, uh… linoleum tables.” Anastasia mumbles hastily, making her excuses and walking to the other side of the lunchroom, where she decides to sit next to Zaphod.

Aubree stares. “…I just think the patterns are cool. They’re inspiration for my designs and stuff…”

“Clocksworth Clocksworth!” comes a yell, and Clocksworth starts in fright. The assorted students watch in relative silence as Cassandra, followed by Ten, marches across the lunchroom to face Clocksworth. Cassandra’s eyes are blazing with fury.

“Ah, shit.” Clocksworth mutters.

 

*

 

Eiden, standing in the field, begins to experiment with the Steel-Capped Kickers. The propulsion afforded to him by kicking the ground is interesting, so he begins to kick at the ground in different ways, trying to get to grips with how it works. He finds that with a little bit of practise, he can time kicking the ground to perform a series of leaps, making it across the battlefield quickly.

“Not having lunch?” says a voice.

“I ate a little.” Eiden replies, turning to face the source of the voice and coughing a little at the strain of his training. It’s Simon, one arm still in his coat.

“I don’t know if you noticed,” Simon says, walking towards the battlefield. “But the principal also uses the Steel-Capped Kickers.”

“He does?” Eiden asks.

Simon nods. “Yes. He was a competent fighter in his time. Now, you’re moving around far more quickly than you were earlier; time to practise some kicking, I think.”

The arm that is in the coat suddenly transforms, as the coat becomes darker and pulses with a curious energy. The arm lengthens by several metres, widening and stretching out into a gigantic claw of shadowy energy. The hand, pulsing with darkness, is easily the size of Eiden and the arm is many metres long.

“Whoa…” breathes Eiden. Simon smirks.

“This, young Eiden, is the Phantom Overcoat. Now then, I’ll place my fist in the middle of the battlefield, like so…”

He shifts his huge shadowy hand and places it down in the middle of the battlefield, between himself and Eiden.

“Use your propulsion jumps to build up speed, then use the force of your fall as the force behind your kick if you want to get some real power behind it.” Simon explains. Eiden nods, and tries it – with a few kicks, he gets back into the rhythm of leaping around the battlefield. He leaps up, aiming to fall near the shadowy fist, and prepares to kick.

The moment he’s near it, Eiden kicks out with a mighty swing of his leg. It slams solidly into the arm, causing it to jitter and shake, pushing Simon back about half a metre. He nods, but then watches as Eiden hits the ground on his posterior, ungracefully clambering to his feet moments later.

“Mm. That was a powerful kick – a lesser combatant would have been launched like a bullet. You must make sure to stick the landing, though…”

“Yeah, I’ll work on that.” Eiden replies. “Thanks for your help, Simon.”

The shadows dissipate, and the strange coat returns to normal; Simon begins to walk away, staring dead ahead. “It’s my job as a teacher to let you tap into your own power. Keep practising – you’ve got the makings of an excellent Peacekeeper.”

Eiden watches him go, smiling behind his mask. “…Thank you.”

 

*

 

Clocksworth and Cassandra face one another.

“You’re disgusting.” Cassandra begins. “I cannot believe that someone like you believes he… uh, she, uh, they can be accepted into Sunderland College. This isn’t the place for the scum of the earth – and that’s certainly what you are!”

“I…” Clocksworth murmurs. “I, yeah. I guess.”

“You guess?! You should do a lot more than guess! You’re a horrible pervert, and I do not feel comfortable around you at all. Perverts don’t become Bombardiers, they become prison inmates! I want you to leave us all alone, right the hell now!” Cassandra shouts.

“…Yeah.” Clocksworth replies, staring at the ground and scuffing his shoes. “I’ll go.”

With that, he turns around and begins to walk out of the lunchroom.

“They didn’t apologise.” Ten says.

“No, but they left. So that’s partially a success.” Cassandra replies, glaring at the empty entrance to the lunchroom and Clocksworth’s retreating silhouette.

“Well, alright…” Ten murmurs. She shrugs. “Welp. I’m gonna go hit on Lauren before the class starts.”

With that, Ten wanders off, and Cassandra grins.

Xilog walks over to her and nods in her general direction. “Good job speaking up.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Cassandra replies. Xilog nods, feeling a little awkward, and goes to sit down to finish his lunch. Cassandra catches him glancing at her every so often.

Zaphod stares at the girls. “What the hell was that shouting match about?”

“Well,” Anastasia replies. “They did have a point. Clocksworth is quite creepy.”

Zaphod rubs his beard thoughtfully. “Yes, I guess so. Anyway, let’s talk about something else. So, Anastasia, what do you want to be?”

“Oh, um, nothing much.” Anastasia mutters. “My parents are antipatchers, and because of that… I, uh… I spent my childhood sneaking away to watch fashion shows. The fights between the models always seemed so cool. I got to meet the Royal once…”

“Hold on, you got to meet the Royal?” Zaphod exclaims. “I want to be a model, so the Royal is basically my idol! The myth, the legend, the unbeatable and suave Dexter Duvoir.”

“Yeah,” Anastasia smiles. “He was very kind. Because of that, I have a really detailed knowledge of clothes and Battle Clothing and Patches, so I… I want to be a teacher or a historian. Do you think that’s weird?”

“Nah. Just because people here usually try to become models, Peacekeepers or Bombardiers, doesn’t mean you can’t be something else. You go for it!” Zaphod says.

Anastasia nods. “Y… yeah. I can do it. I’m really excited to be able to use Battle Clothing for myself without my parents stopping me.”

“I bet. Are they part of the antipatcher movement, then?” asks Zaphod. Anastasia considers the question for a moment, and shrugs.

“I’m honestly not sure. I… they’re not terrorists, if that’s what you mean. They aren’t associated with Aranea, if that’s what you mean.”

“No, no!” Zaphod exclaims. “I wasn’t inferring that they were part of Aranea, sorry… that came out really wrong.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Anastasia replies. “Say… Aranea’s become a lot more active recently. Apparently they have members across the globe.”

“Yeah, the news is always talking about their protests and terror acts.” Zaphod says.

“Well, uh…” Anastasia says, trying to shift the tone of conversation. “You want to be a model, right? I could tell you about the time I met Dexter Duvoir…”

“Sounds good!” Zaphod exclaims.

On the other side of the lunchroom, Boo looks up in surprise as Donovan wanders over to speak to her.

“Hello!” he announces. “You may speak to me – I am the great and mighty Donovan. I was impressed by your dark power in the fights earlier!”

“Oh, um, hi…” Boo murmurs. She makes some space for Donovan to sit next to her and shrinks in on herself. “Thank you.”

“Good.” Donovan says.

“Yeah.”

A few moments of silence pass. The awkwardness is too much to bear, and so Donovan leaps up. “We shall speak again, once you attain my level of greatness! Goodbye, Boo!”

“Um, goodbye…” Boo says, practically whispering. She finishes eating her lunch in relative silence, trying not to look at the terrifying figure of Phillis eating just a few tables over.

Slowly, as the clock gets closer and closer to the end of the hour, everyone finishes their lunch and begins to head to the exit of the lunchroom, ready for a taster lesson.

 

*

 

“Hey.” Clocksworth drawls as she watches Eiden walk up to the classroom door.

“Oh. You.” Eiden replies. “You’re early too.”

“Yeah, I got tired of people judging my life choices.” Clocksworth says. “Speaking of life choices, babe, I gotta ask… what’s with this mask?”

Eiden tilts his head awkwardly, not sure how to respond.

“Uh, well, I have a form of asthma. Rare strain… I’m practically required to wear this at all times.” he tentatively explains.

“Huh.” Clocksworth replies. “Well, it’s cute. I like it. You got style, Eiden.”

“Um, thank you?”

Clocksworth laughs. “It was a compliment, just take it. Heh. “Just take it” is my nickname under the covers, you know.”

“Oh my god, you ruined it.” sighs Eiden. He silently mutters a prayer as he hears the bell go, and students begin to walk towards the classroom door, including Cassandra, Donovan, Anastasia, Boo, Phillis and Aubree. A teacher begins to usher them inside.

“Alright, class has begun.” the teacher says. He’s a gentle-looking man with a labcoat and some sandals, evidently quite old, but charming in his own way. “My name is Bradley Wallace, and I teach Clothing History at Sunderland.”

He walks over to the computer and turns it on, then faces the class with a smile. “Now, I like to make my lessons a bit of a public forum, so I usually start with a question session where we discuss the topic. For the taster lesson today, we’ll be looking at the history of Bombardiers. Does anybody have any questions to get us started?”

 

*

 

Ten walks to the Social Relations class, and she sees Lauren walking up the corridor ahead of her.

“Hey, thanks for the compliment earlier.” Ten says with a wink. Lauren smirks.

“What happens on the battlefield stays on the battlefield.”

“I’m just saying,” Ten says as Lauren sashays past her. “If you like my arse that much, you’re welcome to give it a test run.”

Lauren laughs as she walks away from Ten. Ten, grinning to herself, turns to head to class.

On the other side of the college, at a classroom marked ‘Social Relations’, Zaphod and Ten find themselves in a relatively sparse class, but some students from the other groups are present. They talk amongst themselves, mostly.

“Alright, everyone, welcome to Social Relations.” says the teacher, walking through the door. She strides to the front of class wearing a mackintosh, jeans and sandals, with sunglasses adorning her blond hair. “My name is Jessica Fir, and I’m an ex-Peacekeeper. As several of you will probably know, you need to pass Social Relations in your first year to do the Peacekeeper course in second year.”

Several members of the class nod, and Jessica smiles.

“Good! Now then, today’s class is going to a primer on crowd control. In order to facilitate this, we have a Peacekeeper in today to do a quick talk and Q and A session. I’d like to introduce you all to the head of the Peacekeeper department across the country – Commissioner Barry Noble!”

A heavyset man, evidently strong and hardy, wearing a jacket and overalls underneath, walks into the classroom. He nods – on his chest, there’s a gold badge signifying him as the Commissioner, as opposed to the usual silver badge for regular Peacekeepers.

“Hello, all. I see plenty of young faces with talent here, and I do hope that several of you choose Sunderland as your college of choice. Now then, does anyone have any questions about being a Peacekeeper or how Peacekeepers operate, before you start your lesson?”

 

New Battle Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 003] Phantom Overcoat

Formation: Trench Coat + Augment Patch

Effect: User’s arms become long-reaching shadow claws

Drawback: User may lose control of self when coat is fully worn

Sunderland College [1.2 - First Taste of Battle Clothing]
Sunderland College [1.4 - A Generation Born]

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