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Sunderland College [1.4 – A Generation Born]

Everyone in the Clothing History class is clamouring for questions. Bradley smiles, and points out students in turn to ask.

“Donovan?”

“Yes!” Donovan announces. “Well, I must ask… are there rogue agents in this world – heroes and villains, that kind of thing? How are the jobs integrated into society, and are there people who use their abilities in an enterprising way?”

“Very good question, even if it’s a little off-topic.” Bradley replies. “Heroes and villains certainly exist. Freelance heroism is a crime here, but as you know, society has dampened patches.”

“Dampened patches?” asks Donovan. The class is similarly confused, and Bradley tilts his head, curious.

“Hm… I suppose they don’t teach that anymore. Well, in normal society, you can’t use Battle Clothing at full power, so the patches have their powers weakened. These are dampened patches. The only people allowed to use full-power patches are Bombardiers, Peacekeepers and models. This prevents villainy from being too common in our society.”

“I see.” Phillis says.

“Peacekeepers and Bombardiers are fully integrated into society; the police only have Dampened Patches, but whenever a situation arises that they cannot handle, they call in the Peacekeepers to quickly and fiercely quell the problem. Bombardiers are experts in dealing with Silhouette monsters, meanwhile.”

“And models?”

“They’re the ones who use their abilities in an enterprising fashion.” replies Bradley. “Does anyone know the ins and outs of modelling?”

“I wanted to know about that!” Jackson says. Bradley nods, but then notes that Aubree has put up her hand in confusion.

“Surely we need to know how clothing is made before that. Um, if you don’t mind…”

“That’s a good question.” Eiden says. “Is there a method other than patches to make Battle Clothing?”

“Alright, I suppose I’ll just start at the beginning.” Bradley explains. “Battle Clothing was originally developed in ancient Egypt. It is said that the gods of Egypt looked upon their people favourably, and they blessed a particular creator, Ubaid, who began to weave intricate and beautiful new kinds of linen. This linen was known as Original Cloth, as it held a very special power: when particular patches were applied to it, the linen would sync itself with its wearer’s wishes and gain incredible powers.

“Using this tool for good, the Egyptians developed Original Cloth over many generations, until they were familiar enough with it to the point that they could use it to make many powerful kinds of clothes, the strongest of which were offered up by Ubaid’s descendants to the gods themselves: Ra’s Toga, Anubis’ Mantle and Osiris’ Tunic.

“The patches themselves developed over time; they were developed into three distinct types: Power, Support and Augment. Power Patches strengthened the physical properties of the clothing, giving the wearer incredible power and combative ability. Support Patches increased the less combative aspects of the clothing, usually granting defensive or manipulative powers designed to confound opponents or avoid combat altogether. Augment Patches evolved the clothing beyond what it could feasibly do, usually granting strange and mysterious new powers that varied based on the clothing they were used on.

“The patches had very intricate shapes. Patchmakers have long since experimented with other variations of Patches, but only Power, Support and Augment Patches can empower clothing and turn it into Battle Clothing.”

The class is listening quietly now, absorbing the information with interest.

“The reason your clothing transforms into Battle Clothing is because there is a small amount of Original Cloth woven into it. Any clothing with Original Cloth in it will transform once a patch is applied. Fearing the problems that would arise from a society of empowered beings, however, Patchmakers eventually developed dampened patches in order to weaken the majority of society. The only ones who could still legally use full-power patches under the rule of the Pharaoh were the Keepers of the Peace – or as you will know them, Peacekeepers.”

“I see…” murmured Cassandra. She was taking copious notes, evidently enjoying the lesson. Clocksworth is similarly interested in all the questions being asked, and tries to write it all down. In the corner of his paper is a drawing of some kind of x-ray goggles with a note beside it – ‘augment patch?’.

“Does the power only depend on the patch, or the type of clothing? If you move a patch to a different type of clothing, does it have the same power?” Aubree asks.

“We don’t fully understand how that works.” Bradley explains. “However, this does link to designers. Clothing designers, as we went into the modern age, became more prominent. They designed different types of clothing, and that began to affect what happened to the patches.

“For example, you might have two subtly different kinds of coat. However, the patch would view them both under the general umbrella of ‘trench coat’ and transform them into the same kind of Battle Clothing. However, if one is viewed as a trench coat and the other as a dressing gown, they would transform into different types of Battle Clothing.

“Designers worked together with models to experiment with new kinds of Battle Clothing. We probably still haven’t discovered them all, and new designers are finding new kinds of Battle Clothing with each year that passes. Models will battle wearing this Battle Clothing in fashion shows, and if they win the tournament, that type of clothing surges in popularity.”

“So what was the initial goal of Battle Clothing?” Jackson asks. “And can you affect the way that the patches change the clothing?”

Xilog observes the classroom quietly, not asking any questions.

“You cannot, I’m afraid. Patchmakers have yet to solve the ancient mysteries of patches… much of the knowledge was in the Library of Alexandria. Since that fateful tragedy, Patchmakers, with historians like myself, are trying to relearn the secrets that patches hold. One day, we may understand them as well as Ubaid and his descendants did.” Bradley says, gesturing and shrugging awkwardly. “As for the initial goal of Battle Clothing, it’s an interesting one… there’s several possibilities. We have scrolls and drawings depicting the gods giving humans the Original Cloth, and one prevailing theory is that the gods granted Original Cloth to humanity to try and ascend them to the same level – the level of godhood.”

“What else goes into the process of making Battle Clothing?” asks Eiden. “You didn’t give us all the details.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know all the details.” Bradley explains. “Patchmaking and designing are very private arts, and there are few who know exactly how it works. I cannot tell you more about how patches are made – all you need to know is that they are applied to clothing, and it grants the clothing power.”

Boo puts up her hand nervously. “So, does the power of the clothing feed into the person or does the clothing’s power get empowered, by uh, the patches or… does the person..?”

She trips up over her words several times and Bradley stares at her, not sure what she intends to say. She falls silent and wishes she could sink into the ground, and Bradley looks towards someone else to ask a question.

“Yo,” Phillis says, his voice booming over everyone else’s. “Can clothing be corrupted? Like… can it be used negatively?”

“Are you asking about Silhouette Patches?” asks Bradley. Phillis grits his teeth as he hears the word, and glances to the ground.

“Uh. Yeah.”

“Yes.” Bradley replies. “So-”

“What exactly does a Bombardier do, then?” Aubree asks, blissfully unaware that Bradley was already answering a question. He nods at her.

“Hold on, Aubree, your question and Phillis’ question cross quite a bit. So, as you may know, a patch is applied to clothing, and it has a specific shape, and only that shape can be used. Hanif was a Patchmaker during the golden age of Battle Clothing, and he believed that other patches may be capable of affecting clothing in new ways. He experimented, but discovered that only the three versions of patches could be applied – the ones we just discussed.

“Deciding to test something mysterious, he reversed one of the patches and put it on backwards, creating what he named the Silhouette Patch. It twisted and contorted the clothes beyond all recognisability, and he ended up being swallowed up by his own coat, never again in control of his own mind.

“Since this incident, great care has been taken to never stray into more experimental patches, and those that fell to Silhouette Patch clothing would be consigned to mental institutions, lest their uncontrollable powers cause rampant destruction.”

“So that’s what a Silhouette monster is…” breathes Phillis. He looks shell shocked, for the first time during the entire day.

“Bombardiers are expert combatants who specialise in Silhouette monsters. Their job is to deal with these powerful users of clothing to safely take them to an institution where they cannot cause harm to their loved ones or innocent people. Silhouette clothing is dangerous.” Bradley explains. He turns to the computer and begins loading a file.

“As it happens, I wanted to show you the details of how a Bombardier might deal with such a situation; this legendary clip is probably one that you’ve seen before. And if you haven’t, well, I hope you enjoy. Here’s a small taste of why Bombardiers are so widely respected throughout the world, and why Silhouette monsters are so, so dangerous.”

The video loads, and the class begin to watch in silence as they hear screaming.

 

*

 

Barry begins taking questions from the student. Zaphod shoots up his hand, bursting with excitement.

“So, what are the details of becoming a model?”

“Uh,” Barry replies, scratching his head. “Sorry, kid, I’m more of a Peacekeeper-oriented guy. I don’t know all that much about modelling, as you can tell by my face, ha ha!”

The class laugh dutifully.

“Do you think being a model is an important job?” Zaphod asks. “Like, compared to being a Peacekeeper or a Bombardier, it seems kinda… self-centred, I guess?”

“Absolutely!” Barry booms. He glances at Jessica, who nods.

“Oh, sure, Peacekeepers and Bombardiers protect the world.” grins Jessica. “Models and designers run it.”

“Designers make the clothes that Peacekeepers and Bombardiers use.” Barry explains. “And if models didn’t win fashion shows wearing it, designers wouldn’t make enough money to fund all the clothing for all the agents across the country!”

Zaphod smiles to himself. “Cool.”

Ten asks no questions, as she can’t really be bothered putting her hand up. The Q + A session passes in relative quickness, and soon Jessica moves on to the actual lesson, studying how a Peacekeeper approaches a panicking crowd and what psychological studies they need in order to safely calm the crowd and get them to safety. It’s interesting to study, and the lesson is quite fun.

It ends too soon, however, and with that, the taster day for Ten and Zaphod is over.

 

*

 

5th June, 1997

 

“It’s a warm day, but trouble has arisen in our fair city.” reports a woman. “A man has reportedly escaped from the Fitzford Penitentiary and Restoration Asylum, wrapped in Silhouette Patch clothing. It seems the clothing in question has turned him into a huge gooey figure that is capable of drowning people in goo.”

There’s a distant explosion, and at the end of the street, in the far distance, the figure in question appears, dripping with slime of darkest black. He’s huge and imposing, and the reporter begins speaking quickly, evidently wanting to finish the report and get away before he gets closer.

“Luckily, thanks to the efforts of our local Peacekeepers, the place has been entirely secured and all innocents removed from the scene. A Bombardier has been dispatched to deal with the figure; reportedly, this figure was known as Ledraun in the asylum. More as the story develops!”

With that, the reporter and her cameraman flee the scene, past the Peacekeeper/police barricade set up at the end of the street. A crowd has gathered, out of a mixture of fear and intrigue, and the Peacekeepers are busy trying to keep everyone back.

“Ah, that’s the Bombardier! She’s relatively new, only twenty-four years of age. Her name is Estelle Weatherby.”

A Bombardier leaps onto the scene, jumping the barricade with ease and facing Ledraun, who is watching, quietly, from the end of the street. She’s wearing a bunny suit and fishnets with some futuristic-looking heels – the Bunny Suit and the Rocket Heels. Her hair is a wild red, and she has matching red lipstick.

Some members of the crowd chuckle at the ridiculous-looking Bombardier. “I’m sorry,” laughs one man. “Did we send for a Bombardier or a prostitute?”

Estelle does not listen to them. Ledraun growls inhumanely, goo dripping everywhere, and charges. The moment he moves, Estelle charges in, landing a solid punch on the monster. However, the creature’s gooey body prevents the punch from doing anything, and her arm starts to be sucked into Ledraun’s body. With a yelp of fear, she pulls her hand to safety, but she cannot move quick enough to avoid Ledraun’s arm swiping into her, knocking her across the street and through a shop window.

“You think you’re a big-shot, huh?” Estelle yells. She leaps through the broken glass window and back into the fray.

At the barricade, the reporter tilts her head and looks sidelong at a Peacekeeper.

“Is she going to win this? Ledraun, before he was put into the asylum, was more powerful than the usual Silhouette Patch monsters. Didn’t it take three Bombardiers to take him down?”

“Yeah.” the Peacekeeper mutters. “And one of those three was the Top Bombardier at the time. She’s not going to do much, but there’s no other Bombardiers here right now – Kristen and Macklemore are on their way, but they’re still ten minutes away from the city centre, according to the Commissioner.”

“Damn.” the reporter says. “So… she’s a distraction?”

“Basically.” the Peacekeeper replies.

Estelle dodges the next swipe of Ledraun’s huge hand and kicks the creature’s arm. It gives a little more, and her eyes widen; Ledraun still has a physical body beneath the goo, she realises.

With this knowledge in hand, Estelle ducks around the next swipe and charges up her Rocket Heels – they blast off with the force of a rocket, launching her directly into Ledraun’s chest, pushing it twenty metres back, further away from the barricade. It growls and closes around Estelle, hoping to drown her in a grimy embrace, but the moment she is covered completely, Estelle rockets in the opposite direction, blasting herself to safety and striking Ledraun with intense heat.

“Nice moves.” the Peacekeeper says, impressed. “She’s gotta watch those Rocket Heels though.”

“I had a friend who used Rocket Heels to get to work. She says they use up your own inner energy for fuel, if I remember rightly.” the reporter remarks.

The Peacekeeper nods. “Yeah. You have to eat a hell of a lot to get more than a few uses out of them. She’s used two… she’s probably only got two left in her. She’s looking more grey and tired already, look.”

The reporter and the Peacekeeper watch with worry. Backup Bombardiers are on their way; just eight more minutes.

Estelle comes to her feet and charges at Ledraun again. They exchange a series of blows, each one more powerful than the last, but Estelle manages to hold her own and she punches and kicks at the gelatinous limbs of Ledraun. However, a particularly quick blow knocks Estelle back several metres, where she falls. Clambering to her feet, she grins. “Is that all you’ve got?”

The creature is now furious, and begins to pound the ground, causing waves of goo to erupt and shoot towards her. Estelle leaps past them, using a rocket jump to clear the largest of the goo waves. She reaches the apex and begins to fall directly towards Ledraun, preparing a mighty punch. Ledraun leans back and swats Estelle as she falls, and she’s sent flying into a nearby building, slamming into the wall and plunging to the floor several metres below. Her face hits the ground and the crowd winces.

“She must be bone-tired now.” the Peacekeeper frets. “One rocket jump left. And she isn’t getting up from that.”

“This is why young Bombardiers need to stop taking on the biggest tasks. Silhouette Clothing monsters aren’t like other enemies… they’re powerful, and every time you fight one, you genuinely risk death.” the reporter muses.

“Yeah.” replies the Peacekeeper. He nods to the other Peacekeepers at the barricade as Ledraun oozes past Estelle’s prone form. “Looks like she’s done all she can, boys. This is a little out of our hands, but our job is to protect the people. Five more minutes and backup arrives. Let’s go.”

“Hey!” comes a yell. The crowd, the Peacekeepers and Ledraun turn to see Estelle getting shakily to her feet. Blood is running down her face and she looks thin and pallid, as a result of her frequent rocket jumps. “Do you think I’m done with you?”

“You’ve done enough!” shouts the Peacekeeper. “Fall back, Estelle!”

“I refuse!” Estelle replies. “What kind of Bombardier would I be to lose this fight? I am a Bombardier, and I made a promise when I took on that role – that I would never lose. And I haven’t lost yet!”

With that, she charges at Ledraun and the Peacekeeper sighs. “Don’t do this, Estelle, he’ll destroy you…”

Estelle throws a mighty punch, embedding her fist in Ledraun’s chest. Like before, her arm starts to be sucked into his body and his arms close around her.

“What are you doing?” shouts a member of the crowd in horror. Others also voice their concern.

Estelle is no longer visible under the mounds of goo, but her voice echoes across the street. “Getting Ledraun exactly where I want him!”

A blazing light begins to erupt from within the gooey body of Ledraun, and with a yell, Estelle blasts off into the sky, dragging Ledraun with her.

It’s a moment captured in time, and one that would inspire a generation of children wanting to become Bombardiers; Estelle, framed in the bright blue of the sky, blasting a hundred metres upward, carrying the grotesque beast with her, in a silent tableau of brutal combat.

“Her last jump.” the reporter murmurs. “Uh… how exactly does she plan on getting down safely?”

“I’ve no idea.” the Peacekeeper says, unable to keep his eyes away from the incredible scene. The crowd is watching with bated breath as Estelle flips around in mid-air, performing a handstand on top of Ledraun’s gelatinous form. Her heels begin to blaze with energy.

“What the hell?” says the reporter, turning to the Peacekeeper.

“She has another jump in her? She’ll destroy herself!” the Peacekeeper shouts, watching the sky with worry.

Estelle is not listening to anyone. “A Bombardier is flushed with the collective might of the human race; a Bombardier knows when to fight, when to give it their all, and most importantly… when to sacrifice everything!”

She blasts off, once more, launching herself and Ledraun straight back down to the ground with the force of a falling comet. Ledraun’s body collides with the ground like a bolt of lightning, splitting the road asunder and creating an immense blast of rocky debris in a huge radius. the sound of a god’s roar echoes through the city and the force of the landing creates gale force winds that howl at the crowd.

For a moment, there is silence.

Ledraun makes a suitably soft landing for Estelle, who clambers out of the hole and stands unsteadily in the road. The goo begins to sink back into a normal-looking jumper, and the power of the Silhouette Clothing fades for a moment, revealing a man lying unconscious in the hole. In a few brief moments, he has been cuffed, and Estelle stands victorious, facing the crowd on the other side of the barrier. She looks worn and tired, on the verge of collapse, but the incredulity of her feat has left the crowd virtually speechless.

A woman wearing the garb of a maid stares at Estelle, then slips back into the anonymity of the crowd.

“Holy shit…” the Peacekeeper says. “Five rocket jumps in quick succession. And she single-handedly beat Ledraun, the most powerful Silhouette Clothing monster in, what, the last decade? This is… unheard of.”

“Yeah.” says the reporter. “I’ve gotta get back to the station to talk about this. Estelle Weatherby – we’re going to remember that name for years to come!”

 

*

 

“And there you have it.” Bradley explains. “Shortly after this incredible victory, due to a number of other feats she performed during this year, Estelle was awarded the position of Top Bombardier, and has retained it for a record-breaking seven years. Some of you may already know of this battle, but for those that did not, remember it well: Estelle was a student of Sunderland College once upon a time.”

Cassandra stares at the screen, completely speechless, admiration shining in her eyes.

“Crazy…” murmurs Eiden. He leans over to Boo. “Hey, uh, how are you doing?”

“Oh!” Boo says, dropping a pencil in her sheer surprise that somebody wants to talk to her. She scrabbles at the floor to pick it up, then turns to Eiden nervously. “Um, hi… sorry for punching you into a wall.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Eiden grins. “It’s all a learning experience. What did you think of that video?”

“Oh, I’ve seen it before,” Boo replies, looking a bit more excited. “Estelle is so cool… she inspired me to travel from the States to come study here. Following in her footsteps. Though I think being a Peacekeeper is probably more my speed…”

“That’s cool!” Eiden says. “I hadn’t seen it before, but now I understand why Estelle is so widely beloved. It was… amazing.”

“Yeah…” Boo murmurs.

Anastasia puts her hand up. “Hey, why are there terrorists?”

Bradley blinks at her in surprise. “Terrorists? Ah… you must mean Aranea.”

“Yeah, what’s their deal?” Phillis asks.

“They’re antipatchers; they believe that Battle Clothing is evil and wrong, and wish to outlaw it. Aranea is a particularly militant subsection of antipatchers, who wear Battle Clothing and commit serious crimes in the hope that it will force the government to outlaw it altogether.”

“Huh.” Anastasia replies. “Kinda smart.”

“Very much so.” Bradley explains. “But it’s a flawed idea. What would our society be without Battle Clothing? It helps us in so many ways, and it has done far more good than bad. We’ll study this in second term, actually; the effect of Battle Clothing on society.”

“How common are the types of Battle Clothing?” asks Donovan. “Can I gain mighty power from the first instance?”

“Probably.” Bradley replies, shrugging. “The rarest types of Battle Clothing are still relatively easy to get, so long as you have the money. We provide most of the known types of Battle Clothing, so there’s very few types that you can’t try. The most expensive part of Battle Clothing is finding full-power patches. They’re highly expensive; luckily for you, Sunderland will provide you with some patches for free.”

“Sweet.” Eiden says, grinning behind his mask.

“Right, that was quite detailed…” Bradley says. “Hold your questions for now. Ask me at the end if there’s more you want to know, but for now, let’s take a look at Estelle’s career in more detail. Now, Bombardiers have a long and varied history…”

The lesson is interesting and absorbing for every student, even those who don’t usually enjoy history. Bradley is a warm-hearted and soft-spoken teacher, but he obviously loves his subject, which inspires the students to try harder. Once it is over, he smiles.

“Alright, everyone, Social Relations has probably finished by now… we ran over a bit. If you head back down the corridor to the hall, you can rejoin your parents, and that will be the end of the taster day. I hope it’s been enjoyable for you, and I hope you choose Sunderland College – if you do, see you in September.”

With a sigh of relief, the class get up and head out, ready to go home after a busy day. They have to hand in their Battle Clothing, but are evidently very excited to come back and try it again sometime.

Eiden and Aubree walk out together.

“So, why exactly are you here?” he asks. Aubree shrugs.

“I want to be a designer and a model. Today’s clothes… they aren’t as interesting as, say, the things that you and me wear. Lindsey Stunne is the most famous designer in the world, and she has so much power… so why does she design such boring stuff?”

“No idea.” Eiden replies. “So you want to challenge Lindsey Stunne’s fashion empire? That seems kinda suicidal.”

“I’ll do what I can.” Aubree says. “I just want to design interesting clothes!”

“I get you!” Eiden replies. “I hope you can, Aubree. See you again sometime.”

He heads off, ready to go home.

“Yeah.” Aubree replies, though he’s out of earshot. “See you again.”

 

*

 

Cassandra stays behind to speak to Bradley.

“I wanted to ask you about something.” she says. “Do… do you know anything about the Bombardier killer?”

“That is a heavy question for a Saturday afternoon.” murmurs Bradley. “I’ll tell you what I know – every so often, a Bombardier dies. We don’t know who it is, but we know it’s usually in the same way every time; dead, in the middle of the night, in their own home.”

Cassandra is silent.

“No trace, no evidence, no witnesses.”

“Do you think there are witnesses? Maybe sometimes?”

“If there are,” Bradley replies. “We’ll have no idea who they are. Why do you ask?”

Cassandra’s eyes rove the classroom and settle on the seat that Boo had been sat in just minutes earlier.

“I think there might be.” she says, keeping her eyes trained on the chair. “Thank you for telling me what you know.”

“No problem.” Bradley says. He stares at Cassandra curiously, but she turns and walks out of the classroom. By the time she leaves, Boo has gone.

With a shrug, Cassandra walks into the hall, ready to go home.

 

New Battle Clothing discovered:

 

[No. 093] Bunny Suit

Formation: Knickers + Augment Patch

Effect: User gains athletic abilities and resistance to physical damage

Drawback: Cannot be worn with coats, tops or trousers

 

[No. 077] Rocket Heels

Formation: High Heels + Support Patch

Effect: Allows the user to blast high into the air with extreme force and heat

Drawback: Uses own energy to “blast off”, needs a lot of food/fuel to recharge

Sunderland College [1.3 - After the Brawl]
Sunderland College [2.1 - Checking Up]

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