Steve’s nerves frazzled as Maria Hill entered the compacted bare room, bringing an air of dominance and intimidation in her wake. His spine shivered when he made eye contact with her steely eyes. She looked over the skinny, lanky kid and sighed. Steve swore there was disappointment in her mind; after all, there is no way they can enroll a frail, asthmatic kid like him, especially into their S.H.I.E.L.D program. His chances of survival on the first day look pretty dim. He’ll be obliterated into bits before he can cry uncle. Back then, it was almost impossible for him to even have the opportunity if it wasn’t for Dr. Erskine. However, the stubborn fourteen year old boy was determined; his mind was set.
Before Steve was recruited, there were rumors floating about, praising the prestigious Stark Academy and its remarkable program, where they collected only the “gifted and talented”. Their plethora of graduates is always revered by all, serving their country under the government and ensuring the safety of the citizens. Enamored by their glory and valor, Steve immediately signed up to be part of their program, wanting to protect people just like the one who saved him in the past. Normally, the program would send their letters of approval to the ones they believe are “talented and gifted”, but there is a small flicker of hope for people like Steve, for people who are just the common population.
He heard of their amazing medical schools despite the shrouded mystery behind it, but oh, would Steve love to observe the doctors, to learn how to cure even the deadliest of diseases. He has so many reasons to join, but in actuality, he doesn’t understand the ultimate reason in his heart.
The week right after he sent in his applications to their headquarters, one Dr. Erskine stepped onto his doorstep with a suitcase in hand. Wrinkles inhabited his face and lines of wisdom were evident in his tired eyes, but they got along well on their first encounter for Steve was a well-mannered boy who respected his elders. He led the graying man to sit down on the sofa while Steve stood and fetched him tea.
While he was pouring hot water into the teacup, Dr. Erskine finally spoke.
“What is your name, boy?”
His voice sounded ragged and hoarse. Steve handed the hot teacup into Dr. Erskine’s hand.
“My name is Steve Rogers, sir.”
“Ah… yes… The little one.”
The old man rubbed his chin and nodded.
Steve was jumping on his heels, too excited to listen to half of the mumbles the Doctor was saying, but to his slight dismay and glee, the quirky man laid down the suitcase on the coffee table and opened it, pulled out a piece of paper from it, and looked at the boy straight in the eye.
Something important was coming underway.
Then he asked a very puzzling question, “What do you want to be?”
Confused, Steve accidentally blurted out, “Huh?”
He repeated, “What do you want to be?”
Steve rubbed the back of his head, blushing into the color of a red tomato and answered, “I-I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Dr. Erskine pushed his glasses back to the bridge of his nose.
Steve recomposed himself, straightened his back, and took a deep breath.
“Well, I don’t really know how this is relevant to the program, but… I guess I would like to be a shield.”
“A shield?” Dr. Erskine asked, bemused.
Noticing the unintended pun behind it, Steve sputtered.
“I mean! I want to be a shield, as in something that can be used to protect people.” Steve explained. “I want to be somebody who can stop others from hurting the innocent, from bullying the weak and helpless…”
Dr. Erskine smiled wide for the first time ever since he laid a foot into the household and stood up, chuckling to himself as he headed to the door. Panicking, Steve opened the door due to chivalry and had a horrified look because he was afraid that he answered incorrectly and left the old man in disarray. To soothe his worries, Dr. Erskine tipped his hat as he headed to the door.
“Congratulations, Steve Rogers. You should be celebrating.”
There was another toothy grin.
“You are officially a candidate for the program.”
He passed. Steve Rogers, fatherless, fourteen, and college broke, passed the requirements (except his weight but he promised he will bulk up) for enrolling into Stark Academy.
At his front house, a sleek, black car stopped, and a man with black sunglasses matching his car emerged from the driver seat. His mother kissed him a final good-bye, crying tears of joy and sorrow to see her boy to travel so far, and Steve, in return, muttered words of gratitude and assurance. Then he left his mother’s arms, from the sanctuary of safety. He sat in the back after he lugged his suitcase to the confined compartment in the back, and the man in black sat at the driver’s seat once again and drove them towards their destination: Stark Academy.
Who knows how long they were on the freeway? They passed at least five different checkpoints, but Steve caught his breath as they approached the school because they were now cruising inside the famous tunnel entrance. The light at the end grew bigger and bigger, and when they finally reached there, Steve was definitely sure that he did not predict this sort of view.
If there is one word that Steve can relatively and possibly describe about the entire school and its premises into one word, it would be the word “EXTRAVAGANT”.
Steve’s expectations couldn’t compare to his first impressions now. The front of the school was awe-inspiring for the front was worldly symmetrical and spans to who knows where, possibly passing the horizons. All of the architects in the world would grow green with envy if they had a glimpse of its perfection. At the same time, the buildings looked futuristic, as if it popped out from one of those old-fashioned comics. A prominent globe was at the center, and as the car sped around it, Steve’s face continued to stick to the window like glue. Fountains were everywhere, and Steve laughed when he saw the statue of a young boy urinating into one. He has to take a picture of that to send to his mother.
The place wasn’t meant for residents, but when they stopped at a curve because of a stop sign, some students were passing the crosswalk. It wasn’t a habit, but Steve stared at them as they walked on. They could be his future classmates. One by one, Steve etched their faces into his head, hoping next time he can greet them properly instead of sitting inside a stuffy car to stare at them like a fish out of water.
However, one interrupted his idle memory sketching by surprise.
It was simple, as if it was an unwritten rule. He would stare at some passerby, and they will pass him without acknowledging his existence because he is in a car, but this one guy, who has dark, spiked hair, and piercing eyes, stared back at him, breaking that rule. At first, the young teen raised one eyebrow in a curious manner, and then he grinned and laughed at Steve’s shocked expression. He couldn’t read his lips, but the boy nudged his friend, a girl with auburn hair and stunning green eyes. She turned to where he was pointing at and laughed, too. Steve’s face burned with hot embarrassment because he is exposed. He looked away, but he can feel their mockery. Never had he felt this flustered. The driver of the car, ignorant, stepped on the gas and slowed down to a tall building.
“This is your dormitory.” he said.
Steve wobbled out of the car, attempting to wake his tired legs because of the long ride.
“Um… Thank you… Mister?”
The man dressed in black extended his hand and shook Steve’s hand.
“My name is Phil Coulson. You can call me Phil, if you like.”
“Phil…” Steve repeated.
His eyes crinkled in response. He slammed the back door shut and slipped into his car, and saluted to the departing Steve.
He informed the lost boy, “You will gain help inside, where you will meet your roommate. Hopefully, you can get a tour soon.” A corner of his mouth curved upwards. “And welcome to Stark Academy and our program.”
Steve shouted back as he asserted himself to haul his heavy load from the trunk, “Thank you!”
He was breathless with the scenery.
Phil left, but Steve heard his final words to him for the day while the humming of the car rumbled on.
“Godspeed, Steve, godspeed…”