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Act I - Acceptance

 

I kept muttering to myself the whole train ride: see, I was going over vocabulary with Hermes for an upcoming test (him having perfect memory and all), but I could almost feel the social repulsion field that seeming non-neurotypical was throwing out onto everyone within earshot. The things I do for school.

After I told him for the umpteenth time that he didn’t get his reward until both I got home and we had gone through at least 150 words, I felt the calm but earnest slowing and then subtle jolt of the train pulling into the station and the maglocks engaging.

The doors opened. [New Mumbai AB (Alexander Bolonkin) Dome 15, next stop, Dome 4] reported the train.

I walked over the gap (don’t break your mother’s back!) onto the platform and into the cold summer night air.

As soon as I left the station and its bright lights on my way to my studio apartment, I was reminded of the fact that I did not exactly live in an expensive neighborhood (especially not an arco).

“I’d ambush us from that dark alley yonder,” Hermes pointed behind me with a vague flick of his tail.

Sure enough, a group of nearly a dozen kids started meandering out of that very same alley’s mouth towards me.

I knew immediately that they did not go to college and that they knew that I did.

I shifted my messenger bag and lengthened my strides, shifting gears. They pursued the chase from the other side of the empty street.

“Shouldn’t you just call someone, or use one of those apps your mother made you get?” Hermes asked idly, eyes still on the approaching gang.

“Well I don’t need them when I have you, and I don’t wanna get anyone in trouble,” I muttered the half joking reply.

A tall boy from within the group, over-bright smile on his face, crossed the street and the others followed. “Smiles” cut me off and I was surrounded in open sidewalk. No one else in sight.

“Can I help you?” I started.

“Yeah, sure, about that…” came the suggestive reply from an older boy in a tuque.

A girl older than me with a violet stripe in her hair reached into her coat pocket.

Hermes started hissing, not that anyone but me could hear him.

Someone behind me grabbed my wrist.

I reached up to the base of my neck with my other hand (Smiles’ grin stretched even wider) and touched the burning mark above my sternum.

Light flashes out from it, momentarily engulfs me, and fades. My spines reach their normal length and my vision stretches as I can both see and feel the familiar wispy glow of my body heat leaking into the cold night air off my skin. I am armored, stark, and alive. Hermes smiles.

 

---

 

The whole group steps back.

Tuque is still holding my wrist around the scutes, and I gently pour scalding heat into his hand, like opening tiny shutters in my skin, and his reflexes unhand me before he can consciously think to. He holds his hand and glances down expecting a burn and glares back at me in apprehension.

“Go on now,” I bluff, trying to hide the shake in my voice.

“Fuck this,” mutters Violette. She charges me, knife out and forward.

I jump to the left, and she clips me on my right stomach. My adrenaline boils over and I bathe her in hurt, like a flashlight to my eyes. She was a bad-girl onee-san anyway.

She crumples at my feet and twitches, smells a tad like burnt hair. I glance down and see the small IR-neon trickle of blue warm blood on my belly, and put my hand to it. Someone else charges me and they tumble to my feet as I irradiate them too, but careful this time not to burn.

Smiles stops smiling.

I throw him my best haphazard glare and hiss slightly, “Just go.”

We all stare each other in the eyes for a breath.

Those that can walk bolt, and Tuque feverishly reaches in to help Violette up and away.

After the last of them turned the corner, I flashed back and Hermes surmised “You’re bad at this.”

I walked home in silence, as normal as ever, not a scratch on me.