Ashes 2-V

Smell The Ashes

The snow had started to melt away as we arrived at school, creating puddles and mud everywhere. Dresden High School marked a boundary of sorts. Sitting right on the point of the Wedge, the section of suburbia that pierced almost all the way into the center of the city, it sat only a few blocks from the Tower, but still had expansive grounds and fields. The campus was an elongated triangle, with the various buildings at the point and the fields at the base, and a wall of trees around the edges to give it some privacy. Though, the skyscrapers that towered on every side made that last bit something of a moot point. The various bits of greenery were normally immaculately maintained, but again; middle of winter, full foot of snow and negative temperatures. The trees that weren't dead stood sadly solitary, and the limbs of the large pine that was the only one still green sagged under the weight of the snow.

It was a rich school, no two ways about it, designed and situated to cater to the upper-middle class populace of the Wedge and the upper-class who mostly resided in the skyscrapers nearby. There were some exceptions, of course; students like Sabah who'd gotten in on sporting or academic scholarships, plus the lottery students, but generally the rule stood.

We'd arrived at the front gate, scanning our ID cards and staring into a camera for verification, just as the bell went, so we'd had to rush across the snow-covered fields towards the Murphy building on the left of the triangle. We were in different classes, so once we'd reached the foyer, we split up with a quick hug and a promise to meet up at lunch and headed to our respective rooms.

My class was up five flights of stairs, so by the time I'd burst in through the door, slightly short of breath, Mr. Berghoffer was just finishing the roll.

"Ah, Ms. Kingsford (I generally went by just my mother's surname for simplicity's sake). So glad to see you."

"Sorry, sir," I said, still a little breathless. "The snow."

"And yet," he replied dryly, "everyone else seemed to manage."

I rubbed at the back of my neck, and smiled a little tightly. 

"Still," he sighed, "I suppose you're not technically late. Take a seat, please, and try not to offer any more distractions." I was more than happy to oblige.

My first two classes passed quickly. Mr. Berghoffer was a competent math teacher, but it had never been quite my tempo, and I mostly just sat there half-heartedly attempting some work.

English, though, was definitely my thing. We were currently studying contemporary poetry, and while I didn't really possess any skill for the style, that didn't stop me from trying. It was fun, and a good exercise for my creative writing skills.

My third class was Superhuman Studies.

Normally, I didn't really pay attention in it, having mostly picked it to have a bludge subject, but something was telling me that if there was any day to pay attention, it’d be today.

“So,” Miss Richmond was saying, “as I mentioned last lesson, today we’re starting our new unit: Class Ones, or as you’d know them, the Scalebreakers.” Hmm. I’d been hoping that it’d be about powers themselves, something pertaining to my situation, but I suppose that would have been too much to expect. Shame real life didn’t work like fiction. “You should’ve already downloaded the relevant classwork onto your pad, but if you haven’t, please do so.” I hadn’t, and proceeded to do so, giving it a quick glance over. Seemed like pretty standard school stuff, so I resolved to ignore it unless it actually became relevant to my life in any way (not that I was hoping it was; that was the last thing I wanted).

“Now,” she said, leaning back against her desk. "Who can start me off?" 

No-one said anything. There was a bit of awkward shuffling and coughing here and there.

She sighed. "Look. I know it's basic stuff, but we need to get through this to get to the interesting stuff, alright? Work with me here, and it'll go a lot quicker. Pretend you don't know any of this if it helps. So: Who's gonna start me off?"

There was more silence. In the distance, a car honked.

"Fine. You've forced my hand. Jones," she snapped, flicking a finger at him. "Names."

The boy she'd pointed jerked upright. "Uh, Pyrrha, Shiva, John Doe."

"See, was that so hard? Kingsford, powers."

"Gravity control, weird stuff, complete energy absorption."

Everyone knew about the Scalebreakers. And that’s not exaggeration; everyone knew. They were called that because, quite simply, they broke the scale. Most powers just distorted the laws of physics, but they straight told them to sit down, shut up, and stay quiet if they know what's good for them.

There are three of them, with varying levels of humanity and benevolence: Pyrrha, who has control over gravity on a macro scale and mostly hung out in the lower atmosphere; Shiva, the monster with the eight arms who'd single-handedly rendered most of India uninhabitable, and John Doe, the unidentified energy sink, currently in government captivity.

The lesson continued in that vein right up until the bell, loud and piercing, interrupted her. “Alright,” Ms. Richmond said, “I want you all to investigate one theory about the Class Ones, and have a minute’s report prepared on it by Monday." There was a collective groan. "It won’t be graded," she amended, "and I won't force you to present it, but it’s good practice for your assessment. Class dismissed.”

We all filed out of the room, grabbing coats and hats and gloves as we ventured out into the cold. The cafeteria was in the Carpenter building at the point of the triangle, and the separate flows of students streamed together as they approached.

As I reached the entrance, I started searching for Sabah among the crowd. I’m pretty tall, so actually peering over most of the crowd wasn’t a problem, but actually finding my friend, who’s pretty darn short (don’t tell her I said that, or she’ll probably hurt me), proved to be more challenging. By the time I’d grabbed my food, I’d given up, and once I’d found a seat towards the center of the room, I sent her a text, letting her know.

There were a few other people that I vaguely knew at the table, and I half-listened to their conversation as I ate, occasionally offering some basic comments. It was about something inane, fashion or schoolwork or something, and as such, I wasn't really paying attention when a supervillain teleported onto the table.