Laurel

Laurea, New York

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a part of Laurel, by Mac n Cheese.

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Mac n Cheese holds sovereignty over Laurea, New York, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
1,255 readers have been here.
2,973 readers have visited Laurel since Mac n Cheese created it.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

influenced by the charlie bone series and the alphas series

Setting

Default Location for Laurus
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Minimap

Laurea, New York is a part of Laurel.

17 Characters Here

Aimee Hart [68] "I never do things the easy way."
Lane Blackwell [62] "Music completes me in a way that nothing else ever will."
Erin Hill [57] "Engineers turn dreams into reality. That's my magic."
Lucas Long [56] "It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane."-- Valis
Nina Nikolayevna Romanov [55] "A closed mouth gathers no foot."
Anthony Carraway [46] "I'd rather be loved than feared, actually."
Daniel Ahn [38] "If you have to use force to get what you want, you are a moron."
Sterling Walker [35] "There are many people I could bless with my presence, but I chose you."
Rebecca Sayre [26] "Money is such a funny thing, don't you think?"
Keevan Brennan [22] "Books are a uniquely portable magic."

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov

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Everything is fine as Nina mumbles that she is fine. He supposes her head must hurt from the drinking last night, and is moving to offer a pain reliever before the thank you slips in. His eyebrows shoot up, having not expected those words. The Queen shows her thanks in small smiles, a touch of the hand, a silent communication. Not in the straightforward manner of speaking aloud the two words. In some fae lore, faeries do not waste thank you because it is binding to an obligation, a debt. They take it very seriously- something he'd always applied to the Queen as well. And yet now she casually wastes them, mumbles them. He can dismiss this as a symptom of a hangover as well, though it may have given him cause for slight pause.

And then it begins. The Queen mumbles, backtracks, stumbles over her words. For once, Daniel Ahn is left without some clever comeback, some witty response, some anything. He can only watch, uncomfortable, as Nina trips over herself both figuratively and literally. Any attempt he begins to help is waved away, as though that haughty motion can make over for the lack of grace that he has just seen her display. She has never been so flustered before, even after a night of drinking. Even when intoxicated Nina has always possessed a sort of fluidity, a cockiness that he has appreciated as being justified by her talents and appearance.

Grumbling. Stumbling. Wavering. Is something wrong? Daniel has never seen the Romanov display such vulnerability. He counts himself among her closest circle of people, but still has never really been let in. He accepts this easily, being equally closed off even in the vulnerability he quietly releases to people such as her. It is a subtle sensitivity, one which many overlook until they have stepped on it, noticing only then that it had ever been placed at their feet in the first place.

"No, there isn't an oth-" a straightforward question he can at least manage to answer without making this situation worse, Daniel presumes. But already Nina has rushed past him and out the door. He remains still as the door slams shut behind her, processing what has just happened.

Once again, she has appeared so human, so tangible. That feeling of discomfort at this creeps up on him once more. How is one expected to react when someone they thought they had some grasp on acts so uncharacteristically? Daniel has no programming for this breach of protocol. So he walks over to his bed and begins to make it, as if that will allow him to clear his mind. It smells differently, though, likely from her having stayed there. The scent differs from his expensive cologne and lemon cleaning products, but in a way that is not unpleasant. He almost enjoys the scent, in fact.

Is this what Nina smells like? he wonders, startled at his own question. He'd never really paid heed before.

Daniel is strangely slow in finishing with making the bed. He notices something on the floor.

By the time he has walked into the cafeteria, Erin and Lucas have begun to step in, and Sterling and Nina are having their conversation. He walks as he normally does, pace brisk and yet unrushed. He has all the time in the world, and is simply choosing not to waste it with a leisurely pace.

"Miss Romanov," he greets Nina, quietly slipping a thin bracelet he had found into her hand. The subtlety is for the sake of appearances, for he knows the wrong conclusions will be drawn if he mentions her forgetting it in his room.

"Walker, was it?" He regards Sterling dismissively, expression disinterested with the slightest clouding of a threat in a movement of the mouth and flick of the eye.

"I'm going to buy breakfast," he adds, retreating to the lunchline with the knowledge that when it regards Sterling, Nina seems to prefer handling it herself. Daniel respects this. A good knight knows his boundaries.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by Layla
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      XXXHaving lacked the need to interact, Sterling Walker and Daniel Ahn are as familiar with one other as the night is with daylight. Though Sterling knows one thing for certain, and that is that the foreign Influential is as expressive as a metal stool and nearly twice as cold. Daniel's face scarcely contorts as he speaks and he stares at Sterling with an intensity that might cripple the weak but only feeds into Sterling's already abundant amusement. He observes with an almost childish glee that though Daniel towers over most, he beats him by a solid three inches.
      XXXNina tenses ever so slightly when Daniel's hand slips into her own. A flush rises from her neck to her cheeks and Sterling's grin widens at the sight. Nina might've honed her abilities of deception and manipulation in the past four years, but her blood did not lie. She'd always been somewhat predisposed to flushing from embarrassment or, ooo, this is gold. Does our darling Romanov Princess have a crush on the frigid prince?
      XXX"Why, is that a blush, Miss Romanov?" he says shortly after Daniel's departure, mocking the way Daniel addresses her. "You'd think that after spending a night together, you'd be on a first name basis by now."
      XXXNina gawks at him like a fish out of water. It's been a while since he's seen her so flustered. Something that feels dangerously like hope unravels in the pit of his stomach. He can almost pretend nothing has changed. He can almost see the old Nina, the one who blushed and twittered like a deer caught in the headlines whenever he teased her. He could have imagined it, had Nina not opened her mouth.
      XXX"That's not what happened," she grinds through her teeth.
      XXX"Oh?" Sterling quirks a brow.
      XXX"He was being a gentleman."
      XXX"Sure."
      XXX"I was out of it."
      XXX"I know."
      XXX"We're just friends."
      XXX"So you do have friends."
      XXX"No, I mean- That's not what I-" Nina shifts her weight from foot to foot. "We're not friends."
      XXX"Trust me, I can tell." Sterling beams and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.
      XXX"You are so exasperating! Why do I even need to explain myself?"
      XXX"I don't know, you tell me." Nina makes an exasperated noise and turns away. Sterling remains with his hip against the table and his arms crossed over his chest, a smirk playing on his lips. "Hope your boy doesn't get in trouble for the Cameron fiasco."
      XXXNina jerks to a halt and turns to Sterling, slowly. Her brows lower in warning and she turns to an Elite, one of the many who flock around her like moths to a flame. She purses her lips as if to say, explain.
      XXX"W-well... There w-w-was a..."
      XXX"You're wasting my time," Nina growls.
      XXXThe junior taps hastily at his tablet and hands Nina the latest Breadbowl entry. That is his first mistake, Sterling can imagine, because Nina's utter disdain for the Breadbowl is a commonly known fact. But instead of calling for the younger boy's head, her eyes flit from one side of the screen to another as she reads. She shoves the iPad back at the boy when she's done, nearly pushing him into a passing student.
      XXX"I take it that you don't recall the events that transpired last night?" Sterling questions, smug.
      XXXInstead of responding, Nina seems preoccupied with something over his shoulder. Sterling glances behind him to see a familiar wash of golden hair bursting into the dining hall. He frowns and pushes off the table, ready to walk over. If it had merely been between Aimee and Lane, he would not have interfered. But Erin is small, awkward, and virtually useless. He moves towards them, but Nina has beaten him to it.






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      XXXSure, she doesn't care about them, or that's what she tells herself. But she isn't a fan of dividing the work. Queens command their peasants, peasants do not command each other. Nobody's allowed to pick on them except me. Who does Aimee think she is? The dining hall is Nina's turf. Her space for humiliating others and terrorising unsuspecting individuals. You're terrible, she thinks, but there isn't much energy behind the self-harassment today.
      XXXShe strides towards the scene, the long indigo sundress trailing behind her like shadows and ink. She spots the boy from yesterday and decides to ignore him completely - for now.
      XXX"I don't give a shit if you weren't thinking! You knew!" Aimee yells, her voice towering above all other sounds in the dining hall. Everyone has silenced to witness the conflict unfold. Nina doesn't even blink at the outburst, being wholly accustomed to anger. Her family business predominantly involves military weapons after all. Mr and Mrs Romanov aren't exactly the most pleasant people. Still, she's rather surprised at Aimee's outburst. Nina hadn't realised the little thing had so much spunk.
      XXXLane is weeping. Aimee is screeching. Erin is begging. What's-his-name is wimping. Who the hell stops a fight with a barely discernible whisper? The growing crowd around the cat fight parts like butter through a hot knife as Nina sashays through their midst. She lifts a brow and wears an expression that is decidedly bored, with just a pinch of sadistic interest.
      XXX"Aimee, darling, if we're to hold each other responsible for mistakes made under the influence, we'd have to conduct a fair trial, don't you think?" Nina wears a wicked gleam in her eyes and a dangerous smile on her lips. Even though she's chosen to sit on the dining table with her legs crossed, she seems to tower over everyone.
      XXX"And you're no angel, Sweet Hart," Nina says quietly. She tosses Aimee a wink and hops off the table. The Elites hover around her like the Jury to the Judge.
      XXXPredators don't share their prey, Nina says in her mind, in case she, by some miracle, manages to fool herself into thinking she's doing this out of the goodness of her own heart.
      XXX"My God, I actually agree with you. This must be the Armageddon," a deep voice intones. A nerve feathers at the edge of Nina's temple. Don't look, don't look. But she sees them anyway in her periphery. Sterling hovers protectively near Erin's shoulder, a hand pressed to his chest in mock horror and the other resting on the small of Erin's back. He's always had a knack for cracking jokes at the most inappropriate of times. Nina would sooner walk through Hell than admit it, but she's missed and appreciates his dreadful timing and wry humour. But the bitter remnants of old jealousy twists through her at the sight of Erin and Sterling. Together as they had been those years ago. You betrayed me first, she thinks of Erin.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Aimee continues to scream and suddenly she's grabbing Lane's shoulders. Lane coils back unable to make out the words the girl is saying. She presses her hand to her mouth tears streaking down her face. Everything seems blurry, even the words and the sounds. People are gravitating towards the scene, speaking in hushed but echoing tones until Aimee's voice breaks through saying one last nothing, one last snip at Lane's heart. "You didn't care Lane! You didn't care at all!" With that her heart has surely shattered and although no words come out, Lane's mouth stays open.

There is a swift touch and pull to her shoulder and she's ripped away from Aimee. Lane looks to her right, the voice of reason has come to rescue us all...hopefully At the sound of Erin's voice Lane feels an immediate rush of calmness because Erin is all that Lane has, no siblings, no parents, just her. And it takes no more than Erin's touch for Lane to stop crying and collect herself. It has always been this way. From the time they were small. If Lane were to scrap herself on the jungle jim, surely enough Erin would be there to hold her, until she calmed. If a boy had broken her heart, Erin was there. And now Erin is here.

"You can't try to force this" Are the next words spoken and Lane is searching Erin's face for something visible, some familiar. Nina.... Erin and Nina... This is...the same. Lane purses her lips.

Speaking of...

Nina is striding towards the 3 girls with great speed, Sterling ahead of her and now Lucas by Aimee's side. Is a private conversation with someone I slept with to much to ask? Lane glances back to Aimee, her rages seems to have settled down only slightly. She looks to her eyes, pleading for forgiveness yet not saying a thing as Nina strides into the ring, creating a wall between the two girls. Pain shoots through her hands as she wonders what Nina could possibly have to say in a situation she had absolutely nothing to do with.
In some kind of contorted way the Queen begins to defend Lane for her actions. She speaks in such a clean yet vague voice that Lane takes a step backwards, bumping into Erin. Her friend seems as well stunned by Nina's appearance. It strikes Lane how well her ex-friend can hit someone so hard in the heart with less that a glance in their direction. "Nina, this has nothing to fucking do with you..." Lane musters the first thing that comes to mind as well as the first thing she's said since everyone had entered themselves into the scene. She doesn't wish to speak to Nina, she wants to talk to Aimee and Aimee solely.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by piearty
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Just like that, Nina appeared like a celebrity on the red carpet, quickly drawing the attention to her, only to her. Lucas didn’t have to check anyone’s thoughts to know that she was extremely unwanted by everyone around, him included—that is, everyone except her gawking “Elite” paparazzi. He wasn’t even sure she herself wanted to be there, or if she was just drawn there by some internal ‘queenly’ obligation. No one’s allowed to pick on them except me, she thought as she approached, and he was reminded of a child, petulantly refusing to share what she saw as her ‘toys’.

If he weren’t so scared of her, he’d pity her.

She spoke, just specific enough for people to think she knew what had happened, just vague enough to hide that she really, really didn’t. While her eyes seemed to hide secrets, her mind at this point held none at all. All it was doing was pulling together context clues and body language and wording, trying to piece together a guess as to what was going on. He wanted to laugh.

Lucas’ eyes darted around to each person. Aimee, Lane, Erin, Nina, Sterling, him, not to mention the dozens of people viewing them, and Daniel sure to come soon— he realized with a sinking feeling that this was a scene, they were causing a scene, and he had enough of those for the summer, if not the rest of the year and his life.

“Nina, this has nothing to fucking do with you…” Lane muttered, and though she was right, though he agreed with her, he could almost see the wrath this would cause from the so-called princess. Either that or the horrible despondency, and he couldn’t take that again either. Panic twinged in his chest.

He was still holding onto Aimee’s sleeve. Hoping he remembered how her power worked and with only the slightest flicker of movement, he brushed his thumb against the bare skin of her arm, thinking quickly, She doesn't know anything. Don’t play her game. Let’s go.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Aimee instantly resented Erin for pulling Lane away, but with Erin blocking the smaller girl from view, Aimee's rage started to subside. Instead there was just this ringing in her ears. A constant frequency that deafened her and blocked out all other sound. She hadn't remembered. She'd been so focused on hurting Lane that she hadn't remembered to put her wall up, to block herself from the emotional tidal wave. Everything that had happened with Lane since their first break had soared through her head, putting a literal damper on her rage. Lane was so sad, and it was mostly caused by Aimee.

At this point, her eyes had widened to saucers, and when Lucas touched her shoulder, she flinched violently and looked at him. What are you doing here? In another mind, she would have been extremely grateful that he was careful not to touch any skin. But now, the ringing was still there, and she couldn't hear what he was saying, but she assumed it was her name. She opened her mouth as if to respond, and the ringing stopped. "Lucas..." she murmured, not focused on anything, only able to take in Lucas right in front of her. I can't think straight, I can't... It was too much. All of Lane's emotions, all of the screaming, Lucas, Nina, everyone, it was too much for her.

But she couldn't shrink yet. The Queen was in the circle. She sat atop a lunch table, looking extremely and ironically regal. Aimee watched her, her eyes still saucer-wide, as Nina put a handle on the situation. I didn't...what? She thought as Nina hopped off the table and said something quietly to Aimee. All of the rage that had sat in Aimee for so long had vanished, replaced by complete and utter sadness. It wasn't really placed, and if she were to actually dissect what it was pinpointed to, she wasn't sure she could figure it out. Aimee looked at Lane, still partially hidden by Erin and now Sterling, and she felt...nothing. Not rage, not sadness, just...empty. She felt Lucas's thumb on her shoulder, and her head whipped towards his. She heard his thoughts, saw his life again, but she couldn't speak. She had no will left in her to do so.

Aimee turned without a backward glance and walked away. She was shut down. She didn't care what Nina, Lane, or Erin had to say to her. She didn't care about any of it. She just walked with no clear path until she was somewhere near her dorm. She walked up the stairs until she was in front of her door, and she found the door open. Odd, she thought. Was she really that unhinged that she had forgotten to lock her door? She walked inside, and with no amount of effort, simply sat on her knees, on the floor, looking out the window. She put her head in her hands, and all of a sudden, she just screamed.

Her scream echoed in reality and in her mind, a sheer pitch filled with every single emotion that had been racing through her that day. She didn't know who heard her, if anyone did, but she couldn't stop. Just one long stream of scream that never faltered until she didn't have any breath left. When it was over, she just sat there, her head in her hands, in the posture of defeat. In some part of her mind, she knew it was ridiculous. It was the first day, and she had many more to go, but she also felt that there was no stopping it. If she didn't let herself feel this now, then she wouldn't be able to deal with anything coming her way for the rest of the summer. So, she sat there, dwelling in her sadness and her emptiness, and thinking, what the hell could have happened to make life look like this?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by Layla
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      XXX"Nina, this has nothing to fucking do with you," Lane hisses. A laugh bursts from Sterling so quickly it nearly chokes him. He disguises it as a cough into his fist for the sake of appearances. At least try to look like you're not a sadist. Amusement lights his eyes like fireworks. This is the best day I've had all week, he muses. He hadn't known Lane had it in her.
      XXXNina blinks slowly, seemingly frozen for a few long pauses. Gasps echo all around as people stumble with shock. They gape at Lane, some with horror, others pity, many with respect. Still they edge away from the scene. It seems their fear of the Queen's retaliation pushes them away more than the drama, for that they crave. No one wants to be in the Queen's crossfire.
      XXXBut nobody, not even Sterling, can foresee Nina bursting into laughter. The sound is so bizarre, yet so familiar, Sterling forgets to breathe. For a second he sees his Nina in his mind.
      XXXHer hands move frantically as she speaks to Lane and Erin, the grin she wears revealing the dimples in her cheeks. Her laugh is the rattling of wind chimes.
      XXX"Jesus, your eyes are huge," Sterling teases. "You're like one of those stuffed toys that squeak when you squeeze it."
      XXXNina's hair curls around her thick framed glasses as she turns away from the girls, drawing attention to her big, sky blue eyes. She gawks, blushing furiously as she shifts from side to side. She tugs at her sleeves, gaze darting nervously from one shoe to another. Laughing, Sterling reaches over and ruffles her hair. Nina mutters a protest, darting away to loop a scrawny arm through Erin's elbow.

      XXXThe memory is shattered by the girl who stands before him now like a superimposed picture. The younger Nina he cared for hovers like a mirage, a ghost of past lives. This Nina wears her skin well, confidence radiating from her in waves that could blind the weak. Some might say this is the better Nina. He is certain the House of Romanov thinks so. She has become the splitting image of her mother, a mother she had once described to him as "terrifying."
      XXX"My dear," Nina purrs. "If you want a private conversation, you should leave the public space." Remnants of her unexpected humour reveal the dimples in her cheeks. Chuckles arise from some of the students around them as she continues. "Your voices aren't exactly inconspicuous."
      XXXShe is wildly infuriating, but God is she good at this game. Sterling would be impressed had it not been for the slight flaw that is Nina's entire personality. It seems malevolence has done good things for Nina's sense of humour. How someone can simultaneously become more charming and more horrible, he isn't sure.
      XXXAimee walks away before anything else can be said. Sterling dismisses her, hovering around Erin with minimal proximity. In truth, he can protect her from across the room. But he remains close, partially in the hopes that it will annoy her. Someone has to alleviate his boredom, although it seems today will be an interesting one indeed.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Erin is at Lane's side, and the asian boy from before is at Aimee's. Every piece has their support system, however rooted into the past they may or may not be. It eases the guilt Erin has over focusing on Lane more than Aimee, to know that there is someone focusing on that girl as well. She gives the guy a quick look, thankful, but chances are he doesn't see it. Thank you, he is doing this for Aimee's sake, of course, not hers, and that is all the more reason for gratitude. Erin just desperately wants for all those she considers decent to be happy. Even some that she hates, some part of her wants them to find happiness. Nina, she thinks, could perhaps return to some semblance of her former self if only she could be happy. Sterling, even, she would wish happiness to, if that would make things right and get him to leave her alone. Daniel, the human robot, could perhaps find some new programming for joy that would make him less cold and severe.

But Erin is a sap whose wishes are outside her reach, and she knows it. She hadn't always known it, but is fiercely aware now.

And thus walks -no, floats- in the woman who shoved back the curtains and did her damnedest to scorch the optimism out of Erin's retinas (though Erin is notoriously good at bouncing back), Nina Romanov.

Oh, not now. Please, for once just keep your claws out of this wound Nina. Please, Erin has been thinking and saying please a lot lately. No one has time to waste on her niceties, though. Lane had just begun to relax beneath Erin's hand, she could feel it. Everything was just about to be okay, about to be resolved- and then enter the dragon.

And her breath is removed from her lungs as Nina chooses to stand up for Lane, rather than claw her eyes out. Erin steps away from Lane to watch, finding it difficult to find air. It is sly, sarcastic, careless, but it is a defense. Erin almost dares hope this is the sign of something, but even an optimist must know when to fold their cards. She folded on Nina long after she should have, but still more than a year or so ago. Those aren't cards she's willing to pick back up, for fear of razor blade edges.

A warmth at her back. Believing it to be Anthony, arrived to stand silently beside her, she begins to breathe steadily once more, unclenching her fists. She couldn't have been more incorrect in her assumption.

His voice speaks up behind her, just inches from her ear. The realization of Sterling's nearness makes her shiver, though she interprets it as a shudder. Naturally she immediately steps away such that his hand will no longer be on her back. You two are the last people we need right now. Everything was fine. It was fine. You decided to leave us, don't keep trying to come back, Erin hadn't realized her eyes were shut until she opens them once more.

Lane is hissing at Nina, words Erin had thought but not vocalized. Nina is laughing. Her dimples are flashing in that way Erin used to melt over. Now it just makes her more tense. Glancing at Sterling, she realizes he must be thinking the same thing. How incredibly stupid the pair of them are, half in love with the memory of a girl.

Erin hates herself for it. Luckily, the current girl will not allow Erin to forget that the old her is gone. Her words are tickled with malice, purring like a panther content with its kill. Aimee is gone now. It is only them. Why is only ever them, in the end? Lane, Erin, Nina, Sterling. The lens through which one might witness deterioration at its finest.

And Sterling is still there , close enough that she can feel it. No doubt she remembers, though she was too drunk to fully understand. Another shiver- no, shudder.

The bell rings, a saving grace calling them for their first class. She prays that Speech and Debate will have a quiet, simple group. She prays she won't have to speak- this isn't a class she took by choice.

"If you would kindly find some other person's air to breathe, I have to get to debate," she isn't able to look at Sterling as she says this, knowing she might snap or break or simply collapse if she does. Stop making Nina hate me more than she already does.

She sees a dark shadow approaching, Daniel Ahn come to his Queen's side a bit too late. Perhaps that was on purpose.

"Let's go, Nina," he says, finally speaking her name out loud.

And so charges the lightning brigade, unknowingly into the valley of death. As Keevan might call it, the perfect pressure cooker scenario.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Keevan Brennan Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by Saerith
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This… What is this? Something wrong… Can someone… Please. Anthony’s eyes opened just enough for the bluish light of his alarm clock to warn him it was one minute past eight in the morning. The numbers, however, meant nothing to him, and the strange noise emitted by that odd device made his eyes water. Shaking his arm around, he tried to do something about it but only managed to drop it on the floor with a loud metallic noise that caused him to shut his eyes tight, reacting to a excruciating lash of pain just above his temples. Forced to sit down, pick the clock up and turn off the alarm, he remained seated for a seconds or two, unable to move or turn his head. Not only the sharp sting in his head remained after the noise was gone, his stomach seemed to twitch slightly with each one of his moves, causing nausea and a heavy, uncomfortable dizziness that did not at all resembled the one from the night before. His arms hurt like he had just been ran over by a truck. An acid, vile taste clung to his mouth. When he finally felt like he could move slightly without passing out, he laid back down and stared at the ceiling. The room was lit by the distant, ethereal blue light of his clock, and scented by a strong aroma of grass and alcohol.

In a surprisingly organized and harmonic manner, a few images seemed to waltz before his eyes. Aimee proposing a toast, and her eyes glimmered with joy, her soft voice filled with a innocent, youthful excitement. Erin’s blonde hair twirling in front of him, her bright smile as warm and welcoming as the flamboyant bonfire. She remember her approaching Lane. He didn’t follow. He had stolen her away for too long already, so perhaps it was time to gave Lane a little time. He remember looking for Aimee, and he remembered her words echoing in his head when he couldn’t find her. "This, my friend, is the peak of our teenage years!” And the last thing he could remember was drinking more. No Erin, no Aimee, no walking to his room even. Just a enormous gap where the rest of the night should be. No souvenir of it except for the almost unbearable tiredness, the pain, and his clothes, which, filthy with dirt and grass, were now scattered across his room. A certain sense of desperation started filling his mind. What if he had done something stupid? Something people would remember, and he wouldn’t? Worse, what if he had done something bad? And now, there was nothing he could do, really. He should have known this bonfire was a bad idea.

Although his thoughts circled around his mind faster and faster and his incapacity to remember anything made his breath speed up and his eyes even wetter, his lids were to heavy. Before he could conclude even his thoughts about how stupid he had beens, and how could he have left Aimee on her own, sleep found him once again. A dreamless, restful sleep, in which he couldn’t think about the previous events or the dreadful class yet to come. And he would have actually rested all through the day if he hadn’t been woken again, this time by a noise which left him even more stunned. A loud scream. A familiar voice.

Carr stood up quickly - rather too quickly, since his entire dorm room seemed to loop around him and he had to hold on to the door knob for a second. He opened the door carefully, afraid he might bump into whoever or whatever the source of the screaming was. Seeing no one in the hallway, he silently, slowly made his way down the hall, verifying every door on his way was locked. All were, except for the one he hoped was. At the opposite side of the long hall, the door of the room he had spent most of his time in the day before was not only unlocked, but opened. Aimee’s room. By the time Carr reached number 14, his heart was racing and he had to take a deep breath before peeking inside, wanting to make sure none of Aimee’s roommates, who he had yet not discovered who were, were there. “Aim…”

It broke his heart to the point he could feel all the air leaving his lungs. Aimee sat there, on the bed, head in her hands, curling up around herself like a small child. She looked so little and defenseless. This was one of the people he loved most in the world, and there she was, looking defeated and so miserable, while he didn’t even know what this was about, couldn’t even console her. Maybe if he hadn’t left her all of a sudden yesterday, maybe if he hadn’t drank so much and had come by her room in the morning, she wouldn’t be like this. But she was, and her scream now sounded like the saddest thing he could have ever heard. Carr ran into the room and kneeled on the floor in front of her, placing both hand on her knees in an attempt to comfort her in any way he could.

“Hey, hey. Look at me. Are you alright? Cookie, please don’t be sad.” His voice was hoarse and sounded strange, and his eyes were so red and swollen and had such dark circles under them maybe the proximity of his face wasn’t such a good idea, it might actually scare her. Far from where they were, the bell rang, but he ignored it.“C’mon, I can’t just touch you and know it. What happened?”





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Rebecca woke up earlier than usual, and earlier than necessary. Although she hadn’t really drunk all that much, alcohol would do that to her, get her wake and up only a few hours after going to bed. After the first dance, she had spent what seemed like hours dancing closely to Christian Sebek, an Elite student who’s family owned an emerging cosmetics and fashion company. Lying in her bed, she stretched both her arms so her hands were in eyes’ length, and tried to recapture the feeling of his against her palms. He had spun her around gently and whispered meaningless words to her ear. And she, how could it be any different, had smiled pleasantly, chuckled sweetly and danced gracefully amongst the mass of teenagers, but had done nothing more then allow him a kiss in the hand by the end of the fifth song. This was what Rebecca was known for. A tease bitch, a misleader, the patron saint of blue balls, call it what you want, she’s heard it before. Truth is, she didn’t really care. The warmth of his skin felt nice, his voice was soft and tender, and his dancing wasn’t bad, so she had enjoyed it, and than left, like she had meant to.

After that, she drank a bit more while chatting absentmindedly with a few Influentials who seemed eager to hear why on earth she had had the first dance with Keevan instead of Christian. She had laughed and, with a mysterious glare, told them “Well, he has been such a good boy to me, I thought he deserved it.”It was only a little after two when she went to bed, sensing there were no more slow dances or conversations about her ahead. Just before drifting off into a deliciously intoxicated slumber, she grabbed her cellphone from the nightstand and sent out a few texts.

To: Nina Romanov
I hope you feel better, darling. You owe me a dance.

To: Timothy Sayre
Miss u

To: Hemingway Jr.
Well, you didn’t have to disappear. Didn’t even give me time to say goodnight

It was hard for her to think the closest thing she had to a friend was Nina. She didn’t actually dislike or wished any harm upon Nina, and actually was quite fond of her, but it was impossible for her to support Nina in the position she was in right now. For the time being, then, she was the adversary. Becky didn’t exactly miss companionship or loyalty, she was actually surrounded by people all of the time and those people would do anything she asked for as little as a smile, but she couldn’t wrap her mind around why nobody actually seemed to want to know anything about what she liked, about what she thought about things… Her mind actually started getting a little claustrophobic at times. And Keevan… And all that bread bowl stuff wasn’t making it any easier. So she thought today, on the first day of school, she would actually take a day for herself, to not think about the Influentials, Breadbowl, Keevan, Christian or the bonfire. She thought wrong.

When Erin’s absurd alarm clock went off, as it did every morning, inspire of Becky’s several complaints, Becky had already showered and did all her beauty routine, and was getting dressed in a delicate white dress and a light pinkish flowery kimono when Erin left the room to take a shower. And then, while the door was still open, she heard Nina’s voice. The sound was muffled and seemed distant, but there was no doubt, she’d recognize that voice anywhere. Suspicious and intrigued, Becky left the room, tiptoeing to the hall, and the voice got a bit louder. It increased as she approached Daniel’s room, the one right in front of her’s, and then was completely silenced by the shower next door. Afraid Nina might leave, Becky went back into her room and stood on her tiptoes close to the door so that she could look through the peephole. In a matter of seconds, Nina rushed out of the room, her cheeks a unusual rosy color. This, right there, was all Becky needed, and as much as she had wanted this day to be her own, it wasn’t something that happened everyday.
Nina.
The Ice Queen.
Leaving her loyal dog’s room.
In the clothes from the night before.

To: Hemingway Jr.
Can you meet me later?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart

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Aimee heard Anthony's footsteps before she felt his palms on her knees. Not now, please not now, she thought as the rush of his emotions and thoughts whirled around her. She scooted back abruptly, her back against the wall. "Don't. Don't touch me, I can't...I can't control it," she said, her voice hoarse and raw. The tears that had been streaming down her face had finally stopped, and she was left even more worn out than before. She had always been an ugly crier, so she knew in some part of her mind that her face looked red and puffy, similar to how Anthony's looked right now. But, he was there, in front of her, and she knew just by looking at him that he wanted to help her.

"I don't know how to explain it, I..." Her voice broke again and she curled her head on her knees. The bell rang, distantly, but she couldn't go to class yet. "It was just a lot...piling up all at once, I...it's so complicated," she said lamely. How could she tell him? Not only that she was an orphan and had kept it from him but that she had sex with Lane and had kept it from him. Thinking about it made her sick.

"I think I just need to go to class. I need to forget about this..." she whispered. She prayed to God that there wasn't any of them in her Speech & Debate elective, but she knew the chances of that were highly unlikely and so far the odds had not been in her favor.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by piearty
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Lucas was already moving when he heard Nina's peals of laughter behind him. He was glad that saying Aimee's name seemed to stop the ringing in both their heads, but regretted having touched her after; she was on sensory overload right now and had just about shut down, she didn't need his thoughts, however well-meaning. He regretted being a factor in her disorientation, in her pain, and he needed to help her somehow.

Overload, he thought grimly as he pushed through the crowd of people. Don't miss that at all. He'd been in a state of overload for about a year after his powers kicked in, so overwhelmed by other people's emotions and thoughts and senses that his own self seemed to vanish. He couldn't remember almost anything from that year. Only a swirling sea of colors and noise and smells and sounds that blended together into a screaming mess and himself just numb, numb, numb.

He entered the dorm hall just in time to catch the last notes of a long, sustained wail in his head, a feedback-like screech of emotions that were unmistakably Aimee's, which caused him to almost double over in pain. As he recovered he saw Anthony dart out of his own room, and realized with a jolt that the scream must have been audible as well as mental. Trepidatiously, he approached Aimee's room, which Anthony had already entered. The door was flung open; he peered inside to see the two, Aimee curled in the fetal position, Anthony crouching in front of her. They didn't seem to notice Lucas, and he backed away immediately. The guy's got this, he said to himself. She doesn't need me around too. He kicked himself mentally for having thought that she'd actually choose him, a stranger she met last night, over her friend of nigh three years. Silly you, thinking you could help, his inner voice hissed.

But then there was a dull distorted ringing in both Aimee and Anthony's ears (Lucas supposed it was the bell), and Aimee was saying, "I just need to go to class." Lucas' heart dropped. He imagined her sitting at her desk, staring vacantly as she tried to process all the input from the world around her, flinching like a hurt animal when the teacher yelled for her to pay attention, walking from class to class like a wind-up toy. Like he had done for the entirety of 9th grade.

The word, "no", escaped his lips at the thought. No. He walked to her door, knocking on the frame. "Aimee," he said emphatically, before stopping short and losing his nerve. "Sorry, I overheard and I just--sorry if this is creepy, I--" he shook his head. "You...you can't go to class, Aimee." His face was despondent. "It'll kill you inside."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Aimee Hart

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The way Nina addresses Lane is a way a Queen might a dress a silly little peasant girl. She speaks down to her, calls her not by her name but by my dear. Each syllable stings, and each laugh Nina emits, the same. The way her words flow are familiar, from a distant memory that's unplaceable at the moment. Lane wants to snap back, to yell, or to cry to Nina This isn't you! This isn't you! But the girl she wishes for is long dead and deep down Lane fears the brutal replacement.

The sound of the first bell suddenly breaks the momentarily stiffness in the air, causing many students to drop their attention of the scene and scurry for the cafeteria exits. Lane has nothing further to say to Nina as she see's the girl's robotic friend approaching. Now that anger has began to shoot brought her veins, Lane has almost entirely forgot why her cheeks have tear streaks running down them.

Aimee...

Lane's heart beat quickens and she scans the area for her it's-complicated friend. Her eyes dart from face to face, searching, hoping to see Aimee somewhere in the scatter of students. She moves herself closer to Erin who's engaged in conversation with Sterling. "Erin, I need to fi-" You can't try to force this an echo of words come at her, reminding her what had happened before Nina had thrown herself center stage. ...you bitch...she didn't know what she was saying...apparently secrets don't work with you...she was drunk...you didn't care Lane, you didn't care at all. You didn't care at all. You didn't care. Lane sniffs. She wraps her arm around Erin's and closes her eyes. Three deep breathes later her eyes open again, red, but less glassy. She can't look Erin in eye, she's afraid of any anger or disappointment that might be visible. Instead she begins walking to class.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by Saerith
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As soon as Aimee distanced herself, he shook his head as to tell himself off and quickly retrieved his hands, that now lied flat on the bed. As a powerful student, Carr should understand and be accustomed to the particularities, but truth is people had always been more careful around him then he was around them, so it had never seemed like a problem. He examined Aimee’s face and the pain and helplessness in her eyes kept catching him by surprise. They had been friends for many years now, and in several occasions had had to comfort each other when things got thought, but he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen her like this. And whatever it was, it didn’t seem like something he could make better at all.

”Aimee. It’s alright. We can… We can deal with complicated, ok? You don’t have to explain just… I’m here. We’ll manage.” He wanted to understand. He desperately wanted to be able to do something about it, just make it go away. Unfortunately, this isn’t one thing that could be solved with junk food and bad movies, with goofy dancing or funny faces. This was something real, and asking even more about it would do no good. Just like with Erin the night before, he could see pushing her would only cause distress. He almost couldn’t hear the whisper she let out, but as soon as he could put together the words “class" and “forget”, if it was possible, his mood worsened. “You really thin—“

His voice was cut off by the sound of knocking on wood and his friend’s name being called. It took him a bit of time to recognize the young man standing at the door as the guy from the night before, who had stumbled into Aimee and spilled booze all over his shirt. He frowned, trying to remember at what point in the night the two of them had exchanged names or talked at all, but he just assumed it was one more thing that was forever lost in the fog of his drunkenness. Well he pondered that’s an awfully strong statement for someone who met her last night… But he could really feel this was just a bit of jealousy on his part, certainly he had nothing but her best interest in mind, and anyone could see the girl was really an emotional wreck and in no condition to learn at this point. He looked at Aimee’s face again, and thought about all the times she had stayed by his side when he needed her. Truth is, for a variety of reasons, most of which had to do with his mother, Carr was not one to skip class, even if it was just summer classes like this, but he had already left her last night and wasn’t about to do the same. But somehow… His gaze shifted back and forth between Lucas and Aimee, and there seemed to be a strange connection, an aura of comfort and understanding. Like they had some kind of invisible bond in which he wasn’t included. And then he waited. For Aimee to say something, for the odd guy to do whatever he came to do. He wished he could touch Aimee and she could only see what was in his mind right now, but he knew that’s not how it worked. Instead, he just stared at her in silence, while his mind whispered Say anything. I’ll do whatever you tell me to. Just don’t be sad, Cookie.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Aimee almost smiled at Anthony's comfort instinct. They had been through so much together, but usually it was her comforting him not the other way around. She felt bad, being so weak, but she knew he didn't see her that way and that all he wanted to do was help her. She was about to respond when the knock on the doorframe had her head turning numbly in that direction, only to see Lucas standing there awkwardly. He spoke to her, only glancing once at Carr, and stepped into the room. Seeing him there, her emotions quieted. She felt...relieved. Carr had been there to comfort her, in any way he could, but Lucas possessed the actual knowledge of what she was going through without her having to explain it. It was just so easy, and it took a lot of weight off her shoulders just by knowing he was there.

"Not creepy," she murmured. You heard me, she thought to him. She had been so shell-shocked before, she hadn't had the chance to really see Lucas. Now that she was, she immediately felt calm wash over her, but at the same time shock and regret. Lucas knew. He had seen it in her mind. He knew about her and Lane. There was nothing she could do to hide it from him. Her eyes swelled up with tears again, but she turned away from both of her friends so that they wouldn't see them fall. He doesn't know, she thought, implying that Lucas knew one of her secrets and Anthony knew none of them. She felt awful. Her best friend didn't know her truths and yet this guy standing before her, an unmistakable bond maybe but still an acquaintance, knew her darkest tales.

"Anthony, you can't...you can't miss class. Not even for me. I'd never forgive myself if you broke your rule," she murmured to him, speaking of his oath to always attend his classes. She could tell from his expressions that he was wary of Lucas, and she couldn't really blame him. They were protective of each other, Aimee and Anthony. They always looked out for each other, and she could tell that that was part of the reason why Carr didn't want to leave her. I need to go to class eventually, she said in her mind, looking at Lucas. She had barely any energy left to speak, and was only doing so for Carr's benefit. She was unbearably weary, not sure whether to reach for Anthony or for Lucas. She settled on leaning her head against the wall and curling her hands around her knees. She had lost control. They would figure out what to do. She was just wandering.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by piearty
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For the second time, Lucas' presence seemed to calm Aimee down, and he wondered at it. She trusted him more than he felt any person should after less than 24 hours; though he knew her exact reasons, he still couldn't wrap his head around it. You heard me, she thought, and he gave the slightest of nods.

Well, that's an awfully strong statement from someone who met her last night, thought a voice in reference to what Lucas had said. His eyes snapped to Anthony, was frowning at him in vague confusion. Anthony seemed to pick up on the connection that Lucas and Aimee apparently had now, feeling excluded. It washed Lucas in awkward guilt. No, no, I'm the one intruding, he wished to say to the guy. You two have been friends for years and me...I'm just some creep who knows too much.

Aimee, too, seemed to be realizing the unfair difference between Lucas and Anthony keenly. He doesn't know, she thought with dismay, and it filled Lucas with the same miserable feeling, especially when she turned to the wall to hide her tears. I'm sorry, Aimee. He wished the thought-reading went both ways. I'm sorry for your powers, and me, and Nina, and Lane, and this shitty day.

She spoke, bidding Anthony go to class, and directed at Lucas, I need to go to class eventually. He closed his eyes, brow furrowing. But not today.

"I don't wanna speak for..." he paused, trying to remember if the guy's name had been said aloud or not, "Anthony or anything, but I'm going to guess he-- Lucas glanced at him-- "And I...we...don't plan on leaving you alone like this."

He thought of a way to make this better. To make things more equal. He knew Aimee's power and Aimee knew his, and Anthony was in the fucking dark despite being closer to Aimee than Lucas imagined he'd ever be. He found this imbalance profoundly unfair, but wouldn't dare reveal Aimee's secret, so...

He took a breath and straightened his posture, cocking his head to one side. "Besides," he said with a wry smile. "I don't think any of us would like Speech and Debate anyway."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Keevan Brennan Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Time Skip
It is now 9:45. Mrs Jefferson has welcomed the class in, given the seating chart, and explained the assignment. Erin is out in the hallway working on the preparation part of her speech. No one else has received their topic yet, they are just inside chatting amongst themselves or reading or something along those lines.


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The paper is still curled up in Erin's hand. Half of her had been glad to go first, because it allowed her instant distance from Sterling who, by some cruel twist of faith, is now seated right next to her. To get away from that class in general, actually. Not only Sterling, but also Nina and Daniel. Perhaps if she had been seated next to Lane, she would feel more at ease. Unfortunately, that is far from the case, as she sits on the other side of the room from her. And so she jumped up when her name was called to go outside and work on her speech. Now she regrets moving with such haste. She uncurls the paper.

Forgiveness.

Oh. This isn't so bad. I should be fine. Okay, I've got this. Forgiveness. Okay, Erin takes a long breath and begins scrawling things on the back of her thin slip of paper. Lead with reference to "if sorry was enough, police" joke. Too exaggerated for real life. To err is human. Importance of moving on. Let wounds heal. Forgive, strengthen. Erin doesn't notice the irony in her own notes. All she knows is that she has already been outside for two minutes and despite attempts to reassure herself her palms are sweaty and she desperately wants to get this over with. She twists the paper in her hand, a nervous tick. Knocks on the door to be let in. A Gifted boy, Rory, opens it for her, and wishes her good luck in a whisper. Erin walks to the center.

As she is the first speech, people are slightly more focused on listening. They knows Mrs Jefferson will notice if they are already playing on their phones or whispering to one another. Keevan stops his conversation with her, probably about some book or another, to sit down and lean back. Erin has never before wished that people would be more disrespectful towards her. She wants them all trained on their phones, on each other, on the posters around the room. Anywhere else. But they are on her.

"Um. My topic was forgiveness," Erin shows the class her slip and immediately regrets doing so. It's not like they think you're lying to them, idiot. Erin is impulsive. Erin is loyal. Erin is playful and sometimes loud and always smiling. Until Erin is told to make a speech, and then she is prone to self destruction, like a foolish cartoon supervillain. The feeling of standing up in front of people is not unlike eating a star and trying to digest the burning feeling of your insecurities. Erin took this class deciding that she must learn to present eventually. It must get worse before it can get better.

"Has the timer started? Yeah? Okay, cool. Start now. Please.

If sorry was good enough we wouldn't need police officers. It's too late to apologize. An eye for an eye. We're living in a culture that criticizes the ability to forgive, instead, um, opting for cynicism and, uh, punishment. Half the time we don't even realize we're doing it. But it's there. It's the uh archaic notion that we are born one way and never change."


She makes brief eye contact with Nina, which lapses into her staring at her for a few seconds while the planned course shifts.

"But people can change. And y'know maybe that's the problem. Maybe sometimes people change in ways you could never imagine, and that's um the thing we can't forgive them for. Because we had so fully trusted one ideal, and it just breaks down in front of us, and not always for the better."


And then Sterling, just behind Nina. He had always been either behind or at the side of Nina. He should have remained there, instead of vanishing and allowing matter to collapse into that sudden vacuum until a black hole was formed. Until the Queen was born.

"People don't take responsibility for what they've done. Or even if they do, they can't change the way that their actions have launched others into that negative change. And, I mean, it can be hard to forgive someone that turns everything to ash in your mouth. When people separate they leave holes in the fabric of the quilt they were once part of, you know? I mean, not that people are quilts exactly. Um. Sorry, how much time left do I have?


"Two minutes. Erin, you seem to have lost your point. Try to reel it back in, please. I love the imagery but an impromptu should be a bit more structured. And don't forget about triangulation, okay? I'm unpausing the time now."

"Oh. Sorry. Right. So, I mean sure forgiveness is something we should aim for but sometimes it can just be, um, difficult. I mean I guess nothing is impossible but sometimes people just screw up so badly that there is nothing they can do to fix it and how can you forgive someone if the problem is just left to fester, especially when they didn't have to deal with the problem. The rest of us- er, the people, do. Maybe not forgiving is the only way to, erm, cope, I guess. Or something. I'm sorry, I'm not sure where I'm going anymore can I sit down?"


Mrs. Jefferson studies Erin, who had her for English this previous year, for a moment. She takes a long sip of tea, face unreadable while Erin just stands up there silently, doing a poor job of subtly avoiding looking at Sterling and Nina.

"Yes, I suppose in the interest of time you may take your seat. Although you may want to consider representing next class in order to improve the grade." Both teacher and student know Erin will not be trying to make it up for a higher grade. Even sitting next to Sterling seems refreshing in comparison to the thousand suns she felt at the podium.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Why am I in this class is it too late to transfer this was a bad idea can I ask for a seating change? Deep breaths. I'm not up there anymore. Erin can be passably clever when not in the spotlight. In the arena, however, her armor is stripped away by the eyes of spectators. "Shut it," she mutters to Sterling, who is as of yet innocent in terms of any scathing remarks.

"Alright, well. Rebecca Sayre? You're next, dear. Come, take your paper. You have seven minutes beginning when the door shuts behind you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov

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#, as written by Saerith
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Becky sat on the edge of her chair and comfortably laid against the back. Public speeches didn’t make her anxious at all, she had slept few hours and most people, honestly, were so bad at this it actually made it quite hard for her to keep her eyes open. Erin’s words seemed to drift further away every second and flow in a disorganized, confused manner. Only the teacher’s words could actually wake her up a bit, and from them she could tell her roommate wasn’t doing very well. Forgiveness she thought, just as Erin walked back to her seat What a notion

Rebecca didn’t need a lot of time to prepare her speech. The words on the paper created a wide smile on Becky’s lips. What bittersweet word, hierarchy. She wanted to say it over and over again. Hierarchy. She trusted deeply in hierarchy, she adored it. But it seemed to disappoint her so much it almost felt like she was being unrequited love, honestly.

As she made her was to the podium, she knew people would pay attention. She didn’t need humor or appeal in her speech, she just needed to say whatever it was she meant to, straight forward. People would stare anyway.

"Good morning everyone. I’ll be talking about how the hierarchies of the past reflect today. I believe, however, differing hierarchies as a thing of the past or present is a misconception. If anything, hierarchies have changed names and became broader, but the hierarchic structures from hundreds of years ago repeat themselves today. Before the Industrial Revolution,hierarchies were limited to feudal structures and the systems inside the clergy and nobility, however, the growth of capitalism generated a greater segregation between members of the same consignment social class, within the bourgeoisie, within the proletariat. The hierarchies infiltrate even within non-governmental establishments, hospitals, large companies ... schools. Hierarchies grow. And there is a reason for that."

She could feel the student’s interest peaking. They knew what she was talking about. They wanted to hear about nobility, directly from royal Sayre herself. But undeniable, some of the eyes turned to Nina, and that made Becky’s next three or four words sound slightly, almost unnoticeably weaker, less confident then the rest.

"In our society, where capitalism and meritocracy are the basis of the greatest achievements, the hierarchy is a clear way to separate those who are privileged and can also influence the social climbing of others from those who conform to their lower position and limit themselves to criticizing those in position of greater power, with our actually trying to occupy these positions themselves, positions that, while accompanied by privilege, also come with great responsibilities and effort. Hierarchies are effective and practical.

By studying the German political tendencies between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Max Weber noted that efficient governments would have to be moved by a strong and efficient bureaucracy and a leadership that establishes the paths of political agents. New paths. This clear separation is beneficial for everyone, you see?"


They didn’t. She could see it in they’re faces, like it was written there. Students were either ogling her in a way she knew all too well or staring, completely befuddled.
"Thus, the reflection and the expansion of old hierarchies today is essential for greater organization and social justice. Hierarchy ensures that the deserving are the privileged. The hardworking are the powerful. Hierarchy rewards effort."

The words lingered on her lips for a moment, and Rebecca stood in the podium, her face completely expressionless, while she pondered about her own words. Then, a perfectly bight, polite smile appeared. ”Thank you for your time!”

Then, as if she had merely introduced herself in the first day of class, she slowly made her way back to her seat and crossed her legs under the table before gently placing her hair on her shoulder so she could play with it. But her exterior was far from telling. She felt a hot, irritating sensation on her chest, her vision was hazy and her body felt heavy. What couldn’t people see? How had she been failing?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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#, as written by Layla
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XXX
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      XXX
      XXX
      XXXOh, Erin is adorable, alright. Sterling's rather fond. Who isn't in the presence of waddling babies or snorting pugs? Gosh, watching her is a decidedly painful experience, if only because it requires a colossal amount of willpower not to cross the distance between them to ruffle her curly hair and hand her a lollipop.
      XXXSterling fails to notice the glance Erin casts Nina only because his gaze flits over to where the brunette sits poised with that aggravating grace of hers at the same time.
      XXXSterling claps loudly when Erin is finished, grinning as she vacates the podium with the devil on her heels. Her cheeks are flushed and her hair sticks to the thin sheen of sweat on her forehead. He grins as he takes her seat beside him.
      XXXAll hail Mrs Jefferson's sterling seating arrangements. He can see the delight rolling off of Erin in waves.
      XXX"Shut it," Erin hisses the moment she descends into her seat. Sterling widens brilliant blue eyes in mock surprise. He glances over his shoulder before turning back to Erin, cocking his head in bewilderment.
      XXX"Me, Miss Hill?" he questions in his thick British accent. "Goodness, no. I would never think to comment on your poorly executed speech or your perky arse as you fled the stage."
      XXXMrs Jefferson's call for Rebecca has Sterling pressing his finger over a cheeky smile before turning to face the podium. Rebecca's speech is quite brilliant. Succinct, eloquent, supported by evidence. Until she falters for a brief moment, gaze flitting towards lo and behold, Nina Romanov. It seems no one can execute a speech without shifting their attention to "The Queen."
      XXXSterling decides there and then that he will ignore Nina entirely through the duration of his speech, even if it means ignoring that section of the room. It matters little. Aimee threatened Erin's safety and Daniel Ahn... Well, Sterling will shed no tears should Daniel Ahn mysteriously disappear into thin air.
      XXX"Thank you, Rebekah. Take a seat. Next we have Lucas Long." A pause. "Lucas Long?"
      XXXThey had a Long Lucas? Sterling must have slept through more classes than he'd initially envisioned. To think he took pride in knowing the names of everyone in school. Hah, just kidding. He knew about five.
      XXX"As it seems he's absent, we'll move on to the next person on the list," the teacher continues. A grimace that is not entirely subtle flits across her face as she glances at her list. "Sterling Walker," she grumbles. "Come."
      XXXSterling barks like a dog. Mrs Jefferson gawks and sputters something about respect and inappropriate social efficacies and blablabla. Sterling takes the piece of paper from her and heads to the podium. He unfolds his prompt slowly and with no small amount of drama. He pauses before taking a deep breath as if preparing to dive into the unknown. All theatrics. Somebody has to have a sense of humour in this horrendously morbid class. You'd think from everyone's faces that they're being called to the noose.
      XXX"You may begin now, Mr Walker," Mrs Jefferson says impatiently.
      XXX"'It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry,'" Sterling begins, putting on an extra posh British accent and a croaky voice. "'Whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom,' said a dead white man."
      XXXHe glances up at his sheet to find Mrs Jefferson about to protest, before she shakes her head and places it in the palm of her hand. Why bother, her gesture seems to say. Sterling does so love sucking the hope out of the human soul.
      XXX"We often think love and hatred are opposites, foils to one another in a story that is infinitely complex," he starts after a moment to gather his thoughts and school his expression into one of serious pondering. "Yet we neglect to realise that it is those we love who inspire the greatest contempt. We succumb to anger because we care. It is because we see - we saw - what they were and all the potential they possessed. And we saw it fall to ruin."
      XXXHis attention shifts to Nina. He curses. Aloud. Mrs Jefferson gasps and a few chuckles spread across the class. Shit, I wasn't supposed to look at her. But he does. Instead of turning away, he challenges her to pull her gaze away. She does not. Something strange crosses her face, but her eyes do not waver. Instead she lifts her chin, a challenge in her own.
      XXX"The opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference," Sterling says quietly. Loud enough to just be heard by everyone in the room, but there is something intimate in his tone as he looks at Nina, as if begging her, beyond all others, to heed his words. It is an apology and adjuration.
      XXX"Myths and sacred stories frequently employ apples as a symbol of love. A fitting analogy, considering the seeds of an apple are poisonous. That is not to say all love leads to one's demise, only that we must be careful not to be so immersed in tasting the sweetness that we devour the bitterness as well. Sometimes mould can fester when neglected. What was lovely can rot."
      XXXNina flinches.
      XXXFinally. A reaction. He needs this. He needs to see what hides beneath the Ice Queen. Sterling continues.
      XXX"A moment can change us for a lifetime."






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XXX
XXX
      XXX
      XXX"A moment can change us for a lifetime."
      XXXNina grips her hands together under the table, her nails digging into her knuckles. She clenches her jaw. An calloused hand jerks me forward. I fall into the dirt. A fire rages, devouring his skin. She shuts her eyes, breaking the stare between her and Sterling. Don't think about it, don't think about it. Her chest is rising and falling in quirk spurts. She takes a deep breath, shoves the intrusive memories from her mind and opens her eyes. Don't let them know. They are vultures. Exploiting weakness.
      XXX"Often the smallest things can tip the scales from love to hate. A misunderstanding. A mistake. A drunken night can shift the dynamics for the worse." Here Sterling shifts his gaze away from Nina to Erin. "Or better."
      XXXHope shivers. Plummets.
      XXXOh, God.
      XXXShe's going to be sick. But her stomach is empty, her chest a void.
      XXX"Just as love can morph into loathing, so can loathing morph into love. The fragility of humanity's depth of emotion echoes in the transience of our mortality. Just as it is necessary to burn a forest to create fields, so it is that we must sacrifice old flames for the new."
      XXXSterling struts from the podium like he owns the stage and the people beneath it. He returns to Erin's side. I can't breathe. Of course it's fire. It is always fire. Fire took love from her once before, too, but it did not leave her with fields to plough. It left her with the carcass of her brother and the disgust of her family. It left her with a cavern in her chest and scars wrapped around her torso.
      XXXNina traces the path of a small scar on the inside of her wrist, hidden beneath the bracelet Daniel returned to her moments before. It is a burn mark incomparable to those hidden beneath her clothes. Her clenched fists relax under the table.
      XXXNumb. Always numb. There is no light in her eyes, no ember in her chest. She'd known, then, that Sterling and Erin saw something in each other that they did not see in her. But she did not know the depth of their feeling. What a fool she'd been. How could she not have known when Sterling stares at Erin now the way he used to...
      XXX"Hey, don't look too impressed," she hears Sterling say to Erin behind her. "Wouldn't want your panties to spontaneously combust in the middle of class."
      XXXNo more.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov

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"Lane. Lane?" Mrs. Jefferson calls out, she looks up. Lane has laid her head down between her arms on her desk. She had stayed that way through out all the speeches so far. [b]"Lane if you're sick, just go to the infirmary, otherwise come on, you are up." The teacher continues and Lane slowly sits up, then stands. She snatches the slip of paper from her teachers hand, unfolds it, and walks to the podium absentmindedly.

"My topic is 'the only thing I cannot resist is temptation' a quote by Oscar Wilde." Lane states bitterly and looks around at the class before her. God, What have I possibly done to deserve this topic? It only increases her heart rate knowing that the majority of the students just witnessed her break down crying in the cafeteria 30 minutes ago. She blinks, staring back at the class. For once everyone is silent, she will be able to speak without being yelled at, or terrorized. Normally Lane is a very talkative girl, it was simply that the events of the last 2 days had caused her silence. She glances at the clock and then begins.

"Without temptation, resist would not exist. We would never have to resist anything if we weren't tempted to do it in the first place. If Oscar Wilde is saying that the only thing he gives into is his temptations then he's really says that he has little to no self control."

Her voice is almost completely monotone. Lane shifts her eyes slightly, she's staring at Aimee's empty seat.

"But Oscar Wilde is still a great guy, I mean obviously because his name is very recognizable and he wrote lots of books... I think. Just because he couldn't resist uh the things that tempted him doesn't mean he wasn't kind and caring and nice to talk to. Everyone gets tempted by things that they are supposed to be resisting. But they could have a really good reason. A reason that causes them so much temptation that in their mind it suddenly becomes obvious they have to do it. Or they guilt themselves into it... or they just can't stand to not talk-... I mean um not resist any longer."

She takes a breath, collecting any lost thoughts. Mrs. Jefferson taps her watch as a motion to finish up.

"It's very hard to resist temptation I think for all humans including Mr. Wilde....and me. Resisting temptation isn't supposed to be easy. When you give into your temptations it really effects everyone around you. Depending on the situation um it can even hurt people uh more that it hurts yourself."

She shifts her eyes to Nina, who sits beside the empty desk that is Aimee's, holding her gaze as she finishes speaking.

"And you have to realize you gave in uh um to your... to your um your temptation and know it was wrong, and you have to apologize, because that's what people in their correct state of mind do." She paused trying to find a way to conclude her statement. "And then you do better next time. Okay, done." Lane finished, her eyes now blankly stare at the ground. It takes her a moment but she shuffles to her desk and slumps back in her chair, drained.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Anthony couldn’t seem to be able to take his eyes off of Lucas now. Somehow, him and Aimee had apparently even talked about the class he was having this morning. Meanwhile, Carr didn’t even know the other boy’s name. He felt embarrassed, most of all, and the constant pain in his head didn’t help him figuring out this strange situation at all. Why was he so concerned? Not that he thought this was bad at all, he looked like a pretty stand up guy but…

Then he thought. Aimee was an attractive girl, he supposed. I mean, she didn’t look bad. Carr had never actually thought about it but… The talk with Erin the previous morning had him wondering if perhaps this was the reason this guy seemed so attentive. He couldn’t help but blush slightly, feeling like a bit of a third wheel. I wonder if last night…

He shifted his gaze back to Aimee. It was true, though, he had absolutely no will or strength to get to Speech and Debate at this point. Honestly, he was already feeling so bad, and speaking in public made him so worried, he actually might get sick. So, with a deep sight, he tried his best to give his friend an encouraging smile. ”You know what? This is… Our peak, and I have never once skipped class. What kind of teenager am I? You’d be doing me a favor.” He tried to smile at Lucas as well, but really it seemed more like a bit of a sloppy call for help ”This guy, hmm” He gave him an apologetic look for not remembering his name ”Is right. You know how much I hate that class.”

Aimee was strong. No matter how much she cried or if she screamed and fell apart, she was still strong, because she could get through this. She could overcome and always go back to being her usual sweet, joyful self. But she couldn’t do it alone. If nothing else, he could at least offer her this, comfort. And if she had trusted someone like Carr to be by her side for all this years then… Then this was his duty.

”I'll make you a deal. I’ll go back for PE, but I’ll stay with you for know. We will. We could stay in and eat a whole bunch of candy, and we only have to talk about it if you want to. Ok?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Aimee let out a little half-laugh as Anthony reiterated what they had drunkenly said last night. Our peak... she thought. Anthony was right. She had always nagged him about being such a good student, even in 8th grade he always went to his classes, and she thought she was being so superior as a sophomore that she knew all the ropes of high school and that she was basically a genius in the making. Oh, how she was very wrong.

She could tell by the way that Carr was glancing at Lucas that he felt a little awkward around him, and from the way his face looked Anthony wasn't in a good state of mind either. She never really figured out what happened after he went off with Erin, since he never responded to her text. Knowing him, he was probably feeling pretty guilty about leaving her, especially with her acting like this. She wanted to console him, she felt like she had to, even though she knew that he was the one who wanted to be consoling her. Sorry, honorary little brother, she thought. She almost wished that Anthony had the same ability as Lucas, so that she wouldn't have to worry about what she was keeping from him. But, when she thought about it, she probably would have kept it from Lucas too by putting her wall up. I guess it doesn't really matter now... her mind whispered as she glanced at Lucas.

I know we don't know each other very well--well, I guess we didn't know each other very well--so I understand if you feel weird knowing about...well, about me. The playing field is slightly more even now, I guess, she thought to him. She knew it had to be done, she couldn't say it out loud and risk giving away Lucas's power since she knew he was sensitive about it, but she still hated having a side conversation without Anthony even the slightest it aware. He was her best friend, her family, so why did she feel like she couldn't tell him any of this?

"No fair, you know I can't resist candy," she said to Anthony, wiping her eyes on her shirt sleeve and controlling the remainder of sniffles left from her crying. She looked at him with doe eyes, her classic Aimee move without even trying, and sent him a watery smile that verged on genuine. "Got any Sour Patch stashed away?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Well then, Lucas thought, trying to hide his mortification when he realized what Anthony assumed went on last night. That was not the conclusion I was hoping he'd reach... And damn his tendency to blush easily-- he could feel the heat in his cheeks at the very thought. And now Anthony was feeling like a third wheel to his best friend and a guy whose name he didn't even know.

Aimee sent some thoughts to Lucas, but he saw that she also felt guilty for keeping Anthony out of their little secret and their one-sided conversation. She spoke to Anthony, keeping up the facade.

The more I stand here blushing like an idiot, the more suspicious I'm going to look, he thought. I'm going to have to tell him...and outright this time. He shifted from foot to foot, as if tamping down his terror.

"Aimee, it's ok, I'm gonna tell him," Lucas blurted out, and before Anthony could draw any more unfortunate conclusions about this sentence, he continued, "First of all, my name's Lucas, not 'this odd guy'; second of all, nothing like that happened last night; third, I knew you were thinking all that stuff and what class we all have because I have a power too and that's that I can read minds, not that other reason. Surprise! Ok, candy then?"

By this time his shoulders were tense and risen, his eyes were fixated on the carpet pattern in the room, and his arms were crossed, pressed tight to his chest. He felt like a bug underneath a magnifying glass, waiting to see whether he'd be burned by Anthony's reaction. Regardless of what happened though, he knew it was something that had to be done. He couldn't drive a wedge between a friendship like that. And if Anthony freaked out, didn't trust him after this, told him to leave them alone, well, he could deal. Like he always did.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Keevan Brennan

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Keevan could not have asked for a more perfect seat, if truth be told. Sterling Walker, center of at least 25% of the major drama even when he's standing on the fringes, at his table, Daniel and Nina eavesdropping distance away, and, most to his pleasure though he's loathe to admit it, Becca just at arm's length. He glances over at Sterling and Erin, realizing there is most certainly some sort of story to be published there as well. "Wouldn't want your panties to spontaneously combust in the middle of class," earning a scarlet blush and look mixed with embarrassment and frustration from the blonde. Note to self- How is the Queen dealing with her ex-knight and ex-bestie being so close these days? Admittedly, Keevan's time at Laurel had minimal overlap with Nina's old group, but word spreads like wildfire, especially when it has to do with the school's hottest and deadliest student. And very few know how to read smoke signals as well as Keevan Brennan, gossip and writer extraordinaire. After all, in today's society information is the greatest form of currency and all the most powerful people trade in secrets. His gaze shifts towards Rebecca, or rather the back of her head, recalling her text from earlier. He hadn't had a chance to respond, and with this realization sends a quick one, phone underneath his desk although Mrs. Jefferson would probably let him get away with murder, or worse- plagiarism.

To: Rebecca
Sorry, dear, places to be, things to write. And of course- you, me, a canoe, the open lake, and secrets?

He slides his phone back into the pocket of his laptop case, caught between smiling and hating himself, not unfamiliar territory for the young man. It should come as no surprise that he tends to find himself tightly wrapped into situations like these, given how often he puts his characters, and the people around him, into them with a few strokes of the keyboard. People like Keevan often fall into their own traps, proving to be not particularly efficient killers or survivors.

But at least upon taking the podium, Keevan is confident he will not flounder as Erin or Lane did, hoping to be counted with eloquence more similar to Sterling, or confidence akin to Rebecca's. Her speech. . . Keevan frowns, not exactly agreeing with the ideals that she had expressed. Still, he is already too hopelessly lost for that to be a great deterrent.

"Keevan? You're up next, dear. Here you are," Keevan takes his paper with a smile, but takes his time passing through the classroom, snaking past the bookcases and setting his cup of tea (He leaves a mug in Mrs. Jefferson's classroom) down on his desk. The moment the door has shut behind him he is unfurling the paper.

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Just a moment or two later, Keevan is strolling back up to the podium, leaning against it and looking relaxed as you like. He winks at Nina, with no explanation whatsoever. Don't worry queenling, at least this speech you won't be stared down.

"Knowledge vs. Wisdom. Ladies and gentleman, plenty of you probably have a fair amount of green in your wallets or a pretty plastic card in your back pocket. I know some of you have more of it than anyone could know what to do with. I suppose I've got that too, though it didn't come from mom or dad. It came from the most powerful sort of currency- information. Everyday people are being paid to keep their mouth shut, having their words muffled by dollar bills that have come to be worshiped as a deity of sorts. But it is the people receiving the money, in that situation, who have the power, whether they know it or not. The pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of power are the same side of the coin, just looked at from slightly different angles. Of course, Wisdom is well and good, but at our age, secrets outweigh experience. Think about it- no one really cares how long a swimmer has been practicing for their match- they care about the swimmer who has a scandal, a secret. And the person who holds that secret holds the strings."

He is looking at Becca now, although he is careful enough to eye the rest of the room any time the gaze has lingered too long. He is no fool, and isn't going to join in on this game of staring at the person a speech is about. Still, as he continues his eyes snap back like magnets to metal. She's all that glitters and he's hunting for fool's gold.

"If you have earned a place among the owl and the old with wisdom at this age, congratulation. But our society is fixated on knowledge, and half the time they only care about the knowledge that is obscured by a veil. Salome tasted blood at the price of dropping a veil. Mistresses make millions on 'tell-all' novels that are, in my biased opinion, trashy writing. Knowledge makes a person fascinating, makes them interesting. It makes them important. And so perhaps it is important to flash knowledge in a way that you cannot give a glimpse of wisdom. Without knowledge, some people are boring, dull, not worth knowing. Not worth a second glance."

Take it as about you. You're only interesting when you have information. Please, Keevan, in a flash of desperate thought, fixates once more on Rebecca. It's about him, of course, it always is. Every damn story and every page of his novels are all ultimately a love note to the world around him, to the bad and the good, with himself as the blank page center. And those blue doe eyes would never have even wasted a glance on him if he hadn't covered himself with the stories and secrets of other people. It is the clothing that makes the main, and his is stitched with gossip and rumors and smoke and shade. But he needs her to think that he is using her, though that couldn't be further from the case. Because once he has become too blatantly at her will, he won't be worth that glance again. Keevan hates to be looked through and over.

"So if you're wondering what the secret some people hold to success and fame is, you probably will never know it, because if they exposed it they'd be nothing. Power is knowledge, wrapped in a thorny vine and painted gold. It's being able to obtain the head of your enemy for a dance and a show. Those who know, control, something people perhaps forget because the smartest people know how to keep them remembering only when interest is waning. Reality TV and tabloids are big business because we want the knowledge on other people around us. We crave it. Covet it like a child after a shiny new toy. And once that knowledge is more than a read or two old, it is cast aside, like that shiny new toy.

Knowledge gets you what you want, and keeps you worth wanting. Worth loving. Anyone who preaches complete honesty as a route to success is lying, because no one who shows their hand wins the game. Cards up your sleeve lead for a long game, they buy you time. Wisdom may come with age, but knowledge and secrets keep you immortal."


Keevan steps back, pushes up the sleeves of his thin shirt, and walks back to his seat. His hands brush past Rebecca's desk as he walks by- the boy can't help himself.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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”You know I do.” he announced happily, partially enchanted by Aimee’s lovely smile. It was a relief, really. There wasn’t really much he could do having no information, and probably, if he had any, there would still be little he could solve, so seeing her even the least bit recuperated lifted some weight off his shoulders.

When Lucas suddenly spoke again, Carr was surprised to see his face was a bright crimson. He looked very embarrassed, and his words were completely mysterious to Anthony, since Aimee hadn’t said a thing that could lead to this answer, and… By his tone, it seemed like something important. Than, the string of uninterrupted words started pouring out of him, and in opposition to Lucas’ flushed cheeks, Anthony’s turned a pale, almost sickly white color. How did he… He couldn’t remember saying any of this aloud. He was mortified that Lucas knew the god damn weirdest things he had thought in the last five minutes or so. Then suddenly… ”…I can read minds, not that other reason.” Anthony’s eyes widened as he tried to recall everything he had thought while Lucas was in the room. Oh God.

”Oh. Oh. I… I’m so sorry if I… I just didn’t think you… I assumed… Like, if you did, there was no…" Anthony felt a tightness in his neck and couldn’t stop fidgeting, so he took a long, deep breath and lowered his eyes to the floor, defeated by his own words. All he could actually manage was ”Sorry I called you odd guy. That’s pretty cool."

Please, could you not tell Aimee I thought that? She’d be mad… Anthony tried to organize his thoughts and not think about how much of a fool he was feeling like right now. He also realized how tense Lucas was himself, for some reason, and felt bad. He supposed his thoughts were rather judgmental towards him so far. Then, came to him the sudden realization of what that meant to Aimee. A power quite similar to hers. And then, the night before. Anthony’s expression of guilt and embarrassment shifted into one of awe and admiration, like a kid staring at their new toy for the first time.

”Oh! So this is what last night was about! That’s why you were so weird!” Absentmindedly, he pointed to Aimee, a curious enthusiastic smile slowly spreading across his face while his voice got louder. ”Yeah, this is so cool! Can you, like, talk to each other through telepathy or something? I mean, if you touch…” His voice slowly died as he realized no one else really seemed very excited, and he must be sounding like an asshole. With a timid smile directed at the both of them, he scratched the back of his neck nervously. ”I'm sorry. I don’t know how it works.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anthony Carraway Character Portrait: Aimee Hart Character Portrait: Lucas Long

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Aimee tensed immediately when she looked at Lucas. He was bright red, and he had the expression that he was about to say something big. She sat forward a bit, tell him what? and then he said he could read minds and Aimee's eyes widened, looking at Anthony. He stammered and she looked back and forth between them, one eyebrow raised in confusion. "Nothing like what...?" She asked tentatively as Anthony started to get almost as awkward as Lucas. Oh! Oh GOD! The realization hit her and she sat back, containing a tad bit of laughter and covering her eyes with her hands.

Anthony got excited and pointed to Aimee, to which she gave him an amused expression. It felt good to see him getting so happy and wondrous, and it definitely helped to improve her mood. It reminded her of how it usually was between them, all laughs and fun. Even though last night they had been joking around like normal, it felt like it was forever ago. So much had happened within the past 24 hours. Meeting Lucas, touching Erin, fighting with Lane, Nina, the overload. It all seemed so surreal, like it didn't actually happen. But, then she thought to herself that the three of them wouldn't be in her dorm ditching class if it hadn't of happened. "It's exactly like you think, Carr. If he touches me at the same time that I have my wall down, we can hear each other's thoughts," she said. She looked gratefully at Lucas, "If you hadn't of done that downstairs, I...I wouldn't have been able to leave. It felt like..." she curled her arms around her knees again, "like I was frozen in that one spot, just letting all of it in and not being able to control it. It was awful," she admitted.

She looked at the both of them, and realized that Anthony had no idea what she was talking about. Taking a deep breath, since we're all being so honest..."Anthony, I...there's something you don't know, uhm..." She combed her fingers through her hair nervously, looking at Lucas like he could somehow make this any easier. "I got in a fight with Lane earlier, and...it was about, well...a couple months ago I was having a day that was, unfortunately, a lot like this one, and we, uhm, well, Lane and I, we, we had...sex..." She said the last word like it didn't belong anywhere near her, which was stupid because her and Carr had always been open with that kind of thing, and yet she felt like it was against everything in her to talk about it. One secret down, another one to go...at some point that's not right now.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Erin Hill Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Sterling Walker Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Keevan Brennan

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This assignment has been. . .interesting, Daniel muses, absentmindedly twirling a black ballpoint pen between his fingers. From his seat at the corner of the class, he has been given the perfect view for both the speaker and the audience. His chair is angled out just so, such that only the person just behind him is in a blind spot. It is very important that Daniel be able to see things clearly, and luckily Mrs. Jefferson has by some coincidence arranged it thus. So he watches through Erin's pathetic stumblings, Rebecca's speech (which he agrees with though feels her presentation could have been improved upon), and Sterling's presentation. The last mentioned one is a cause for greater interest thanks to the slight reaction it garnered from the Queen, a flinch unnoticed by most but incapable of slipping beneath Daniel's ever observant eye. His eyes narrow with displeasure at the way Sterling is still able to affect her in this way, something which he is apparently powerless to put a stop to. Ever since the British boy returned to the school he has been causing little problems here or there, but the past two days alone seem to have brought about an increased concentration of such scenes. Daniel wishes dearly he would crawl back under whatever rock he had scuttled out from and leave the players back to their natural roles.

And then there is Lane, the sad little musician with the ever-breaking heart. Her speech is somewhat more coherent than her blond friend's, but still leaves much to be desired. Daniel cares very little, save for the look thrown towards Nina. One can hardly escape the past- he himself must know this. So when Keevan, who has remained out of foot and to himself, rises to speak, Daniel believes he may simply watch a dramatic but unimportant piece. After all, Keevan is a story teller, important only in the fictional webs he weaves. Which is to say, altogether uninteresting in reality. The knight leans back, relaxed, eyes trained on Keevan but not particularly focused on seeing.

Until Keevan begins to intrigue him. By the end of the speech, Daniel is looking at Becca with some form of intense curiosity. He does not miss the way the writer's hand brushes against the duchess's table. Is it an unrequited affection? How had I missed this before? Are the princess and the writer-? Well, there was that silly Breadbowl mention. Interesting.

"Miss Hart? Also absent. Alright, Daniel, your turn."

In one fluid motion Daniel has stood up and walked to the teacher's desk to take a slip of paper. In another he is out in the hallway. One barely has time to take three breaths before he is sauntering back in, resting his hands on either side of the podium.

"The trolley problem, for those who do not know, is a scenario that can be simplified thus: will you actively kill one person in order to save the lives of five? There are variants, of course, in which the death of the one is more of an unpleasant affect, or the one is a villain. I choose to focus on the classic problem, however. In regards to this problem, the common qualm people have is being directly responsible for the death of another person. After all, who are we to play God? Who are we to choose who lives and who dies? Such power would surely make man into a monster.

But I contest that we are already corrupted to the extent that becoming a monster should not be our concern. Our concern should be that of survival. Perhaps the man you kill has a family, children. So to do the five, only more so when all put together. Simply in terms of math, the answer is quite clear: without hesitation one must know to forfeit one for the good of the many. If one spends too long fretting over it, they are perhaps a fool. One human life has been estimated at a value of 7.4 million dollars. Think in terms of business. Sacrificing 7.4 million in order to preserve five times that is not really sacrifice at all. It is a minimization of casualties, something that is the aim in all done. The intelligent weigh life on the balance of cost-benefit. Perhaps nothing is gained in this scenario, but the amount lost is cut down significantly. This, clearly, is a small success."

Of course Daniel is all business, he always seems to be. Tallying people up in terms of financial value, treating them as statistics in a game of investment. Some in the class nod. Others, including those who typically side with him in terms of this problem, watch with some degree of fright at the coldness of his explanation. He does not care, of course. Daniel smiles, an insincere, easy thing. And then he glances at Nina. This has proven to be the error most make, and Daniel on his lofty tower is somehow no exception. He pictures Sam, car crashing, rolling over, his body in the casket. Now Nina, standing on that trolley track, one vs the five, haughtily waiting for death under his say so. The insincere smile fades.

"But now, consider another factor- the identity of the person on the other side of the tracks. Some people are worth more than others. There are those in our school worth billions, while others are penniless and, potential or no, have no real worth."

He sees Erin cringe and seem to shrink into herself. An example of such paupers, here on charity and hope for a return on the investment. She is an ant compared to him, a plankton compared to the Queen.

"And then the situation changes, naturally. The higher number of physical casualties do not outweigh the preservation of someone of a truly higher caliber, someone worth them several times over. We could not possibly justify the killing of someone so crucial, so necessary. Someone capable of floating above their insignificance. The secret service will die so that the president will not. This is an example of one being above many, as there have been throughout history. All do not carry equal weight in the cost-benefit analysis, and this must be taken into consideration.

Some people we simply cannot allow to be lost. Others, however, are somewhat more expendable. If this bothers you, then you clearly have never met someone of such a caliber, and are to be pitied. But it is the fact of living: some are more precious than others."


By the end of the speech, Nina had become the only person in the room, as far as Daniel was concerned. Of course, she often is. To a knight there can be only the queen. To a dog, all pale in comparison to its master. Daniel returns to his seat.

"Erm. Thank you, Mr. Ahn. Anthony? Also gone? Alright then. Nina- you are next. I suppose the absences are fortunate because we only have time for one more speech anyway. Aron- no, not you Erin, Mr. Aron- come see me after class about the speech team by the way. Thank you."