After our little study-group had been formed, we mostly ate in silence. Eliza and Ricardo tried to make conversation, but they usually just fizzled out. Li was pretty antisocial, Oro didn’t seem to like talking, Bai preferred to listen and Ulfric was, well, Ulfric.
Personally, I was more interested in eating my food. Also, while Ricardo seemed nice enough, and while Eliza was being less creepy than normal, I still realized that the people I was sitting with were very violent people. The only one who I was sure would not go after my family, surprisingly enough, was Ulfric. He just seemed too much of a good sport to do something like that.
Come to think of it, I had to wonder a bit about Ulfric. Despite his weirdly child-like nature and lack of speaking capabilities, he had to have some kind of intelligence. After all, if he had a similar rate of killing when he was outside of NIU, he would probably have needed to avoid the police and/or vigilantes. While he was probably more than capable of taking out street gangs, beat cops, and the occasional low-level parahuman, I was pretty sure a SWAT team could give him problems and the mid to heavy-weight parahumans could outright curbstomp him. He would need to be smart enough to avoid attracting their attention.
Eliza did manage me to drag me into conversation once. “You know,” she said, “those things are pork.”
“Yeah, so?” I responded, then ripped off another rib.
“Aren’t you Jewish?” She asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “but not all Jews keep kosher. Just like not all Catholics follow everything the Pope says.” I ate a few waffle fries, then realized something. “How did you know I’m Jewish?”
“I ‘eard your fight with what’s-‘is-face.” Eliza said. “Richard, I believe. It came up a couple times.”
“When was this?” I asked.
“Well,” Eliza said, “there was that time at lunch where…” she looked at me strangely. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s just…” I said, “I kind of feel like not being noticed is my best defense.” I didn’t want to add and you scare the shit out of me. However, it seemed like I implied that by my voice because she seemed a bit hurt.
I remained silent throughout the meal and the desert. True to Professor Blunt’s word, I did get to have ice cream. I returned back to the medical ward with the girls. “Did you four have fun?” Eric asked.
It took me a few seconds to realize he was asking if I had had sex with any/all of them. I laughed. “Do you think I’d have sex while Ulfric was watching, let alone freaky four-person sex? That’s not really the way I want to lose my virginity.”
“Ulfric was there?” John asked. “Mr. Giggles? How are you still alive?”
“I think it was a good day for him,” I said. “Like how some days cancer patients are in less pain, some days Ulfric speaks more and is less likely to rip someone in half with his bare hands.”
“I see,” John said. “Anyway, who else was there?”
“Everyone ‘oo got recognized for acts of supreme violence and the like on Fight Night.” Eliza said as she walked towards her bed. “Bloody awkward, it was. ‘Oh, ‘ello! You’re the guy ‘oo eviscerated me mate! I’d talk about politics, but I haven’t gotten any news lately. Guess there’s only the weather and paranoia, then.’”
“At least Bai doesn’t want to kill me anymore,” I said as I flumpfed onto my bed.
“I never wanted to kill you,” Bai said, as she sat daintily on her bed. “I just believed it would have to happen.”
“Oh, hey,” John asked Eliza, “why’s your hair down?” I suddenly realized her hair was down, covering her ears. How I didn’t notice this earlier, I do not know.
“Just lost me ears in the fight,” Eliza said, a little too dismissively.
“I thought I only saw you lose one,” I said.
“They… they…” Eliza began, then she paused. After some thought, she said, “I’m one’a the ferals that get the bloody cat ears, alright? I got the ear transplant surgery when I was young because I didn’t want to get teased, but now I figure this way I can give people some extra warning to not fuck with me.” She brought her knees up to her chin. “As if I’m not already enough of a freak, now I’ve got to be a bloody cat girl as well.”
She spent a lot of time like that. When someone finally came in with uniforms for us to change, she was the last of us to get up and close the curtains around our beds. I can’t say I know how being the only mutant feels, but I do know how depression feels, and I could guess she was feeling some pretty serious depression right there.
When we had gotten dressed and some Campus Security in patrol uniforms began to usher us out, I asked “Hey, you ok?”
Eliza looked like she was going to take it out on me for a moment. Then she sighed. “No,” she said, “but I will be. Thanks.”
On the way back, we got to ride in an actual bus. John and I sat in the front. “Man,” I said, as I sat in the cheap, fuzzy cloth seat, “this is what I call luxury!”
“Yeah,” John said, “nothing like running twenty five kilometers twice a day to make you appreciate driving.”
He looked over his shoulder, then turned back to me. “So,” he asked, “what’s with you being called out for lunch?”
I shrugged. “Just the meal we were promised for doing well in Fight Night? That was what that was.”
“Really?” John asked. “Must have been some interesting conversations.”
“Not really anything I can talk about,” I said. “I can’t say it was interesting, but we don’t really want anyone talking about what was said.”
I think he may have gotten some of my subtle hints, but it was impossible to tell. Fuck, I hate being a spy.
I also had another problem to worry about. Behind us was another bus. I could only guess that Salim and his crew were on it. I wondered what would happen when they got off.
I didn’t have long to wait. When we got off, there three Campus Security Guards carrying P-90s, standing just far enough away so that there was no possible way we could get to them if we decided to charge them. Also, since they had fifty rounds in each of them, there was no way they’d run out of ammo. They weren’t pointing their guns at us, which was good.
“Please return to your spot in formation,” one of them said in a slight German accent. Not even Ulfric argued with him. He did giggle though, and one of the guards raised his P-90. Apart from that, we got into parade positions without incident.
Then Salim’s crew came out. Apart from him, there were only two others. I recognized Mubashir, the other one not so much. I also noticed that only one of them (Salim) seemed comfortable. The other two seemed scared.
The stage that had been set up Saturday was up again, with Campus Security in a similar formation. Three drill sergeants and Professor Zemylachka were standing there. The Professor didn’t seem to be happy.
Salim and his remaining crew got up onto the platform. I was very concerned at how lightly Salim seemed to be treating his situation. I was also concerned about the cloth sack one of the drill sergeants was carrying. It looked like it was originally designed to carry golf clubs, but I didn’t think that was what it was carrying.
“So,” Professor Zemylachka said, her voice throbbing with anger, “Yesterday, some people decided to break the rules and stage an assassination attempt. I, personally, view it as a challenge to my authority. However, like all serious crimes, it was taken up by a committee, and, alas, my desire to strap you to a table and let you drown in your own piss and shit was not well-recieved. Professor Newell-Howards, in all his infinite wisdom, decided that those of you who have broken the rules will be on disciplinary probation with extreme prejudice for the remainder of the year. This means that you will have a curfew when you enter the school. You will be required to be either in your room or under Campus Security surveillance. If you are not, you will be publicly executed. Do I make myself clear?”
The rule breakers all responded with a “Yes, Ma’am!” I noticed Salim’s air of confidence had disappeared. I guess he wasn’t used to dealing with people who would go farther than him.
Professor Zemylachka then walked up to Mubashir. “Are you going to break any more rules at this school?”
“No, Ma’am!” he said.
“I doubt it,” the professor said. “Still, at least you know the right answer. Get back in formation.” Mubashir then ran off, very happy to be away from Professor Zemylachka.
She then repeated the same process with Salim’s other minion. She had to walk around Salim to do it. I noticed the Al-Qaeda guy was not as timid as Mubashir, but he was still very scared. Then she got to Salim.
“Well then,” she said, after taking a long rod from the canvas bag. “You are the bastard who disrupted the order of my camp. Do you think I can let that slide?”
Salim said something that the microphone did not pick up. Zemylachka, then, in response said, “You are somewhat right. I’m not allowed to kill anyone or hurt your friends.” She flicked a switch. It sparked a bit, then she jabbed it into Salim’s stomach. The microphone screeched, and Salim collapsed and twitched.
“Get up.” Professor Zemylachka only waited a few seconds to make this demand. By this time I could smell the ozone. “You aren’t dead, I know for a fact you do not have a heart condition,” she said. “If you can’t take this amount of juice, you should never have pissed me off.”
Salim must have groaned something out, because Zemylachka gave a slight tut, then kicked him. “I do not care who you tried to kill,” she said. “I care that you did it on my watch. Get up.”
Salim struggled to his feet, glaring at the professor. While he did, Professor Zemylachka moved to his rear. When Salim finally got up, she struck the rear of his lower legs with a single blow from her cattle prod.
He fell and twitched again. “I thought,” the professor said dryly, while lazily jabbing him with the cattle prod, “I told you to get up. Hurry up, your fellow students want some dinner.”
Salim struggled to his feet again. “So,” Zemylachka asked, “are you going to cause any more trouble?” Salim’s response was to spit in her face.
Everyone held their breath as the professor considered her response. They didn’t have long to wait. “Teach this little shit stain some manners,” she said, turning her back and walking off. “Fifteen minutes should be safe. I am bored with him.”
As she walked off, Salim lunged for her. He wasn’t able to make it as two of the drill sergeants grabbed him and flung him back. They then proceeded to kick him and beat him with batons. Professor Zemylachka made a dismissive gesture. “If he dies or goes back to the hospital, the President will be pissed. I don’t think anyone will mind if he loses a few teeth, though. Just be sure to save them so they can get re-attached. You other students should return to your bunks.”
One of the guards, I think the leader, shouted, “You heard the professor, return to your dorms in an orderly fashion!” They didn’t even have to cock their weapons. We returned to our dorms in an orderly fashion.
I would remember this. But not in the way Professor Zemylachka wanted.