Chapter 14: Trouble Between Teammates
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I finally see the end of this day. I don't know why it took so long in the first place, but I can finally rest on my bed and forget about all that. "If not for this stupid fight over who stays where!"

 

All team looked at me as I kept mumbling. "We have three floors with four bedrooms on each. Why does it take so long for some people to choose between them.."

 

"But everyone wants the first floor except the bird." Stephanie pointed to Marco.

 

"I do, but please don't call me a bird."

 

"Aren't Phoenixes birds?."

 

"No, phoenixes are indeed birds."

 

"So? Don't you have wings? Sounds like a bird to me."

 

"Look, I get your point, but I don't think it is appropriate for someone to call someone like that. Do I call you to fridge magnet? No, I don't. I also expect the same respect for you."

 

"Whatever you say, birdie."

 

"You!" Marco sighed. "You know what, I don't care. Because you cannot understand even this simple request, perhaps because you lack the intelligence needed for it."

 

"Hey! That's rude."

 

"And calling me 'birdie' isn't?" Sparks began coming out from Marco's body. I suppose we have a short fuse here.

 

"I call anyone what I want. That's how I show my friendliness." Stephanie moved forward.

 

"Really? Not surprised I didn't see many friends around you." Marco moved forward too, and his sparks grew larger.

 

I tapped Olie's shoulder. "You know what to do if these two do anything stupid."

 

She nodded and began releasing the mist.

 

But before anything happened. Lucas moved forward and stopped them both. "Marco, please relax. I know you don't like the names given to you by Steph, but she doesn't mean anything bad. That's just her, and believe me, she only gives nicknames to people she likes."

 

"Yeah! Go, Lucas, tell this bully what I didn't manage to tell even though I indicated it very clearly!"

 

"You shut up!" Lucas turned to Stephanie. "How many times, I must tell you that some people don't like nicknames at first. Wait a little longer before using nicknames, you idiot!"

 

"Boo!" Stephanie stuck out her tongue and moved away. "I am going to the first floor, and no one can stop me! I am angry, don't say anything." She left the room and began heading towards the first floor with a robot helper carrying her items from behind.

 

"Ah, that girl." Lucas bowed toward the team. "Sorry for her, she can act childish sometimes, but Steph never means any harm in her words."

 

Marco shook his head. "No, I lost my temper too quickly. It should be me who needs to apologize for not understanding her friendly manner. It is just that whenever someone called me bird or birdie, it wasn't good. Call it bad childhood memories."

 

"It is just a miscommunication, you two. So, let's not dig childhood stories." I grabbed Lucas and Marco's shoulders. "Now, allow us to finish the room assignment, and we can go to sleep."

 

"I agree. If possible, I want somewhere high. I feel better that way." Marco opened his fire wings. "As Stephanie said, I am a little birdie and need to go out, fly from time to time to relax."

 

"Good, then take a room on the third floor, me and Olie will go to the second room. Okay for you too, sis?"

 

"I don't care about it. Just finish this. I am getting sleepy too."

 

Lucas raised his hand. "If not a problem, I like to go to the first floor."

 

"Not a problem, Yin, Steinar. Where you two wanna go."

 

Yin stepped forward. "I don't have any preferences, mister Leonard, but I like to inspect the surroundings more, so a room on the third floor that sees the main building would be my choice." I wonder why this one is so formal.

 

"Then I go to the third floor too. Because these two look quiet enough." Steinar got up from the couch. "But I can even stay here. These couches are very comfortable, seriously, better than my last bed."

 

"Well, we all can sleep now." I dashed out of the shared space, charged to a room on the second floor, and jumped into my bed. I want to sleep.

 

                                 ***

 

Sun rises as birds start chirping synchronized with my alarm clock, morning arrived, and I can smell something delicious. I wonder which noble team member woke up early, then decided to make something good.

 

I stopped the alarm with a fist to the top of the cloak. "Seven in the morning. I still got two hours before the first lesson."  Before dressing for the day, I washed my face, cleaned my teeth, and combed my hair. One must look sharp for the first impressions.

 

I saw Olie walking down the stairs as I exited my room. She looks still half sleeping. Her pajamas show the scars on her body, unlike the outfit she was wearing yesterday. I suppose she doesn't care or is too heads up in the clouds to realize that.

 

"Olie." I rushed to the stairs. I now have a perfect opportunity to annoy my sibling. "Good morning! How are you feeling on your first day? Are you excited? Perhaps you are a little shy since there will be twenty-one other people you don't know in your class? Come on, sleepy head, be more energetic-"

 

A tentacle wrapped itself around my mouth and closed it for good. "Leonard, please shut up for five minutes and let me wake up properly first. I am still sleepy, and you know me, I can become grumpy as an old house cat."

 

I made thumbs up with both hands and supported it with constant nodding till Olie pulled her tentacle back. "Don't worry, sis, I already annoyed enough, well, for now. But let me say you look scarier today. You know, scar'ier. Since your scars are not covered, heh."

 

Olivia stopped and glared at me. I can almost hear her swearing. Then I felt something grabbing my legs. "Sorry. Hehe. Not?" 

 

In a fraction of a second, I found all my limbs wrapped and my mouth shut by tentacles. This girl can't even handle some jokes. Still, she is kind enough to carry me to the kitchen instead of throwing me to the other side of the hall.

After a bumpy ride, we finally arrived at the common spaces, then to the kitchen, or our little dining hall, where no one except Stephanie was. She is near the sink, cleaning some used kitchen equipment, and I can see the furnace working.

 

"Good morning Steph." Olivia entered the kitchen with one hand up. "What are you doing this early in the morning."

 

"Oh, hello Olie, and you too, cap. I am not doing much. I baked something. Well, an apology pie to exact." She closed the tap and turned towards us. "I think I did something wrong- What is that!" She pointed towards us.

 

Olie raised me a little more to the air. "You mean this. He was annoying me, and I become grumpy when I am still sleepy, so I shut him up for his good."

 

"No, I mean those." She dashed towards Olie, ducked, and began pocking the scars around her stomach. "What are all of those." She stopped. "Does what I do hurts you?." She turned back to pocking without even getting an answer.

 

"You mean these." Olie palmed her face. "Ah, I forgot about those. Well, these are something some bastards gave me in exchange for my powers in my childhood. They don't hurt, but they look bad, don't they." Her eyes began getting watery. "They make me look like the monster I am, someone who barely keeps her head when using her powers and someone who hurts others."

 

I want to hug and comfort her, but her wrap is getting tighter every second, and I think I am getting crushed in here. Someone, help me, then help her!

 

"Whaaaaat! Of course, those don't make you look like a monster. I think these are cool. I mean, look at all those cool scars. They make you look like a battle-hardened warrior with those." 

 

Her wrap began losing. I took a deep breath from my nose. I think Stephanie's kind words saved my ass, but please keep talking. I need my bones.

 

Stephanie got up. "But I am serious, I thought that scar on your face looked cool enough, but I think you look even cooler with all of these." She gave a big smile and a thumbs up to Olie.

 

Olie wiped his tears. "Thank you."

 

"Look at those!" Steinar's voice echoed through the kitchen. "And I thought I was the one getting injured. Jealous of you, I cannot get scars like those thanks to my ability, and believe me, when you have a body like this and a skin smooth like a baby, it looks weird.." 

 

Olie's wrap got tighter than before, and I began struggling to escape. I must find a way to get out of this situation because of one more emotional attack, and goodbye to my ribcage.

 

"Oh, Olie." Stephanie pat the tentacles coming out from Olivia's behind. "I think you are killing Leonard."

 

"Ah!" Olivia suddenly pulled her tentacles back and turned towards me. Meanwhile, I hit the ground face forward. "Sorry."

 

I raised a thumb. "Still alive with no bones broken, I hope, so no need to worry, but please don't get too feely when holding me."

 

She nodded. "Then what must we do."

 

"We must eat pie." Stephanie moved back to the kitchen and pulled out two trays from the furnace. All have three large pies on them. "I thought no one would like to eat something sweet in the morning, so I made veggie pies, using peas, some spinach, carrots, and potatoes, but for flavor, I cooked those in the chicken broth first."

 

"Sounds delicious." Lucas entered the kitchen, then Yin entered, following Lucas. "Can't hold yourself a day without baking, can't you." Lucas smiled.

 

"What I can say, I like baking." Stephanie began cutting the pies into even slices, except two she put in a corner in the. "Also, the fridge was full of food, so I decided to use some."

 

Lucas moved to a cabinet and grabbed enough plates for everyone. Yin followed him from behind and grabbed utensils from a drawer.

 

 Some minutes later, the table was ready, and Stephanie served two slices to everyone, but we got one empty seat. Marco. He is not here, nor in his room.

 

Then the doorbell rang. I moved to open it. And guess what, it is the birdie, and my father is behind them. "Where were you."

 

"Sorry, amigos, I got up early and did some stretching by touring around the school, found myself a cool spot near the edges, and watched the ocean for some time. Make me feel like I am home." That's right, I almost forgot because of the giant walls around the school, but we are pretty much on an elevated island, around a hundred meters above the ocean. The scenery must be beautiful, especially in the early morning.

 

"Good for you. Come on, get inside. We have only begun eating."

 

Marco entered the house, and father followed him. "Of course, no welcome to your father."

 

"Good morning to you too. What winds dragged you here." 

 

"Was hoping to retire since I finally managed to find a daycare for you two, but guess what, I got assigned as your team's advisor, but I guess you already know that."

 

I barely managed to hold my laugh and shook my head as a no. Yes, this old dog must wait a little more to rest.

 

"But as it wasn't enough of torment, I am assigned to this school as Senior Security Advisor. UDC is quite good at making new titles from their ass and even better at keeping people busy." He sighed. "As if I didn't have enough on my table." He sniffed. "So, what is this good smell."

 

"Oh, I baked a pie." Steph jumped with one hand in the air. I wonder where she founds all this energy.

 

"Ah, you must be Michael's daughter. Annoying sound and pies give that away."

 

"Wait? Do you know my father?" She got up from the table and rushed to the entrance. "Did you two have the chance to work together, or were you part of the team sent to hunt him down."

 

"No, I wasn't lucky enough to be on the team hunting him but unlucky enough to be assigned to a mission with him on several occasions."

 

Everyone at the table except Ivan and Lucas was shocked. Steinar roared in excitement. "You mean the legend Micheal Baker! That one serial killer who will kill his target, no matter what or who protects. One that can even challenge top dogs of the UDC if needed."

 

"The deadly legend. There aren't many who don't know the tales." Yin began playing with his chin. "But mister Lucas and Leonard already knew this, I suppose."

 

I nodded. "I did quite the background check on all of you, and we all have our secrets we might be more comfortable telling each other later. For now, let's dig in."

 

"Oh, about pies." Stephanie rushed to the counter, grabbed one of the pies she put on the corner, and offered it to Marco. "Sorry for yesterday. I acted a little childish."

 

Marco was shocked by this sudden matureness and an apology with pie.

 

Lucas talked from the table. "Just take it. That's how she apologizes, by baking pie. In fact, that's how she communicates. When she is sad, she bakes a pie. When happy, bakes a pie, sorry, bakes a pie, angry, bakes even more pies."

 

"Well." Marco grabbed the pie from Stephanie's hands. "I am also sorry for overreacting, and I accept yours, but is mine accepted."

 

"I already forgot about it. Let's eat some food." 

 

                                    

                                          *****

 

I finished my slice earlier than the rest of the team and moved outside. Father is smoking just a little away from the entrance. "So, what do you think? My team looks good enough." I moved next to him.

 

He patted my shoulder. "Follow."  Then moved further away.

 

I followed him.

 

Father pulled out a metal box and put out his cigarette. "What do I think? I think they look good on paper. But I hope you can manage and control all of them."

 

"One way or other, I will. Most of them can already kill if ordered, I only need Lucas and Ivan to fit in, but they look eager enough."

 

"Only Ivan. I looked deeper into this Lucas kid and did a call to his middle school teacher. Similar problem to Olivia. A powerful ability that bends personality." He took a deep breath of his cigarette and puffed out the smoke. "But I guess better for you."

 

"It is. Don't you think we can just let all those scum living in this world? UDC does a decent job when protecting certain parts of the world. But I don't see them much when a militarist group raids a third world nations arm depot, or an organization kidnaps children to use as test subjects."

 

"You say that?"

 

"Crimsons can do whatever they want. We already have enough people. Just look at Alice of Crusaders. I see enough potential on her to be equal, if not stronger than Olie."

 

"But the school still has some exceptions for you. Remember, you beat the Alice of Crusaders, the person you call stronger than your sister, who is a beast of her own. They will want similar performances from you and your team at the tournaments."

 

"Shit." I forgot about those. "If given the time, I can build an entire Size* 3 Mecha from scratch but must prove myself on some silly gladiator games."

 

"Those silly games give a massive moral boost to the public, and the main reason schools have this amount of money to train new students. You must show the public something to take their support."

 

"We think of something. Now, I must go back to dining."

 

"Leonard."

 

"Yes, father."

 

"When you will drop that mask of yours."

 

I smiled. "No mask, I am just me. The golden boy of UDC with an alien supercomputer in his head."

 

Father sighed. "They will learn it. Today or tomorrow."

 

He talks like I don't know about that.

*Mechas used by UDC come in eight different sizes:

 

One is roughly four-meter tall, while eight is almost three hundred meters tall. Size 3 Leonard said consists of mechas between fifteen and twenty-five meters.

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