Archestone School for the Dysfunctional Power-havers had two primary flaws: its name, which had held unfortunate implications for powered individuals across the world yet refused to change, and its actual program, which was known for being abusive. Abby Tauntman was no exception to this abuse: she faced it every day, but not as downright beatings (most of the time); it was more in the form of subtle, passive-aggressive behaviors on behalf of the staff.
Her voice was wavering as she cried, not listening to the yelling teacher. She was zoned out. Listening to such a person was stress she couldn't handle. Any stress was stress she couldn't handle, of course.
"...You hear me, Abby?"
"Yes, you, idiot. I know you think you're special because, ooh, look, I'm Abby, I can control all four elements!" The teacher made odd, mocking gestures with his hands. "Reality check, bit... punk, you're no more an exception to the rules than your peers."
"Y-yes," Abby said.
"That's all you can say, Abby? Huh?" He looked close to slapping her. She scooted away, sniffling. He sighed. "Just go back to class."
And she did. Other than one person, Carl, she believed his name was, calling her a crybaby, the rest seemed to be pretty empathetic, judging by their understanding glances. A few had pitiful looks on them, and Abby moved away from those ones.
At least she had her girlfriend to look forward to. Tara Smith, grade 9, was an Air Manipulator, a pretty powerful one, but not nearly as powerful as Abby. Still, they got along. They had to, being girlfriends and all.
Five minute bell break. Abby stared at Tara for a little while before snapping out of that trance and walking up to her. "Hello, Tara."
"Abby? You okay? Your face is red," Tara replied, tilting her head to the side.
Abby nodded. "Just got yelled at by... erm... I don't know who. He's a new staff member."
"I think that's his name." She stared up at the taller girl, smiling. "You're awfully cute when you --"
"Get concerned about you? I know, but it's not fun. It's never fun to be concerned, Abby."
"Got it." Abby, filled with shame, looked away then looked back at her. Tara wasn't angry, it seemed, but there was still a sting when she said that.
They chit-chatted about their classes, pretending that the sting never happened. They did this for the remaining time, then went their own ways to separate classes.
It was, however, Abby's favorite period: Power Training. She flapped her hands, ready for the onslaught of being able to show off.
The class started as normal as always, Abby, along with the Fire Manipulators, being told to set a match on fire.
"You ready for this?" The teacher said, grinning. She waved her hand in a single motion, the fire starting on the tip of the match. Abby aced it as always. The Fire Manipulators looked at her green-eyed, envious. It wasn't fair to them, most likely. Abby didn't really care about them; they were the temperamental bunch.
"You see that, Abby? Christ, you're so..." Carl said. Yes, that was his name, it came to Abby.
She then, in an act of mild resentfulness and megalomania, blew out the match with a snap of her finger, the finger two feet away from it. She manipulated the air next to the tip of the match to blow, causing the fire to go out.
This action was as simple as breathing. Shame she couldn't use it anywhere else in the world. The rest of the school day was half academics and half a sort of group therapy to hammer in the idea that using powers for bad intents is against their laws.
Abby didn't know who "they" were, but never really questioned it. That was another thing the group therapy told her: don't question the power laws. Power laws were there to help, not to monitor.
When she actually got to group therapy that day, she was accompanied by Tara. The two of them chattered until the teacher came in, at which point everyone froze up and became tense.
Mrs. Myrtle was an intimidating woman; she had droopy eyes, a permanent scowl, and frequently shook her head at anything and everything. Abby heard Tara gulp, and she did the same. This wasn't a situation she wanted to be in.
"Good day, group," Mrs. Myrtle said.
"Good day, Mrs. Myrtle," everyone said, almost in unison. This happened everyday, and while Abby had never seen her punish anyone for not saying it, she sure as hell didn't want to test her.
"Today we will talk about... let's see... Carl, come up to the front. That's it, right in front of the whiteboard."
Mrs. Myrtle looked at Carl with an expression of scorn and she shot fire at him.
Carl flew back and screamed, holding onto his chest where he was shot at.
Mrs. Myrtle chuckled a bit, raising her eyebrows. "Do you all know what distress tolerance is?"
Everyone sat perfectly still and said nothing. This was nothing new. It wasn't a matter of if she would attack. It was a matter of who. The worst part was that this was all fine and legal — power-havers were treated as somewhat dangerous and thus given laws related to stunting their abilities. People found ways to exploit these laws, thus harassing them, such as Mrs. Myrtle randomly harming anyone she deemed as harmful. "Harmful" was a broad category. That was the problem.
Even more infuriating was that minors could only use their abilities in a school context, and never, ever for attacking others. Thus, none of them could retaliate.
They sat in silence, Mrs. Myrtle pacing back and forth. "Abby. You are quite odd all the time. We have a special announcement." Group therapy doubled as the time for Mrs. Myrtle to
make her twisted mockeries she called "announcements."
"You will be transferred to a new school soon. A more advanced one, befitting your use of all four elements. You were always on the borderline between schools, being retarded and all."
Abby wanted so badly to lash out, but last time she did that, it landed her straight in in-school suspension.
So she sat still. And nodded.
Might as well say her goodbyes to Tara.