Note: This takes place close after "Gunfight"
The door opened as soon as the scruffy young man knocked on it. Doc Lydia was behind it. The kindly old lady, for all her gentle and soft-spoken manner, was doubtlessly one focal point in the pandemonium that had taken Clark Street and its countless refugees. She smiled at Johan and invited him in, waving to a plate of apples on the desk next to the door. Johan could never quite figure out how she got the apples, but it was the smallest among the woman's mysteries.
He shook his head at the offer and nervously stepped inside. In all his years living in the Zero Zone, he had heard of the famous Clark Street clinic; he counted his blessings that he had no need to visit before now. But this was different to the usual manner of visitor they recieved. Johan had come for help; but of a different kind.
Lydia stepped back to let him in and smiled reassuringly, stealing away some of his nervousness. "Looking for help?"
He nodded, trying to calm himself. The atmosphere inside didn't help; the wounded seemed to be lined up wall to wall. "I wanted to ask Raven a few things, if I could."
Her smile became wider. "She's upstairs, in her room."
He nodded, said his thanks, and turned for the stairs.
There were several doors upstairs, but only one person—a six-foot-six, white-haired Puma leaning against one of the doors with her arms folded over her chest. She looked at him impassively, waiting.
Johan stopped short at the top of the stairs. For all he'd heard of Raven, Clark Street and Doctor Lydia, none of the stories had involved Pumas. He nervously stepped forwards, glancing up at her and trying not to stare. "I'm here to see Raven," he said carefully, his voice wavering ever so slightly.
The Puma regarded him for a few minutes, betraying no emotion, but then she stepped aside and turned the knob, slightly opening the door, before stepping back more to let him in. He stepped forward carefully and knocked on the door indicated.
The room was sparse—a bed, two chests of drawers, one Raven sculpture on top of one. The beautiful, black-tressed esper was facing away from the door, rummaging in one of the drawers. Like most Zone denizens she wore scruffy jeans and a shirt with a couple holes in it. Johan loudly cleared his throat, doing his best to straighten the tattered jacket he wore.
Raven straightened and turned back. She smiled when she saw him. "Oh, hi." She closed the drawer and headed his way. "How are you doing?"
He glanced uncertainly up at the puma once more, then nodded back to Raven. "Alright, I guess." Eliza stared down at him, with no friendship but no hostility either then stepped outside and closed the door.
"Oh, don't mind her", said Raven. "Apparently she feels she has to do the big bodyguard thing."
"She's good at it," he said, wiping his forehead in clear relief. He glanced around, taking in the room around him.
"So, what can I do for you?" said Raven, as she sat on the bed and crossed her legs together.
"Well for starters, I wanted to get the chance to properly thank you for what you did. From all of us."
"Hey, don't mention it. First I was getting paid, and second, I was in a position much like that earlier. Least I could do, really." She did rub a spot above her right hip when she said it, however.
He glanced at her oddly, watching her movement, but quickly looked back up at her face. "The other thing is... Well, I've been talking with the others. We're a bit divided, but most all the other kids agree. We want to help out."
Raven's eyebrows shot up. "I don't think we're going to turn down any help, even from you—we've got plenty of kids under arms, though I can't say I'm thrilled about the idea. But" she pointed at him, "I bet you guys intend to use your powers, right?"
Johan nodded sternly. "Exactly. That's why they sent me to ask you." He gave a brief sigh, then continued. "We're new to this; that goes without saying. And none of us have any idea what we're actually capable of. And the only one who could really help us is you."
"I can help, and I will", said Raven. "But you guys are going to have to do most of the work. One thing I've noticed is that we tekes are all different. We can't do the same things and we don't do them the same way."
Johan nodded. "We've picked up that already. Hime, one of us, seems to be able to... 'talk' in our heads, but she can't even budge a pebble. It's like that for a lot of us; we can't compare up to each other without, well, someone more experienced around."
"Telepathy, that's pretty rare", Raven said offhandedly. She gave the matter some thought, and then her face brightened. "Maybe I can show you my playhouse."
"Playhouse?" Johan asked, raising an eyebrow in curiosity.
"Playhouse. An abandoned warehouse I used to practice." She laughed. "Back in the day, nobody dared go in, especially not when I was inside, because weird things happened there. It was the neighborhood's haunted house."
Johan smiled slightly. "I thought people were beyond those suspicions these days."
Raven laughed again. "You think they'd be, but when stuff starts flying on its own, people learn to avoid the place."
Johan added his own chuckle. "Between us then, we'll clear out the whole neighbourhood."
"With this crowd?" Raven waved at the packed street. "I think we'll be lucky to clear the playhouse. I haven't been there in a while. We might need to shift some of the refugees around." Her eyes brightened as she came up with an idea. "Maybe it'd go down easier if we helped them move their stuff."
Johan nodded. "Good practice. Though I don't know who'd be up to it."
"I am. You and your friends can watch if you like—and *feel*."
"Thank you," he said, looking at Raven in a mixture of respect and awe. "We all appreciate it."
"Don't mention it", Raven said. "I've been there and I know what it's like to try to deal with the Power with nobody to help you out. Auntie was huge, but she wasn't a teke." She waved down the road. "Shall we gather the troops and get started?"
He nodded eagerly. "Just let me collect them."
Looking at them in daylight, Raven was hard-pressed to imagine a more mis-matched group. Boys and girls, pre-teens and up, the esper children had all shown up to Raven's demonstration. There was a buzz of chatter amongst some as Johan's message was still being passed around.
Johan himself stood at the front, alongside a lean young woman with deep red hair. She regarded Raven in silence while taking in the scene with narrow green eyes that spoke of fathomless intelligence. Alongside her, Raven recognised Hime, a Japanese girl of seventeen who was well known for her work with the Zone's youngest children.Her hair was dyed brown, although showing dark roots by now, and her baggy pants and pink shirt were scuffed and dirty. She looked down at her closest companion, Eliza, the youngest of the children.
Johan stepped up to Raven and nodded. "This is them, all eighteen of us." He smiled slightly, adding "They can't wait to see you in action."
Raven chuckled. "Well, don't expect anything TOO spectacular today", she said. "I'm just going to move things around. The basics, although with a couple of twists—it's not really obvious how to lift several objects at once."
"We'll be paying attention," the redhead said abruptly, regarding Raven with her narrow gaze.
"Right", Raven said. She turned to the pile of belongings, assessing its weight and number. It was rather a lot, and she considered making two trips, but decided against it. She closed her eyes briefly, concentrated, and raised her hands, palms up. The rag-tag bags and boxes gently lifted off the ground.
As one, the children fell silent. Craning forwards, peeking around each other, they all paid close attention to the slowly levitation items. Raven heard a hushed whisper behind her, and could see Johan nodding to himself out of the corner of her eye.
"You're probably all feeling this", Raven said. She opened her eyes and slowly levitated the assorted junk down the street, turning slowly to keep facing the pile. "I don't know why, but teeks can feel other teeks at work, though some are more sensitive than others. Keep that in mind—the Power is noisy, and someone might be 'hearing' you." She turned her head towards the children, smiling. "If you concentrate on that sensation closely, you might be able to get an idea of how something is done."
"What do you mean?" asked a young man in the group. His handsome, if somewhat young germanic features were marred by a small scar across his left eyebrow. A couple of the children watched him oddly, while others turned to Raven for an answer.
"It's difficult to explain", Raven said, "and it might not work for you exactly as it works for me. But when another teek is doing something that I feel—like I'm lifting these bags—I can focus on it, kind of like staring at a point real hard, and I can find out how they did it. If they're teleporting away, for example, I may be able to follow them."
The blond boy nodded. "Can I try?" he asked eagerly.
"Not yet, please. I have to bring these over to the other end of the street..." She watched as the pile of stuff slowly slid down the street as if on an unseen wheelbarrow, "...and then we'll go inside the warehouse, I'll give a few pointers, and we can get started."
There was another excited twitter amongst the group. The blond boy nodded and turned to the others, chattering with them.
Raven gently deposited the dirty pile of a squatter extended family's prized possesions in front of their new home. "Here we go. Thank you for chosing the Raven Moving Company", she kidded.
To her side, Johan chuckled to himself. "We really should do proper introductions," he muttered. "When we're inside," he added out loud, turning to Raven.
"Good idea", Raven said. She waved towards the warehouse. "Well, we've got our playhouse back now. Let's get inside and get to know each other a bit."
"Alright!" cheered one of the children, and others echoed their approval. The group spread out, heading in twos and threes to the newly vacated warehouse. Hime excused herself from Raven's side and lead young Eliza in.
Raven walked inside after the kids. Someone slipped behind her and she turned—she'd seen all the kids go inside...
Eliza—Eliza-Puma—hovered protectively over her shoulder again. Raven wondered how the little girl would feel about sharing a name with a six-foot-plus combat synthetic. At least, Raven didn't have to worry about the quiet Puma being disruptive.
"Friend of yours?" Johan asked casually as he stepped up next to Eliza. The redhead stood behind him, warily sizing up the combat synth.
" Eliza, this is Johan. Johan, meet Eliza." She looked at Johan. "I rescued her some time ago and now she..." Raven hesitated. Then she gave Eliza a long-suffering look. "Well, she *thinks* she has to treat me like I own her, which I don't."
Johan shrugged. "If it makes her happy, why not?" He indicated to the playhouse. "Shall we?"
That was an interestingly simple insight from Johan, but there was the rub—it might make Eliza happy, or at least think she was happy, but Raven wasn't really comfortable with the idea. "Sure, let's." She stepped towards the middle of the room. "A few things before we start?"
The children had fanned out around the edge of the warehouse, enjoying their newfound space. They settled in, some seated against the walls, others standing to watch her. Raven noted Hime sitting with some of the youngest, while Johan and his companion stood to the side, watching her intently.
Raven stood in the middle of the room and began pacing in circles as she spoke, which neatly allowed her to look at each of her charges in turn. Eliza followed her step for step. "All right. A few things I've learned about the Power. First, it's part of you. It comes from yourself, it's affected by how you feel, how you think. If you're calm, it will be quiet. If you're angry, it will want to go out and lash out. If you're scared, it might also lash out."
"That explains what happened when we all actvated," Johan said, almsot to himself.
Raven nodded. "Second, it doesn't make you any better than the people around you." Shion might not agree with that, but it had become one of Raven's deepest convictions. "It makes you different, more powerful maybe, but we're all still human."
There were murmurs throughout the crowd. The blond boy spoke up again. "But we can do so much more than anyone else, right? I mean... Seriously, even adults."
"Like I said—it may make you more powerful, but it doesn't make you better. You're still kids, just like I still am some of the time." She chuckled. "It does NOT make you smarter, wiser, more mature, or anything like that. And remember—there's always someone who's more powerful."
The boy frowned but fell silent once more.
"Last but not least. Telekinesis is very powerful, but like all very powerful things, it is also very dangerous. Be careful with it, because it can do really terrible things, and sometimes really terrible is not what you want. I've hurt people more than I wanted before, and I've broken more things that I cared about than I like to think."
"So you're not always in control?" Came the question from a girl with dyed-green pigtails.
Raven sighed and shook her head. "No, you're not always in control. I won't lie to you—if you push too hard, or if you let it loose too much, the Power may start doing things on its own, and usually then it destroys more than you would want it to. Then you have to fight to bring it back under control." She smiled and waved at the warehouse. "Which is why we have this playhouse! We can figure out how this works together, and what the limits are, and there's nothing we care about smashing here."
"Pretty scary," the girl said out loud. "But you'll show us how, right?"
"Right. I'll show you what I can, and help you figure out the rest."
The redhead by Johan's side finally spoke up. "We've all got different powers, though," she said. "How can you guide us all?"
"I can guide you", Raven said. "What I can't do is tell you exactly what to do or how your power works. What I can do is help you figure it out."
The redhead fell silent once more.
"As a final note, if you're going to try anything you're not sure about, let me know beforehand. I've got good control and at the very least, I can mute your Power until you regain control of it, if something goes wrong. All right?"
A chorus of agreement came from the cildren, with only Johan and the redhead remianing quiet, watching Raven.
"All right! We can get started, but let's start small. We've got lots of loose bricks in this place—you can pick a few, find a spot a bit away from the others, and try lifting them and moving them around a bit."
And so they went to work. Pacing around the room, Raven was rather impressed by their progress. Within half an hour, many of them were holding their bricks steadily in the air, and some were being more experimental. San, a Japanese girl, had gotten one of hers to zoom half-way across the playhouse and do a small loop before accidentally knocking one of Johan's out of the air. And Casper, the rather vocal blond boy was trying to stack three bricks in mid-air, although his brow was sweating with concentration.
But not all was going well. Of them, a few were still having problems keeping pace. Especially young Chris, the pigtailed girl, who had only succeeded in crushing her bricks to powder as she tried to grip them. But Raven soon found herself looking over Artemesia, a blonde girl who rather resembled her elder brother, Casper.
She stood and watched as Artemesia concentrated, screwing up her eyes in effort. But the brick in front of her remained rock still and immovable. She sighed and relaxed, then sat and stared despondantly at her brick.
"No luck?" Raven asked.
"I just can't move it," Artemisia replied.
Raven rubbed her chin and looked at her thoroughly. "I'm not sure what you can do. You could just not have telekinesis... any ideas?"
Artemisia shook her head. "I don't get it. Casper's doing well, but I can't lift a thing. Shouldn't our powers be the same?"
"Is your brain the same as his?"
She blinked in surprise at the question. "Uh... I mean, we're brother and sister, so..."
Raven smiled. "Yes, but that doesn't mean you're alike. You don't look alike, you don't act alike, and you don't think alike. So your powers are going to be different."
"Isn't it meant to be genetic?" She asked carefully.
"So's gender, and you're not like your brother there", Raven points out. "But they—scientists, I mean—they aren't sure how much of it is genetic and how much of it is learned or what. There's a lot of research but nothing definite."
"So how do we know what I can do?" she asked.
"That's the hard part", Raven said, a bit sadly. "We have to figure it out. You might be a telepath. You might not be able to move things but be able to do other stuff, like levitate or teleport." Raven shrugged. "It's difficult to tell."
She frowned. "I'd heard telepaths were ultra-rare, though. Aren't there ESPers who, well, don't really have powers?"
Raven nods. "Outside of telekinetic awareness, yeah."
"Could it be that I'm, well, a dud like that?"
The older esper sighed. "It's possible, yes. Sometimes those develop more powers, especially when in contact with powerful espers. Most of the times they don't." She shrugged. "But like I said, it doesn't make you better or worse, what you can do, just different. You levitated along with the others though, so you ought to be able to do something like that. We'll just have to figure it out."
"I guess that's something..." She glanced nervously at her brother, who was carefully stacking bricks in mid-air.
Raven smiled. "We'll figure it out."
"I just don't want to disappoint him, that's all."
"Disappoint him?" Raven rubbed her chin and looked at Casper, not sure what to make of that. She did know that she'd have to keep a closer eye on Casper from now on.
She nodded. "He's doing so well and all."
"You'll just have to do things at your own pace, that's all."
She nodded rather glumly and turned back to the collection of debris she'd been given to work on.
Raven watched her, biting her lip. She hoped the young woman would develop something, and vowed to spend as much effort on her than any of the others.
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