The last bell rang and everyone rushed out of school. My face looked calm, but there was turmoil going on inside my head. I realised that Cousin Simon had deliberately side tracked me in my interrogation. He never once told me about his sister and why he had never approached her. There were too many unknowns around him, and I didn't like it.

I was comfortable with solid facts. And yet, here I was going on 'feelings' and with super powers that were out of my control. Now I was ass deep in shit and sinking faster. I had a fight to go to that I was a little reluctant to deal with. I knew I could kick his ass. He knew I could kick his ass. But it was the principal of the thing' and I would never live it down if I turned my cheek the other way. I knew that the same thing would be going through his mind.

But if I kicked his ass with an audience, there would be questions. I wasn't known for my fighting skills, and I had already freaked out some of my new friends with that stunt I pulled earlier. I walked out onto the football field. If I allowed him to beat the crap out of me, it would only mean he would lord it over those that were not as able to protect themselves as I was. I knew that part of the reason I was out here was because I could barely control my powers, and that now I was facing the consequences. A small part of me was glad. And it was that part that worried me, because it was part of the warrior within me and `he' didn't want to give in. He wanted to kick ass and do it spectacularly.

Other students were making their way towards the field just as I approached the spot where we would fight. All my new friends were there, and Christine walked up to me with disapproval in her eyes. Even angry she was beautiful. Green eyes flashing in a light, smooth, chocolate complexion.

"You don't have to do this, James," Christine said. "Just walk away."

I shook my head. "I can't"

"Why not?"

I sighed. "Because it's a guy thing. You don't just run away once you've made a pact to turn up; it's just not done."

Christine looked at me with frustration plain in her eyes. "Is there some goddamn manual for guys that says you all must be dumb asses? Because that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"

I shrugged my shoulders. "That's the way things are."

She threw her hands up in disgust and walked back towards Justine.

I took another deep breath in, and stared into the distance. My heart pounded when I saw Kevin and my brother walking towards us. Leon was smirking and shaking his head at me. Kevin was livid. I knew if we were alone, there would have been a lot of things he would have said about this. But he kept his silence.

Turning away from them, I watched as big mouth...I mean Tomas, strutted towards me. Steven had told me his name in English class, our last period, and had congratulated and supported me for the upcoming fight. Now it was staring me in the eyes and I was nervous as hell.

"Ready for a beating, pussy boy?" Tomas asked loudly. He looked at the audience and pushed his chest out.

There were cheers from some people. I gave him a hard, cold stare. A small smile flicked the corners of my mouth as the warrior peeked out from his hiding spot inside me. Tomas looked at me and stumbled slightly at the look I gave him. I guess he saw it too.

"Ease down," I mentally whispered to my warrior. I had already figured out what I would be doing in the fight, but I had to make sure I was in complete control and that my warrior wouldn't come out in the most unexpected ways.

Chants and jeers surrounded us as I stared at Tomas. He was smirking out at the crowd, and he turned his back on me for a second. I frowned, and was turning to look at Kevin when I saw movement. Tomas was swinging his hand towards me without warning. I forgot my plan and just reacted. I swayed out of the way and ducked his blow. He went for a left hook, and I avoided that punch was well. It was at his third aborted attempt to lay a strike on me that I remembered my plan. I cursed the inner warrior as my instincts were naturally attuned to protect me.

His face was flushed, and an ugly, blotchy red was flushing his cheeks. He went for one more punch and I steeled myself for it. His fist connected with my cheek and I felt myself falling to the ground. My face felt numb where he had hit me, and I was surprised there was no pain. There was a gloating triumphant gleam in his eyes. A cruel smile spread across his face and I saw his foot flying towards my unprotected face.

I felt a sense of betrayal. He had lied. We had made an agreement. After I had left the guys to go to the library, I had backtracked and planned this `fake' fight to save face for the both of us. Now he was going to smash my face in with his boot, and that had not been agreed upon. I could sense an ugly amount of emotion flowing off him, and I knew that it wasn't my face he was trying to kick in.

In that split second, when the boot came within inches of my face, time stopped. The warrior took over. My hand came up and stopped the boot from hitting me. He was balanced precariously, and I threw his foot upwards making him lose his balance. He toppled to the ground as I turned on my back, flipped my legs into the air, and catapulted onto my feet. He tried to get back on his feet, but I pushed him back down with my foot.

I saw his head hit the ground with a solid thump, and I had to remind myself to keep my warrior under check just a little longer. I tried tamping down the power flowing through me and, for a second, the warrior fought back. I gritted my teeth harder and pushed the warrior out. It left me gasping and knees wobbly with fatigue.

I pushed away that weakness and put my foot against Tomas' throat. He was still trying to shake the dizziness after his hard impact with the ground. I needed to watch my strength, and put my shoe lightly on his neck instead.

"Shall we do this again, Tomas?"

"Get your fucking shoe off me."

I pushed down harder, and I heard him choking. He tried to lift my foot with his hands. It never budged. He dug into my legs with his nails and tried to buck me off with his upper body. The warrior began peeling away my self control and, for a moment, I physically pushed down harder until I was on the verge of crushing Tomas' throat, while I mentally pushed against the warrior.

"That's enough, James." I felt hands on my shoulders and the warrior was shocked that he didn't sense anyone near us. It was this surprise that gave me the leverage to beat the warrior back down into the place he lived. I looked up into the dark green/blue eyes of Kevin. He led me gently away and I vaguely heard clapping and cheers, and some boo's, as I felt the solid presence of Kevin by my side. I turned around to see Tomas getting back up.

"Tell your boys to leave Timmy alone, Tomas."

"Fuck off!" he said in a rough voice. He breathed in another deep breath and rubbed his neck.

I shook my head and walked away. Kevin led me towards his car. We drove in silence, and I was surprised when he stopped at Oleanders ledge; a place everyone went to for speed racing around the mountain top late at night. This time of day, it was deserted.

"What were you trying to prove?" Kevin quietly asked me. It was his soothing voice; one he had used when we were in the midst of foreplay or long sex sessions. God, I forgot how much I had missed hearing his voice. But this time, he was using it to control his temper.

I stared out the window, asking myself the same question. I watched houses shimmer in the afternoon sunlight, far below me. I knew that I had very near no control when it came to the warrior within me. But I felt that was just an excuse, because deep down I had enjoyed playing the bully. I had enjoyed bringing fear into Tomas's eyes. I had to be honest, if only to myself. I had to force myself to stop hurting Tomas. The moral side of me felt guilt race through me, and I lowered my gaze to my clenched hands.

He raised my face with his fingers under my chin. "I have never judged you and I won't start now."

I broke down. I told him everything that had happened at Grams' and all of today and it was such a great relief. Before he had cheated, we had spent the nights on the phone sharing our hopes and dreams. We talked about everything. This is what I had missed the most; the confidant that he was and how he truly listened to me. I told him my fears and how the power was starting to take over. When I was finished, I felt much lighter and calm. Through it all he had not said a word, just listened and nodded. Now he was staring at me with an indefinable look on his face.

"You've gone through a lot lately, babe." he said, gripping the steering wheel tighter. He looked out towards the view of the city below us. It was beginning to cool down and the sun hid behind dark grey clouds. His mood changed and bleak pain covered his face.

I stared at him with worry. "What's the matter?" I asked. "If it's something I said, I'm sorry."

"No, it's not that." I watched as his face tightened and he gritted his teeth. It left his dimple peeking out angrily. "Why did you do it, James?" he asked.

I stared at him, unsure, and waited for him to continue. What had I done this time, I pondered? I watched as he tried to take a deep breath, and heard it come out as a gasping sob. I touched his shoulder, concerned. He jerked but didn't move away. I removed my left hand and put it over his on the steering wheel and gently pried it off. He watched the movement with a great sadness and pain on his face. It hurt something inside me to see it. I linked my hand through his and put it in my lap. With my right hand I turned his face towards mine.

"Tell me what I did," I asked in a quiet voice.

I watched those beautiful green eyes fill with tears. "I know why your heart stopped, James," he said. "I blame myself for it."

I shook my head confused, "You're not making sense?"

He pulled away from me and looked out the window. "If I hadn't cheated, you would not have tapped into your powers to stop your heart," he said stutteringly. "Ever since you healed me, I have been playing scenarios in my head, over and over, about how you stopped your heart. I mean, if you could heal me, then it wouldn't be very hard to stop a heart with the same ability, right?" I stared at him, speechless. He continued. "Each time I would see the pain in your eyes, and it burnt me." I watched tears drop down his cheek. "I would see the betrayal in your eyes staring back at me, and it hurt so bad I felt I would choke." He began to tremble. "I'm sorry, James. I know I fucked up, bad." More tears fell and he openly sobbed, bowing his head.

His pain reached out to me. I pulled his head down onto my shoulder. I had made myself forget about that aspect of Kevin. How he carefully analysed any situation around him, how vulnerable he could sometimes be. I had purposely forgotten about this soft side, because it was all these little intimacies that would have made my new life harder to endure. He had such an indomitable will at times; I forgot how much of a teddy bear he was around me. Now, watching this strong man break in front of me, I couldn't stop myself from remembering the intense three weeks we shared as lovers. With his head on my shoulder, the smell of his cologne reminded me of those times when I felt safe in these arms. Now it was my turn to hold him.

It was an awkward angle to hold him, so I pushed him gently backwards and hopped onto his lap from the passenger side. He looked up into my eyes with his eyes slightly puffy, and I had never seen him so stunningly beautiful before. I cupped his face. He looked up at me, and his eyes held such vulnerability and fear. I had to wipe that look off his face. I kissed him gently. He tentatively kissed me back. I deepened the kiss and felt him open his mouth in response. My tongue slipped inside and I felt his arms wrap around me, sliding up and down my back. He groaned his pleasure into my mouth, and it was such a familiar sound that it had my libido revving. The kiss deepened and I felt him harden beneath me. My own erection was rubbing against his clothed body, and he pressed my body against his more firmly, pushing me up and down on him.

I felt his hand raise my shirt and touch the hot skin of my back. He kneaded my flesh and I thrust my pelvis into him as we kissed. He growled his pleasure and ravaged my mouth. I raised my head off his, gasping and breathing hard. He nuzzled my throat. I shuddered as he kissed and licked the column of my throat and gently grazed teeth across my skin. I bunched my hands in his hair, urging him on.

Another growl tore from his throat, and he pushed me back a little to rip buttons off my shirt. I heard one ping and hit the side window. He sighed lustily with satisfaction as my body was exposed and began sucking on my nipples. It was hard and forceful and I was a whimpering mess of desire. I felt his hand slide down the back of my pants and my skin jumped as he kneaded my ass cheeks in the tight conforming pants. I was in a lust driven haze and was at Kevin's mercy.

A loud blaring jarred me from my lust as my shoe hit the button of the radio. Shaggy's song `it wasn't me' was blasting. Kevin cursed the interruption, but it was enough for me to come a little more to my senses. He gave me a hang-dog look and I smiled before kissing his forehead, and getting up off him. He reluctantly let me go, and I tried to move back into my seat the same way I had gotten there. However, I kneed Kevin in the groin twice before I made it safely back into my seat. He was clutching himself and looking red in the face by the time I had straightened my ruined shirt as best I could, and put the seatbelt on.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," I said, giving him innocent eyes and blinking rapidly.

He looked at me and snarled. "Don't you dare laugh!"

I couldn't help it. I laughed and laughed until tears were running down my face. He glared at me. Then a wicked smile lit his face. I slowly stopped laughing and stared at him suspiciously.

"What are you up...?" Before I could finish my sentence he was kissing me. It was demanding, hot, and intense. I couldn't help it. I groaned and opened deeper into the kiss. He pulled his mouth away and left me panting for more. He then grabbed my hand and pushed it onto his groin. I grabbed it instinctively and felt the hot, hard length glide against my hand. My heart was pounding and my throat was dry. He lifted my hand off him, and I cried out my disappointment. He smiled and licked the inside of my palm. His tongue was a silky heat over my skin. I shivered and was ready for more. When he put my hand back on my lap and started the car, I gave him a dirty look.

He chuckled, and seemed very pleased with himself. I so was not going to play this seductive game with him. He knew he would beat me hands down, so I sank into my seat and pouted. The smug bastard.

After our chuckles and laughter had died down, Kevin gave me serious eyes. "Can you tell me how it felt...dying?" I sensed there was more to that question than that, but I felt it was only fair I shared.

I looked at his eyes as they turned from green to blue, and then back again. "It felt like I was falling into a hole. I didn't want the world to see me and I didn't want to see the world." I took in a shuddering breath. "You hurt me so bad, Kevin, that I just wanted the pain to end." He bowed his head and trailed one finger over my closed hands.

I thought about all the things that had happened since that fateful day. It seemed like such a long time ago and, in a way, as if it happened to an entirely different person. I was no longer the same James I used to be. But not all bad things had come out of this big change in my life. In fact I felt a lot of good had come from it.

"I'm sorry. This is not what I wanted to say to you, Kevin," he nodded his head, but refused to look at me. "Mum, with her new age beliefs, was always telling me that everything happens for a reason. I know that my power scares me shitless, but it's like a missing part of me has finally come home." I smiled. "Not to forget all the new friends I have made." He peered up at me as I continued. "I like this life I'm building." I turned my hands over and captured his hand in mine. "And perhaps you were the catalyst to help me understand my destiny." Something inside me settled into place; a sense of well being and rightness filled me. I knew that even though I couldn't see mum, she was still guiding me; she was still helping me to this day.

"So stop punishing yourself, because you don't deserve it," I said.

I watched as he looked at me with earnest. "You're amazing."

"I surprise myself too sometimes," I said with a cheeky smile.

He touched the side of my face gently, tracing the contours. "You always surprise me."

Kevin dropped me off at Grams' house. Before I got out of the car he grabbed my arm. "Do you think there is still a chance for us?"

I looked inside myself. A large part of me was screaming, hell yeah! But there was this unspoken fear that I would never be enough for him. I had seen him around girls, and they still turned his head. When we went to school tomorrow I just knew he would still flirt with girls. It was just a part of who he was.

"Ask yourself this, Kevin." I said. "Can you see yourself in an openly committed relationship with me? Or would we be hiding from those around us?"

He frowned at himself and gave it serious thought. "I might be able to do it. When I'm with you I'm dead certain...it's just..." he answered.

I gently pulled away from his hand, got out of the car before looking back at him. "There is the answer to your question... its just..." I shrugged my shoulders, looked sadly at him and turned away. I never looked back as I opened the front door and walked inside.

Grams was waiting at the table as I came through. "You're late," she said without preamble. "Elsa waited at school for 45 minutes. Where have you been?"

I had my excuse ready. "I needed to clear my head; Cousin Simon came to visit me in class." I was met with silence and could hear the grandfather clock ticking in the lounge area. "Tell me you didn't leave his spirit floating in purgatory, Grams," I asked as calmly as I could.

She looked at me, and stared me down. "There are some things, boy, that you don't need to know the answer to just yet. This is one of them."

I slammed my hands down on the table. It vibrated and I saw a crack appear where my left fist had dented it. "I am sick and tired of all these secrets. I have as much right to know as you do!"

"You will lower you tone, boy, or I will be forced to make you!" And with that, she raised her hand and slammed her wooden staff down hard. It echoed and vibrated throughout the house. My skin tightened at the use of her power, and I felt blood trickle from my nose onto my upper lip. My own power seemed to sink deep inside me, and I felt like huddling in on myself. I refused, and stood stock still, staring back at her. I pushed against that almighty strength and felt my nose-bleed worsen. Another pulse of power came from her, yet her body and staff remained still. I shuddered, as the pressure and strength of her indomitable will turned into power, and slumped into my seat, exhausted.

"Have you finished with your little test of rebellion, grandson?" she asked me in a cool calm tone. I nodded my head, barely able to keep it off my chest. "Good, because anymore temper tantrums from you and I will treat you like a naughty child who needs to be spanked into learning his lessons." Her voice had turned hard and uncompromising.

She raised her staff and touched the tip of the gnarled head to my nose and then onto the cracks I had made into the table. I felt and watched with quiet amazement as my nasal passages cleared, and the table repaired itself under grams' staff. "You are no good for any training tonight, grandson. Go to bed; you will need to recuperate your strength."

I managed to drag myself up the stairs and was fast asleep by the time I hit my pillow.

"Wake up, James." The voice seemed to be coming from a long way away. I opened my eyes, yet I was in a pitch black room. Somehow, I just knew this wasn't a real place. I raised my hands in front of me and I still couldn't see them.

"Where am I? Is somebody there?" I shouted.

"Walk forwards," said the same distant voice. It sounded female, but I wasn't certain with my fear starting to get the better of me.

"I can't see anything. Where am I walking to?"

The voice came again, with less patience. "We are wasting time, James. Put one foot in front of the other and walk forward."

I did as I was told in the hopes that I would be able to see something besides pure darkness. It was unnerving, to say the least. I placed one foot in front of the other and hoped I was walking in a straight line. The darkness began to lighten to an almost brown colour as I moved forward. I picked up my pace, and was relieved to see that shapes were beginning to appear as silhouettes in the dark.

"Good," the voice whispered. It was definitely female and familiar. "You are getting closer."

It was like someone had hit a light switch. I walked into a courtyard, blinking in the bright light. The sun shone on a perfect summer day, the cicada's and the sounds of an Australian heat wave washed over me. A woman in a long gown had her back towards me. I gasped and went rushing to her.

"Mum! Is that really you?" I shouted as I neared her.

She turned to me and smiled. "Hello, my baby," she wrapped me in her arms. "We don't have a lot of time, but I'm here to help as best as I can. You have questions. I will try to answer as many as I can."

I looked at her in amazement. "How is this possible? I thought I had to be dead or something to see you again?"

"Do you remember your grandmother saying you would have an affinity with spirit? Well you are in the spirit realm. I needed to talk to you, and your power made it happen."

"Don't I have to wish it or demand it, or something, before it works?" I asked.

Mum sighed before she replied, "You and your logical mind. Trust your instincts, James, otherwise logic will get in the way of your abilities. For example, scan me and tell me what you feel. I know you can do it; you scanned Simon." I looked at her and was going to ask her how she knew. She smiled raised her hand to silence me. "I was there. Now, do as I ask. Tell me what you feel."

I concentrated on mum and felt something slide out of me like a tendril and begin exploring her. Her perfume wafted over me and she felt like home and, therefore, someone I could trust. With that scent, I knew what talents she had. It was weird because the different abilities each had a unique scent and taste. Without thinking about it, I just knew what each flavour meant. She had warrior skills, yet they lacked the depth and strength of mine. Telekinesis, telepathy and precognition felt potent and as strong as an onrushing force of six-foot waves. And astral travel was something that she thought was unique to her. The moment they flashed through my mind, I began to have doubts and felt the scent and knowledge of her abilities fade. I tried to get back that scent, but it wouldn't come. I sighed my frustration.

"That was an impressive attempt James; if I wasn't concentrating I would never have felt you scanning me. This is an important tool, because it tells you if the person in front of you is who they say they are and their intentions towards you. But, once again, your logical mind kicked in at the last minute, saying this is not possible and therefore it became impossible for you." She ruffled my head as she said this. "Keep trying."

"Can't people block me from reading them? After all, I can do it." I said, thinking back on what Simon had assured me. "Or, am I blocking people at all?" I still didn't trust him and what he said, even though Grams had said something similar.

Mum smiled at me. "That's a unique talent, all your own, sweetie. Simon was telling you the truth about that. In general, most people can't block a scan. But there will be times that you might come across someone who can. The scanning skill will help you in time to come. Trust me."

I changed the subject. "Dad told me that you had a vision of some darkness covering me, just like Cousin Kate. Is the darkness Cousin Simon?" I asked her.

She tapped her hand on her chin as she looked at me thoughtfully. "No, but he is your first test for a greater darkness that will come."

I paled and felt goose bumps race up my skin. "You're telling me there's something worse!?"

She nodded her head in agreement. "Much worse, just like in Spiderman, and what Stan Lee said: `With great power comes great responsibility.' The same applies to us. We are given the role to protect mankind from things that go bump in the night." I frowned struggling to understand. "Let's just say," she said, "we are the supernatural cops, and many horror movies have a basis in truth. Werewolves are real, Freddy Krueger, very real, and so forth. You are the only one of your generation with the power to stop the horrors of the supernatural community from attacking. Grams is getting on in years, and her ability to keep the supernatural on the other side of the veil is weakening. One day you will have to take over the responsibility of maintaining the barrier that keeps them from entering this plane of existence. Should that barrier ever fail, our world would face a time of reckoning." I shuddered at that thought, "Simon managed to reach through the barrier Grams has in place. That is why he is your first test. Because, soon, others will follow in his wake and you must be ready."

My mind was racing and my heart followed suit. "But why did Grams trap him behind this veil you're talking about? After all, shutting him in with this `darkness' is over-kill, don't you think?"

"Your right; it was," mum said, "Had I known while I was alive, I would have tried to do something about it. But your grandmother feared him. She feared his power and his arrogance. His strength and unique talents meant he was able to tap into her skills and usurp them at will. She was the head of our power; the strength that held the veil in place against the darkness. She was scared that without some kind of control over him, the veil would come crashing down without her being able to stop it. Even in spirit form, your grams was afraid he would still be able to usurp her powers. So she trapped his soul on the other side of the veil as a safety measure."

I walked away from mum and leaned on the balcony that was suspended over a meandering pond with eucalyptus trees on both sides acting as pillars. "How did dad get involved with Simon and all of this, anyway?" I asked.

I felt mum's presence behind me as she answered. "They were child-hood friends. They grew up in the same neighbour hood, went to all the same schools. They became inseparable. When puberty hit, Cousin Simon now had access to his abilities and promptly began showing your father his new skills. Your dad became an honorary side-kick." There was affection in mums voice as she continued, "Grams grudgingly accepted your father's help because he was a sensitive."

I gave mum a blank look. She smiled faintly. "A sensitive is someone who has enough psychic ability to sense when others use talents, but not enough to have any themselves." I nodded for her to carry on. "One Christmas, your father came to one of our family dinners, and that is where we met and fell in love. Your Cousin Simon was livid. He loved your father, but your dad had never loved him back, at least not in a sexual way. He turned his talent of empathy on your father. It effectively trapped your father's conscious mind inside a lustful body he had no control over."

My poor dad, subjugated against his will. He would have hated that. I turned around and looked at mum. She nodded her head as if she was reading me. Perhaps she was. She smiled once more. "Even to this day, your father fears anyone with the power of empathy. It's why he had always been so aloof with you as you were growing up. Being a sensitive, he knew the feel of empathy in all its forms. It was your dad that told me you were empathic. It was also your dad that pleaded for me to keep it to myself in the hopes that your empathy would lie dormant."

It made so much sense to me, and I was glad that dad and I were getting on so much better now. Thinking on Cousin Simon, I was glad mum had to do the smack down on him. But he must have been something in his day, because it had taken mum, Grams and Cousin Kate to bind and destroy him. I shivered at that thought. "How do I control my talents?" I asked.

"You have to learn to control your emotions better," mum said. "Empathy is the foundation of your power."

"I'm not sure I follow you, Mum?"

She looked thoughtful. "Okay, then imagine that empathy is like the trunk of a tree. Your talents are the branches that grow and divide from that tree trunk. Because emotions are a battery source for you, then think of it as the sap that runs up and down the trunk and into the branches. The more sap that flows into the branches, the more leaves grow. That is how your power works."

"So the stronger an emotion I feel, the stronger my talent gets?" I asked.

She smiled at me. "Exactly! However, different emotions make certain branches grow faster than others. For example, the warrior talent thrives on anger, fear, pain, excitement, and adrenalin. Now back to the tree analogy. When you pump the nutrients of those emotions from your trunk upwards, your warrior branch thrives and flourishes, but the other branches that don't use those emotions begin to shrivel. This causes an imbalance, and eventually the entire tree suffers because of it."

She played with my hair as I thought about what she said. "So, do I have to go through every single emotion to balance my tree?" I asked, "Because if I do, I would be at it all day."

She chuckled. "No, James, you just need to meditate and find a calm centre. But that means you have to resolve any issues in your personal life right now. To find your focus and, hopefully, your calm centre, you must have no emotional blocks to get in the way of your inner journey toward balance."

I thought about Kevin. He was one of my most major personal issues I had to face.

"Yes, he is," mum said, unashamedly listening in on my thoughts. I frowned at mum, smirked and thought of a solid wall of ice. She gave me a dead-pan look. "I get the message, James."

We laughed together, and then my face turned serious as I thought back on facing my hardest issue, Kevin. But I needed to control my power and if that meant doing some sort of meditation and issue resolving, then I would do it. I just hoped Kevin was ready for a decision or I would make it for the both of us.

Another thought hit me. "Mum, I never once saw you using talents; does that mean you walked out on your legacy and... why?"

She looked at me sadly. "I wanted a proper life without the danger of enemies attacking me. I wanted to start a family without the worries of my legacy stopping me from watching you all grow up. I figured that my older brothers had as much chance as I to have a child that would have talents. They thought so too."

"I bet Grams wasn't too pleased."

Mum snorted. "The understatement of the year. Naturally your grams blamed your father for me walking away from the legacy, and her animosity has never wavered since."

We were both lost in our thoughts when mum looked up at the sky. A cloud covered the sun for a second. Mum's body went into alert mode.

"What is it?" I asked.

She shook her head. "It's time you left." With a flick of her hand, I felt myself rushing backwards, until darkness engulfed me.

The alarm screamed its warning in my ear, and I shot up out of bed. I felt like I had not slept, and in a way I hadn't. Mum had given me a lot to chew on.

I was sitting in class thinking about grams' power. She hadn't said a word to me at breakfast until I was ready to leave. She told me Elsa would be waiting after school, and that I had better be on time. She had scared me, and the part that was the new me was screaming. I could loose this new self confidence if I stayed any longer. Yet, that same new part in me didn't want to be seen as a coward. If I ran back to dad's, wasn't that just saying I was giving up because it was getting too tough?

I sighed. I had to tough it out. I needed the training regardless.

A knock at the classroom door interrupted my musings. Our Principal, Mr McDonald walked in. "Sorry to interrupt your class Mr Henson, if I might have a word with James Mendoza."

Mr Henson looked slightly startled and looked my way. I stood up and heard the class chorus with `ooooh'. I rolled my eyes before walking outside with the principal. He led me to his office.

"Take a seat Mr Mendoza," he said. "Now, is there anything you wish to tell me?"

I sat down and stared at him from across his desk. I wasn't sure what he was talking about. I decided to test my scanning ability out on him, and sent out a tendril. Fear, pain, terror screamed at all my senses; it bombarded me and nearly overwhelmed me in its intensity. Principal McDonald's soul was trapped inside, while something wore the shell of his body. I pulled back from the scanning, expecting this `beast' in front of me to attack immediately now that I had discovered it for what it was.

"Are you alright Mr Mendoza?" the creature asked with fake concern.

My heart was pumping, and I stared hard at him. He obviously had not sensed my scan. My warrior took over. I was cool, calm, and collected, and looked at my enemy with assessing eyes. I took note of what seemed like black snarling vines trailing out of the body in spirit form and flowing towards other areas of the school. I sensed humans attached to these vines. "Drones," my warrior whispered inside my mind.

I stared at the superimposed vision from hell. "Manticore" my warrior informed me. It had a human body, but the head of a preying mantis and mandibles for a mouth. Its hands were claws. From the sides of the human torso emerged the black vines. I counted six trailing vines, "and therefore six enemies infiltrating the school," my warrior whispered. I needed to use a bit of delicacy here to make sure that I got the names of the rest of his drones. My warrior assured me that if we didn't get to his drones, killing him off wouldn't succeed as he would place his essence inside one of them.

"I'm okay, sir," my voice said. I was distantly surprised to hear myself sound so calm. "I'm just not sure what it is that you think I have done?"

The principal's face turned stern. "Don't play coy with me, Mr Mendoza. I have it on good authority that there was a fight on these premises yesterday, and that you were the instigator of it. Is this true?"

I sat back, playing coy. "No sir, it was just a misunderstanding. We were only arguing for just a few minutes."

"That's not what I heard; the parents of Tomas Petrelli rang up demanding that disciplinary action be taken because you very nearly crushed his throat."

"Sir, I have been a grade A student in this school, and have never been in a fight, ever. Tomas, on the other hand, knows how to take care of himself. How could I have gotten near to crushing his throat without him defending himself? That type of strength is something I don't have."

Mr McDonald glared at me. "It is this very reason why I am here talking to you instead of expelling you. But I need to know what really happened. So far, Tomas is the only one speaking and he says that you tripped him up and punched him in the throat. And, if his version of the truth comes out at the school board meeting, then I will be forced to suspend you until further notice."

I smiled inwardly. This manticore was indeed a crafty one. If I hadn't seen the creature for what it was, this charade it was playing would have had me convinced I was talking to the real principal. I idly wondered if he knew I had talents. I scanned him again and my warrior smiled with satisfaction. The manticore was unaware of my heritage; it just wanted me as another snack. My warrior informed me that they fed off the young. The emotions and life force of puberty gave these creatures great sustenance. The longer they fed, the stronger they became. This one was very new, and therefore weak. We had a short time span to get rid of the drones.

"Then you will have to suspend me, sir," I said. After all, what could I say? I had very nearly crushed Tomas's throat. The little squealer would pay for this anyway. Not to me, but his reputation in the eyes of the students would fall because of this. No one squealed when a fight was announced. It was an unspoken rule, and he would pay for his indiscretion.

"So you admit to this, Mr Mendoza? Why did you lie to me earlier?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Tell me one student that wouldn't try to lie to get out of any sort of punishment?" The warrior had not been idle while I was talking to the manticore. I had felt him scoping the vines and following down the lines to the human drones. I was amazed that the warrior could do this, and a bit of doubt, and maybe fear, began to creep through everything I was doing.

I felt my connection to the warrior tremble, and he gave me a warning jolt of energy. I needed to concentrate or everything would fall down around me like a deck of cards. I took a deep breath, held it in, and let it out, relaxing. Some kind of energy from my warrior zoomed back out and down the vines once more. There was urgency this time, and I could feel myself getting a little tired holding the connection.

The Principal spoke. "Very well. I will have to get your father involved. I am disappointed in you, James. This will go into your records."

"Am I allowed to go back to classes for today?" I asked. The warrior was close to completing what it needed. I picked up on the urgency, and instinctively pushed more energy down the connection. If the principal said yes, I could hunt the drones down and, hopefully, get rid of them in one day. The warrior approved of my strategy.

"Because you were honest, you will be allowed to complete today." I watched as he rubbed his head. He opened his eyes and stared at me. Something flared in those depths, and I had the sinking suspicion he knew something was up.

The warrior finished his scan and shouted in my head his jubilation. I had the information I needed. The icy shield came crashing down. The shadow of the manticore traced its clawed hands over me. I had to physically stop myself from showing any reaction as it did this.

I am a normal child I chanted, as a litany, as I got up off the chair and walked towards the door.

"Mr Mendoza," the manticore said. I turned around towards it as I put my hand on the door knob. "You will see me this afternoon when the last bell rings."

The warrior chuckled his glee. "Yes sir." I said walking out. I would definitely be seeing him later.

 

monkurchakar

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