101 – Orientation

By K.T. Chambers

Copyright 2014 K.T. Chambers

Beep Beep Edition


This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictiiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Beep Beep Edition, License Notes

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Introduction to Paranormal Scientific Theory, pg. 8

Walter Everette completely redefined how we perceive humans as a species. All of the developments society had made to that point, flight, electricity, even the atomic bomb paled by comparison. The fact that he was able to prove the existence of psychic abilities through the course of several clinical trials – proving that not only are psychic abilities a reality, but that all human beings contained the potential to develop and control them – set the entire world on its ear.

And now, nearly 50 years after that monumental announcement, even with the developments, experiments and breakthroughs that followed, paranormal science is still in its infancy. Tools used during Everette’s clinical trials, which perceive human psychic energy and it’s fluctuations during training and experiments, better enabled us to teach anyone how to harness these powers. These tools also allow us to test individuals for proficiency in different aspects of psychic manipulation, ensuring we train each person to their fullest potential.
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“I’m not talking about the manipulation of psychic energy, Miss Hammond, I’m talking about using it to interact with technology-”

“Doctor,” Hammond cut Katie off. “It’s Doctor Hammond, not Miss. And we’re not exploring new theories in this class, we’re learning about the original theories that led to everything we currently know about psychic powers.”

Katie rolled her eyes. “Who cares about the theories that led to what we know today? Most of them are outdated and ridiculous! Honestly,” she flipped to somewhere in the middle of her textbook. “Doctor Green postulated that diet may affect an individual’s proficiency with certain types of psychic manipulation. To prove this theory Doctor Green altered his diet to include only starchy breads and pork products. His results were inconclusive.” Katie snapped her book shut, her expression incredulous. “What the book doesn’t mention is that his results were inconclusive because less than two months into his diet he keeled over of a heart attack.”

Hammond was frowning at her. “Miss Johnson, this class does not encourage reading ahead, it will make it more difficult for you to follow along with the rest of the class as we cover the curriculum at the assigned pace each day. And we most certainly do not encourage working outside of the curriculum. As a matter of fact, I don’t allow it.”

Katie gritted her teeth. “No one has ever done anything worth mentioning by following the curriculum,” she practically growled.

Hammond’s smile was wide, cold, and made her look disturbingly like a fish. “Perhaps, but I should remind you Miss Johnson, you are here on a scholarship. So you have a vested interest in following the curriculum,” she mimicked Katie’s tone as she spat the last bit out.

Katie was trembling with suppressed anger, but she kept her mouth shut. The effort left her breathless and nauseated.

Hammond’s smirk twisted in triumph as she turned back to her smart board. “Alright everyone, turn to page ten. Today we’ll be learning about theories regarding the actual abilities of stage psychics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

Katie slumped down the back of her seat, stifling a groan.
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“I just don’t understand the point of spending hours in a crowded classroom listening to some frog-faced hobag drone on about antiquated information I could have pulled up in two seconds with an internet search.” Classes were over, and Katie had retreated to the library.  Joanne was perched on the table beside an enormous stack of books, her feet balanced on the seat in front of her. She had long frizzy red hair, more freckles than she could ever possibly use, and she had been Katie’s best friend since kindergarten. At first glance, with Katie’s dark hair, pale complexion, and ever-present book glued to her nose, the two friends couldn’t look much more different. But they had a lot more in common than it might seem, and after fifteen years, they balanced each other perfectly. Joanne was easy-going and goofy, which helped to temper Katie’s antisocial tendencies and various neurosis, and Katie had gotten pretty good at reining Joanne in when she got too loud or out of hand.

Joanne snorted. “Maybe it’s sorta not the best idea to call your professor a hobag?”

Katie made a face into her book. “Maybe it’s sorta not the best idea for them to let a hobag teach impressionable youths!” she growled. “Like it’s not bad enough I didn’t test into any proficiencies?”

“Are you kidding me?” Joanne said, cutting her off. “I did test into a proficiency, remember? And trust me, you’re way better off in the generalized class.”

Katie’s head jerked up, and she frowned at her friend. “Whoa, where did that come from? You were so excited and proud of yourself when you first found out you were an empath.”

“Well, yeah, it seemed pretty cool. But then I started classes and found out that empaths were like the hippies of the school, and number one in line to be the Kinetics punching bags-”

“Uh, no,” Katie interrupted, gesturing to herself. “That would be those of us in the general class. We’re the school retards, remember?”

Joanne rolled her eyes. “At least if I’d tested into general, I’d be in classes with you. I don’t have anything in common with these other empaths!”

“Except the empathy thing?” Katie asked, grinning and raising an eyebrow.

“Ha, ha,” Joanne deadpanned, wrinkling her nose. “And as far as that goes, I don’t think anyone in the class knows what they’re doing any better than I do-”

“Well, you are students,” Katie cut in, but Joanne kept talking.

“And there are a couple who maybe do know more, and they’re worse than the kinetics! They just go around, acting all snotty and superior. There’s even a guy named Adrian who’s telling people that he can actually read minds, and they only put him in with the empaths because they couldn’t tell the difference.”

Katie shook her head. “Highly unlikely,” she said dryly, turning back toward her book.

Joanne raised both her eyebrows. “Are you sure? He was pretty convincing.”

Katie looked back up, lifting one shoulder sheepishly as she started to explain. “Ok, so there’s this other institute in Sweden that’s actually conducting studies on that exact thing,” she said, beginning to look excited for the first time that day. She loved learning and talking about science, it was seriously her favorite thing, and a big part of the reason she had wanted to attend IPS in the first place.

“You’re like a walking database, you know that?” Joanne quipped dryly.

Katie smirked. “Anyway, they’re not done, but they’re hypothesizing that a person’s ‘thought process’, for a lack of a better term, is as unique as an energy signature, fingerprint, iris or whatever.” She shrugged. “Basically they figure that learning to read another person’s mind would be like learning a whole new language without any guidelines to help you do it.”

“So, what, mind reading isn’t possible at all?” Joanne asked, frowning.

“Well, they’re doing tests to see if it’s possible to learn how to read one, but every test subject who said they could do it naturally, turned out to be an empath or a precog who was just really good at guessing. Like all those old-timey stage psychics, only with a kick.”

Katie winced at her own reference. She’d spent an hour and a half today enduring useless droning information about stage psychics, she didn’t need to hear any more about them, even from her own mouth.

Joanne shrugged. “So…probably he was full of it?” She lifted her feet off the chair so she could swing them back and forth.

“Well, there’s an easy way to find out,” Katie said, grinning. She reclined back into her seat. “Next time he’s trying to show off, have him focus on you, and think hard about a number or a math equation.”

Joanne mirrored Katie, leaning back on her hands. “And then he won’t be able to figure it out if he’s not an actual mind reader?”

Katie shook her head. “Nope. Those aren’t things that can be predicted with empathy or precognition.” She shrugged a shoulder as she sat back up. “He might say that you’re hoping he won’t know what you’re thinking, but if he does just point out that hope is an emotion, not a thought.”

High pitched giggling interrupted their conversation, and they turned toward the library entrance to see what was going on. Their table wasn’t too far away, since Katie liked to be near the computers, but they were shocked to see Isobel walk in, flanked by her cronies Myst and Anne.

They were Kinetics; specifically, Isobel and Anne were telekinetic, and Myst was elemental-kinetic – though she seemed to prefer to work with fire.  It was shocking to see them because the three of them, much like all of the school’s Kinetics, were notorious for avoiding the library at all costs. All they cared about was the physical applications of their abilities, books didn’t matter to them. Their domain was the training ground and the south-east corner of the parking lot.

“And this is the library,” Isobel called over her shoulder. “Where you can find books, mold, and if you’re quiet enough that you don’t startle them too much, nerds.”

Following the three girls into the library was what must be a new student, and it was suddenly readily apparent what could draw a group of Kinetics to the library.

Without looking at her, Joanne nudged Katie in the side with her foot, who in turn elbowed her in the knee.

The guy following the three harpies (because it was, in fact, a guy) was quite possibly the most attractive man on the planet. His bright blue eyes were in stark contrast with the darkness of his complexion, and they darted across the room rapidly. He was at least a head taller than any of the girls with him, all three of whom stood close to six feet tall. Broad shoulders, a narrow waist, dark hair long enough to fall and mask his eyes, and a three-day old stubble all combined to make him look as though he’d just stepped out of a romance novel.

Joanne whimpered.

“So this is where we can go to study?”

And he had an accent! It was faint, but it sounded slightly Mediterranean.

Isobel laughed. “Oh, don’t be silly!” She giggled, slapping him on the shoulder playfully. “This place is for geeks like the diviners and the telepaths. Or the really unfortunate…” she said as she caught sight of Katie and Joanne, who were (regrettably) still ogling the new guy. “…the general class.” She finished, grinning spitefully. The new guy turned to see who she was looking at, facing their table with a confused expression.

Katie shook herself, and grinned back at the group. “Hey there, Isobel. Had a good day? I saw the deli had a fresh shipment of kitten souls and baby tears. I bet they would be great garnish for that altoid you have for lunch every day.” She could see the stranger’s lip twitch, but he managed to keep a straight face.

Isobel sneered at her. “Katie here is part of the general class,” she drawled, turning back to the guy and fluttering her eyelashes. Katie noticed that all three girls had fresh makeup, and Isobel’s hair in particular, which was a beautiful – and unnatural – golden blonde and prone to frizzing, seemed unusually well behaved. “That’s the class we have here at IPS for people who don’t test into any proficiencies,” she said, lowering her voice to a harsh whisper.

Katie rolled her eyes. “And Isobel here is part of the canine class of mammal. That’s the class including, but not limited to, foxes, wolves, and dogs…which in her case would make her a bitch.” Isobel flinched. That word, if none of the others, was familiar.

“Canines tend to travel in packs,” Katie continued, “and this particular variety is known for their promiscuity.” She also dropped her voice to a whisper, albeit a mocking one, toward the end.  Beside her, Joanne buried her head in her hands, shaking with laughter.

Isobel curled her lip. “You know, if you’re trying to insult me, you should use language normal people, you know, the people with lives and friends, actually understand. Because all I heard just then was ‘Blah, blah, geek, geek, nerd, nerd, nerd,'” she said, flapping her hands like a mouth.

“You know, you may be right?” Katie smiled sweetly.  Beside her, Joanne lifted her eyebrows in shock, but then Katie continued. “As entertaining as it is to insult you, it’s about as productive as teasing a monkey.  I mean, What’s the point, really?” Joanne snorted.

“Come on, Isobel,” Myst whined, interrupting their banter. “Just being in here is giving me a migraine.”

“That’s funny, you being in here is having the same effect on me. Weird right?” Katie grinned.

Myst ignored her. “You know I can’t handle dust,” she muttered sullenly to Isobel.

Isobel squared her shoulders, turning away from Katie . “It’s fine, Myst. There’s nothing else interesting in here anyway. Come on, let’s show our friend the Kinetics’ advanced training ground.”

The three girls started walking back toward the entrance, but their ‘friend’ didn’t immediately follow. He was staring at Katie with the strangest expression. “I’m Drew,” he said abruptly.

Katie’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, but she shrugged one of her shoulders. “Katie,” she answered simply. “And this is Joanne. Welcome to IPS.”

“Drew, come on,” Isobel called from the doorway, frowning.

Drew’s eyes flicked toward her, and back to Katie. “Nice to meet you,” he said, before turning to go.

For nearly a minute after the four of them had left the building, Katie and Joanne were silent.

Joanne broke the silence with another, slightly strangled, whimper. Katie’s head dropped onto the desk and she groaned.

“Have you ever-” Joanne gasped.

No!” Katie squeaked.

“Where did he come from??”

I don’t know!

For a few minutes after that they were quiet again, recovering from meeting what had to be the modern equivalent of a Greek god.

Joanne nudged Katie with her foot again. Katie sat bolt upright almost instantly, thinking Drew may have come back, but Joanne was just grinning.

Katie raised an eyebrow, letting her friend grin for a moment, before rolling her eyes. “What?”

“He liked you,” Joanne crooned, dragging out the word ‘liked’ as though they were still twelve.

Katie shook her head. “Joanne, come on.”

“No, I’m serious! He really did, he thought you were funny! And Isobel was annoying him.”

“And how can you be so sure?” Katie asked, raising an eyebrow.

Joanne shrugged. “I can just tell.”

“Really, Joanne?” Katie spread her hands, her expression chiding. “You’ve said that line so often growing up that it’s practically your catchphrase. Why don’t you just say ‘Because I’m empathic. Deal with it.'”

Joanne sighed, slumping. “I don’t feel empathic.”

“You may not feel empathic right now,” Katie said, as she started flipping through the book in front of her. “But I know for a fact that you’re empathetic. You get nauseous and anxious when people around you are fighting, you always have.”

“Well, duh, of course I react to people when they’re yelling at each other right next to me!”

Katie shot her a look. “Even when they’re not yelling at each other, or even when they’re in the other room. I always knew when your sister and her boyfriend were only pretending to be friendly after another one of their blowouts, because you’d be clutching your stomach.”

“Ugh! That doesn’t mean I feel their anger or anything!” Joanne shouted, throwing her hands up in the air. Katie grabbed her arms and glanced around, reminding her that they were in a library. “I just get nauseous and I don’t know why,” she continued, lowering her voice. “Most empaths don’t gauge the emotional state of a room by how much they want to throw up.”

Katie squeezed her arm, trying to be comforting. “It’ll click for you eventually, don’t worry. It’s probably just like learning to ride a bike. You know you can do it, it just takes some time before you figure out how.”

“Have you forgotten what happened the last time I got on a bike?”

Katie winced. “Yeah, ok, sorry. Bad analogy.”

“Those poor squirrels,” Joanne sighed.

“Well, you got them like, five pounds of walnuts, so I’m sure they forgave you.”

Joanne shook her head. “Look, it’s doesn’t even matter. Because even if I amempathic, what use is it? If a cat got stuck up a tree, a telekinetic can get that sucker down without breaking a sweat.  There are diviners who can find lost keys, precogs for business strategies, and healers that can take care of your kidney stone on their lunch break.  If someone near me keels over in a restaurant, what can I do? ‘Well, sir, I can tell you this woman is quite panicked.'” She dropped her head into her hands.

“Well, maybe you could be a therapist?” Katie suggested.

“Yeah, because that’s not gonna make me crazy in short order.”

Katie smacked her on the arm. “You know what, it doesn’t matter what you can do with it. The point is, you have a form of extra-sensory perception, which is an advantage over other people. Including, if you’ll recall, me.”

Joanne groaned, falling back to lay flat across the table. “Ok, yeah, well, you know, that doesn’t matter,” she muttered stubbornly. “Because you’re about ten times smarter than me.”

“I’m not smarter than you! …I just know more.”

Joanne lifted her head to glare at her friend. “Did the definition of ‘Smarter’ change since I last checked?”

Katie snapped her book shut and glared back at her. “I’m just saying,” she said as she set her book to the side and picked a new one from her pile, “if you spent as much time in the library as I do, you’d know just as much.”

“First of all, that is an ass-grabbing lie,” Joanne said, sitting up. Katie tried to stifle her laughter. “Secondly, no one has that much time. Not even you have that much time. I’m convinced that not only do you not sleep, but that you are somehow able to download information directly to your brain when you pick up a book.”

“Ladies!” The librarian, Miss. Bishop interrupted Joanne’s tirade.

Katie shot her an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’ll try and keep her quiet.”

Joanne hunched her shoulders. “Rude,” she grumbled.

“Miss Bishop loves me, you just have a nasty habit of forgetting that this is a library.” Katie started rifling through her bag. “I should probably download these in case you get us kicked out.”

“I knew it!” Joanne cried, point at her accusingly. Katie grinned as she brandished the tablet she’d just retrieved from her bag, trying not to laugh. “Oh.” Joanne dropped her hand.

Katie busied herself scanning the QR codes on the spines of her books as Joanne hopped off the table and straddled the empty chair beside her. “At least you wouldn’t be able to procrastinate any more if we got kicked out,” she said, propping up her chin on the back of her chair.

Katie pointedly averted her eyes. “I haven’t a clue as to what you’re referring.”

“You have to go home sometime, Katie.”

She fiddled with her tablet. “I was hoping to wait until they were asleep…” she muttered.

Joanne raised an eyebrow. “The library closes at seven.”

“Don’t crush my dreams!”

“Katie, why don’t you just move back in with me?” she asked, reaching over to grab her friend’s arm. “Living with those people is slowly draining you of your soul.

Katie sighed. “Because, you guys don’t have the room. Or the money. I love you too much to ruin our friendship that way. It’s fine, ok? I’ll be fine.”

“No you won’t.” Joanne’s comment was quiet, and possibly the most enigmatic Katie had ever heard from her.

Katie shook her head, tucking her tablet back into her bag. “I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?” she said, standing up and leaning over to hug her. “Thank you for caring, sweetie,” she said, before she turned to leave.
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Katie took her time getting home, but she still got there before seven. She was starting to deeply regret her haste in leaving the library. She crossed her fingers that they had already finished dinner, took a deep breath and readied herself for the gauntlet.

“Oh, Katie! There you are!” Mildred, her stepmother, cried from the kitchen. “You missed dinner, but I can still make you a plate!”

“Oh, uh, that’s ok!” Katie squeaked. “I ate at school, so I’m full.”

Mildred appeared in the door way to the kitchen as Katie was trying to ease her way through the living room and to the hallway leading to her room. “You know, I don’t think we’ve shared a meal as a family more than once or twice since you moved in!” she said, her expression pained, yet angelic.

Mildred’s expression always waxed angelic, although Katie didn’t think she knew anyone who looked less like an angel. Mildred was overweight, not by a lot but in very unfortunate ways. Her face looked like a cross between a bulldog and a frog, an unpleasant enough sight without the short, permed, white blonde hairstyle she sported. The rest of her weight was held primarily on her stomach and butt, so that when she turned to the side she looked eerily like a duck.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you just didn’t like us!” she continued sweetly. She seemed genuinely saddened, but Katie knew better by now. This was just Mildred’s manipulative way to try and guilt her into coming to dinner more often, where she’d have more opportunities to criticize and manipulate her further.

Katie shook her head, her face turning a bright red and she continued to back up toward the hallway. “No, no, I’ve just been studying, you know…” she said, her voice slightly strangled. She didn’t know how to tell the woman that the squashed bird she’d seen on the side of the road walking home looked more appetizing than anything Mildred had ever cooked.

Or, at least, she didn’t know how to tell her without either starting a huge fight or an intervention.

“Your hair looks ridiculous.” Em appeared out of nowhere, poking at her bun. “I wish you would let me give you a makeover.

Katie glanced over at her stepsister, who’s huge eyes were trained on her hair as she smiled woodenly. The girl’s face was covered in a copious layer of makeup, which she’d been wearing for nearly twelve hours by now and it was starting to smudge and flake. Katie swallowed thickly. “Thanks, but I have homework I really need to take care of. Maybe after?”

That of course was a complete lie. She hadn’t brought her homework home since the day her twelve-year-old step-brother had sneaked into her room, covered her research in chocolate sauce, and fed the entire mess to the dog. Who, in turn, vomited the entire mess onto her bed.

“Well, don’t study too hard!” Mildred’s chipper voice cut in. “You know men hate smart women.”

Katie pursed her lips, wanting desperately to ask if that was her excuse, but knowing bad things would happen if she did.

“What am I saying, you’re not at a real school anyway.” Mildred giggled, waving her hand as she turned back toward the kitchen. Katie took her chance to dart toward the hall.

“Oh, before you run off,” Mildred called from the kitchen. “Your father wanted to talk to you. He’s playing with his VR unit in the office.”

Katie flinched, she hated it when people called Adam her father, but she stopped at the office door rather than continuing to her room. She’d found that when she tried to ignore Mildred or Adam, things got weird quickly.

Katie knocked on the door frame, trying to get Adam’s attention. He was in the process of extracting himself from his VR gear, somewhat violently. He looked like he was about to throw a tantrum, which meant that whatever he’d been doing, he’d probably lost.

At forty years old, her biological father, Adam, still tended to behave like a twelve-year-old child. He was just shy of six feet tall, with thinning brown hair, glasses, a bulbous nose, a weak chin, and a weird tooth that jutted out sideways. He was extremely skinny everywhere except his belly, which bulged oddly all the way around his middle in a way that made him look as though he were wearing an inner-tube under his shirt. Besides being childish, he was also a pompous douchecicle.

“What is it?” he snapped when he heard her knock.

“Mildred said you wanted to talk to me?” Katie said, leaning against the door frame.

Adam looked up and smiled when he caught sight of her. “Oh, yes. Listen, I need you to clear your schedule for Friday night.”

Katie frowned. “Why?”

“Because you,” he said, pointing to her and grinning, “have a date.”

Katie stiffened, completely shocked, and more than a little bit horrified. “What?” she squeaked.

“Now, I know you said you weren’t interested in dating anyone right now, but I think you’ll really like this guy,” Adam said, and winked. Katie didn’t know whether to scream or throw up.

“Besides,” Mildred chirped, appearing at her elbow with a plate of cookies, sliding past her to get into the office, “you’re getting kind of old.”

“Old?” Katie sputtered. “I’m only twenty!”

Mildred set her cookies on the desk and turned back to her, eyes wide. “Exactly,” she said, completely serious. “By the time I was your age I was married, and pregnant with my dear Emmaline.”

“His name is Brandon,” Adam told her.

“Oh, Brandon? He’s such a nice boy!” Mildred twittered. She smiled at Katie. “You’ll like him, He’s very serious about his studies, just like you!”

Adam nodded. Neither of them seemed to notice how horrified she looked. “Anyway, he’ll be here at seven o’clock, so make sure you get home early enough to get ready.”

Katie had no idea what to say. What do you say to that? She felt like she should curtsy and go back to spinning thread or something equally medieval.

She struggled with herself for a few moments, still at a total loss for how to respond. So instead of saying something she’d regret, she turned and walked away without a word.

She had almost made it to her room, was almost home free, when Mildred stopped her outside her door. She clung to the doorknob like a life line. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take.

“Listen, I have a present for you, dear,” Mildred said sweetly, and handed her a leather-bound book. For a split second Katie was pleasantly surprised, she was very fond of books;  that changed to confusion when she saw her name pressed into the cover, and then disappointment when she realized what it must be.

“Em told me that you didn’t have a bible of your own, and I was just shocked! I mean, what kind of parent doesn’t give their child a bible to call their own?” Mildred shook her head sadly, and squeezed Katie’s shoulder. “Well, now you have one. Hopefully it will help bring you guidance.”

Katie stiffened, stubbornly keeping her mouth shut. She didn’t need to be a mind reader, an empath, or a precog to know what Mildred actually meant. ‘Maybe it’ll help to convince you to renounce this heathen, “psychic” nonsense.’

Mildred was walking away now and she started to open her door and retreat into her room when Mildred threw one last parting shot over her shoulder. “You might want to read through that before Friday, you know, refresh your memory. Brandon knows it by heart, after all, and you’ll need to have something to talk about, won’t you?”
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Katie’s hand shot up into the air. “Doctor Hammond, I noticed that in this chapter in the textbook we touch briefly on ‘technokinetics’, a form of telekinesis that allows the user to interact with technology, I was hoping we could discuss that.”

Hammond frowned at Katie. “I think ‘briefly’ is an understatement. But back before the turn of the century, technokinesis was one of the many falsified forms of psychic manipulation.” She turned her attention to the rest of the class. “Among these were also ‘automatic writing’, and psychic ‘mediums’, who claimed they could speak to the dead. But scientists have since come to the conclusion that any claims regarding ghosts or poltergeists where hoaxes. If you’ll all turn to page thirty-six, we can read more about these studies-”

“The results of which were inconclusive!” Katie interrupted, again jutting her hand up in the air. “Scientists are still in the process of investigating the existence of ghosts, but their results have shown strong evidence in favor of the poltergeist phenomenon, at least, being very likely based on fact. But what I’m interested in is the implications of technokinesis-

“What you should be interested in, Miss Johnson,” Hammond cut her off. “Is settling down and paying attention to my lesson, before I have to ask you to leave the classroom for disrupting our learning environment.”

Katie slumped back down in her seat and Hammond turned back to her smart board without waiting for a response.

What exactly was this woman supposed to be teaching her?
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Katie sat at her table in the library after class, half a dozen books piled in front of her, unopened.

Joanne was right. She wasn’t going to be able to take much more. Between the close-mindedness of  some of her professors, and the close-minded evangelical-ness of her step family, she was deteriorating into a walking stress bucket.

The trouble was, she had no idea what she could do about it.

“Hello again.”

Katie must have jumped about a foot in the air. Across from her Drew held out his hand, looking both shocked and amused. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you!”

“Oh, you didn’t!” Katie shook her head and tried to collect herself. “I mean you did, but, I mean…heh. I mean, it’s ok.” She smiled wryly at him. “It’s not your fault, I was kind of in my own world.”

“I know how that is.  Uh…is it alright if I sit here?” He motioned toward the chair across from her.

“Oh, no, it’s fine.” She glanced around as he sat. “Where are your groupies?” She flinched as the words left her mouth. “I mean, uh-”

Drew lifted his hand. “It’s ok,” He said, smiling. “It’s a very appropriate name for them.” He grinned as Katie laughed. “I actually ditched them near the Kinetics training grounds. It wasn’t that hard, I’m not a Kinetic, so there wasn’t really a good reason for my being there.”

Katie’s eyes widened. “Oh, you’re not? I just assumed, they don’t usually talk to anyone unless they’re Kinetics, too.”

“Yeah, I figured.” Drew shook his head. “They think they’re better than everyone else, right?” He raised his eyebrow as Katie nodded. “Yeah, it took me probably about two minutes to notice the hierarchy.”

Katie laughed. “Yeah, I think the word ‘hierarchy’ sums it up perfectly. So, if you don’t mind me asking,” she said, leaning forward. “what are you, then? You can’t be in general, I’d have noticed you. And Isobel wouldn’t have made a jab at it yesterday.”

Drew smirked. “I’m in precognition. I have no idea why, though, I’m horrible at it. I feel like they’re trying to teach me to play a piano with a forklift.” He leaned forward, too, bracing his arms on the table. “The way I understand it, precogs are second to the Kinetics, just popular enough to be ignored rather than bullied. I’m not trying to call my groupies shallow, of course, but I think my looks may have had something to do with their interest.”

Katie had to slap her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. “No!” she gasped, when her laughter had calmed down enough. ” I’m sure it was just your charming wit and intelligence,” she continued sarcastically.

Drew rolled his eyes, a motion that actually looked extremely odd on him. “I’m not sure they can even spell ‘charming wit and intelligence.’ They certainly don’t know how to spell ‘mist.'”

“Oh, hey, now,” Katie chided, not very effectively since she was giggling helplessly. “She can’t help that one, her parents are the ones who named her.”

“Well, that doesn’t speak well for her genetics,” Drew responded, smirking. “Anyway, if you don’t mind my asking…I’ve been here twice in two days, and both times you’ve been here. Would it be correct to assume you spend a lot of time in the library?”

Katie hunched her shoulders, blushing. “Yes, you would be correct to assume that.”

“You must take your studies very seriously,” he said. He sounded strange, almost coaxing, as though he didn’t want to scare her away. But his words still sounded more like a question than a statement.

“Uh, yeah…let’s go with that,” she said, averting her eyes. Subtlety had never been her strong suit.

“Oh, I’m sensing an interesting story here,” he said, leaning further forward and ducking his head, trying to catch her eyes. “Would it have anything to do with why you achieved the power of flight when I greeted you earlier?”

Katie sighed, giving up. “Ok, well, I do take my studies as seriously as the next person,”

“So, not at all, is what you’re saying?” Drew asked, grinning.

Katie laughed. “So maybe a bit more seriously than the next person,” she corrected herself. “But the truth is, I spend most of my time in the library because I don’t really have anywhere else to go.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound right,” Drew said, frowning. “You can’t go home?”

“It’s not really a matter of can’t, so much as ‘don’t want to,'” Katie said, shrugging.

Drew raised his eyebrows. “Crappy roommate?” he asked.

“Yeah, you could say that,” Katie said, with a small laugh.

“Well, why don’t you just move out?”

Katie wrinkled her nose. “No money.”

“Job?” he persisted.

“No car.  Of course, that’s not to say I can’t take the bus,” she added rapidly, “but no one seems to want to hire me.”

Drew grimaced. “Wow. That sucks.”

“I know,” Katie sighed.

“Well, there’s a garage about a mile up the road, and I think they’re hiring. Have you tried there?”

Katie blinked in surprise. “Uh, no. But, I mean, that’s not too far or anything, but I’m not a mechanic.”

“Oh, it’s not a mechanic’s position,” Drew said, shaking his head. “It’s kind of a secretary, slash janitor, slash gopher type of position. I know it’s not exactly glamorous-” he started to add when he saw her confused expression.

“There’s nothing wrong with the job,” Katie interrupted. “The job sounds great-”

“Katie!” she heard Joanne cry frantically, cutting her off. She looked up and caught sight of Joanne dashing through the doors of the library, looking absolutely frenzied.

Joanne didn’t stop sprinting until she fell against the table. “You’re never gonna believe what just happened,” she gasped. “Hey, Drew,” she added over her shoulder when she caught sight of him.

“Hey. It’s Joanne, right?” Drew asked, holding out his hand.

It was about then that Joanne realized who she’d just spoken to.  She looked slowly back over at Drew, her eyes getting wider by the second. Her mouth snapped shut and she sank into the seat beside Katie, still staring.

Drew started to pull back his hand, looking confused. “Joanne?” He tried again. The only response he got was something between a squeak and a sob. He turned back to Katie, clearly concerned.

Katie, for her part, was doing her very best not to laugh. “I think you make her nervous,” she said.

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, I’m not trying to call her shallow or anything,” she said, completely straight faced. “But I think it may have something to do with your looks.”

Drew chuckled, and turned back to Joanne. “Would it help if I turned around?” Joanne nodded enthusiastically, so he stood up and flipped his chair around.

“Joanne, what’s got you so riled up?” Katie asked, as soon as Drew’s back was turned.

Joanne hesitated, but turned toward Katie with her voice lowered. “You remember Adrian? I was telling you about him yesterday?”

“You mean the idiot who was trying to pass himself off as a mind reader? Don’t tell me he was the real deal?”

Joanne shook her head. “No, he was totally full of it, you were completely right!”

“See, I told you. Was it hilarious?”

Joanne snorted. “Uh, yeah? He kept trying to say what I was thinking, but it kept being just exactly about what I was feeling, and finally I was just like, ‘Well, I’m reading your mind, and you think that I’m lying, but you’re still scared I figured out your trick.'”

“Wow, what did he say to that?” Katie asked, raising her eyebrows.

“He said ‘Fear is an emotion, not a thought,'” Joanne said laughing. “I didn’t press the issue though, after that I just went to sit down.”

“Oh!” Katie groaned. “You just let him off the hook? Why would you do that?”

“Well, class was about to start!” Joanne squeaked, defensively. “Besides, he’s actually a really good empath, he’d have to be to trick people into thinking he read minds. And he’s also pretty much smoking hot.” She ducked her head, embarrassed.

Katie raised an eyebrow, smirking. “Really? Do you have trouble talking in front of him, too?” She quipped, earning herself a sharp jab in the ribs and a soft chuckle from Drew.

No,” Joanne growled. “And that’s not funny. And,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, “what is he doing here?”

“He’s actually really nice. We were talking, and he’s gonna try and get me a job at the garage down the street.” She caught herself. “That is, he told me about there being a job there, so I can apply.”

“I’ll help if I can,” Drew assured her over his shoulder.

Joanne blinked. “That doesn’t make sense. Why is he being nice to you?”

Katie shrugged. “I was actually about to ask him that when you came careening into the building.”

Joanne shook her head. “He can’t be nice to you, he’ll lose his kinetic fan club and drop down to obscurity with us. Being nice to you won’t make you popular, it’ll make him unpopular.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Drew said, turning back around. Joanne immediately clammed up.

Katie shrugged a shoulder. “Uh, no, that’s pretty much how it’s gonna work.”

Drew groaned. “You say that like I should care. I’m not surprised you think I’ll lose popularity, I’m surprised you think I give a crap. Honestly, I feel like I should be offended.”

“Drew, have you ever been unpopular?” Katie asked. She was laughing, but her tone was serious. “It’s no picnic, lemme tell you.”

Drew sighed, shrugging. “Well, being popular isn’t exactly a picnic, either. Life sucks all around, at least if I hang out with you I’ll have someone to talk to who has more than two brain cells to rub together.”

Katie laughed, holding up her hands. “Alright, you win. But you’re gonna lose your groupies, I just hope you know that.”

“Oh, how will I go on?” he said, his voice dripping sarcasm.

“Well, I should get going if I want to get to that garage before they close,” Katie said, pulling out her tablet to scan her new books. “Joanne, did you wanna come?”

Drew was still facing them, so she had to lean in close to Katie to whisper in her ear. Drew covered his face, trying to hide his smile.

“You can’t, why not?” Katie frowned. She tried not to roll her eyes when Joanne leaned back in to whisper.

“Adrian? You mean that mind-reading phony?” Katie pulled back, staring at her friend incredulously. “And you’re going on a date with him? How exactly do you plan to communicate? Sign language?”

This time Katie managed to dodge the elbow aimed at her ribs. Across from them Drew could barely contain his laughter. “You two are a trip,” he said when he had the breath.

Joanne bounced out of her seat, pausing to peck Katie on the cheek before dashing toward the door. “I’ll tell you how it goes!” she called over her shoulder once Drew was out of her sight.

Katie shook her head. “That girl is crazy,” she muttered.

“But amusing,” Drew said, standing up and stretching. “At least you’re never bored.”

Katie laughed. “There is that. Joanne and I have been friends since we were teeny. She helped me get the scholarship to come here.” She started to pile her books together to take them to the return cart, and Drew circled the table to help. “She’s my best friend, even if she is crazy.”

“Well, in my experience, the best friends usually are,” Drew said, as he lifted one of her piles of books. He laughed in surprise when he felt the weight. “Do you actually read all of these?” he asked incredulously.

Katie shrugged, blushing. “Well, I have time, and they’re pretty interesting,” she said, leading the way toward the return cart.

“Is the job gonna interfere, you think?”

“Not really,” she said, shaking her head. “The job will give me something else to concentrate on, and something to look forward to. And it’s not like I need to worry about my grades, none of these even have anything to do with my classes.” She dumped her books on the cart, and dusted off her hands. “Now I just need to get there.”

“Well, don’t worry about walking,” Drew said, following suit with his own pile of books. “I can give you a ride.”

“Oh, that’s ok,” Katie said, a little surprised he would even offer. “You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” he insisted. “Besides, I’m already headed there.”

“You are? Why?” Katie asked. She paused at her table to grab her bag and sling it over her shoulder.

“I have this old car I’m tinkering with. I like to work on cars,” Drew said, and shrugged. He looked a little embarrassed. “Anyway, the owner lets me work on my car out back.  How did you think I knew about the job?” He turned to head toward the door, but stopped when he noticed Katie wasn’t following him.

“You tinker,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “And if I get a job there, I’ll be working. While you tinker.”

Drew chuckled, and nodded.

Katie tilted her head. “Which means…?”

“Well, I guess we’ll have time together…to talk.” The smile that spread across his face as he spoke veered heavily toward mischievous. Katie caught sight of a dimple she hadn’t noticed before.

She started to walk toward him, hesitantly. “You know, the more time we spend together…talking…the more miserable Isobel and her friends will go out of their way to make us.”

Drew leaned his head back and groaned. “Ugh, no more talk about Isobel, please? I don’t care, she doesn’t matter.” He lifted his head back up and took her hands. “Just for the rest of the day, how about we don’t worry about people who hate us, or want to make us miserable or crush our dreams or any of that? Let’s focus first on you getting this nice job, and then on me making a friend I can actually carry on a conversation with? Ok?”

Katie hesitated, but Drew’s hands were so warm – and his expression so sincere – that before she could even think about it, she was nodding. “Alright, deal,” she said, and smiled.

Drew smiled back. “Very good,” he said. He dropped one of her hands, but kept a firm hold on the other as he led her out the door.

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