Gears and RiggingMature

9:55 am-Painting

Cain was an excellent artist, and known for it.
He was extremely quiet, given that a "Delinquent" tends to be classified as a ruffian, and even his name suggested an edge unmatched by any other member of the school.
But the young man with a scar across his left eye seemed so intense and emotionally involved in his miniature painting that Evaline put away her judgements.
When Cain had finished, the teacher could not refrain from drowning him in compliments unabashedly, much to the surprise of the students around him. Evaline had chosen to sit in the front this time and Cain had slipped into a seat in the back, watching her.

Evaline did not consider herself to be a great artist. She could easily draw or paint what she saw, but there was no creativity in paints and chalks, no... her talent was in ebony and ivory, in strings arranged in neat rows for the touch of her fingertips, in--

Cain loomed over her, nodding at her pale painting. Evaline was embarrassed that someone who obviously showed skill would stoop over her work, and the other females in the classroom made it clear through jeers and stares that this was not okay. Cain had a strong sense of pride and felt that no one should criticize his work but himself.
Yet he had brought over his 15 by 15 cm canvas for Evaline.

Was he trying to impress her? Yes.
Would he admit that? No.
She didn't look up at him, didn't even acknowledge him, and he respected her all the more because it was rare. Or perhaps she was shy? But it seemed there was a general shyness about her, and that it wasn't out of character, so he was comfortable around her.

He sat down next to her and gave his honest opinion on her work.
"Take your time from now on. It looks rushed."
She shifted her weight slightly to him. "Why does it look rushed?"
"It seems that you didn't enjoy it."
And in his face Evaline saw a hint of pity.
No one else had ever pitied Evaline, to her knowledge.
No one else with talent seemed to pity those who didn't possess it.
She sighed. "To be honest, I didn't."
"But why not?"
"Ask anyone else without talent."
Cain was offended. "I didn't say you had no talent! If you enjoy what you do, it turns out better!"
Cain immediately regretted snapping at her, but she didn't seem hurt.
Evaline thought for a few moments. "If I enjoyed painting the way I enjoy making music..."
She trailed off and the bell rang. Cain jumped and his canvas dropped and skidded past Evaline. She picked it up.

The forest of white trees with crystalline edges seemed familiar to her and she traced a few wet edges with her finger before realizing, well, they were not dry.

Cain and Evaline hadn't been aware of the people around them for the first two periods of the day, but when Cain sat down alone at a round table, he snapped back to reality.

Slater Library was a collection of thousands of tablets with digital books programmed into them, simulation games, board games, audiobooks, holograms, etc. It was a massive collection, but only massive to those with authority or power. Thus, Cain, Evaline and the heads of each class were given the responsibilities to be strategic leaders. The world was at risk of war again, and should the war start early...
Cain shook his head.

The first Hand-to-Hand combat class of the school year is to begin at 2:45. If I don't keep my guard up, I'll be battered.
Cain checked the student notices section of his tablet.
--You are to personally assist Evaline Hawthorne in Hand-to-Hand Combat until you believe she is fit defend herself and her allies in the battle simulations.-- 

He groaned and held his forehead in one hand. She isn't even trained? How did she get into this school?!
According to the school in question, Cain had no right to complain, so he bit his tongue. It was going to be difficult to convince someone such as Evaline that eventually she may have to kill, no, no, he'd have to start with disabling. Cain didn't know just how sensitive she was and he didn't want to make any assumptions.
But she was smart, and he knew that once it was clear that killing was inevitable, she'd cooperate.

1:30 pm- Orchestra

It wasn't that Evaline needed Cain around, but the room felt a bit empty without him.

That is, until she alone sat down at the grand piano and the sheet music was placed in front of her. The piano was just below the stage, so she had no company. Evaline had no trouble with the piece even as the other students were warming up. It was too easy.
What really made playing with an orchestra enjoyable was her ability to identify exactly what sound was coming from where.
The sound that caught Evaline's ear that day was the lead violin.
It was gorgeous.
She admitted, yes, that violin was playing an old piece, but she hadn't heard a violinist quite like this one. Evaline realized, with a smile, that little bits were not from the sheet music. The teacher had given that student all the leeway they wanted.
Evaline resisted the urge to look up at the stage because she had a strange feeling that if she found out who the mystery musician was, she'd be very disappointed.

2:30 pm-Changing Room

The locker rooms made Evaline's stomach roll. She had never had to change clothes in front of people she didn't know, and even though they were all girls and Evaline had no issues about her well-shaped, athletic body, she was intimidated by the bruises and scars on the hips and thighs and shoulders around her. She was going to be mangled and the fear of it hardened in her core. They'd probably just throw her out there, expecting her to know all the footwork and the dodging and the jabbing.
In Evaline's mind, she appeared sickly and weak, but in the minds of the other girls, Evaline was an enigma and they wouldn't pry if they knew what was good for themselves. It was worse that Evaline didn't know her own powers than if she did. No one could predict her next move.

The bodysuit Evaline put on was all white with a blue collar, blue sleeves and blue toes, same blue as on her uniform. The legs and feet imitated the stockingboots she wore and she felt that she could comfortably kick someone if need be. Though, Evaline was still not "comfortable".

2:45 pm- Hand-to-Hand Combat II

Hand-to-Hand combat classes were held in the basement of the school building. The room was a soft white tile all over, a neat box with a high ceiling.

The teacher, in her nasally voice, called out the names of the people in groups. Soon, Evaline and Cain were the only two left without a group. His suit was black with red sleeves and it fit his graceful walk over to her. Evaline gulped. He seemed like he knew what he was doing. "Evaline, don't worry. We won't be in groups with others until a few weeks from now."
She visibly relaxed and the teacher left them alone.
No advice whatsoever on where Evaline was or how to get her caught up. Wow, thanks, Teach.
Cain decided that for the first week, he and Evaline would watch the combat sessions, how the teams worked against each other, and discuss quietly with her what strategies the students employed in groups and individually.

In the back of Cain's mind throughout the whole period lingered the thought that the system was rigged against them both, but if they made the right choices and took the right risks, they could cause the system to fold in on itself.

The End

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