Recess. Riot.

“You can’t be serious,” Commander Jennings said. He stared at the group of children in disbelief. It was a small class of around 15 six-year-olds; several of them had bright colored hair. In front of them stood a tall 14-year-old girl with spiky white hair and her arms crossed; bored.

“Mr. Jennings, you’re hardly in a position to complain. You requested help; Sharp Development is here to help,” Dana Sharp said. The pale woman in a white suit stood before the Commander with her assistant, Melody, standing next to her.

“But,.. they’re kids,” the Commander pointed out while shaking his head frantically. “I never expected our S.O.S. to reach an alternate universe. I don’t know how you do things over there, but we don’t sacrifice children on this Earth.”

“I don’t either,” Ms. Sharp replied. “Nor do I limit their development with my beliefs. This is a Unique group of children, each one of them is stronger than any of the monsters attacking your cities. Your infestation is honestly a bit of a reward for their hard work; a play date you could say.” Commander Jennings glanced at the children again; they remained quiet while he talked to Dana. He was surprised at how well behaved they were and decided he didn’t know everything about the universe they came from.

“Alright, let’s see some proof first. Before I give the order to throw a handful of first graders at the rampaging monsters,” Commander Jennings said. He motioned for the group to follow him and led them out of his office and toward the motorpool. He reached the decommissioned Sherman on display and pointed at it; it may have been too much but he had other things to deal with. If they weren’t going to be able to help he needed to keep searching.

“Let’s see one of your kiddies move that,” he said.

“Dread,” Ms. Sharp nodded at the tall girl with white hair; the girl spoke up.

“Riot, you’re up,” she said. The group of children whined as one while a small orange-haired girl walked toward the tank with a nervous smile. The tiny girl reached the tank’s tread and squatted; she stuck her hands under the tread and pulled upward. She made a grunting sound as she shoved it up. She lifted the tank surprisingly easily, but she froze once she locked her arms and legs under it. She held it up and strained while she pondered her next move. Commander Jenning’s eyes went wide in surprise. They were stronger than any human on his own Earth, but, the monsters were far more heavy-duty than the tank. If that was as much as they could do, they were still too weak to help. Before he gave his decision to Ms. Sharp, the group of children began chanting and cheering.

“RIOT! RIOT! RIOT!” He looked back to the girl lifting the tank and noticed a faint orange aura collecting around her as the kids cheered.

“YeeeeeAAAAAGH!!!” Riot yelled and heaved the tank using the strength her friends gave her. The tank launched upward; it arced up and landed upside down over 100 yards away; luckily not on any buildings.

“….They’re… all that strong?” Commander Jennings asked.

“At least,” Ms. Sharp replied. “Riot is both the weakest and strongest student we have; you haven’t seen her real strength yet.”

“I believe you,” Commander Jennings nodded. “Alright. The United States formally requests assistance from Sharp Development in dealing with our monster infestation.” Ms. Sharp smiled and nodded; the group of children cheered.

“Wonderful,” Ms. Sharp said. Melody gave Commander Jennings a clipboard loaded with several forms that she wasn’t holding seconds before. He had no idea where she pulled it from. “I just need a few signatures from you first.”

Quiet. Riot.

“Yeah,” Turbo sighed to himself. “I’m lost.” The boney teenager searched for the front office of his new school for 20 minutes. The school was as large as the only college campus he’d been on, with several satellite buildings. It took him that long to wind his way through the courtyards and crowded halls to get from one end to the other.

The halls were crowded and loud and he had trouble finding anyone that wasn’t already in a conversation to ask for directions.

Turbo ended up in a building that was likely a gym. The waxed wood flooring seemed to emit a soft pale glow. The rows of bleachers on opposite sides were the biggest clue to the building’s purpose.

“Doing better?” Turbo heard a soft voice coming from under the nearest set of bleachers. If the gym wasn’t so quiet he wouldn’t have heard anything at all; it was almost a whisper.

Alright!” he cheered internally. Turbo doubted a whole crowd would be hiding out under the bleachers. He hoped he could finally get some directions. It did occur to him that the person might be up to something they didn’t want to get caught doing. Instead of peeking in, he spoke up from where he was.

“HELLO!??” he shouted. “ANYONE IN HERE!!!??”  

“Shhhhh!!!” a hissing sound came from under the bleachers. A tall, lithe girl with short, light blonde hair dashed out of her hiding spot.

“Sorry,” Turbo smiled at her and lowered his voice to a normal tone. “I’m just looking for-,” she interrupted him again by dashing forward and clapping her small hand over his mouth.

“Shhhh!” she said again. “Whisper.” Before Turbo could react another voice spoke up.

“It’s okay, Nia,” a girl with bright orange hair walked out from under the bleachers. “I’m fine now,” she said. She walked to Turbo as Nia pulled her hand off his mouth.

“I’m Riot,” she said and extended her hand. “This is Nia,” she tilted her head at the blonde.

“Petunia to you,” Petunia glared at Turbo.

“Turbo,” he shook Riot’s hand with a broad grin. His name had plagued him for all of his short life. He loved it, but he always felt out of place going to school with Johns and Janes. But on his first day at Toku-High, he met someone named Riot. He instantly felt more positive about the year ahead.

“Everything okay?” he asked. He needed directions, but that could wait for a moment.

“Yeah,” Riot nodded. “There’s just a lot of noise and excitement in there. “She waved in the general direction of the main building. “I need a quiet place to calm down and Coach Dread said I could use the gym.”

“Oh, okay,” Turbo nodded. “Well, I don’t really get it, but it sounds like everything’s cool. So.. can one of you…,” a quick glance at Petunia’s cold brown eyes told him it wouldn’t be her. “…point me toward the front office. I still kind of need to register.” The girls giggled at him, but Riot nodded.

“Yeah, lemme see your node,” she said.

“Uhh… is that a thing I get when registering?” he asked. Petunia sighed and rolled her eyes, but Riot continued to smile. She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a card-sized pane of glass.

“Do you have one of these?” she asked.

“Oh!” Turbo reached into his pocket and produced his own. Riot touched her node to his. When she pulled it away a white arrow appeared on the display pointing to his right side. He turned slightly and the arrow moved like a compass needle. “Awesome,” he said. “Thanks!” He smiled, waved, and turned to follow the arrow.

“Bye-bye,” Petunia waved.

“Hey wait!” Riot said. “You’re a Calavera too, right?”

“Uhh… ?” Turbo shrugged.

“What’s your favorite number?” Riot asked.

“42,” Turbo replied, then paused. “Wow. Didn’t know I had one.” Again, both girls giggled at him. Riot walked a circle around Turbo looking him up and down.

“Turbo, huh?” she wondered aloud. “I wonder what you can do.”

“Do?” he asked. “What do you mean?”

“You’re a Calavera. When you get awakened you’ll be super strong, but you’ll probably also have an ability that fits your name. Coach Dread is a Calavera. She has a sonic scream that can totally be classified as “dreadful”,” Riot chuckled to herself. “Coach Haste can give others super speed. Frost is another Calavera student here. He can…,”

“Make ice?” Turbo asked. Riot wavered her hand in a ‘more or less’ gesture.

“He can coat himself and anything he’s touching in frost. That’s about it, but it makes good armor.”

“And you?” Turbo asked.

“I get stronger and faster from ambient kinetic energy or sonic vibrations. But,.. I can’t really control it yet. So if it gets to be too much I kind of go crazy until I use up the extra energy. I usually go somewhere quiet before it gets to be too much.”

“And I walked in here yelling and screaming,” Turbo shook his head and looked Petunia in the eyes. “I’m sorry,” he apologized to her. He got the impression that he offended her more than Riot.

“It’s fine,” Riot said. “When you get to the office tell them you want to be awakened and they’ll take care of it.”

“Does it hurt?” Turbo asked. Petunia giggled at him, by herself this time.

“You can crack an Earth in two; don’t be a baby,” she said.

“Take it easy, Nia,” Riot said. “He’s new; you didn’t know everything at first.” She turned her attention back to Turbo.

“It usually takes a tattoo or scarring of some kind, but they use nanos to give you a micro tattoo smaller than a bedbug. You won’t feel a thing.”

“Whoa… Nanotechnology? Superpowers? This school is pretty amazing,” Turbo said.

“Wait until you try out roller derby,” Riot smiled. “Think of how much fun you can have with superpowers on the track.”

Sharp Education

“Excuse me,” Randy stopped by one of the teachers directing kid traffic in the halls with his daughter. “I’m having trouble finding her room,” he raised the orange-haired girl’s hand. “Could you point us the right way?”

“Sure,” the friendly teacher smiled at both of them. “What’s the number?”

“42? We looked all over, but the highest room number we found was 30.” The teacher’s smile all but evaporated and her sparkling eyes dulled. She turned and pointed down the hall.

“Take a left at the end of the hall, first door on your right. If you think you’re in the wrong place, you’re there. Be sure to knock,” she answered with her back to them. Then, she shifted her attention back to directing children without another word.

“Oh, okay,” Randy was puzzled by her sudden coolness. He led his daughter down the hall and his paranoia started wondering if she somehow knew of his daughter’s abilities. He shook his head and looked down at the girl. Her long orange hair was tied back in a single braid that bounced against her back while they walked.

“Remember, no rough stuff, okay?” The girl nodded vigorously while smiling up at him.

“Like eggs!” she replied. Randy and his wife went through hundreds, maybe thousands of eggs trying to teach her how to play carefully.

“And no running,” he added.

“Like turtles!” she giggled.

“And please listen to your teacher like you listen to us,” he said as they turned left. Randy stopped immediately at the first door. It looked narrower than the other room doors and was closed. He looked to the next door and saw a bright classroom full of kids through the open door, then shrugged. “Well, it looks like the wrong place,” he grabbed the knob and opened the door.

He expected a bright and full room like the rest of them; he found a dark, small janitor’s closet that reeked of cleaning supplies.

“Definitely in the wrong place,” he said and closed the door again. “I think that teacher didn’t like us for some reason,” he said while looking around for someone more helpful.

“Daddy! Knock!” the girl said. Randy laughed.

“There’s no one in there, darling,” though he reached out and knocked just to humor her. He turned to look down the other hall, then heard the janitor’s closet open. White spiked tips appeared from behind the door, followed by a pale, teenage girl’s face. She stepped out from behind the door, but kept it open, and smiled at Randy. She was the last thing he expected for a teacher. She wore a red t-shirt with a yin-yang logo on the front and a pair of blue jeans. She looked nothing like the dresses and slacks worn by the rest of the staff.

“Looking for room 42?” she asked. Randy gave a half-confused nod. “C’mon in,” she stood aside and held the door open. Randy peeked inside and his eyes went wide. Instead of the janitor’s closet, he found a white room, bigger and brighter than any of the other rooms in the school. Randy counted about eight kids sitting together in the middle of the room, they all turned to face him when he walked in.

“I’m Dread, what’s your name?” The teenager dropped to one knee and asked Randy’s daughter. The moment he heard the girl’s name, Randy felt a bit relieved. He always felt a bit of guilt over his daughter’s name. He loved it, and it felt right to him and his wife. But it was an unusual name, like Dread’s.

“Riot,” his daughter said with a proud smile.

“Go make some new friends, Riot. I need to talk to your dad for a second, okay?” she said. Riot nodded eagerly, Randy squeezed her hand because she looked ready to run. She got the message and took slower than normal steps. Dread laughed and looked at Randy.

“I’ll bet she’s faster than that,” Dread said.

“Uh.. no, no. I mean, yes, of course, but she likes moving slow.” Randy stumbled out the reply and Dread laughed again.

“I’m sure you noticed this was a janitor’s closet,” she said. “Riot was assigned this class for a reason, we know how special she is.”

“What do you mean?” Randy narrowed his eyes at her. He didn’t question the hidden room very much because his daughter had superpowers. He was willing to accept that there are likely other mysteries in the world. However, the fact that she was put in a special class because of her abilities made him worry about government experimentation. Dread’s smile grew wider.

“Don’t worry, she’s perfectly safe,” Dread walked to a nearby desk that Randy hadn’t noticed and grabbed a manila folder from it. She turned and handed it to him.

“This will explain everything, and there’s a number you can call if you still have questions.”

“Are you the teacher?” Randy asked. Dread shook her head.

“I’m more like the chaperone. These kids are strong, but I’m stronger.”

“Are they all… strong like Riot?” he asked. “You too?” Dread nodded.

“They have different abilities too, but they’re all very, very strong. I’m sure you did all you could to prepare her for a class with normal kids, but accidents happen. Any of them could easily, accidentally rip off a normal classmate’s head. Luckily, we were able to put together enough of them to make a worthwhile class.”

“Wow, I didn’t know there were so many strong kids in the school district, much less the city.”

“There isn’t,” Dread shook her head. “Usually one per Earth, they’re all from different universes.”

“Different….universes?” Randy asked. Dread nodded and tapped the folder in his hands.

“It’ll explain everything.” Randy opened it and found an information packet. The first page had a corporate logo he didn’t recognize, a pair of red scissors with the name, “Sharp Education”. Before he could ask about the company, he was distracted by a knock on the door behind him.

“Oh!” Dread said. “Sorry to rush you out, but you need to go back to your universe before I answer that,” she wiggled the doorknob once, then opened the door.  “See you at 3,” she said once he stepped out, then she closed the door again.