Spring Break Shanghaied
The young woman blinked several times, trying to figure out why her eyes wouldn’t focus correctly. The ceiling above her slowly swam its way into focus, absent the myriad cracks and other flaws that she’d come to know so well over the past several semesters.
Erin Casse catapulted herself out of the unfamiliar bed as her fuzzy-feeling brain finally caught up to what her senses were telling her about the unfamiliar surroundings, her body becoming a silhouette of nothingness in the room as she tried to prepare for the worst.
“Good morning, Ms Casse.”
The unexpected, yet completely familiar, voice snapped Erin’s full attention to the VERY large television mounted on the wall of the room, and the nervous Super relaxed enough that she could properly see the screen.
“I, and the rest of the staff, apologize for any discomfort or lingering effects from your enforced slumber. Your physiology was the third most challenging of all our students in figuring out proper dosages and delivery techniques.
“As you have hopefully discerned by now, you are not in the room you went to sleep in last night. As you may NOT yet have noticed, you are no longer in Overton, or anywhere in Texas at all.”
As the Dean continued her speech, Erin slowly began to take note of more details in her surroundings. The room seemed to be ever so slowly in motion, though it was difficult to tell for certain if that was the case, or if whatever drugs had rendered her unconscious were causing the sensation.
“In the interest of insuring that none of our students burn themselves out with overwork, and please trust us when we tell you that you were on EXACTLY that road, the Overton HCP has opted to start a new tradition in line with several other HCP’s. Welcome, Ms Casse, along with the entire Overton HCP class, to the first sponsored Spring Break event in Overton’s history. Attendance for the inaugural voyage was decided to be mandatory.” The subtle emphasis on the word ‘voyage’ drew the young Super’s attention to another detail of her surroundings that she hadn’t quite consciously noticed yet, that sent her scurrying towards the blinds of the room’s single window before the Dean continued.
“During this Spring Break, rest, relaxation, and recreation are all a required part of your HCP grade. Students who attempt to flee or turn this vacation into a training exercise will most likely be washed out of the program.” Erin was barely listening as she practically tore the blinds off in her effort to open them, already certain as to what she would see on the other side. “So again, welcome Ms Casse, to the first day of your class’s all-inclusive eight day Caribbean cruise.” The young woman stared blankly at the vast expanse of sparkling crystal blue water around her, mouth gaped slightly in shock.
“All students have unlimited credit in the on-board restaurants and bars, and you will find a thousand dollar prepaid card in your nightstand for use at the ship’s casino if you so desire. Do remember all HCP program requirements, particularly the SI requirement, are still in effect on this little trip. There is some relaxation of the SI standards while aboard, since this cruiseline in particular is known for catering to Super and Powered guests, however if you plan to debark for the day trips during any of the three stops in the Bahamas you’ll need to be ESPECIALLY careful.”
Erin turned angrily back to the screen, more than a little outraged that the Dean and Instructors could kidnap the entire class like this, but the concerned expression she saw there on the older woman’s face defused some of that reaction. Dean Jilles’ final words dispelled the remainder.
“All of Overton’s students, but especially YOUR class, Ms Casse, have been doing a beyond exemplary job with their training and advancement in the program. But none of you will be any good to the world if we let you work yourselves until you’re on the verge of burning out before you even set foot beyond the HCP. Take this break, and come back even better prepared to continue.” The Dean’s expression shifted subtly, a trace of suppressed smile easily visible now. “That is an ORDER, after all.”
Erin couldn’t help but giggle softly at the final expression and over-the-top serious tone with which the ‘order’ had been delivered. Thus it was in a much lighter mood than moments ago that she turned to answer a knock at her door.
“Hey, you’re finally up!” The tall woman smiled at the greeting from her boyfriend the moment the door started to swing open. “It’s after noon already! My message said you might sleep a bit longer than everyone else, but I guess it’s almost impossible to picture you not being up and around before me. Guess it’s good to see that anyth-…”
Erin pulled Ty in for a brief kiss to stop the babbling. “I’m fine, Ty. No worries. Our Instructors may all be insane sadists, but they aren’t going to kill anyone by ACCIDENT.” The athletic woman turned back into her room to head towards the chest of drawers under the TV, making a beckoning motion to her boyfriend as she did so.
“Let’s see what kind of clothes they packed for me.” Out of the corner of her eye, Erin caught a quickly suppressed grin on Ty’s face, but kept her attention on the drawers. The top drawer was found to contain nothing but various styles of swimwear, both one and two-piece suits. When the second proved to hold more of the same, and then the third, Erin looked back at Ty to note that the shorts she’d originally thought the black youth was wearing were, in fact, trunks.
“There’s a betting pool going that Dani’s behind the ‘swimwear only’ packing. Good news; there should be a couple of regular-ish outfits hanging in your closet.”
Erin gave the closet a considering look for a moment, then shrugged and selected a sapphire blue bikini from the drawer in front of her, the tangled mess of her hair shifting to a complimentary golden-blonde as she examined the garment.
“This’ll do. C’mon, let’s shower and then you can take me up to one of these restaurants I heard about on the ‘video tour.'” Erin pushed her boyfriend ahead of her into the bathroom before he could manage any objection or resistance, not that any appeared to be forthcoming.
“You are definitely NOT taking this seriously enough.”
Teresa stifled a giggle at the serious tone and frustrated expression on the blond man in front of her. Both somewhat ruined by the water running off him to rapidly pool on the deck.
“It’s NOT funny.”
“It’s extremely funny, Gerard.” The petite teleporter managed to get her giggles under control so that she could respond, but made no attempt to hide the wide grin on her face. “Now come on, we can find you some towels and then you can take me dancing.”
“I, wait, what?”
“Towels and then dancing. If you like we can throw in dinner and drinks before, during, or after. The dancing that is, not the towels. Those will DEFINITELY come first.”
“I don’t need a towel, or a drink. I need to get back to Overton. There’s no way they can dictate what we can and cannot do during the break like this.”
Teresa sighed, but managed to maneuver the argumentative man a few steps closer to the towel carts around the pool as she considered her response. “Ignoring for a second that we probably shouldn’t be having this particular discussion poolside-…”
“Oh yes, because you were the soul of discretion a minute ago when you teleported me into the water.”
“Gerard, turn around and actually LOOK at your surroundings.” Teresa stopped trying to drag her much taller classmate along for a moment and swept her arms wide to emphasize the point.
The blond man continued to stare at the angry dark-haired girl for several seconds before turning to follow her order. There were people all around the ship’s massive topdeck pool. Couples close to the same age as the HCP students snuggling discretely together, several older men and women relaxing on the deckchairs with books or tablets, a couple of kids having a waterfight with a giant elemental and, “Holy shit, those kids are… I mean…”
“Yes, Gerard, they are. And notice how no one seems to care, except that one lady yelling at them to keep the splashing to a minimum? These cruises cater to people with abilities, mostly celebrity types. My blinking you into the pool isn’t going to draw a second glance unless I accidentally land you on top of someone.”
“Fine, my mistake not yours.” Gerard turned and stormed over to one of the carts to snatch a towel, then returned to his companion. “So we’ll talk quietly about the other stuff while we walk.”
Teresa smiled widely again. The boy CAN learn! And the pair began making their way towards the stairs that would take them below deck, Gerard toweling vigorously at his soaked clothing as they walked.
“So why is it that you seem to think our Instructors are NOT completely out of line in kidnapping us and dropping us in the middle of the Caribbean?”
“A lot of little things. The first one that pops into my head is that we agreed, in a formal and legally binding way, to a hell of a lot worse than a mandatory all-expenses paid cruise back on day one. The second, and more important, one; I think they’re right.
“Gerard, when I woke up in that room with my own freakout moment, and don’t bother trying to tell me YOU didn’t because we ALL freaked out at first, I was furious. I was ready to blink myself right back into the Dean’s office. Then it got to the part where she told us that we’d fail out of the program if we didn’t actually rest and relax on this break, and I was even angrier. I spent the first half hour after that video played just pacing back and forth in my room, wanting to break something.”
“And this is how you convince me that we SHOULDN’T leave and that you think the Dean was right?”
“Maybe I’d get to that part sooner if you didn’t interrupt me?” Teresa glared at her tall companion long enough to provoke a mildly embarrassed look from the man, then resumed speaking.
“After that first half hour, I sat down and started looking through the activity catalog for lack of anything better to do. About ten pages in it hit me, how incredibly stupid I was acting. How ultra-focused I’d gotten on training since Iris… How we’d all gotten so intense we’ve almost forgotten how to unwind. I mean if I’d been ready to explode at being forced on a luxury vacation that I could NEVER have normally afforded, I’ve obviously been wound WAY too tight.”
“That’s fine for you, and I’m not asking you to come with me, but I don’t want to be here. I trained through Spring Break last year, and I fully intend to do it again this year.”
“And you think you’re somehow immune to burnout or mental fatigue? Well either way, forget it. I’m not going to help you fail out of the program.”
“Oh please, that threat to wash us out if we don’t have fun for eight days is an obvious bluff.”
“Then you can make a swim for it, because I’m not helping you call that particular bluff. The cardio will probably be great for you!” Teresa giggled again at the glare thrown at her by Gerard. “So, dinner first? Or drinks?”
“Drinks. Something strong enough to make me forget about wasting all this time I COULD be spending productively.”
“To the bar!” The petite woman ignored the extra griping and seized her companion by the arm, dragging him into a staggering run to keep up.
“But I don’t wanna go yet!”
Sam David sighed as he hefted the struggling purple-haired girl over his shoulder and made his way towards the exit, trying to offer a comfortingly exasperated smile to the other casino patrons now watching the unusual floor show.
“We’re leaving because you’re out of money, Val, and I’m not letting you throw away any more of mine. Christ, I thought you said you knew how to play poker.”
“I do know how! I just wasn’t getting very good cards. Now put me down!”
“Give me my card back first and I’ll put you down.”
“But if I give you the card back I won’t have any gambling money left!”
“And if I don’t take it from you, or take you away from the casino, then I won’t have any gambling money AT ALL. See my dilemma?” The tall brown-haired youth nodded a greeting to a familiar pair of faces as a pair of HCP Sophomores had stopped at the casino doors long enough to hold them open for the Junior and his unwilling cargo.
“I’ll win more money, and then you’ll have plenty! Ames! You have to help me, Sam is taking me away!” The arguing voice over Sam’s shoulder turned to pleading as the purple-haired girl spotted the door-holders.
“Sorry Val, but Ramòn and I already have plans that don’t involve abductions, or thwarting abductions. Have fun though!” The skinny blonde and her heavily muscled companion waved at the retreating pair, prompting Val to begin hammering futile blows against her abductor’s back.
“Dammit Sam, this is embarrassing!”
“Extremely so, but I figure once I lock you in your room I can head back here for enough drinks to wash the shame away.” Sam smiled through a wince as the pounding on his back intensified, and kept up his steady pace towards the passenger decks.
“Are you really planning to waste another day lounging in the sun?” Antoin Montaine smirked at the annoyed question from behind him, but didn’t look up from his tablet.
“My tan isn’t perfect yet.”
“Right. And if I steal the computer I won’t find that you’re actually working on that decryption project?”
The blond youth looked up at his boyfriend with an innocent expression and held up the device in question. “See for yourself, nothing but trashy romance novels on this one.”
Kyle glanced disdainfully at the text on the screen in front of him for a moment before shaking his head. “You are going to do serious brain damage to yourself if you keep reading those. C’mon, we’re going to see a show.”
“But my tan still isn’t perfect!”
“Well MY ability to tan is non-existent and I don’t feel like dealing with another sunburn, so c’mon.”
“The comedian you dragged me to last night was awful.”
“Yes, yes he was. But he’s not on the schedule for today, they’ve got a magician doing shows today.”
Antoin opened his mouth again for an automatic argument, but paused and contemplated for a moment instead. “Dammit, I like magic shows. Fine.”
“Let’s get moving then, show officially started about a minute ago.”
The two young men departed the pool area quickly, striding with purpose towards the ship’s main lounge. Both stopped at the door with matching dumbfounded expressions as they saw the stage.
“What. The. Hell?”
Antoin registered the question from his boyfriend, but couldn’t get any kind of answer to form as he continued to stare. The magician on stage was a familiar brunette, though neither of the newly arrived Sophomores could recall her name at the moment. Her assistant; wearing very tight trunks, a bow tie, and a blush deep enough to be visible even through a rather dark complexion; was much more familiar to the pair.
“Why the hell are Rorie and his girlfriend performing on our cruise?” Kyle’s tone clearly didn’t expect on answer to his question to be forthcoming.
“Are those your friends up there?” The two Supers were surprised by the question from their right, an older woman looking up from her table with an amused expression at the two men. “They’re wonderful, aren’t they? One of the staff came out on stage to inform us all that the show was being cancelled because their magician was feeling a bit under the weather, and that young woman dragged her man up there and said she’d put on a show for all of us instead. She’s very good, maybe better than the normal guy, but to be honest I’ve been paying more attention to her assistant.”
Kyle and Antoin found themselves smiling and nodding along with the slightly rambling explanation, the taller youth stifling a chuckle with a faked cough at the change in expression and tone that came with the last few words. The duo managed to move away from the doorway and find a table of their own, spending several minutes watching the show before either spoke again.
“This is kinda weird, isn’t it?” Antoin’s question was met with a nod.
“Very weird. Is she not at all worried about getting an SI infraction?”
“I think most of what she’s doing is still sleight of hand and stage magic.”
The pair lapsed into silence again and watched the improvised show for several more minutes before Kyle spoke again.
“This is really unfair.”
Antoin looked over at his boyfriend with a confused expression, noting the sulking posture and faint blush on the other man’s face. After a moment of study, something clicked in the blond youth’s head.
“I’m sure we could manage to stick you up on that stage if that’s what you really want.”
Kyle’s blush deepened and he tried to stammer out a denial, but Antoin pushed on with a grin.
“It’ll be great, we’ll coordinate with Jessica and set up a real show. Whoever packed for us even included some stuff that’ll fit your other half, it’ll be an awesome show!”
“Antoin, stop messing around. I CAN’T go up on stage in front of a bunch of people like that!” Antoin couldn’t detect any real conviction in Kyle’s whispered denial, so he simply smiled as he continued.
“Well then, all you’ll have to do is stop me before I can talk to Jessica. Otherwise, I recommend the red suit. It’s a little more conservative than some of the others, but I think it will really work with your complexion.”
The shorter youth’s mouth worked open and closed several times but no words came out.
“So that’s settled then?” Antoin’s smile remained firmly in place as he asked the rhetorical question in an overly-polite tone.
“Antoin, I’ve NEVER been out in public as… you know.”
“Seriously?” The smile was finally wiped away by a look of complete disbelief.
“Yea, I mean not since I was really young and didn’t have good control over anything. So I CAN’T do this.”
“On the contrary, now I’m going to MAKE you do this. And I’ll make sure to plan several more public outings for your other look.” The blond youth’s expression turned intensely serious as he raised a hand to stall a new round of objections, and his voice dropped to a whisper. “And no, that is not negotiable. You NEED to get used to being in public. If not now, then when? After graduation will be a little late, don’t you think?”
Kyle looked about to argue further, but halted himself and sat very still for several long seconds. “Alright, you talk to Jessica. I am NOT going to go on stage in a god damned bikini though, so I need to go borrow some real clothes from one of the girls.”
Antoin managed to keep himself from laughing aloud as his boyfriend strode out of the lounge.
“So, finally decided to stop hiding in your room and come out to see the world?”
The white haired young man at the bar smiled and turned to face his questioner. “Vicki, Max, good to see you two. And I’ve HARDLY spent as much time in my cabin as the two of you have spent in yours.”
The heavily muscled brown haired man blushed faintly, but the athletically built black woman with him simply smirked and leaned against her large companion as she responded. “First time we’ve seen you out after dark then. You know you ARE supposed to be relaxing and recreating, right?”
“Most of the ‘attractions’ on this ship available after dark don’t hold a lot of appeal for me. Would you two like to join me, or do you have more ‘private’ plans again?”
“You confuse the hell out of me, Daniel.” Max Thompson spoke for the first time, having apparently mastered his momentary embarrassment. “This is college, you treat it almost like you took monastic vows or something. As far as I can tell you haven’t had a single girlfriend, or even a one night stand, all year.”
“I hardly see how it’s that confusing. We’re in a very intense program and physically I’m average at best.” Daniel shrugged and took a sip from his drink before continuing. “It’s not like I’m suffering through an inhuman hardship or anything.”
“Wait, wait.” Vicki reentered the conversation with a wicked grin. “You’re telling us that the only reason you’re NOT trying to hookup with anyone is because you don’t think there’s any interest?”
Daniel nodded his agreement warily, not quite certain what to make of the look exchanged by his two friends as they held a brief whispered conversation. The white haired youth yelped in surprise when the two turned back and lifted him, chair and all, to hustle him rapidly across the bar to re-deposit him at a table.
“Um, hi?” The greeting was giggled at the arriving trio by the red-haired girl at the table. “What the hell are you three up to?”
“Hi Nellie!” The cheerful response from Vicki was just loud enough to drown out the confused questions from the recently transplanted Daniel. “Max and I brought you a new toy. Promise to take it back to your room and take good care of it tonight.”
The white-haired man started another objection, but trailed off as he saw the interested look from the petite redhead across from him. “That, um, if you don’t mind, I guess?”
“Seriously? Yay me! Best vacation present ever, thanks Vicki!”
Daniel turned an amused and inquiring look up at his friend, who giggled down at him in response. “Honestly Danny, you had me and Max pegged. Try and apply some of that insight to yourself, now you kids enjoy yourself!”
Vicki and Max strode boldly away from the table, leaving Nellie to giggle behind them as Daniel blushed again and took another sip of his drink.
“HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO TIL THE END OF THE NIGHT!” The group of inebriated girls dissolved into giggles during the chorus of their chosen karaoke track and never quite managed to resume their off-key butchering of the song before the final beats wound down. It took almost a full minute after that before the quintet managed to make it back to their table.
“This has been an awesome vacation. We should do it again next year.” The earnest declaration from the heavily tattooed and slightly blitzed Chinese girl was met with a chorus of agreements and raised glasses from her friends.
“You think they’ll have this again next year?” Kaori was rather proud that she got all the words out without slurring any of them, having so far refrained from using her ability on herself for the night.
“The welcome message made it sound like a regular thing.” Eloise spoke slowly, enunciating each word carefully as she did. “And either way, the cruise ships are gonna be here. We can all just go on our own.”
“Yeah, that’s right! Short person drunken karaoke for next year too!” Lisa raised her glass in toast, but lost most of its contents in the process. “We shoulda got Teresa in on this too, she’s little enough to fit in. And Scott! We should have a token guy.”
“Teresa and Scott are both ‘occupied’ I think.” Alexandra blushed as she made the statement, then found herself giggling at the stares her declaration drew. “Oh c’mon, like you guys didn’t know.”
“I mean, Scott, sure? But who’s Teresa hooked up with?” The incredibly earnest question from Tara drew an intense round of giggling from around the table.
“Teresa dumped Gerard in the pool back on the first day, and they’ve been hanging around together ever since.” Alexandra looked around at the others and was surprised at the looks of disbelief all around the table. “Am I seriously the only one who noticed?”
“I knew that Teresa dumped Gerry in the pool. But I didn’t realize that she wasn’t just doing ‘catch and release.'” Eloise took a sip from her drink as the other girls giggled again at her analogy.
“So just the five of us then. Short girls drinking club unite!”
“Unite where, Lisa?” Kaori smirked as she asked the question. “We’re already united, aren’t we?”
“Unite again next year!” Lisa raised her recently replaced drink for another toast, this time keeping the contents of the glass contained.
“Next year!” The other four girls raised their own glasses in response, though it took them several attempts to manage to clink them all successfully together.