Book 1: Beckham Institute for Prodigies
Chapter 1: One of Them
There was a ringing on the rooftop. On the tallest building in Beckham City, Takashi Momotari was standing, looking over the building’s ledge. His cell phone was ringing but he didn’t notice it.
He was preoccupied with the streets below: people stumbling around, leaning against each other for support as they walked to their cars; red and blue lights turning on and off racing down the city streets; and criminals feeling up strangers in dark, abandoned alleyways. It was home, but not really. There were important pieces missing… He finally heard his phone.
It was a cold day in December and the wind rustled his long coat around his knees while his long, white hair wrapped around his face. He took a hair tie out of his coat pocket and pulled his hair back revealing his red-lens glasses.
“Mooshi mooshi,” Takashi answered into his headset, “I’m… unoccupied… 432 and Lincoln? I see. I’ll be there soon.” He hung up the phone and stared down the building. It was like any other building; steel, glass, cement, all working together to stand erect. He stepped up onto the ledge and began to walk down the side towards the alley below.
It would be nice to say these sorts of feats were unordinary. The world made a shocking discovery in the mid-80s and to make a long story short, those who could do these amazing things were highly despised.
Before they were utterly hated, they were considered a new evolutionary strain in humanity–the next step: Homo Praestans, or more commonly known as prodigies. They astounded everyone with their physical and mental prowess; able to outthink the top minds of every nation and outdo every athlete in every competition.
It soon came to pass that they became a source of envy and disdain amongst the normal people or norms. And as time went on, during the next 12 years, prodigies were overshadowed by numerous, atrocious acts displayed by those among them.
The most famous case study involving prodigies–The Rule of Five–illustrated the actions of five prodigies who wreaked havoc in the United States. The news of these five spread throughout the world and soon every nation created its own prodigy policies.
In America, all prodigies were made to identify themselves by wearing a large red “P” on special jackets the government issued them. Violent protests broke out over this but eventually, it was accepted by the majority of citizens.
As well as the jackets, a special school was created for the education of all prodigies in order to protect the “Norms”–Homo Sapiens–from the prodigies–Home Praestans.
It was not without just cause. Takashi himself was working for a very powerful prodigy, and unfortunately, their group was every bit what the public believed…
432 and Lincoln was the address of a very shady bar operated by a colleague of Takashi’s. The Crested Marlon lay just outside Beckham City docks. Owned and monitored by Phillip Pal, The Crested Marlon was a den of miscreants who could be called upon to work for Mr A.
Pal had a lot of influence in the bar, capable of finding the right guy for any mission that needed to be performed. Pal was, in essence, the eyes and ears of the “big man’s” underworld.
Takashi was more of a mobile soldier. He had his own team that he lead in various missions of mayhem and espionage. It was fun and challenging and Takashi enjoyed himself, but today he was looking for someone who was out of their jurisdiction.
Wayne Zou, another member of Mr A’s team, was an inside man amongst the new students of BIP: Beckham’s Institute for Prodigies. His job was to watch the students, measure their abilities, and figure out which ones would want to join the organization.
Like Pal, Zou was a recruiter and used numerous ways to find prodigy soldiers, but he was also to remain in the light of BIP, not in the dark, criminal underworld where he seemed to have wandered into.
Takashi stood at a lit lamppost on the corner, staring at the door. He waited outside until Zou came out. It didn’t take long. Zou walked out of the bar, wearing a long winter coat. With his long beard and moustache, he looked like Confucius, if Confucius had a penchant for nice things.
On his fingers, he wore a couple of expensive rings, ones unaffordable on a school counselor’s salary. His coat itself had a fur interior, Takashi understood it to be somewhere near $1000. Something was indeed fishy.
Zou saw Takashi as he left the bar. His insides froze. He, Wayne Zou, wasn’t supposed to be here, unless… “Hello, Mr G,” said Zou, as he shifted to a more casual heartbeat, “What brings you to the Crested Marlon?”
Takashi smiled, “My sixth sense told me that you needed my help, so I came running.”
‘Takashi,’ thought Zou, ‘Always cool. I can never read him…’ “Well… I’ve already taken care of it. Mr E has informed me of a large shipment of F’s that shall arrive at Beckham harbor tomorrow evening.”
“F’s?” said Takashi, “From where?”
“Is it really important?” said Zou, “You just make sure you and Mr J are at the docks by midnight tomorrow evening!”
“Are you giving me orders, Mr D?” said Takashi, “Certainly sounds like you think you’re in charge.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” said Zou.
“Mr A thinks that there is a traitor amongst us,” said Takashi, “For your sake, I hope it isn’t you. You know, with men like Mr I and Mr F at his right and left, you might want to stay out of unfriendly places…”
“Mr I and Mr F?” said Zou, “Have they been dispatched?”
His voice betrayed him; Takashi had to have heard it.
“Well, it is unavoidable. If Mr E. thinks it is ok to tell you my recent mission with the F’s, then I guess it is ok with me,” said Takashi.
“Of course,” said Takashi, matter of factly, “They are my orders. Just as yours are to stay away from The Crested Marlon.”
“I haven’t been called on in a while,” said Zou, nervously, “I needed to know what was going on!”
“So you used your ‘Jedi mind tricks?’” said Takashi, playfully, “Mr D, if you need information feel free to call me. As a top-ranking agent in this… society, I know much more than Mr E. I could quench your thirst for information much more easily.
Besides, Mr I and Mr F are on the tail of another of our group. Mr J has bad habits of not reporting in on time. We think he has been compromised. For now, please go back to the school. We need you there and if we do need any assistance, trust that Mr A will call.”
The two hadn’t noticed, but the air was now filling with snow. The frost whipped their faces as they stood in the warm glow of the streetlight. “Well,” said Takashi, closing his eyes and smiling, “I guess we should retire for the evening and prepare for tomorrow’s events.”
“Yes,” said Zou, “I will see you… later, I suppose.”
With that, Takashi walked down the street and into the driving snow and darkness.
Takashi didn’t walk far. Once he could no longer feel Wayne Zou’s eyes upon him, he turned down an alley and ascended up the side of a building. He pulled out his phone and redialed the number that had called before. Once on the roof, he adjusted his red lens glasses and as he did so, he could see a magnified image of a fleeing Zou in the falling snow. The other end picked up.
“Hello, boss,” said Takashi, “Yes, he is up to something. No, I don’t know yet, but I will find out. Mr J huh? That is… unfortunate. I hope they find him quickly. Is that all? Oyasuminasai!”
It was a stone-cold night in late December when the sisters heard a hard knock at the front door of Silverstone Orphanage. Sister Lauren, a tall, blond woman, sat on a couch in her pajamas watching the news, while Sister Edith, a petite, brunette woman, sat at her desk figuring the expenses for the orphanage. The two sisters shared a large room upstairs. It was their sanctuary at night while the children were asleep.
On the television, Sister Lauren watched a reporter who was talking with a professor Strauss about the prodigies again. She yawned and blinked as if to push away the sleepy feeling that tried to subdue her.
After a month of talking about the supposed “prodigy problem,” nobody had anything new to say. It was rather annoying to watch, and she felt like she knew more about the prodigies than she ever cared to know.
Prodigies were different from everybody else. They were able to learn faster than regular people; they had higher bone density; they had stronger muscles; and their perception was much higher than a regular person. In short, all prodigies were super people. Yawn…
This wasn’t anything new to the sisters. All of the children in their orphanage were prodigies. They excelled in all their lessons and many of them were learning to play musical instruments and speak different languages in a matter of days.
The “problem” that seemed to be exacerbated by the media was the large number of prodigies that turned out bad. It was believed by the general populace that prodigies were prone to violence and antisocial behavior. But not all prodigies acted this way. Beckham City had its own “superman” to protect it.
Millionaire Steven Silverstone was the resident superhero of Beckham city. He owned the largest corporation in Beckham that specialized in new technology from military might to domestic devices. Amongst other things, Silverstone was also a philanthropist and dedicated a lot of his time to helping prodigies make better choices.
He started the Silverstone Orphanage, where the Sisters worked, and continued to donate money. However, not many were as generous. Sister Edith sat at her desk looking over the expenses.
Though the government gave a fair amount to the orphanage and Mr Silverstone gave a large amount, the orphanage had to make some budget cuts due to the overflow of unwanted prodigy children.
Sister Lauren continued to watch the spectacle on the television, her brows furrowed and her eyes narrowed, she began to click the remote control to find something else to watch and that was when they heard the pounding on the front door.
It was not a light tapping that made the sisters rise from their sitting positions; it was a loud, hard banging that made the sisters jump up in panic. No one had ever pounded on the front doors of the Silverstone Orphanage before, especially not this late at night.
The sisters stepped out of their room and walked down the flight of steps, flipping on light switches as they went. They walked to the front door and sister Lauren peaked through the eye hole to see who was there.
As she peered outside, she saw a man. It was hard to see him clearly under the cascading rain. He had long, dark hair that seemed pasted to his face. Sister Lauren stepped away from the door as Sister Edith opened it.
“Good evening, sir,” said Sister Edith. “Is there anything we can help you with?”
The sisters could see him quite clearly now. He looked grizzly. A beard and ragged clothes covered in auto grease extenuated his rough gaze. He smelled like an auto repair shop and his eyes were similar to a junkyard dog. Strangely, his eyes softened but returned to a cold stare once the door swung completely open.
“I want to get rid of my daughter,” said the man. “She’s one of those prodigies.” With the man was a little girl, about five years old with short, purple hair, her face was sprinkled with dirt and dust and her extremely baggy clothes smelled like a dumpster.
The sisters flinched at the sight and smell but they smiled at her just the same. “Please, come in,” said Sister Edith.
The sisters guided their guests down the main hall and to an office. Sister Edith turned on the light and sat behind the desk and brought out her logbook while Sister Lauren went to find some chairs for the man and his daughter.
The pages of Sister Edith’s logbook fluttered as her fingers flipped through the pages looking for a blank page to write on. Sister Lauren took two chairs from the dining room and placed them in front of the desk. As the man and the girl took their seats, Sister Lauren sat in another chair next to Sister Edith.
“Mr.,” began Sister Edith, “I’m sorry what is your name?”
The man was now staring at Sister Lauren’s pajama top. “You know, I would never have thought you two were nuns,” he said.
“Um, thank you, Mr Uh?” said Sister Edith who was staring at her logbook. Sister Lauren’s eyes narrowed and she became as annoyed with the man as she was with the news.
“Halden. Raymond Halden. I’m single.”
“Yes, I’m sure you are,” said Sister Edith not looking up from her logbook, “I guess my question for you Mr. Halden is why now? Your daughter looks like she should be starting kindergarten, have you not created any sort of bond since that time?”
“She’s one of them,” he said, his voice hollow but firm, “She’s a prodigy.”
“Yes,” said Sister Lauren, her face flushed. “We have plenty of prodigy children here. None of them are problems.
“Well then you won’t mind one more of em, huh?” said Raymond
“It isn’t that simple, Mr Halden,” said Sister Edith, “I mean, it isn’t against the law to just put up your child for adoption but in most cases, parents have legitimate reasons for doing so. Even if they are lies. Tell me, why now? Why give up your daughter?”
“I don’t like her anymore.”
“I see,” said Sister Edith, who began to write this into her logbook. Sister Lauren grew hotter with every word Mr Halden spoke. She decided to shift her eyes away from him and onto the child. She, the child, looked so pathetic.
She hunched so low, it was hard to see under her rain-drenched hair. She didn’t have any shoes. Instead, she had rubber bands around the ends of her baggy pants. Her glasses were cracked and the bridge seemed to be repaired with duct tape. Sister Lauren wanted to say something, but she was too angry to say anything intelligent.
“Mr Halden,” said Sister Edith, “Are you unable to care for this child? Do you not have the money or time to take care of her?”
“What difference does it make?”
“It makes all the difference in the world!” said Sister Lauren.
“Sister Lauren,” said Sister Edith calmly, “Settle down.” She continued to write in her logbook. “Mr Halden, I think we can help you out. As I look at your little girl, I understand that you are a douche bag.”
Mr Halden’s eyes widened as his mouth dropped. Sister Lauren’s face ducked down behind the desk. Her mouth twitched and she was trying so hard not to laugh.
“She sits before me in clothing unsuited for her, no shoes, no proper eyewear, and absolutely filthy,” Sister Edith droned, “I look upon you and you sir look no better. You look like a capital douche bag; A douche burger with double douche cheese.”
“Um,” began Sister Lauren, now very red, “Sister Edith…”
“You are perhaps the most disgusting douche bag I have ever laid eyes on, and I have seen plenty of used douches…”
“Sister Edith,” said Sister Lauren, “Could you please control yourself in front of the child?”
“Why? She knows I’m right.”
The other two grownups sat dumbstruck while the little girl kept her head down.
“I don’t mean to be judgmental, Mr Halden,” continued Sister Edith, “But honestly… Rubber bands? We would be glad to take this little angel off of your hands since she is such an inconvenience. Don’t look at Sister Lauren, she can’t help you. Please leave now. Oh and please sign here and here, so we can end this little transaction.”
She smiled at Mr Halden. It was the first smile she had exchanged with the man since he entered the orphanage. He signed the papers and left as soon as he could.
Sister Edith bent down, grabbed the little girl, and hugged her. “I’m glad you’re away from that man.”
The little girl began to cry. “What’s wrong?” asked Sister Lauren. She knelt down. “You’re safe here.”
“Where’s my daddy going?” she asked.
“Well, honey,” Sister Lauren said, “He left you here with us. I’m afraid he is not coming back.”
“Why?” asked the little girl, “Why is he leaving me?”
“Because he’s a douche bag,” said Sister Edith.
“Sister!” said Sister Lauren, “It’s alright. You will be better off with us. We will take care of you, um, what is your name?”
“My name is Suzan,” said the little girl, as she began to cry. The sisters tried to calm her down. It wasn’t unusual. Many prodigy children at this age didn’t understand. They were sad because the people they knew the most, the ones that were supposed to love them, had decided that they, the children, were monsters.
The first couple of months would be hard for her, but maybe… And that was when the sisters heard a noise coming from the kitchen. Sister Lauren picked Suzan up and they went to see what had made the noise.
On the kitchen floor, sprawled out with chocolate pudding all over her was a little girl. She was licking the bowl that seemed to have fallen on her head because her hair was caked in pudding.
“Sadie Jane Hawkins!” said Sister Lauren, “That was for dessert tomorrow night!”
“I just wanted to taste it,” she said, “Just to make sure it was good.”
“Well for that Miss Hawkins,” said Sister Lauren, “You won’t get any of the cake that I’m going to make to replace the pudding!”
“Oh! You’re going to make that cake?” said Sadie, “Crap!”
“Language!” said Sister Lauren.
“I have a better idea,” said Sister Edith, “Sadie, if you can do me a favor, you won’t be punished.”
“What?” said Sister Lauren and Sadie together.
“I want you to look after Suzan here. She is joining our family and she is already feeling homesick,” said Sister Edith.
“Well…” said Sadie, “Can I have an extra piece of cake?”
“Nope, but you can clean up this mess,” said Sister Lauren.
“Yes, you can have an extra piece,” said Sister Edith.
“What?!” said Sister Lauren.
“Ok deal,” said Sadie.
“Now go show Suzan where to wash up. You both could use a bath,” said Sister Edith.
After Sister Lauren let Suzan down, Sadie took her by the hand and dragged her to the girl’s lavatory.
“What are you doing, Sister Edith?” said Sister Lauren.
“I think this will be good for both of them,” said Sister Edith, “They could both use a friend right now. Besides, it might put an end to Sadie’s mischief.”
“Clever, Sister,” said Sister Lauren with a smile.
“Now clean up this mess before you come back upstairs,” said Sister Edith walking out of the kitchen.
“Sister!” shouted Sister Lauren