Book 1: Beckham Institute for Prodigies
Chapter 3: First Perceptions
Today was the day that Suzan and Sadie would leave for school. Professor Schumacher would arrive at 9 to pick them up and they would learn everything there was to know about being a prodigy in their very own school. All in 7 hours from now…
Suzan couldn’t sleep. She lay awake thinking about the interview that she and Sadie had with the Professor a week ago…
“Now I want you to know that the interview is mostly just a formality,” said Professor Schumacher, “But it is my favorite part. You will most likely be admitted but there are exceptions.”
He handed both of them a pamphlet which described the school’s objectives and even had a map on the back.
‘To pursue excellence in mind, body and soul,’ Suzan read to herself.
“At BIP all students can reach for their dreams and soar like eagles,” said Cornelius with a flourish of his hands. Both Sadie and Suzan smiled at his attempt to be more flamboyant.
“BIP has many academic programs. Basically, it’s like a university. Students choose a major of interest and BIP lists all requirements for them to take. Our database is full of options. We have art, science, math, nearly every foreign language.
And at BIP we encourage students to pursue as many majors as they want because the school runs by quadmesters. We select new classes every two months. The workload will be different compared to a regular school, but prodigy students can handle it easily; all you need to do is budget your time…”
Suzan was listening, sort of. Her attention was drawn to the picture of the map on the back of the pamphlet. “Excuse me, professor,” she said, “What were those exceptions you spoke of at the beginning?”
“Exceptions to what?” he said.
“Those who are not allowed in,” Suzan said, “Why are they not allowed in?”
“Some prodigies, like that Claudia Mounch, are a little too aggressive for BIP,” said the professor sheepishly, “Those who are unable to control themselves are the ones that BIP doesn’t want. We strive to fit into society; those who will not conform should be placed in other facilities.”
“Personally sir,” said Suzan, “This school looks like the perfect place. A large brick wall, guard towers, and military personnel, this place looks more like a prison than a school.”
“Oh,” said the professor blushing, “You are very observant Miss Halden. Yes, our facility is rather intimidating, but it is all for your protection. There are a lot of groups out there interested in destroying the school.
The days before the wall and towers were very scary. We had radical groups at our doorstep nearly every day armed with rocks, hand tools and guns. It was our own little angry mob.”
“There were attacks at the school?” said Sadie.
“Not anymore,” said the professor a little more upbeat, “The wall really helps.”
Suzan could hardly believe it. Were there really people out there who were determined to kill any prodigy they came across? Including children? And why were there never any problems here at the orphanage, besides the obvious internal ones?
Suzan turned to Sadie to see what she thought, but she felt the surge of excited energy rise inside her, and with the smirk on her face, Suzan was sure Sadie loved the idea of an angry mob, which just made Suzan nervous.
“I assure you,” said the professor, “We and the government have taken every precaution to make sure you are all safe. The sisters here have visited BIP several times and they can tell you there is nothing to be afraid of.
“It may look rough, Suzan,” said Sister Lauren, “But it really is a nice facility.”
“Honestly,” said Sister Edith, looking at the brochure, “I think the kid has a point.”
“Sister!” said Sister Lauren.
“Listen,” said the professor, “The school really is a wonderful place. I want you to give it a chance. We do have an opt-out program where you can go to a normal school. It’s just that at a normal school you wouldn’t be challenged.
You’ll be steps ahead of every student and the teachers won’t know what to do with you. At BIP most of the faculty are prodigies. I for one will be there, and I don’t want either of you to hesitate in coming to me for any help what-so-ever.”
“Professor Schumacher has overseen many of your friends and even helped some of them calm down a bit,” said Sister Lauren.
The girls both turned to Sister Edith.
“Kids,” said Sister Edith emotionless, “BIP is a great school. Everyone that Sister Lauren and I have looked after has turned out fine. There really isn’t anything you need to worry about.”
“You could be a little more convincing, Sister!” said Sister Lauren.
Back in the present, Suzan looked at the clock that hung above her bed. 3:20. ‘Just 6 hours till I need to get ready,’ Suzan thought, ‘All my things are packed. All I have now is to wait…’
‘Bing, Bing, Bing!’ screeched Sadie’s alarm clock. Suzan jumped up to the sound and bumped her head on the ceiling and then fell onto the floor.
The rest of the room groaned as they heard the clock. They didn’t have to get up today. Sadie groaned as well and was going to hit the snooze button, but Suzan hit her hard with her pillow.
There was a lot to do before they left that morning. They had to eat breakfast, take showers, say good-bye, and Sadie still had to pack. She had been putting it off since the meeting.
“It’ll get done,” she said, “Don’t worry about it.” And she grabbed her towel and went to the girl’s lavatory to shower. Suzan looked about the dormitory. All the girls were sleeping or trying to.
She had never gotten too close with any of them except for Sadie, but she was going to miss all of their little hands pulling her hair because it was the most unusual.
Sadie was different though. She was the idol of many of the younger girls, always making jokes and putting the rowdy boys in their place. Suzan remembered on her first day in class, the boy sitting behind her was pulling on her hair and Sadie kicked his seat out from under him. It was alright except for the boy still had a hold of Suzan’s hair and pulled her down with him.
She lost a chunk of hair and some of her pride that day, but Sadie always tried to make Suzan feel better. In fact, she shaved her head the day after. Sadie was definitely a friend to be in awe of. Suzan grabbed her towel and went to the girl’s lavatory.
Downstairs, the girls met with the sisters for breakfast. It was delicious; eggs, bacon, and waffles. Soon enough it was 9 and the professor came to pick them up. It was at this moment that Sadie decided to run upstairs and pack. She left Suzan and Cornelius in the foyer in awkward silence.
Suzan did want to go to the school, but she couldn’t help feeling the way she did about it. It genuinely looked like a prison.
“So my dear,” said Cornelius, “How did you sleep?”
“Not so good,” said Suzan.
“I can tell. Are you feeling anxious about BIP still?”
“Yes, but I always feel anxious when getting into new situations.”
“Awe! Such is life,” said Cornelius, “It can never be avoided and sometimes we just have to throw ourselves in the thick of it.”
There was a pause. “Why would anyone ever do that?” Suzan asked.
“Well,” said Cornelius, as he rubbed his head embarrassed, but there was a knock at the door and Cornelius was certain he knew who it was.
He opened the door and let the man in. He was a tall man in a black suit and tie with a large silver afro.
“Steven Silverstone!” said Cornelius, “It’s good to see you again. How long has it been?”
“Cornelius Schumacher,” he said grabbing his hand for a shake and then enveloped him in a hug, “It’s been too long.”
He turned and looked at Suzan, “I guess you are one of the new students to go to my alma mater,” he said messing up Suzan‘s hair as he roughly rubbed her head, “I thought there were two of you.”
“No,” said Suzan fixing her hair, “Just one of me.” She smiled. Her jokes weren’t often well-received but this time was different.
“Oh my,” said Mr Silverstone, “That is clever. I have to write that down.” He reached into his pocket when he saw the sisters coming, “Ah Sister Lauren and Sister Edith, it is good to see you are well this morning. How are things running here?”
“Mr Silverstone,” said Sister Lauren who enveloped him into a great hug, “I’m glad to see you! Things are going… fine. Are you just stopping by to see these two off? Where’s Sadie?”
“She’s packing,” said Suzan.
“Of course,” said Sister Edith, “Hello, Mr Silverstone, how’re you this morning?”
“What? No hug?” said Mr Silverstone, smiling, “I’m doing well, thank you. Yes, I wanted to see these two off. I don’t come here very often and I figured maybe today would be a good day.”
“Tell me why you‘re really here,” said Sister Edith cringing.
“What, can’t a guy visit his orphanage every once in a while?” said Mr Silverstone.
“This guy can’t,” said Sister Edith.
“Look I’m not the bad guy here,” said Mr Silverstone, “I just want to make sure the children and the property are OK. I don’t like having to fix things all the time. I may be rich, but even my wallet can’t stretch that far.”
“I told you we have it under control,” said Sister Edith.
At that moment Sadie came sliding down the bannister on her suitcase. “Whoo-hoo!” she shouted as she flew into the air and, almost landing on Suzan, was caught by Mr Silverstone in one arm and her suitcase in the other.
“I appreciate all the hard work you both are putting in here,” said Mr Silverstone, as he sat Sadie and her suitcase onto the floor, “But I advise you consider my suggestion for a prodigy assistant. Someone who can neutralize these situations from escalating.”
“It’s unnecessary, sir,” said Sister Edith, “We have the school under control.”
“Well,” interrupted Cornelius, “It was a pleasure to see you again, Steven, Sisters. Be sure to visit us at BIP soon.”
They said their goodbyes and Cornelius opened the door and led the girls to the driveway, where he had parked his little VW Bug. Next to it was a brand new red Camaro, which Suzan mused must have been Mr Silverstone’s.
“Sadie,” said Cornelius, “Over here, we should get going so we aren’t late for the opening ceremonies.”
Reluctantly, Sadie tore herself away from the beauty and faced Cornelius. “Since when does that Silverstone guy care about us?” asked Sadie.
“Mr Silverstone constructed this building. The sisters volunteered to look after it for him,” said Cornelius as he loaded their suitcases into the trunk of the car, “And I think he has an excellent point.”
“The sisters really don’t need any help,” said Suzan, “They’ve always been able to handle the situations.”
“Really?” said Cornelius, “Which one of them gets involved when one of your roommates picks a fight with another?”
“Well…” said Sadie, but she couldn’t get past the word.
“I guess,” said Suzan, “There was always an older student who stepped in to stop them.”
“How long will that last?” said Cornelius, “The oldest is now that monstrous girl who wrecked the dining room, right? It would be best if there was someone more mature here to handle those situations, who was always there to help when things get dicey.”
The girls looked at each other. It was true. Sadie had become one of the top mediators at Silverstone since all the older students had left.
‘How are things going to be without Sadie?’ thought Suzan. She pictured the sisters trying to stop Claudia from one of her rampages. Sadie pictured Claudia and Godzilla fighting in New York City.
The car ride wasn’t too long. BIP was an hour away from the orphanage and Cornelius told them that he could arrange for them to visit the orphanage if they wanted. As they drove on, Cornelius tried to teach them some old English travelling songs, but Sadie lost interest and began to nap and drool all over the back seat.
Cornelius then turned on the radio to wake her up. His station was a classical one and that only made Sadie drool harder. Suzan slapped Sadie awake and they spent the rest of the time listening to Bach.
When they finally made it to the school, it was just as Suzan had imagined it: red brick to give it a more homey presence, but with one gated door in the front wall and no windows, it wasn’t fooling anyone.
Two guards sat at the front entrance in little booths to greet any person as they drove up to the gates. Cornelius drove up, greeted the guards, and presented his clearance card to them.
“Good morning, Mr Schumacher,” said one of the guards; he too was wearing a P blazer.
“Good morning Mark,” said Cornelius, “Hope you’re doing well today.”
“Yes sir,” he said smiling.
They drove through the archway and through the grounds, where they saw many guard units doing drills and conditioning.
“The national guard, ladies,” said Cornelius, feeling their apprehension, “Sometimes there can be scuffles, especially amongst the BIP boys, that can get pretty rough.”
As they drove past they saw some guard members repairing a building. “For instance,” said Cornelius, “That building was a casualty in a recent scuffle.”
“It’s nearly gone,” said Sadie.
“Yes, quite,” said Cornelius, “The guard is here to help stabilize any problems amongst the students.”
“How do they do that?” Sadie asked.
“Many of our graduates join the military, including the guard,” said Cornelius, “Many are stationed here.”
“Is that why the government is so interested in this school?” said Suzan, “The creation of soldiers?”
“Yes… Many prodigies do decide to serve,” said Cornelius, a little irritated, “But many choose other paths. One of my favorite students is studying poetry and writing; he wants to be an author.”
Sadie giggled. “Good luck!” she said.
“And the scientists?” said Suzan, pointing to a couple of personnel in lab coats walking down the path, “Why are they here?”
“Unfortunately,” said Cornelius, “We are under strict supervision. The United States wants to know everything it can about developing superhumans. As I said, many are encouraged to enlist in the guard, army, or any other special forces.
Also, many countries try to ‘procure’ prodigies from other countries to their lands. They do this by scouting. At BIP, we try to eliminate those threats. As I’m sure you have concluded, it is a power struggle very similar to the cold war.”
“So,” Suzan began, “This is a prison.”
“No dear,” said Cornelius, “I have not lied to you. It’s just things are more muddled than when I was a lad. Things got complicated when we were discovered and now, as you know, the world is simply afraid of us. Afraid of what might happen.
The school is still a safe and positive atmosphere. The other teachers and I have full confidence in the system we have created, and if we need to have some guard here to validate our points, then so be it!”
The conversation was over. Suzan wasn’t sure she believed him, but for now, her curiosity was sated. She didn’t want to bother Cornelius further; she liked him, but she wasn’t sure she trusted him. She had to wait and find out more about the school herself before she made any conclusions.
Sadie, however, was content. She saw all the guard men with their shirts off. “I think I like this place.”
Cornelius parked the car, opened the doors for the girls, and emptied the trunk of their belongings. Suzan was looking at the facility. It was enormous. Many buildings resided within the walls. Dormitories, classrooms, a student center, and a library. Suzan was excited to read all the books inside.
“I can see you salivating, Suzu,” said Sadie winking, “Leave some for the other nerds.”
“Whatever!” Suzan said smiling.
“Now ladies,” said Cornelius, “Here are your bags. That large dome building in the middle is the student center. They will be waiting for you in there. You’ll meet your student reps and your classmates. Do enjoy yourself Suzan; you might be surprised.”
Suzan shrugged. She and Sadie took their bags and headed for the student center. Inside the building, Suzan was amazed by how many students were there. The room was a perfect circle and she and Sadie could see everything.
She saw more kids than she had ever seen at one time. ‘And I thought the orphanage was crowded,’ she thought. So many hair colors: pink, blue, red, brown, green, black, white, silver, gold, yellow…
And so many different color eyes. All looking at them as they arrived. It was a bit intimidating but Suzan managed to keep her knees from rattling.
“Calm down,” said Sadie, “This is the easy part. Next, you have to prove yourself to them.” She smiled.
“Thanks for the encouragement, D,” said Suzan sarcastically.
They walked through the crowd. Suzan could feel all of them. She guessed there were around 300 new students there, all of them had different emotions.
“Ok,” said Sadie, “Now what do you feel?”
“Some are scared. Some are angry. Some are excited. Apprehension, sadness, anticipation, and…”
Suzan could feel a number of individuals that were blank. One, in particular, was emoting a color, as if using it as a shield. This one felt Suzan’s probing and sent a message telepathically of where she was.
Suzan turned to see a girl or boy. It was hard to tell. It had short, platinum hair, black eyeliner, tight jeans, army boots, a white t-shirt with a black blazer. It was a she; Suzan could tell that now.
And then the girl sent another message of herself changing. Her arms and legs elongating. Her fingers lengthening and sharpening. Her mouth widened and smiling with rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth.
‘Mind your own business!” she thought.
Suzan let out a little gasp at this. “What’s wrong, Suzu?” said Sadie.
“That girl over there,” Suzan said pointing at the girl, “She’s freaking spooky. Cheese and rice!” She wiped her forehead and tried to control her ragged breathing.
“Oh she doesn’t look so tough,” said Sadie and she gave the spooky girl the finger.
“Sadie,” said Suzan, “I can’t believe you just did that! Come on, let’s get out of here.”
She turned around and ran straight into another student and fell backwards.
“Oops,” he said, “sorry; excuse me. He took her hand and helped her up.
She looked up to see a very tall boy with long, dark-blue hair pulled back into a ponytail. He brushed a clump of bangs that escaped his tie from his right eye and smiled. He had the most beautiful ice blue eyes Suzan had ever seen.
“Are you alright?” he asked, “I have a horrible habit of tripping over my feet, not to mention other people.”
“Oh,” said Suzan, blushing profusely, “I’m fine.” she adjusted her glasses. “I’m fine, I’m just… there seems to be a lot of students here…”
“Hi,” said Sadie, “I’m Sadie and this is Suzan. Don’t let her fool you; she talks more than this.” Sadie smiled and elbowed Suzan.
“Nice to meet you both,” he said, extending his hand, “I’m Andrew, but everyone calls me Drew. I’m a student representative here to help everyone adjust.”
“So why are we standing around in this room?” asked Sadie.
“Tradition mostly. This is the student center; you’ll be spending a lot of time here this week. You‘ll be sleeping here, eating here, and meeting new people here.”
“Wait,” said Sadie, “We don’t get our own room?”
“Well,” said Drew, “That comes later. This tradition allows for the students to get to know each other and decide on future roommates. You’ll each be in a dorm with three other students. For now, you’ll remain here for the entrance exams. Now don’t worry, girls and boys will be separated during the exams so they won’t feel self-conscious.”
“Boys don’t make me feel self-conscious,” said Sadie, smirking.
“Err, well, I mean,” said Drew.
“What entrance exams?” said Suzan, “I thought we were already accepted at this school.”
“Oh sorry,” said Drew, again brushing his bangs out of his eye, “The exams are to see where you fit. To find your level. It’s hard to explain, really. I don’t understand it myself.” He laughed.
Sadie and Suzan, each, raised an eyebrow. “Well what level are you?” said Sadie.
“Oh, it’s alright,” said Drew, “I’m just a class D, but I was a class F when I came here, which is really hard to level up from. Most say it’s impossible to do, but I had a lot of help from a friend of mine. It’s my goal to achieve class C before I graduate.”
“Why’s that?” asked Sadie.
“Oh, well,” said Drew, his face turning red, “It’s really for someone else’s sake than for my own.”
“Oh it’s for a girl,” said Sadie, “Boring!” she walked away and began to talk with someone else.
“Don’t mind her,” said Suzan, “She’s a bit…”
“Direct?” said Drew, “No it’s alright. Too many people nowadays don’t say what they are thinking. It’s… refreshing.”
Then a girl with a buzz cut, dark-blue hair and long pink bangs came up from behind Drew and leapt onto his back, knocking the wind out of him and making him stumble forward, nearly falling on top of Suzan.
“Oh, hi sis,” said Drew, trying to recapture his breath. The girl, though tall, was not as tall as her brother. To his 7’11”, she was 6’ even. Her legs were straddling his chest and her right hand clinging to his right shoulder, she peered over his left.
She stared at Suzan, her eyes expressing no emotions and Suzan found that she was one of the blank personas she had felt before.
“Suzan, this is my twin Emeline,” said Drew, “But everyone calls her…”
“Emma,” she interrupted him and to Suzan surprise, she stretched her neck two feet in a corkscrew motion down to Suzan’s eye level.
Upon reaching its final destination, it remained upside down, staring at Suzan. Suzan gasped. This was the first time she had ever encountered anyone with such an ability.
“Hmmm…” said Emma, “She’s much too small for you, brother. She’s very scrawny. She wears glasses, which is very strange for a prodigy. Strange…” she cocked her upside-down head.
Drew laughed. “Emma, we’re not dating or anything. We’re just talking. There is a difference.”
“Not really,” said Emma.
Emma’s neck stretched some more, going around Suzan. “We interact with those we choose to interact with. There is hardly ever an encounter or interaction without a basis of attraction.”
“I nearly stepped on her,” said Drew.
“Stepping on people is no way to get their attention, brother,” said Emma.
“Yes, sister…” said Drew, patiently, “Anyway, Suzan, this is my loving sister Emma. She’ll be escorting the girls to their testing grounds.”
“Testing grounds?” said Suzan.
“Oh, sorry,” said Drew, “The exams are…”
“More than just a written test,” interrupted Emma, “There is also a physical, to see how your body reacts to different stimuli.”
“The exams determine your level,” said Drew.
“There are six levels,” said Emma, “A through F.”
“A being the highest,” said Drew, “Most students never get that high during their time here. But there are a few. The average student reaches C.”
“If hardly any students reach A class,” said Suzan, “Why not do away with it?”
“Because,” said Emma, “It would not be honest to tell a student they were A when really they were C. The truth is better than a comforting lie.”
“A little dramatic, don’t you think?” said Drew to Emma.
“Good morning students,” said a voice over the PA system, “I am Dean Croft and I will be facilitating your learning for the next four years.
If you will give your attention to the front, our senior class representatives will be taking you to your respective examination rooms. As new students, you will be separated into one of three classes: D, E, and F.
These aren’t grades, they are merely a system to see your strengths and where we might improve your natural abilities. Some Fs have raised to C class in their final year. You can too!
With that being said, I will introduce you to your representatives: Clyde Gibson, Bonnie Rupp, and Andrew and Emeline Constance.”
“Sorry, we have to go,” said Drew, “Talk to you later.”
Suzan watched them go. Emma still clinging to Drew’s back like a monkey until they reached the stage. She flipped onto the stage, stretching her legs to land gracefully. Drew simply took the stairs. This was definitely going to be an interesting year.
As all the students turned their attention to the stage that was in the center of the room, the other two reps came to the stage. They were the two largest individuals Suzan had ever seen.
If Drew and Emma were tall and slender, these two were the opposite. They were almost perfect balls; they were as tall as they were wide and extremely round. And yet they glided and pranced up on stage like balloons in the wind and as they landed, the stage made absolutely no creaking noises.
The boy, Clyde, bounded to the podium, his short blond hair bouncing with every step. He grabbed the mic and his voice was surprising. It wasn’t extremely high or extremely low as Suzan had hypothesized. He spoke normally but his vernacular was a little too upbeat.
“Greetings and salutations, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, a chubby smile on his face, “We’re anxious to meet each and every one of you and start this year off right!
Now, if you would, all the girls go to the left and all the boys go to the right. Your right. Ladies, my left. Also, I need four lines on each side. That‘s right four lines of young gentlemen and four lines of young ladies.”
“Gag me!” whispered Sadie to Suzan. Suzan managed to find Sadie during the lineup and avoided the spooky girl, who seemed to be drawing closer to Suzan ever since the mental encounter.
Her energy still blank; still and silent like a calm lake. She was somewhere behind her. Suzan tried to focus on the back of the girl’s head in front of her. Her hair was long and black and beautiful and shiny… ‘I wonder what conditioner she uses,’ Suzan thought.
“First there will be a written test and then a physical,” said Clyde as he looked over the lines of students, “Don’t worry. The only result of these tests is to figure out where to best place you on the ranking scale.
Some will do better on the written while others will excel at the physical or some of you will do well in both. Nobody is a failure here. As I look over this student center, I see a bunch of winners.”
“Huuaaaww!” Sadie whispered from behind Suzan. Her mimic of sickness was a little louder than she expected and a couple of the girls giggled.
“Is someone sick out there?” asked Clyde, concern filling his face.
Suzan sighed and looked over to Drew. He looked tense. She wondered who he was trying to reach class C for? She thought he was fine the way he was and was wondering about the whole intent of the class ranking anyways.
She, next, looked over to Emma, who just looked bored as she played with her antennae-like, pink bangs. Suzan thought Emma was insane… at least a little bit.
Then Suzan’s attention was drawn by the larger girl, Bonnie. “My sugar-bear is right, y’all,” she said, her sickeningly sweet, southern twang nearly made Sadie roll on the floor laughing,
“There ain’t nuthing to be afraid of. Though the testing is somewhat diffrent from any test you’re use to, it’s all the same really. Jus diffrent.”
‘That was the description of the year,’ thought Suzan, but she could feel the apprehension in the room. It was mingled with anticipation and foreboding and it really didn’t feel all that good. She felt like everyone’s butterflies were in her stomach.
“Now, y’all young ladies will accomny Miss Constance and I to the eastern towar while the young gentlemen will follow Mr Constance and my boogielicious to the west wing,” said Bonnie.
“Honestly, if she uses another cutesy nickname, I’m going to laugh to death,” said Sadie. She and Suzan smiled and watched as Bonnie and Clyde floated to the front of the lines with Emma and Drew right behind them.
“Let the exams begin!” shouted Emma as the groups parted.