Chapter One

A New Adventure

"Don't worry, John." The woman's eyes betrayed her motherly hypocrisy as she held his face in her hands.

A stray wind brought to their ears the sound of the people beyond the gate. John ignored their shouts and spout of laughter, wanting to crystallize this moment in his mind.

At the road, a black cab waited for the woman to finish her goodbyes and John could feel blackish-purple impatience radiating off the cabby.

The woman was blue and grey like a rainstorm.

He quickly shook the vision away. His psychiatrist insisted emotions weren't a color. They were not visible.

John wanted for just a moment to feel at least slightly normal, so he blinked away the color and focused on the woman's words.

"They'll take good care of you." His would-be mother murmured, now holding him at arm's length, "They can help you. You belong here."

It sounded like she was trying to convince herself instead of him.

"It's alright, Sara Jane." John smiled sadly. "I know. I know this is for the best."
Even if I'm terrified.

But he needed to reassure the woman who took him in all those years ago.

He remembered being quite young, standing in bare feet and shivering in the fog. Staring up at the door knocker, three year old John could never hope to reach it. Instead he laid down on the welcome mat, totally exhausted, and fell asleep.

John was aware that back then, he knew why he was at the doorstep and what had brought him there, but John could no longer recall these facts.

He didn't know what exactly he expected would happen when someone finally opened the door, but he had not expected a youngish looking journalist to bust out and nearly trip over him. She bent down quickly and ran a soft hand across his cheek. "Poor thing," she murmured, "What are you doing out here in the cold?"

The boy blinked but otherwise made no answer.

Cocking her head to the side, the young woman gave John a small smile, "I'm Sara, what's your name?"

Now there was a question John would like to know the answer to. Who was he before he was John Smith?

But we don't always get what we want.

John was ripped from the memory by Sara's sigh. She turned away in embarrassment, laughing without humor.

A single tear fell down her pale face, causing John's breath seized within him, and he almost gave in. Why are goodbyes so hard?

He needed to be strong, not just for himself, but for his adopted mother.

A small smile flitted across his lips before quickly fleeing. "A tear, Sara Jane?"

His mother sniffed and buried her head in his chest. It was strange, finally being taller than her, to have her ear on his chest instead of the other way around.

"EXCUSE ME, LADY!" Came a coarse cry, "I've got places to be, if you don't mind!"

John rolled his eyes. What was with cabbies and rudeness?

Sara Jane Smith snorted indignantly and drew away from her adopted son. Heat rose to her cheeks and John almost felt sorry for the receiver of such wrath.

"EXCUSE YOURSELF!" Sara shouted, strutting back to the cab, "Who do you think you are?"

The cabby started the car and ignored her.

Oh, clever. John thought, realizing what the cabby was doing. He took back the nasty opinion he'd begun to develop of him. Good man, making goodbye easier...

John almost smiled. "I best be going, Sara. But I'll see you this Christmas, okay?"

Sara withdrew from her ranting to give him one last, lingering look.

'Such a brave boy…'

John let go of an inner sigh, of all the times to hear voices...

Nodding shakily, it was obvious Sara was trying to be strong for John. Sara got in the car, closed the door, and rolled down the window.

John didn't move from his position in front of the imposing gates.

"Now John," Sara called, "You take your medicine and do exactly what the teachers tell you, alright?"

John gave a mock solute, "Of course, Mom."

It had been a while since he called her that, and John could see it hit a cord within Sara Jane.
She smiled tearfully, clearing her throat for one last instruction. "And you call me on the weekends. EVERY weekend, do you hear me, John?"

John smiled, "Loud and clear." He took a step toward the gate, hands stretched sideways. "See ya around, Sara Jane Smith."

It was his personal conviction to never actually say goodbye. He left with the impression he would see her shortly.

Whether this was to lessen Sara's pain or his own, John wasn't sure.

The cab pulled away, golden leaves crackling under the wheels. Then John Smith was left alone in front of the imposing gate. It was metal, quite old, and incredibly large. Frowning uncertainly, John clutched the strap of his blue backpack tighter. He leaned in to look between the bars, but found his vision blurred. The image beyond the gate wobbled and melted in and out of focus. The effect reminded John of a heat wave.

Was his 'condition' acting up again? John honestly didn't know. He'd never seen stuff like this before. His hallucinations usually consisted of much stranger images...

To the right, on an inconspicuous bronze sign was written, SUATA- School for Unusual and Talented Adolescents.

Well… John was in the right place… Although he wasn't sure about the 'talented' part.

He began to wonder how on Earth he was going to get in when a small door to his left opened up.

Blinking, John stared at the opening in the wall stupidly.

"You comin', kid?"

John jumped, startled by the gruff voice from within the doorway. "I-"

"You John Smith?" The voice interrupted.

Gulping, John nodded quickly. "Yeah- that's me." John Smith- a schizophrenic and psychotic mess, according to four psychiatrists, who had basically concluded that John was off his knocker.

The fact that he was singled out for this mysterious school was a miracle in of itself. No one really knew what happened within its walls, but the kids all came out successful, educated, and happy, so it had a good, if clandestine reputation.

Why was he chosen as a student, and why in the middle of the school year? John had no idea.

They told Sara Jane they could help him, and she believed it.

"Don't just stand there, kid." A chubby hand snaked out and pulled him into a tiny office of some sort. "Just let me do a thumbprint test-" the man mumbled, "There are a lot of people we are trying to protect in here, so I have to make sure you are who you say you are."

The man pressed John's thump against a thin sheet of metal for a moment. It beeped and flashed green, which John took to be a good thing.

However, at the moment, John was too stunned to do anything but gape. "You're- you're-"

The obese man rolled his eyes, muttering something obscene under his breath.

Meanwhile, John finally found his voice, "You're BLUE!" He gasped, blinking rapidly. Was this another hallucination? It had to be.

But my hallucinations never look like this…

The blue-skinned man was dressed in clothing similar to a school janitor. He gave him a sardonic glare before handing him a map of the school grounds. "Get used to it, Smith." The blue man said, "You'll see stranger things before you're finished here."

Laughing nervously, John let the man show him through the office and toward the school grounds. "Um, look- I don't-"

"Get out there, Smith. The principle will want to see you as soon as you can get to her office."

John felt like a fish with all the gulping he was doing. The blue man typed an access code into a plate next to the door, and it opened with a hiss.

Immediately, the blue man pushed John forward and shut the door again.
Stumbling, John attempted to keep his feet from under the bombardment of noise and smells and emotions and people. John didn't understand why he hadn't seen all of this from outside the gate.

Blinking in the bright sun, John watched in bafflement and shock, the scene before him.
A small boy ran across a pond, a girl sat on an invisible bench, and a teenager poured out a glass of water, presenting an icy rose. A man with two heads lumbered across the front lawn, and a glass doll tumbled across John's feet.

"Watch it!" The doll muttered, picking up her backpack and racing off.

Tuning in a large, unsteady circle, John's eyes nearly fell out of his head.
What is this place?

Suddenly he heard a voice call out above the rest. "Hey you! Lost?"

Spinning in surprise, John tripped over the untied shoelace of his red converse and toppled backwards into a shallow fountain.

"Oh my gosh!" The voice shouted, closer now. "I am so sorry, are you- are you okay?" the voice paused, but didn't give John a chance to respond, "It's good you're not like my friend Laya. One drop of water and she melts- literally, like witch of the west- wizard of Oz. It's totally epic."

John coughed, shaking water from his gravity-resilient hair like a dog would. "Okay." He wasn't sure what else to say. "This is humiliating."

John finally got the water out of his eyes and saw the girl had stretched out a black-leather clad hand. "Here," she said, grasping his pale arm. She had a strong grip for such a small hand. It only took a moment for her to pull John upright.

It was only then that he got his first look at the girl. She wore black leggings and black boots that came up snugly to her knees. Gold zippers lined the dark jacket she wore.

Her blonde hair was cut harshly at her shoulders and a black streak ran through her bangs. Smokey eyes stared at him with embarrassment and a bit of amusement. She wore black lipstick and carried herself with a sort of 'off limits' attitude. No boy would ever have the guts to mess with this chick. Despite this, John couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was.

John realized he'd need staring for just a bit too long and felt his cheeks heat up. Bloody hormones. Not even fair…

Coughing to cover his mistake, John blurted out the first thing that came to mind, "Aren't you burning up in those clothes? It's like ninety degrees out here."

It was a rare warm day that autumn.

The girl shrugged, "I'd ask the same of you, ya know, if you weren't just dumped in the fountain."

John looked down at his clothes and realized she was right. He wore nicer clothes than he usually did, a dress shirt, tie, dress pants, and a trench coat because Sara was paranoid.

John shrugged, a small smirk resting in the curve of his mouth, "Suppose you're right." He said, wringing the tail end of the brown outer garment. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the tattered remains of the school map. Groaning inwardly, he wadded the paper up and stuck it in his pocket again.

John expected the girl to move on now, but she didn't, instead she leaned in and saw the useless map. "Oh that's a shame," she offered sincerely, "Are you a new student?"

John nodded in confirmation, "I'm supposed to meet the principle or something. Do you think-?"

"Oh sure!" The girl interrupted, "I'll show you the way." Her reluctant smile clashed with the tough-girl attitude she had going on. "I threw my map away before looking at it when I first came here- Really bad decision. I ended up three days late for my first class."

"Three days?" John was incredulous. How big was this place?

The girl nodded with complete seriousness, walking him to the front door of a massive mansion that was the main school building. They climbed up the steps, passing students studying on the stairs.

"It's bloody impossible to navigate at first. It's like the halls deliberately want you to go to the wrong place." The girl smile back at him, "I'm Rose, by the way."

John nodded, "John." he offered in return.

They walked in silence for moment before Rose bit her lip, thinking, "It's unusual for Vastra to bring in another student in the middle of the year." She said.

Principle Vastra- of course.

"Do you have any idea why she let you in right now?" Rose continued. Her question was relaxed, honestly curious.

John shrugged, his eyes bouncing from the basketball sized burnt holes in a sculpted hedge and the kid who was throwing the balls of fire. "Honestly?" John sighed, "I don't even know how I got accepted in a place like this- I don't know how any of this is possible!" He gestured vaguely at the hundred or so of impossible children and laughed without humor, "I didn't even apply!"

The girl gave him a strange look John couldn't interpret, "Well of course not," she chuckled, skipping the open doorway. "None of us apply. Vastra picks us individually."

That's usual. John thought.

He followed Rose, his converses squeaking on the tile floor. He left small puddles of water in his wake.

The ceiling rose high and domed above them. It depicted several painted scenes, some of peace and others of vicious battles. "Whoa." John breathed, head tilted back. He blinked, taking the sight in, and was too enthralled to notice the entrance of another person until John heard the man's voice.

"Stop immediately or you will be obliterated!" Came the quick command.

John froze and slowly swiveled around.

Rose stopped a few feet ahead of him and huffed impatiently. "Every bloody time!" John heard her mutter, "Come on Strax! It's not like he blew hole in the ceiling!" She complained.

"For your information, insolent BOY, these floors were mopped not an hour ago. I will not have some girl ruining the tile finishing!"

Rose looked like she was giving herself a mental face palm. John stayed completely still. The man before him came up only to John's waist, but he held out a frying pan in an extremely threatening way. He wore a stocky black suit and had a body to match. Idly, John noticed the man sported just three fingers on both of his hands.

Glancing at Rose, John felt reassured that the strange butler/doorman meant no harm. If Rose wasn't scared of him, neither was John.

The man called Strax suddenly turned his attention to John and sniffed him, "You are new here, girl, so you shall live this once- but do not dare to cross me again!"

Repressing a smile, John nodded seriously, "That is very kind of you, sir."

And with that, Rose grabbed John's arm and pulled him through the high ceiling-ed room. "I don't know why Vastra won't hire a decent butler…" she muttered.

"Why'd he call me a-"

"Don't take any offence, John. He's short sighted- always mixing up people's genders."

"Oh. I guess that's alright then…"

Two staircases curled upward to the second floor, and Rose led John there.
The floor switched from tile to red carpet. It was the sort one might find in a fancy hotel. Kids raced by, late to their classes.
Yet again, John wondered how he managed to wriggle into such a prestigious school... It was not the first time he wondered this, and it would not be the last.

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