At the ripe age of seventeen, being considered a 'Dud' was the social equivalent of death. Granted, roughly half the population of the world fit into that category, while the other half had varying degrees of abilities ranging from extremely weak, but oddly useful to overwhelmingly powerful. Technically, the proper term to use was 'Unaugmented,' to describe any individual who had not experienced an Awakening by the age of eighteen. 'Dud' was supposedly to be relegated to nothing more than an unacceptable slur but, the more syllables you try to force people to say, the more they will be inclined to stick with the easier word.

There were some benefits, however; particularly in the realm of academia. Unaugmenteds were not required to attend additional classes, nor were they press-ganged into applying to one of the many Academy locations once they completed their core education. As such, Kyoko Mogami accelerated her basic course of study so that she could leave her small town behind that much faster. Having no real familial ties to keep her there, she felt no remorse in making her exit. Of course, the fact that her friend—with whom she had been enamored for a number of years, quite unbeknownst to him—invited her to accompany him to the capital city where he would enroll in the Central Academy was more than enough impetus in itself to influence her move.

It turned out to be a good decision on her part as the large number of people who attended the Central Academy in the city made the demand for skilled, Unaugmented employees quite high. Kyoko was able to secure a clerical job fairly easily to pay for the apartment they rented near the Academy grounds, since only Sho (her aforementioned friend) qualified for free housing. It was a rather small place, with only one bedroom that Kyoko gallantly offered up, pledging to sleep in the common area on a makeshift bed. Sho needed the room to study and practice, she reasoned, and the door muffled the sounds she made in the morning so that he could sleep while she made their lunches and prepared herself for work. It seemed to be a logical arrangement and they continued on in this manner for several months, essentially enjoying a charmed life together.

Of course, charmed lives do not make for a particularly good, or enduring, story. Therefore, it should come as a surprise to no one that trouble lay ahead for the pragmatic young woman. Let this serve as a cautionary lesson that cohabiting with someone for whom you harbor romantic feelings—while they remain blissfully ignorant of said fact—can lead to a disaster of one sort or another. Oftentimes, the disaster is quite minimal, but still very personal and emotional. And, sometimes, it can lead to life-altering changes.

For Kyoko, her turning point took the shape of a small, innocent lunch container that she carelessly packed alongside her own while gathering her things that morning. A low groan of dismay left her lips as she realized her mistake. Collecting her purse and tote, she swiftly left her desk to deliver the container she unintentionally kidnapped in the hopes that she would possibly have a few minutes to spare to eat her own lunch upon her return. Briefly checking her watch, she walked as quickly as her legs would carry her to the Academy library as he would most likely be there at that time of the day.

The pavement was thoroughly pounded by her feet by the time she reached the library steps. She silently thanked herself for investing in sensible flat shoes. Once she reached the hallway of study alcoves, her breathing had somewhat returned to normal. Her golden eyes swept left and right as she walked briskly, scanning for the perpetually disheveled straw-colored hair of her friend. The container sat eagerly in her hands, waiting to be deposited with its rightful owner. Upon finally locating him, she stopped dead in her tracks and the change in momentum sent the container forward out of her grasp.

It appeared as if her rush to bring Sho his lunch was entirely unnecessary as he found something else to consume. Or rather, someone. A curvaceous brunette sat astride his lap in the plushly upholstered chair, her face firmly planted on his own and his arms locked around her in an amorous embrace. Kyoko's eyes widened as she took in the scene before her, a horrific still life that sat frozen as all the murmurs from the voices of the library patrons around her abruptly went silent. Her heart pounded in her ears like her own personal marching band and she suddenly felt overwhelmingly feverish. She spun around and immediately departed from the library, oblivious to the fact that every person she passed was completely immobilized and wordless.

In the same instant, in a building on the far side of the expansive courtyard that stretched out in front of the library, a tall, dark-haired man was forced to sit on one of the benches along the hallway in which he walked. A powerful sensation washed over him, making him dizzy, and an acute pain bloomed behind his eyes. The man who had been walking beside him instantly came to his aid as he absently pushed his glasses further up his nose. The seated man held up a hand and shook his head. It had been quite some time since he last experienced this, but he knew the feeling would pass soon. However, a Catastrophic Awakening was a rare enough occurrence, but for it to affect him so strongly, it had to be close. It also had to be someone of the same level as him. He felt equal amounts of anticipation and dread; whoever it was, he would meet them soon enough once the Academy got their hands on them.

Once Kyoko made it outside of the library, she had fully exhausted the adrenaline that kept her moving thus far. The heat suffusing her body doubled in intensity and nearly convinced her that she was about to be engulfed in flames. Coupled with the sudden lack of energy, her vision blurred and began to darken around the edges as her knees buckled underneath her. Were someone able to witness both events concurrently, they would notice that the long-forgotten lunch container—that had since been hovering silently in midair after launching from her hands—hit the ground with a clatter at the same time that Kyoko's unconscious body crumpled onto the stone pavement of the courtyard.

The clock in the central tower of the library building chimed the hour and, while no one inside the building noticed the anomaly, several people outside wondered why it was over a minute late.

I'M BACK, BABY: Welcome to my new multi-chapter adventure. I hope you enjoy it here. Not sure how many chapters it will be at this point, but it will at least be somewhere between my last two stories. I'm putting up both the prologue and the first chapter so you can get a decent bite rather than just a tiny taste.

The plan is to update every other week if I can but I already know things will start to get hairy around the holidays. Anyway, welcome aboard and let's enjoy the ride together!