Beta-read by Scribbles I
Healed and Hunted
It was not hard to see the division between the students at the School for Talented Inheritors. You had your Jocks and Bad Boys at tables one and six. Nerds at table twelve. Drama kids at three. Band, Choir and Cheerleading split tables eight, nine and ten. The Washouts claimed table four. The really Preppy people - people who all seemed to go by the name Tiffany or Chad - were awarded tables two and five. And though all the tables were rectangular and in numerical order - and even split between types of Inheritors - table seven was square and in the corner. It didn't fit with the other tables, and no one knew why it was labeled SEVEN. Such an odd table deserved to be filled with odd people. In all honesty, the inhabitants of table seven weren't so strange. One of them was even the second or third most popular person in the school. But his group of friends seemed unusually dull next to him. People had learned, however, not to point this out. He was not afraid of punishment. This had only to be proven twice for people to learn this lesson.
One girl was blind, but a very powerful Earth Inheritor. At first people looked down on her - 'aw the poor blind girl' - but two days in she had nearly killed an instructor who had dared gone easy on her. She showed them that she deserved to be in this elite school. Not only deserved, but needed it. Without a license from this school, or one like it, she could have easily been arrested and imprisoned. She was dangerous. The outside world would look at her and have no pity.
The second girl was a Water Inheritor with dark hair all down her back. She was one of few Water Inheritors here. The others sat at FOUR. She was as dangerous as her blind friend. Maybe more. No one knew much about her except her name and that she was close to the Ava Inheritor. She never said much and rarely smiled. She was never in remedial classes, and they never saw her practicing. But they had seen her unleash her great power on some third-years who had been picking on some new students. One had not recovered. The only ones who ever saw her fight were the ones the 'teachers' pitted her against. Most had not asked for a second try.
The Ava was always a thing of study. Others studied him, and he studied others. He was the first Nomad any of them had seen. He even had a small but growing fan club. Everyone knew what he was capable of and what he was willing to do for the girls he stayed with. He worked harder than any other Inheritor in this school, since he had four elements to learn, and the same amount of time as everyone else. If he failed within the allotted three years, he would be carted off to a special prison just as the rest of the defectors would. No Ava had ever been through the program. It hadn't existed until twenty years ago. So no Ava had ever failed, and no one was certain what would happen if one did. Everyone hoped they wouldn't be here to find out.
The lunch staff was most acquainted with table seven. They knew exactly when the three would arrive and, depending on the day, what they would order. It was not that that the children were predictable, it was simply that table seven kept themselves on a schedule. At the end of each week, table seven would turn in a sheet requesting their meals. All the other tables simply ordered off the menus when they arrived.
One of the more popular students, however, never ordered the same thing twice (figuratively speaking, of course. The menu had less than thirty items), keeping only the sides constant. This student sat at table six. He was a Fire Inheritor, and no one knew much about him. He was not forthcoming with information. He made it clear, however, that he was not here voluntarily and had no intentions of following the system.
Which made no sense. No one was here because they wanted to be. Make no mistake, the School for Talented Inheritors was indeed a school. It was one of the nicest ones, actually. It actually gave off the appearance of somewhere you would want to attend. If, of course, there was an option. There was no tuition for this kind of school. It was, despite all its niceties and cleanliness, a penitentiary ward. A place of mandatory attendance. It made the non-Inheritors (nonnies, as Inheritors were wont to call them) feel a little safer, knowing that all the bad, scary monsters who could bend the very elements around them were all trained and certified. That was where most Inheritors became confused. You wanted to train the thing they were afraid of? Teach them how to use their bending, in order to protect yourself? No one said the nonnies were smart.
The only reason there was no active war going on right now was the gases. The non-Inheritors had developed bio-weapons that could temporarily stun and incapacitate an Inheritor. There were stronger ones that killed Inheritors. The debatable worst of all of the gases paralyzed the Inheritor's respiratory system and kept them conscious. It was a cruel weapon that had not been unemployed. It was too effective to surrender, no matter how people, Inheritors and not, cried for the gas to be retired. It was for this reason and many others that the Inheritors accepted their fates.
Every student here was deemed highly dangerous, and that was why they were being treated at the highest levels. Contain the beast, create a beast. And those who were particularly gifted were particularly deadly. There was no need to create more of a problem than they already had. So they tried this diplomatic route. They, too, were tired of an active fight. They no longer wanted to say they were fighting. The people, more than the government, were tired of fighting. And God help those who weren't fighting fight the war.
So it was here, in this beige-walled, government funded and electrically-fenced-off-from-the-rest-of-the-world prison that two people learned about life and about healing.
The Ride There
Today was hot. Even with the windows, and the Ava pulling in an icy secret breeze every now and again, it was hot. The sun was blistering down, they were dressed for winter, and the bus generated too much heat. The uniforms they were forced to wear were heavy. Some whispered it was an encouragement to stay indoors. Of course, the bands around their arms kept them out of most businesses. No one openly discriminated Inheritors, they were just always full, of course. They were always full.
The bridge they were on was nearly ten miles long. It lifted to allow boats underneath it, but also to provide no way to the mainland. To isolate all the Inheritors away from the normal world. But not today. They were getting to see their families, if they had any. Friends, if they still waited around. Maybe specials someones patiently awaiting the return of bus number nine.
Kat always wondered what happened to the other eight buses. It was an idle wonder, something to keep the mind occupied while the body did other things. Like deal with the heat. And the wind that kept slapping her long hair in her eyes. She was forced to squint at the sun baked world outside the bus windows. She knew 'Nom and 'Fong would be doing the same thing- waiting to see Suki, Sokka and Kat's little niece, Kyoshi- somewhere up ahead. She could only make out the backs of their were both in front. The bus had a seating arrangement, but no one could figure it out. Kat and her companion, one of the Nations, sat in the very back. She was the very last one out of the bus. Always.
This was her second year, and she wondered if it was his third. She had never bothered to ask. In fact, she wasn't sure she had said one word to him. Had they ever spoken? She turned to him, then, and watched. In comparison to everyone else, he seemed completely unruffled or excited by the trip. He had some buds in his ear, listening to music that pulsed. His eyes were closed, and his posture was relaxed. He wasn't expecting anyone to be waiting for him.
That was sad, she thought. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to have no one. Of course, she was making too many assumptions. Perhaps he simply had to travel to meet his loved ones. She counted the number of piercings as she contemplated. Six in his right ear. Two in his lower lip. She forgot she was staring at him until he looked at her. He removed an ear bud.
"Can I help you?" There was another piercing in his tongue. He had the slightest accent that Kat couldn't place.
Kat shook her head. "Sorry. I was just thinking I didn't even know your name."
The guy placed his ear buds back in his ear without answering. He huffed slightly, as if she had somehow offended him, and went back to keeping his eyes closed. Kat raised her eyebrows in total shock. She hadn't entirely gone out of her way to speak to him, but there was no cause for rudeness. She shook it off just in time to see the city limit sign.
Ten more minutes, and she would be with her brother and sister. And her niece. Her little, precious niece who was doomed to attend this school. The thought made her sad, so she moved on. She started to fidget. She was itching to be home.
It was her brother who she saw first. He was holding his daughter in the air, the both of them laughing and snorting. As if he could feel he was being watched, her brother's eyes suddenly snapped to the bus. At first he scowled, but eventually smiled.
The bus stopped and everyone filed off. She raced off to her brother and niece, where Aang and Toph waited. Little Kyoshi squealed and attacked Kat's legs.
"Easy now, lemme hug daddy, then I'm all yours," Kat said. The girl huffed and backed off. It was so easy to forget she was small. She seemed so mature sometimes. Kat wondered if it was a side effect of being named after Suki's favorite Ava. That particular Ava had been fatally serious.
"Hey, sis." Her brother offered his arms. She took into them willingly and with vigor, desiring the instantaneous feeling of being home. That feeling came as soon as his arms closed around her. Kat reveled in it for a few moments.
"Welcome home," he said into her hair.
Kat smiled. "Thank you. Sokka, let's get out of here."
"Yeah. Better pick 'Yoshi up. She's getting impatient," Sokka said, backing away from his sister.
Aang and Toph laughed when the little girl giggled. The sound lifted the tired spirits of the Inheritors, as it did every time they came home.
"Suki's probably almost done cooking," Sokka said. Everyone walked a little faster.
He hated Saturdays. Which seemed so awful, he knew. But one Saturday out of every month sucked. Each time he had to watch half of his family board a bus to go to an island so far away. He knew that, combined, the three of them could escape. But it wasn't about escaping. The three of them had, together, decided that running was no longer the answer. That was his fault.
His, Suki's, and Kyoshi's. Once Kyoshi came into existence, his sisters and brother decided it was time to settle down. Time to turn themselves in and submit to the schooling program. Every time he had to watch them climb back onto bus number nine, he was reminded of the sacrifice they were making.
When he went back to his home, his daughter handed him yet another printed picture of the weekend. He pinned it up on the wall with the others. The hall was halfway filled with weekend pictures. Sokka knew that the walls would be full before his family was finally allowed to remain home. He supposed then, that he would hand over the farm to whichever one of them wanted it. Most likely, it would be Aang who kept it. It was a good place for his bison, and he was used to being around animals.
He knew Suki only accepted this farm life because she had to. There was nothing else she could do, given what his siblings had sacrificed. Their freedom so that Suki, Kyoshi and Sokka no longer had to run.
He could remember them arguing about it. Why couldn't they just go on their own? Why couldn't the Inheritors just go? The look in his eye, he knew, more than his words had changed her mind. If his eyes had been telling her what he felt, then she would have seen how much it hurt to even think about not knowing where is sister was.
So, for now they had more land than they ever wanted, just to supply Appa with what he needed. It wasn't the life he had envisioned, either, but what life was? For now, he would have to make due. And his daughter, who was happy with all the animals, had no idea that her parents wanted more for her. She was six, and wanted to be a doctor. For animals, but not people, because people aren't animals, she said. One day, the girl would be more of a doctor than she ever wanted to be.
Kyoshi was upset, as she often was on Saturdays. She hated watching her aunts and uncle leave. She oftentimes requested to go with them. The first time that had happened, Kat had cried. Not because she hated the school, which she did, but because, Sokka later found out, Kyoshi would get her wish. They had, at the least, nine years in which to get her ready for school. Fifteen was the minimum age the world could legally require Inheritors to attend those schools. Some managed to hide for years before being found out. Kat took on the mission of training 'Yoshi the day she learned of her niece's ability.
He took Kyoshi out for ice cream. Even that didn't seem to cheer her up.
"Daddy, why do they always have to go?" She was poking her vanilla-chocolate-banana ice cream mountain with a spoon. The remainder of the cashews melted to one side.
Sokka took another bite from her ice cream, "Because the world says there is no place for them." He knew the answer would not make sense to her. He knew it was too harsh to say to a child, but he couldn't help himself. He couldn't keep things pent up much longer.
"We've got plenty of room. They always have their own rooms and-" Her words slowed, "And I miss them when they go."
The young father patted her head. "Me too."
"I don't like Saturdays," she said quietly, lodging her spoon in her ice cream so she didn't have to hold it any more.
"Neither do I, Yoshi." Sokka did the same.