“Set the standard for these Learners. You have the skills…and you’re both certifiable. Show them what brilliance and madness can accomplish.”
The class tittered nervously, but the recipients of Lt. Commander Finidi Soler were unmoved. They had heard this shtick before, many times, and it had gotten old. Nonetheless, the jovial military commander was right – on both counts. Shani and Ramla Hooper were, by any measure, geniuses…and both were well-known to be mentally ill. Thing was, their extraordinary abilities meant that the Authority simply didn’t care. As long as the twins were compos mentis enough to continue operating the sophisticated equipment at Gunnersbury, all else could be overlooked. All else.
Just what else that could be, was what Melissa Myung-Bo wanted to find out.
“Learners, remember to keep your hands where the girls can see ’em – I got a lotta shit to do, so I don’t wanna be wastin’ time explainin’ to your dumb-faced parents how you managed to get yaself shredded on your first day’s XP!”
Soler’s gravelly bass tones gave way to a low chuckle, and the group of teenage interns giggled once more. This time it was noticeably more forced. The Lieutenant Commander smiled sardonically, rubbing a paw over his shaven head, and eyed his audience through his wraparound goggle-glasses. The same explosion which had torn his left cheek open in three places had left him with a damaged optic nerve – a form of glaucoma, essentially. Nonetheless, he remained a cheeky, confident personality, with a glint in the eye and an almost-smug demeanour. It was as if he believed that his survival was preordained, that there was a higher power with a greater destiny in store for him.
Finidi’s tattoo was impressive though, Melissa had to admit: Emblazoned across the right-hand side of his neck, an intricate design of a roaring Medusa, only with zapping electric eels in place of snakes. In spite of herself, Melissa felt a desire to reach out and touch the image.
At length, the Lt. Commander grew tired of teasing his minions, and led them through the austere laboratory into another, less frugal chamber. Before departing, he gave a nod to Melissa, and held up four fingers. She nodded back. Four minutes. She would have preferred a little more time to privately address ‘The Smartest Girls in The Room’, but so be it.
Shani and Ramla regarded her with their usual sullen, morose countenance. The two were identical in almost every respect save one; Shani wore her long, dark hair flowing straight down to her hips, while Ramla always had hers in an elaborate, platted ponytail which reached the small of her back. Both wore numerous items of jewellery – noserings, earrings, chains, bracelets, eyebrow-piercings, liprings, you name it – and both exhibited the most striking, vibrant makeup featuring a veritable rainbow of shades. It was difficult to believe, and surely they knew it, that this youthful pair represented the greatest minds within the Dais. They did not look a day over eighteen – and yet Melissa knew them to be in their late thirties.
She took a deep breath. This would not be easy.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♋