-September 30, 2116-
Today was the big day.
The day that Aldrich would leave for Blackwater Academy, the very first step of a long and no doubt hard journey to avenge his parents.
Aldrich woke up at five thirty in the morning, thirty minutes before an officer was scheduled to pick him up.
Precisely as the clock struck six, an academy officer showed up to his apartment door, making his presence obviously known by slamming his fist into the door several times in what was the most violent knock Aldrich had ever heard before.
Aldrich was ready and packed. His apartment, the house had had lived in for his whole life, was cleaned out to complete emptiness, ready for another renter to move in. Blackwater would provide food and board for the four years it took to graduate, so what he packed was mostly personal stuff that had some kind of emotional weight to them.
Memorabilia from his late parents that included a family picture with Aldrich and some trinkets from their hero costumes. His birthday letter that had gotten him to get into this academy in the first place. Also his personal gaming rig that he sometimes used to destress after training.
There was a small collection of games on the rig, mostly solo RPGs because Aldrich did not really like playing online and interacting with random people online. Among the RPGs he played, there was one in particular that was his favorite.
A strangely hidden but amazingly fun game called Elden World which he had picked up at a rundown game store, a store that had long since closed down and been bulldozed away.
At first, Aldrich had thought the game was just a piece of junk. Some unfinished, buggy monstrosity considering that almost no games were sold in disc format anymore. To further fan the flames of suspicion, the disc that stored the game was unmarked and unregistered on any network, meaning that in all likelihood, it was some kind of indie development that never made it to the light of the public market.
Aldrich had zero hopes for it. Sometimes he liked to trawl around no name game shops for old retro games from the early 2000s era, and sometimes he struck trash, and sometimes he struck gold.
This, though, he had thought was trash.
Surprisingly,, the game was a shinier shade of gold than any he had found so far. Elden World was highly fleshed out and basically complete, and Aldrich had sunk in hundreds of hours of gameplay in it.
Most of these hours, Aldrich spent maxing out his necromancer game character all the way up to level 100, but he did not stop just there. Afterwards, he obsessively min-maxed his stats and equipment, trawling through the most obscure corners of the game to find materials and upgrades to make himself as overpowered as possible.
Eventually, Aldrich could beat anything with zero challenge, and though some people thought that was boring, he enjoyed it. The feeling of being strong.
Maybe it was the constant years of feeling powerless that made Aldrich want to be as strong as he could in the game.
A type of escapist fantasy, he supposed.
Aldrich opened the door to his apartment, sliding the smooth metal entryway open with a mechanical click. Standing in the doorway was a tall, black-uniformed man staring down at him with sharp, squinting black eyes.
The man looked down at his Eye-Phone, presumably to check some details.
"Are you Aldrich Yang?" said the man. "Student enrolled in the Frame Initiative for Blackwater Academy?"
"Yes," said Aldrich simply.
"Show me some I.D.," said the man.
Aldrich held up his Eye-Phone, and Darius scanned it with his own phone"s camera, logging Aldrich"s electronic Citizen Identification Card (CID), matching his identity to a worldwide database maintained by the Alterhuman Agency in cooperation with world governments.
"Good. My name is Darius Fletcher, and I"m a Blackwater officer here to take you in," said the man, his voice tired and unpleasant. He looked down at Aldrich with dead eyes that made it abundantly clear that he thought Aldrich was not worth his time.
"Nice to meet you," said Aldrich respectfully as he held out a hand to shake.
Darius swatted the hand away with enough force to make Aldrich"s sting with a bruise.
"Don"t touch me, you dirty, powerless, maggot," said Darius. "And from now on, you will address me only as Officer Fletcher. If you do not, you"ll wish your mother never popped you out of her rank cunt."
"…" Aldrich nodded. There was nothing he could do about this type of abuse, and honestly, he was prepared for it. He had been bullied and looked down on his whole life thousands upon thousands of times. Going to an academy would only ever make that a hundred times worse.
So far, this was just as Aldrich had calculated. Abuse he was willing to take and stomach to get his hero"s license.
"Follow me," said officer Fletcher curtly.
Aldrich followed the officer in silence outside his apartment building to a bulky, armored hover-car that looked like it could seat about six people. It levitated by the sidewalk, the whirring of its anti-gravity engines grating against Aldrich"s ears.
"Get in," said officer Fletcher as he tapped his phone, causing one of the bulky doors of the black metaled car to open up. The insides of the car were lit in dull red with two rows of seats facing each other.
Aldrich sat himself inside wordlessly, noting the presence of other people around him. Fellow students, it seemed, judging by how young they looked. The car door closed as the officer made his way up to the driver"s seat separated from the passenger compartment by a metal grate.
Felt like a prison car more so than military transport.
"Hey, you"re part of the Frame Initiative too, right?" A young man, probably around sixteen like Aldrich, with wide doe eyes and curly black hair smiled at Aldrich from the seat across from him.
"Yeah," said Aldrich simply. He looked around to see that there were a total of three other students in the car.
Two guys and one girl. All probably part of the Frame Initiative.
"Great!" said the curly haired guy. He held out his hand for Aldrich to shake. "My name"s Adam, by the way. It"s incredible to see that there are so many of us without powers. My whole life, I thought I was the only one. Felt totally cursed. You feel what I mean?"
Aldrich stared at Adam"s hand for a few seconds before shaking it. Aldrich was not the energetic type, but he was not an asshole either,
"Yeah," said Aldrich, and that was all he said. Granted, he wasn"t the talkative type either.
"Shut the fuck up back there!" came officer Fletcher"s rough voice blaring through a sound system. Everyone in the car flinched except Aldrich. "My day is already down the sh*tter driving you worthless drains on society. I prefer my drives quiet, and if I hear one peep, one little fucking whisper, I promise that when you get to Blackwater I will make your lives more of a miserable living hell than it already is!"
"Somebody"s not having a good day, huh," whispered Adam.
Aldrich ignored Adam to get the kid to shut up for both his safety and Aldrich"s own. He crossed his arms and leaned back into his seat, staring at the depressingly red tinted ceiling of the car before closing his eyes to get some more much needed sleep.
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