It almost sounded like ‘home’.
Hero surveyed the university from the roof of her new dormitory, Goth
Memorial Dorm. This was her place for the next four years – a safe haven away
from the threat of the North Forest where she could finally set down some
Hearing the other students begin to arrive, Hero reluctantly got to her feet. As
tolerant as her fellow students might potentially be, she was not in the mood
to answer the awkward question of how she had accessed a roof with no
Sneaking in ahead of anyone else, Hero slipped into her new room. It was
nice, if a little small and overtly feminine. She could handle small and overtly
The previous owner had left behind her furniture, which suited Hero. She’d
been unable to bring any furniture with her on the dimension shuttle, and only
had the contents of three suitcases to her name.
Hero plonked herself down on her new bed and began to unpack.
With her space arranged just so, Hero hopped off the bed and gazed quickly
out her window. The sun was shining, and students were meandering towards
the dorm, returning from summer break or beginning a new stage in their
A fresh start, thought Hero.
Unpacking done, Hero ventured outside her room to greet her fellow
residents. Instead, she was greeted herself by an enthusiastic squeak.
“New neighbour, yay!”
A small redheaded blur tackled Hero and hugged her fiercely. Hero yelped and
froze in shock as a petite woman in jeans disentangled herself from Hero.
“Please tell me you’re going to be less boring than Marilyn. Please. She was
about as fun as a rock. A very boring rock. Are you more fun than a rock?”
Flabbergasted, Hero stared blankly at the redhead. “I… uh…”
“Oops!” giggled the redhead. “Did I forget the whole ‘introducing myself’
thing again? Man, Ken’s going to be mad at me for scaring another freshman.
I’m Chantal Wheelwright, I’m a second year and I live right next door to you.”
She paused momentarily. “So, are you more fun than a rock?”
Hero laughed. “You really don’t have much of an attention span.”
“Not as such,” said Chantal brightly.
“I’m Hero. Hero Doran.”
“Wow. Hi, Hero! Welcome to Belladonna Tech! You have a really pretty
“It’s from a Greek myth,” said a male voice behind Hero.
Hero turned and nearly smacked straight into the very handsome young man
who’d walked out of the lounge. He caught her as she stumbled.
“Easy. A tackle from Chantal is something nobody escapes lightly.”
Chantal pouted. “Sorry, Ken. But I wanted to know if she was more fun than a
rock, see, because Marilyn…”
“Okay, Chantal, we get the point.” He turned his attention back to Hero. “I’m
Kendrick Rosenberg, by the way. Second-year history major.”
“Hero Doran.” They shook hands. Hero tried to ignore how warm and strong
his grasp was.
Get a grip, Hero, she scolded herself.
“So what was that about Hero being a myth?” asked Chantal, bouncing up and
down a bit.
“Named after a myth, Chantal. Hero and Leander, am I right?”
Hero smiled. “Actually, no. I think my parents named me after a character
from Much Ado About Nothing. It’s kind of a family tradition to be named
after Shakespearian characters; my siblings and I are all named after some
character or other.”
“I’m technically correct. Shakespeare was really into Greek myths and such.”
“Yes, well, as fascinating as Greek literature is,” interrupted Chantal, clearly
piqued at being ignored for a whole thirty seconds, “we have to be getting
“I need to show Hero around campus. There’s the lecture halls, and the
library, and there’s this little café across from the gym where you can sit and
watch all the guys work out…”
Hero grinned helplessly as Chantal tugged firmly on her arm. “I get the feeling
I’ve been accepted.”
“More like drafted,” Kendrick chuckled as Chantal towed Hero away,
chattering about Marilyn and Hero’s ‘awesome’ ears and the professors and
the quality of the dormitory food.
He watched Hero’s retreating back, and murmured to himself quietly,
“‘Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?’”
“Oh, Ken and I’ve known each other forever. Since elementary school. Oh, I
could tell you such a long and sordid tale about that,” said Chantal easily,
keeping one eye on the gym across the street from the little café.
“I can’t imagine anything to do with you being sordid,” said Hero playfully,
shifting her legs to avoid Chantal’s kick under the table. Though it had been a
few short hours, Hero felt she’d known Chantal for an awfully long time. She
had the sneaking suspicion that they were already friends.
“You want the story or not?”
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist.”
“Right. Well, Ken and I met when my parents, in their infinite wisdom,
decided to send me to private school halfway through fourth grade.” Chantal
grinned wryly. “Red hair plus snooty private school kids equals instant
“Then Ken came along and stepped all over a bunch of older kids who’d
decided it was ‘Pick On Chantal’ day. He was kinda stuck with me after that.”
Hero laughed. “That sounds oddly familiar.”
“Hey, move in next to me, you’re trapped for life. Anyway, we’ve been best
buds ever since. I even repaid the favour for him about a year ago; this girl
he’d been seeing managed to get him in with a really dodgy crowd. Lucky he
had me to drag him out by the ear.”
“Uh, so you and Kendrick aren’t an item?” asked Hero, trying to sound
nonchalant and failing. Chantal saw straight through her anyway.
“Ooh, someone’s got an insta-crush.”
“I do not! I was just curious.”
“Sure, and I’m a reverse vampire who feeds only on candy.”
“All right, I think he’s attractive. That hardly means I’m gonna marry the guy.
I just met him, and you, five minutes ago.”
Chantal chuckled. “That you did. Anyways, me and Ken were never an item
and never will be. He’s more like a big brother to me. He’s not my type, I’m
not his, and we’re too happy being best buds to mess things up with
“What is his type, then?” asked Hero.
Chantal grinned wickedly. “I believe he likes blondes.”
“Get out! You’re just messing with me now.”
“You’ll never know, will you? Okay, subject change time!” giggled Chantal as
Hero shot her a death glare. “You can tell me all about yourself. You’re from
“Picked the accent, huh?”
“Yup. So, land of pixies, elves and family feuds. What was it like growing up
with all that going on?”
“Pretty uneventful,” said Hero evasively. “There’s not actually a lot to tell;
what there is to tell is fairly short.”
“Well,” said Chantal, scooting her chair backwards to stand up, “We have a
fairly short and uneventful walk back to the dorms ahead of us. You can tell
me on the way.”
Hero followed suit. “Sure. Should I start with ‘Once upon a time’?”
“Of course you should. All the best stories start with that.”
She quickly grew to love Belladonna Tech and its mad crush of people. Her
dorm-mates were all cheerful and friendly enough, happy to start group study
sessions or chat about classes.
Hero had definitely found a friend in Chantal, though. Chantal was a kindred
spirit, always cheerful and ready with some new scheme that involved spying
on members of the male sex or avoiding class. She was like a hurricane; once
she was headed your way you were doomed, and when left in her wake you
were too dazed to see straight.
Even though Chantal exhausted her, Hero was glad to have someone so loyal
and extroverted as a friend.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that hanging out with Chantal meant hanging out with
Kendrick and Hero had been casually flirting with each other ever since they’d
met. It was nothing serious, but the two continued to do the dance and avoid
getting in too deep.
Chantal thought it was fabulous, and tried her best to orchestrate the
relationship from the sidelines.
She’d often host group study sessions in her room, only to disappear ten
minutes later with some lame excuse about a library book or needing to get
some takeaway coffee. More often than not Hero and Kendrick would find her
three hours later in the cafeteria, having an animated discussion about
penguin breeding habits with the Biology major who lived downstairs.
After some deliberation, Hero finally chose her major: Physics. As ironic as it
seemed, Hero was fascinated with the way that objects were supposed to
move. Her hope was that learning Physics would enable her to harness her
own power, and teach her what her limits were.
After much prodding from Kendrick and Hero, Chantal also chose her major.
Unsurprisingly, she chose Drama, and threw herself with as much energy as
she possessed into the annual musical.
That was a frightening amount of energy.
“Hey, Hero? You know how you’re my bestest friend in the whole wide world?”
Hero sighed inwardly. Chantal was never this obvious unless she wanted
“What do you want, Chantal?”
“Who says I want anything? Can’t I just express my platonic love for you
without an ulterior motive?”
“Not when you’re Chantal Wheelwright.”
Chantal grinned. “Okay, I’m predictable. Life would be so dull without me,
“Sure would be,” laughed Hero. “Now, the favour you wanted?”
“Right, right. There’s this bar opening up in the city, and my favourite band is
“Which favourite band is this?”
“Uh, Bones to Ashes. They’re good,” she said hopefully. “You could come with
“Sure, I’ll come. We can make a girls’ night out of it.”
Chantal grinned. “Who said it was just us going? I’ve already invited Ken and
this guy from Landgraab Memorial Dorms who’s totally into me…”
“Yup. And you’ve already said yes; there’s no way you’re backing out now,
“You’re pretty devious, Chantal.”
“Me? Never.” Chantal held up her hands in mock innocence. “I’m just careful
with the truth. C’mon, we have to go shopping.”
“We have to what now?”
“Well, we can’t go clubbing without new clothes! You and me are gonna knock
‘em dead, Hero.”
“D’you think we’ve been to enough stores yet?”
Chantal’s search for the ‘perfect’ clubbing outfits had dragged them through
what felt to Hero like all of the clothes shops in Belladonna Cove. She’d tried
on a myriad of dresses, skirts, shirts and jeans and Chantal was still not
“Every girl likes shopping! It’s, whaddayacallit, retail therapy. Plus, we have
to not look like fashion rejects when we go to the opening.”
Something in Chantal’s words tugged at Hero’s heart. She bit her lip.
“What?” asked Chantal in alarm. “What did I say? I didn’t imply we actually
are fashion rejects, did I?”
“No, no. It’s just…you reminded me of my sister Portia. She was always the
most stylish of all five of us, and she used to make sure my brother always had
Chantal nodded sympathetically. “You miss your family, huh?”
“Yeah. I do. But I made my choice, and they’d understand. I think.”
Chantal tilted her head. “Y’know, sometimes you’re a walking riddle, Hero.”
Hero realized what she’d almost let slip. “Uh, that’s another tale for another
time, I think. Anyway, we still have three whole clothes shops to ransack
before you go with the hot pink lycra from the last store.”
“Ooh, you’re right! Super-Shopper Chantal is here to save the day…hang on.
What was wrong with the lycra?”
“It clashed with your hair.”
“Oh, I guess you’re right. Okay, let’s get to it.”
Chantal immediately dove for the nearest clothes rack and began shuffling
through it at alarming speed. Hero wandered off, looking interestedly at a few
items and flipping through a few racks of her own before she heard Chantal’s
“Ooh! Hero! Look, I found them!”
Chantal emerged triumphantly from a second clothes rack, brandishing two
hangers with distressingly small amounts of actual cloth on them.
“Come on! This one’s for you,” she said, flinging something blue and white
and revealing at Hero, “and this one’s for me.”
Resigned, Hero replaced a shirt she’d been contemplating and followed
Chantal into the changing rooms.
Chantal stepped out first, and did a little twirl in front of the mirror, admiring
her somewhat daring outfit.
“Perfect,” she said to herself.
“Come on out, Hero! I have to see if it suits you! It should, because I am
awesome, but it never hurts to check.”
Hero grimaced behind the curtain. “Is this thing actually designed to leave
anything to the imagination?”
“Hell no! It’s designed to show the many males tonight exactly what they
can’t have. Though,” she said thoughtfully, “that might not be true in
“Drop it, Chantal.” Hero took a breath and stepped out.
Hero surveyed herself in the mirror, and smiled slightly. The outfit was
revealing, but it did look good on her.
“What did I tell you?” Chantal looked slightly smug. “You look awesome.
Kendrick’s jaw will hit the floor when he gets a load of you.”
Hero paid for the outfits, and also picked up some earrings. Chantal waited
impatiently and then dragged Hero out, babbling about needing professional
makeup for a night such as this. By now, Hero was resigned to following
Chantal’s lead, and went along willingly.
She was a little reluctant to leave herself at the mercy of a stylist who
preferred puffy aqua jackets, but was pleasantly surprised with the way the
slightly different makeup and jewellery looked.
Chantal didn’t change her hair, but got her nose pierced and added a clip-on
lip ring, as well as more dramatic makeup. (Not that more dramatic makeup
was easy to come by…)
“We’re done here, Hero! Let’s go bowl ‘em over!”
Hero had to hand it to Chantal; the girl sure knew how to pick a club. It was
busy without being impossible to move, and the band wasn’t half bad. Sure, it
was mostly rave stuff, but she could handle rave music.
Hero, Kendrick and Chantal had been sitting at the bar for about fifteen
minutes, listening to the music and waiting for Chantal’s date. Hero spent the
time reassuring Chantal and trying not to notice exactly how close she was to
“Guys, I don’t think he’s gonna show. Why don’t you go dance, it makes no
sense for all of us to be miserable.”
“Maybe he got stuck in traffic?” suggested Kendrick.
“Or maybe he’s an ass and just stood me up. Go on, I’ll be fine.”
“We can wait.”
Chantal sighed. “Well, I can’t. I’m gonna go start a smustle-off. Something
good oughta come out of this mess.”
True to her word, Chantal hopped off her barstool and threw herself into the
crowd, dancing enthusiastically. In five minutes she had half the dance floor
occupied with smustling.
Hero stole Chantal’s seat and turned to face Kendrick. “Sooo… what do you
think of the place?”
“Bit heavy on the retro and the blue colour scheme, but the music’s okay.
Actually, knowing Chantal I was expecting death thrash or heavy metal.”
Hero giggled. “Or noise rock.”
“Well, since it’s not any of those, do you want to dance?”
Hero glanced at him sideways. “Is it possible to dance to this sort of thing?”
“We could find out.” Kendrick’s easy smile was firmly in place, but he was
dead serious under the flippancy.
“Sure, then. Why not?”
Just as Hero and Kendrick got to the floor, the current song ended and the
lead singer spoke into the mic.
“Okay, guys and girls, here’s a nice slow one for those of you who want to do
nice slow dancing. This one’s called Sort of Revolution.”
Kendrick took Hero’s hand. “Still want to do this?”
“I’ve wanted to dance with you for a long time,” said Hero, wincing slightly at
the corny line.
We’ve come so far, it feels so real
All this time that we’ve waited for it
And who we are, and where we’re going to
All this time, preparing for it
Come so far…
Come so far
So let me know when we get there
If we get there
Let me know when we get there
If we get there
In the dark, it feels so real
And all this time, we’ve been sleeping on it
And who we are, and what we’re going through
All this time spent saving for it
Come so far…
Come so far
So let me know when we get there
If we get there
Let me know when we get there
If we get there
Come so far, there’s no going back
All this time, we’ve been running from it
And where we are, and what we’re going to
We’ll organize a sort of revolution
We’ll organize a sort of revolution.
(Lyrics from Sort of Revolution by Fink.)
“Let’s get out of here,” said Kendrick huskily as they broke apart.
“What about Chantal?”
“Well I don’t think she’ll care since she’s been trying to set us up since day
“I think Chantal’s quite happy where she is.”
Hand in hand, Kendrick and Hero walked out of the club into the warm
Hero and Kendrick stood outside the dorm, not really wanting to go inside
“It’s a pity the roof’s blocked off,” mused Kendrick. “There used to be stairs,
but after some freshman fell off and broke a few bones, nobody’s been
allowed up there.”
Hero considered this, then whispered in Kendrick’s ear. “I know a way up
there, but you have to promise not to freak out.”
Kendrick chuckled. “This better not involve climbing.”
“Not at all.”
Hero took a deep breath and started lifting herself and Kendrick off the
“Whoa!” Kendrick yelped as he left the ground.
“Shh! You want the whole dorm to hear you and come out? Stop moving,
you’re making it harder for me.”
“Did I know you could do this?” gasped Kendrick.
Hero landed gracefully on the roof, and tried her hardest to set Kendrick down
gently. However, he was not a natural flier and hit the roof hard.
“If you’d relaxed, that would have been a lot easier,” pointed out Hero.
“Well, considering I just got lifted off the ground by some magical power you
have, that was relaxed.” Kendrick dusted himself off and smiled ruefully at
For a while, Kendrick and Hero watched the stars, making absurd pictures in
the constellations and giggling like children.
“That one looks like a moose on skis.”
“Oh yeah! It does too! How about the one over there that’s like a cat doing a
“No way is that a cat. It’s clearly a mongoose.”
“Of course it’s a mongoose. Because all mongeese have pointy ears.”
“The plural of mongoose is mongooses.”
“Is not. The plural of goose is not gooses.”
“They’re completely different animals!” Hero giggled as Kendrick tickled her.
“No fair! You can’t win an argument by doing that!”
Eventually, the conversation turned to a more serious subject.
“Tell me more about yourself. There’s a whole lot I don’t know about you…
well, that was made kind of obvious by the whole levitation thing.”
“Telekinesis. I’ve been able to do that since I was a toddler. Gave my parents
a scare when I started flying around the nursery.”
“You must have fairly unusual parents.”
“That’s not even half of it.”
So Hero told him everything. Everything her parents had told her about their
history, from the time Carli Doran had started at Sim State. She even told him
about the dimensional travel and the loss of contact with her family.
“…and then I got tackled by Chantal, and you know the story from there.”
Kendrick looked vaguely baffled, but smiled as Hero’s story came to a close.
“Wow. That’s a lot of history for one girl.”
“Tell me about it.”
“And yes, I do know how the story goes from there; you met a tall, dark
stranger who fell in love with you the second he saw you.”
“Nope. I couldn’t stop looking at you. You’re just so beautiful, and smart, and
a constant enigma on top of all that.”
“Love at first sight only happens in the movies, Kendrick.”
“Are you serious? Love at first sight happens all the time! History is full of it.”
Kendrick kissed Hero lightly on the nose.
“Thus speaketh the History major.”
“Well, yes, but it’s everywhere. Shakespeare wrote about it; it’s in Les
Miserables... Even The Simpsons has it.”
Hero chuckled. “Because The Simpsons is an accurate portrait of real life.”
“We’d better be getting back soon. It’s almost 2.”
Hero blinked. “Seriously? Wow.”
Kendrick smiled warmly. “Ever get the feeling time’s standing still? I get that
when I’m with you.”
“Oh, you romantic.”
“Isn’t that the sort of romantic slush women go gooey over?” Kendrick said
“We prefer it if you just act like yourself. It makes things a whole lot less
complicated.” Hero disentangled herself from Kendrick and stood up
awkwardly. “Air Hero flight 8329 is now departing. Please ensure your tray
table is in the upright and locked position, and fasten your seatbelt.”
“I wish you’d told me about the seatbelts earlier,” quipped Kendrick.
“Before we go…” Kendrick wrapped his arms around Hero and kissed her
tenderly. Hero returned the kiss, feeling that her heart might just burst with
Hero hugged Kendrick once they were off the roof and in front of her room. “I
had a really good time tonight.”
“Me too. You might start regretting things when Chantal starts interrogating
you in the morning. That girl is unstoppable.”
Hero grimaced. “I look forward to it. Goodnight, Kendrick.”
“Goodnight, Hero. Or is it technically good morning?”
“I don’t think it matters.” Hero turned and unlocked her room, shooting
Kendrick a grin as she closed the door behind her.
Kendrick stood and looked at the door for another minute, expression