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Aberrant: 200X - Higher Considerations [Complete]


z-Alexis Layton

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April 19, 2008, just after The Cleveland Fly in and Bake

The plane was a symbol of luxury and extravegence, but to the dark-haired nova leading Daniel into its depths, it was clearly nothing unusual. Her overshirt morphed into her undershirt, becoming a light cotton shirt with short sleeves. Long, sleek and pale white on the outside, it was soft and comfortable inside, with plush carpeting and a pleasing color scheme. All the seats were done in a pale brown leather that was softer than it looked. A tasteful logo for Layton Biotech decorated the front of the plane, near the doors.

The chairs in the back section were deep and comfortable, and there was plenty of leg room. There was also enough open space to exercise comfortably between the front and back section, though Daniel could see that the floor had sunken attachements so that seats could be added, if necessary.

Alexis sat in one of the seats, dropping with casual grace into the chair. A flight attendent hovered quietly, asking Daniel to buckle up until they were in the air - safety reasons - and offering his choice of drinks. Whatever he asks for will be brought to him once they're in the air.

Take-off happened very quickly; once the stewardness made sure the two novas were buckled in, the plane taxied to the end of the runway. Within fifteen minutes, they were propelling forward, and within half and hour, the stewardess brought them their drinks.

Once the belts were off, Alexis stretched her legs out before her, clasped her hands over her stomach and said, "So, to talk." She seemed less comfortable, now that she was here. "We had been discussing your plans, though we covered that... and we discussed our pasts, obliquely..." You're the one who wanted to talk to him, remember, opening up about Akil? "If I can be blunt, were you with that blonde girl who left with the Elite? You arrived with her."

Way to make it all about him, Alexis.

I'm working on it.

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The plane was like what you would expect Donald Trump to fly around in, of course the Layton's were probably at least as rich as Trump if not more so. Way out of Daniel's league. For now. Daniel could tell that Alexis was not so comfortable now that she was back in familiar surroundings. That was a shame, a person must not live a very happy life if they are less comfortable at home than with strangers. Not that his own life was going to be all that comfortable now that he was known to be a nova.

If she were going to open up to him so that they could become friends he needed to put her more at ease, make her think about something other than her surroundings.

"Well, yeah, we arrived together, but not 'Together'. She came to visit me before I got out of the hospital and we made the flight up to Cleveland together. I'm worried about her, and yeah seeing her throw herself at two other guys with me standing right there was a bit of a knife to the heart even if it shouldn't have been. I guess really it hurts my pride more than it does my feelings. I thought she was behaving that way towards me out of guilt since she kinda cheated on her boyfriend with me a little, but I guess that wasn't the reason." After he said it he realized it wasn't really the smartest thing to have said and tried to do a little digging, "Uh, it wasn't anything, you know, major, we just kissed is all."

Daniel decided to close his mouth before he did any more damage, and just waited to see what Alexis' reaction would be. He wanted to just blurt right out and ask what had made her so walled off, but she would have to make a hole in that wall herself, so for now he would wait for an opening.

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Alexis smiled a little, a distant, unsure curve of her lips. Male pride, always fun to have to deal with, she mused, just as much for the others around the male as the male himself. For just a second, she considered the strange differences between the genders.

He's cute, though not necessarily in the way that would make Daniel happy. He's young, and to Alexis' mind, he's way too young for her. After all, he was a sophmore in high school, and she was in her first year of college. Plus, he hadn't shown the best judgement in people, but Alexis felt that he was also a good kid, just a little young. Maybe in a few years. No, Alexis, when she thinks, he's cute, she's putting him in the same category as a puppy - harmless and sweet.

"I'm glad to hear you didn't become too entangled with her," Alexis said honestly. "She seems really unstable and involved in dangerous games. Of course, the fact that she was willing to help make your... friend jealous was an early indication of her character."

Alexis kicked off her shoes and pressed her feet to the carpet, letting the fibers give her the equavilant of a massage. After a moment, she stopped and shifted, curling her legs underneath her. She was starting to look more relaxed, though her emotions were still unsettled.

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"Yeah, I think she is pretty unstable." Daniel thought Alexis had some problems of her own, but luckily they seemed to be normal emotional issues not mental instability. He was curious about what had caused her to build such a wall. It seemed to be more than just the typical dislike of someone wanting to shield themselves and be private. There was something of a deer ready for flight to Alexis.

"So what about you? You mentioned some things at the fly-in but didn't want to talk there. One thing you told me was that if I was lucky I would heal enough to try again." He didn't move, not even to lean a little closer to better hear her answer. Even small movements might make her bolt when paired with a question like that. His expression was as open and sincere reflecting that he really cared about the answer, but not demanding anything. If she felt like peaking over her wall he'd just given her the opportunity. If it weren't for the fact that he had been a good listener even before eruption he might suspect that it had something to do with being a nova. People just seemed to open up to him when they wouldn't to others.

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Alexis went very still for a moment, her eyes focusing on the darkening sky through the plane's window. Daniel wasn't sure if she was going to say anything. She moved suddenly, lifting a cover on the arm of her chair and revealing some buttons. She hit one, and the lights dimmed sharply. It was still bright enough to see, but Daniel got the sense that she wanted something concealing her.

"I wasn't... I don't consider myself that lucky," Alexis said softly. The faint lighting illuminated part of face, leaving most of it in shadow, but the empath didn't need to read her face to know what she was feeling. She was distressed and nervous; along with fear. It was hard to say what she was afraid of - surely not him?

"My first relationship was magical. It was a fairy-tale love, full of romance - the glance across the room... the longing stares full of desire." She laughed, her sorrow turning it into a dark thing. "He was... much older than me, just coming to the tail end of his divorce. I thought it was wonderful; I thought we'd hide things until we could be married. I believed in him, I believed in our love."

Her voice was thick with pain as she continued. "And then one day he accused me of being unfaithful to him, and he broke it off," she said. "I don't know why - I hadn't done anything. But he was done with me. The end."

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Daniel nodded, and just sat there quietly for a moment. "I can't imagine what that's like. I loved Alice, but I know I haven't really experienced all that much yet. Besides, all the time that she was treating me badly I knew that a lot of it was just physical attraction on my part." He gave her a sad smile, "I can admit that to myself now. At the time it was just a small voice in the back of my head telling me that the situation was wrong."

He hoped it wouldn't be too much too soon, "You said 'first'. Have you met anyone since? I don't want to rub salt in an open wound, so if it is too painful we don't have to talk about it."

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"I've tried to date," Alexis said, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. "It goes about the same; I either start to like them, and I pull away from them, or I don't like them, and I use them for what they can give me, and I drop them. It's... comfortable."

None of this was a surprise to her; she'd worked it out a long time ago. She knew her failings, and she was far too happy with the way her life worked to actually change it. Sometimes, like now, when she had to explain it, did she feel like maybe she'd be better off as a happier, warmer person. But that would mean exposing herself to pain, and honestly, she was happier without pain.

"Do you think you'll listen to your voice, next time?" she asked softly. She needed to turn the subject back to him, for a time.

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"About Alice? Definitely. I still care for her, but I know her too well, she's not the person for me."

He knew himself well enough to know that the little voice could get really hard to hear under the right circumstances. "About Jael? I doubt I'll be having much to do with her in the future, and with her it is more than just a little voice. She's more than a little scary. Not because of the claws or anything, just because she is so unpredictable and...and... I don't know how else to describe it. Her mood can change completely between one heartbeat and the next, it's creepy." He shuddered slightly remembering how he'd felt her flash from one extreme to a flat emptiness in less time that it took him to take a breath. Definitely dangerously unstable, but he hoped she would be ok.

"As for other girls, well, there aren't any on the horizon, but if there were, I think I'd show a little better judgment and listen to what my gut is telling me." He thought about it for a second and added, "I don't think I really want to get into any relationships right now. So many things are changing in my life. I think the first thing I am going to do when I get home is talk to my school about graduating in May. I'm pretty sure I can ace all the exams needed for the Juniors and Seniors. I could have aced all the sophomore classes months ago."

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Alexis listened, nodding occassionally as appropriate. When Daniel mentioned Jael's mood swings, Alexis nodded a little more fervently. "Something is very wrong with that girl, and I'm scared that she's a nova. And she has claws, you say? Charming."

She smiled a little wistfully when Daniel mentioned his accelerated class schedule. "There's no point in staying in school for longer than you have to," Alexis said, still smiling. "I wish that I had gotten that when I erupted; I would love to be super-smart." She chuckled. "Kinda puts the nail in the coffin of the theory that eruption follows our wish-fulfillments, right?"

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Daniel chuckled at that last statement. "I don't know. I think I pretty much got most of what was in my head when I erupted. I was thinking at the time that I never wanted to be treated that way by Alice or any other girl again, and I erupted such that I became physically, mentally and socially better than I was. Except for Strength I didn't get any nova level gifts, but over all I got a lot more 'attractive'. Not exactly wish fulfillment, but definitely what was in my head at that moment. If I'd known I was erupting, I'm sure I would have made my three wishes and seen what the quantum genie would have given me."

He smiled for a second then added, "Oh, and sadly, I'm not nova smart, just Einstein smart. I took a couple IQ tests online and I'm still within what is considered the normal human range, just happen to be way off at the thin edge of the bell curve." He hoped that didn't sound too much like bragging. "My current abilities include, flying, super strength, and being able to take a serious beating and survive."

"So, what about you, what did the quantum Genie give you? If that's not too personal to ask."

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Alexis smiled at the term "quantum genie." It certainly was important. "Well, I erupted when a soriority sister came after me with a tire iron for 'stealing her man,'" Alexis said, her voice filled with a touch of humor. "Looking back, it was very silly; I'm not sure now that she was going to hurt me or not. But at the time, I was convinced that she was.

"So I erupted with the tools to hurt her back," Alexis continued. "Flight, which you've seen, and a field of energy which she couldn't bash through. And I got the ability to make blasts of energy from nothing. They're pretty damaging. Anyway, I chased her back to the main part of the party, herding her with the bolts and generally acting like a complete bitch." Alexis grinned, and Daniel felt some vage unease in her when she finished, "Fortunately, I ran out of juice before anyone was seriously hurt."

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Daniel couldn't help but laugh at the image Alexis' description brought to mind, after a moment he stopped, and said smiling, "I'm sorry, but that was funny. I just have this image in my mind of you chasing this sorority girl through some fancy house like a woman chasing a chicken through the yard with a broom trying to herd it to the chicken coop." He chuckled one last time then said, "Those are some handy powers though. You don't ever have to worry about carrying a gun for protection or have to rely on bodyguards like a lot of people in your position would. It's just a shame those powers don't protect against heartbreak. Don't know of any powers that do that."

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"It isn't a matter of powers for that," Alexis said simply, sobering as the conversation returned to heartbreak. "If you don't become attached to someone, then you can't get hurt. If you screen out those who are inappropriate or unsuitable for your emotional energy, then you save yourself a lot of pain."

Alexis glanced down at her hands, smiling ruefully. "Sounds awful, doesn't it? But... it works."

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"Oh yeah, it works alright. Only two problems. First, it becomes a reflex, and you just reject people out of habit and out of fear of getting close instead of just weeding out the ones that don't make the cut. Second, the cost to you is pretty high, you sacrifice happiness for the sake of avoiding pain." Seeing the reaction forming, he added, "No, I don't know from personal experience, but I have known people who chose that path. I really hope you can find someone to try again with someday. Just don't build your walls so high that you can't see over the top." He smiled sadly and hoped that wasn't being too direct and offensive. It was the honest truth though. He'd seen a couple people like that back home and they weren't happy people.

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Aren't you so worldly, at sixteen? Alexis' face didn't change much, but her emotions clamped down, simmering into anger. Despite stiffening almost imperceptibly, her voice was fairly normal as she said, "I still let people in, all the time," Alexis said with a smile. "Just not men, not unless they are something incredibly special."
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Daniel felt the brick being slammed back into place in the wall. So much for her opening up. Guess that last bit was just a touch too personal. "Sorry. Didn't mean to offend, just sharing what I've seen, and I wouldn't want to see you turn into one of those people, they really aren't happy." He sighed and sat back in his chair. "People tend to talk to me and open up when they wouldn't to others. It's not a nova thing, I've just always been a good listener. I'm just not always so good at keeping my advice to myself." He gave her a rueful smile that said this was definitely one of those times.

Hoping to change the subject and get onto something that would ease her anger a bit he said, "So maybe you can give me some advice... I need to figure out a college to go to in the fall. Any recommendations? I'm not really about the piece of paper, as much as about the knowledge I can get. I want to start out with a business degree so I can manage my own affairs."

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"Well," Alexis said softly, "while I'd normally advise Harvard, it doesn't have a business program. It has economics, which is not the same thing. Hang on." She got a laptop out of a drawer under the seat and opened it. After a moment, she said, "According to Business Week, the best undergraduate school for business is University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Number two is University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce, while Notre Dame is third."

Alexis looked up at him. "That said, if you wanted to attend Harvard anyway, or any specific school because of the area, or the prestige with their name, you don't need an undergraduate in Business. An MBA will still teach you what you need to know." She smiled. "The world is open to you."

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Daniel frowned, "Harvard has an MBA? What's the difference between MBA and a regular undergraduate degree?" He adds, "And I guess those other schools are good, but I've never heard of them. Harvard is a name everyone knows, not that I have to go there or anything. Just saying, that it's one I've heard of."

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"Well, my father explained it to me like this," Alexis said, "an undergraduate degree is just that... your study in the whatever field you like. And an MBA doesn't mean that you need a business undergrad - you just need an undergrad degree because they'll teach you whatever you need. Say you get a science degree for your undergrad. You can... work in a lab as a tech, get an Education degree and teach... any number of things. Say you add an MBA. Suddenly, you're qualified to operate both sides of the science company. You know your way around a lab, and you can operate a business."

Alexis shifted slightly, and the laptop slid off her lap to thump to the floor. She ignored that as she continued, "There are some roles in any company that can only be filled by an MBA, so if you have one, you can scale the corporate ladder easier. It makes you more marketable to most large companies. Also, any masters implies a higher level of dedication and looks better to an employer." She paused, her expression thoughtful. "You don't need that to manage your finances. If you want to look better to an employer, then sure, go for it."

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"Hmm... true. I don't have to even have a degree I suppose. Like I said it's really about having the knowledge not the piece of paper. Maybe I should do my undergrad on one of the online universities? There are a lot of those now and some are even real schools." Daniel glanced down at the laptop that had fallen to the floor. Must be nice to have the kind of money where you would allow an expensive laptop just hit the floor like that without even noticing.

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"You can hire an accountant, once you have your record deal," Alexis said. "You really don't need a degree, not unless you want one, or you have plans to do something besides sing. You mentioned wanting a degree in case the music doesn't work, but are you sure you want to do business? You have the ability to do anything you want, Daniel. Don't do what's 'smart.' Do what's best for you, and that is what is smart."

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"I just don't want to be screwed over by some employee that thinks they can pull a fast one with my money because I don't know how to manage it myself. I might not manage my own afairs, but I want to know what I'm doing. For what I want to do Art or Psychology both might be good as well. I could always get three degrees." He smiled and said it with confidence and innocence.

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Alexis nodded, keeping her expression sincere and not derogatory. "Three degrees is a lot of work, not all of it available to test out of." She stood up and repositioned herself, crossing her legs. "I understand the Business and the Art degree, but why Psychology? I understand that field requires advanced degrees."

Alexis was a bit blunt, but obviously interested in the dreams and plans of the young man with her.

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Daniel nodded in turn, "Yeah, I wouldn't expect to test out of much more than the basics in college. Colleges are all about making money and they don't make it if you don't take classes." He smiled, "As for Psychology, well, that would be to better understand people. Business to manage my own affairs, Art and Music to enrich my own experience so that I can make better music and psychology to better understand people and their motivations. The three together could give me a leg up on the competition." He grinned. "Besides, even without being able to test out of any upper level classes, I can probably complete three in the time it takes others to complete one." Daniel blushed when the thought about how arrogant that must sound. He really wasn't nova level smart or anything, but even before eruption he'd liked learning things. Finally he just shrugged, "I don't know, maybe I'll just get a library card and forget about the degrees."

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Alexis hesitated for a long moment before she said, "It's really about what you want to do. You can become or do anything, if you believe and set your mind to it." She tilted her head. "I suggest you take the summer to look at your options. Talk to people. Ask around. You're only sixteen. You shouldn't be deciding your life right now."

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Daniel chuckled, "You're right. It'll probably take a while to get things going on the music scene anyway, and I need to work on my presence and stuff. Now if only I could figure out how other nova get to be so good looking and likable...." He laughed at that. "So what are the good sights to see in New York?"

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With a smile and a lot more ease, Alexis began to tell him about what he could see in her city. The rest of the short flight passed in comfort and easy conversation. The stewardess left them alone unless called until they were due to land. Then she made sure they were secured.

Once they were on the ground, Alexis offered a firm handshake to the young man. The polite pleasantries were exchanged and the two novas parted ways, friends.

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