"If she's not trying, then why is she even coming to school?"

Despite the way the conversation sounded, they were talking to me. They were just pretending to talk to one another. It was both calculating in how they were managing plausible deniability while at the same time they were acting totally juvenile by pretending I wasn't there.


I could do one better. Their immature comments had long lost any appeal in even assessing how pathetic they were. I was stuck too. Emma, Madison and Sophia had crowded me into a corner with six other girls backing them up. If I tried to squeeze past them, they pushed or elbowed me back. I could get past them, but they weren't worth it. They were just words, after all. And if I wanted, I didn't even have to hear them

In fact ...

I reached out with my thoughts, made an adjustment to the space around me, just as Emma, who had been quiet for the most part, a slight smile on her face, stepped forward.

Her lips moved, sure sign that she was saying something, but the sounds never reached my ears. I could still hear the movement of people up and down the hall, but the girls around me, nothing they said reached my ears. They could hear one another, but all it appeared to me was that they were moving their mouths and pretending to speak.

Emma's expression never wavered as I turned fully from the window. Her smile, though, did widen as she clearly thought whatever she had said had produced an impact. I wondered what it was she had said. Then decided I didn't care. Whatever reason had prompted this change in her, nothing she did could touch me now. Nothing anyone did.

The moment stretched out and I continued to merely stare at her, unspeaking. Apparently my unblinking stare seemed to unsettle them as they glanced among each other. Expressions lit with gleeful malice and their mouths began moving again. More immature insults, I guessed. Maybe I should look into learning lip reading so I could acquire context, or turn off what I had done. But that would defeat the purpose of cutting off the flow of their speech to my ears, so no.

Growing bored with the entire affair, I shouldered my bag and turned, pushing my way past them. I was sure they thought it was retreating, but I didn't care. They couldn't touch me.

I didn't have to look to know that one of them, probably Sophia, moved to tangle my feet, using the grouping of the others to hide her actions. The field around me compensated and her attempt to trip me was halted as the movement of one of my tormentors drew her into the path of Sophia's attempt. There was a moment of panicked flailing and I slipped through the opening provided.

I didn't once look back to see what the results were, but from the other sounds that I could pick up, a few of the rowdier boys laughed at the scene, the ones who found everyone's misfortune funny.

Class was pointless to go to for the rest of the day. I was sure they would try something else in retaliation, blaming me, rightfully, even if they didn't know it, for the embarrassment of falling down. It wasn't anything I couldn't deal with, but the aggravation of having to avoid them, or adjust things was just that, aggravation. Better to just go home. Or to the library. Or anywhere. I could get a better handle on what I could do.

There was some sort of fight going on up ahead. A conflict between parahumans? I wondered at it, then shrugged. It wasn't as if anything happening there could bother me. I slipped my hands into my pockets and kept walking. One was a mass of blades in the vague shape of a wolf. Hookwolf, I thought. One of the Empire Eighty-Eight. The other was oriental, I thought, who kept appearing and disappearing, leaving behind duplicates of himself that usually exploded if Hookwolf didn't tear into them first.

I kept walking even as their conflict, whatever the reasons for it, continued to tear up the street. Hookwolf mauled a clone, interrupting its attempt to detonate a grenade, even as more clones appeared, each popping the pins on the grenades they held.

The explosion was visually quite stunning, I had to admit, as I consciously adjusted my field, muting the noise and dampening the light and heat so that they could not hurt me. The debris thrown out from the explosion scattered around me, leaving a perfectly formed space where nothing was touched.

Another adjustment and the air was cleared around me as well, the sense of smoke and ash fading from my perception. I stood still for a moment and then released a sigh. I tapped my foot on the ground once.
The smoke billowed upward and away, the fires from the explosions winked out. Anything that had been heated to an unnatural degree returned to its normal temperature. At the epicenter of the blast, his blades of metal still tinged red from the heat, was Hookwolf. Oni Lee was nowhere in evidence.

I said nothing as the figure of blades and metal shifted. I couldn't see his face, but I knew he was staring at me. After a moment, I shrugged and kept walking, idly shifting the debris that littered the sidewalk out of my way with my field. Somewhere distant, I could hear the approach of sirens. The PRT on its way, I assumed. Nothing to do with me, though. None of them could touch me.