CHAPTER 1: AWAKENING
The incessant, albeit muted, beeping of hospital machinery is what finally roused Kyoko. She squinted her eyes against the bright overhead lights, seemingly magnified by the sterile white walls and ceiling surrounding them. Looking downward, she saw her right arm stretched out beside her above the thin, white blanket that covered her; a clear tube spiraled off from where it was attached to her hand via tape and needle. Her other hand came up from under the blanket, where it was tucked tightly beside her, to scratch at her neck and she felt a couple small patches adhered along one side. Connected to these patches appeared to be thin wires that were hooked up to a machine beside the bed that quietly displayed a variety of numbers in colorful, blinking lights.
She smelled sharp scent of disinfectant mingled in with another, almost cloyingly sweet odor. Wrinkling her nose, she frowned. How she hated the smell of hospitals; it always brought back memories she preferred to forget. The door to her room opened and a nurse walked in, looking at her curiously. He set about checking to ensure the random accessories they attached to her body were still in place and operational.
"How are you feeling?" he asked as his hands continued to work.
"Fine, I think," she said with an unsure voice. "What—"
"Don't worry," he cut her off, anticipating her question. "A doctor and an Academy Rep will be in here shortly to explain everything to you."
Kyoko blinked and stared dumbly at the man whose attention was fully focused on adjusting the speed of the liquid dripping into the tube that led to her right hand. Once he finished the task, he looked up at her with a gentle smile and placed two fingers against her forehead. The heavy fog she felt upon waking was cleared in an instant and her thoughts were once again lucid.
"A little something for the disorientation," the nurse said with a quick wink. "I'll leave you alone to get your wits about you before the others barge in here."
Once he was gone, Kyoko tried to remember what exactly happened for her to end up in such a place. She remembered going to work that morning but trying to recall anything past that caused a dull ache in her head. Delving further into her memories only made it worse until her head throbbed painfully and the only clue she could uncover was the image of a lunch container clutched in her hands. At that moment, the once quiet machine beside her made a shrill piercing noise, jolting her out of her reverie and ruining her concentration. With that, the sound stopped immediately and her head dropped back towards the pillow nestled behind her in defeat and exhaustion.
Moments later, the door opened again and a man and woman walked in together. The woman, in her crisp white coat and oval, wire-framed glasses motioned for the older man to stand beside her at the foot of the bed. Kyoko raised her head from the pillow and sat upright to greet them.
"I am Doctor Asami," the woman introduced herself then pointed to the man beside her. "And this is Representative Sawara. We wanted to have a brief word with you if we could"
Kyoko nodded to both of them in response and waited for them to continue.
"Do you happen to have any recollection as to what happened before you were brought here today Miss… Mogami?" the doctor asked, hesitating on her name until she could confirm it by checking the chart she held in her hand.
"I was hoping you'd be able to tell me," Kyoko shook her head. "I've been trying to remember since I woke up, but every time I think about it, my head hurts."
"I see," the doctor made a note on her chart as she spoke. "Can you tell me what you know about Catastrophic Awakenings?"
"Only what little I learned about it in school," the young woman shrugged, wondering where this line of questioning was leading.
"Miss Mogami, our sensors picked up an extremely high concentration of energy and pinpointed it to where we found you unconscious in front of the Academy library," Sawara supplied, getting straight to the point to not draw things out any more than they already were. "The amount of energy we detected was high enough to presume that you experienced a Catastrophic Awakening."
Kyoko shook her head in disbelief. "I've never had an ability before. Why now?"
"Late Awakenings are uncommon, but they do occur," Dr. Asami explained. "Additionally, it is typical for those who experienced a Catastrophic one to suffer from temporary amnesia. However…"
"When you were brought in, you were leaking excessive amounts of energy but we can barely find a trace on you now."
"I… don't understand. What does that mean?"
"Usually, once someone has awakened, they constantly put out residual energy. However, the sensor we hooked you up to," she gestured towards the machine beside her bed. "It can't get a steady reading of your ability or your level. If it weren't for the random spikes here and there, it would almost be as if you never had an Awakening at all.
"Does that mean I can just go back to my normal, Unaugmented life then?" Kyoko asked hopefully.
Sawara shook his head, "It is the responsibility of the Academy to properly prepare, educate and train anyone who has Awakened. Even though your case is somewhat… unique, we will enlist the help of the staff here at the Academy hospital as well as those in the Psychological and Neurological departments."
"So, I get to become an experiment?" she frowned.
"No, Miss Mogami," the man protested. "We only wish to help you understand and grow your own abilities."
"Great," Kyoko said with no enthusiasm, placing her head in her hands.
There was no going against the Academy when it came to things like this. With the backing of the entire government, the Academy maintained that it was in the best interests of everyone to ensure that anyone who displayed any type of ability be identified and properly prepared to harness their skills as well as prevent someone from abusing them. Those with nominal to mid-level abilities received guaranteed job placements through the program in fields that best utilized them. Higher leveled individuals often stayed under the employ of the Academy itself as specialists, instructors, researchers and caretakers. It seemed like an idyllic setup but, the truth of the matter was that it was easier to keep under close watch those who had the capacity to do the most damage were their abilities to go unchecked. Kyoko was loathe to find out under which category she would be placed.
"I should let you rest now," Representative Sawara excused himself. "Doctor Asami, please contact me once you have outlined her treatment plan. It was a pleasure to meet you Miss Mogami."
Once the door closed behind the departing man, the doctor turned back towards her with a wan smile.
"Do I at least get to go home at some point? I have a…" she winced slightly at the sharp pain that shot through her head. "I have a roommate that will be wondering where I am."
"You will be allowed to return home in a few hours once your vitals have stabilized," the woman nodded. "But, you will be required to reside on Academy premises once you return for your treatment. The appropriate arrangements will be made to ensure your housemate can stay where they are or be accommodated elsewhere."
"I'm the property of the Academy now, aren't I?" Kyoko asked bluntly.
"In a manner of speaking," Dr. Asami bobbed her head from side to side, there was no point in hiding it. "As of right now, you are suffering from some sort of mental block that is hindering your abilities. We need to help you get around it so we can fully ascertain your skill level. Then, you can be enrolled in the appropriate development program."
Kyoko let got of a long, heavy sigh but said nothing more. With a promise to return with more details regarding her prescribed treatment, the doctor left her alone once again.
She returned to her apartment that evening after promising to report back to the hospital the next morning. That promise was, of course, solidified by thinly veiled threats to have her brought in against her will should she attempt to forego her appointment. The bedroom door opened abruptly after she placed her keys in the basket by the front door.
"You're back much later than usual." Sho stated, watching her put her things down in the entryway.
Kyoko was halfway finished with removing her shoes when he noticed the white identification band still secured around her wrist. That could have come from only one place. When she looked up from her feet, she noticed him staring.
"What happened to you?" he asked in a flat tone.
She gave him the short version of the story, which was quite brief considering she had no memory of the events leading up to her waking in the hospital. The most important points were covered; the news of her Awakening and the subsequent arrangements for her to stay at the Academy. He gaped at her with a mixture of both surprise and pity as he listened.
"That was you they found today? I heard about that, but no one knew who it was," he wondered aloud. "What were you even doing on Academy grounds?"
"I wish I could remember," she shrugged.
"So, what are you going to do now?"
Kyoko laughed ruefully, "You make it sound as if I have a choice in the matter."
"But isn't this what you've always wanted?" he reminded her. "I remember how excited you used to get imagining your own Awakening after I had mine."
"That was back when I thought I could have my abilities on my own terms," she crossed her arms and looked at him, a sad smile on her face. "But, not like this, Sho. I never imagined it would be like this."
"I'd ask if there's anything I can do," he scratched idly at the base of his neck. "But, I really don't think there is."
"No," she agreed. "Besides, it's not like it's your fault."
As soon as the words left her lips, something inside inexplicably told her it was a lie and the throbbing in her head returned. She rubbed at her temples and went to sit on the tiny fold-out couch in the common area, asking Sho to get her a glass of water.
"Are you sure you were fit to be released like this?" he asked, doubt written across his features.
"Well, if not, I suppose it's a good thing I've been summoned to the hospital again tomorrow morning," she said with a groan as she continued to rub at her head. "I'm sorry we have to lose the apartment, even though we only stayed here because of me."
"Don't worry about it," Sho soothed. "I'm sure the Academy will give me housing on the grounds. Until then, there's someone I can stay with."
The ache in Kyoko's head now included intermitted sharp jabs of pain and she closed her eyes against the unpleasant sensation. She tried to continue talking to Sho in hopes of providing a distraction.
"Anyway, how was your day?"
"Oh, just the usual, training and more training," he said noncommittally. "Although, I found my lunch container on the floor of the library this afternoon. I guess it fell out of my bag at some point and I didn't notice so I thought I'd forgotten it and ate at the café. I didn't know if the food is still safe to eat but I put it back in the fridge if you… Kyoko?!"
Her hand fell limply into her lap and her body slumped to one side. Long, black hair fell in cascades across her now pale face as Kyoko fainted for the second time that day.
When she awoke again, in the middle of the night, the lights in the apartment were off and she was alone. Reaching for the half-empty glass of water she started drinking earlier, she gulped down the rest of the liquid. Once she was certain that she felt good enough to move about, she swiftly changed her clothes and arranged the couch into her usual bed formation. This would be her last night in the apartment and she was unconscious for about half of it. She hoped this whole fainting business was not going to be a regular occurrence.
Much to her surprise, Sho got up when she did that morning and helped gather the few things she had brought with her when they moved. He normally never saw her off in the morning when she would leave for work. Then again, circumstances were quite different on this particular day. This would most likely be the last time they saw each other for an unspecified length of time. For some reason, Kyoko felt relieved by this fact and it confused her.
"Should you be carrying all of this by yourself?" he asked, dubiously.
"Oh, they'll be sending a car for me," she said and then let out a short, derisive snort. "I'm sure the last thing they'd want is for their science project to go missing."
He did not know what to say to that, so he shrugged, "I guess I'll see you around the Academy soon, right?"
Kyoko smiled at this, "Sure."
They said their farewells and he briefly wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against his side, resting his head against hers for just a moment before letting her go. It was something he had always done since they were kids growing up together but, this time, Kyoko was grateful for the fact that it was a quick gesture. Discomfort roiled in her stomach and she got the oddest feeling that she should not be doing this. Like she had no right to touch him anymore.
Kyoko was tired. Tired of tests, tired of therapies and, tired of talking. Two whole weeks had gone by and she was no closer to breaking through her mental block than she was when the whole ordeal started. She had to admit that they at least treated her rather well for the most part. A nicely furnished studio apartment was provided to her near the hospital and someone escorted her to and from her various treatments every day. The food was decent and her schedule was not as rigorous as she initially feared. While she did have to wake up fairly early most mornings, her sessions with various specialists would end in the afternoon and she was free to return to the apartment and sleep or explore the few Academy buildings to which she was granted access.
However, this did not negate the fact that she was still mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Every few days, she would be foisted upon someone new who walked her through the same line of questions and experiences, hoping that only the fact that their particular ability was different than the person who treated her before and would somehow be the catalyst for her breakthrough. She did not want to talk about her childhood anymore. She did not want to talk about her mother anymore. And, she most definitely did not want to talk about Sho anymore; talking about him in particular always made the fatigue and pain she felt worse. Of course it did, she reasoned, she had been forcefully separated from her only friend in this city and, with the way things were currently progressing, she probably would never see him again.
She was sad, she was frustrated and she was tired. But, she was not the only one.
"I've tried everything I can think of," Dr. Asami explained hurriedly to the man sitting across from her desk. "I tried hypnosis. I've had my best empaths conduct cognitive therapy with her. I even tried to delve into her mind myself only to be met with the equivalent of a brick wall. Nothing seems to be strong enough to be able to break through her block. I'm running out of options."
"Do you think a brute force approach would work better?" Representative Sawara asked cryptically.
"Everything I've tried so far could be considered brute force seeing how unwilling she was to comply with this in the first place," she paused then, mulling over his question and wondering what his angle was. "Why? What did you have in mind?"
"I could put in a call with Takarada…"
"You don't mean to get…"
"He's the strongest option we have," Sawara affirmed.
Dr. Asami hesitated while she considered the offer, chewing nervously on her lip. She opened her mouth to say something, then snapped it shut once she thought better of it and and shook her head. Then, with a light shrug, she nodded her assent.
"Fine," she agreed begrudgingly. "But only one session and I have the right to alter the amount of time he has with her as I see fit. The last thing we need is for her to be rendered completely unresponsive after he's taken a virtual excavator to her mind."
Sawara nodded in acceptance of her terms, "I'll make the call and let you know when he will be coming to see her."
She wrung her hands as she watched the man leave her office, wondering if she made the right decision. While it was important that Kyoko's abilities be fully realized, she was unsure if the price to pay for that should be quite this high. Nonetheless, she had her obligations to the Academy. As far as they were concerned, she was an unknown variable and those had the potential to be very dangerous if they had no way of knowing how to control her. Dr. Asami let a small sigh escape her lips. There were probably worse things than having to undergo the expert probing of the Academy's most powerful telepath. But, she was unable to think of one at the moment.
NO, I AM NOT A SHO SYMPATHIZER: Sometimes, I just get tired of writing him as an overbearing, narcissistic douchecanoe (even though I know that's totally his thing). His personality grates on me and it makes it difficult to write him. So, instead, he's an oblivious idiot who doesn't know how to be a proper friend when he's too caught up in his own life. Because, deep down, that's who he probably would've been if his ego didn't have a gigantic growth spurt along with his body. However, the fact that Kyoko treated him way too kindly despite being the cause of at least some of her problems has not changed.
Anywho, that's my story for his slight character change, and I'm sticking to it.