Anna was sitting at her computer staring at the screen when Corrine came in.
“What are you doing tonight?” she asked as she walked in and over to her closet.
“Not sure yet,” answered Anna, “Probably going to the Theta party. Why?”
“I think I’d like to come,” stated Corrine.
Anna was a little bit shocked by this.
“But you don’t go to parties!” she said incredulously.
“I decided to give it another shot,” replied Corrine calmly. “I think maybe I was thinking about it wrong before. Could you help me pick out clothes?”
The party was already in full swing by the time Corrine and Anna showed up. It was all the things Corrine disliked about parties – loud, smelly, and crowded. About five minutes after she walked in the door, she was already having serious misgivings about what she was doing here.
The kitchen was just inside the door of the house. There were two open coolers next to the fridge. Anna immediately made for these.
“Wait,” cried Corrine. It was quite loud though, so Anna was already too far to reach her. She followed Anna and looked into the cooler. She realized she had absolutely no idea what any of these drinks were. She assumed most of them were types of beer, but she wasn’t sure. As she was staring at the beers, she heard a voice from behind her.
“Hey, you showed up!” intoned Aaron, boisterously, as he clapped Corrine on the back. Corrine turned around from her contemplation of the beers and looked at him.
“Don’t let me stop you,” he said, “Have a drink!”
Corrine looked down. She didn’t want to let on that she knew nothing about beer, but she also didn’t want to send the wrong message. She had this idea that taking the “wrong” beer would let everyone know she’s never drunk before. She glanced up at what Aaron was holding, and grabbed one of those.
“So, great party, eh?” said Aaron.
“Yeah,” lied Corrine, “Really great,” In fact, she had no idea what made a party good or bad – they all looked pretty much the same to her.
“What did you think of the discussion this morning?” asked Aaron casually.
“It was pretty good,” said Corrine. She was staring down at her feet again.
“Don’t you love how the book is called Don Quixote, but Sancho is actually the main character?” he went on, “I found that fascinating,”
“Yeah,” said Corrine, still contemplating her own footwear.
“You want me to help you open that?” asked the boy.
Corrine looked around, slightly confused.
“Your beer,” specified Aaron, “it’s not opened,”
“I got it,” said Corrine. She pulled the tab and popped open the can. It smelled terrible. She instinctively held it away from her.
“What’s the problem?” asked Aaron.
“Nothing,” said Corrine, quickly. She looked around the room for someone else to talk to, but there was no one she knew. That’s good, she thought. No where to run. Forces me to have a real conversation with this guy.
“You seem distracted,” said Aaron.
“I’m just… a little out of my element,” admitted Corrine.
“Ah,” said Aaron, “Well, drink up. It’ll relax you; make you a little less nervous,”
Corrine put the can up to her lips, and then promptly moved it down again. The smell was awful, but that wasn’t why she was hesitant. Something just felt wrong.
“Something wrong?” asked Aaron again.
“No, I’m really ok,” said Corrine. She tried to take a sip of the beer again, but again just couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“You just don’t seem to be enjoying that beer much,” observed Aaron. “You want something else? I think there’s a couple wine coolers in that cooler. Or maybe a lemonade?”
“A lemonade sounds good,” answered Corrine. Maybe having something non-alcoholic to drink would make her less awkward.
“No problem,” said Aaron. He took the beer from her and handed her a bottle from the fridge. She opened this quickly and took a sip.
Something tasted very strange about it. She looked at the label. It was a hard lemonade.
“That better?” asked Aaron.
“Yeah,” Corrine said, unconvincingly, “Much better,”
She began trying to move away from Aaron. He did not; however, seem to understand this intention, as he followed her into the next room.
“I like those earrings,” he said. She turned around to face him.
The earrings she had borrowed from her roommate – they were small, glass icicles which picked up the light blue in her headband very nicely, contrasting beautifully with her bright red hair. She’d spent some time putting the whole ensemble together.
“Thanks,” she said. Then after a moment, she added, “They’re Anna’s,”
“Well, they look good on you,” commented Aaron. He reached up to touch one. Remembering Luke’s warning, Corrine drew back.
“Whoah, sorry,” said Aaron.
“I… have to go,” said Corrine. She was suddenly feeling very uncomfortable around Aaron, so she turned around and wove her way through the crowd.
Anna was at the counter in the Kitchen, laughing and talking with a couple of upperclassmen. The guys seemed relatively sober, Anna was clearly a bit tipsy. As she approached them, Corrine noticed one of the guys pouring something from a bottle into a glass. There were several other open bottles on the counter.
“I think you’re going to like this one, Anna,” he said, “It’s my own invention,”
“Oooh,” said Anna. She took the glass and sipped. Then she stared at it for a moment and took a huge swig.
“I like it,” she said. Then she noticed Corrine. “Hey girl,” she said, “Having fun?”
Corrine just shrugged. She looked at the practically untouched lemonade in her hand.
“Try some of this,” said one of the upperclassmen. He had obviously implied from her glance that she didn’t like the lemonade.
“I’m okay,” replied Corrine.
“You sure?” asked the boy, “It’s really good,”
“She’s sure,” intoned a familiar voice from behind Corrine.
“Okay, Okay,” said the boy. “You want some, Luke?”
Luke walked past Corrine and took the glass.
“What’s in it?” he asked.
“It’s a surprise,” said the drink-mixer. “Take a swig and see if you can tell,”
“If he doesn’t want it, I’ll take the rest,” decreed Anna, to the room in general. She had finished her first glass fairly quickly. Luke turned and looked at her for a moment.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” he said. He sniffed the glass and took a swig.
“Not bad,” he said, “I’m thinking there’s some rum in here, a little vodka… is that cider?”
“Close,” said the mixer, “Actually it’s basically a Long Island Ice Tea, but with.. a little something of my own in there,”
“Nice,” complimented Luke, “Especially if you’re trying to get drunk very quickly. Here.”
Aaron had finally caught up with Corrine, and had been about to start talking to her again when Luke handed him the glass.
“Drink up,” he said, “You’ll like it. Corrine, what are you doing here?”
As he said this, he steered her away from the crowd. Aaron looked at the drink, shrugged and took a very large gulp.
“I thought I’d try and expand my horizons,” explained Corrine matter-of-factly.
“And how’s that going?” asked Luke, with a hint of sarcasm.
“This isn’t you, Corrine,” Luke continued, putting his hand on her shoulder. She was a little uncomfortable, but she didn’t pull away this time. “Trust me,” he went on, “You’d be better off at home, or watching TV with my roommate. I’m sure he’d love the company,”
Corrine couldn’t think of anything to say to that. She looked down at the lemonade in her hand thoughtfully.
“Look,” said Luke, taking the bottle from her, “It’s your life, and I’m not gonna tell you what to do with it. But you have to ask yourself, is this really what you want?”
Corrine started to reply, but was interrupted by a crash. Anna had stumbled and knocked over a couple of bottles. She was now sitting on the floor laughing uncontrollably at something. Luke and Corrine went over to her. Luke helped her up.
“Up,” he said, “Come on. Let’s get you home,”
“But I was just starting to have fun…” said Anna.
“Let’s just take a walk then, shall we?” asked Luke.
“Ok,” said Anna. She looked up at Luke, “You’re pretty,” she said.
“And you’re pretty damn drunk,” answered the boy, “Bye guys,”
“Leaving already?” asked Aaron.
“I think so,” said Corrine. She looked at the lemonade one last time, and then set it down on the counter and followed Luke and Anna out the door.
It was just after midnight, and the streets were deserted. It was, for the most part, too late for anyone to be going to parties and too early for anyone to be coming back. They lived in a small freshman dorm called Glaston Hall, located in one of the most remote corners of the campus. Corrine would have gone back by passing through the academic quad and coming out on the other side. Luke, however, with Anna on his arm, turned the other direction, towards the downtown area. Corrine wasn’t sure whether to follow him or go the way she knew.
“Luke, where are we going?” she finally asked.
“Home,” he answered, “Where do you think?”
Corrine looked at him quizzically.
“We’re gonna cut through the alley behind the gas station,” said Luke calmly, “It’s a lot faster,”
Corrine hesitated for a moment, then went on.
Suddenly, a very strange sound rang out from quite nearby. It sounded sort of like a machine gun, but softer, and with each shot followed by an electric hum.
“What’s that?” asked Anna.
“No idea,” said Luke. Suddenly there was another sound, like a strong gust of wind. Corrine could hear a man speaking, but he couldn’t make out any of the words. Then there was a loud scream.
“Stay here!” cautioned Luke to Anna. Then, turning to Corrine, “Make sure she stays put,”
Luke ran off toward the sounds. “Wait!?” Corrine tried to say, but he was already gone.
“I wanna see!” cried Anna. She ran off after Luke. Corrine tried to restrain her, but she had a head start. She turned the corner and caught up with Luke.
The first thing Corrine noticed in the alley was a bright, blue light. It was coming from a human-like shape, completely covered in it except for his face. It was an older, male face with a small dark grey beard. The blinding blue light made it hard to make out anything else about him. He had a pair of bright blue, shining discs, and he was using them like shields, spinning and weaving constantly.
What he was shielding himself from were some sort of gunshots. Every time one hit a shield it exploded with a pop. At least five men, as far as Corrine could see, were shooting at him. They were all dressed in sleek, black armor, and wearing helmets that made them look like a S.W.A.T. team. It seemed like it was all he could do to block the shots with his shields. Luke and Anna were also watching this scene, shocked.
As he was spinning around, the old man caught sight of them.
“Get out of here!” he cried. Then he put both shields into the air. As they rose over his head, they stretched out, turning into an enormous whip made of shining blue light. This he swung out away from the students, hitting two of his attackers and knocking them into the wall. Then instantaneously the whip formed back into a shield, as he backed himself towards the now clear wall.
“GO!” he yelled.
Corrine tried to move, but she couldn’t bring herself to. The other two seemed the same way – they were transfixed.
Slowly though, looking over his shoulder, Luke started to back away. He out one hand on Corrine’s shoulder and took Anna’s hand in the other.
Two more soldiers ran out from each side of the wall the man was trying to back himself against. He saw them and turned around, but he was too late. Four shots hit him in the side, discharging an electric shock with each hit. He screamed, and looked like he was going to collapse. But then he stood up. Everything seemed to pause for a moment as the soldiers waited to see if he’d go down.
Suddenly he flew into a rage. He began to spin even more feverishly then before, still spinning a pair of shields, only this time out of the shields were coming little balls of blue light. The soldiers all tried to take cover or knelt on the ground, emptying as many rounds as they could into him in the hopes that one would make it past his fury of shields.
The balls of light were flying at the soldiers as if they were heat seeking or something. But when one hit one, all it seemed to do was sting slightly. The soldiers were not letting this deter them, as they stood and began to advance on him.
“Corrine!” Luke was shaking her. He and Anna had already turned to go, but she was standing there, staring. Paralyzed with fear, she couldn’t bring herself to move. Luke lunged to pick her up and carry her out of danger. Then it happened.
The man exploded in a fiery flash of light. An enormous shockwave of blue energy erupted from him, completely engulfing his advancing assailants. The wave stopped short of the students, but a single, small ball of light flew out of it. Corrine watched it unable to look away, as if in slow motion. It sped towards her, and hit her in the stomach. Then everything went black.