01.3 - A Strange New World

Kiln’s eyes darted around quickly, trying to take in everything as they walked into the headmaster’s office. Even though they had been settling into this future life, there still remained so much that was new and unfamiliar. The walls were filled with shelves and pictures. Demonic tools, sleek alien rocks, and arcane relics were all strewn across the office. Books of every possible language neatly lined the shelves, and framed newspaper clippings hung in the open space on the wall.

“Ah, our young visitor from the past. Please, sit down,” The Headmaster smiled and Kiln got their first good look at him. Like everything else about this time, he was strange. From his reddened skin to his oddly styled beard, the Headmaster Hellbinder was different from anyone Kiln had known before. But the look in his eyes was a familiar predatory gaze. Like he was testing Kiln, and if they didn’t pass, there was a good chance that they’d be crushed without hesitation.

As Kiln took the proffered chair, the Headmaster pulled out a sheet of paper and a lead stylus - a pencil, they reminded themselves. “Now, I understand that you have had a rather difficult time of late, what with arriving in our time and all, and I wanted to thank you for trusting us at Phoenix Academy. It is our hope that we can provide you stability and support in these confusing times.”

Kiln nodded silently. The Academy had been quite helpful, if only in providing a room. Their options as far as living spaces were concerned were limited, and the Academy was far superior than the highly monitored AEGIS quarters.

Hellbinder continued his introduction. “Moving along, I have some questions I’d like to ask you. It helps me better get to know my students, so that we at Phoenix can provide the best education possible. If you don’t mind, can you tell me your name, your superhero identity, if you have one, and your pronouns?”

“I’m Kiln. Just Kiln. My people don’t have second names like you do. As for a superhero identity… I don’t know. I haven’t thought too much about that.”

“It is perfectly all right not to have a superhero moniker. And should you decide later to go by one, that is equally acceptable. Youth is a time of change and growth.” The Headmaster smiled in what should have been a comforting manner. “And pronouns? I understand if we use unfamiliar labels.”


The Headmaster continued along easily. “I understand from your files that you have powers - at least how we would classify them now. How did you get them?”

“In my time, we used what you would call magic in everyday life. I had to learn how to harness it, but I’ve always had my powers.”

The pencil moved easily across the paper as the Headmaster copied down Kiln’s answers, even though they were sure all of this was written in their file. AEGIS had asked the same things when they had interviewed Kiln. “Quite interesting how we as a people have changed over the years. Truly extraordinary.” He said once the pencil stopped. “Also extraordinary was the encounter at the docks. Besides that, have you had any experience as a hero?”

“I guess. Back home, I worked to keep the peace. Fighting evil and all that. I suppose that is what you’d call being a hero. But, it’s different here.”

“I can imagine it is,” The Headmaster flashed the same smile that didn’t quite put Kiln at ease. “Nevertheless, I admire your dedication to keeping the peace, even with such an abrupt change.” Kiln nodded once more and Hellbinder continued his notes. “I understand that this may be difficult for you to answer, but I will ask it anyway. Consistency, you know. Whom do you admire amongst the known heroes of the world?”

Kiln hesitated. “I don’t know enough about your heroes - your history - to answer that.”
“It doesn’t have to be from more modern times. Are there any heroes from your time? People who fought for peace like you did? Any role models?”

“None of my people - those who I fought alongside or those who went before me - thought of themselves as heroes. Certainly not in the sense that you have here in the future. They were all simply doing what had to be done to protect their people.”

The Headmaster wrote for a long time. Longer than Kiln thought was warranted, but obviously Hellbinder thought otherwise. “Very good. Now, what do you hope to gain from this?”

A thousand thoughts flashed through their mind. Promises made to people now long gone. Desires to return to the familiar. Confusion about the future. Kiln settled on one. “I hope to learn more about this time, so that I may better understand it until I can return home.”

The Headmaster nodded sympathetically. “Of course. It is a difficult thing to be far from home, not helped by uncertainty. We here all hope that you manage to find where you belong.” He put the pencil down and stood up, with Kiln hurriedly following. “Still, wherever your path may lead you, it is the goal of the Academy to see that you are prepared to face it.” He extended a hand which Kiln took after a moment’s prompting. “Welcome to Phoenix Academy.”


Light shining through the window roused Kiln from sleep. They sat up slowly, blinking sleep from their eyes. It was morning. The provided timekeeper sat dark next to the bed. The resident coordinator had explained how it worked, but Kiln was more comfortable relying on their inner clock. It hadn’t failed them yet.

Kiln’s eyes roamed the room, more out of habit than anything else. Simple furniture was placed around the room, and Kiln had started collecting odds and ends to fill the space. A dried leaf unlike any they had seen before, a small flower sitting in a cup, and a smooth rock that reminded them of home were all strewn across shelves. A piece of ancient technology, laying partially disassembled on the desk, and their sword and shield, propped haphazardly against the dresser, were the only items Kiln had to remind them of home.

They rolled out of bed and tossed on some new clothes - a habit of the future that Kiln did their best to follow. Easily sliding their sword and shield into place, Kiln set off out the door to face the strange new world of school.

Only for them to be stopped immediately by the community coordinator, who quickly launched into a rant about weapons. “What do you think you are doing? No arms are allowed in the hallways, except with express permission from either Sergeant S.U.R.G.E. or the Headmaster. Students found in violation after the first day will have them confiscated and will have to pick them up from the office the following day. Weapons are forbidden under rule…” She continued, but Kiln tuned her out.

In their opinion, it was a stupid rule. What about all the people with powers that could be used as weapons? What of the people who had powers permanently activated? Were they not allowed in the hallways? It seemed silly to limit only physical weapons. But they didn’t want to get in trouble on the first day of classes, so Kiln decided to accept the rules and opened their alternate space.

Only for a flaming orb to appear in their hand as they cast the incorrect summoning.

“What are you doing? Were you not listening to anything I said? Arg! Fine. Here is a pass for your weapons today, but only for you to take them to your room. Then you will have to receive another pass to retrieve them from your room before gym class or applied heroing. Then you can keep them in your locker…. And do something about that.” She gestured angrily at the flame still in their hand. Kiln nodded eagerly and the CC left to go chew out someone floating a foot off the ground.

A bell chimed once, which Kiln remembered meant that there were ten minutes to get to the first class. Sliding their sword into an alternate space, they set off quickly towards the Baxter building.


The three minute bell had just chimed when Kiln came across a chaotic scene. Papers were scattered across the floor, teachers stood with stains on their shirts, and students were complaining why tapping on their tablets. In the center of it all a large boy surrounded by his cronies shoved a smaller boy back. In an instant, Kiln interposed themselves between the two. “It’s almost time for class.”

The bully scowled at the sudden intrusion. “Yeah, I know what time it is, dweeb. Now you’re making me late.”

“I’m not doing anything to stop you from going to class.”

“Are you saying I’m lying?” He squared his shoulders and towered over Kiln.

Behind him, his cronies were oohing and encouraging him. “Get the dweeb, Hunter.”

“You some kind of underclassman, talking up to people?” He continued, bolstered by the others.

“You are rather tall, so I assume most people talk up to you.”

The crowd that had gathered oohed and Hunter angrily grabbed Kiln’s jacket. He was used to intimidating people into doing what he wanted and used his power against those weaker than him. Kiln stared him down coldly. They stayed at the impasse until one of the cronies stepped forward. “Leave them Hunter, we’re gonna be late for class.”

He stayed where he was for a moment longer, and leaned in close. “After school. Out on the track field. You and me. And everyone here is gonna see just how weak you are.” With a shove, Hunter and the others slunk off down the hallway.

As the crowd dispersed, a small voice spoke up from behind Kiln. “Thank you for that. You really saved me.” Turning, they saw the boy who had been bullied. He stuck out his hand. “My name is Vic. I’m a sophomore. What about you?”

They briefly took Vic’s hand. “I’m Kiln. Also a sophomore, though I’m new here.”

“You transferred? That’s cool.” A teacher called down the hallway that class was starting soon. “Shoot. We can’t be late for the first day. Where are you heading?”

“The Baxter building. Room 4.”

“Awesome! I am too. Let’s go. I can show you where it is.” Vic beamed, and the two set off quickly down the rapidly clearing hallway.

Surprisingly, they weren’t late, racing into class with some seconds to spare. Vic flashed Kiln a quick smile as they split up to find their assigned seat. Maybe it wouldn’t be too hard here.

The bell rang just as a final student slipped in the door and the teacher glared at him as he took his seat. The moment the bell stopped chiming the teacher spoke. “Welcome to Algebra 2. I am Mr. Rick. Some of you might know me by a different name. That’s fine. There will be an assessment at the end of class, with a review during the middle part. I will tell you now that there will be no excuses for giant robots, men, women, cars, etc. You get two excused absences, which must be submitted at least 24 hours prior. You have available to you one unexcused absence. After that, I will deduct a full letter grade off your final grade. No exception.” He cast his eyes about the room. “Welcome to Phoenix Academy.”

Kiln reassessed their thoughts. School was definitely going to be harder than they thought.