RP Little Soldier Boy

Ban Bean

Beatrice walked down the hall with of the guards, the thick socks on her feet padding along the hard floor.

Bea had only been here for a few months, since her Uncle Amos had agreed to let Brightheart take her in, living in a room in the same hall as the other children. She even managed to talk to a few of them between surgeries and tests. But this morning Dr. Russo had told her she'd be moving to a new, special, area to live with another subject. She used the word "Aptitude". Beatrice had an aptitude for research, she said. It would be best if she moved in with another "long-term patient."

They came to a metal door labeled "Project Tantalus." And Beatrice hesitated stopping in her tracks, moved along by the guard's strong arm.

Every meta in Brightheart knew of Project Tantalus. The monster that would chase you down if you tried to run (not that she had ever tried), or would eat you if you misbehaved. He was a creature made of gossip and dark whispers told late at night. A monster with teeth made of rumors...No. He was apparently real.

Beatrice didn't want to go inside, but the guard opened it and nudged her inside, the door closing behind her.

It wasn't like her last room. This room was a bit larger. A small kitchenette sat in the corner, with a mini fridge, a microwave and a small counter space. Towards the back of the room, pushed against either side of the wall, was a neatly made bed and desk. On the left side, however, there were two shelves above the desk, littered with odds and ends. Weird knick-knacks you might find in a thrift store. There was no rhyme and reason to the objects other than their place of prominence. On the right side, there were her items. A few of her books, a coloring book, and a stuffed bear. Folders of her schoolwork were set on the desk on what Bea assumed was her side of the room.

Standing in the room, was a young man, with russet skin and dark hair, clipped into and undercut. He wasn't a monster, so much as a lean, healthy-looking adult. His intense blue eyes would fall upon her, a small, bald, nine-year girl with with scars on her scalp, wearing plain scrubs, that revealed the Y cut scar on her collarbones.


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Tantalus had never had a roommate before.

When Emily first brought him in to live with the other kids, he’d been nervous. A little scared of them. They looked scarier than the doctors, the eight of them with their scars and shaved heads. The way they watched him, like they were sad that he was there. And he definitely couldn’t talk to them about… anything. He didn’t have anything in common with anybody. None of them watched TV. They all liked different games, different toys, different books than he did. None of them knew the weird facts about animals that he did. None of them tried to talk to him during social time. And he didn’t really want to talk to them. He wasn’t visibly different like some of them. Not at first.

Then his antlers came in. Nobody made fun of them, which he’d been worried about. But he knew that was because he was acting differently. When he started being hungry all the time. When he’d started watching the other kids, noticing their scents. He didn’t know he was a predator until the first maze, but even before that, he’d gotten a good sense of the others.

Then the first maze, and then there were only seven others, besides him.

He remembered his move fondly. Now that he was looking back, he knew it was when the other kids would’ve started being too small to really do his growing body any good. They were all scared of him back then, and they needed to be, because Emily had given him a very special job. But eventually, the job would’ve stopped being fun. Now he could do that job from here, as soon as the alarm went off. As soon as Emily asked. He still hunted in the maze, and still helped catch – and sometimes got to keep – runaways, but he had other duties now. The newest one was coming down the hall.

He wasn’t sure why Emily was asking him to take care of one of the kids in between deployments. Even though he was good with people now, even though he knew they were too small for him to want to hunt – they didn’t know that. They’d heard he was scary, and they didn’t like him. And it wasn’t a good idea for him to be in a room alone with a tiny prey animal that was very, very scared.

But this one was different. He had to trust Emily when she said she thought Beatrice was different. Special, like he was. Sure, there wasn’t anything like him, and based on the scent that lingered on her things – and the fact that they’d added plumbing, a kitchen, and light fixtures – he knew she wasn’t like him at all. But Emily wanted him to watch out for her, so he’d do as he was told.

He heard her coming down the hall with one of the guards. Rich, maybe, judging by the pace. Tans closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then sharpened his mind to take a last glance around the room. His trophy shelves were organized and dusted, the brand new kitchen still clean, the little bed opposite his made up in plain white sheets with a plush bear propped up against the pillows. A desk that was a miniature version of the one he used for mission briefs, reading, and personal research. The late winter sunlight flooded the room from above, so the light fixtures weren’t needed yet. He rubbed one of his antlers, glad that they hadn’t started shedding yet.

And then he breathed deeply. There was no reason for him to be nervous. It’d take some getting used to, but she was probably more scared of him than anything else. He’d need to make sure that stopped before anything bad could happen. Emily was trusting him, after all, and he couldn’t let her down.

The door opened, and his vision returned to normal. It was Rich, who had to kind of push the kid into the room. He saw her scars where the scrubs fell awkwardly on her small body. Rich closed the door behind her without so much as a “goodbye,” and then they were alone.

Tans stood awkwardly for just a moment, in his bare feet, cargo shorts, and navy t-shirt, before relaxing his posture and smiling at her warmly, without teeth.

“Hey! You’re Bea, right? Emily’s told me you’ll be staying here for a while. Welcome home.”
Beatrice nodded slowly, staring at him with wide eyes. She hadn't expected the antlers, brown and fuzzy. They startled her slightly, reminding her of the deer that caused the car that killed her parents. But that deers antlers had been white bone, not soft like his. Whatever he was, it wasn't scary...just different. He even had regular clothes and sounded...nice?

Welcome home.

The room was certainly nicer than her old one. She could see the sky again, and that made her smile. Beatrice didn't think she'd mind sharing, but she never had to share a room before. Before Emily took her to Brightheart, she had been an only child. But, like Todd had said, this was home now. If this was home what did that make them?

Bea thought maybe she'd like to be his friend. After a moment she found her voice. "I'm Beatrice...I'm nine years old."She looked around the room once more, marveling at everything. "I like your shelf."
Truth. His eyes flicked over her, and he could feel that she… wasn’t afraid of him. He got a little worried for a second, then remembered she wasn’t supposed to be afraid, and that it was probably because he looked normal. She did stare at the antlers a little, but she didn’t seem intimidated by those, either. That let him relax a little bit more, under the facade, and he glanced at his shelf when she pointed it out.

“Thanks! That’s all from–” don’t scare her “–the special missions Emily sends me on. She lets me keep things I find.”

He decided the best social cue right now was to have a seat, but he wasn’t just going to tell her what to do. Instead, he stepped toward his desk, and pulled out his chair. He sat down, glanced at her desk, and then back at her, trying to communicate without words. Then, he thought better of it, and reached up to the shelf.

“I’ve got some cool stuff, if you want to look at it! I can take any of it down.”
Once given permission, Beatrice went over to his desk, looking up on the shelf at all the odd curios, but she tried to be polite and didn't touch anything. "Dr. Russo let's you leave?" She asked with a sense of awe, "I know the adults get to leave, and I'm not that old yet. I've only been here ninety-" She thought for a moment. "-six days....I think." It was hard to keep track sometimes, but it didn't seem to bother the girl. Maybe when she was older she'd be able to leave, once she was better. But for now, it was safer if she was kept here where she couldn't hurt anyone.

For a moment Bea wondered if she would end up hurting Todd as well, but tried not to think about- not unless the deer would return. She psuhed such things from her mind, and bounced on her toes a couple times, and looked back at Todd. "Are you really Tantalus? You're not as scary as the other kids said."
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He laughed when she asked him his name, the good-natured, open laugh that came naturally to him. “I’m Tantalus. Don’t tell anybody, though! Emily needs me to be scary sometimes, but I try not to be when I’m not on a mission. You can just call me Tans.”

He watched where her eyes fell on the shelf, across the little glass knicknacks and the pretty rings, pressed flowers and that one origami bird folded by hands once bored, now dead. He didn’t display any of the toys he’d collected when he was younger, the rewards for doing his job well, but they were in a bin under his bed if he ever wanted to dwell on old times.

“You must be really special for Emily to move you after ninety-six days,” he noted, as he reached up to the higher shelf. The ship in the bottle there was one of his favorites. It had taken somebody a long time to put it together, and he’d been able to keep it intact all the way from Oregon. He set it down on the desk, so she could see it better. “It took about three years for her to give me my own room.”

He watched her without the intensity he used when he was trying to make people nervous, but he still watched. Emily hadn’t told him what Beatrice could do with her powers. She hadn’t told him that Beatrice had powers at all, but that was implied with the program. Maybe she was just better with words, or smarter than everyone else. Or she had eyes that could see long distances, or a voice that could change, or she could run really fast. He was pretty sure that he’d find out eventually, and he was just as sure that Emily would’ve told him if it was something dangerous, so he didn’t accidentally kill the girl.

Probably. Emily could be funny about that, sometimes. But probably.
"Tans" The name formed oddly in her mouth, not rolling off the tongue as nicely as it could have, but there was a certain force to the way the name was said. A gravitas. "Most people call me Bea. Not like the bug, it's just short for Beatrice."

She felt a certain level of pride when Tans told her she was special for having been moved so quickly. Emily thought she was doing well. Not that Bea ever misbehaved. She was an oddly compliant child, letting the doctors do what they wanted, and only was a bother by asking lots of questions about what they were doing as they poked and prodded at her.

Beatrice smiled as he took down the model ship. It reminded her of the sailboats around the Hudson river, but her mind was also elsewhere, "You're different from the other kids- is it the antlers or do you have special powers?"
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“Bea,” he echoed, and the word was soft in his mouth. It meant a little, soft thing, even if she wasn’t like the bug. Something cute, and special.

He put a pin in the conversation about bees – for just a second, while she commented on his antlers.

Tans smiled and rubbed one of his antlers absently. If the people who just had weird body parts were the ones who got special treatment from Emily, then he wouldn’t be the only one in the barracks.

“The antlers do help make me scarier,” he said, “ but I’ve got all kinds of special powers. More than anybody, I think.”

There was a glimmer of pride in his words. He was the only subject Brightheart had ever encountered that could metabolize other subjects’ powers, after all. Emily had always told him that made him better.

The perfect being.

Not meta. Not human. So, so much more.

But not for Bea. She was special, clearly, because she’d been sent to come live with him. But he was doing everything he could not to scare her, so he settled back in his chair and picked the earlier threads of conversation back up.

“Y’know, bees – the bug – are really important to keeping the ecosystem alive. They’re some of the biggest pollinators in the world! That means they make sure plants are able to make seeds. Animals eat plants, humans and other animals eat those animals…”

And something eats humans.

“And the bees don’t even know how important they are! They just keep living their lives. All they know is that they collect nectar that lets them eat in the winter when the flowers die or go into hibernation. Then in the spring, they see the flowers, and it all starts over again.”
Bea listened, hanging on every word about bee's. What he was describing was strangly what Brightheart was doing. Collecting metas like pollen in the hopes of spreading a cure, so everything in the world would grow better.

"The antlers aren't that scary," Bea said, a bit bravely. She hated deer, but was determined not to be scared by one. "But you have more than one power?" She asked. That seemed...impossible. All the kids she knew only had one. "Thats..."

It wasn't incredible. Or amazing. Or great. Powers sucked, and here he was stuck with more than one. But...he wasn't upset by it. Or angry. Tans was nice, and he was even someone Dr. Russo trusted. Without realizing, Beatrice felt better about herself, and her powers. This was the right place to be, where she could get better. Like her Uncle wanted.

"Thats nice, Tans."
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Bea came back to the powers thing, and Tans thought he saw something he recognized in her voice. She wasn’t being completely honest with him, but that was okay. Little kids lied when they didn’t know better, or when they were in a new situation. He’d give her some time, and if she made a habit of lying, he’d have to figure out a way to encourage her not to do that. That’s why Emily had sent her up here, right? Maybe so that he could learn how to handle people who weren’t food, and weren’t doctors.

Even if she wasn’t being honest, she relaxed, and he decided to give in to that little bit of curiosity she’d shown him.

“Yeah, I guess it’s pretty cool. Let’s see, I can… shapeshift, I can see better than lots of people, I can hear when people are lying, I’m immune to poison… I learn languages really fast.” Five was a good number to start with, but he carefully selected the ones that rang with “least scary to already kind of scared kid.” The ones that didn’t have anything to do with eating people. “Those are the best ones. The others are all for fighting and stuff. They don’t really matter in the lab.”

What? Just because he was capable of hearing other people lie didn’t mean he refused to do so himself. The ability to lie was pretty valuable, after all. You could do all kinds of things if you lied well.

Maybe he wouldn’t teach her how not to lie. Maybe he’d just teach her to be sneakier about it.
Bea's eyes widened just a bit, not out of fear, but slight embaressment. If he knew when she was lying, she'd have to be careful- not that she tended to lie to begin with, save for being polite like her parents....like her parents taught her.

"You can speak languages?" She asked. "And shapeshift? Can you turn into pets, or just people?" Bea wandered over to her side of the room, and sat on the bed, feeling the sheets and blanket, crossing her legs. She looked back at Tans, looking at him expectantly, and adjusted her scrubs. Bea hadn't quite gotten used to the scars. A thought came to her. "Can you turn into anyone?"
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“Both!” He chuckled as he answered with enthusiasm, then settled again with a shake of his head, eyes following her to her bed. “Well, kind of. There’s some special rules about it that I won’t go into right now. But if I turn into other people, my clothes don’t fit anymore. There’s some wild animals I can do. One or two little ones, if you want to see it! I’d just need you to put my clothes in the bathroom so I can get dressed again after.”

That didn’t seem like too weird of a request. He probably couldn’t do his full elk form in the apartment, but either a coyote or an owl would be close enough to a “pet” for a little kid like her, right? He wasn’t completely sure. He’d never really spent time with the other little kids.

Because he wasn’t like them, he reminded himself. He wasn’t like her, either. He’d have to learn what her boundaries and expectations were, so he didn’t scare her – or worse, hurt her. Not if he was supposed to take care of her. Helping her was just something else he could do to keep her from getting scared of him. If he was friendly and helpful, maybe she’d forget any of the scary stories she’d heard about him.

“Anyway, Emily’s made sure I know all kinds of languages. It makes my special missions easier if I can talk to different people, and it lets them send me all over the world. It’s still work, but kind of fun.”

He rubbed his chin a little, and then smiled and looked at Bea again.

“Do you know any other languages? I could help start teaching you if you don’t. I know Emily’s really busy a lot of the time – that’s probably why she’s asked me to help out. We could learn all kinds of things in between my deployments, if you wanted.”
Beatrice has been about to ask if he could turn into one of her parents. She let the request die in her head. It was stupid, and she didn’t have a picture of them. Besides, he was already talking about his animal forms, which were much more interesting.

I’d love to see!” She said excitedly. Beatrice listened as he continued on about languages and his deployments. They sounded very important. It would also be fun to learn from him. “I know some Italian, and a bit of Spanish, but not much. I’d like to learn more…if you’ve been all over the world were have you been?”