Alter

Prologue

Alter

Gazing out the classroom window, Josh ignored the teacher. Today was a review day, and he'd had more than enough English the first time it was taught. It was usually interesting to be in a lecture hall, but there was no one here who he really knew. Since the ruins of the old city didn't interest him either, his thoughts wandered inward, to what it would be like to have someone to talk to.

That was, until someone tapped him on the shoulder. Snapping back, he turned to see what was wrong, only to discover a girl sitting next to him, smiling slightly. She retracted her hand slowly, tilting her head. "Yes?" Josh said quietly, so as not to disrupt the lecture.

"How're you?" The girl said simply, resting her hands back in her lap. She wore simple clothes-a very light yellow blouse and a skirt that completely covered her legs, which were crossed at the knee. She was short, but also very thin.

"I'm..." he hesitated for a second, watching her, deciding if he wanted to be nice or give her a true answer. "Bored," he finished, sighing slightly, but still gazing at her. He thought to himself, Why did she tap me on the shoulder? I didn't even notice she was there.

She only nodded slightly, looking down at her hands. "So'm I." Josh quirked an eyebrow slightly. Something about her....

"What's your name?"

"Ameryse." Josh nearly jumped back when he heard the name. Existence. Had he willed her into being? His talents had never seemed to lie in that direction; his ability was one of manipulation, not creation.

"Are you... real?" He had trouble talking to her suddenly. He'd never heard of a single instance that a living thing was brought into being.

"I am, now." She smiled slightly, as if she was pleased to be there, in the classroom, with him. She gazed toward the professor who was still talking, oblivious to their conversation. "Class is almost over." Josh, wondering how she knew such, merely nodded. "And then you have one more class." She smiled again, looking back at Josh. "Much more interesting, though."

"Yes." He was intrigued by her, by how much she knew. Could she have his thoughts, his memories, with her? He really did enjoy his next class. It was a dual-subject lesson-one part was learning about the old city, and the other was learning to bring out abilities. The class actually took place in the ruins just outside the new city, where the first subject was more fully experienced and the second was safe from the general population of the school. Not everyone had these abilities, but those that did were considered no more or less than those who didn't. They simply adopted a different lesson program. Most teachers had some extra-planar abilities though, because they would be able to easily identify others who did and adjust their regiment before there were unnecessary risks.

Ameryse was still staring at Josh when the bell rang to dismiss class. He stood at the same time as she, and they walked out of the classroom together.

It took very little time to get to the ruins, and the ride in the bus was quiet. He couldn't figure out what to talk about with anyone. Ameryse puzzled him doubly so; he knew that she wasn't a student but a part of him. He resigned himself that would ask his professor when there was a moment.

When they got off the bus it was immediately apparent that Ameryse enjoyed being near him. She practically clung to his side, though she never actually touched. Josh found it oddly comforting. The professor, who was already there, gave a cursory examination of the class. When his eyes settled on Ameryse, his brow furrowed slightly before moving on. Josh hesitated to ask why, and the professor started the lesson.

"Today we're going to move farther into the city. However, where we're going isn't accessible by ground, so we're going to have to use other methods." Those other methods were obvious-they were going to have to use their talents to get there. "The path is fairly easy though, and your range of abilities should be more than enough to accomplish this. If you'll follow me..." and he turned and walked off, into a building Josh felt sure would collapse by breathing on it. From there he went up three levels of stairs, and ended up in a small room with only two walls still standing. The small class filed in behind him. Surprisingly, the building showed no sign of moving, even with the entire entourage of his classmates on the top floor.

"First we'll have to get over to the other building. Luckily there's a cable, so most of you can just tightrope walk across. Others may not be able to, and will have to find other ways." Josh nodded slightly. He could easily make it over by making the air hard, to turn the rope into a platform. Ameryse started over to the window leading out to the cable before the professor even finished speaking, and then was suddenly on the other side of the cable. The movement was hard to follow, and he heard several of his classmates gasp at the action. How... but she did. She had teleported herself there. He blinked to clear his eyes, and thought about what she'd done. No, not teleported. Moved. If she was the same as he, she should have done something similar. Instead, she took a different path, a more direct one. But what though? He noticed that none of the other students were moving to go next, so he started toward the window, still thinking. Ameryse, still standing on the other side of the cable, smiled again. It was such a warm smile, though it didn't take the fear out of him. He had to figure that out now. He should have the same abilities as her, too. It came to him then, an earlier lesson that week in physics. Light could travel that fast. He could manipulate himself... but that was dangerous. You had to manipulate yourself back, too. He was determined to try though. Light shouldn't be too difficult....

He ended up a half-dozen paces behind her, reeling to catch himself before he fell. His impact with the opposite wall stopped him, and he slumped down to the floor, panting. His head was pounding fiercely.

Professor Thompsen stood over him after a few seconds. "Brave, Josh. Do you remember what you did?" Josh nodded slowly, and the professor clapped him on the shoulder. "Good. Then you can practice on this new facet of your ability." He paused for a second. "It's not the same thing though. Your Alter did it differently." Josh almost didn't catch it, but then glanced up at the professor quizzically.

"Alter?"

"Yes." He turned to look at Ameryse, narrowing his eyes again. "Only the second in just as many centuries. We shall speak of it later." Josh wanted to ask more, but the professor turned around and walked back toward the window to supervise the classmates, most of which were now arriving. Alter? What is she?

He stood slowly, leaning against the wall for support. Ameryse moved to stand next to him. "I'm sorry." The corners of her mouth turned up a little. "Still bored?"

Josh chuckled slightly. "Not so much." He wouldn't be doing that again anytime soon though—it used too much energy to transform in that way. Surely he would improve with time, but he didn't have that right now.

They ended up almost ten blocks into the city before they stopped. This far into the city it was all but destroyed. Josh had remained silent the entire way there, preferring to take in the scenery while he mulled things over in his mind. He was able to move from building to building without any trouble, and Ameryse no longer seemed to want to show him up. She looked like she was content just to be there. Perhaps she was—he had no idea still where she was from.