The Tale of Rebmevon
or
The Boy with a Poorly Thought-Out Name

        From the day that little Rebmevon came bursting forth from the womb in Fall, 2043, things didn't really go his way. His father, likely drunk at the time, was under pressure to write a name on the card, and so looked up at the wall in search of words. His eyes met a calendar, and he had an idea.

    When it was decided that November sounded too feminine, he reversed it and settled on the much more appropriate “Rebmevon.” Being an only child with few friends, Rebmevon spent a lot of time at home, learning from a young age that his parents were not the sharpest knives in that place they keep knives, nor were they very concerned with him.

    While Rebmevon was growing up, he occasionally went through periods of time where he felt lonely for various reasons, generally involving a lack of care or affection from his parents. On his seventh birthday, his parents didn’t leave bed once, because they were hungover from the night before. On his eleventh, they took a trip out of town for the weekend without him. When he was declared the MVP of the high school football team his freshman year, his parents didn’t show up to the award ceremony. When he maintained the highest class rank from his eighth grade to his sophomore year, he got no more than a passing ‘nice job’ from his mother. He would always feel upset for a while, then slowly rebound as his life started to pick back up.

    One day, a few months before his sixteenth birthday, while Rebmevon was tending to the laser burn on his leg that he got while attempting to fix the lawnmower, he heard a rapping on the window. Somebody had sent a messenger drone. Wondering what it was that was so important as to be delivered on a Sunday, he opened the window. Before he even had time to authenticate that he was the intended recipient, the drone started smoking.

    Thirty seconds and a fire extinguisher later, all that remained of the robot was a small black box. Opening the box, he found a small grey cube with a circular opening on one side. He sat for a moment before remembering that this was one of those new-fangled hologram devices. He set it upright on his table and waited. Moments later, a blurry image of a man in an obnoxious green suit erupted out of it and asked him an odd question.

    “Rebmevon, how would you like to join the Sharkscales School of Magical Biology?” Before Rebmevon had time to answer, or to ask why he was chosen, or even to point out that sharks didn’t have scales, another drone dove down from above his window. Expecting another message, he reached out to touch it.

    When he woke up, he had another burn, this one on the pointer finger of his left hand. This one looked more like the result of electrocution than heat, and he eventually came to the conclusion that the second drone had shocked him. Shortly after, he came to another conclusion, namely that this was not his bedroom. Leaping up, he looked around to find the walls adorned with posters depicting an obviously photoshopped shark with green reptile scales. Putting two and two together, but not quite getting four, he decided that he didn't know where he was.

    Rebmevon walked out the door, turned to run down a hallway, opened a large steel door, and walked outside to investigate, only to find himself in the courtyard of some kind of campus. Looking up, he saw the clearest and deepest blue sky he could imagine. He thought he could even make out stars, despite the sun being almost directly above him. He looked out to either side, and saw that the ground seemed to end and give way to the air far earlier than it did back at home. Confused by this, he turned around to look behind the building he had just left, and almost fainted as he realized that he was miles above the ground, supported only by a meter-thick layer of dirt and rock that somehow hovered on a cloud. Suddenly, someone spoke.

    “Hello! Welcome to Sharkscales!” Rebmevon whipped around, startled, and saw the man from the hologram. Rebmevon wanted to slap himself for not making the connection. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re late for class!”

    “What class?”

    “First period Creature Identification, of course!”

    “Great. I don’t want to be here,” Rebmevon said, “and I didn't consent to being shocked unconscious!” He started started to walk away, but the man in the suit had other plans.

    “You’re supposed to be learning right now,” the man said, “whether you like it or not. You can ask questions at the end of the day.” Rebmevon sighed and followed the man to the class he knew nothing about.

    Seven hours and five enlightening lessons about animal genetics, identification, and magic later, Rebmevon made his way to the main office compound, a small castle-shaped building near the center of the campus. Bursting in the door, he demanded to know what was going on. He was greeted by a large sentient statue who informed him that any inquiries had to be redirected to the head administrator’s office.

    An annoyed Rebmevon stormed up the stairs to find this office. He wondered by thirtieth floor or so how a building so small could possibly have such an enormous interior. Twenty floors later, he started thinking to himself how difficult it would be for a person who wasn't as fit as he was to climb this many stairs.

    After about fifteen minutes, Rebmevon found himself at the top of the final flight of stairs. He was met by a door that simply had the word administrator written on it, with a small wooden panel beneath that. He looked at this panel for a while, wondering what it was for. Upon closer inspection, he saw that there were about twenty-five tiny indentations in the wood. He poked these places, figuring that there was some kind of button mechanism, but two minutes later, he decided this wasn’t the case.

    A good ten minutes of experimentation later, he had given up and turned to start back down the stairs when he saw a small object on the floor. He picked it up, and, realizing that it would fit perfectly, stuck it into one of the indentations. He looked down to find another object in the exact same place as the first one. He stuck that one in another spot on the floor, only to look down and find yet another one. He continued this until the entire panel was full of small metal dots. He stared at them for a second, thinking to himself that they looked familiar, then remembered that he knew exactly what they were. This was the Braille language, an outdated form of communication that people used to use back before eye replacement surgery became a service offered for free at most hospitals.

    He thought back to second grade and tried to remember the translation chart that he once knew. It eventually came back to him, and looking at the door, he spoke the letters one at a time.

    “P-U-L-L-O-P-E-N,” he said, “that figures.” A disgruntled Rebmevon gripped the sides of the wooden panel and pulled, opening the door easily. He walked in to find a bearded old man sitting at a desk. The man was conversing through an intercom to someone on a lower floor. He saw Rebmevon, held up a finger, and excused himself from the call.

    “So he’s finally here,” he said, “the one who is destined to save all of us.” Correctly sensing both a literary cliché and the start of an odd conversation, Rebmevon hesitated before asking what he meant. Evidently, he meant exactly what he said, because the ensuing conversation started with a tale that began far before Rebmevon was born. His parents were actually alumni of this school who had lost large portions of their memories in an encounter with a man named Alren, a professor at the school who had quit his job and left to start a criminal empire shortly before they graduated. Alren had struck the school multiple times since then, stealing magical relics and animals from the various parts of the campus. He had since built a sizable gang following, one that was augmented by an enormous army of the mythical creatures he had taken and bred. He was notorious for attacking the parents of students at Sharkscales, and was easily the most wanted man in the country.

    “The point of this entire thing, Rebmevon, is that your parents were excellent students before the incident occurred, so it stands to reason that you will show a similar capacity for learning and retaining the knowledge this school has to offer. In addition, your athletic achievements are impressive, so our council came to the conclusion that you would be the ideal person to take Alren down.”

    Rebmevon thought for a moment. While the entire thing seemed incredibly implausible, it did explain both his parents’ sluggishness and their apathy. In addition, it made sense that his knack for learning was genetic. Besides, he was being told all of this in a magic castle floating in the clouds. It wasn't exactly the most ridiculous thing he had heard all day.

    “So, what would I have to do?”

    “Well, you’d have to take at least a few months to learn about the forces you’d be up against. We already have a group of students who are ready at any time to perform a raid on Alren’s base whenever we say the word. Besides that, you would also need some kind of combat training, but I’m sure you’ll find that to be as easy as or even easier than your athletic practices back home.”

    “And when that’s done?”

    “It would simply be a matter of infiltrating his base, destroying the orb that controls the creatures, and capturing Alren.”

    Simple indeed. This is gonna take more time than this guy has left to live.

    “I heard that,” said the man, “which brings me to my next point. We have been working on a device that will greatly expand the power of the human mind, which would allow one to interpret and influence other people’s thoughts, as well as manipulate objects without touching them. Two hundred years ago, people would have called these psychic abilities, or maybe witchcraft. Today, we call it science.”

    Deux ex machina much?

    “Very funny. I'm sure you’ve gathered by now that I am using such a device right now?”

    “Yes, you've made that pretty clear.”

    “Then I have told you everything you need to know. We will have one such device to you within the week. If you have any more questions, think hard about them for about a minute and I will send you a messenger drone with the best answer I can provide. Enjoy the rest of your day!”

    Rebmevon started to walk out the door, but was stopped.

    “Oh, and one more thing.”

    “Yes?”

   “Do try to get to class on time tomorrow.” Rebmevon rolled his eyes and left.

   The next few months started out in a very boring way. The topics mentioned on day one of his classes were unlikely to be approached for at least three weeks, and his ‘combat training’ was purely classroom based until the middle of October. Still, being the gifted person that he was, he picked up the skills required for his classes rather quickly. Because these classes weren't too difficult, he decided that he wouldn't use his headset to get through any of his them, preferring to use only his own ability. He also concluded that this was the first place he had ever been where his skills didn't far outweigh those of the people around him. Because of this, he was able to make friends more easily than he was back at home.

    He also gradually met the members of the team that he’d eventually be leading into the raid on Alren. Each member of this team specialized in one or two skills. The oldest of them was a boy named Alex who was in his last year at the school, and expertly skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Others in the group had a way with animals, or were good at casting spells, or had some other special ability. Rebmevon was relieved to find that all of them were relatively agreeable people, and as he became more comfortable in his new surroundings, the days started to speed by.

    All of his teammates were present on Rebmevon's first day of physical combat practice.

    “I've brought all of your teammates here so that you can all work out together,” said the instructor, “but it’s likely that you all are at varying degrees of fitness. Rather than training you each individually, I decided it would be easier for you to just learn as a group, so you can all be aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. First of all, we’re going to see how you all stack up against each other.”

    The rules of a competition were then laid out: First, no one was allowed to inflict serious injuries on another combatant. Second, no weapons were allowed. Third, you were eliminated if you surrendered, or if you were held in a position that would result in death in an actual combat scenario. Finally, the last person standing would be the winner.

    When the fight began, it was quickly apparent who was already proficient. Of those who were unskilled in combat, about half of them backed away near the edges of the arena that had been marked. The other half rushed to the center of the ring and assumed ninja poses from movies with varying degrees of hilarity. The more skilled members of the group had not yet even left their starting positions, having preferred to evaluate for a few seconds before jumping in.

    Alex was among those who hadn't yet moved, and he was the first to finally sigh and walk into the middle of the arena. One of the newbies tried to execute a clumsy jump kick, which was met with an eyeroll, a swift grab to the ankle, and a gentle twist, causing the airborne boy to fall harmlessly to the ground. Knowing he was not to be messed with, many of the people prancing around in the middle backed away and surrendered to save themselves the trouble.

    One of them, however, was evidently more stubborn, because he approached the expert. He was standing in an unskilled-looking fight pose, and a relatively gentle kick was directed at him when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to give up. Just when it looked like he was about to take a foot to the stomach, he surprised everyone present by quickly changing his stance and jumping to the side. Alex, immediately aware that this person was more skilled than he looked, moved into a defensive position just in time to block a vicious punch aimed at his side. He took advantage of the effects of recoil to lunge for his opponent’s leg, only to be stopped by a knee to the chest. He reeled back, trying to re-evaluate his adversary’s fighting style, but before he even had a chance to catch his breath, he was putting up both of his arms to stop a snap kick.

    The two traded blows that were consistently blocked and countered for the next fifteen seconds or so, before Alex took aim at the boy’s shin, knocking him to the ground. He stood over him, panting slightly. The boys raised his hands in surrender.

    “Where did that come from?” His opponent opened his mouth to explain, but was cut off by the instructor.

    “He has the ability to pick up a skill from someone just by watching them for a few moments, due a chip implanted in his brain. We took this opportunity to test it out.”

    “So does that mean he-” Alex was stopped mid-sentence by an elbow to the back from one of the other more skilled fighters, and the battle quickly turned into chaos.

    About ten minutes later, the dust settled, and it was time to rank each combatant. Alex had, predictably enough, been placed in first, followed by the boy he scuffled with, Gabe, and a girl named Chloe who had evidently taken Tae Kwon Do classes before attending Sharkscales. Rebmevon placed sixth, and the list ended in a tie for places fourteen through twenty-one due to the seven who had given up before they touched another combatant. The students were split into groups based on skill, and the training began.

    A month and a half later, everything was still going well. Rebmevon had still resisted the temptation to use his headset to get through his classes and training. It came time for the semester examinations, and Rebmevon felt confident that he had aced his Creature ID, Magic Artifacts, Animal Genetics, and Taming tests. It came time for the fighting exam.

    Rebmevon showed up at the arena, having been given a specific time to arrive. Seeing no-one, he decided to wait a few minutes before seeking out a member of the office staff. Before he even completed this thought, Rebmevon heard a voice being projected into his head. It was the head administrator.

    “Your examination will begin shortly.”

    He waited a few moments, and was suddenly struck in the face by a blunt metal object. He looked up to see a messenger drone that had been heavily modified. It had razor-sharp blades in place of the normal arms, and laser diodes where the light sensors would normally go. Hearing a quiet buzzing, Rebmevon reflexively rolled to the right, and looked up to see that his hunch was correct. A small crater in the ground confirmed that one of the diodes was the source of the buzzing, and it had been set to a dangerously high frequency.

    He grabbed a nearby stick from the ground and started jabbing at the head of the drone, hoping to take out the hard drive that contained the combat programming. The stick was set aflame by a flash of light, and he threw it aside. He tried for a while to swing at the drone, but the blades moved too quickly to allow him to get close enough. The drone moved in and took a swing at his arm, barely hitting him but still managing to leave a sizable gash. Realizing that this drone was not going to yield before one of them was incapacitated, Rebmevon changed his course of action.

    He sprinted back to his dorm complex and ran up to his room, in search of the headset that the office had sent him. He still hadn't used it, but this was a life-threatening situation. He ran back outside and realized that he had no idea how to use the headset. He fumbled around, looking for buttons or switches, but found none. Before he knew it, the drone had him pinned to the ground with blades on either side of his head. He heard the buzzing sound again, and panicked. There was no way he’d survive this. He shouted out, “NO!” at the last second, and closed his eyes. He felt a rush of cool air, followed by a wave of heat and the smell of something burning.

    He opened his eyes to see a transparent blue barrier floating inches above his face, and fragments of metal sitting on top of it. He reached up to touch the barrier, but found that he couldn’t. His hand went right through to the other side. He tried to pull a piece of metal back through, and found that he could, in fact, do that. He decided that it must only block things that weren’t part of him or in contact with him, a fact that he confirmed when he stood up unhindered.

    He looked around to find a small crowd consisting mostly of members of his team who had gathered when they heard the sounds of conflict. He didn't understand why they all looked so upset. Alex was the first to speak.

    “You've been able to do that the entire time?”

    “No, I-”

    “We don’t wanna hear it. We just watched it happen,” Gabe interrupted, “and I don’t think you know how much effort we've all been putting into this, and you haven’t had the decency to tell us that you were using, er, doing,uh, whatever that was?”

    Rebmevon knew better by now than to try and explain himself to Gabe. For someone who learned things so quickly, Gabe wasn't particularly good at hearing out someone’s argument. “You know what?” Gabe continued, “I don’t even care. Just keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll probably be out of here as soon as we’re done with the raid anyway.”

    The crowd murmured in assent and dispersed. Moments later, only the head administrator remained.

    “Can you do anything about them?” asked Rebmevon.

    “Unfortunately, I lack the capacity to influence the emotions of a group so large, whether by technological means or otherwise. I can only tell you to keep your head up. I’m sure they’ll come around eventually.”

    Rebmevon was about to walk away, when something occurred to him.

    “Why was that drone so brutal just now? I was told yesterday that the exam wouldn't be any more dangerous than a normal day of training.”

    “I thought you might ask about that. You were supposed to be fighting Alex, not a drone. We were informed a few hours ago that our computer system had been hacked. Not only was Alex not notified of the time of your exam, but you weren't given the correct time, and a drone was sent in place of Alex. It seems that someone wanted you dead.”

    Rebmevon was slightly unnerved by hearing this said out loud, but the possibility had already crossed his mind, so he wasn't all that surprised. “Needless to say,” said the administrator, “you get full marks on your exam.” He walked away, chuckling to himself.

   From that point on, Rebmevon's sole focus was on studying and training. He started asking his professors for the next day’s lessons as homework so that he could move ahead. He doubled the time he put into his training, and stopped going to social events. Finally, the day came when he felt as though he was ready to take on Alren's forces.

    He put on his headpiece, which by this point had been perfected into a small device that fit over his right ear, and sent a message mentally to the head administrator saying that he was ready. Having no objections, the administrator gathered up the students who were members of the team.

    Despite whatever thoughts they had about Rebmevon, they knew what had to be done, and so they came together in the main courtyard to depart for Alren's hideout. A recon team had located it weeks in advance, so it was no issue getting there. The first issue came when they tried to enter. The scouts had said initially that the entrance was a simple password-enabled touchpad, but when Rebmevon's crew arrived, it became apparent that this was no longer the case. The square that was the door was still engraved in the wall, but there seemed to be no way to open it. Rebmevon looked around the area and experimented for more than an hour, to the sound of increasingly hostile jeers behind him.

    For the first time in years, he was having a difficult time doing something. The shock of this combined with the disapproval of his friends drove him to an emotion he rarely felt. He turned and screamed.

    “SHUT UP! I don’t see any of you morons trying anything!” He turned back toward the door just in time to miss seeing the shockwave that flew out from his feet and knocked his group back. His temper now lost, he tried opening the door with his headset. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than the door exploded into blue flames. He jumped back, startled. He definitely didn't intend to do that. Regaining his composure before he was questioned, he kicked the door, which, in its weakened state, easily gave in. He extinguished the flames and marched in. His crew nervously followed behind.

   Upon entering, they were met by a hallway, which lead to a downward staircase, which in turn lead to a large circular room with doors around the walls and a large table covered in computer monitors in the center. Rebmevon approached these monitors, and one caught his eye. Looking more closely at it, he realized that it had mugshot images of every member of his team, each with a few notes beneath. He stared for a moment, terrified. The monitor suddenly flashed and went out. He turned back and addressed the team behind him.

    “As far as I can tell, they've been doing much better recon than we have. They know exactly who all of us are, and they’re almost surely aware that we’re here.” Rebmevon was about to continue when he heard a loudspeaker crackle to life.

    “Nice deduction, Sheldon. You and your crew of morons have ten minutes to leave before this room becomes your final resting place.”

    Rebmevon shouted back, “There’s no way we’re leaving now!”

    “So be it.”

    Every door in the room swung open, and hordes of fighters flooded out. The team split into squads as they had planned. Five of them went to take on the assorted creatures and monsters that were employed, another seven went after the human combatants, and three went out to prepare for the inevitable healing of the injured that would shortly become necessary. The other five followed Rebmevon. Their mission was to find the orb controlling the otherwise tame beasts, then capture Alren. They had no option but to start trying doors. Many of these doors clearly lead to empty rooms where fighters had been preparing to emerge, but a few of them were storage, or contained some kind of machinery.

    Rebmevon, now assured that the fighting was done, walked over to inspect the system control panel. It was set up using the relatively common Windowsills 53 operating system, so Rebmevon found that he was easily able to control the entire building. He opened up a folder titled ‘IMPORTANT STUFF’, and found a file that was named ‘orb.exec’. He ran the code that was inside, and a small pedestal shot up in front of him, topped by a red ball made of glass. He reached out to grab it, and just as he brushed the surface, it flashed a bright white, then blue. Almost instantly, the sounds of fighting echoing from the hallway ended. The creatures stolen from the school were tame once more.

    Rebmevon and his team of five traveled back out into the circular room, where the human threat had also been dealt with. The grunts who were not neatly tied up by the exit staircase had either left or been knocked out, and by any rate the victory was sound. After a final check to confirm that nothing had been left undone, they all departed. On the way back, Gabe walked up next to Rebmevon.

    “I'm sorry for being so harsh with you. I know you didn’t mean anything harmful by using your, uh, head thingy. During the parts of that fight that I was awake to see, your skill and devotion really showed. The way you led that group was really impressive.”

    “Thanks for understanding. How do you think the student body’s response will be back at Sharkscales?”

    “Well, it certainly couldn't be any worse than when you left.”

    It turned out Gabe was right, and upon their return, Rebmevon and the raid team were greeted and thanked enthusiastically for their service to the school. A party broke out in the dining hall, and classes were cancelled for the rest of the week so that students could go home to see their parents. Rebmevon wasn’t sure he really wanted to, until the administrator informed him that there was a good chance that he would be able to use his headset to restore his parents’ memories. He jumped at this opportunity. He boarded one of the large eagles that the school kept, and started on his way home.

   When he arrived, he enthusiastically greeted his parents, and delved into their thoughts before they even had a chance to register his speech. He was not surprised to find that parts of most of their brain lobes had been disabled, and that their long term memories only went back about twenty years. After a few seconds of bombarding them mentally with information he had learned from the administrator, he saw their eyebrows go up. Both of their eyes flashed first with recognition, then with tears. His mother began sobbing.

    “I'm so sorry!” she said, sniffing, “for everything! My mind was numb for all those years! I barely remember speaking to you!”

    “It’s okay. You didn't make yourself that way, Alren did. All that matters now is that you’re yourself again.”

    “I’m sorry too,” his father said, “especially for your name. I don't know where that came from. We can change it, if you like.”

    Rebmevon thought for a moment. He was long past the middle-school days of being made fun of for his name.

    “That’s all right,” he said, “I own it now.”

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