AN: Cory is very bad with names.

My beta is grounded, but I'm posting this anyways to show that I am working on it. So if you see any mistakes or discontinuities, please inform me about them. I tried to catch them all. I really did. Also, tell me if people aren't believable. I don't want "characters", I want "people". Like, you could imagine real people reacting/acting that way. Cory is . . . well, he's an oddball. That'll be explained later on.

This isn't filler, even if it does feel like it. I just needed to explain some stuff and, perhaps, set up some things to happen later on. Next chapter: Roommate! And everybody else. Fun.

"How you doing?" the Institute woman said cheerfully. She and the man were handling the suitcases, loading them up onto a nondescript white van except that it had the words 'Psychics' Learning Institute' on both sides in bright, attention grabbing lime green. I was handling the boxes, because I would kill someone if they harmed my precious stuff and I didn't trust them to not break anything or bend anything to rip anything or stab anything with sharp corners. . . .

I hugged my box tighter and placed it carefully in the back of the van.

"You want help with that?" asked the Institute man. I had been informed of their names that morning, but couldn't remember them.

"No, thank you," I said, because I'd always been taught to be polite. I glanced back at my parents, who were standing next to the van and staring at me like they'd never see me again. For all we knew, we wouldn't ever see each other again. By the time I was done training, they could be dead from a plane crash or a terminal disease or old age or . . . something. And they wouldn't be able to visit me, because with that many little kids, hormone-driven teenagers, and messed-up adults it was dangerous for regular people. (It was, of course, dangerous to the psychics themselves, but that was thought of as unavoidable.) The soonest I'd be able to see them depended on when the Institute people could trust me outside the compound with an escort to interact with real people in real life.

At least we could talk to each other through phone calls and e-mails.

The Institute woman ushered me into the van after the last box was in place. I got inside and turned around just in time to wave goodbye to my parents. My mother looked like she wanted to hug me, but I wasn't a touchy-feely kind of person. Institute woman started the van and drove away. When I looked back, my dad was patting my mom on the head as she jerked dry sobs into her hands.

He wasn't a touchy-feely kind of person, either.

It took a little more than a day to get to New Mexico, where the Psychics' Learning Institute was located. That time was filled with awkward silences, me trying to ignore them, and them (mostly the Institute woman) trying to get me to talk. We had to stop every two hours for more gas and a bathroom break, and five times on the trip we stopped just for food. Me and the Institute woman (I was fairly sure by this time that her name started with an S) got hungry fairly easily, and carsickness happened once when she didn't get food in time to quell her rolling stomach.

That was a pleasant experience that, if I have to go through it again, someone else will have clean up.

During the night I was having trouble getting to sleep (being smooshed up in the backseat was not comfortable at all), but the Institute man and woman were talking in hushed voices in the front, complaining how impossible it was to prove someone was psychic after they were dead and how it would have been much easier if only they could use their powers to "persuade" the parents to tell the truth. Using telepaths was illegal in a courtroom, though, because a telepath could also push someone into telling an untruth and nobody would be the wiser. They seemed fairly confident, however, that the Institute could win the case with my, and those other boys', testimonies. I would, of course, not be present, but I could write down what I wanted to state and that would be fine.

It was fairly uneventful, and the last two hours of the trip were boring. All around was dirt with gray, scraggly bushes pushing out from the ground and mountains in the distance that looked gray because of the atmospheric interference, although they might have been red. I didn't see anything that I could categorize as an actual tree rising from the yellowed grass, however, and that bothered me a little.

"I'm sure you'll have fun," the Institute man said. His name was George or Gregory or something. "All the trainers are very nice."

I sat hunched over on the right side of the van, trying hard to avoid the hot, burning sunlight. "And the trainees?" I asked, slightly nervous about the whole thing but also uninterested. I wanted to be home and not psychic, meaning I'd probably be in love with that guy along with the rest of the school right about now, but I'd be relatively ignored and that I could handle.

"They're nice, too."

"Some are nice," Sally or Sherry said with a sideways glare at her brother.

"Alright," he said agreeably. I had the sudden, unavoidable feeling that he was a pushover. This did not make me calmer.

"You lie to much," Suzie or Stephanie said to Geoffrey or Glen.

I chose not to hear the rest of the conversation as a white building came into view. It seemed rather small to hold as many psychics as the newspapers claimed it actually held, never mind train them, but as we got closer I realized that the building was actually a few stories bigger—it resided in a pit that looked like it was created by a meteorite striking the earth at a high speed . . . or is it meteoroid?

Well, in any case, a huge chunk of debris from space had fallen to the earth a long time ago and created a pit that was now used to house individuals that were a danger to themselves and all that was around them.

I dearly hoped this place wasn't on a fault line, but I figured that the woman who'd founded the institute (one Marie Adwader, an Empath) hadn't been that stupid.

Sharon or Samantha was explaining about the building, and I tuned in. ". . . at one time held actual crazies here, but it was torn down and rebuilt into this place, although it's still white. I think that makes sense, though, since it can get really hot here. The underground part, or, um, the basement, was really expanded and is now about five floors. That's where the training actually happens. And it's actually six stories low, but the lowest floor is used as a sort-of . . . sedation place. I think most people go there at least once during their stay here. The town around here was also torn down. . . . I think only about five people were still living around here by the time Adwader came, anyways. She was really pretty, you know. Her picture is up front. She had a son, Stephen, and he took over for a while, although he's dead now. . . ."

"Son?" I'd never heard that before. Weren't psychics supposed to be gay? I felt hopeful, then, because I was still sure I was asexual, and then I wouldn't be the only one to be an oddball among Psychics.

"Forced marriage," Sarah or Shannon said curtly. Ah, well. "It's said that she killed him their third night 'together,'" she brought up her hands in a quote sign and snorted. "She short-circuited his brain with too much at once." There was a pause. "Stephen was still alive when I was younger, actually. Nice man, if a bit eccentric. Too bad about that stroke. . . ."

She chattered on and on, getting really into it although I'd stopped paying attention. Guthrie or Gareth kept looking at me through the rearview mirror, but he didn't say anything.

The drive was grey gravel, but the van ride was smooth. That was good. If any of my books or CDs got harmed during travel, someone would have to pay and get me new ones.

The double front doors were actually a light pink. Everything shimmered in the heat and the doors looked like they were on fire for a brief second. There were pillars holding up the roof above the ten steps to the doors, and above those pillars on the roof were large stone gargoyles. Before then, I'd never seen a white stone gargoyle before.

I tuned back into Suzanne or Susanna because I had nothing better to do, and because I was hoping she'd say something about the gargoyles.

". . . precognitive powers, and those who have ESP claim that they can see the ghosts of all those who died here. Creepy, huh? There has been one occasion where the building collapsed due to all the walls being completely shattered—I'm pretty sure the girl who did that was laid to rest in at least a relatively humane fashion—and there have been fifteen fires, although only one big one. No earthquakes or volcanoes or anything. No tornadoes or whirlpools or—hey!" she snapped at her brother, glaring.

He just looked confused. "Whirlpools?"

The car slid to a stop and I exited before . . . Garfield (?) did. The Institute woman was screaming out something when he shut the door, and she quickly turned off the car with a scowl. The Institute man looked smug.

The offered to carry my stuff, but I only handed them the suitcase and backpack. I took two of the boxes (both quite heavy) and staggered after the twins.

The door opened before any of us had taken more than ten steps, revealing a man with large glasses and a suit frayed at the bottom of the pants. He smiled nervously and tapped his pen against a clipboard. "This him? Excellent." He smiled at me with big, white teeth. "I'm Richard, the secretary and, well, all around handyman I guess." He looked thoughtful for a minute, running a hand through messy brown hair. "Anyways, I'm the Telekinetics' Helper, so come to me if you need anything. I'll be in the training centers with you, at any rate, so you'll see me at least once a day." He held out his hand. "It's very nice to meet you, Cory Tracy!"

He seemed so enthusiastic I was a little frightened to be anywhere near him, but I didn't flinch as we shook hands. He snatched his hand back and scribbled something on a paper attached to his clipboard. Then he looked up and smiled again. "So, ready to meet your roommate?"

I blinked, taken aback. "Roomate. . . ?"

He frowned. It was creepier than his smile. "Yes. Shania and Gareth should have told you." He looked at them with big, disappointed eyes.

Gareth shifted uncomfortably while Shania just scowled. "I did!"

Richard turned to me. I shrugged.

Richard said, "Well, everyone has a roommate here for space purposes, except that, percentage wise, there are more women than men who are psychics. So there were three girls here that did not have roommates, and now there are only two."

"Oh," I said, not quite seeing the logic of me having a girl as a roommate. Yes—I was supposedly gay, and so was she, but still.

He nodded, once again smiling. "You are being roomed with Tatiana."

I was led through the halls by only Richard, who was saying something. I was watching the windows leading to the heat-shimmering outside and the boxes that Richard was floating behind him. Shania and Gareth had left us at the front entrance to go and report to the current president of the Psychics' Learning Institute (which I learned was really called PLI, pronounced plee, by those who didn't want to say the full name all the time). The presidents name started with a Y, or a U, or a V. Or maybe it was a W.

I almost bumped into Richard when he stopped in front of a door, and I realized the stupidity of my actions in not paying attention to him or my surroundings. Oh well. "This is Tatiana's and your room, and I hope you get along well," he said with the finality of someone who'd just given a long speech, letting go of my suitcase to rummage in a pocket. He held out a key to me, and I removed my hand from the two boxes I still carried to take it. "You work out your own rules between yourselves, but just remember it's lights out by twelve." He chuckled. "Not that that really matters." And then he winked at me, as though sharing some private joke. It looked odd on his face.

I told him, "You shouldn't wink," and then mentally winced at my bluntness.

Richard just laughed and ruffled my hair before dropping my backpack (the boxes lowered in a much gentler action to the floor) and leaving me and my stuff, whistling some song that I could only half remember.

I was unlocking my door when I realized it was that song that one-eyed woman from the Kill Bills was singing in the first one, while she was dressed up as a nurse and getting ready to kill Beatrice Kiddo.