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Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Polarity

Eli walked into the sophomore dorms in the Parker building of Clarke Institute of Technology. Tadashi signed them up for residency as early as possible. They both had been set on accessing the taco bar in the dining hall that had been cruelly denied them the previous year. This would not be another year of convenience store tacos. The injustice must end.

He found their dorm room and walked into Tadashi putting up posters on the walls. There were the same posters Eli had been forced to look at all of last year plus new ones. Tadashi was a huge fan of the K-pop group Echo and was determined to cover every inch of their tiny dorm room with their faces.

Eli dropped his bags on the floor beside his bed. "As pretty as Lili Choi is, do you need to have her face everywhere?"

"It’s called inspiration." Tadashi gave him a look. "And you’re one to talk. Your social media is filled with photos of Mo."

Eli coughed, his face turning red. "That’s different. Mo and I are friends."

His friend shook his head and reached for a poster of Lili Choi and taped it to the wall. "Do you think Mo has any idea that you’re madly in love with her?"

"I am not." Eli paused then asked, "Is it that obvious?"

"Even if I wasn’t your best friend, I would notice. You get all twitterpatted around her."

"I do not."

"Yes, you do."

"Do not."

"Do too." Tadashi let out a dreamy sigh and spoke in an exaggerated deeper voice to imitate Eli’s. "Hey, Mo. You look really pretty. Not that you’re not always pretty because you are."

"I do not talk like that."

"And you smell really nice like marshmallows."

"She does but what does that have to do with anything?"

"I daydream about you and hope that you will return my feelings even if I never make a move because I have zero game."

"Hey!"

Tadashi had no room to judge. They both had zero game. That’s why they were friends aside from being assigned as roommates their first semester at CIT and both being Engineering majors. They were equally as hopeless with girls.

"Let’s go see if Mo’s arrived," Tadashi suggested. "She’s living at Parker too this year."

Too eager to agree, Eli could unpack his things later. He eyed the metal case of his suit and remembered Mr. Carlysle stressing the importance of hiding it well. He could do that later. He pushed the metal case under his bed and followed Tadashi out.

Mo’s room was at the end of the hallway and Tadashi knocked on the door as Eli tried not to fidget. The door opened and Mo’s roommate, Jennie Moon, stared at them blankly. She always looked tired and wan. Eli used to think it was just stress from school.

"What?" she asked.

"Hi," Tadashi replied. "Is Mo there?"

Jennie opened the door wider and moved out of the way to let them in. Mo was putting up a cork board on the wall. She had unpacked most of her things and was organizing what she needed for the semester. Her side of the room was very tidy, not a sock out of place.

"Hey, guys!" Mo stopped what she was doing and came over to give Tadashi a hug. Mo was a hugger. "I missed you two!"

Eli could not hide his smile as Mo gave him a hug. Tadashi was right. She smelled like marshmallows.

She pulled away and asked, "How is the Carlysle internship going?"

The internship was a cover for his recruitment into the Heroic League. They had to have a reason for how he spent his summer and why he would be going into the city so much. An internship with Carlysle Industries was a real thing that happened with CIT students so it wasn’t suspicious. Most students at their college graduated and ended up working for the company.

"It’s going great," Eli replied. "I’m learning a lot."

"Is George Carlysle like how he is on TV?"

"I haven’t seen him much. I mostly fetched coffee and lunch for people."

"Just being in the same building as George Carlysle is an honor," Tadashi countered. "The hope of his genius rubbing off on you is worth it."

Eli raised an eyebrow at him. "Jealous?"

"I’m seething," he replied. "And to think you’re the first sophomore to get that internship. They only used to pick seniors before."

"They saw that Eli was special and they couldn’t help themselves," Mo remarked with a bright smile.

Be still his beating heart.

"Thanks, Mo." He told Tadashi, "Sorry, man. I wish they could’ve picked both of us."

"I would have been honored to be your fellow coffee slave but alas real life had to disappoint."

"Cheer up, Dash," Mo said. "There’s going to be a back to school party later. Do you guys wanna go?"

Tadashi looked wary. "What kind of party?"

"It’s not going to be like last time."

"You mean when I came home without my shoes and inhaler?" Tadashi supplied, grimacing. "My parents were not happy at having to get me a new one. Do you know how much an inhaler costs?"

Eli didn’t remember much of that night. He just knew they made it back to their dorms, somehow.

"We’ll make sure you don’t lose your inhaler this time," Mo reassured him. "It’ll just be some fun before the semester inevitably eats us alive."

Eli and Tadashi couldn’t really say no to her. Mo was good at getting her way.

She turned to her roommate. "What about you, Jen?"

Jennie was unpacking boxes of books and had been ignoring them.

The blonde shook her head. “I’m not really interested in watching you swoon over that guy from the rowing team.”

Eli stiffened and turned to Mo in confusion, hoping he misheard. He asked, “What guy from the rowing team?”

Mo flushed and tucked her dark hair behind her ears. It was a nervous habit of hers. She answered, “Nobody. There’s just this guy I met who said he was going to be at the party. It’s nothing, really.”

Eli didn’t know what to say. He clenched his fists and the lights in the room flickered. He breathed in and out to calm himself before he caused the power in the building to short-circuit. It wouldn’t be the first time.

"It’s going to be at the rooftop of the Grey building," Mo told them. "Don’t ditch me, okay?"

Eli nodded. "I wouldn’t miss it."

As long as the world didn’t need saving that night, he would be there.


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