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Stretch Goals (IC)

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June 18, 2015

Summer vacation had started, and, while he had plenty to do catching up with his studies at Claremont, sleeping was proving to be difficult. It was a little jarring for his roommate at first. While Ralf was very open about the fact that he wasn’t human, he still didn’t like people seeing his natural form. There was a name for that feeling too—self-consciousness. He didn’t like it at all. It made him remember all the scientists who always stared at him, constantly poking and prodding him… He shivered just thinking about it.

Ralf had taken to sneaking off campus at night to explore the city. Getting around unseen wasn’t difficult. Shooting across the rooftops was far different from practicing his unusual talents on campus. Well out of sight of the public and traffic below, Amorph fired his arm like a cannon, stretching it until he could wrap it around a nearby pole. From there, he let the pressure lapse, catapulting himself across the alley below and onto the next rooftop.

At least, he thought, it isn't raining. He just outright didn't like water. Maintaining his form was much more difficult--not impossible, just more effort than simply staying out of the rain. Sometimes he had nightmares about drifting into a drain and encountering some sewer gator or something. There really was no telling what was down below the city streets... probably more water. The thought alone was kind of horrifying. Better to concentrate on the run--focus on what is, instead of what might be.

The more often Ralf used his unique physiology, the more he understood himself—physically, anyway. His body went rigid as he landed, and he felt his shoulder tense up as his arm snapped back to its normal length. By then, he was on the move again, throwing his arms forward to grab on to the roof’s opposite edge as he ran and slingshotting himself across another alley. It was about as tiring as running, but he reveled in the freedom of movement as a whole. He did it to distract himself; of that much, Amorph could be sure. Part of him wondered where his father was, and if he would ever see Dr. Steiner again.

Only time, he supposed, would tell.

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Ralf's watch said that he'd been roaming for at least two hours. It felt like longer than that. He really didn't mind, though. A break was in order and there was a small bistro still open that had come to expect the short, blonde-haired and green-eyed teenager to come walking in, buying more sweets than any responsible adult should allow any kid to have. He was sure that there was some elaborate chemical explanation for why he responded to sugar the way he did. He vaguely recalled someone attempting to explain it to him once. Nevertheless, Ralf preferred the simplest reasoning available--he liked it because it tasted amazing. He really didn't need any more than that, and the sweet German couple who ran it seemed to enjoy having him around.

He learned plenty by talking to them. For one, he quickly realized that he felt somehow less self-conscious about himself when he was speaking German. It felt comfortable. Familiar. The world was already strange, but somehow listening to Felix and Carina Holtzer interact with one another made it seem less complicated. The hour he often spent there until closing was always enjoyable. Over the last few weeks, though, he sensed an odd tension. Perhaps it was the slower pace of his studies at Claremont during the summer that allowed him to focus more. He always did learn best by watching and listening to other people, and this was no exception. As night fell, Carina encouraged him to head home earlier and earlier. At first, he wondered if he wasn't welcome... The look in her eyes told a different story.

He'd seen that look before.

"I want you to stay here, Ralf. It's... it's for your own good. Don't worry; I'll be back as soon as it's safe for both of us. I promise." Andrew Steiner's eyes spoke volumes more loudly than his words ever could. Ralf could, at least, read that much from the man with whom he'd spent most of his life, short as it had been thus far. The look of concern for another's well being... it was hard to miss. Tonight, he was going to find out why.

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"What is it that you want?"

In the quiet of the approaching night, hidden well away from prying eyes, Ralf considered the six words that had become something like homework for him. In the shortest of short terms, it was simple--candy. All of the candy. That was the easy answer; the material things were always easy. Somehow, he was supposed to come up with a complex answer, and he couldn't think of any desires besides what everyone else told him he should want. He sighed heavily, watching car after car pass on the street below. He wondered how his father would answer...

Andrew Steiner knew, more than anyone, what the people who created Ralf actually wanted... what he actually was. He was created as a weapon. He was built, in a very literal sense, to be something destructive. Did that give him any right to want anything, really? He couldn't help but wonder, constantly, if he was a monster in the eyes of other people. And, monsters being bad and all, didn't really deserve anything, did they? Amorph stared at his four-fingered hand as he considered the question in earnest. 

"You are... unique," Andrew said, "It doesn't matter what THEY call you. What matters is what you respond to."

For all his days in that cramped laboratory, Amorph found that he missed his time with Dr. Steiner the most. There really was no way he could be a 'monster' if he missed anyone this much. He wanted his family back. That was it. He'd never encountered anything else that he wanted more. Considering who was after both him and his father, though... it was a difficult goal to reach and he wasn't sure how to do it. He had to become stronger. That really was the long and short of it, and while training and studying was one method of doing so... there were others.

Amorph spotted three men stroll into the shop. Dressed in black, they didn't seem particularly friendly, and after watching a few minutes of muted conversation, he understood why. His eyes narrowed a bit as one of the three knocked at table over, followed by Felix shoving an envelope into one of their hands. Ralf had seen this before. Who says TV isn't educational? He stood upright as the three men left the Holtzers to clean up the mess left behind after shaking them down. Amorph grabbed the edge of the roof and started to pull himself back...

...okay. While kicking their butts is fun and well-deserved... They'll just send somebody else. That's how these things work, right? He watched them pile into a dark blue sedan, nodding to no one in particular. 

Follow the money, I guess.

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