A new generation of heroes
Part I: From Ravenhold
“Can you believe summer break’s almost over?” I sighed, looking down at the street below us.
“And can you believe my lunch break’s almost over?” Sheila my best friend replied, stuffing the rest of her sandwich into her mouth. “Beside, you know it wasn’t much of a summer break for me.” Unlike me who’d slacked all summer long, she worked a summer job as a courier.
She got up from the ledge and walked to the middle of the roof, with me following her. The two of us had a habit of hanging on roof when we wanted to chill alone. It wasn’t hard with our powers to do so.
“Say, you didn’t tell me; got your application response back yet?”
A few months earlier I’d applied to join the Ravenhold academy, the world’s premiere superhero school. But there were less than a hundred place for tens of thousands of applicants…
“I’m sure it’s just a little late.” She said, wrapping her arms around me. “You know how many they got to handle.” She let go but held my hand with hers; her pale fingers interlacing with mine. Even though she was fairly dark skinned, being of mixed heritage, she was much lighter than I was.
I shrugged. “It’s not like I’m really expecting to be picked. But getting my rejection letter would take some stress off my back.”
“Oh come on, you’re the worthiest of candidates, Allison. Heck, I’ve read your essay, no way they reject you. And if they say no, there’s always Myrmidon academy.”
“Yeah, but Myrmidon don’t have the Legion backing them.”
“You say Legion, but don’t you really mean the great and powerful Cen-tu-ri-on?” She said, dragging the syllables. “Isn’t he a bit old for you? I mean seventy-two is kind of old, he could be your gramps.”
“Shut up! It’s not like that. He’s just the greatest hero in like ever.”
Even though there were plenty of stronger heroes around, Centurion had always been my idol; not only was he African-american like me, but he’d always been an amazing person; a member of the civil rights movement, openly championing for LGBT rights even back in the sixties and in recent years supported Alien rights.
“Suuuure. Good thing I don’t get jealous.”
Sheila and I had briefly been in a relationship after she’d came out as a lesbian the previous year but in the end we had chosen to go back to being just friends. That didn’t stop us from messing around though and even though she ID’ed as gay, she’d always respected that I was a non-binary, fluid bigender person.
“Listen I really got to go if I don’t want to be late. How about we hang out at the arcade tonight? My treat.”
“That sounds good.”
“Alright, I’ll pick you up at seven. Toodle!” She said, waving me goodbye before teleporting away. She naturally didn’t wait for me to say goodbye, a bad habit of hers.
Sheila’s power always looked weird for me; whenever she teleported away it was like she got compressed to a microscopic size and when she arrived somewhere she’d grow back from that size wherever she wanted to appear.
I didn’t stick around on the roof alone, instead using my own power to get away. I let it out and my body and clothes were transmuted away into a bright orange-gold energy. In that form, I flew away and toward Brownsville where I lived.
I landed on the balcony of the sixth floor apartment and went in before changing back, my flesh and bones as well as my possessions reforming around me.
Standing in the the living room was one of my brother Tyrone’s friend, a white boy I didn’t recognize. He looked at me wide eyes like I was some kind of amazing sight.
“Who’s that?” He asked and my brother peeked his head in from the kitchen before coming in with a bowl of popcorn
“That’s my…” there was a short pause as he looked at my left arm, seeing the blue rubber bracelet I wore as a kind of cheat sheet for my friends and family as to how I felt that day. “…brother Al.”
“Are you a parahuman too?” His friend asked him.
“No, they’re the only mutants in my family.”
“Al goes by they.”
“That sounds dumb.”
“You’re dumb.” Tyrone said, throwing a handful of popcorn at him.
I let them be and moved to the kitchen, shrugging off the transphobic idiocy of a ten years old kid, plus I knew Ty would put him in his place. The tiny kitchen smelled great; the buttery smell of popcorn mixed with the smell of cholent that had been left in the slow cooker overnight for the shabbat midday meal.
I took out a bowl, filled it to the brim with food and doused it in hot sauce before sitting at the breakfast counter, which also served as a table since we couldn’t fit one in the apartment. Unlike my dad and brother, I’d always disliked eating; for some reason, there were very few food items I liked.
Once I was done, I left for my room. My room wasn’t anything spectacular; a bed, a wardrobe, a tiny desk and bookshelf stacked with whatever I could put on it. My bass guitar I’d received on my last birthday leaning against it.
I took off my binder, which was starting to feel tight, sat down on my bed and played with my laptop, put my headphones on and started working on my personal project; making my own drum n’ bass EP, my favorite music genre. I’d been working on it most of summer but hadn’t had the best of luck.
“Allison!” I heard my dad call after sometime, I’d lost track of how long I’d been working.
“Hey dad!” I came closer and hugged him. Although he’d changed, he still smelled like food.
A lot of people didn’t believe he was my dad; being the son of an Ashkenazim mother and a black father, he was much lighter than both Tyrone and I. Our mom however had been an unmixed black lady; making us quite darker skinned.
“How are you doing today?” He asked, we hadn’t seen each other all day as he typically left very early in the morning for work and came back late afternoon.
“I’m doing alright. How was work?”
“Same old same old.” After ten years in the US army, where he’d met my mother, my dad had left for civilian life and settled into a line cook at a café.
“I’m sorry about Josh.” Ty said, coming into the kitchen and hugging me. I noticed his friend was gone.
“I’ll make sure he respect you next time.”
“Thanks for the support.”
I affectionately ran my hand through his hair, it was getting long and settling into a mini ‘fro.
The three of us sat down together, the shabbath third meal was always a very formal affair, since my dad couldn’t afford taking a day off, being a single father since my mom had passed away from lung cancer eight years ago. It was during the Seudah Shlishit that we did all the rituals, unconventional but I’m sure HaShem understood our situation.
“Before we go off into our own directions,” my dad spoke once dinner was over “something came into the mail for you Allison.” He opened his bag where he kept his work clothes and placed an envelope on the table; addressed to Allison Walker and coming from Ravenhold.
My heart jumped out of my chest. I took the envelope but didn’t dare open it just yet.
“Come on open it already!” Ty urged me.
“I think I’m going to be sick.” I said, the anxiety going straight for my stomach. “You open it.” I said, shoving the envelope into his hands.
“Fiiine.” He tore the envelope open and his eyes started racing across the page. “Dear Mx. Walker, we hereby inform you that we have reviewed your application and … blah, blah, blah, essay something, limited places, considerations…” He then said, summarizing the wall of text.
“What does it say?”
“Give me a sec.” He cleared his throat. “We would like to inform you that you have hereby been approved for our 2016-2017 class beginning September fifth two-thousand sixteen. Appropriate travel arrangements have been made and are included with this letter.”
I snatched the letter from his hand and read it myself. I pinched myself hard to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. My pained left arm confirmed I wasn’t. Out of thousands of applicants, I had been accepted. Inside the envelope was a long distance bus ticket and a note on schedule and pick up location.
“Congratulation honey.” My dad said, putting a hand on my shoulder. “I’m really happy for you.”
“Mazel Tov!” Tyrone said, hugging me.
In nine days I was going to be a Ravenhold student; I’d become a superhero and if I did well, I’d be a Legionnaire; I’d be able to serve by Centurion’s side.
I couldn’t wait.