Origins: Charlie 2

Aftermath: Part Two

Ian Coleman, eight years ago

The days that followed the incident were difficult to say the least. Charlie would switch from one extreme to the next; she’d spend hours on end vacant, staring into nothing only to wake up and breakdown in tears or fly into a blind rage.

Taking care of her was taking all of my time and energy, but it was the least I could do for her. Even though one of the undercover syndicate henchmen had told me about their move, I hadn’t be fast enough to avoid it all…

It was late at night, Charlie had fallen asleep leaning against me, when there was a knock on the door of my new york apartment. I carefully propped Charlie off me and went to the door and opened it. On the other side stood Julie Newman, the girl from social services, she was holding pair of bags

“Hey. Come on in. Want some coffee?”

“That’d be great. How is she doing?” She answered.

I went to the counter and prepared another cup just for her.

“I don’t know….” I sighed. “She’s sleeping right now and I got her to eat a little earlier. I managed to get a psychiatrist friend of mine to see her here since she won’t get dressed, bathe or leave the apartment. What’s in the bag?”

“Some of her things I managed to recuperate at her home. It’s finally no longer considered a crime scene.” She said putting them down. “

“Great, now I just need to get her to shower and change.” I sighed. “Any luck finding any of her relatives?”

“Nothing useful. Both her parents immigrated only a few years before she was born and all their relatives are back in cuba. We’ve tracked down the father’s mother, but she’s in a home; early onset dementia, her father was in the process of getting her moved to the united states. Her husband died years ago. Nothing we could find on the mother’s side of the family…”

“I see… Guess she’ll be staying here for a while longer.”

“You know you can’t keep her here forever. I let it go before, but my supervisors have been riding my ass for the last few days, says we should be taking her away and into the proper hands.”

“Where will they take me?” Charlie muttered. She’d apparently woken up and had heard us.

“I don’t know exactly…” Julie said. “They’ll probably put you in with a foster family or a center where they can take care of you… At least until we can find if you have any remaining family.”

“Do I have to leave?”

“I don’t know, at least not yet.”

“I don’t want to go…”

“Hey, it’s alright. You’re not going anywhere, okay? Now let’s get you back to bed.”

I escorted her to bed and and tucked her in properly this time.

“Good night Charlie.”

She didn’t answer but she stayed in the bed. I closed the door behind myself and went back to Julie’s side.

“I should go.” She said. “I’ll contact you tomorrow.”She got up and I escorted her out, even going down the elevator with her.

There was silence as we rode it down until I decided to speak up.

“I want to adopt her.”

“You what?” She asked, spinning around like I’d said something crazy.

“She’s terrified, she doesn’t want to leave. I’m the only person she trust and I can’t just let her go.”

“You can’t just adopt on a whim.”

“This isn’t a whim, I’ve seriously considered it and how it would affect my life. I can’t be that bad a candidate; I’m financially secure, have completely flexible work hours, heck if I have to, I’ll retire from superheroing, get a job teaching at Ravenhold. I need your help, I know you’re a good person and you care for her, and not just because it’s your job. Can you tell me that taking her away would really be best?”

“You…” She sighed. “Have a point.”

“I’m going to need you to guide me through whatever process I need to go through.”

“I’ll do what I can. And I’ll try to block any attempt at getting her taken away.”

***

Over the next few days, Julie and I began the process to get everything started. With a favor from Julie and a nice bonus from me for the teacher to do overtime, I plowed through the adoption classes within a week.

Charlie seemed to do a little better — she’s put on some of the clothes Julie had brought and bathed. — Everyday doctor Sij came to see her and try to help her process what had happened. The steps were small, but at least with her help she might be better one day. That day, I watched the two of them go through a mix of CBT and play therapy. At least Charlie seemed to be receptive to the Venusian doctor.

“That’ll be all for today.” Doctor Sij announced once they were done. “I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

I escorted the doctor out. When I turned around, Charlie was behind me.

“I’m hungry.”

“Of course, I’ll make you something to eat.” I went to the kitchen and warmed up something in the microwave. Charlie still hovered around me, she didn’t like being far away.

“Charlie? Can I talk with you?”

“What is it?”

“I know you don’t want to leave and I don’t want you to leave either. I know I can never replace your parents, but I want to take care of you. Julie and I have been looking into it and if you want me to, I’ll adopt you. I’ll be your new father and you’ll come to live with me.”

“Okay…”

I put an arm around her and dragged her closer into a hug. She wrapped her tiny arms around me with all her strength.

***

Thankfully the Legion’s contact within the government as well as a few well placed bribes got the wait and processing times shortened as quickly as possible and I was put on probation. Soon enough we found ourselves back on Priest island.

“Is this it?” Charlie asked, looking at my home.

“It is. Welcome home Charlie.”

Outland: Part VI

The Human Outlands

Part VI: Explanations Required

I went to bed early after the party finished. That time I even slept truly alone for the first time. Unless you count Mr. Hopper in my arms and Jaime sleeping in the other bed. It was a little scary but I didn’t get any bad dreams that night so I was okay. When I came out of my room and went downstairs, I saw that there was this strange creature on the ground. It was furry with horns, looking a little like the bush hares I’d seen a few times back home but it was bigger, its ears had fallen down and it had spots.

“Hello little thing.” I said greeting it. “I’m Ahti.”

I went down to its level, going on all four and reached out to touch the creature but it recoiled away from my hand.

“You’re not one of the strange humans who don’t look like humans, are you?”

It didn’t answer, so maybe it was just an animal. With humans, it’s hard to tell really.

“I see you’ve met Nibbles.” Charlie said, coming up next to me.

“It’s so weird…” I said examining it. Earth is strange, things don’t look anything like they look in the pictures I’ve seen of Ithar; not the plants, not the fishes, not the animal. There’s so much things on earth with hair, it’s weird.“Why is everything on earth so fuzzy? You can’t even see its skin. Even some of your bugs and flying animals are fuzzy, it’s weird… They look like plants.”

“Wasn’t there any furred animals on Ithar?”

“No, they have skin, scales or carapaces like animals normally do. But you’re fibrous like plants.”

Having hair must be inconvenient; I mean doesn’t it get stuck everywhere? Get in your eyes? Become heavy when you get wet? Blubber is way better to keep you warm than hair, it doesn’t get in the way and it helps you swim too.

Since the strange Nibbles didn’t want me to touch it, I gave up sat down at the counter where Caroline gave me a human thing. It was some kind of strange cake coming from a mold. I didn’t recognize the taste but it was okay.

The others started coming out, some of whom went for the cleaning room. We normally used baths at home, but I figured out how to use the ‘shower’ as Annabelle called it rather quickly. It just sprays water on your head and you have to use it before it drips off you and goes down a drain.

Once I was clean, it was time for our first class of the day; exercise. We had to change into special clothes there and Annabelle had to help me put on the human style shirt since they don’t have a front opening. They’re kind of like pants that you put on your torso really, but they have a wrong and right way to be put on. Humans like to do things very strangely and in a really complicated way.

The physical education class as the others apparently called it was very different from what I did in school, normally in Vaal we played games but here the giant human female who was the teacher instead had us do these weird things she called ‘push-ups,’ ‘Sit-ups’ and more movement, which weren’t very fun… But at least when that was done, she let us do whatever we wanted. I looked around, but didn’t recognize what the others were doing.

“You look lost.” One of my classmate said. It was a male called Sanjay.

“It’s just that I don’t know any human games.” I had to think for a moment, trying to think what we could do. And then I figured it out: “We could play Tavzi!”

“You’ll have to explain the rules.” Annabelle said. I hadn’t noticed Rowan and her coming closer.

Tavzi is pretty simple; you just need a ball and a wall. You have to throw the ball at the wall and the other team just need to send it back to hit the wall before it hit the ground twice. If they can’t you get a point.

“Sounds simple enough.” Annabelle said. “What are the teams?”

I looked between Rowan, Annabelle and Sanjay. It didn’t take long for me to decide. Although I liked Annabelle, Rowan was big and strong and also a friend.

“I want Rowan on my team. They’re big and strong.” I announced.

“Guess that makes us partners.” Sanjay said, going next to Annabelle.

We got a ball from the storage and played the game. Sanjay was pretty good at it, but he wasn’t as good as Rowan and I. In the end, Rowan and I beat them two to one set.

“Good game.” Sanjay said, trying to catch his breath “But next time, we’re going to crush you.”

“You can try.” Rowan answered.

The bell rang not long after and we changed out of the dirty uniforms and back into our normal clothes. The next class was just down the corridor and we went there. There was a big scary looking birdman, he was different than the one whom I’d seen when I’d arrived. This one was called Mr. Rook and he was pretty mean, taking turn fighting everyone until he stood in front of me and I just stared at him.

“It’s your turn.” Annabelle said, giving me a small push.

“What am I supposed to do?”

“You need to fight him.”

“But why? I don’t want to fight him. He was a little mean to Rowan and the others, but maybe it was an accident. Maybe I can talk to him instead?”

“It’s the point of the class, to teach us how to fight.”

“Oh… Okay…”

I stepped forward and Mr. Rook took position.

“Ready?” He asked.

“I think so.”

Mr. Rook started moving and quickly he threw something at me but when it hit me it just fell down on the ground after a brief blue-zaru colored flash. He tried again, this time throwing some kind of ropes but they also fell limply at the ground.

“That didn’t work. Do you want to try again?”

He came to a stop not far from me. He took out a long rod and hit me with it but that didn’t work either.

He sighed. “Show me what you’ve got.”

What I had? What did he mean by that? What did I have he wanted to see? He just stared at me, like he was waiting for something… Oh right, I was supposed to fight. I didn’t want to hurt him so I made sure to do it gently. I pointed at him with my arm and let out the power. It hit him with a slapping sound.

“Was that good enough?” I asked. “Do I need to do it stronger? I really don’t want to hurt you.”

“You know what, we’re done.”

“Okay. Did I do well?”

“This going to be a long fucking year…” Mr. Rook whispered even though I didn’t understand why he said that. “You can go back to the bench with the others.”

Was that it? I didn’t get it. I probably should’ve asked for instructions on what I was supposed to do…

Adventure: Part XVI

Adventure of a Lifetime

Part XVI: Dinner Prep

Once science class ended after an unending lecture which I didn’t really get, it was time for (mundane) world history class given by the esteemed chronokinetic hero Dr. Chrononaut — who was very adamant that her history doctorate was genuine and pledged that she would whoop our butts if we dare to be one of those honorary doctorate heroes — which went pretty well. Unlike our previous class the good doctor spoke clearly, faced us and stood in one place which meant I could actually understand her.

Charlie on the other hand looked like crap. She was just looking ahead, clearly dazed if not buzzed from whatever pills she’d taken to fight her panic attack. She didn’t even pay attention to Jaeger’s short jokes anymore when we were on the way home once classes were over.

When we came in the house, the smell of the tomato sauce I’d left to simmer all day filled the house with a saliva-inducing aroma. I went to check on it quickly and found it looking just perfect. Charlie dragged her feet toward me before looking at the kitchen equipment.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to be any help in the kitchen tonight.” She muttered.

I came closer and wrapped my arms around her, which she weakly returned “That’s alright. Get better okay?”

“I will.” She said with a feeble nod.

“And get that bun some love. I think Nibbles’ been lonely with how busy we’ve been.” What with the parties and going out, Nibbles had sadly been neglected over the last few days.

“Yes mom.” She said. I couldn’t prevent myself from chuckling.

“Get to it.” I ordered her firmly.

She dragged her feet to her bedroom and disappeared behind the door. So I focused on the food, there was a lot of work required to feed our little army and it was my self appointed duty. I took out what I needed to get pasta going for the sauce. A minute or two later, Allen came closer, looking a little awkward and nervous.

“Do you always make the food here?” He asked.

“Eh, pretty much. Cooking is like my number one passion and so I cook a whole lot at home too. Kind of helps me wind down after a long day too.”

“Maybe I could help?” He reluctantly asked.

“Sure, help is always welcome.” I answered with a smile. “Do you cook often?”

“Yeah, my mom works at night a lot so I make dinner for myself often. Fresh food is better than frozen crap, y’know.”

“Yeah and that’s cool, Do you know how to make fresh pasta? ‘Cause that’s what’s for dinner.”

“No… You make your own pasta?”

“Heck yeah, my grandma’s Italian and she thinks premade pasta is of the devil. We also make some of our own cheeses, sausages, grow our own veggies, the works really.”

“You’re Italian?”

“Quarter Italian, quarter Scottish and half French Canadian actually. Although I only learned the French part recently.”

“You only learned about it recently?”

“I’ve never met my father, I was raised by my mom and grandparents. My mom always avoided talking about my father for complicated reasons to say the least.”

“Oh I see…”

“But now; Pasta time.”

I showed him how to make a dough. He seemed a bit impressed that I didn’t go the easy route with a mixer or even a bowl; making the dough directly on the cutting board by making a well with flour and eggs in the middle. Once I finished the first dough with him watching intently like his life depended on it, I let him make his own. Allen clearly had never worked a dough before, but he had good instincts and kept asking for directions so it came out amazingly well for a first time.

“Congrats, you’ve made your first dough. Looks great too, trust me my first was nowhere as good looking as this.” I told him with a smile, even giving him five which he sheepishly took. “Now we just gotta wait a few minutes for the dough to rest before we make it into pasta.”

“That was pretty cool.”

“I’m glad to have had you at my side. If you ever want to cook with me, just ask. Charlie sometimes tries to help, but just between you and I? You’re a thousand times better than Charlie at this.” I said with a laugh. “She’s a ninja when it comes to superhero stuff, but give her a chef’s knife and she’ll probably lose a hand.”

That made him laugh too. I went to check back on the sauce and tasted it. It was pretty good but not quite perfect yet so I adjusted the seasoning just a wee bit. From the corner of my eyes, I could see Allen sort of staring, biting his lips and just looking like he wanted to say something, but was afraid it would lead to him getting his butt whooped.

“Alright, I can see you’ve got questions you’ve been wondering about all day, you can go ahead and ask them.” I said turning toward him. “But if you ask me about my junk, I’m going to throw you out the window.”

Allen stopped and stared at me for a moment, looking quite shocked that I was giving him a chance to ask questions and be nice. He seemed to consider what to say for a moment before he finally spoke up.

“So eh… How did you know you were trans?”

“I think people think about being transgender the wrong way. It’s not about being a boy and wanting to be a girl or vice versa. It’s more like you know what you are but everyone else insist that you’re wrong, sometimes violently so…

I knew I was a girl since I was little. To me being a girl was what felt right, the very idea of being considered a boy felt so horribly wrong and grossed me out. But everyone told me I was a boy because of how my body was and it got in my head to the point I started believing it and did everything I could to try to make it fit, but it didn’t… The more I tried to be a boy, the more I hated myself, wanted to mutilate my body and just die.

When I finally transitioned and started presenting and being seen as a girl, it was like years of pain went away. I finally started feeling comfortable in my skin, sure, it’s not perfect, but I don’t hate myself or my body anymore because I don’t let it define who I am.”

“I guess it’s something you can only tell me about and I’ll never really ‘get’ it.” He said after a moment of consideration. “I’m glad you’re happier.”

I nodded and checked on the pasta, which still needed a while before it would be ready to cook.

“Do you know about intersex stuff?” Allen asked after a moment.

“I’m afraid I don’t know much on that front. Why?” It wasn’t one of those questions you just ask out of the blue so, I was fairly sure I knew why he asked, but I thought it was best if he came out with it himself.

“It’s not important…” He mumbled before looking away until his eyes went on the pasta machines. “Should we roll them out?”

“Eh it’s better to wait some more, letting the dough rest will make it less rubbery and it’ll be softer too. But it’s five on a thursday, we can definitely watch power chef in the meantime.”

“Power Chef?”

“It’s a cooking competition for parahumans. You’ll see, it’s awesome. I opened the tv by the kitchen and set it to ParaTV; the world’s only channel devoted to parahumans. Allen seemed mystified by the show.

“That’s so weird…” He mumbled as one of the contestant used his chronokinetic power to slow-cook a brisket for hours within their assigned forty minutes or the duplicators becoming a one-woman brigade.

“You’ve never watched ParaTV?”

“No. We have cable at home, but not this channel…”

“It’s one of my favorite network, people focus so much on superheroes and villains that they forget that we parahumans aren’t all about violence. Our powers are useful for so much more; whether it’s to be creative or help others.”

Allen didn’t answer, instead he nodded absently, seemingly lost in his thoughts for a moment. I couldn’t help but notice that he looked sad… Even during the power party or against the Rook, he’d never shown his power… Was he ashamed of them? I didn’t feel like it was right to prod so I didn’t ask. A lot of people were parahuman-phobic, maybe Allen was still struggling with that, after all he didn’t seem to come from the most progressive of backgrounds.

“I think the dough’s rested enough. Ready to make pasta?”

“Yeah… Sure.” He said, coming out of his bubble.

“Oh and Allen?”

“Yeah?”

“If you need someone to talk to, about anything. I’m here, okay?”

There was a pause before he answered.

“Thanks. I’ll erm… try to help in return. You’re smarter than me though, probably won’t need my help.”

“You never know.”

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Origins: Charlie 1

Aftermath: Part One

Eight years ago

It had all happened so quickly.

One minute I was eating a grilled cheese my babysitter had made me for lunch on a lazy Sunday, and then the next the door burst open. Three men with masks came in. We didn’t have time to react that they grabbed me and put me in a lock. I tried to fight but they were were far too strong for my six years old self.

“Please, don’t!” Sammy, my babysitter, screamed. She then let out a loud pained cry as one of the man grabbed her by her hair.

“You’re going to be a good girl and call her parents.” He said in a deep gravely voice. “Give them this. We’ll call them. If the cops or anyone else hear about this… well let’s just say there won’t be anything left to bury.”

That was all they said before dragging me away. I tried to kick and scream, but they quickly put an end to that, stuffing something in my mouth and taping it shut before putting a bag over my head. They dragged me down the stairs and into a van before driving me away somewhere.

When they took me out of the van, I had no idea where we were, but it was cold, dank and dark. A gross sewage smell lingered in the air. The men tied me up and set me down on the ground, removing the bag over my head, revealing we were in some kind of warehouse. They talked among each other as well as a fourth man who had been waiting here but I couldn’t hear them.

After a long time, they made a call and soon after, the door to the place opened. Mamá and Papá came in, still wearing their police uniform. I tried to scream for their attention but I still had the gag in my mouth.

“Where’s our daughter?” Mamá asked.

“She’s right there, unharmed.” The man guided them toward me and my mother ran my way.

Charlie. You’re alright…” Mama said in our language. Kneeling down and taking me in her arms. “Did they hurt you?

Mamá…” I broke down and started to cry. “What’s going on?

Don’t worry Corazón, everything’s going to be alright.

“What do you want from us?” My dad asked them.

“For you to stop your investigation.”

“Fine, you’ve got it. You’ve made your message clear enough.” My dad answered. “We’ll stop the investigation. Say we found nothing conclusive.”

“That could work…” The man mused. “But that would be a little short sighted, wouldn’t it be? We have to do something about the future Mr and Ms. Cruz, let them know the consequences of saying no the first time… And I’m sorry for that.”

It all happened in a flash; there was the loud roar of gunfire, bright flashes and then I was covered with something warm and viscous. In front of me, Papá fell down to the ground. His eyes were still open, unmoving like the rest of him. Part of his head was missing and a dark pool of liquid formed around him.

Papá?” I muttered.

I reached out with a shaky hand.

Corazón… Close your eyes.” Mamá said with a cough while holding her belly. She crawled toward me, putting her hand over my eyes. I closed my eyes and waited.

I didn’t see what happened next, but there was more gunfire and I heard people scream. After a moment it all became quiet again, save for me and Mamá’s breathing and I heard steps coming close to us.

“Medic!” One man I hadn’t heard before yelled. Someone grabbed me and I opened my eyes to see a bird-masked person. I tried to struggle, but his words stopped me. “Shuuush… I got you little girl. You’re safe now.”

More people came toward us and they put my parents on gurneys. I tried to stop them but the birdman stopped me.

“Everything is going to be alright.” Birdman said. “They’re going to take care of your mom, make sure she’s alright.”

“But…”

Charlie…” Mamá spoke. “Be nice, listen to the man. Be a good girl for me, alright?

I didn’t answer and they wheeled her away. Birdman carried me out into the street where an ambulance and a crowd had arrived.

“Does someone have a towel or something?” He asked. Someone got him one and he carried me to the hood of a car, setting me down on it and wiping the blood off my face. Someone gave us a blanket and birdman wrapped it around me.

We didn’t say anything, I just stared at the ground, my brain still trying to process everything that had happened. After a moment, a woman came toward us.

“I’m Julie Newman with social services,

“Guess this is goodbye, kid.” He said. The woman extended a hand toward me.

“No!” I screamed. I wrapped my arms around birdman. Mamá had said to listen to him, she trusted him. But I didn’t trust the woman. “I don’t want to go.” I pleaded.

“Charlie, I’m here to help you she said. I’m going to take care of you until your mommy gets better.”

“I don’t want to go.” I repeated, holding onto the birdman even tighter.

“Maybe I can hold onto her until she calms down?” Birdman offered. “I’m registered, so it shouldn’t be a problem…” he then said, taking out a card from his pocket.

“I thought you Legion folks weren’t big on registering.”

“It’s up to individual members, my identity is largely an open secret anyway so it wasn’t much of an issue for me.”

“Very well. I’ll see what I can do.” She said before leaving us.

“Alright, we’re going to get to my house, okay?”

I nodded, and kept holding onto him with all my might. One of the police cars gave us a ride to an apartment complex and we went in. He removed his costumes and helped me out of my clothes before putting me in one of his shirts, which was big enough that it reached past my knees. A safety pin kept the collar small enough so I wouldn’t fall through.

Even now that I was safe, I didn’t cry. I was old enough to understand what had happened, but all I felt was this numbness. It was like everything was distant and unreal. Like watching a movie… My body was acting automatically while my mind was lost in limbo.

Birdman — his name was Ian he told me — tried to get me to eat, watch tv or anything, but I didn’t have the strength to do it. Eventually, I fell asleep. Although really I just passed out from exhaustion. I woke up sometimes later because of the ringing of the phone.

“Hello? Oh hey Julie.” the birdman said, picking up. There was a long pause. “Oh my god… Crap… I don’t know what I’ll tell her. I said her mom would be alright…” He sighed. “Oh crap… She’s awake.” He said noticing me. He put down the phone and walked toward me.

“Did you hear?”

I nodded.

He wrapped his arms around me.

“I’m sorry… I wish I could’ve arrived sooner… Whatever happens, I’m going to be there, you understand?”

Once again I nodded. It was all I could do. I was all alone… I’d lost everything in the span of a few hours. Who else could I trust?

Dying Light Redux: Part VII

Dying Light

Part VII: Useless

I woke up early, stirred awake by one of those damn nightmares again. My nightwear stuck to my skin and my heart beat out of my chest. After all the poking and prodding by the doctor last evening, I’d dreamt of my my father. Of what he used to do…

Even though the sun wasn’t even up, I noticed that Ahti wasn’t in their bed. Their blanket also wasn’t in the bed. I scanned around with my powers and quickly noticed that my alarm clock had moved away from its place at my bedside and was now laying in a bajillion pieces. In addition, I was acutely aware of the hole I’d made in the drywall… Crap, this was going to be a pain if this got out that I’d lost control…

Rather than remain in bed, I got up and put on a pair of pants and a long sleeved shirt before leaving my room. The early birds were already up and cooking. Caroline offered me a plate of pancake and I accepted it graciously. Fuck, for once the universe was good; I would’ve killed for good pancakes and Caroline’s smelled fucking amazing… Doc Wallace said that I should enjoy the small things. Those small things are definitely pancakes.

I went to get it when something bumped into me. I looked down only to see the blurry orange, black and blue spotted form of Ahti.

“O-Oh sorry!” They said.

As annoying as bumping into them was, at least it gave me a chance to fix the alarm clock mess before it blew up. And the whole calling them an it. I didn’t really care about this whole pronoun thing, but it was worth going along with it if only to avoid pissing off dark and clawy some more.

“I should apologize to you, not the other way around.” I said.

“Why, what did you do?”

“I was being ignorant before.” Rather than begin with the alarm clock, I chose to take the opportunity to fix the pronoun thing. “I’ve also known Rowan as an ‘it’ in my mind, as well. I didn’t know any better, sorry. It’s easier for me to just label something and not worry about it.”

“Oh. That’s okay. I’m sure they don’t mind, either. Well, they probably do, but it’s okay with me. I go by ‘they’ pronouns for now. Rowan does, too.” I already knew that, but I nodded anyway.

“Do you mind if we start over, then?”

“Start over?”

“From the beginning. I introduce myself and you do the same. Since we share the same room, it wouldn’t hurt, don’t you think?”

“Does that mean you won’t throw anything at me anymore?” They said, their voice rather shaky. Were they afraid of me? “You did it in your sleep… Annabelle said you can’t control it?”

“They’re right. It’s nothing personal. Just means I’m having some bad dreams.” I silently prayed they wouldn’t ask for details.

“Oh. I don’t like to be alone when that happens. It’s scary being by myself here.”

“Well, if you need to talk, I’m here.” I offered. Playing nice is easy, often it’s a lot less work than being a jerk really. Beside what were the chances Ahti would actually care to talk to me? “Just, like, don’t tell the others, okay? I don’t think they’re as forgiving as you. Also, if I’m throwing things around, please wake me up. It’s draining using my ability even while I’m asleep.” I stopped myself before I’d get carried away.

“It’s a little shocking, but okay. I’ll try to.”

Got to give it to Itharii, they are very easy to string along. I probably should’ve felt bad for taking advantage of their niceness to fix shit, but I didn’t. I’d stopped worrying about what others felt a long time ago.

Our little conversation done, I finally grabbed my plate and dug into it. I was almost done when the door to Mace’s room opened and he came out. He was one of the easy one to tell apart with my powers; Caroline had her metal leg, Jaeger had that piercing, Mace had his sword, Charlie had her hidden weapons. Oddly enough I couldn’t actually feel the sword itself, just whatever he used to carry it around. As he came into the common room, he seemed hesitant, just sort of taking the ordinary scenery in.

“Morning, Mace…” I said, walking up to him.

“Who…are you?” He asked, muttering the words.

“Is this a joke?”

“No, it’s not…” He said, trailing off before starting again after a moment. “Just tell me what’s going on here.”

“You forgot about everything?”

“Some things…”

“I forgot this was a problem.” I grumbled. Mace had his own issues, it was like he wasn’t always the same person, he wouldn’t remember things or act strange. “Come on, let’s go outside and talk.”

I nodded at the door and he followed me outside where we sat down on some of the patio chairs lying about.

“What do you remember?” I asked.

“My…sword.” He took it off his back, laid it on his knees and traced the edge of it with his fingers.

“Anything else?”

“Well I think I—” Although he began a sentence, he didn’t finish it.

The patio door opened and someone else came in. Amber I think her name was? She was huge, carried massive metallic bracelets around her arm and against the Rook she’d wielded a massive fucking sword like it was nothing. Mace’s head turned her way and he stupidly stared.

“What’re you looking at?” She snapped.

“N-Nothing.” He muttered before looking away.

“You’re so weak, Mace.”

“I am not…”

“You keep trying to hit it off with people, but you’ve got nothing to offer it looks like.” Amber said, her voice just dripping with contempt.

What the fuck was their deal?

“Y-Yeah, well…you’re no different!” Mace answered, like an idiot.

“What’s that?” It wasn’t a question, more like a ‘fuck you’ pronounced differently.

“I saw you with Annabelle. You think she wants to see this side of you?”

Who the fuck was Annabelle? And what the hell was this, middle school?

“I’m gonna fucking break you.” Amber snarled.

Amber practically leaped forward and Mace just sat there uselessly. He even closed his damn eyes. The only thing that saved his sorry ass was that I took pity on him. Okay, not pity really. He could be useful to me, if he got his act together again. With my power I grabbed Amber’s stupid armlets and pushed her to the ground with all my force. She might have been strong, but I was stronger with my powers.

That done, I grabbed Mace’s arm and dragged him back inside and up to my room. Amber couldn’t get in without bashing the magnetic lock down so it was safe-ish.

Even though I’d only ran a little, I was already out of breath and feeling dizzy. Damn shitty health… Mace had to see it as he came closer and put a hand on my shoulder, making me cringe, but I didn’t remove it.

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast before.” I said with a half hearted laugh.

“Did you hold her back somehow?”

“I had to. I was lucky to pick up that she was wearing those metal bands…”

“Well…thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Mace.”

“This your room?” He asked looking around.

“Yes, for now.” I took a few steps and sat down on my bed. Mace grabbed the desk’s chair and sat on that.

“So who are you?” He asked after a moment.

“I’m Jaime.” Capes had given me the nickname of Sliver back when I used to pick fights with them for shit and giggles, but I wasn’t going to be a freaking dork.

“I’m Mace, nice to meet you!” He said happily before offering his hand. I didn’t take it. One hand on my shoulder and bumping into an alien was plenty enough physical contact for one day.

“You really don’t remember…” I sighed.

“I’m sorry.”

“I guess I deserve it for how I treated you.” Karma’s kind of a bitch like that. I’d finally gotten someone to help and now he was useless.

“No, don’t think that. It’s just gotten a little worse, I think.”

“Any reason why?”

“Using my sword is a little demanding. Plus I don’t know how long the seal can hold…It might be why this is happening.”

“What’s this about a seal?” He hadn’t ever mentioned that before…

“Um, nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“No.”

“It’s important, isn’t it? Will it take you away?”

“It’s not important. Not right now, anyway.”

Great. Now he was keeping secrets… Just what I needed. There was a long period of awkward silence between us until he decided to break it.

“What am I supposed to do? I mean about Amber.”

“She won’t act that way when there’s others around, I bet so you should be okay for now. I’ll also…look out for you.” Push come to shove, I was confident I could kick Amber’s teeth in. I’d fought much bigger fishes back on the street. “It would be nice if you could remember us, though…” I said, hoping to prod his memory.

“Um, us?”

“W-Well…”

“Were we…?”

“Yeah, for a while.”

Nothing big had happened really. I couldn’t stand letting him touch me sober and he was too much of a ‘gentleman’ to just get it over with when I wasn’t.

“Oh. I’m so sorry.”

“I’ve said some awful things to you and treated you terribly. Maybe it’s for the best that you don’t remember all of that.”

“Did…I change?”

“No, I did. I got paranoid and scared when my ability started to get stronger and my health was deteriorating. The only thing I knew was to push you away and distance myself from everyone. It was only a short while ago that I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore…even though it would hurt them terribly if something happened to me…” I felt a tightness in my chest… I couldn’t tell how much of that was bullshit and how much I actually meant…

“No one should be alone during that sort of thing. I’m sorry you had to be.”

“I’ve learned my lesson, even though I’ve never been a social person to begin with.”

“I appreciate having you around, ma’am.” I gave her my best smile.

“Likewise, Mace…”

Guess that counted for something, right?

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Unlikely Hero: Part II

An Unlikely Hero

Part II: Fly Boy

When we arrived at the academy, the Raven came out to greet us in full costume. When the Raven called us out one by one to assign us to a group I expected to be hounded by people, what with being the new Orion, but to my surprise it didn’t happen. Maybe the media hadn’t released my name? I didn’t know how reporting laws worked, but being underage maybe they couldn’t give out the details. Then again, maybe they didn’t know I was an Orion…

The group I was assigned to, class three, seemed pretty nice. Although we were very girl heavy; I could only count three guys and eight girls. In addition to us, there was a heavily mutated parahuman —Those unlucky mutants who also had their appearance altered— and an Itharii, who were amphibious aliens who’d come to earth seeking refuge. Both of which I didn’t know the gender of.

We were given a quick tour of the place and ended up with our own house which was our dorm. It was pretty damn amazing, heck the large communal bathroom was about as big as my mom’s mobile home. The house itself was mostly one huge common room that held a dining room, a kitchen and a huge living room area with all the top-shelf gizmos. The kitchen area had a stack of pizzas and the others jumped on it like ravenous wolves on a deer. I however prefered not to have any.

I looked around and found a board filled with stuff. Most of it didn’t concern me, being addressed to gay students or paramorphs, neither of which I was. But more importantly there was a room assignment list. There were only eight rooms in the house and thirteen of us so obviously most of us had roommates. Oddly enough, room eight was actually empty. Turns out I was rooming with a guy called Mace.

I looked around and found him with the others, eating pizza. He was this fairly buff Asian guy who carried a huge case on his back.

“Hey, I’m Tyler.” I said coming up to him. “Looks like we’re going to be rooming together.”

“I’m Mace.” He said, raising his hand which I shook. “Want some Pizza, there’s plenty enough for everyone.”

“No thanks, I’m not really hungry.”

“Alright, suit yourself.”

He quickly stuffed the rest of his slice in his mouth and grabbed the bags he’d left at his feet. Like me, he was travelling pretty light. We went to our room, which was on the first floor, and went in. For most people it would’ve been perfectly ordinary, but for me it was huge. I could actually stand up in the room. I had an actual closet, not just a hollow compartment in the bed itself. I let Mace choose a bed and he threw the heavy case he carried on his back on the bed he’d chosen, opened it and took out a weird sword which looked like it was made of organic material but it was set within a perfectly ordinary leather scabbard. I wasn’t sure how practical it was, but it looked pretty sick.

“Nice sword.”

“Thanks, I guess. It’s good to take it out of that heavy case. But people tend to freak out when it’s out in the open.”

“You should come to Louisiana, the average dude in my town has more guns than teeth. People don’t even bat an eye when a guy walk into a store with a shotgun. Kind of hard to tell whether they want a burger or the cash in the register.”

“Damn. That sounds a bit scary.”

“That’s the south for you.” I said with a sigh. “Where are you from?”

“It’s complicated…” He answered after a moment. “But I was living in a parahuman shelter before I came here.”

Were Mace’s folks parahumanphobic? That sounded like a pretty horrible thing. Being rejected for something that you can’t control…

“Oh… Let me guess, for complicated reasons?”

“To say the least.” He said with a chuckle as he took out his clothes and put them in the closet.

I nodded and put away my own stuff. Mace and I finished about the same time and we both went back into the common room where some of the others were assembled.

“Anyone wanna watch a movie and maybe get to know each other?” Mace asked.

Some of the others seemed to be interested but I opted to go out. After plane and bus trip, I kind of needed to have some space. I left the house and walked for a while, admiring the perfectly terraced terrain of Ravenhold. Above me the moon was just a tiny crescent, but looking at it gave me an idea. I focused as best I could, gathered that hard to explain energy feeling and shot straight into the sky, stopping and hovering awkwardly about a hundred meters above it all.

From up there, Ravenhold looked so much different. It was large and yet simultaneously minuscule. I could see the whole of it; the school, the gym, the administration, the dozen or so houses and the large garden at the back.

I didn’t get to take the scene in further as a girl came up to me, flying too. She wore tight jeans and a windbreaker, her skin was dark and she had wavy dark brown hair that flowed in the wind.

“Hello, fly boy.” She said with a smile, her fairly noticeable accent revealing her hawaiian heritage. She moved about as to ‘sit’ legs cross on the air itself, which was pretty impressive. Unlike me, she was gracious in her flight and hovering. “Let me guess, brand new powers?”

“That obvious?” I said giving her a nervous laugh.

“Oh heck yeah.” She said with a grin. “It’s way you move, how you awkwardly hover or how you just shot up right up only to go nowhere and just stay there looking like you just had a revelation. How new are you?”

“Two days.”

“Oh wow, that’s hella new.” She said with a chuckle. “I’m Abigail.”

“Tyler Pilman.”

“That’s a nice accent you got. Let me guess, you’re a southern boy?”

“Yeah, I’m from Louisiana.”

“Where in Louisiana?”

“The asscrack. Trust me, you haven’t heard of it, it’s a village called St. Colette.”

“Eh, you should see my house. The nearest neighbor is like over a mile away. But to be fair, it is a farm.”

“That’s nice. I wish my family had a farm or something, it’d be better than being white trailer trash.”

“Come on, don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Hey, I call a cat a cat. I’m total white trash… So… There’s something I have to ask you.”

“What might that be?”

“How are you just sitting there and not flying off?”

That made her laugh. “That’s a bit of an advanced move, Flyboy. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon. All you have to do is just keep calm, stay focused on here and move your body while trying to keep your mind still.”

I processed what she said for a moment before trying. It didn’t go so well to say the least… When I raised my legs to try to sit down indian-style, I instead started spinning backward. I tried to correct that but only managed to lose control even further, spinning away and down to the ground…

Thankfully Abigail caught me and set me down safely on the ground where I leaned against a tree, feeling kind of dizzy.

“Not as easy as you made it sound.” I muttered, my head spinning.

“I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. I’ve been doing this since I was eleven, so I’ve had a few years worth of practice. But if you want, I could show you a few tips, brick to brick. That’s what you are right?”

“Yep. Strength, endurance, flight. Y’know the generic boring power set. And yeah, I could really use your help.”

“Well, I’ll do my best to help you baby brick. Free tip; don’t try to pass stuff by tossing it. It does not end well.”

“Gotcha.”

Before we could talk anymore, her phone rang. It sure as heck wasn’t mine, unless I’d magically gained one since I’d entered the academy ground. She took it out of her jeans, which was quite an accomplishment, as they looked spray painted on, and answered.

“Oh that’s my folks. I better answer. See you around flyboy.”

“See you later Abigail.”

With that, she flew away toward one of the houses, near ours. Hopefully we’d meet again soon.

Dying Light Redux: Part VI

Dying Light

Part VI: F’n Mace

The downside of eating with the others was that I had to endure Mace’s blatant pining for Allison, clearly trying to get into their pants. Clearly it hadn’t taken him long to get over me. He was even doing that whole white knight routine of his; carrying their book, acting all nice and friendly.

Our first class after lunch break was a complete joke; Superhero ethics. As if someone could make violence all pretty and moral. Only morons who’ve never had to fight for their lives could think of such stupid things. Doesn’t matter if you don’t kill someone, you’re still going to fuck them up bad and really, is death worse than paralysis?

So I mostly pretended to listen to the whole thing. The only thing of note to happen wasn’t in the lesson but rather the dude who joined us. German guy named Jaeger McFakeLastName-Smith. There was something in the way he carried himself, a tenseness in his body language I could feel through my power. Just like me, he didn’t belong here with all the cape wannabes. Still, he was none of my fucking business. It’d be probably best if we just ignored each others. Last thing I needed was to get involved in some gangbanger or would-be villain’s bullshit.

When the so-called ethics class ended, it was time to go back to Mr. Martin’s English and mathematics class. Which was just the tortuous druggery I expected. Two new students came in. Apparently today was the day where people came in late. First of the two was Allen, some dumb motherfucker who immediately managed to get everyone to hate him. Which was good, if they focused on him, then that would give me breathing room.

Then there was Sage whom I had no fucking clue if they were supposed to be a dude or a chick — I could’ve just checked by feeling out with my power, but I really didn’t fucking care enough. — I didn’t know what to make of them, but to Mace’s disappointment Allison dumped his ass to go sit with him. Part of me was ecstatic at seeing him tossed aside like trash. But another part of me was annoyed. Why the hell was I so damned concerned about what happened to him?

Homeroom came to an end none too early and we all headed home save for Allison who escorted the newbies to the administration building to get their crap in order. When we came into the house, Caroline and Charlie decided we were going to make a welcome party. So they along with some of the others —Mace Included— got to help making some food and I left them all to do their prep while I went outside, sitting down on the edge of the deck and just taking in the evening breeze as well as the reddish-orange blur of the sunset. If there was anything I’d missed in jail it was the way the night felt; it was quiet save for nature doing its own thing, the breeze was cool but not enough that I was cold. But I didn’t get to enjoy it for long. The patio door opened and someone came out. I reached out with my power and immediately recognized Mace’s sword.

“Hey.” He meekly said before finding a spot to sit down not too far from me. Of course he had to ruin my quiet moment.

“Go away.”

“Jeez, I just wanted to talk.”

“You want to talk, fine. You know what? It seems like Allison got tired of you quickly.” I said with a smirk. “Got themselves someone else to play with.”

“Why do you care?” He asked with a sigh.

“I don’t.”

“Bullcrap. You suck at keeping your emotions in check, you’re fucking happy about this, aren’t you?”

“So what?”

“What the hell is wrong with you Jaime? I thought everything was fine and then you just dumped me out of nowhere and now you act like I’m the bad guy. What happened to you?”

“Nothing.”

“Jaime, stop lying to me. You know I care about—” As he spoke he put a hand on my shoulder.

I didn’t think, I reached out with my power and grabbed his clothes and his sword’s scabbard and yanked him backward. The force of my power sent him crashing back four or five meters and he hit his shoulder on one of the lounge chairs.

“Don’t you dare touch me!” I screamed at him.

“Jaime…” He got up and walked a few steps toward me.

He didn’t get close though as I took out my knives and interposed them between the two of us.

“Don’t you dare…”

“Jaime, why are you so angry? What did I do?” He asked, it wasn’t in anger though. It was the nice Mace, the let me help you Mace. Fuck him… I didn’t think about the words who came out.

“For someone who cares so much, you sure as hell got over me quickly!” I screamed. With the emotion, I lost control of my knives who fell down on the deck.

“Get over you?” He muttered in shock. “You told me to leave you alone.”

“Well, I didn’t think you’d actually listen!”

“How was I supposed to know that? What was I supposed to do, just keep harassing you against your apparent desire? What kind of guy do you think I am?”

I didn’t answer.

“Jaime, I can’t read minds. But if you want me by your side as a friend or whatever, all you have to do is ask.”

“I have to go.” I mumbled before leaving. As I passed through the common room, I saw everyone bunched up by the new guys, apparently they were back. I got upstairs and into my room before lying down.

What the fuck was wrong with me? Why did I care about all this bullshit? Mace always got on my nerve and yet here I was, completely incapable of handling the thought of him with someone else.

I stayed in bed, ruminating the thoughts over and over for a while until I felt a horrible pain in my chest. I barely had the time to get up that my body was shaken by a horrible cough. A horrendous metallic taste invaded my mouth. Against the pale wood floor of my room, I could see the red blur of blood.

Fuck…

The treatment was supposed to stop those… I hadn’t had them in months. Now they were back… That wasn’t good. I scrabbled back to my feet and found my meds, taking an extra dose. Doctor Wallace’s words came back to mind; you’ll be dead by the end of the year.

I knew treatment wasn’t going well, but I hadn’t thought it’d be so soon. I rushed downstairs and went toward the door. Although I put my hand on the handle, I didn’t open it.

What was the point of going to the doc? She’d just tell me there was nothing to be done… And then she’d poke me with all those instruments just to be sure… Fuck it… She could wait.

I turned around and went in the backyard. With my powers, I found Mace easily, sitting with his legs hanging in the pool with a plate of food on his lap.

“Hey again…” He muttered.

“I’m dying.” I said. “I’d be lucky if I make it to christmas. That’s what’s wrong with me. Happy now?”

“Oh my god… Is there anything that can be done?”

“No. It’s incurable. I don’t think the treatment is working anymore…”

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t you dare tell anyone.”

“I won’t…”

His hand moved a bit came close to mine. This time I didn’t jerk away, I let him do whatever and he wrapped his hand around my index.

“Whatever happens, I’m here for you, okay?” He said.

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