Magpie’s First Flight: Part V

Ian Coleman
Nineteen Years Ago — October 1997

Just like John had said, I found myself attending school for the first time in a few months. The island’s only school was Havenport High, which despite the name served all students of the island K-12.

Thankfully John had somehow strong armed the school into admitting me as Ian Coleman and also sign me down as a guy; including using the men’s bathroom and locker room. Some people seemed a bit off put, asking some questions as I didn’t really pass for male, but I just brushed them off. Although it could get hard dealing with it, I tried to stay positive: It was just temporary, soon I’d be able to fix my stupid body…

Although Michael attended the same school as I did, he was a few grades higher than me so we shared no classes and had different lunch periods. The only time we crossed each other were when we came in and left. after our initial introduction I didn’t want to be his friend and he didn’t seem to want me to. But at least just went along calling me Ian, even if he slipped up a few times on my new pronouns.

After my first week was over, John took me back to New York. This time however we barely stayed within the city, heading straight for the Legion headquarter and then into the basement. I was about to ask where we were going when we stepped into a room with a giant shimmering vortex suspended within a frame made of technological components.

“Teleporter. Fastest way to travel.”

“We’re not going to be like blown to atoms and reassembled right?”

“No, it’s more of a wormhole really. It folds space on itself to connect two points together. No disassembly or anything, we come in and out in one piece.”

“Oh okay.”

He stepped toward the rift and I half-heartedly followed him into it. I expected something; a buzzing, a chill, anything really but nothing came. We just stepped through and walked into another room. It was similar enough but different enough that I knew we’d gotten someplace else.

I took a few steps off the platform and saw massive windows. What I saw beyond them, I wasn’t ready. There was earth, floating in space. I turned to the other side and another window showed me the moon.

“Wait, we’re in space?” I exclaimed.

“That we are. Welcome to Gateway kiddo.” John said. “The true headquarter of the legion.”

“How is there even gravity?” I asked, jumping up. I went higher than I would have on earth but I still reconnected with the ground.

“Gateway is actually a torus, which means it’s shaped like a donut.” A guy said. I turned around and saw him. The guy who’d just spoken was a Filipino guy in his late teens. He wore a red simple jumpsuit with the word ‘FORGE’ branded across his chest.“The station rotates on itself and the centrifugal force cause us to be lightly pressed against the outer hull which serves as the deck of the station. What we see as above us is actually the center of the station. If you run straight ahead, you’ll come back to this spot eventually.”

“Woah.” The idea of being on a space station blew my mind. At the moment, I had nothing left in it except how cool it was and how much I wanted to see more of it.

“Well, we better get going so you can see the doc.” John said, bringing me back to reality.

“Oh sorry, I get excited when people ask questions about my magnum opus.”

“You built this?”

“Yes I did. I’ve been working on these kinds of things since I was twelve. It’s the benefit of being an inventor-type mutant. Oh but where are my manners, I’m Forge, but you can call me Alejandro.”

“I’m Ian.”

“Oh you’re John’s newest bird, eh?”

“Guess so.”

“Come on birdy.” John yelled from the other side of the room. In the seconds I’d taken to speak to Alejandro, he’d moved all the way across the room.

“Coming!” I ran to catch up to him.

Although it wasn’t quite the tour I was craving, the walk to the doctor carried us through a series of living quarters and other accommodations including a large cafeteria and a rec room. We stopped in front of a door with a red cross painted on it along with another symbol I didn’t recognize and John pressed the bell.

A moment later, the door opened and a blue lizard-like alien came out. Although I’d heard plenty about Venusians, it’d been a decade or so since they’d first been discovered, it was my first time seeing one in the flesh.

“Hello!” It said in a jovial tone. “You must be Ian. I’m doctor Sij. I’m female in case you were wondering.”

“You’re the doctor?” I asked, surprised.

“I am. Although I’m new here, I’ve been practicing medicine on Earth bet for nearly fifty two years now. I’m a pediatrician, obstetrician-gynecologist, endocrinology, psychiatrist, surgeon, general practitioner and also a specialist in infectious diseases.”

“For real?”

“For real.” She confirmed. “Unlike humans we venusians need only about two to three hours of rest per day and I enjoy my job so I don’t typically require much time off, so in addition to my practice I’ve been keeping studying full time. But enough about me, let’s talk about you. If you would please sit down.”

She guided me to a set of chairs and we both sat down. She took a note pad and pen out before facing me.

“Mr. Coleman told me you were seeking assistance for gender transition from female to male. I’d like your input on that.”

“It’s just that I’ve never felt like a girl…” I said, muttering the answers. The four eyed-gaze of the doctor felt heavy, like I was being judged. “I’ve always wanted to be a boy, like that was my biggest dream… And I think hormones would help me be more comfortable in my body, because right now it just grosses me out…” As I spoke, the doctor took some notes on her pad in some strange squiggly alphabet. “So yeah… I really need your help.”

“Alright.” She said before spinning her chair around and opening a drawer and taking a stack of papers. “I have here a document I’d like you to read and sign, it explains the changes that would accompany hormonal transition as well as some of the risks. Of course I’d like to point out that many of the risk highlighted here are perfectly standard and are the same cisgender males experience.”

I took the papers and gave them a look over. They went through a lot of what I was expecting; deeper voice, stronger hair growth, increased growth, increase in energy and sex drive and etc. It also highlighted a bunch of risks, ranging from male pattern baldness to potential increase in cardiovascular risks, but I didn’t worry too much. Once I was done reading I took a pen that Doctor Sij handed me and signed the paper. She took it, looked it over and then took out a small pad and began writing something down.

“What are you doing?” I asked, leaning forward to see.

“Writing you a prescription for injectable testosterone. I could prescribe you pills if you are truly uncomfortable with needles but I have to warn you that they may be slower to take effect, may not stop your menstrual cycle and there is a risk that they may negatively impact renal and liver function.”

“Wait, so you’re not like going to ask me a whole lot of questions and stuff or make me see a shrink?”

“I believe that you are old enough to understand the risk and benefits of hormone therapy and that you know what is best for your own physical and mental well being and that you aren’t doing this on a whim. Of course if you’d like to talk about your feelings or about transitioning, I’d be happy to.”

“Oh wow… Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome. Although if you don’t mind I’d like to ask you a few questions about your mental well being. Would you be okay with that?”

“Sure I guess…” I answered with a shrug.

So like that she questioned me on a bunch of things; if I ever experience hallucinations, ever had delusions, if I ever happened to lose control and be within a dream-like state, as if someone else was in control of my body. Then came more mundane questions; my relationship with food, the stability of my mood, whether I was lacking energy, motivation or focus. For the most part, everything was fine. The only thing that caused me any emotional distress really was my body and people’s reaction to being trans…

“Well, I think have everything I need to be a hundred percent confident in ethically prescribing you hormones replacement therapy.” She said, giving me a smile. “The injections are scheduled to be performed once a month for now, on the upper thigh or buttock, it will most likely cause the area to be raised and sore for as few days. Mr. Coleman is trained in first aid and should be able to help you with your injections, although I’m always happy to assist if you would prefer I do it myself.”

“Alright… So is that all?”

“Well, if you’d allow it, I could administer your first dose. I keep some testosterone on hand for reasons I cannot disclose. Although I’d prefer if I could first perform a comprehensive check up as to establish a baseline for your health.”

“That would be perfect.”

Although I didn’t really know how to read Venusian emotions, I had a feeling that the idea of giving me a checkup and a shot made her really kind of happy. Although I normally dreaded doctors and examinations, the idea of getting my first shot kept all my doubts and anxiety at bay as she proceeded with everything.

Within a half hour, I found myself with my first shot done and being given a cherry lollipop courtesy of the doctor which I couldn’t resist and was dismissed although with a strong suggestion to come back for regular physical and mental examination, just to be safe. Just like she said, the place where she’d injected me remained sore as hell for a few days, but damn it, it was worth any amount of pain.

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Magpie’s First Flight: Part IV

Ian Coleman
Nineteen Years Ago — September 1997

As promised, John took me out to do some shopping at the island’s only shopping center, a small strip mall. Best of all he was perfectly content letting me buy whatever I wanted. He didn’t object to my choice of clothes or even when I opted to stop by the local game store and pillage the shelves.

Thankfully we had John’s entourage to help us carry everything. While they dropped everything back at the car, we stopped by a the mall’s Mcdonald, the only chain restaurant on the whole island, for some food.

“So, have you thought of what you’d like to be called?” He asked once we were sat down. “Because you flinch whenever we call you Maggie…”

“I don’t know… I’ve always had a few names but I never really felt like committing to one…”

“What kind of names?”

“Well, I like Michael, but there’s like way too many of those, plus it’d be totally confusing with the other Michael in the house. Uh, there was also Sebastian, I like it but it is — was — the name of my best friend so it’d be weird to call myself that.” I said, trying to think of other names. “Oh there’s Ian. It’s really short, but I really like the way it sounds.”

Off the top of my head I listed a few more names that had caught my ear; Jeremy, Logan, Dean. Gordon… “But I don’t know… Guess I still have to think some more about it.” I said with a shrug.

“Alright.”

We finished our burger just as John’s entourage came back from the car and we followed them back home. Immediately I rushed upstairs to get changed out of the clothes John had given me the day before. They were nice but ill fitted and not quite my style.

Although I liked the new clothes, I was keenly aware of how they fit me. Of the way they sat on my chest. The wrongness of it only made me shudder. I took off my shirt, leaving my chest bare. Even before I’d ran away, I’d never been able to wear a bra without wanting to hurt myself…

Without my shirt on, the reflection staring back at me only sickened me further. I couldn’t help but stare at my breasts and see them as disgusting lumps of flesh that didn’t belong there, to me they were like a tumor…

I just wanted to rip them out…

In the pharmaceutical cabinet I found razors, I didn’t know who they belonged to but I didn’t care… Blade between my finger, I ran the blade against my skin, cutting into the flesh… It wasn’t the first time I’d done it either… It was my own little vengeance, punishing my body for being so wrong and it brought a disgusting mix of relief and sickness to my brain…

But my ritual was interrupted by knocking on the door.

“Kiddo, are you alright?”

“Yeah… I’m coming out.”

In a panic I cleaned the razor and hid it before throwing on my shirt and stumbling out of the bathroom and practically running to my room. I didn’t make it as John grabbed me by the arm.

“Is that blood? Oh my god what happened?” He asked. I looked down and saw that the blood that had oozed out of the cuts had already stained my shirt… I cursed under my breath for choosing a pale shirt to wear…

“Nothing…” I muttered, crossing my arms over the stains. I jerked his hand away and I practically ran to my room but he followed me. Sitting down beside me on the bed.

“Maggie, did you do this to yourself?” He asked, the concern in his voice clear as day.

I didn’t answer him, instead just looking down in shame, expecting a scolding. The anger and words my dad had screamed at me after he’d found me cutting coming back and only making me clam up further…  So I braced for another round… But it never came. Instead he put his arms around me and pulled me closer, holding me.

“It’s going to be alright, we’re going to get you some help.” The words instantly brought me to panic and I pushed him away before standing up to face him. He stood up and I flinched.

“No help…” I screamed out. “I don’t want to get treated…”

“Maggie… Please, calm down.”

“I don’t want to be fixed.”

“We’re not going to try to fix you or force you to be a girl. My friend Karina knows a good doctor specialized in helping people like you, we’re going to help you be more comfortable and if that means helping you become a boy, then so be it.”

“You’re not lying, are you?”

“Of course not. Look, I don’t know a whole lot about being how you are. I don’t know the right words and terms, the reasons and everything, but it doesn’t matter. If being a boy is what makes you happy and being a woman is what made Karina happy, then that’s good enough. If it doesn’t hurt anybody, then it can’t be wrong.”

“Thank you…” I said. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Just doing my job as mentor. Beside someone’s got to take care of you. But now get some early rest, we’re beginning your training tomorrow at dawn.”

“Yes sir.”

“Goodnight kiddo.”

***

Just like he’d promised, we began my training at the break of day after a light breakfast. Sadly, before I could learn any of the cool stuff, John wanted me to get stronger, faster and more agile. So it was all about running, flexibility training and basic strength and endurance stuff.

It continued like that for a few days, it was hard work but John was a patient and encouraging mentor while Michael did his best not to interact with me which was perfectly fine. When the weekend came and I finished my post training shower, John ambushed me outside the bathroom.

“I have something for you.” He said, holding a box under his arm. We went into my room and he set it down on the bed. I opened it and found something that looked a bit like a sport bra…

“Is that a bra?” I asked, feeling uncomfortable.

“No, not quite. It’s actually a binder. I asked Karina and she directed me to someone who helped me.”

“What does it do?”

“It helps flatten the chest. Hopefully it can help you be more comfortable.”

“Oh…”

“Why don’t you try it on?”

I picked it up and he quietly left the room, closing the door behind himself to give me some privacy. It took me awhile to get the thing on correctly, it was harder to put on than I thought but eventually I got it right. It was weird wearing the thing, feeling it compressing my torso down, but the flat look it gave my chest made me at ease. I opened the door and faced John who had waited outside.

“How does it look?” I asked.

“You look great.” He said with a grin. “But the real question is; how does it fit?”

“It’s a little weird, but I think I’ll get used to it.” I said before squirming a little.

“Well, it’s only temporary, with any luck you won’t need it by your next birthday. I already got that gender-specialist doctor booked for you next week. We should be able to cut through the red tape and get you on hormone treatments.”

The idea of being on testosterone made my chest catch fire and my mouth split apart with a fierce uncontrollable grin. It was everything I’d ever wanted…

“I have something else for you…” He picked up a folder he’d left on the nearby cabinet in the hallway and gave it to me. “I had to take some liberties, but if need be we can make some alterations before it all get processed.”

I opened the folder and looked at the first paper. It was a school enrollment form for the local school, perfectly mundane except that the name at the top caught my attention; Ian Coleman.

“Ian Coleman?”

“You said that you liked the name and I liked it too. Of course we can change it if you’re not satisfied.”

“No… It’s perfect. Ian Coleman… I like the sound of it.”

“Welcome to the family kiddo.” He said ruffling my hair. “And don’t you worry, I’ll handle Michael, make sure he’s cool. In the meantime, you better get ready for school because you’re starting monday morning.”

“Yes Dad.” I answered which made him smile.

Magpie’s First Flight: Part III

Ian Coleman
Nineteen Years Ago — September 1997

It was a short fly to Priest island on the Raven’s private jet. We landed on a small uncontrolled airport and a car was waiting for us. We hopped in and drove through the thick foggy woods that occupied most of the island until we reached a gate at the end of a small path. The driver punched in a code before it opened letting us in.

There was about a minute long drive until we arrived in a large clearing where a house stood. The Raven’s house was impressive; it was one of those uber-modern type with glass and cement walls where you could see through a good chunk of it, with two stories and a large wing on the left. On the left side there was a massive garage big enough to hold a dozen cars. Just behind the house I could see that was a small cliff that overlooked the ocean and a small beach, a set of stairs leading down to it.

“Welcome to your new home.” John said, holding the door open for me.

“Nice place.”

“Glad you like it because you’ll be spending most of your time here for the next few years.”

We walked to the door and came in. The heart of the house was a large room that served as both a living room as well as a kitchen and dining room combo. The walls of both the entrance and back were made of glass which let in a lot of the evening sun’s light. A pair of open stair cases lead up and down.

“You’re back!” Someone yelled, accompanied by the sound of footsteps on hardwood floors.

Out of the left hand corridor came a boy, a few years older than I was. He was tall and stocky with short dirty-looking brown hair and a frown on his face. He wore a simple set of sport shorts and wife beater and still held a long wooden pole in his hand.

“Who’s that?” He asked, glaring at me.

“That-” The Raven began, putting a hand on my shoulder. “-is Maggie, who will be staying with us from now on.”

“You brought a girl home?”

“Michael, be nice.” Raven said, his tone severe.

“Maggie, this is Michael Coleman, he’s my other apprentice. From now on, he’s going to be your brother.”

“Really?”

“I will be legally adopting you, so yes.”

“Won’t my parents have something to say about that?”

“Let me handle that detail.”

I shrugged.  

“Alright, now that we’re here, I have a few errands to run and I’ll be back soon. Michael, why don’t you show Maggie around and then make something to eat?” John said.

“Oh alright.”

“Who’s that?” Michael asked, nodding at Grump who calmly waiting at the end of his leash.

“That’s my dog Grump.”

“That’s a stupid name.” He mumbled.

I grumbled something equally impolite which got John’s attention.

“Kids, do I have to send you to the corner to think?” John said. From his tone, I was pretty sure he was serious…

“No.” Michael said before turning my way. “Come on. I’ll show you around.”

I was a little apprehensive of being alone with Michael who wasn’t making himself likable in the last. Still John left without having to discipline anyone.

Michael’s tour wasn’t exactly eloquent, just pointing at something and saying ‘kitchen’ or ‘my bedroom’ and nothing else.

In addition to the common room, the first floor held a bunch of other rooms; a gym, a dojo like you saw in kung fu movies and one larger room that faced the ocean which was apparently the ‘reception room’ it was really open, had a bunch of art works arranged about, a grand piano along with a few instruments and a large banquet table along with chairs neatly stored in a corner.

The second floor contained six rooms; three relatively small bedrooms, a small bathroom, an office and the master bedroom.

“Which is mine?” I asked.

Michael just shrugged before pointing out his and making it clear it was his personal space and I wasn’t allowed there…

I opened the door to one of the other room, the one furthest away from Michael’s and found a fairly boring and modestly furnished room. A double bed, a drawer, a bookshelf and a vanity. There were a few decorations but it was impersonal.

“It’ll do.” I said with a shrug.

I lead Grump in and removed his leash and harness before sitting on the bed. He hopped on and I gave him some cuddles.

“I’m supposed to get you food.” Michael reminded me.

“Right.”

I went downstairs with him and he nuked some leftovers in the microwave. Not exactly rich and glamorous but I’d been eating whatever I could get my hands on for months I would have eaten just about anything.

“See ya.” He said once his dinner was finished, heading back to where he’d come from, which I imagined was the dojo. I stuffed myself and took Grump out for a walk; he’d been holed up in a hotel, a plane and a car all day. Thankfully he was potty trained.

When I came back in, Grump decided he was tired and found a spot on one of the couch to lie down.

Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check up on Michael, see what exactly he was up to in the dojo.

I found him in the middle of some exercise; repeating the same movements over and over; some staff hits and throwing one of the Raven’s iconic birdarangs, trying to get it down perfectly.

“Why are you spying on me?”

“I’m not spying.”

“Whatever you say.” He said continuing his exercise.

I saw that rack of weapons and got a terrible idea. I walked toward it and took one of the staves, just feeling the way it moved about in my arms and its weight. When I was satisfied, I turned toward him.

“What are you doing?”

“Come on, I want to see what you’re made of.” I said.

“Uh…”

“What’s the hold up?”

He took a moment to answer.

“You’re not going to cry are you?” He asked.

“Who do you think I am?” Was all I answered.

“A girl.”

That got my blood boiling. And I wanted to smash his stupid, arrogant and insulting face.

“Fight me then or are you just afraid?”

“Pff.” He seemed genuinely insulted by my comment.

He took position and I did the same.

Still hot blooded, I charged at him, only to be met with a dodge and a hit to the back of my leg which made me stumble down.

“Get up.” He said.

I grit my teeth and ignored the not so insignificant pain and faced him again. This time I was more careful and advanced closer to deal a flurry of blows as fast as I could. Still, he easily parried them. I backed off and it was his turn to go on the offensive.

He charged at me, staff raised for a strong downward hit. Taking clue from earlier I dodge out of the way and prepared a counter attack when he hit me with his elbow right on the jaw as he spun around.

The second it took me to recover, he kneed me in right in the crotch. I folded over in pain and couldn’t help but scream.  

“That’s wasn’t fair.” I yelled at him.

“Everything’s fair in a fight. And I went easy on you.”

“You’re a fucking jerk, you know that?”

“Whatever.” He said before throwing the staff away and walking off.

Once the pain diminished a little I got up and dragged myself outside to wait on the porch. John came back about an hour later, but I still was pissed off at Michael. Contrarily to what some idiots thought, getting hit there was horribly painful for those with my body type too…

“Are you alright?” John said, sitting by my say.

“No, that fff-” I stopped myself, “-fracking jerkwad kicked me right in the fracking privates…”

John just sighed.

“I’m sorry. Do you want something for the pain?”

“I’ll be alright.” I said trying to be tough. John however saw right through it and got up for a moment before coming back with some aspirin.

“Where did you get that guy anyway?” I said, spitting out the g-word with all the hate and contempt I could muster.

“Michael was in juvie when I found him.” He calmly said.

“What was he there for?”

“Assault on a teacher.”

“He seems like such a nice guy.” I answered sarcastically.

“Michael’s a good kid, but he’s got a lot of pent up anger and frustrations, which I’ve been trying to work out with him. He’s had it hard.”

“Can’t be that bad.”

“He was battered as a kid, his dad disappeared a few years ago and his mom’s been in jail and still has four more years to go for possession.”

That didn’t really excuse anything… I’d had some horrible life experiences too, what with the transphobia and having a strict, controlling hyper conservative father, it hadn’t turned me into an asshole.

“What did you go out for anyway?”

“Had to get a few things; Including dinner for a big hairy pooch.”

He got up and opened the back door of his car. There were some basic essentials for Grump as well as some stuff for me. Nothing complicated, tooth brush, basic hygiene and grooming products and most impressively; a cellphone.

“Tomorrow, we’ll get some shopping done. Anything you want or need, we’ll get it.”

I nodded.

“And I’ll talk to Michael, get him to be nicer. Did you pick a room?”

“Yeah.”

“Blue or Beige?”

“Blue.”

“Alright. You can do whatever you want for the rest of the night, I’ll be downstairs in the basement. You can’t go there without permission. Is that clear?”

“Yes.”

“Alright, skedaddle.”

I got back inside and sat beside grump on the couch. He woke up for a moment, only long enough to lie back down on my lap. I gently gave the guy some affection while browsing through the different TV channels, not finding anything which caught my interest.

At some point, I feel asleep in front of the TV. It was the sound of John coming up the stairs from the basement and to his room which woke me up. I waited a few minutes until curiosity got the better of me… I gently slid Grump off and snuck into the basement. Thankfully the door wasn’t locked.

The door lead to a staircase which itself lead down to something out of this world. The basement wasn’t a normal one. It was like being transported to the set of a sci-fi tv series. A massive terminal was the centerpiece of the back wall. Weapons of all kinds were lined up and there was even a futuristic looking car parked in a special spot.

I couldn’t help but keep browsing, examining everything. There was even a ‘trophy’ display full of supervillain loot. But the thing that caught my attention was a simple sculpture of a teenage girl wearing a costume similar to the Raven’s. Around it were a few picture of the same girl, both in and out of costume. Underneath the statue, the words ‘Helena Coleman, The Gray Jay. May you forever be remembered.’ were written on a golden plaque.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and I jumped up.

“You’re not supposed to be down here.” John said severely.

“I’m sorry I just…” I had no excuse. “Who was that?” I then asked, trying to change subject.

“Helena was the first person I took under my wing.” He said, looking away remorsefully.

“What happened to her?”

“She died because I wasn’t good enough…”

“I’m sure it wasn’t your fault.” I said. “I mean, I’m sure she knew the risks.”

“Did she?” Was all he said before going silent for a minute. “She was just a kid. She always counted on me to protect her but I was too distracted to even notice she needed my help until it was too late…”

I wrapped my arms around him. In answer, he looked down at me, smiled and ruffled my hair.

“How old are you?”

“Thirteen and a half.”

“And a half.” He said with a small chuckle.

“My birthday’s in three and a half month.” I defended myself.

“And then you’ll be fourteen and no half.”

I pouted at his mockery.

“Alright, let’s get you topside. And, as I said, I don’t want you to come in here without permission.” He said getting up and gently pushing me toward the door.

“Why not put a lock on the door then?”

“In the event of an emergency, the few seconds it would take to open the door could mean the difference between life and death. It only has an emergency lock which can only be opened from the inside.”

“Oh… Say, If you feel so guilty about what happened, why take on other apprentices?”

“Someone has to look out for the kids. You and Michael, you don’t live the life you’ve had without getting tangled in this crap, the world’s gone nuts and it’s the ones whom nobody look after that get hit the worst. This world is cruel and it doesn’t stop for kids…”

“Why does it have to be you?”

“Because if I don’t, who else will?”

I couldn’t think of an answer…

Magpie’s First Flight: Part II

Ian Coleman
Nineteen Years Ago
— September 1997

Half a day later, I sat on the world’s most massive fluffiest bed, watching TV and eating the juiciest burger in the world along with Grump who was cuddled up with me. I had managed to get the Raven to let him come along, although he hadn’t really protested the least bit.

Unlike the previous night both Grump and I were clean, having taken the longest shower in history in the Raven’s hotel.

Sure, following a stranger in a dingbat costume in a bedroom was normally a horrible idea for someone like me, but there wasn’t anything he could have done to me there that he couldn’t have done in the warehouse.

The Raven had even given me my own room, complete with room service at will, where he wanted me to wait for his return as he finished some otherwise non-specified superhero business in town.

Midway through the morning, one of the hotel employee had come over to deliver a bag full of newly bought clothes, not seemingly weirded out by the tween sitting on the bed of a luxury hotel wearing nothing but a bathrobe.

Once he left I opened the bag and thankfully found gender neutral clothing along with some simple briefs. There were a few tees, a pair of jeans, a hoodie and a windbreaker. It was all slightly larger than I was, but I didn’t complain. Ill fitted or not, it was better than the rags I’d been wearing. Thankfully it also included a belt so I wouldn’t lose my pants when walking.

Around sunset, the Raven walked back into my room, dressed in another expensive business suit. I knew his name was John, but Raven was catchier.

“Are you ready to go?”

I nodded.

He took out a leash, a harness and a collar from a bag he was carrying and gave it to me. Grump didn’t resist when I put it around him, in fact presenting his neck to make it easier, making me think he was or had been someone’s dog, but in months I’d only ever seen him alone, often standing on the same street corner, as if waiting for someone…

I tried not to think about what had happened to his owner. Or what his owner might have done to him.

The Raven took off and I followed him, carrying the bag with my new clothes in one hand and Grump’s leash in the other. I’d left all of my belongings behind except for my handheld and one pendant my mom had given me. Unlike my dad, she’d always been a little more understanding toward me…

We rode the elevator down and sat down in a small limousine that was waiting for us on the curb. The Raven sat at the back and I joined him.

I looked at the driver’s seat for a moment and nodded toward him. Thankfully the Raven understood my gesture.

“You can talk freely, my personal entourage are in the know and have my trust.”

“Alright… Say, how did you even find me? Did you like Sherlock Holmes my trail?”

“I could have, but no, I just have a tracking device in my wallet.”

“Oh.” Suddenly I felt dumb for keeping the wallets I’d stolen as some misguided source of pride in my skills.

“First Lesson; if you don’t have to do things the complicated way, then don’t.” He said seriously.

“So, there’s going to be a lot of these lessons? Do I have to take notes? If I do, I’m screwed, you haven’t seen true horror until you’ve seen my handwriting.”

In answer, the Raven chuckled.

“For someone who’s had their world rocked a few hours ago, you seem to be handling it well.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, I’m kind of not sure if this is real or not.”

“I assure you, this is a hundred percent real.”

There was a moment of silence as I thought everything over.

“So, do you have a name?” The Raven asked, interrupting my train of thought. At no point had I introduced myself.

“It’s Maggie…” I said. Technically it had been Margarett but nobody called me that. “But I really hate it…”

“Alright, what should I call you then?”

I opened my mouth but shut it up before a sound made it out. I’d spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d want to be called as but had never settled on anything.

“Maggie’s fine, I guess…”

“If you say so.” He answered neutrally.

“So, where are we going?” I asked, changing the subject to something more relevant than my hatred for my birth name.

“Well, first to the airport. Then to Priest Island.”

“Priest Island?”

“My home, it’s not too far off the coast of Maine.”

“Oh.” Was all I answered. I hadn’t ever heard of it.

“It’s not too terribly noteworthy outside of people who are really into early settlement of New England. My father however decided to build his private estate there after the old family mansion burned decades ago. He then bought most of the island.”

“So you have a big a–” I stopped myself, he’d already scolded me for swearing about a dozen times… “A huge mansion?”

“No, I’ve sold the place years ago, it’s now a hotel.”

“Oh.”

“I do have a very modern villa. A lot less trouble to maintain, much less dark and a pain to heat in the winter.”

As the car pulled into the airport’s private hangar, I felt a bit of panic overcame me. Sure I’d been with the Raven for a few hours, but the moment I’d get on that plane, there was no turning back. Grump, who sat on my lap seemed to notice as he licked my fingers.

After a moment of hesitation, I got out of the car and walked over to the plane. Most of it was occupied by a private cabin, with the staff having their own at the back. A nice dinner was even waiting for us.

“So… you seem pretty cool with how I am…” I said after a moment. “Most people are more questioning…”

“Well, let’s just say you’re not the first like you I’ve come across.” He said.

“You have?”

“You want to be a boy, right?” He asked me.

The question took me by surprise. All I could do was slowly nod after a moment. Ever since I’d been little it was all that I’d wanted, but my parents had always brushed me off until they’d found me cutting at my growing chest…

A few days later, I’d heard them talk about a camp to ‘fix’ me when they thought I was asleep. I’d researched it on my father’s computer… What I had seen had scared me…

So I had ran away… Smuggling myself on the back of a truck that had by luck taken me to New York.

“Well, I know someone who’s like you, just the opposite way.” The Raven said.

“Who is it?”

“It wouldn’t be polite to tell you who she is. At least not without asking her permission.”

“Oh alright.” I said with a shrug. “So, what’s going to happen in whatever island?”

“Well, you’ll live with me as my adopted child and I’ll teach you my art.”

“Aren’t people going to get suspicious that you’ve just brought some random kid back?”

“You’re not the only one, there’s Michael who’s been with me for three years.”

“Is he a Raven?”

“No, his name is Rook.”

“Can I ask you something? Why birds, well not birds but why crows and not eagles or falcons, those are strong and cool.”

“Sure, Corvids aren’t know for their strength but they have something more important.”

“What is it?”

“Their minds. Parahumans are like Eagles and Hawks, we’re never going to beat them in a contest of strength. But we can be smarter than them, fool them, have more tricks up our sleeves than we do and just as crows blend in the dark, we can use surprise to our advantage.”

I processed the information in my head for a minute. “That does make sense.”

“Now, I’m not going to lie; The next few years are going to be crazy. They’re going to demand more than you thought you could possible have and it’ll be painful. But if you persevere and you do it right, you will be able to stand head to head with giants. Do you think you can handle that?”

The thought was scary, but I had nothing else left in my life.

“I’ll have to.” I said solemnly.

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Magpie’s First Flight: Part I

Ian Coleman
Nineteen Years Ago — September 1997

The guy was tall, he had the body of a supermodel and he wore a three piece suit that probably cost as much as a good car, perfectly fitted to his stature. He just screamed money.

My stomach grumbled. I hadn’t eaten since the day before yesterday.

Rich guy was my meal ticket.

He stepped out of the business center with a bald man in an equally expensive suit and a gorilla on his toes. The two suits talked about things and I went their way.

If I succeeded, I’d be set for a while…

It was just a matter of bumping into him and in one smooth movement his wallet was gone. At first I’d gotten caught a lot but getting people to pity you and let you go was easy. I hated playing the girl card, it made me sick but it had kept me going for months. Beside, with the time I’d gotten good at it.

I ran toward them and crashed into the guy, the two of us falling down. My hand found his wallet and I pocketed it before anyone could notice.

“I’m so sorry!” I said, making my best to look panicked.

“Are you alright, girl?” He asked, getting up and offering me a hand. When he called me Girl, I felt my heart sink. It always hurt. I hated it.

“Yes… It’s just ex, he’s crazy and he was threatening me and I…”

“Woah calm down…” He said.

“Sorry, I got to go. He can’t find me…”

I walked away at a face pace and once I was out of earshot I breathed out a sigh of relief. I patted my pocket and found the wallet secure.

I was about to go home when he called me out.

“Excuse me Miss.” I turned around and saw him hurry toward me.

So I ran, diving into the first alley I found.

I turned around and saw him chasing after me. Rather than let his bodyguard handle it, the man himself ran after me, ditching the muscle who was meant to keep him safe.

Thankfully I knew the area well; what places were dead ends, where there were easy spots to disappear to, obstacles that I could easily use to ditch pursuers.

The man was persistent; chasing me for what felt like an eternity, jumping fences and sliding under openings in other. My only saving grace was his suit; it wasn’t meant for running. I finally ditched him after jumping a fence where he got caught, the lead gave me enough space to slip away.

I made it home safely but drenched in sweat. Not that it mattered, I was already dirty as hell, only washing whenever I could in public restroom by using the sinks for the past few months.

In my case “Home” was an old abandoned warehouse which had fallen into legal limbo. Although it had been chained, I’d broken the previous lock and replaced it with my own, making sure nobody was none the wiser.

The place was huge but I only used a small corner, having made a small shack to keep my stuff, beside it was easier to stay warm.

There wasn’t a whole lot; an old dirty mattress, a few milk crates making an improvised shelf and a foot locker. All stuff I’d found in the trash. I saw down on the mattress and checked my new acquisition.

I’d definitely picked the right person; the guy was loaded; a few hundreds in cash, two black ultra elite credit cards and some membership cards to really exclusive places. Of course I couldn’t use the credit cards, they’d be reported stolen within a few hours if they hadn’t already been and they’d get tracked.

But eight hundred and thirty six bucks could keep me going for a long time.

So I decided to reward myself. I reversed my jacket, going from the blue side to the orange one and removed my cap before going out, that way if anyone was looking out for me they wouldn’t notice me immediately.

A few blocks down from my crash space was a KFC. I went there and used Rich man’s, John Coleman his ID said, money to get a whole bucket with all the things for myself. I hadn’t eaten a decent meal in forever and it was much welcome, even if the employee looked at me weirdly.

Food in hand, I went home, thinking of all the things I could get; a fresh new sleeping bag, food for a few days. Maybe I could even buy a game for my handheld; I’d already played everything I had to death.

As I walked back, I found Grump. He was this friendly street dog I sometimes ran into. He was some sort of mutt; part German Shepard according to his pattern and part something else; he didn’t have the head of a Shepard and long shaggy fur. For some reason he always looked like he was pouting, hence the name I’d given him.

“Hey boy.” I said, coming next to him.

He was visibly excited to see me, he came closer and smelled my food.

“You hungry boy?”

He let out an excited bark and I assumed that meant yes.

“Come on.” I said, whistling for him to follow me.

The two of us arrived home and I let us in, sitting back down on my mattress. I opened the bucket and Grump waited patiently for his share. I wasn’t sure if he’d been trained or if he was smart enough to know I’d give him some.

I gave him the first piece and he jumped on it immediately. I wasn’t the only one who’d gone hungry.

The two of us stuffed our faces; chicken, potatoes, coleslaw, macaroni salad. There was enough for a family of four but the two of us devoured all of it.

Our meal finished I took the time to give Grump some affection, rubbing his dirty matted fur. Sure he was filthy but so was I.

Feeling tired from the day, I lied down in my sleeping bag and went to sleep, Grump lying down at my feet.

It was almost a normal thing.

I woke up sometimes later, a groaning sound filled the warehouse and made me jump awake. I waited for a moment, ears waiting for another suspect sound.

And it came; something hitting the ground nearby.

In a panic I got up and snuck out of the corner I was hidden in, looking for intruders. Through what little light entered the warehouse, I scanned the grounds, not finding anything…

At least until I noticed the shadowy silhouette on the ground.

I looked up and saw its source: The Raven staring me down from the top of the structure, crouching on top of an old walkway. Although he was cloaked in a dark costume, he stood just at the right spot where the light from the hole in the roof illuminated him. He wanted me to see him.

I was about to go for my bat when a boomerang hit right next to it.

I recoiled in fear.

I looked back at the Raven. I couldn’t tell a damn thing about his expression, but I just knew in my gut that he was enjoying this

So I ran. I was almost at the door when a rope entangled itself around my feet. I fell and my chin hit the cement floor.

I tried to remove the thing but only a moment later the Raven stood over me, one of his bladed boomerangs in hand.

I stopped.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I’m going to get my wallet back. You can stay there or I can cuff you.”

“Are all of these your doing?” He asked, holding the cardboard box that held my my trophy pile.

I stayed silent. It was better not to say anything, lest he got an idea. He found his wallet and checked the content.

“I only spent a twenty…” I told him.  

“Oh, I don’t care about the money. I came for this.” He said before showing me a big bronze coin. “Family heirloom.”

I couldn’t stop myself from speaking.

“You terrorized me for a stupid coin?”

“This stupid coin as you call it is important to me.”

There was a pause as he retrieved the rest of his stuff; the cards and everything.

“So what now?”

“I should definitely call child protective services. This is no way for you to be living.”

“And what, have them put me in jail? Don’t call it a youth center, it’s a jail.”

“Don’t you have parents to go back to?”

“They don’t want me… Or at least they don’t want me the way I am… They jsut want their little girl…” I said, almost spitting that last word.

Fuck… Why was I telling him that?

“I see… I’m sorry to hear that.”

“So what now?”

“Well, you could stay on living here, go to a center, which you don’t want to… Or I can think of something for you to do. I know you’d be good at it, you’ve got talent, kid.”

“Oh yeah, what’s that?” I asked, more sarcastically than anything.

That’s when he told me. It took a few seconds for it to sink in.

“You want me to be a… a… a fucking Raven?”

“No swearing please.” He answered strictly. “And you’re not a Raven.”

“What am I then?” I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.

“You’re a bloody magpie.” He said with a grin.

He seemed to find himself really funny.

“What do you say?” He asked.

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