Month: May 2014

Chapter 5: Burning a Candle

Burnout reached up and lifted his dark goggles up to his forehead, revealing his jade green eyes. But it also revealed the deep, dark circles curling beneath them. When he sat down, he slumped in a way that suggested he could barely hold his own weight upright.

He scratched the back of his head and cleared his throat. “Sorry if I don’t make much sense at times. I haven’t gotten much sleep this last week.”

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It’s only been about 9 months since I got my powers. Before that, well, let’s just say that I was pretty damn average. I spent my days sitting around and pretending I was doing something important. I was going to spend the summer before college hanging out at home, but a…a friend convinced me to go hiking with him.

Unfortunately, I can’t exactly tell you where we went, but I’ll explain that in a bit.

We’d only made it halfway up the mountain when the earthquake hit. I checked later, and they said it was a small one; “Wouldn’t knock over a house of cards,” they said. Well, it sure as hell felt strong where we were.

He was thirty or so feet in front of me when it happened. Those thirty feet saved my life; the cliff face we were walking under collapsed. It only clipped me, but I hit the ground hard and blacked out. As far as I could tell, he died instantly. I hope he did.

It was dark when I woke up. He had the map, and I was only barely sure of the path in daylight, so I crawled to the closest shelter I could find.

There was a cave where the cliff had been. If I hadn’t been knocked out, I like to think I’d have realized how stupid it was to go into an unexplored cave inside of a recently collapsed cliff, when there had just been an earthquake. But I probably would have.

I’ve never had much interest in caves or rocks, but even I could tell that cave was something special. I walked for almost twenty minutes, but it was just as bright as it had been two steps in. the walls were…glowing isn’t the right word, but I don’t know what is. And their color was fascinating. It swirled around, merging together and pulling back apart into thousands upon thousands of shades.

I wish you could have seen it.

I kept walking deeper, watching the colors. It was almost an hour before I realized the cave could not possibly be so large, but I kept walking anyway.

I later learned about the spell on that place. The more I stared at the colors, the more they changed me. It wasn’t quite hypnosis, or brainwashing, or anything that simple. It was designed to take the good parts of me, the best parts of me, and make them better. I had been lazy before, but the magic took the joy I felt for the few things that I got excited for, and helped me see the other things in life that would remind me of them. It made the effort to try new things seem worth it.

Not just my mind either. I’ve never had any trouble with physical tasks, but I’ve never had any real energy for them either. The cave gave that to me. I’d never felt more alive than I did that day.

I don’t know how long I wandered, or how deep I travelled. But eventually I reached the end of the path. That’s where I found them, the bones of that beast. It must have been massive, when it was alive. The skeleton was curled upon itself, but even so it had to be over a hundred feet long.

It was a dragon, but I didn’t know that then. I couldn’t see much more than its skull, staring straight at the entrance of the cavern. I thought it was alive, at first. Dragon’s eyes, you see, have a layer of scales over them, which stay in place after death, even as the rest of the eye decays.

It was a few minutes before I noticed that the dragon was dead. Even when I finally got the courage to approach, those empty blue orbs seemed to follow me. Part of me was screaming to turn back, but the rest was staring at those teeth.

If those teeth were half as alluring when it was alive, then I can see how a monster that large could survive. At that point, I wanted nothing more than to reach out and feel its massive fang.

The moment I touched it, I blacked out. And that’s when I…heard?…heard it. There weren’t any words, just intent. It was asking me a question, a question I can’t explain, then or now. But I understood it and I knew my answer.

When I woke up, I was on the ground outside, and the cave was gone. Someone was shouting, but when I tried to answer the words caught in my throat. My tongue was dry, and my head was throbbing. I struggled and barely managed to make enough noise to get the ranger’s attention.

I had been there for three days.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I discovered my power. My mother actually screamed when she saw the burns on the coffee table.

For some reason, I didn’t feel much need to think about whether or not to become a speedwalker. I think it had something to do with that voice in the cave. The hardest part was finding a name. Do you have any idea how many fire-based walkers there are? It’s ridiculous.

I picked up the costume over the next couple of months. The mask was something I’d had lying around from a skiing trip I went on a few years ago. The shirt was bought, but I had to add the dragon myself. The pants and goggles I picked up later. Those I can’t talk about.

It was a few months before I noticed the compulsion about revealing the cave’s location. And that’s what really started to worry me. I began researching the cave I saw, looking through old magic texts at the university, powerless of course but still useful. It didn’t suggest the magic had done anything harmful, but it worried me.

It wasn’t until I ran into an old classmate from high school that I learned how much I had changed. He barely even remembered me, said if my friend hadn’t died there would have been nothing to remind him of my existence. He said that nobody he talked to even remembered me before the funeral.

That really scared me. It seemed like the cave had changed everything about me. Even if every book I found said the magic was relatively harmless, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was wrong. My fire started disobeying me, coming out too strong or too weak.

I-I hadn’t even really done anything yet, just taken out a few muggers here and there. But when The Court found me, I was curled up in an alley, surrounded by fire.

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“He suggested I come here, figure out if this is what I should be doing. Even offered to help me get rid of my powers if I decided to quit. I can’t say I want to stop being a hero, but I’m not sure if I can trust myself to keep it up. I don’t know if I’m really in control.”

Burnout had been looking down at his feet since halfway into his story.  He didn’t look up now.

Will glanced down at his sheet. He had stopped taking notes at some point. He knew better than to stare straight at Burnout. Losing control of your power was more than frightening. “It’s worse for manips. Your power is supposed to flow naturally. Losing control is like realizing you can’t breathe on command anymore.”

The groups looked at Will. He had brought it up that he wouldn’t speak this session unless it became necessary. He was supposed to meet with each of them before the next session. But this was something all of them needed to understand. Someone who hadn’t lost control couldn’t comprehend exactly how wrong it felt.

Burnout walked off the stage. Will was surprised to see Mach was the one who stopped him for  a moment. The mecher placed a hand on his shoulder and said a few words. They weren’t much, but Burnout smiled gently and nodded his head.

Will looked around for who was next. But Red Racer was already on the stage. “Sorry-ry if someone else wanted to go-go. But I’ll be quick-quick, I promise-ise.”

 

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Chapter 4: Jack

Allspades lazily hopped onto the stage and kicked the chair around. Will felt his eye twitching when he saw the younger man sit on it backwards like an 80’s movie delinquent. Despite himself, Will leaned forward a bit in his seat. He always found origin day interesting, but something about this one’s movements seemed more…practiced than normal. (‘I think he’s been in the business for longer than the rest of these kids. He’s breaking the pattern.’).

It wasn’t just Will either. Everyone seemed to be paying extra attention to the man who had been oddly quiet during the last meeting.

Allspades drummed his fingers on the chair. “I suppose the best place to start is a little over 6 years ago.”

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If I’m going to be straight with you all, you should know that I haven’t been a civvie for a long time. But I was never a hero.

My old man was military. That didn’t mean much to me then, but I have no doubt it’s why I was selected. All I really know is that when I was twelve, I dropped out of school, packed up my things, and left behind what little life I had.

There were four of us, and none of us were older than 15. I don’t know what agency we worked for, or if we even had an organization above us except for our handler, and whoever gave him his orders. All I know is that we spent the next four years training. They ran us through every type of mental and physical test I’ve ever heard of, and plenty I’m pretty sure no one ever has.

Most importantly they trained our powers. I told you already that I’m a tank. They decided that meant I could get up close and walk away from it. That’s why I got the sword. They called me the Knight.

Our leader was a gambler. He could identify someone’s tells within two minutes, and he was never wrong. He could also flick a coin fast enough to knock a heavy tank off course. The metal ones, not the walkers. He was the King.

Next was the spymaster. She was a long distance tel. Give her a sample of someone’s blood or something they’d held onto for long enough and she could watch them from the other side of the world. She liked to carry around an old goblet with her to show us what she saw. She usually served as mission control. She was the Queen.

The last…was our mage. I never could understand how her powers worked too well. But if she held onto her staff, nothing seemed impossible for her. The Page.

They called us The Cards.

I’m not going to pretend that we were nice people. We travelled all over the world, to countries whose names I can’t even pronounce. And we did things there that no one should have to hear about.

Most of what I know isn’t something I should be telling you all, so I’ll skip to the last mission. They never got the chance to classify most of that one. I can’t say any names, because frankly I don’t feel like coming to the next meeting and finding out you’d all been shot, but I’ll give you what details I can.

This one wasn’t supposed to be anything dangerous. We were supposed to infiltrate a…(He glanced down at Red Racer)…a party. It wasn’t supposed to be anything serious. Me and Page were the frontrunners. We went into the party itself, keeping an eye on everyone, and keeping their eyes on us.

She was a good dancer.

King was infiltrating through the back. His job was to get to the big guy on top. The man was notorious for running his mouth, and King was good at getting people to talk. It was a good fit.

Queen stayed back, in a van about four blocks away. She had some of our blood with her, and we had nabbed the big guy’s glasses so she could keep an eye on him to.

It was supposed to be simple, nobody should have even known we were there, let alone what we found out.

Someone had tipped him off.

King had barely even said a word when the guy called out his goons. There weren’t any walkers, they were all just normal people. But there were so goddamn many of them.

Almost everyone in the place was on his payroll. It’s how they made us so easily. A small gesture from him and the whole room was armed and ready to take us out.

I heard Queen screaming through the mental link. They’d known where the van would be. We were trapped in a room full of hostiles and no link back to base.

He was laughing. Every detail of our plan, every escape route, he knew them all. He even got us to swipe his assistant’s glasses so we would think we knew what he was doing.

King was the next to die. They had a gun to his head before he knew what was going on.

We held out for a long time. Even without my sword I was bulletproof, and I took them down well enough. And she had shrunk her staff down and kept it hidden.

We fought for a half hour before her shield ran out. I watched her eyes grow dimmer as the bullet pierced her chest. I caught her before she hit the ground, but I didn’t even get the chance to hear her last words. The gunfire was just too loud.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that. But I think I killed all of them. I woke up in an alley a few blocks away, and the building was roped off and surrounded by too many people for me to get back inside.

I was trapped there. Our only contact with our superior had been in that van and nobody was coming to see if we made it out.

By the time I made my way back, our home was abandoned. They even covered up the holes where pictures had been nailed to the walls. Our identities had long been scrubbed, and our families were more than willing to let us go without a fight. I had nothing left.

Luckily I had made a few friends on missions. We’d been put in contact with less legal elements more than often enough for me to call in a couple of favors and get a new identity. I made my way here last year, and I put the costume together within a week.

As insane as it was, I missed it. Not what I had to do, but the action, the movement, I needed some of it back. But after a few months I started having a problem. I can’t hold back as well since the incident. A few weeks ago I put someone in the hospital. He wasn’t’ even a walker, just some average punk with a knife.

I don’t want to see what’ll happen if I lose any more control.

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Allspades leaped off the stage immediately after he finished talking. But it didn’t look like anyone was going to ask him any questions anyway. Will saved his thoughts until he could get Allspades alone. He had a feeling the group work wouldn’t be enough for him. (‘We really need to get a trained therapist for these things. Sooner or later I won’t be enough.’).

Will was about to call out the next speaker when he noticed Burnout was already on his way to the stage.

 

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Chapter 3: Every Rose

Hawthorne was going first. It didn’t surprise Will much. Despite everyone’s willingness to introduce themselves last week, she was the most comfortable talking in front of the group. Her being here was kind of surprising really; there weren’t many female walkers, and most never even considered quitting.

A chair had been placed up on the auditorium’s stage. Will had noticed in earlier groups that the circle didn’t help much when only one person was supposed to talk. The stage kept the others in focus but it gave the speaker a chance to look somewhere without someone else staring back.

Hawthorne had chosen to stand, it let her pace. She had swapped out the helmet for today’s meeting, making do with a loose mask to help with the heat. She started pacing before she talked; Will recognized it as a thinking mechanism rather than a nervous tick.

Will checked around the room, everybody looked uneasy, but they were all listening. He paid close attention to Red Racer; he could sense the desire to move, but the kid was controlling it well enough.

Hawthorne coughed and everyone looked up at her. She nodded and began to speak. “I’ve had my powers for a long time. I don’t think I was born with them, but I can’t say for sure.”

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I wasn’t born in Macropolis; I was born in the country. My first memories are of walking through the woods with my mother. The smell of the trees, the sound of the wind in the leaves, the patches of sunlight making their way through the branches, she wanted to share these things with me.

That’s what she told me to remember, when I sat next to her bed a few year later. She didn’t talk for much longer after that.

It was a couple years later that I noticed something else. That I remembered something else that she didn’t seem to. It was an echo, a reverberation that I felt with every step we took through those woods. Since my mother died, it had become even stronger. I felt it grow stronger every day, just a little bit.

I was ten the first time I tried to do something with it. It wasn’t much, I could move a branch or two, push a path through growths that would have stopped someone twice my size. It wasn’t much of a power, more of a quirk, a trick I could do that no one else could.

I showed it to my father first. He was a good man, but he was afraid of my powers. He thought that I would be taken away from him if anyone knew about my powers, so he told me to hide them, to never show them to anyone else.

I listened to him. I hid my powers. But I didn’t stop using them. It took me a few months to figure out that I had to touch something before it would move. I could make a tree move its branches by stepping on its roots, make a flower grow bigger and brighter even after I plucked it from the earth.

It was more than that though. Our garden was healthier and fuller than the rest of the town’s and I never used my powers on it once. My father played it off well, pretending to work in the garden regularly to make it look like it was his doing. I tried to help him once, but the garden started looking better within minutes of me trying to work on it, and he ushered me away.

That’s why we moved to the city, when I was 15. Plants started looking healthier as I walked by, and it was becoming more noticeable by the day. When my father managed to find a decent job somewhere without nearly as many plants. It wasn’t a hard move, I didn’t have many friends back home, and the one’s I did have weren’t very close. I managed to fit in alright at my new school, but I missed the woods. I still kept a garden, a small one outside my window, but it was never enough.

When I got my license, I started going to the Gardens off 108th. It wasn’t much like the woods back home, but it felt good to be back around the plants. The first couple of times I went, I noticed that my powers hadn’t gotten any stronger since we moved.

I took that as a good sign. If this was my power’s limit, then there wasn’t anything for my father to worry about. But I never told him about it. I don’t think he like the idea of my powers, no matter how weak they were.

It wasn’t until college that anything notable happened with my powers. I had stayed local to keep the costs down for my dad. He said he would pay for me to go anywhere, but I had seen the bills and I knew we couldn’t afford for me to go too far away.

I didn’t go out much my first couple years; I wanted to make sure my dad’s money wasn’t going to be wasted, but in my junior year, my roommate convinced me to go to a party. It wasn’t much of a party, but it was big enough for Jericho to crash.

He may not have been much of a prowler back then, but he was more than enough to take on a few college students, and a few earthquakes are more than enough to mess up any party. He wasn’t really hurting anyone yet, but he made sure to keep anyone from getting too close. My roommate and I were leaning on a tree to keep from falling down, but everyone else was stuck on the floor.

Someone showed up then, a speedwalker whose name I never knew. Jericho was about to run away, I guess his powers don’t work too well on someone who can fly, but before he could I managed to tap into the tree, better than I had ever done before. I felt the roots growing beneath the earth, and they rose up and tripped him.

It wasn’t much, but it was more than I’d ever managed with my powers before. It took me a few months to figure out how I did it. Once I did, it started coming faster and faster. Before I knew it, I could shrink a tree down to the size of a flower, or make a bush grow apples. It didn’t seem like much, but I realized there were almost no limits to it.

Last year I went out for the first time. All I did was take out a couple muggers, but it still felt amazing. Plants may not seem like a great tool in the city, but even the dead wood in houses responds to my powers, and it only took a few seeds to make my arsenal.

For the last year, I’ve been spending a few nights a week on the streets. At first it was easy, I didn’t have a heavy workload and I could keep up at work without any problems. After a little while it got harder, I was trusted with more important work, but I couldn’t focus on it when I spent half my nights as a hero. Then my father got sick, and my work wasn’t just for me anymore. I took a break from the streets, got everything at work back in control. I was back on the streets in a few weeks, and I thought I was fine.

But a few weeks ago, I got a promotion, and suddenly everything built up at once. It wasn’t just my work, if any if my underling’s work was off, I was blamed for it. Suddenly my days at works were turning into nights, and my nights on the street were going later. A few days before the first meeting, I crashed. It was in the office, my coworker found me collapsed on the floor and I didn’t remember where I was or when I’d collapsed. It took a full day for me to recover.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a hero. I love running the streets, feeling the power rush into my plants and making them grow as I choose. I just don’t think I can keep it up anymore.

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Hawthorne finished talking but no one made a move just yet. Will glanced around the room once again. Nobody had looked away from their fellow hero, but a few of them had disappeared into their own thoughts when she finished. Will took the chance and thought over her words.

(‘She isn’t really looking to quit. She’s looking to vent. It would take a lot for this group to change her mind. The info about her parents is interesting though. Her dad apparently has no desire to stop her powers, just to hide them. Good move in the 80’s, when He was collecting. What she needs is someone else in the business to listen to her. If no one else in the group stays in I’ll see what I can do about that.’)

Hawthorne fidgeted nervously on stage; the silence was getting to her. It was Red Racer who spoke up. “Um-um. I hope you don’t mind-mind, but how do you fight-fight?”

Hawthorne nodded and reached into her pocket. She pulled out a small stick and twirled it. Will watched the spinning stick grow into a full sized staff. She set the end of the staff down and he felt the ground shake under its weight.

“It’s Buloke. I grabbed a seed from the garden and grew it to the size of a Sequoia before I condensed it. I don’t think that anyone but me or a tank could even lift the thing.”

Will chuckled as the kid’s eyes widened. “Cool-cool.”

Will couldn’t help but notice that the tension had drained from the room as Racer spoke. (‘Kid may be hyper but he’s good for the group.’)

Will gestured at the girl to step down, since no one else seemed to have anything to say. When she sat down, he noticed Unimportant had moved closer to her seat and spoke softly to her. He noted it down for future reference and glanced around the room.

“Who’s next?”

After a pause, Allspades stood up. “Guess that’s me then.”

 

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Chapter 2: Willful Ignorance

Walkers, they were called, People who’d been born with powers, or were infected with them, or who learned them. The original author of the term is unknown, but everyone claims they know the real deal. All anyone knows for sure is that three days after the government acknowledged the existence of super powers, two weeks after someone first spotted a man jumping out of a burning building with two sick women, one month since the man who would be called Springheel first realized he could get to work faster by the rooftops than through traffic, a string or graffiti was seen throughout the country.

“They Walk.”

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A cab pulled up and Will gratefully climbed inside. “You’re running late today, Tony.”

The cabbie shook his head and glanced into the mirror. “Sorry ‘bout that Will. I had to make a stop at the zoo. A bear got loose and apparently some kid managed to piss him off bad enough the trainers were afraid to get close.”

Will folded his arms and leaned back in the seat.  “Another bear?” His voice was flat. “That’s the third time a bear has been responsible for delaying you this month. Hell, you missed an hour of the party for a bear, and that was just last night.”

The cabbie coughed and flipped on the meter. “That was a prowler with a bear theme . And it’s not like it happens on purpose. I spend half my day near the Park. The zoo always attracts the crazy animal types.”

“Whatever you say, Jim.” Will refrained from pointing out that the cabbie could easily qualify for that title. After all, alters weren’t particularly rare, but few could control an animal shift to the extent Jim Hob could. A tiger alter capable of changing any part of his body on a whim and stopping the change at any level. Jim was possibly the most effective speedwalker in the area. Of course, spending all day listening to people complain about your driving probably gave him a damn good reason to vent.

“So where am I taking you today?”

“I need to catch up with an old friend. Drop me off at the business district.”

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Once upon a time, Alters were one of the most common types of heroes. Myths were built around the men who could change into beasts or walk as fire. They, along with mages and manips, were around millennia before most other powers existed. However, artifacts of magic left behind or lost by mages soon gave birth to others, the tanks, the runners.

It wasn’t until the 1900s, when nuclear testing began, that more latent powers began to emerge.

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Will Writer stood atop the Carpenter Tower and looked down at the city beneath him. Macropolis may have improved over the last twenty years, but it was still one of the most polluted and crime-ridden cities in the country. He looked up and watched the zeppelins floating over the city, advertising this team or that company. They had been converting the pollution back to breathable air for ten years now.  Will stepped back from the ledge and turned around. “Hey Slip, missed you at the party last night.”

A figure hung silently in the air behind him, Slipstream, perhaps the most famous and most beloved mecher in existence. A series of circular devices ran up and down his entire body. They were some kind of air compressing engine, at least that’s how he described it to the unsavvy like Will. The metallic helmet on his head gleamed as he touched down on the roof. He reached up to flip the gold tinted lenses into the helmet.

“I was working on the converters Rumor. And unfortunately I don’t have time to play catch-up today. I’m just here to check on how the new group is holding up.”

“It’s been one day Slip. I can’t really say anything about them. But do me a favor and hit whoever sent the Runner, he’s going to be hard to keep focused. Between him and Unimportant, I’m gonna have to be careful to make sure the others don’t miss out.”

“Ah, so he actually talked, That’s good, I just got a business card.”

Will looked at his old friend. “So you’re the one who sent him to me? What’s up with him anyway? I got almost nothing.”

Slipstream nodded. “He’s an incomplete slider. I can’t say much more than that reliably. But that shouldn’t stop you for long. You can figure anything out, right Rumor?”

“I’ll manage, and stop calling me that. “

Slipstream looked ready to respond, when Will cocked his head. “Later, you have work to do.”

Slipstream nodded and took off toward the sirens.

Will walked into the building and rode the elevator down a hundred floors. The lobby was as crowded as ever, even this late on a Thursday. Janitors, IT, international stock traders. There was always someone at the Carpenter Tower. He proceeded through the lobby. Even 2 years later, he could walk through a crowd like it was barely even there. On his way out he nodded at the doorman, Johnathan. Of course, he went by Rampart at other hours.

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Springheel was not the first hero born of the Nuclear Age, but he was the first to appear publicly, the first that wasn’t in hiding or on government payroll.

There were multiple experiments performed with nuclear energy. Many people quickly grew sick, but a few became Walkers. It was theorized by Dr. Phillip Barber that the tests were not creating the powers, but awakening abilities left dormant in their DNA.

He used examples from myth, and a few from history, suggesting people with above normal strength or speed. He claimed that such gifts could be lesser forms of powers. He declared that if they found the gene causing this, if they could duplicate it, they could give powers to everyone.

The scientific community laughed him out of his tenure.

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Will had read a paper once. Some analyst had figured out that 1 in 1000 people in Macropolis had powers, hero, villain or otherwise, which gave it a denser walker rate than most small countries, and he guessed that the sleepwalker rate was at least equally dense.

Will realized this meant that he, who supposedly had more connections than any five heroes combined, still knew of less than half the walkers in Macropolis, even if most of those he didn’t were Strollers. It was an odd thought. If half of them had actually met him, then the others had only seen articles or heard stories. It made him wonder what most of the others thought about him. He had seen the boards, read the articles, for a few years Rumor had been listed among the most commonly known heroes in the city, and he had been proud of that. Then, when he quit the business, his disappearance barely even made a stir in the papers. His name just vanished. No fuss, no questions, no “Where is he now?”.

Part of him loved it that way. After all, he didn’t quit to become famous, and he didn’t want people looking for the missing hero. But still, part of him felt disappointed. He had been a hero since he was a teenager. He had saved lives. And he had been one of the more famous names, but all it took was a few weeks and suddenly he was nobody again.

It was almost frightening, how easy it had been.

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But Phillip Barber was not finished. He continued his research into latent DNA with a passion. It had required him to steal blood sample from as many Walkers as he could, and then he had to disappear. He wasted years testing the blood, looking for common ancestry throughout the endless helix strands. Hundreds of possibilities were dismissed. It was three years before he had a breakthrough. He didn’t have to search through its entirety, he just had to figure which strands changed.

He sunk all of his money into building a new generator. As crazed and obsessive as he was, he still refused to test it on another. He was no engineer, but he had worked on and with one of these machines for most of his career, and he was confident he could make it on his own.

He grinned as he pointed the device at himself and pushed the button.

The device exploded.

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Will walked along the street. It was calm. Part of him still found that strange. Three blocks away, there was a bank robbery in progress. The alarm had already been triggered and a speedwalker was already en route to take care of it. In the other direction, less than a mile out, a strolling tank was using his power to take out a mugger after his wife’s jewelry. Straight down, an earth manip was digging a tunnel, avoiding the sewers and subways. The people walking around him didn’t know any of this was going on, but for him this was almost a record low. He had grown used to knowing everything happening around him.

When he had been a hero, it was useful. He’d learned to prioritize who needed help now and who could wait. He still did that, he just had different priorities now.

When he was younger he couldn’t understand people’s indifference. They ignored the calls for help, the injustice happening so close to them all the time. It drove him mad, trying to understand why the noise that bombarded him every second of every day seemed to matter so little to everyone else. When he’d brought it up to The Court, he had looked at him like he had two heads.

“Of course they act like that. They have less power than any of us, and even we can’t save everybody.”

At the time he’d disagreed with the mage. People shouldn’t be able to ignore pain like that so easily. He knew better now. They weren’t the odd ones for not caring, he was the odd one for caring so much. He agreed with The Court now, in principle if not in scale. It wasn’t that you couldn’t save everybody.

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It was 1953 when Phillip Barber’s device exploded. He awoke in the remains of his lab and watched in amazement as a ball of black matter swirled in front of him. The doctor felt it calling to him, felt the energy wafting off of it.

The man who would become Eclipse, the first slider, the first super-villain, reached out to the mass and felt it drawn within him.

“With this, I can do it. I can make them understand what these powers really mean. I can save everyone.”

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“In the long run,” Will spoke under his breath. “You can’t save anybody.”

 

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