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