Month: June 2014

Chapter 10: On the Wall

Two Days Later:

A young woman floated high above the city. Her costume glowed silver in the moonlight as she searched the streets below. She had been after this particular jaunter for two months now. He had been robbing vaults, safes, and galleries for over a year, and the only reason anyone knew it was him was the elephant he had spray-painted in every building he had broken into.

He never set off alarms, never left any fingerprints, and never got caught on any camera. At this point, she was reduced to flying around, hoping to see him leave a crime scene.

She was about to make another lap around this neighborhood when she heard a voice. “We need to talk.

Miss Mirror huffed and glanced down at the rooftops. “I’m busy.”

The Elephant never pulls a job on game nights. You’re wasting your time. I’m two blocks west of you.

“We can talk fine like this.”

Some conversations are better face to face.

The skywalker sighed. “All right, I’m coming down.”

She turned to her left and gently glided down. He, of course, had chosen the highest building on the block. Miss Mirror took one look at him and scowled. “What is so important, Will?”

Will raised an eyebrow. “You should know, Rachel. Did you really think I wouldn’t find out? You were supposed to tell somebody if he got powers.”

Her fist clenched tightly. “That’s what this is about? What happens to my brother is none of your business. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

Will shook his head. “I agree. It’s not our business what happens to your brother. He’s your responsibility and nobody gets to tell you how to take care of him.” Miss Mirror opened her mouth to respond. “But, it is our business when Jeager’s son gets superpowers. The man was a nut job, and even if the kid is completely normal and a hero through and through, somebody’s going to ask questions. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have answers before that happens. I thought you knew all this. Your grandparents I understand, they never got into the business, but you, you know why we need to do this.”

The heroine growled at Will’s words. “You think I’m going to let a tel go through his head just in case something goes wrong? Hell no. I don’t care if Meister himself comes down here for the job. We’re not putting him through that, especially without him knowing why.” She glared angrily at those words.

“That one was your parents’ decision. You could have told him yourself any time, any place. If he’s half as chipper with you as he is in the group then he’d probably make you feel bad for thinking it would change anything between you two.”

“But it would change everything. I don’t see why he should have to go through that just because he might be like his father.”

“Do you even realize how he got his powers? He got knocked into Jeager’s invention. Half the planet thinks that’s what drove him insane in the first place. If one of the hard-asses found out his son got the same powers from the same machine, he would be slaughtered before he had a chance to prove them wrong.”

“You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t worry about that every fucking day? Why do you think I sent him to you? I need him off the streets until I figure out who to talk to about this. He doesn’t deserve to be blamed for something he had no control over.”

Neither of them spoke for a moment.

Will sighed. “We never should have kept that thing in the city.”

Miss Mirror crossed her arms and started tapping her foot, an impressive feat for somebody floating off the ground. “Please. You know as well as I do moving it would have been asking for trouble. Even if no one else could have gotten powers from it, it’s still one of the most dangerous weapons a civvie ever created.”’

“I know, I know.  What the hell was that guy doing near the Ark anyway? There’s nothing worth stealing there. And anyone who steals from the warehouse would be put on the most wanted list before the got out the door.”

“He tried to punch me. I threw him a few blocks.”

“Reasonable.”

“I have no need for sarcasm. Are you going to tell someone about him?”

Will smirked. “He’s your brother. I’ll keep an eye on him while he’s in the group. After that, he’s your problem. Just make sure no one figures out you’re related for a while. And hope he can prove himself.”

The heroine smiled. “You’ve met him right? I don’t need to hope.”

“Good.” Will turned to walk back into the building. Miss Mirror looked ready to fly off, but she paused before she left.

“Will, do…do you think there’s a way to tell him without letting him know about Jeager?”

Will shook his head sadly. “It’s up to you, Rachel. But sooner or later he’s going to learn the truth. If you don’t tell him, someone else will.”

She paused. “What would they have done?”

“They-they were good people. Janet would have told him years ago. Mike would have waited until he got powers. I don’t know what they would have agreed on, but they always managed to turn out all right in the end.”

“Yeah. They made it look easy.”

Will looked over his shoulder, smiling. “They were your parents. Making the hard jobs look easy was their job.”

Miss Mirror shook her head and watched the former hero walk into the building. She turned away and flew up into the night.

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She finally stopped when she reached the warehouse. It had been repaired within days of her brother crashing through its walls, but she could see the outline of his impromptu doorway. She landed quietly outside the main entrance.

A light shined down from the doorway and a deep voice spoke. “Identified, Miss Mirror. You do not have authorization for entrance. State your purpose.”

“I need to see the footage of the night 6 months ago when Jeager’s machine was activated.”

“Processing. Footage is deemed relevant to persona Miss Mirror. Entrance into first chamber permitted.”

The doors before her slid open and she walked through. The room she entered was barren. A single chair stood in the center of the room, facing a monitor. A large door stood closed beyond the chair.

Miss Mirror raised an eyebrow at the chair. “It has been determined that persona Miss Mirror has more than minimal chance of reacting negatively to footage. The footage will begin upon your compliance.”

The heroine reluctantly sat down and the monitor turned on. The cameras did not record the outside of the warehouse, but she could hear the energy blasts hitting the surrounding buildings. It was hard to tell when in the fight the footage started, but it wasn’t long before her brother flew through the wall with a loud crash.

He sailed through the air and landed on a box in the middle of the room. Her hands dug into the arms of the chair as the machine inside was revealed. It stood silently over her brother. The camera zoomed in as his eyes opened and the machine above him began to glow. A large bolt of electricity reached out from the machine’s antenna and struck him in the chest. The bolt glowed blue, then red, and finally settled on green as her brother convulsed beneath it.

She started breathing heavily when she saw him unmoving after the bolt faded. The footage fast forwarded through the next ten minutes, punctuated by more explosions from outside the building. Finally, her brother woke up and climbed onto his feet. He glanced down at his hand, clenching and unclenching his fist rapidly.

He tried to walk forward, only to run face first into a crate across the aisle. He looked at it, rubbing his head. After a moment he stood back up and looked down the aisle. He took a few steps, moving very deliberately. After a moment he began to pick up speed until he was running around the warehouse and the camera recorded only a blur.

He stopped back by Jaeger’s machine and studied it with a bewildered look. The sound of a large crash came through the walls and sirens sounded in the distance. He looked at the hole he came through worriedly before blurring out the hole and off the camera.

The footage continued for a few moments until the feed cut out.

“Please take a moment before standing.”

Miss Mirror nodded her head and took a deep breath. “Why didn’t you prevent his entrance?”

“Persona Mitchell was deemed non threat. Preventing his entrance had a 90% chance of fatality. The structure of the wall was weakened before impact.”

“Thank you. Why did he go so far after entering?”

“Unknown. No outside force detected. Most likely scenario, interaction of your power with energy output caused temporary phenomena of maintained momentum.”

“What?…Don’t answer that.” Miss Mirror thought about that. Few walkers let anyone know the specifics of their powers, but she knew her powers weren’t supposed to alter what she reflected. She thought about the energy manip she fought. His blasts always detonated on impact; the chances of them altering due to her powers were slim at best.

“Please replay the moment of entrance. Slow it down.”

The monitor turned back on and she flinched when her brother flew through the wall again. Her brother’s body flew through the air. She studied his path carefully.

“There!” The video paused. “Rewind at 3 frames per second….Pause. Zoom in.”

The video froze and her brother’s form filled the screen. She looked closely beneath his back. “What is that?”

“Filming error. No presence detected.”

“Maybe. Can I get a printout of this image.”

“Affirmative.”

A slot slid open to the right of the monitor and a piece of paper appeared from within. Miss Mirror walked over and grabbed the sheet.

As she walked out the door, she studied the paper closely. Beneath her brother, pressing into his back, was a dark shadowy arm.

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A Quick Note

Hello everyone. Sorry about another non-chapter post so quickly, but I felt it was necessary to address something. The first review I got on Web Fiction Guide (thank you Oniwasabi) addressed an issue I feel is rather important. As you may have noticed, I was using the term streetwalker for low-level heroes, which is a term for another profession with less than positive connotations. Unfortunately, while I knew of the term, the connection had not crossed my mind at the time of writing. As such I have, at least temporarily, changed all mentions of streetwalker to landwalker. However, I do not quite like the way this term flows. I am requesting anyone who cares to comment to let me know which term you prefer, or if there is another term you believe is more appropriate.

Thank you for your time,
King and Commoner

Chapter 9: Plain Sight

Unimportant held his right hand up to his hat. (‘I never noticed he had a hat before’). A feeling of intense concentration overtook him and more and more details came into focus. His face was still obscured by his power, but they could now identify the red baseball cap on his head, his worn down jeans,  and his plain black t-shirt.

After a brief moment, Unimportant lowered his hand, but his power remained faded. He slumped into the chair and breathed deeply for a few moments. “I apologize… It takes….a significant amount of effort to tune my power so acutely.” His voice sounded less hollow, and Will picked up a significant amount of emotion. ”But I wanted you all to see me a bit more clearly for at least the beginning of my story.

“My power is unstable at best, so I hope you can forgive me if it does not hold steady until the end.”

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To start with, I suppose I should identify my powers for you. I am a slider (a few of the others fidgeted uncomfortably at that), and not a normal one. My body exists at almost all times on at least two planes of existence.

I was almost definitely born with my powers. Though it is hard to say for sure, I was identified as quick to disappear and easy to miss as early as I could crawl. Even the most diligent watchers could not keep track of me for long once I learned to walk.

I started to learn how to control it when I was 4 or 5. It didn’t take much at first; it was like easing up on the gas in a car. And it only became easier.

I wasn’t very careful about keeping it quiet, but nobody really noticed either. My power likes to stay hidden; it prevents passive observation.

I started reading comics when I was 9, and when I was 10 I started trying to figure out my power. At first, I thought I was a tel, that I was just blocking my presence from people’s minds. I was pretty sure I wasn’t a light manip, because I could see my reflection, though there are ways that could still happen. Nothing else I could think of fit. For a while there I gave up.

It took me three years before I tried meditating. I was always a very hyperactive kid, and the idea of sitting still for that long drove me insane, but it was the only idea I had left. It was…strange. I saw myself, sitting in my room, but I also saw hundreds of other worlds. It was like I had a camera installed in each of them, I could look in each world, even explore it, but I had no real presence there, nothing reacted to me.

It took me a while to realize what this meant. I was a slider, splitting myself between hundreds, if not thousands of other worlds, while keeping my mind here. It…diminishes my presence in this world, my mind is still here, and I can touch things normally, but other people see me and I don’t register. What I do here is toned down to some of the lower levels I can manage, but at full strength you wouldn’t even realize I was in the same room.

For a while there, I became a stroller. My power isn’t exactly fight friendly, and when you’re thirteen you don’t exactly think of superheroes other than the ones flying around and punching buildings. So I was well into high school before I started to really think about using my powers.

It happened my sophmore year. A friend of mine…he wound up in a bad place. At first I thought he was just drinking too much at parties, but then he started coming to school looking worse and worse. Even then, I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until I found him unconscious, hiding behind the tool shed, that I realized I had to do something.

So I followed him. It wasn’t hard. He wouldn’t have been able to lose me if he knew I was there. I saw him buying his drugs out of the back of some gas station.

I didn’t do anything right away, except lift the drugs off of my friend. It only took one look to tell me what they were. People had tried passing them around a few parties months beforehand, but almost everyone turned them down when they heard who made them.

It was definitely his work. Nobody would be stupid enough to use his mark on their drugs.

Asclepios’s stuff is dangerous at best. He’s always managed to fly under the radar because he’s never been overtly destructive. In fact, I doubt he even cares what happens to his drugs once he sells them off. But I’m sure you’ve all seen what happens to people who use them for too long. I saw one of them on my way here, the man looked like he’d been set on fire from the inside, and he was still begging for more.

Luckily, my friend didn’t have enough money to get any more drugs for the next couple weeks. The rest of us, me and his other friends, confronted him about the drugs. I didn’t say I followed him, definitely didn’t tell him I stole them off of him, but we managed to pull together enough evidence despite that. When he didn’t agree to quit, we told his parents. They were as free spirited as they come. Hell, I’m pretty sure he could’ve been doing half a dozen different drugs without them caring, but when they heard it was Asclepios’s work, they sent him straight to rehab.

I haven’t heard much from him since that. We tried to visit him a couple of times, but he refused to speak with us.

I don’t blame him, never did. I blamed Asclepios.

As little as I thought of my powers, I found them perfect for this. I started tracking my way up Asclepios’ ladder. The attendant who my friend bought from turned out to be a good starting point. His supplier was a storeowner at the East Mall, who got his stuff from a homemaker in the suburbs, who got hers from a gardener who makes his rounds all over the city. Each layer exposed another dozen of the one below it.

Following them was easy, but I had to teach myself a lot over those months. I practiced lock picking on random houses, never going in just opening and closing the door. I had taken some basic fighting lessons when I was younger, but I needed some major refresher courses if I ever ended up needing to fight. Alarms, dogs, safes, I had to figure out tricks for all of them. As much as I could learn by following and watching, I always needed to get a room to myself for a little bit if I wanted to get any real information.

I still haven’t made it far. The hardest part has been getting the members I have uncovered arrested without tipping off the others. A few I’ve had to let go, for now, the others I make sure to spread out. A couple anonymous tips, a concerned neighbor, and a case of “breaking and entering” later and I’ve actually managed to do some good.

It was just last month that I began to notice something. Sometimes, when I’m using my powers, I begin to remember things that never happened to me. They usually fade, but more and more I’m holding onto memories I can’t have, animals that don’t exist, people I’ve never met, words that don’t make any sense. The worst part is that I can feel them crowding together with my own memories. After using my powers for a long time, I nearly forgot my mom’s face. If I hadn’t heard her speaking, I may not have been able to remember it was her.

The worst part is that as much as I want to pause and figure out what’s happening with my power, I don’t think I can stop what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve actually done something good with my powers. Even tonight, as I sit here wondering if I should quit while I’m still sane, I fully intend to go out and track down another dealer.

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“It’s not that I want to quit. I want nothing less, but I’m worried about what’ll happen to me if I don’t. When Slipstream confronted me after I tracked the gardener to another delivery, I asked him if he knew of anyone who could help. He sent me here.” Unimportant made a gesture with his hand. “And this is it.”

Unimportant’s features began to fade into obscurity, the aura of nervousness seeping out from him once again.

Will looked at everyone’s reactions. Most of them had been shocked when he mentioned he was a slider. Few sliders stayed sane in the long run, but he had made it almost 19 years without losing it. Luckily, their reactions seemed to have calmed down as the story progressed.

Red Racer looked particularly deep in thought. “Hey, if you saw all those worlds, what did they look like?”

Will heard Allspades trying to hide a chuckle. That entire story, and that’s what the kid focused on.

Unimportant seemed amused too. “Well…most of them were empty…except for the animals…A few seemed stuck in the past…like they just stopped moving forward at some point…Others seemed similar to here…A couple looked straight out of books and movies…I’m pretty sure there were elves riding kangaroos like horses.”

Red Racer laughed. Will heard Allspades join in. Despite himself, he felt a smile creep onto his face.

Once the two had stopped laughing, Will stood up and looked around the room. “That wraps it up for today. You all know I’ll be meeting up with you over the next week if you need to say something outside of the group. We’ll meet a week from Wednesday. That should give me a chance to meet with everyone. It’ll help if you think over everyone’s stories today, not just your own. We’re here because we’re in this together. If you want to keep in contact with each other outside the meeting, do it. Everything helps.”

Will turned to walk out the door. “Make sure you don’t forget anything, the doors’ll be locked after we leave. Tread softly.”

“Tread softly, Mr. Writer.”

Will felt a small tug when he heard Red Racer speak along with Unimportant.

 

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Chapter 8: Combine and Conquer

The group filed into the auditorium once more. Most of them glanced over at Will, still sitting in the same seat they had left him in.

Burnout leaned over and muttered to Mach. “Do you think he even moved?”

The mecher gave an exaggerated shrug. He looked around the room, searching for the only other member who had yet to speak. He found Unimportant sitting next to Red Racer, who was talking animatedly. The other hero turned towards the mecher.

Mach tilted his head. Unimportant did not seem to make a move, but a general aura of acceptance seemed to overtake his features.

Mach stood up. “It would appear that it is my turn.” He walked up to the stage, his suit deceptively quiet for its size.

Will flipped to a new sheet on his board and stared up at the stage. He had to force his mind back into the present. (‘This is no time to worry about the kid. I can talk to his sister later. I have to get through the night first.’).

Mach took one look at the chair, and shook his head before turning to the audience. “I don’t think this is time for slapstick.”

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As I’m sure you understand, I don’t have powers as such. Like most mecher’s, I possess a peculiar intelligence. However, my abilities are slightly more…limited than most.

I was not born with my intelligence. Or rather, I have not always been capable of expressing it. I was born with a disorder that prevented me from interpreting spoken language. I could hear fine and even identify others by their voice, but their words held no meaning for me.

For the longest time, I didn’t even understand the purpose of talking. I would watch my parents have conversations with each other, unable to comprehend that they could communicate without sign language or writing. Eventually, they were able to help me understand what it was I was missing. But there was still nothing we could do about it.

My parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find someone who could fix my problem. But no doctor would put time into a project that could only cure one person.

I was twelve before it happened. A man came walking to the door, claiming that he had once been a vegetable, trapped forever in his own body, but that he had been saved by a tel.

Azriel.

I wasn’t able to hear the conversation, but I saw the looks on my parents’ faces while they argued about what to do. My mother, I think she was the one who wanted take me right away. My father was worried about someone who claimed his powers were just what they needed.

In the end, my mother won out. After all, there was no harm in just seeing the man. And they hadn’t committed to anything yet anyway.

I assume most of you never met him. Azriel is a short, plump, ugly man, but he projects an aura of power and calm unlike anything else I have ever felt. They talked for a long time, my parents were trying to figure out how true his powers were. But he asked for nothing, he said that he would heal me for no other reason than I needed it.

And he was serious. It wasn’t until later that the world learned his motives, that his power was driving him more and more insane by the day. By that point he had lost the idea of wealth; it was actually in those few weeks that he was able to truly help people. What happened after that…well, there’s a reason no one can see him anymore.

I felt him rooting through my head, tracing his way around my mind until he found the problem. To hear him describe it, it was like he was unclogging a fucking sink. But it worked.

For the first time, I could hear my parents speak, and understand their words. He even helped with my voice, making sure I could actually speak the word I could hear.

But something else came from it too. Whatever he moved, or dislodged in my head, did something more than that. It gave me more than the words; I could sort through information in a way that made no sense to anyone else. Technology seemed to fall apart in front of me and I could understand everything about it.

I cannot create tech in the way most mecher’s can, and I definitely can’t make anything too ahead of our time, but I can disassemble and combine technology in a way that barely even makes sense to me.

(Mach flexed his wrist and miniature mini-gun popped out of his forearm).

Most of my suit isn’t my design, but I was able to take pieces from other mecher’s designs, at least the one’s they patented, and combine them into something completely my own.

My parents figured it out of course. There was no way I could build the armor and keep it hidden from them. I won’t go into details on that argument. Trust me when I say it’s nothing you want to hear. But it was my father who ended up convinced, and he got my mother to agree pretty quickly.

Of course, that didn’t mean much until the suit was finished. It took me 5 years to put this thing together to my liking. And even now, every time I look at it I see something missing, something that could be better.

I didn’t go out for real until this last fall. And when I started, I felt untouchable.

I found out two months ago exactly how much strain I’d been putting on my body. My suit is capable of doing amazing things; I, apparently, can’t keep up with it. But that’s not the reason I came here.

The reason I came is that the first thing my mind jumped to when I noticed the problem, was how to replace my bones or my muscles. I’ve seen what happens to mechers who start down that path, but I almost ran down it without hesitation the first time something went wrong.

My brain was all I had for a long time, but now? I’m not even sure if I know what I’m thinking any more. I look around, at buildings, cars, anything, and all I can see are inefficiencies, things that could be stronger or faster.

And it’s getting harder to hold myself back.

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Mach stopped talking. For a moment, it looked like he might continue, but he shook his head and walked off the stage.

Will wanted to kick himself. For a moment there, he had been relieved, because of all the problems in the group so far, this was one he knew how to deal with. Mach was right, mechers who started modifying their own bodies never turned out well. But every mecher thought about it at least once. Will knew who to talk to for Mach, even knew most of the process for kicking mechers out of that phase.

But all the same, he had felt relieved. Relieved that the problem was so simple, relieved that he wouldn’t have too much work for this one. He suppressed a groan at the thought. (‘I’m becoming used to this. I’m actually looking forward to this one because it’s familiar. What the fuck is wrong with me?’).

Will glanced over at the mecher. Burnout and Red Racer were trying to cheer him up, but Mach waved them off, asking for space.

(‘Dammit, I’m not getting too cold for this. I just need a night to clear my head and I’ll be back. Just one more and I can get some fresh air and sort this out.’). Will cracked his neck and watched Unimportant hop onto the stage.

It took a moment for everyone to realize he had gone on the stage, but they all immediately quieted down once they had. As always, Unimportant’s features were indistinguishable, but they all understood his nervousness anyway.

“Well then…I suppose…it’s my turn.”

 

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Chapter 7: 15 Minutes

Mach and Burnout gathered by the door. Nobody was close enough to hear them, but they kept their voices down anyway.

“Are you sure?”

Mach nodded. “Definitively. The likelihood of extreme mental manipulation is incredibly small. Slipstream’s detector has been shown to work in all but one case.”

“What happened that time?”

“A Colorian device designed to hide traitorous intent within low level brain functions. It was destroyed during the invasion.”

Burnout breathed a sigh of relief. “So that means that I can stop worrying?”

Mach shook his head. His expressionless mask made the gesture look almost cruel. “That is ill advised. While the device can detect overt manipulation with ease, it is not guaranteed to detect subtle emotional shifts, especially if they occurred long ago. It is unfortunate, but I can at least guarantee that your decisions after the cave were not out of your control.”

Burnout’s shoulders dropped slightly. “Got it. Thanks anyway, Mach.”

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Hawthorne gestured at her vest and a seed popped out. She gingerly picked it up and cradled it in her palm. A woody vine curled out of the seed and deposited two apples into her waiting hand.

Without looking she tossed one of them over her right shoulder. “Catch!”

She heard a thump and turned to see Allspades rubbing his forehead, the apple held in his other hand. “Come on…Was that really necessary?”

Hawthorne’s lips curled upwards and she suppressed a small giggle. “What? All that covert operative stuff never taught you how to catch?”

“You can’t catch bullets. Well, some people can, but I can’t. And anything important enough to have to change hands that quickly, is way too fragile to risk throwing it like that.”

Hawthorne shook her head. “And what? You and your playmates never tossed around a ball during your breaks? You never tried to throw marshmallows in someone’s mouth? You have to have done something other than train.”

Allspades barked out a laugh. “Yeah. We slept and we ate and we prayed the next day wouldn’t make our muscles hurt quite as bad. And on really good days, we actually had something that tasted remotely like meat. I didn’t have a hamburger for four years, and do you know what the worst part was? It was the memory, the knowledge that that shit we ate was supposed to be made of the same stuff as real food.” His grip on the apple grew harder, and he felt it begin to give beneath his fingers.

Hawthorne flinched back. “Crap, sorry. And I thought what passes for fried chicken in the city was bad.”

The tank took a bite out of the apple. “The first job I got was at a fast food place. I got fired after my first week because I ate more food than I served. Luckily I ‘forgot’ to put them down on my, fake, resume. One of those favors I called in ended up getting me a job at a library. If I say I’m restocking books I can disappear for hours without anyone being wiser. And I can’t eat the paper.”

Hawthorne nodded. “When I first got my job, I had to sneak in naps whenever I could. The entry level shit was easy enough to get through that I could pull it off. But one day my boss caught me. I had a pillow at my desk and everything. I managed to play it off as some sort of medical thing for my neck, but he watched me like a hawk for weeks.”

Allspades smiled slightly. And they sat there munching on the apples. Allspades finished his off and tossed it into the trashcan across the hall. Hawthorne raised an eyebrow and he smiled.

“What? Never said I couldn’t throw.”

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“Here you go-go.”

Unimportant accepted the soda with a muted nod.

“So-so, why’d you choose a name like that anyway-way? It seems kinda-da…mean-mean.”

Unimportant gave a slight shrug. “It is…fitting.” He said deliberately. “I find…there are two ways to enter somewhere uninvited. One…make yourself look so busy and prepared…that you must belong. Two…become someone nobody looks twice at. For some…this means dressing as a janitor…or a mechanic. For me…it just means I have to be myself. Anyone can see me…they merely cannot acknowledge me as worthy of attention.”

Red Racer popped open his own soda. “Still-still. What exactly is your power anyway-way? I looked online-line, and no one seems to have something like it-it. If you were a tel-tel­ it would be one thing-thing, but tel’s can’t really affect me-me. They can read-read, but that’s it-it.”

Unimportant glanced at the runner. “I am…unique. It is…a large part of the reason I am here.”

Red Racer nodded and glanced at the unopened soda in the other hero’s hand.  “Um-um…I was wondering-ring, since you’re the only one of us who said it-it, do you know what that tread softly things about-bout?”

Unimportant looked towards the theater, where their guide still sat. “I…I think so. But…it’s not quite there. It’s something I’ve lost.”

Red Racer looked confused. But the aura given off by Unimportant made him back down.

Unimportant opened his soda.

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Will looked down at the paper in his hand. He double checked the math in his head as he counted back the weeks. ‘Please no. Please no.

There weren’t many raw energy manips, and only one had been active during the time Red Racer had gotten his powers. And he was brought down by a flying tank, who specialize in redirection.

There was no doubt about it; the kid’s sister was Miss Mirror.

Which means Will knew who his parents were.

Worse, he knew who his father was.

A deep groan worked its way out of his throat. “How the hell do I get into this shit?”

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Chapter 6: Bloodlines

Red Racer sat down on the chair. He fidgeted, but that wasn’t unexpected. He sat there, breathing deeply. It took a few minutes, but he managed to settle down.

Racer closed his eyes and took one more breath. “Okay.”

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I wasn’t born with my powers, but I was supposed to be. My parents were both walkers. My grandparents were walkers, at least on one side. Even my sister was a walker.

But I wasn’t.

You may not know this, but genetic walkers aren’t exactly common. Most people just don’t get powers in a way that would let their kids inherit them. But my parents were. I mean, my sister’s had powers since she was three, and there was no other explanation except our parents.

I was born eight years after her, and by the time I was five, my parents started wondering. They had a friend of theirs run some tests, making sure that I hadn’t woken up some unnoticeable power. But there was nothing. They would have kept on worrying, but then Eclipse attacked (There was a collective intake of breath from a few of the others).

That was almost seven years ago. Me and my sister lived with our grandparents for a few years after that, ‘til she turned 18. We did alright there, they were walkers like I said, but they had been retired for a while by then.  They kept an eye on us, made sure we were fine but…it was never really right, ya know?

Once my sister was old enough, we got a place in the city. Our parents left us enough to get by on ‘til we got out of school and we both wanted to get out of the suburbs. It was a small place, a bedroom for each of us and bathroom to share, but it was good.

My sister started walking a year after we moved. She didn’t tell me, but it was just the two of us, it wasn’t hard to figure out. She wasn’t mad when she found out I knew, just made me promise not to tell anyone.

Eventually I got more curious about what she did, so I, uh, I followed her. And yeah, it was pretty awesome. But I guess I only had so long ‘til she figured out I was following her.

She was pretty mad. Kept saying stuff about how I didn’t even have powers, and she couldn’t spend the whole time protecting me, blah, blah, blah. It didn’t help much; I just got better at hiding from her.

I guess it took about ten months before something happened. She was fighting some prowler. He shot some kinda energy balls, and he hit the dumpster I was hiding behind.

That sent me flying into this warehouse. Me and a friend used to walk past it on the way back from school and he always called it the Science Warehouse. Used to joke about how nobody seemed to pick anything up from it, just drop off containers from some place or another.

I ended up hitting one of the crates. Luckily it was softer than I was, but I still wasn’t going anywhere at that point. Not sure how long I would’ve been there if he hadn’t shot another ball into the building. It hit the machine and the whole thing surged out.

Something came off of that machine and hit me. I don’t know if it was supposed to do that or what, but it hit me hard. And I could move again. I could move.

If I didn’t have my powers I never would have made it home before my sister. But I managed.

I didn’t tell her about my powers right away. I called my grandpa, and he wanted me to tell everyone, but said he’d let me decide. I talked to him about it on and off for a few weeks before I agreed to tell my sister the first time something happened with my powers.

He also told me my parents left me the suit.

He said they never gave up on me having powers, even if I had.

I picked it up after school one day, it only took me thirty minutes to get there and back and I was still home an hour before my sister-ter. I’m pretty sure they made the costume based off of their old ones, but I never got to see those. I think they wanted to be able to train us themselves.

I took a few months to get used to running, figure out how much I could handle, stuff like that. My grandpa said I wasn’t just moving fast but I didn’t really get what he meant, something about slingshots-shots.

I really didn’t start up anything until a few weeks before school got out. It was actually pretty easy-sy. I could move faster than any normal can keep track of and most prowlers don’t really know how to deal with runners too well-well.

It had to end eventually though. I held off on taking on anyone too big, but I slipped up. This guy-guy, he wasn’t anyone too special, but he could track me. He managed to trip me up-up, and I went right into a wall. It wasn’t too bad, I can hit things at pretty much full speed without too much trouble-ble, so long as they don’t hit back.

But it was enough for my sister-ter, who was on her way to the same fight, to get a look at me before I could get running again. And, apparently, she figured out it was me-me.

It really doesn’t go on much longer than that-that. There was a decent bit of yelling­-ling. She said I should stop before I get hurt-hurt. I threw out some insulting nicknames. Everyone left feeling bad-bad.

But she did convince me to come here-here. Said if I stopped walking while this went on, then she would let me patrol with her when it was done-­­done. She even taught me how to fix my voice for a bit-bit. I don’t really want to quit, but I did promise-ise.

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Red Racer was still smiling when he finished. Will took a look around and noticed that most of the room had relaxed a bit during his story. (‘Got to give it to the kid. He picked a good time to talk. Also, shit, how the hell did this kid survive three months with no training? There’s a reason we don’t let preteens out alone.’).

A slow clapping rang out over the theater. Will looked over and saw Unimportant applauding. He couldn’t see his face, of course, but the man seemed pleased all the same. Red Racer’s grin grew wider and he lept off the stage.

Will nodded at the slider and glanced at his watch. “Okay. We have two to go. I’m calling 15 minutes to grab a snack and take care of business. We won’t start until everyone’s back, but don’t waste time.”

 

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