Et Sic Incipit III. Apollo II

I remembered the sparring match, and turned to watch. Diana had just dodged a punch from Zeta. She rolled out of the way, and kicked him in the back of the knee. His knees buckled, but he rolled with the fall, and grabbed Diana’s foot. He pulled her down, and she fell flat on her face.  She quickly spun onto her back, and jumped up. She feinted a kick, and as Zeta fell for it, she punched him in the jaw. He fell backwards, right on his ass, still reeling from the punch. He regained his bearings, and kicked her legs out from under her. She landed on her back, and instantly leapt up using only her feet. He was still on the ground, so she tried to kick him, but when she wound up for the kick, he grabbed her foot and threw her across the room. She hit the wall. Hard.

I vaguely remember hearing Exile say, “Oh shit,” behind me. Everyone froze. She staggered to her feet, but it was clear she was going to collapse. Zeta rushed over to help her, but she waved him off. He was apologizing profusely.

“I’m so sorry! Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Honest.”

“Are you sure? I feel so bad are you ok?”

“Yes! I’m fine! No hard feelings.” She moved to give him a hug. He didn’t know what to do, so he just hugged her back. “See?” she said, “No hard feelings.”

Before anyone could move, I was on my feet, bow drawn. I shot an arrow into Zeta’s arm. He shoved away from Diana, and pulled it out.  I drew another arrow from my quiver, and got ready to shoot him again, but Exile saw what I was doing, and before I could take another step a seven-foot wall of fire shot up in front of me.  I tried to go around it, but she changed it into a circle, surrounding me. Through the flames I could see Exile pull Diana up off the ground. Zeta grimaced, and pulled the arrow out of his arm, inspecting the wound closely, then shrugging. I couldn’t hear what was happening.

Exile started yelling at me, but I couldn’t hear her over the flames. She must have been mad, because the flames around me pressed higher. Zeta, on the other hand, was furious. He started running at me, fire burning from behind his goggles.  Exile saw his charge, and suddenly disappeared, reappearing closer to me.  She threw out an arm, clotheslining Zeta.  He fell to the ground, clutching his nose.  That made him angry, but it sure as hell made me feel better. What made me feel even better was that Exile’s attention slipped, and the flames went down enough for me to jump over and join the fight.

Before Zeta could hit her back, she blasted him in the face with a fireball. She yelled to Everest, and he grabbed Zeta from behind. Luna started yelling at Exile, who turned around, and set a circle of fire around my sister, too. Zeta bent down, then jumped up to the ceiling and flipped, leaving Everest to fall to the ground.  He slammed down, landing on top of him hard enough to drive the density-changer’s body another foot into the ground.  I, just reaching the fight, drove one of my arrows into his wounded arm, narrowly avoiding his riposte.  He started swinging wildly at me, acting as if he hadn’t just gotten stabbed.  I grabbed one of his fists, trying to initiate a grab, but the bastard was sandbagging.  He twisted out of my grip and grabbed my arm, flipping me over his back and into the wall.  To add insult to injury, he surrounded me in another wall of fire.

Zeta hit Exile in the back with a fireball, which set her shirt on fire. She waved her hand and put it out. She turned around and yelled, “ENOUGH,” loud enough for even me to hear. Everyone stopped. Well, I was trapped in fire, and Everest was almost unconscious on the floor, so really just Zeta and Luna. The flames lowered just the smallest amount.

“Leave. I’m going to try to fix this, but right now, you need to go.”

“But–” Zeta started to say, but Exile cut him off.

“Go.” She pointed to the door. He stalked out of the room, anger rolling off him in waves. My sister glanced back at me, then ran after him.  Exile waved her hand, and the fires surrounding me went out. She stumbled over to the bleachers, clearly drained from the fight. I ran past her to find Zeta.

I caught up to him just as he was reaching our bunk.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I asked as I shoved him, and he stumbled a few steps. He spun around, and shoved me back.

“What, mad your sister is an actual person?”

“Fuck you!” I pulled my sword out of its sheath.

“No!” Diana came running out of the girl’s bunk. She stood between us, and put a hand on each of our chests, separating us. “Stop!”

“Why? Your super, special big brother wants to fight me. Let him.”

“Move out of the way, Diana. Now.” She wouldn’t budge.

Suddenly, Rune appeared. “The two of you. Come. Now.” We followed him into the main building, and he sat us down at a table. He was seething with anger. He turned to Zeta.

“Zeta, watch yourself.  You’re supposed to be the bad boy of the team, but nearly killing your own subordinates is shit that not even Hacksaw does.” He pouted.

“I wasn’t trying to kill them.  I only used two powers.”  Rune just looked at him.

“You should probably go.  Make sure Exile is okay.”  He shrugged, and walked out of the room.

Once Zeta was gone, he turned to me. “You’re supposed to be the voice of reason. You’ve been on a team before. You of all people should know what happens when teammates fight. It gets people killed. You of all people should know,” he said again, with greater emphasis.  I refused to look him in the eye. “Hey. I know you want to protect your sister, but you can’t. She’s not a little kid anymore.” I still refused to look at him. He sighed, shook his head, and with that, he disappeared.

I sat there, still brooding, when I heard the door open.  A shadowy figure slipped in. It was Crane, using his stealth powers.

“Where were you during all of this?” I asked, not moving my head.  He sat down in front of me.

“Watching,” he hissed, “As I always am.” I looked up at him in surprise.  His mask was on, and his eyes glittered like obsidian.

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Et Sic Incipit III. Apollo I

I woke up at 5:30 for my morning jog, keeping as quiet as possible so as not to disturb my teammates.  The alarm clock wasn’t a problem; I hadn’t needed one of those since I was seven.  I put on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, and grabbed my water bottle.  I tip-toed past Everest, held my breath as I passed Crane, then carefully opened my water bottle.  I raised it to my mouth to take a drink… then dumped it all over Zeta’s sleeping head.

I was out of the bunk before he stopped sputtering.

An hour later, as I finished my twelve-mile run, the others were just getting up for their training camp breakfast.  I grinned as I ran past Zeta, still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.  He flipped me off.  I toweled off in the bunk, and went to get my breakfast.

As I walked into the dining room with a plate of waffles, I started looking for my sister.  I noticed her talking to someone, and smiled.

/Oh good, she made a new friend!  I was worried about her adjusting to the new social environment./

When I saw who she was talking to, I stopped in my tracks.  The smile slid off my face, and my jaw tightened.  I spat, “Zeta.”  Resisting the urge to protect my sister, I stiffly turned around and walked to a different table.

“Hey guys,” I said, forcing myself to calm down.

“Hey!  How’s it going, man?” said Everest.

“Sup, bitch?” Crane drawled, leaning his chair back on two legs.  I sat down, fake-laughing.

“It’s all good with me.  How’s camp going for you?”  I asked. Everest just shrugged, and rubbed his biceps.  I nodded understandingly.  “Yeah, that happens to everyone.  It’s worse for you, you’re the strongman.  You gotta be as strong as you can.  They’re gonna be working you as hard as possible.”

“You can say that again,” he snorted.  “They just brought me up to 1,000lbs yesterday.  I’m dying.”  Crane laughed at that.

“1,000 pounds, and you still can’t land a punch on Exile.  What’s the phrase?  Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink?”  Everest stated at him blankly.

“What?”  He asked.  Crane sighed, waving his hand.

“Nevermind, simpleton.”  Everest stared at him in confusion for a minute.

“Did you just call me stupid?” He asked incredulously. I looked at Crane, and we both burst out laughing.  “What?  What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, nothing.  Don’t worry about it,” I responded.

“God, you two are worse than Jaso-” He broke off suddenly, looking stricken.  Crane sighed, and leaned over to me.

“Everest and I know each other I-R-L,” he whispered, “And he hasn’t realized it yet.  I was talking to Zeta, too.  They got lunch together the day before the interviews, but nothing.”

I whispered back, “Wow.  Are you serious?  He’s that dense?”  He grinned, and leaned back.

“Apt choice of words, but yes.”  Everest threw up his hands.

“Screw both of you and your mind games.  I’m going to go work out.”  As he left, Crane glanced towards Zeta and Diana talking.

“So… I have a question for you, Mr. Inexplicable Grudge.”

“It’s not an inexplicable grudge. We had a bad interview.  We now do not like each other.  End of story.  No inexplicable hating.  No friendly rivalry.  Just plain dislike.”  I sighed.  Crane nodded.

“Alright.  I can accept that,” he said, “So how are you going to react when he starts going out with your sister?”  I spat out my water.

“What? Who said anything about dating?  They’re just talking, right?  Right?” His trademark grin re-appeared, a mischevious glint in his hazel eyes.

“They’re just talking,” he said, “for now.  But, it’s only a matter of time.  They have compatible personalities, they’ll have close contact over long periods of time, similar relationship histories…they both have had experiences with overbearing authority figures…  I don’t know why, but my power has given me some insight into humans.  I use that term loosely, of course, seeing as how I’m including Zeta.”  I relaxed.

“Oh, well, you might want to get your demon-sense checked out, then. I don’t know what Zeta’s deal is, but Diana hasn’t gone out with anyone, and she’s never had an overbearing authority figure.  At least, not for very long.  I’m always there to help her out of stuff like that.”  He stared at me.

“Yes, that’s definitely it.  I’ll get my demonic mask-thing checked out.”  He got up, shaking his head.  “I’m going to go train people who don’t know as much martial arts as we do.  I’ll probably do sparring today.  I’ll have to partner Diana with Zeta, since they’re about the same skill level. Not that there’s going to be a problem with that, right?”  I furrowed my brow.

“How is Zeta the same skill level as my sister?  She’s been training all her life.”

“Zeta has a combat sense.  He hasn’t been training for as long, but his power gives him a leg up.”  He replied.  I smiled triumphantly.

“See!  Another difference. Diana works for stuff, while it just comes easy to Zeta! They’ll never go out!”

After Crane left, I finished my food quickly, and headed towards the range to practice archery. After an hour of practice, or at least an attempt at it, I stopped. I couldn’t focus knowing that my sister was spending time with Zeta, of all people. I decided to go check on my sister in the sparring ring. The conversation I’d had with Crane kept running through my mind. So how are you going to react when he starts going out with your sister? No, no, no. Not gonna fuckin’ happen. Ever.

When I reached the ring, they hadn’t started yet, so I took a seat in the bleachers to watch. Crane was still assigning partners.

“Zeta, you’ll be against Luna. Exile, you’ll be against Everest. Zeta and Diana are up first.”  Exile and Everest took a few steps away from the ring, but when they saw me, they came to sit with me.

“You look happy to be here,” Exile observed, as she sat down next to me. She put her feet up on the row of chairs in front of us and her hands behind her head.

“Shut up.” I was on the edge of my seat, angrier with Zeta than I’d ever been. Her nonchalance just made me angrier.

“Don’t bother, he’s been mad all morning. Ever since breakfast.” Everest told her.

Exile nodded to him, “Oh, I see,” She turned to me, and with a straight face asked, “Did a special someone pee in your corn flakes again?”

Everest burst out laughing.

“Shut up! Both of you! I’m just mad that Diana is spending so much time with Zeta, ok?”

“Ahaha! That’s what this is about? Don’t even worry about it. We all know that Zeta is an egotistical prick on a power trip, but he’s really just a nerd.  He’s not going to make the first move.  Besides, even if he wanted to do it just to piss you off, he knows I’d kill him.” She grinned.

“I know. I just don’t want Diana to get hurt. She’s my little sister, I still have to protect her.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like she wants your help anymore. She’s a big girl. Let her make her own decisions. And, if it makes you feel any better, she kicking Zeta’s ass.”

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Et Sic Incipit III. Ranger II

I must have woken up shortly after blacking out, but the pain was all gone. Actually, now that I mention it, I couldn’t feel anything at all. I had a spectator’s seat on my life, and the game I was watching was gruesome.  My body was shaking and shuddering, and I realized after some time that hair was sprouting on my arms and legs. Some people at school used to jokingly call me a beast because I could be aggressive, but compared to what I was turning into, I had been a bunny. There was a foggy wall between me and whatever was controlling my body, but I could feel its rage and lust for blood. I saw claws sprouting from my fingers, tearing through my hands. Call me crazy, but then I started freaking out.

I fought hard against the instincts controlling me, trying to run back home, as if I could escape what had happened. For a while nothing happened, and I watched myself contort and roar.  I panicked, and there was a mental ‘click’. For a moment, I was back in control of my body. Then, the pain started up again and I lost my grip. My body was convulsing again, sprouting more hair. I picked up the scent of nearby animal and began charging. It was all I could do it hope that it wasn’t another human.

After trying to reconquer my mind again and again to no avail, I receded into a state of semi consciousness. Time seemed to blur, and I lost count of all the animals I attacked. I’d like to say that I didn’t kill any humans, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I hope, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.  But, I knew that by dawn there would be walkers in the park. It must’ve have been afternoon by the time I got to grips with reality again. I had come across a girl walking in the woods.  She looked familiar, but so does Scarlett Johansson, so…  You know the story.  Boy meets girl in woods.  Boy kills girl in a lycanthropic metamorphosis.  Boy gets chased down by an incredibly violent superhero team and killed.  That is the story, right?  Something like that, anyway.  It’s certainly what went through my mind at the time.

The moment she saw me her eyes widened and she started murmuring rapidly in Latin.

/Run, you moron, some dead language won’t save you…/

 As it turns out, it did.

Whatever form of black sorcery she was using it stopped me in my tracks. I could feel the fur on my arms rising and I began growl.

/Growling?! Since when did I do that?/

 I was recovering from her first spell quickly, and I leapt at her again. The vicious, walking carpet that I was had no chance against her spells. I was met by a solid wall of flames. The way I yelled was almost human. She must have been better with faces than I am because she seemed to recognize me through the fur and blood.

“Holy shit…. Pierce, is that you?!”

Her susurrus of Latin started again before I could launch another attack. I lost my ravenous hunger for murder, and I was regaining control over my body. Some of the pain was still there but it was eased by whatever spell she had just used. The hair on my arms and face began to recede. In a matter of seconds, I was human again.

“Well, that’s a relief. Deus ex Magica saves the day once again.  I suppose I won’t be able to growl anymore, but sometimes sacrifice is necessary. Onto more serious topics, you look familiar.  Have we met?”  She sighed, and face palmed.

“At least you’re not trying to kill me anymore. And, for the fifth time, it’s Sarah.  Sarah West?” I shook my head, furrowing my brow as she continued,  “Jason and Cyner introduced us?  Twice?  Same history class?”

“Nope.  Doesn’t ring a bell.”  She glared at me.

“I don’t even know why I bother.  You always forget.”

“Everyone has their faults…”

“So out of curiosity, why the homicidal rampage?  Your ki-” She flushed all of a sudden.

“What?” I said, rubbing my forehead, “My kind is usually killed or in quarantine?  It doesn’t bother me; I got turned last night.”

 “I’d heard rumors of wild werewolves in Europe, but none in the US so far.”

“Yeah? Check again.  Maybe one swam the Atlantic Ocean just to bite me. That would be my luck.”

“Pierce, no more stalling this, you can’t go back home. If you lose control again, people will die. You need to be monitored, or else we could have a lycanthropy epidemic on our hands. Admittedly, your case is special, since I think I may have stopped the infection early enough in the transformation. If you want, they may let you join the SVRA. Lycanthropy  could be useful once you get control of it.”

“I’m no hero, Sarah.”

“Exile,” she said, “While I’m in costume,” she gestured at her red robes, “Think about it. We’ll send a couple agents to your house. You have until then to make up your mind about what you want to do. Just know that if its not the SVRA, it could be an asylum. You might be too dangerous to leave alone.”

I had to admit, being in captivity wasn’t my thing. I needed to be able to go outside and go for a run to clear my head. I needed freedom to explore and have fun. I needed action or I’d tear my hair out from boredom. Maybe the SVRA wouldn’t be that bad.

I trudged home in my torn and bloodied clothes, ignoring the screams of the walkers who passed by me. It was like any other day in the park. Toward the end of my walk, I realized that I had spent over 30 hours awake. By the time I rounded the hill near my house I was ready to collapse.

There was a jogger approaching me, wearing a sweatshirt with his hood up. I thought this was pretty odd, since it was a hot day, and running would only make it worse. He stopped right in front of me and pulled down his hood. I recognized him immediately. He was a leader of some sort of new super-powered cult. He had been all over the news and his group was growing exponentially in followers. His name was Alexander Regio, but he was most often known as “The Guru”.

He was reasonably tall, with a face that resembled that guy. You know what I mean, right?  The homeless man on the street, the guy running the cash register, the business man walking through the street?  He wasn’t like them, though.  His eyes gave him away. They seemed larger than they actually were, colored a bright orange-yellow, seeming to glow like mellow flames.

After talking to Sarah, I guessed that the Lycan who had attacked me had been brought here for a reason. Now, it seemed like I found my reason. Accusing him wouldn’t make me any friends, so I waited for whatever lie he wanted to tell me.

“Well, if it isn’t my young, recently cured friend. I have a job offer.”

“And what job is that?” I asked, trying to keep the contempt from my voice.

“To serve with me, of course. You are one of my more interesting experiments, and I’m curious to see how you will turn out. Your intuition already told you that I set you up with that Lycan and I see no reason not to be open with you. Because of what I’ve done, you will have unique powers.”

“How did you know that I would be cured? You can’t honestly expect me to believe anything you say.”

“I know, because I sent the report about the attack in these woods. I left the spell to heal a werewolf inside Exile’s room last week. I knew she would cure you, so I let her think that she has served her own, twisted sense of justice. You may not trust me, but I trust you. I know that you will go with me. You see just about as much of a future in the SVRA as in the asylum. I am your best choice.”

He was right. I hated the idea of joining the SVRA. They were all just a bunch of posers who dealt more with the press than they did with any of the super-villians. That magic girl was nice enough, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to make friends with them, and was far more likely to end up hating them, or being utterly bored by them.  There are few people unpredictable enough, strong enough, or psychotic enough to interest me.

“Why the hell do you trust me?”

“At its most basic level, trust is thinking that someone will act in a predictable way. You are drawn to the power that I can give you, and so you will come with me. Because of this I trust you.  Whether you trust me or not is entirely up to you.”

“I don’t trust you, but you’re right. I’d rather join you.  For now.”

A second hooded jogger appeared suddenly next to us, placing a hand on each of our shoulders.

/I guess sweatshirts and running shorts were part of the whole “path of mankind” uniform./

I could feel the weight of gravity disappearing, and the start of the teleportation.
I looked over my shoulder at my house, a mere hundred yards away. That was my last look at my old home. I had no regrets.

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Et Sic Incipit III. Ranger I

I have no clue who’ll eventually read this, so I’ll say a little caveat before I begin. Some of you may be reading my story to learn confidential information about the SVRA. Rather than trying to make you waste your time, I’ll warn you that you probably won’t find any secrets to sell. Others could be genuinely interested in the SRVA and the agents’ backstories. If you belong in the latter you need to BACK OFF. I didn’t write these entries for your gossip column. I wrote them for plenty of reasons, but mostly because that annoying dude in black told me to. Pain lanced through my brain with each step I took. The cool night air was a temporary cure to the headache, but the reason I had one still stung and my anger was fresh. Doing school work was fine and all, but it was hard to focus while my parents yell at each other… and at me. I’m almost jealous of Jason and Cyner. After shit with their parents, they just got up and left. They have their own apartments. Sometimes I’d just run off into the woods at night to be alone and away from the tension. My house was in a great spot, I suppose, and it might still be, if I ever return. The house itself isn’t large, but it is surrounded by hundreds of acres of forest, which makes for a quiet midnight walk… when I’m lucky. The sky was cloudy, but the moon shed enough light to cast long, shifty shadows from the trees blowing in the wind. The forest was a town-owned park, and signs had been posted saying that it closed at sunset, but there were no walls or gates to keep me out.

That being said, it was a park in Connecticut. The worst animals you would hear about are coyotes, who piss in their pants at the first sight of a human, and every now and then a rumor of a mountain lion. Honestly, the most dangerous creatures in the forest were other people, and the gangs. Supers complicated the situation. Some, I might not hate, but quite a few of the others could’ve killed me before I had time to make up my mind about them.

Super Villains were known to go out in the streets more freely at night, so most smart people stay inside. As for the villains themselves, a normal human like me wouldn’t have stood a chance against one of them. But, I mean, come on, they all have much more important places to skulk around than a park after hours.

The night hides things, but it allows me to focus on the sounds of the forest. People are scared of them, and jump at every twig, but if there truly was danger, it would be easy to tell. A squirrel can make a racket in piles of leaves, but a man stumbling through trees snapping branches as he goes is an entirely different type of sound. In this case the man was moving slowly, making no attempt at stealth. From the pauses between sounds I could guess that he was stumbling along, almost falling. This was pretty weird, but considering that many of the people who come to this park were druggies and drunks, I wasn’t too worried. They were usually too busy getting stoned to bother anyone else, but he kept moving towards me and he was acting strange, even for someone who had just gotten high. I reverted to an old classic for meeting possible drunks in a park.

“Hi there! Want to be frie-”

I stopped instantly when his pace changed. He hunched over more, angling his weight forward, and began to charge.

It was awkward, as if he couldn’t decide between using two legs or four, but don’t get me wrong. He was fast. I had no time to escape him. His eyes were dark in their sockets and he was twitching as he moved.

/Dang, always hated fast zombies…/

His left arm seemed to be growing slightly. I considered trying to flee but that ship had sailed. Now, all I had time to do was pick up a nearby fallen branch. I was an athletic guy, I could do push ups or run a mile as well as any dude, but my assailant wasn’t just strong, he moved with a stride and power that came from insanity. I could hardly plan what to do next when he emerged from the shadows and was upon me. It crossed over a patch of moonlight and showed a face that was unnatural and horrifying. Humanoid in nature, it had hair sprouting from everywhere and its mouth sagged on one side. On that side, where normal teeth should be, there were long yellow fangs. The left arm had claws and was growing muscle and hair, but it was also shifting into a leg that was designed to support a creature on all fours. The freak of nature caused adrenaline to pump through my veins so suddenly that my vision became foggy for a moment. The next second he, no, it pounced forward, shifting its weight to support itself like a beast.

I will say this to the medical credit of adrenaline, it sure makes you forget about a headache. Either my brain was working again or my instincts were kicking in, but whichever it was, it did its job. I rolled to the side, braced my arm on a tree and swung down around it in a crouch. This forced the beast to turn around and kill its momentum. I knew I couldn’t run, so I leapt while it was still recovering from its charge, ramming the jagged end of the branch into the left side of the beast’s rib cage. The stick stuck there, but the force snapped it in half leaving me with an even shorter weapon. It was already recovering from the stab wound while howling (literally howling) in pain. It came at me with renewed ferocity and desperation. I blinked, and the mismatched fangs sunk into my right arm. The weight of the beast bowled me over into the dirt. With my other arm I grabbed the remains of my makeshift spear and stabbed at the beast’s throat. The stick was sharp where it had snapped and it slid through the sinew and muscle. My mind was blurred from the irrational pain of the bite, so I ran the stick through its neck time and again until blood soaked my arms and my t-shirt.

With an effort, I hefted the corpse off of me. As it died it looked less and less like a beast. After a minute or so, it looked like a man, leaving me to wonder if I had just killed an ordinary drunk. My bite marks twinged, and I was reassured. I finally managed to heave myself up with the support of a nearby sapling.

/Oh damn there’s my headache again./.

My arm was still throbbing, but at least blood had stopped pouring out. The beast had savaged my arm just above the elbow and a dark red line was creeping under my skin towards my chest from the bite. The pain was growing in my arm and starting out in new areas. My mind blanked and I blacked out from the pain not much longer.

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Et Sic Incipit III. Exile II

I waited in the gym with the rest of the students that had been scheduled to take the MET that day. There was nobody there I knew– never mind. I did know someone there. That Olivia bitch. She’s this obnoxious, stuck-up girl that thinks she’s the shit. We have mutual friends, because that’s how life works, but we stay out of each others way. Mostly. I idly wondered if she’d still look smug if she woke up with her house on fire. Since I didn’t recognize anyone else, I just sat by myself on the last row of the bleachers. We were going to be given our results now. I was number twenty five out of thirty, so I had a while to wait. The proctors from the room filed in, and everyone stopped talking. The unsettling woman with the dark hair spoke first. “We will call your results by number. Depending on your result, you will separate into groups,” She had an unfamiliar accent that I couldn’t quite identify. She gestured at the numbers zero through five on the walls, “You will report to whatever your matching elemental score is. In these numbered groups, you will separate by element. Water on the left, then earth, air, and finally fire on the right. Your specialty, and elemental, will become a class added into your schedule, based on skill level, if any is found.” She gave everyone a moment to absorb the new information, and then started reading off scores. “Number one…” I waited until I heard number twenty-two to tune back in. “Twenty-three, water 3. Twenty-four, air 2. Twenty-six, none. Twenty-seven, water 5.” I no longer heard her words. A cold dread dropped to the pit of my stomach.
/Maybe I just didn’t hear it./
I was starting to get strange looks from the other students. They had looked for the person with 25 pinned to their shirt, and they had found me. They always announce scores, even if there was no skill found. I started playing with my necklace, a triskele, it was a nervous habit of mine. When she finished reading off she turned around, and walked out, followed by two more of the proctors. The man from the hospital stayed. The other students rushed out of their seats, my unfortunate circumstance forgotten, eager to find out who their new classmates would be. As I reached the bottom of the bleachers, the man from the hospital approached me.
“I’m Rune. I’m here to deliver your score personally, as we’ve only had this type of… occurrence once before. I can tell you’ve never been trained, which makes this all the more interesting. As you know, the normal scale is one to ten in elemental, and one to 30 in specialty. What your… performance resulted in was a nine in elemental, and a twenty-eight in specialty.” I was dumbfounded. The highest scores achieved by someone my age was an eight in elemental, then a seventeen in a specialty. “How is that even possible? I just told the coals to burn, and I just read from that stupid book, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“The fire you created got so out of hand that I had to stop it.” He raised and eyebrow. “During your specialty, demonology, you didn’t summon an ordinary demon. You summoned a higher-level demon, which required me to exorcise it myself. This might seem like a non-sequitur, but do you believe in God?”
“Yes, I do.”
“That’s why you excel in demonology. People who believe that there is a balance between the spiritual and the physical often excel in such practices. Your connection with God
helps you control demons, and helps you resist falling under their influence.”

All I could say to this new wealth of information was a disappointing, “Oh.”

“I can train you. I’ll help you control your new-found abilities. All I ask in return is that you join the SVRA.” That didn’t sound so bad.

“Sure.” The training aspect isn’t really that interesting, so I won’t bore you with the details. I can shorten it up for you though. I needed to have a strong balance between mind, body, and spirit to ensure safety when handling magic. That means exercise. A lot more then I was used to. I played on two varsity sports teams at school, which should let you know how much work this required. Every morning at four I would go for a run, as far as I could go, and be back by six. I got up to the nine or ten mile range before tryouts. After running, I had to lift weights until seven, when I started getting ready for school. I had to be in tip-top physical shape before I could even start doing magic. Once I was physically ready, I had to get mentally ready. I had to do puzzles, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and all sorts of ‘fun’, mentally strengthening things. I also attended church every Sunday and Thursday. I learned incantations to summon, and exorcise demons, and I learned spells to create all sorts of fires. From fires used as weapons, to simply heating up my late-night lasagna, I learned how to create and control it. As my training progressed, I got stronger, but I still had a ways to go.

…Fast forward to auditions…

I was sitting in the waiting room of the police station, waiting for my name to be called. I’m not a very sociable person, so I didn’t try to make friends, even when a girl with a glowing hair band came over and introduced herself as Luna. I had progressed to the point in my training that I could snap, and a small fire, the size of a candle flame would appear over my fingers. I was snapping it on, playing with it, and snapping it back off again, when my name was called. I looked up to see where to go, and a boy with brownish hair, dressed in a black jacket with a Z on his belt called my name. He was shorter than me, but that’s not saying much, as I’m taller than most people I know. The little shit told me to “Move my ass faster if I wanted any shot at making it.” I already didn’t like his attitude. As I walked past him, I snapped my flame on, and set his sleeve on fire. He quickly patted it out, but not before everyone else in the waiting room saw it, and started chuckling with laughter. He shot me a nasty look, and stalked back into the room. Looking back on this now, it may not have been the smartest idea to set my interviewer on fire, but hey, what’re you gonna do? He dropped into his chair, and stared at me. Man, if looks could kill. “I don’t like being set on fire.”

“Tough.” There was a third person there, whom I immediately recognized as Rune. “Rune? I didn’t know you’d be here.” 

“How do you know Rune?” the kid at the table said, challenging me. He couldn’t have been much older than me, and I did not appreciate his tone. It drew a very aggressive response from me.

“Look you little shit, I don’t care how tough you think you are. You aren’t any better or more powerful than anyone else here. Check your attitude.” Before anyone started throwing punches, Rune stepped into the conversation, “Zeta, this is the student of mine that I’ve been telling you about.”

“Oh.” he said to Rune, “I’ve heard a lot about you, lets see what you can do, then.” I’m not sure what prompted such a violent response from me, but I just started setting things on fire. The table, the chair Zeta was sitting in, the ropes hanging from the ceiling, all went
up in flames. I started calling demons to me in numbers I wasn’t sure I could control. I was having so much fun that I didn’t hear Rune yelling at me to stop. He started putting out my
fires, and exorcising demons, but I kept relighting them and bringing them back. After a while I ran out of energy, and Rune took control of the situation. I turned to Zeta, who looked a little white faced. And not just from fear. I had burnt his mask off. I started laughing. “Jason?” I said, “You’re Zeta? Wow, nice tough guy act.” He flushed.

“Shut up, Sarah. Just because you’re inhumanly-not that that means anything anymore-strong doesn’t mean I’m not tough.”

“Yeah, but… c’mon! You’re Zeta? Oh god… you aren’t doing this to impress Olivia, are you?” His expression suddenly grew cold.
“Shut up,” He said. I didn’t notice the edge beneath the words. I started
laughing at him. “Ooh, Jason’s trying to be a t-“
“SHUT UP!” He roared, sending a wave of fire towards the wall with a fist. There was a
pause. Rune raised an eyebrow.
“Well, this is new for you, Spock,” he said. “It’s sort of a relief, actually. I didn’t want people wondering if you were an actual robot.” Jason does that every so often. If unsure how he feels, he’ll just stop giving out emotional cues. It happened at the beginning of this year, when he had a fight with his parents and moved out.  The emotionally unstable teenage with no adult supervision for 60% of his time just got super-powers.  Rather destructive ones, at that. “Shit. Sorry,” Zeta said, hanging his head. “It’s just hard. I’ve met a few team leaders from nearby states recently, and they’re all, ‘Oh, look at the little kid trying to be a hero!’ And, well, I’m tired of that Olivia shit. There’s nothing going on between us.  Just…”
“Alright, alright, I get it. It’ll take more than another burst of anger to drive me away. Don’t sweat it,” I said, waving away the rest of his apology. He recovered his composure quickly, and told me to go wait in the waiting room with everyone else. I walked outside, and
returned to my seat. I sat flickering my flame until he came out, followed by a kid that I recognized from TV, and announced that he had the final list. “The following heroes have been accepted. Apollo, Luna, Dagny, Everest, and Exile. To those applicants denied
acceptance to this pres-,” he stopped, and turned his head to the side. He started again, “To those applicants denied acceptance, please get the fuck out and never come here again.” As the other applicants and I followed him out, I muttered, “Rude bastard.” I heard a choked off laugh behind me. I turned to see that it was the boy loaded with weapons. Apollo, I think his name was. We followed Zeta outside, and Rune was there, waiting for us. He cleared his throat.
“Welcome to the SVRA, and congratul-,” Zeta rudely cut him off.
“You can give them the run down later; what’s the story?” Rune gave Zeta a look, half
pity, half annoyance.
“It’s Legion again, I’m afraid. He’s alone this time. Shouting for you to fight him.” Zeta did not look happy. A police van pulled up to where we were on the street. “Get in,” Rune said. “We’ll discuss the plan on the way there.” In the van, Zeta explained his history with Legion.

Apparently he was into demonology like me, but where I did relatively well, he goofed up pretty bad. The plan was explained to us quickly. Rune and I were to set up and exorcism circle, and fire and all that fun stuff. I was itching with excitement. I shook my hands and they became encased in flame. We all piled out of the van, ready for battle, only to meet an empty parking lot. Apollo was the first to speak, saying, “Very… anticlimactic.” I chuckled in agreement. “No crystals,” Zeta said, but didn’t explain why there would be any. “Alright then,” he continued, “Form pairs. Check out the area. See if he left any clues. Dagny and… Everest, go see if anyone saw him.” He walked off with Rune to the edge of the crater. Without saying anything, Apollo and I walked to one of the cracked buildings. He whistled as he looked at the crack, then turned to speak to me.

“So… What do you think of Zeta?” he asked me.

“Well, I’ve known him for a few years now. He’s pretty unpredictable, but decently smart and I think he’ll do as a leader.” I’m not sure what I said wrong, but he just stared at me, and then got really angry.

“Are you fucking serious? He’s a thrill seeker!” I did not appreciate being spoken to in that manner. I put a hand against his chest, and started an incantation to light him on fire under my breath. Looking panicked, Apollo asked, “Sorry? I didn’t quite catch that. What did you say?” I shook my head.

“Just some Latin,” I shrugged.

“Oh. Well, that… that sounds fine.”

I smiled and turned away. I started walking without checking to see if he followed, “I thought so. Now, let’s see if we can find anything about Legion.” After a moment, he followed suit.

Suddenly, Zeta called us over to the truck. He was holding a walkie-talkie.

“Get back in the fucking van!” he screamed, “There’s a powerful super villain at the Police Station! Legion was fucking distracting us!”

The van ride back was horrible. Nobody was doing anything. I decided to start the
beginning of a summoning, just in case. Zeta was pacing around. The other people in the van were clearly nervous. About half way through the drive, Zeta got up and addressed the team, “Okay, so-” That was all he got through before something t-boned the van.
Apollo rushed the back of the van, trying to push it open, but it was blocked. I pushed him aside, prepared to blast through the door, but it turns out I didn’t need to. Something blindingly bright tore through the side of the van, and buried itself in Zeta’s chest. He started convulsing, then collapsed, a large hole in the center of his jacket.

We all heard Apollo say, “Oh, shit.” It seemed to break us all out of a trance, and we tumbled out of the van and scattered. Apollo drew his bow, but not quick enough. A guy landed in front of him and cut his bow in half. It looked like he was wearing shadows. Apollo drew his sword, and they engaged in a brief sword fight, before Apollo was disarmed. The newcomer sliced a large cut in his upper arm. Apollo backpedaled, but the newcomer just stood there. He grabbed his sword from the ground and turned to face the shadow creature. It was useless; the thing just broke his sword, and knocked him down. Instead of running to help him, the rest of us just stood there. The thing turned on its heel, and headed towards the rest of us. I noticed that Dagny had gone missing, and Rune was nowhere to be found. The kid from the TV was first in the line of fire. He was bending the cement below him. Luna stood directly behind him, and then there was me. Not knowing what else to do, I started summoning. I don’t know how long I was standing there, but I looked up to the sound of the van crumpling on the pavement. Luna and Everest were both knocked unconscious, I was the only one left. I made a gesture with my hands, and the summoning was complete, “This demon has the power of corruption everything it touches will rot and decay. Have fun, you little shit.” I needed space, so I ran a few feet back, and then spun around to face it. I spoke, “Pyramidem igni.” and let loose a cone of flames, only to meet a sudden wall of ice. I kept pushing, but the wall wouldn’t fall. I ran out of energy, and fell to my knees. My vision was blurring, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I was going to stay conscious. Not long, apparently. When I came to, Zeta, Apollo, Dagny, God knows where she was during the fight, and someone I didn’t know were shaking me awake. I struggled to my feet, and we went around picking up team members, not talking. When we reached the last injured team member, Everest, Zeta stumbled a few steps, and collapsed. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes, before the stranger tried to help him up. Zeta refused, and started questioning him. “What’s your name?”

“Um, A-Alex. Alex Ro-,” Zeta shook his head.

“No. Other name.” He glanced at Apollo, continuing, “I want this guy to join the team. He was stronger than all of us. Though I’m sure he’s weaker, he’ll still be useful.”

Alex spoke again, “Crane. That’s my name. Crane.”

The cat from the van appeared, and addressed our disheveled team. “Hey guys. Wonderful job in that fight. Really. Can’t think of a way you could have done that better. Especially you, Everest. God, you’re all a bunch of morons. Still,” he continued, “Crane shows promise. To be honest, you all show promise. If Everest can stop being such an idiot, he’ll do fine. Exile… you’ve got guts, brains, and whatever organ magic comes from. Keep it up, and you’ll be leading the team soon. Luna… that was pretty shitty, but we’ll see. That leaves… Apollo and Zeta? No, wait. Dagny. Hm. Make sure that you’re useful for more than just photo shoots. Okay, that’s everyone. Apollo and Zeta, you both are useless assholes.” Neither of them looked too happy about that comment. He looked innocently back at us and purred.

Zeta shook his head, “Alright, Crane. Just ignore the talking cat. Now, help me up before the media gets here.” So he did. Just as he got back on his feet, the first media van arrived. The camera men jumped out, snapping pictures, and Rune came back with the ambulances.

As the ambulances were about to pull away, Rune pulled us together. “When you get out of the hospital, we’ll start filling out the paperwork, getting you ready for boot camp, and making sure none of you are undercover criminals. Our files on you are already pretty extensive, but the higher-ups say psychic interviews before you join the team. Company policy, I’m sure you understand. But, we need to talk about your performances in this fight. That was pretty terrible. The only reason you won was because Zeta learned how to punch from picking fights with people bigger than him.” Zeta opened his mouth to say something, but I was done with his crap. I punched him in the arm, and he stopped. “That being said, not bad. I think. My first team did pretty badly too, but we turned out okay. I’m biased though. The real test is how the media reports it. Good luck on your audition, kids.” Then, he was just gone. We all stood there for several minutes, before Luna goes, “So, when should we expect a callback?”

Straight from the hospital, we were sent to training camp. The physical part, at least, wasn’t so bad for me, because I have to train daily anyway. If there’s one thing I learned it’s that they wanted me in SVRA for help, but also to keep an eye on me. That’s why we’re all here. I won’t go into all the gory details; I’m not very enthusiastic about it. I was trained in some other magical areas, besides fire and demonology, but not extensively. Our team got in a few fights, but nothing too serious. No one got too badly hurt.  The psych screening was strange though. I’m not so good with letting people into my head, so when they had their psychic people poking around in there, I wasn’t too happy. There may or may not have been some fires involved. Anyway, when we got back to base, I had about ten minutes rest. I was interrupted by Zeta bursting through the door yelling something about attacks in the woods.

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Shit, sorry.

Okay, so, the WordPress app is seriously messed up. It causes weird formatting errors. We can’t make a good post like that. So, we have to postpone till Saturday. Sorry. No bonus update after all. But, the Saturday section will be 3x as long as our average, so that’ll be cool. Again, sorry.

Et Sic Incipit III. Discharge I

Three days ago I stumbled out of the back exit of the hospital clutching my side, largely unnoticed by the staff around me, whom were all hurridly rushing from room to room, checking on one patient, treating another for burns, pumping fluids into another. I’d fallen into the second category, of course, but not because of pyro’s rampage, like most.
No, I had the misfortune to be one of Jason Leigh’s friends. I say had not because he put me in the hospital over a joke. No, he’d done worse than that, though nothing quite as painful. I got the fire extinguished quickly, tearing off my shirt and smothering myself in a nearby blanket.
That wasn’t enough to stop the burns. Luckily they weren’t too bad. I’m actually fairly surprised by it all, Jason is usually a really nice guy. Eccentric at times, occasionally or frequently violent, depending on your disposition, but I never would have thought he’d be so easily provoked, especially not by so little. Normally, it takes 4 or 5 good insults to even provoke a response.
Anyway, I recovered quicker than the doctors would believe, so one week later, in the confusion created by so many patients in one place, I slipped outside.
Back to the point, I say I had been his friend because he hasn’t even tried to find me as of now. I assume he knows I ended up in the hospital, but eventually he’ll deign to look for me, and I’ll be nowhere to be found.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m renowned for disappearing. Not literally, so don’t start thinking I’m one of those stealth assassin type powereds, because you couldn’t be further off. In fact, my actual power isn’t nearly as cool. Guess I can run through that to start this off. See, I’ve had powers way longer than Jason, or whatever he’s calling himself now. Hell, I’ve had them as long as I can remember, though no one else has noticed. Never really used them is the thing. I’m a C class, B class at best. As of now, I can emit energy from my body.
That’s it.
Really something, huh?
The thing is, it’s not as powerful as you might think: I’m emitting my own energy, so I’m slowly killing my vitality whenever I decide to draw on it. Without that limitation, I might be much stronger than I am right now. Sadly, not everyone rolls the dice and picks up pyrokinesis. Sometimes you get conditions, like me. Sometimes they’re harsh. But of course, sometimes your power kills you before you can ever protest your fate at all. That’s what happened to more kids than I can recall while I was growing up. The names start to blur by after a while. One mutated grossly and ended up unable to breath. Another had his circulatory system made open, and collapsed into a pile of flesh and blood. One even grew an exoskeleton with raw nerve endings all over it.
He died from shock a day later when he tripped and fell on the pavement.
Point being, the world I live in, the world we live in, it isn’t all fun and games. It’s not some magical fantasy where you gain flight and laser beams and are off to save the world from aliens. Things don’t work like that here. I only mention it because growing up, it seemed like everyone I knew was just waiting on their powers. They all expected they’d get them, if they are patient, if they wish for them hard enough, they’d get powers. They acted like they deserved them. Like they were entitled to them. But why would you risk it? Why risk being trapped in some nightmarish state of semi consciousness and eternal pain? I’ve seen people BEG for their lives to be ended due to the changes they’ve gone through. I don’t mean to make this so dark, but I’ve been interested in the mechanics of powers from a young age, and all I’ve learned, is that it isn’t worth it.
I have powers, I’m glad I have them, and I would never trade them for the world, but seeing people bend over backwards to become the next Samson, the next American Hero, it sickens me. I just want to make it clear that however harsh I come across, and however rash my actions are, it’s only because I’m trying to be objective. I got the chance to roll for powers. Genetics, luck, whatever it was. Haven’t looked to far into where powers come from yet. But I got the average sort of power: an advantage, with a drawback. So I’m not buying into the whole delusion of grandeur that some of the more popular heroes at the SVRA might have you believe. Sure, I’d go through hell and back to get where they are, but I do honestly believe that others shouldn’t.
If you have awesome powers, congratulations. I wish I’d been as lucky as you.
If your powers put you at a disadvantage, I’m sorry. I’ve had a small glimpse of that life, having fallen into hypothermia from using my power on multiple occasions, so I know it’s not easy.
If you don’t have powers, whether or not you have the potential, than you are whom I’m speaking to. Don’t try and get any. It’s not worth the risk. I can prove it.
See, a lot has happened to me in the last few days. I said that I disappeared, but what I didn’t say is that it wasn’t intentional this time.
I never got to see my kidnappers faces. I went from walking down Main Street (every city has one) in South Haven to lying on the ground, constrained in a weird net-like webbing in the blink of an eye. I might have noticed them coming if not for the concussion like effect that was spreading through me with each step I took, but as I passed the corner of Main Street and Lockwood Avenue, first my legs buckled, then my legs were taken out from under me. Then I began to struggle, to escape.
Then everything went black.

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