I’m not strong. I’m not fast. Sure, I can beat a civ at anything they care to try me at, but the extent of my enhanced strength puts me at just above Zeta. I don’t have any spectacular fireworks powers. I can’t regrow a limb period, much less in a few hours. I don’t have precognition, I can’t make weapons from nothing, and I can’t run around the world seventeen times. So, how do I compete with the others on my team? I mean, Sarah, sorry, Exile, can summon demons! It’s because I try. I’m lucky enough to have a power that responds to effort. When I work to overcome a limitation, my power changes my body to become better. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those lame adapter types. I don’t get stronger by just facing hardship. I’m classified as an “evolution trump.” The “evolution trump.” A power unique not just in its specifications, but also in its basis. Doesn’t make it easier for me; it means I have to figure my power out as I go along.
As near as I can tell, with my current level of engagement, I get a noticeable change every month or two. I’ll be able to lift another five, ten pounds, or be able to react another few seconds faster. Big stuff for a human, but it’s not humans I need to be concerned with. I need to be able to fight with the best of the best. That’s part of why I left Milwaukee; there was no one strong enough to give me a real challenge.
“Tell me, Billy. Have you ever heard the term Blood Knight?” I scowled, dodging the blast of fire, then ducking as it curved around.
“No,” I said, lunging low with my sword, putting myself directly under my opponent’s guard. Zeta moved aside an inch, enough to avoid getting stabbed, but still getting slashed on the side of his leg. He dropped, crouching with his elbow pointed at my neck. I arched my back slightly, deflecting the blow, then pushed backwards, leaping out of his way. Zeta used the respite to heal the cut on his leg, grinning at me.
“It’s the term,” he said, “For one who endlessly seeks combat. Sound familiar?” I jumped forwards, raising my bastard sword in a two handed slash from above. Using his super speed, Zeta whipped out his two telescopic batons in time to block it, then snapped his leg forward in a chest-high kick, sending me back to the edge of the cage.
“Sounds a lot like you, if that’s what you mean,” I shrugged, rubbing my chest where he hit me.
“Nah, I’m a different trope all together,” he said casually, “I was talking about you.” I glared at him.
“I don’t seek combat for combat’s sake. I fight because I have to.” He snorted.
“Yeah, sure. You just have to join a superhero team.” I windmilled my arm, then brought my arms up into a ready position, beckoning him. He lunged, electricity crackling around his finger. I stepped past him, pulling his arm past me and chopping down on his chest with my sword. I felt an impact on the back of my head and stumbled forward, tripping over my sword. Wait, what? I pushed myself off the ground and turned around. Zeta was standing behind me, grinning. “I switched to speed and kicked you. You fell. Not good enough, Billy. Gotta do better!”
I pulled the sword out of the ground and spoke,
“You don’t understand obligation. I have to protect my sister, and the best way to do that is like this.” He raised an eyebrow.
“Making her fight superhumans while you try to kill yourself?”
“Where did you get trying to kill myself from?”
“In my last fight with the tinker bots, I broke three bones in my arm. You’re trying to do the same, but without regeneration.” Foregoing words, I lunged at him in a standard balestra. He grabbed my wrist to pull me off balance as he stepped aside, only to recoil suddenly as I drew my other sword and slashed across my body. Normally, I’d never do that, but with his instinctive retreat, I would have at least a moment to recover.
Rather than having another short break, Zeta pressed the attack.
He’s on the ground, moving at normal speed and his body temperature is… normal. That leaves lightning or regeneration. He swung out with his batons, opening himself to an attack from any side. Regeneration, then. I took the opportunity, and s-zzzzzz!
I fell back, smoking and rather numb. As I twitched, I saw the cuts I had made in Zeta’s side and back start to heal up. He stooped over, and looked me in the eyes.
“Apollo. Your sister does more damage when I beat her in Mario Kart. How the fuck do you intend to protect her when you’re so weak?” I gritted my teeth and tried to regain enough control over my jaw to reply. He shook his head. “You’re done for the day. I’ll get Sarah to heal you up and take you back to your room. Any time you want a rematch…” He stood up and walked towards the door. “I’m always available for another fighter.”
“Dad, Will, I’ll see you two later. I’m going out with some friends tonight,” Diana said, putting her folded up gi in her cubby next to her training weapons. We stopped our sparring for a moment.
“Bye honey,” my dad said, waving. “Will’s gonna make dinner tonight. I have to go out…” In unison, my sister and I finished his sentence.
“… and take pictures with the police.”
“Totally,” Diana continued, “the police department absolutely needs an amatuer photographer.” He chuckled uneasily.
“As it so happens… yes! 100%!” I rolled my eyes at her.
“Anyway, I’ll make chicken tonight. What time will you be home?”
Suddenly, she looked nervous.
“Actually… I’ll be home late.” Seeing my expression, she hurriedly continued, “Not too late! Just around eleven!” I continued glowering for a moment, then shrugged.
“Oh well. I don’t control you. Just… be safe, okay?” She broke out into a grin.
“I will! It’s not like I can’t take care of myself! Thank you!” My father and I exchanged a glance as she ran out the door. He chuckled.
“Will, sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re less than a year older than her. And you’re only two months away from joining the SVRA…” He shook his head. “They grow up so fast!” I grunted in agreement, looking out the door. He looked with me.
“Will… I want you to follow her. Use what I’ve taught you. Keep out of sight. Don’t interfere unless she’s in danger, okay?” I looked at him uneasily.
“Why? That’s kinda invasive, isn’t it?”
“Practice. Remember the rules?” Together, we said,
“One, No one looks up. Two-”
“I’d rather not go on, sorry,” I said. The doctor nodded.
“That’s okay. We can talk about what happened next, or continue with the psychic recreation next session. Which do you prefer?” I sighed, and shook my head.
“You’d have to ask my sister. It’s her story, I can’t share it without her permission.” He nodded.
“I’ll try to get it, then get back to you.”
As I left the office, I looked back, noting the sign for the first time in this state.
Dr. Frank Barr Psy.D.
“He’s gonna have a party with this team,” I said, snorting.