Folie à Plusieurs V. Dr. Barr I

“Miss, please, you’re making a fool of yourself.”  The young psychic sent another wave of emotion towards me.

“Ha!” She screamed, “Let’s see how your mental defences stand up against this, you old fuck!”  Like waves crash upon a rocky beach, her attack briefly pressed against my mind, then failed without making a difference.

“Please, Miss Mirage.  Calm down.  We’re here to talk about your problems, not ineffectually bludgeon them.”  She finally gave up, plopping down on the couch with her arms crossed. “Very good,” I said, smiling indulgently.  “Now, why are you trying to kill me?”  She sulked, and looked away.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you,” she muttered, “just control you.”  I continued to smile, though I was groaning inwardly.  /Fucking control freak psychics.  Was I like that when I was younger?/

“And why is that?  I’m here to help you, not hurt you.” She leapt up.

“I don’t need any help,” she shouted, fists clenched, “and especially not from an old fuck like you!”  I withheld my grin, and leaned forward.

“Is that why I sense death in your near future?”  Suddenly, all the wind left her sails.  She flopped down on the couch, staring at me.

“W-w-what?”

“Mirage, this is basic stuff.  Psychics can use telekinesis, telepathy, forced telepathy, mind control, precognition, and possession.  Each psychic has a specialty, which determines how proficient they are at each of the categories.  The only exception to this is general psychics, which are equally proficent in all of them.  Interestingly, this is what you claimed to be, when you took the name Dagny.  We can go over that another time.  Now, I, like you, specialize in forced telepathy.  My official specialization is stealth telepathy, yours is sensory illusions.  Now, I’m no precognition expert, which is why I can’t give you details, but I sense a lot of death in your near future.”  /Did that work?  Is she going to cooperate now?/  I used my power to worm my way into her mind, trying to get a sense of her emotions. I sighed.

“Don’t fuck with me!” She screamed, jumping up again and mentally attacking me. /Guess not./  I made a note on my pad, then forced her assault back.

“Mirage, we’ll end today’s session today.  I want you to think about how you responded to dealing with someone you can’t control.  I haven’t lied to you today, so I’ll leave you with a few more thoughts.  First of all, you underestimate the mental fortitude and depth your teammates have.  Second, I don’t think your relationship with Crane is healthy.”  She paused for a second, processing what I said.  As it sunk in, I felt the rage build up in her mind.

“Get out of my head!” She shouted, clasping her hands over her head, “AAAAAHHH!”

“Karma’s a bitch,” I muttered, almost soft enough to escape her notice.

“I take it you’d prefer if I kept my voice down?” I looked up at my newest patient.

“I beg your pardon?” I asked politely, readjusting my spectacles.

“Well, you just had a session with Olivia the screamer, I’m figuring your ears are a little sensitive right now.”  Astonished, I stared at the speaker.

“Exile, I presume?  Your teammates spoke, for the most part, highly about you and your deductive capabilities.”  She sat down on the couch, nodding.

“Please, I’d prefer Sarah.  And of course it’s me, I’m your appointment for now.”  /Clever girl… she’s the leader in reality, if not in name./ She continued, “So, Will spoke the highest of me, then Jay, and the ‘for the most part’ is due to Olivia’s scathing report.  Am I right?”  I found myself grinning.

“On all accounts.  Sure you’re not a psychic?”  She mirrored my grin.

“Positive.  I just pay attention.  By the way, your professional demeanor slipped.  You might want to fix that.”  I frowned, straightening my back.

“Nice catch, Sarah.  So, since you seem to be rather knowledgeable about what should be happening, what do you hope to get out of these sessions?”

“Actually, I’d like to talk about my teammates.  I want to get someone else’s perspective on them.”  I paused for a moment, considering her request.

“I’m supposed to have client confidentiality, but I suppose, in this case, I could make an exception…”  She leaned forward.

“Excellent.  I’d like to start with Everest, and his inability to…” As she spoke, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into…

“I dunno, not much for me.  I was doing well in school, good home life, had plenty of friends, and then one of them flipped out and started trying to kill people.  I triggered, and well, the rest is history.”  I raised my eyebrow.

“You are a terrible liar.  You do realize that there is information in your file that directly contradicts what you just said, right?”  He stopped his constant shifting for a moment, and looked at me.

“Really?  What’s my file say?”  I rummaged around in my bag to make it seem like I hadn’t been reading it right before he came in.  When I judged a decent amount of time had passed, I pulled out the file from the front of the bag and flipped through it.

“You lived alone, somehow paying for an apartment despite lacking a legal occupation, estranged from your parents and most of your friends.  In fact, of your closest friends, all but one triggered.” He seemed surprised.  After a moment, he nodded.

“Yeah, I suppose that’s true.  I hadn’t even realized.  Well, no one knows what is going on with Cyner.  He might have been a superhuman all along. And John isn’t a para, but I just met him.  What do you think that means, Freud?”

“I noticed you used the present tense for Cyner.  He’s the one who disappeared, right?  He was declared dead a while ago. Wh-” He cut me off with a wave of his hand.

“Cyner’s not dead.  He’s not the sort to die easily.”  /Exactly what I wanted you to say, Zeta…/

“He also had an apartment with no income.  Does your certainty of his survival have anything to do with how you paid for your living space?” His eyes narrowed. “I have two theories, Zeta.  The first, and the less likely, is that your proximity grants the potential for powers.  It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t exactly fit with the rest of your powers.  The latter, and Rune agrees with me on this one, is that part of your secondary powerset is the ability to sense latent potential.” He laughed, stretching his legs out in front of himself and resting them on a nearby cabinet.

“Secondary powerset? Do tell.” I leaned forward, eager despite myself to share my theory.

“I haven’t figured out everything yet, but you have your main combat power… or powers, as it seems, though my intuition tells me something is off about those, and a secondary, less flashy powerset.  Rune and I agree you have a type of low level pre-cognition that allows you to see about a chronoton in the future, at least while in combat.  There’s the subconscious sensing ability, and a few oddities in your musculature that dull pain and increase muscular growth.” Zeta idly picked at his jacket.

“Interesting theory.  What’s a chronoton?”  I hesitated.

“I’ll let the Watchmaker tell you about that, when you’re ready to meet him.  I couldn’t do it justice.”  I saw anger flash across his face, and I felt the rage and bloodlust without even trying.  Taking a deep breath, I broached the subject.

“I’ve also been meaning to talk to you about your anger iss-” I froze.  “Another time, then.” He let the fire die away, and rubbed his face.

“Sorry.  Sensitive topic.  I’ll try to talk about it next session, okay?”  Slowly, I nodded.

“Yeah.  Sure.  I’ll await it… eagerly.”

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Folie à Plusieurs V. Everest I

“Hey, Mirage.  Olivia.  Whatever you want me to call you.  What’s up?”  I said, greeting the short blonde.

“Ha, Olivia or Liv is fine.  And actually, I have a favor to ask you.”

“Oh?” I asked, cocking my head. “What can I do for you?”  She reached out and grabbed my shoulders, standing on her tiptoes.

“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me.  There’s something I need him to do, but he’ll be suspicious if I-  No, that’s not right,” she said.  I opened my mouth to s-

“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me.  There’s something I need him to do, but he won’t do it if it’s me ask- No, that’s not right either.” I opened my mouth to s-

“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me.  There’s something I need him to do, but I’m too shy- not quite.  Closer, though.  It’s a good thing you’re so dumb, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do this, no matter how much physical contact.  Shame I’m not a mind-control specialist, huh?”  I frowned.

“First of all, I don’t like being called dumb.  Second, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  She patted my cheek endearingly.

“I know you don’t.  I know.  Don’t worry about it.” I opened my mouth to s-

“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me.  There’s something I need him to do, but I’m too nervous to do it myself.  Can you help me out?”

“Sure, of course!  What do you want me to?”

“Well,” she said, “It’s kinda complicated.  It’d be easier to just show you… mentally.  I need you to empty your mind, then completely open yourself to my will.”  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“Okay, I’m ready.”  To my surprise, she grabbed the back of my head and planted a fully-fledged, tongue-included kiss on my lips.

“Wha-”

—-

“Huh, that’s an odd thing to say, Oliver,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

“What?”

“I mean, its not like you to ask me that.”  Jason stopped taking off his costume, and shrugged his jacket back on. “You’re my friend, and one of the most loyal people I know.  You wouldn’t ask me if I’m confident in my abilities as a leader.   You’re the sort of person who would simply trust that I know what I’m doing.  Why the sudden doubt?” /Aww… that’s nice of him to say…  if only I knew what was going on!/

“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about.   I must have just zoned out.  Last thing I remember…  I was talking to Olivia about … something?” He stared at me.

“Do you think she influenced your mind?”

“No!  She wouldn’t do that, would she?  Besides, I’d remember it, wouldn’t I?”

“She would do it.  And there’s no guarantee you’d remember it.  She’s fairly proficient at mind control, I’ve recently discovered.  She’s probably strong enough to  wipe your short term memory, or make you a puppet.  And worse, most likely.”  He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I want you to stay away from her for now, okay?  Until we figure out what she’s after.  Just trust me on this one, okay?”

“Sure.  Whatever you say, chief,”  I said, frowning a bit. /I’m starting to see why he hates psychics…/ He nodded.

“That’s more like you, buddy.” His face suddenly went grim.  “Oliver. Without looking behind you, just go to your room.  Go now.  Pretend everything’s cool.”

“That won’t work,” I heard from behind me, “I can read minds, you know.”  Jason swore.

“Go!” He shouted, pushing me.  I tried to leave, but my body locked up.  I felt an arm curl seductively around my shoulder and heard Olivia say,

“Once a connection has been made, it’s always easier the second time.  It’s even easier with weak minds like his.”  Jason pulled his half mask over his mouth.

“I don’t know what you’re planning, Mirage,” Zeta said, “whose team you’re on, or what you want.  But you can’t mindfuck me like you did Everest.”

“You’re right.  The same methods would get a fraction of the result.  But that’s enou-”

“Uhhhh…  my head…” I heard.  I shook my head, trying to clear my vision and my headache.  I was lying on a roof, in full costume, being helped up by Zeta.  He was groaning too.

“Jesus.  What happened?” he said, rubbing his forehead.

“Dunno.  Last thing I remember, we were talking about something in the kitchen,” I shrugged.

“Yeah.  Me too.  Hmm.  A supervillain?”

“Maybe… oh, hey, XYZ.” /I feel like I should be panicking, but…  well, if Jason isn’t bothered, then I shouldn’t be./

“Wha- Oh,” he said, blushing, then zipping his zipper.  “Oops.  That’s never happened before; I never forget my zipper.”  I grinned.

“First time for everything.  Speaking of time” I said, checking my watch, “It’s 5:00.  We have another hour of patrol before we can head back.  It is our day, right?”

“Yeah.  But it’s going to be slow going until Crane gets attacked.  The only thing we’ve had to deal with since he gave his message is those tinkerbots.”  I looked at him curiously.  He slapped his forehead. “Oh, that’s right, you haven’t been at one of those.  King occasionally releases a small, foot or so high robot that builds other things.  It builds more robots, which build more robots, and so on.  They’re weak, but you need to take them out quickly, before there are enough of them to start building weapons.  Apollo and Selene accidentally let one group of them build a small cannon.  It demolished an entire building.  Just keep an eye out.” I shuddered.

“Let’s hope we don’t run into any.  I just want to go back to the base and sleep off this headache.”

“Agreed.  Let’s get moving.”

“Wake up! Wake up! Get your fat fucking asses up!”  I groaned and turned over.  From outside my room, I heard all the other members of the team stumble out of their doorways and grunt at each other and their alarm clock, Rune, in the hallway.

“Go to school and let me sleep,” I muttered into my pillow.  Luckily for me, I had graduated from high school last year, and was just sticking around for the team.  All the others had stuff to do during the day.  Diana and Will went to a small private school to get their senior year in, while everyone else went to South Haven High School.

“You know, for someone so mad about being weak, you seem to take training rather lightly.”

Almost everyone, that is.

“I need my beauty sleep, Alex.”

“With that ugly mug?  Not likely.”

“You’re composed enough to be witty.  Not wearing the mask, then?  How’d you get in my room?”

“Maybe I walked in with it, then took it off.  Ever think of that, Sherlock?”

“Yeah, you took it off.  Cause that’s always worked so well before.”

I heard him shifting around.  Hiding my face, I grinned.  “There’s a trade off, Crane.  The weaker the power, the more sane we stay. Compare me and Diana to you and Jason.  Apollo, to a lesser extent.  I’m quite comfortable as I am, thank you very much.”

“Then leave.” My grin faded.  “I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now,” he continued,  “This isn’t a place for weaklings.  Not this town, not this state, not this world.  Zeta told you your options.  Become strong, or leave.  This team isn’t for people who can’t even control their own powers.”

I flushed.

“It’s a temporary thing!  I’ll fix it soon! I just need to train a bit more!”

“Which brings us right back to you, being asleep, in bed, while everyone else is up.”

“Fine!  Fuck!  Don’t know why you’re getting up early, you don’t have school either.”

“I have an assignment.  I’m doing some grassroots destroying.  You’re being a lazy piece of lard.”

“I’M GETTING UP!”

“Ninety-nine… One.. Hundred!” I let the weights drop with a clang, just as Exile and Apollo walked into the gym.  Apollo walked over and nodding at me, picked up the dumbbells I had just dropped.  Frowning, he put them back down, then walked over to a rack and picked a pair seven sizes up.

“Why are you lifting so light?  Literally, everyone on the team can go much heavier than that.  You should be trying out the ones we can’t even get our fingers under,” he said.  I sighed.

“I can probably tell you two this…  just don’t tell Zeta, okay?”

“Sure,” Will replied with a shrug.

“No promises.  I will if I have to,” said Sarah, folding her arms.

“Well, I can’t control my powers.”  Instantly, I regretted opening my mouth.  Their faces instantly went cold and stony. “No, they work fine while I’m fighting!  I just haven’t been able to activate anything outside of combat!” Sarah frowned, thinking.

“Fine,” she said at last, “I won’t tell Jason.  But if you don’t fix it soon…”

“Where is Zeta, anyway?” I asked, looking around, “He’s usually here by now.”

“He’s getting lunch with a friend of his.  John, his name is.  Frankly, he gives me the creeps,” Will said, “He seems normal half the time, then I turn around and he’s staring at my back like he’s going to eat me.”

Sarah sighed.  “That’s the point.  All of Jay’s closest friends are… off. You never met Cyner, because he disappeared before you came, but he was similar. Not quite so hostile, but he always made my hair stand on end.  Gave off this… aura, I guess, of being on a different level than all of us.  I’m not really describing it well, but it was like standing next to a reactor.  I don’t know how to describe it better than that.  Jason is the same way sometimes.  I remember, one time, back when we were freshmen, some upperclassmen were picking on him.  One of them pushed him in the hallway, hard enough to make him fall over.  I expected him to jump up and attack the guy.  Then I looked at Jay’s eyes.”

She paused, taking a deep breath.

“I thought there was going to be a death count.  I thought he was going to start killing people with his bare hands and teeth.  He looked less like a person and more like… a wild animal.”  I recoiled a bit.

“He’s…  he’s not that bad, is he?”

Will nodded, ignoring me.

“I know what you mean.  I’ve seen him fight.  It’s brutal.  He fights like a rabid dog. And one day,” Apollo continued, a determined look in his eyes, “he’s going to have to be put down.”

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Tyrant IV. Zeta I

“Hey, beautiful.  How’s it going?” I said softly, gently pushing open the door with one hand.  It had been a week since our fight with Giant and Mouse, and Diana was still in the hospital, despite her Adonis-type body.

“Not so good,” she responded, “That bastard hit me in a weak spot. And not all of us have your amazing physique.”

“Aw, shucks,” I said, faking a blush and a bumpkin accent, “Yur too kaend.” She glared at me.

“I was referring,” she said angrily, “to your high level of muscle growth, innate combat prowess, abnormal regeneration, and ridiculous pain threshold.  Not all of us can pull ourselves together after getting stabbed.  And what?  How many times did Crane run you through?”

I chuckled nervously, running my hand through the back of my hair,

“Oh.  That physique.”

She grinned, her voice suddenly becoming deeper and throatier,

“Though, if you’re feeling up to it, I could give your other physique an … examination.  We are in a hospital, after all, handsome.”

I chuckled and walked over, putting the flowers I had brought next to her bed, along with the other bouquet from a few days ago.

“Let’s wait until you’re recovered, no?”  She pouted.

“You’re lucky I’m not at full health, or there’s nothing you could do to stop me.”

“Hey, what makes you think I’d want to?”

“Just a feeling. I should get Mir- um.  Olivia to read your mind and find out for sure.  Oh!”

“What now?”

“I should get her to just brainwash you into doing what I say!”  I took on a surprised expression to hide the sudden rush of… anxiety?  fear?  … Terror?

“She can do that?” I asked. Diana grinned.

“Oh, yeah.  Forced telepathy and mind control.  Perfect for making boy-toys.” Taking a deep breath to steady my heart rate, I said calmly,

“The two of you would discuss that.  Well, lovely chatting with you about subverting my will in order to abuse my genitals, but I have a press conference to go to.”  Diana, chuckling, spoke in her “seductive” voice again,

“Oh, what we’d be doing isn’t called abuse…  what I’d be doing.  I’m not sharing you.”

“How sweet of you.”

“You really have to go?” she asked, jokes aside.

“Yeah.  But I’ll be back this afternoon.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” I said, bending down to kiss her.

Two minutes later, we broke off, panting slightly.

“You are such a tease,” she said, watching me as I walked out the door.

“Why the grin?” Exile asked as I pulled on my goggles.

“Oh, no reason,” I said, “Just a song in my heart.”

She glanced at me skeptically, but didn’t press, likely due to the team members just entering the locker room.  I nodded at Apollo.  He ignored me, and went over to talk to Crane, who was lying on top of the lockers.  I started to say “hi” to Everest, but stopped at the look of shock on his face.

“You… and Crane…”

“Thank god!  Finally!” Exile said in exasperation.  “Yes!  Zeta is Jay, I’m Sarah, and Crane is Alex.  God, you’re thick sometimes.”

Grinning, Everest said, “Well, I feel stupid.  It was the faces that made me realize.”  I snorted, and slowly clapped my hands.  Everest dawned his hurt puppy face, and everyone laughed.  I pulled my half-mask up over my mouth and nose, then led my team to face our greatest threat; bad publicity.

“How can you justify the amount of property damage done over the past few weeks?”

 I coughed.

“Currently, we are working on driving out the gang known as the Court, which has controlled most of the state since May 2018.  A certain amount of property damage must be expected.”

A bearded man holding a small microphone quietly cleared his throat, but instantly commanded the attention of the entire crowd.

/Oh shit.  A reporter good enough to make an entire mob of Superazzi shut up./

“March 4th.  South Haven High School burnt to the ground.  A local gym with damage to the foundation and floors.  March 18th.  Three casualties, severe damage to the road.  March 26th.  Seventeen civilian casualties, twenty three police officers. Irreparable damage to four buildings.  August 25th.  Irreparable damage to three buildings, severe damage to two.  Two villain casualties, one civilian injury.  Two days ago. Irreparable damage to one building, severe damage to two others.  Not a great track record, huh?”  My jaw clenched.

/I know this guy,/ I heard in my head, /Mr. Myers.  He’s a muckraking journalist with a grudge against supers./

“The issue is, Mr. Myers,” I smothered my grin at his shocked expression.

/That’s right.  I know your name, asshole./  

/Only thanks to me./

“That we are dealing with people determined to kill us.  They have no qualms about wanton destruction.  In fact, my girlfriend is currently in the hospital because of injuries sustained in a recent fight.  In order to beat them and return our state to its former prosperity, we must be just as ruthless as them.”

/Good,/  I thought, /They’ll be too busy writing about the blooming intrateam romance to focus on the actual fights./

He opened his mouth to respond, only to be interrupted by a voice from the back of the crowd.

“S’cuse me, coming through.  Urgent message.  S’cuse me.” After a minute or so of this, a small figure appeared at the front of the crowd.  Dressed in clothes right out of Oliver Twist, it was young boy, cockney accent and everything.  We stared in surprise.  With a dramatic flourish, he presented an envelope, bowing at the waist.

“Well?” He said, “Wat’cha waitin’ for?  Opn’ it, govna!” Without taking my eyes off him, I bent forward and grabbed the envelope.  It was very fine parchment, slightly yellowed.  Carefully, I opened it, and drew out the sheet within.  The rest of my team gathered around me and we read:

Congratulations!  You’ve shown yourself to be strong enough to not be defeated solely by underlings.   Your repeated victories have shown your worth and abilities.  In fact, your battles have given me enough information to compile a list of “stats!”

Team Overall:

Close Combat: 8/10

Long Range Combat: 6/10

Strategic Thinking: 4/10

Zeta:

Close Combat: 10/10

Long Range Combat: 3/10

Strategic Thinking: 7/10

Apollo:

Close Combat: 7/10

Long Range Combat: 9/10

Strategic Thinking: 9/10

Selene:

Close Combat: 8/10

Long Range Combat: 1/10

Strategic Thinking: 6/10

Exile:

Close Combat: 4/10

Long Range Combat: 10/10

Strategic Thinking: 8/10

Mirage:

Close Combat: 1/10

Long Range Combat: 3/10

Strategic Thinking: 9/10

Crane:

Close Combat: 9/10

Long Range Combat: 6/10

Strategic Thinking: 5/10

Everest:

Close Combat: 5/10

Long Range Combat: 0/10

Strategic Thinking: 2/10

Just for reference:

King:

Close Combat: 10/10

Long Range Combat: 10/10

Strategic Thinking: 10/10

Your prospects are bad enough already, but you might want to know:  I know all your real names and addresses, thanks to the informant I have very close to you.  First to go down is the black bishop, Crane.

-King

We finished reading in stunned silence.  As we looked up to stare at the messenger, he gave us a cheeky grin before dissolving into a mass of slowly fading blue polygons.  Mr. Myers, the journalist, was the first to break the silence.

“A ki-construct?  An actual, moving, apparently intelligent being composed solely of ki?  That-that’s pretty high level. What did the letter say?”

Ignoring him, I gestured to the team, and without a word, we all retreated into the preparation building, ignoring the sudden shouts from the press.

“Well, shit,” Everest said, “I’m the weakest, then.”

“What? No way,” Exile instantly said, drowning out Apollo’s own protest.

“Different strengths.  He was only going off of the base attack.  You’re a tank, focusing on defense.  Normally, that would let you attack more, but since your strength comes with a speed reduction…”

“I guess,” he muttered, “still doesn’t make me feel great.”

“Then train.” I said.  “Train to raise those values in the time left before he challenges you.  Become our ace in the hole.”

“I…  Don’t know that I -”

“Try it. If you can’t, then leave.  But don’t give up.  According to that sheet, if you don’t man up, you could get one of us killed.”  I stood up, and ripped of my mask.

“It’s time to get this over with.  My name is Jason Leigh.  I may not be the most compassionate or caring person, but I will never let one of you die while it is in my power.  This is my face, this is me.”

Next to me, Apollo stood up.

“My name is William Alexander.  I may not have the power that some of you do, but I have trained myself to be strong.  This strength is for you.  This is my face, this is me.”  I looked at him gratefully, but he just looked over at the team.

“My name is Sarah West.  I have power, and I’m not afraid to use it against anyone who falters while saving a life.  This is my face, this is me.”

“My name is Olivia Radd.  I’m not strong, but I’m clever.  This is my face, this is me.”

“My name is Alex Roke.  I’m strong, fast, and vicious, but I fight for the boss.  This is my face, this is me.” Finally, Everest stood up.  Clearing his throat, he said,

“And to complete our ceremony of trust and bonding:  My name is Oliver Goldberg.  I will become strong, or I will leave.  This is my face, this is me.” We all nodded at each other, realizing the bonds formed in that moment.

/For now, at least, we’re a team,/ I thought, shielding my thoughts from Mirage.  Crane slumped down on the bench.

“I’ll stay vigilant-e. Get it?  Vigilant, as in, watchful of the promised attack, and yet vigilante, cause I’m working on my own to take out crime in the seedy districts?  Eh? Eh?” I rolled my eyes and turned around.

“Have fun with the pun, Alex,” I said, waving my hand over my shoulder, “I’d stick with you, but I have a promise more important than your lives to follow through on.”

As I walked out, I heard Exile say under her breath,

“Hey, stop joking around, Jay.  It’s not funny.”  I pulled my half-mask over my face, concealing my grin from everyone but me… and Khan, of course.

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Tyrant IV. Mirage I

/God, do I love this feeling./ I felt the attention of the hallway gravitate towards the sound of my footsteps as my hips swayed side to side. I drank the attention like the sweet honey nectar of the gods; it filled me with immense pleasure, as usual. Since I love fooling with these ants, I decided to shift their perspective slightly so my body appeared even taller, curvier, and more impossibly buoyant than normal. I remember the power filling me from my toes to the crown of my head.

/Ah, the joys of school. Dear God, these drooling kids are hilarious./

 

Suddenly, I saw Jason out of the corner of my eye. The usual smirk on my face curled even farther upwards as I smoothly glided over to him and his mysterious new piece of fresh meat, some kid named John. As I walked over, my eyes slid up and down John, assessing his physical abilities before probing quietly into his mind. I waited eagerly for the moment when he would look and see me, shocked by the angel’s wings I decided to show him growing on my back.

 

I’ve always loved my power: first impressions are everything.

 

I watched his eyes widen as he took in the clearly impossible sight of a Victoria’s Secret-quality body attached to two giant fluffy white wings in the middle of a crappy high school hallway.

/Poor kid, he never even saw me coming./

 

I became momentarily bored with the new kid upon the sight of Jason. I decided to have some fun with him. He hates it when I read his mind, so I decided to tease him instead. You don’t have to be a telepath like I am to see the sparks between him and Diana. My best talent is finding people’s weak points and applying subtle pressure there. Every person is a weak conglomeration of supports: all my job is is to find the weakest one and either prod at it or destroy it altogether. Or, even better, I can make sure that that support leans on me. You could call me manipulative. I’m sure you’d be entirely correct.

 

“So, Jason, mind telling me what flowers are growing this season?” I murmured.

/Shit, that could have been so much more clever. Whatever./ I watched as Jason maintained a relatively steady countenance, but I knew from experience that he was momentarily flustered inside, his thoughts drifting to fantasies about him and Diana. I was satisfied that the reaction I intended to induce had occurred, so I gave up any further attempt to provoke him. Though he was my good friend, he could be pretty unstable. I knew I needed to handle him with prudence.

 

I left them without another word, completely at ease with my ability to disturb the usual balance, and continued to strut down the hallway until I arrived at my advanced multi-dimensional calculus course. The room, as usual, was filled with a bunch of nerdy looking freaks. These were all the kids with super powered brains, though, unfortunately, most did not acquire the same attractive appearances.

/What shame. I need to find some more people around here with sex and brains, these kids are too easy./

I always love a challenge, so that class passed by quickly as usual. I’ve never had much of a problem with math.

 

Next, I made another journey through the hallway to my favorite class: illusion magic. This was a course I excelled at even more dramatically than Math. That’s why they call me Mirage, I can show anyone any goddamn thing I want them to see. I don’t even need magic to do it: I just love sliding myself inside their heads with no more than a thought.

 

We began class with our usual exercise. Since I was taking an advanced course, we were learning complete immersion. Our exercise began  with our class splitting in half and forming two lines on opposite sides of each other. The teacher, Mr. Coxon, a total dick, dictated that my side was to go first.

 

Well, I shouldn’t write that he did that of free will. I never let him choose the other side.

/I should be teaching this class, these monkeys are completely incompetent./ Instead of immersing my partner in an island paradise as we were assigned to do, I decided to play a little practical joke on the teacher. I brought all the students in the class into a blank room. They knew what to do. I then focused my energy on the professor, showing him a classroom of students diligently working.

 

I guess I felt kinda bad for always doing this to poor Mr. C, but I really wasn’t so concerned with harming the other kids education. They were all more than capable of teaching illusion to themselves, and I wanted my damn day off. Keeping lasting illusions has always been my specialty, so I just walked out of the room.

 

I went to my favorite place in the whole world: my locker. No one knows this, but I love sliding into it and completely immersing myself in my own fantasy location. It’s perfect. Admittedly, my fantasies involve sex 99% of the time, but for now I needed space to think. /Olivia Radd./ I toyed with the name in my head. Even internally my tone sounded deep and smooth, a quality I love. /It seems so innocent. Just two little words. It is my whole privacy and everything I keep secret. Maybe I should tell my friends? I do love a good drama…no. I need my name. My namesake is an extension of myself. I’m an individualist, am I not? I chose this for a reason. I chose to leave my past behind and make my name like everything else about me: a mirage. Fuck, where did my cigarette go?/ I fumbled around in my pocket and drew out the long, 50’s style holder. Smoking illusionary cigarettes was a terrible, yet genius habit. I felt my lungs fill with the smoke that I knew wasn’t there. I was pretty sure that I was the only psychic who could create illusions for herself.

/I need a plan. It’s so stupid that I don’t have utter and complete control over the social structure here yet. It’s my damn friends messing me up. Should I mess with them? No, that would be wrong…I need a distraction./

As usual, my mind wandered back into itself. I started reminiscing about my past. I could still remember so crystal clearly the shame and humility my past carried. My thoughts meandered until they entered that dark tunnel containing everything I didn’t want to admit. I tell everyone that my life is filled with pain and darkness. In reality, the darkness is only within myself.

I spent my whole life believing that I was gifted and beautiful. I am, sure. But it’s all a lie. I’m not a bad person…technically. I’m just an illusion. I have spent my life fabricating a grand illusion for myself. The power I have been given is the power to show people, including myself, what they want to see. I have done just that.

If there is anything I have learned over time it is that the illusion is the truth. The illusion of control is control, and the illusion of love is as close to love as I have ever come.

Sex is the only thing that makes me feel truth. There is no lie in that most basic instinct.

But everything else…it’s all faux glitter and lights. Trust me, there’s no water in this desert. People are easy to control because they so desperately want to drink. I’m not real. I’m a mirage.

I crushed the dropped cigarette beneath my foot, and stepped out of my locker.

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Tyrant IV. Selene III

“FUCK!” I swore, as another dart hit my armor.  I was in a lighter set for the additional mobility, but I was still trying to play catch up.  Jason and I were being mobbed by a group of gangsters of mixed nationalities, and power levels.  The core of the group was composed of non-powered “civs,” but there were people with powers scattered throughout the crowd.  Most of them were too weak to do any damage, but they still annoyed the hell out of me.  Especially that asshole with the darts.  I couldn’t see who he was, but someone in the crowd was using a manipulation or telekinesis power to throw darts that would seek me out, and hit me.  Again.  And again.  They had interrupted Jay and I right before we kissed, and I was pissed.

“Screw it,” I muttered, then raised my head to shout. “Zeta!  Maneuver 61!”  From wherever he had been fighting, he leapt into the air, switched to lightning, then brought down a weak bolt on every attacker he could.

The entire crowd dropped.

“Well, that was easy,” he said, landing next to me.  I banished my armor and shook out my hair.

“Yeah.  Really, really bad timing, though.”  He glanced at me sideways.

“No.  Not bad.  Planned.  Someone either led them to us, or-”

WHUMPF

WHUMPF

WHUMPF

“Wha-” I said, as the ground vibrated around us.  “What’s going on?”

Zeta bore his teeth, crouched to the ground.

“Giant.   He’s supposed to be a member of The Court.  One of the strongest ones.  It’s gonna be a tough fight.”

“Wait…  We’re fighting him?” He looked at me in surprise.

“Of course.  I’m not missing out on this fight.”

“You’re serious?  You’re actually fucking serious?  You want to fight Giant?”  he kept looking at me like I was crazy.

“Look. Diana.  Physically, he’s probably second only to Iapetus in physical strength in the entire state.  How could I res-  Oh, look.  Our guest is here.”  I looked up in shock.  He…  was huge.  He must have been over forty feet tall.  He was able to look over the tops of four-story apartment buildings.  “Shit,” Zeta swore. “I hadn’t thought about the collateral.  Shit’s going to get messed up.”  I slapped my forehead.

“There’s still enough time to run,” I reminded him.

“NOT QUITE,” Giant boomed, looking down on us, “IF YOU RUN, I’LL JUST BREAK THESE BUILDINGS.”

“See!” he said, “We have to fight him!  He’s practically asking for it.”

“He’s not practically asking for it.  He literally came to fight us,” I argued.

“So why not oblige him?”

“Because when the VILLAIN wants to fight you, he has something up his sleeve!”

“What if he promises he doesn’t?” He asked.

“What?”

“If he promises he doesn’t have something up his sleeve, then can we fight him?” Jason said slowly.

“Wh-”

“Do you promise?”  I think that’s the only way we’re gonna get a fight out of this.”

“ACTUALLY, I DO HAVE SOMETHING PLANNED,” Giant grumbled, shaking the earth a bit.

“Oh,” Jason said, a bit taken aback, “What is it?”

“MY TEAMMATE IS HIDING BEHIND THAT BUILDING,” he said, pointing in the direction he had come from.  “HE WAS GOING TO COME OUT AND SURPRISE YOU WITH HIS POWER.”  Jason turned to me.

“Are you satisfied?” he asked, “Cause I’m getting bored. I’ll take him, you take the teammate?”

I threw my hands up.

“Fine.  Jesus.  I don’t even know what’s wrong with you today.”

“I’VE BEEN ORDERED TO INSTIGATE A FIGHT WITH YOU.  IF REVEALING THE RUSE IS WHAT IT TAKES, SO IT GOES,” Giant said, scowling at the delay.

“Excellent,” Zeta said, and leapt towards the titanic villain.  I shook my head and jogged away.  Behind the building, I saw Giant’s teammate. He was a short, fat, nervous-looking man, sweating profusely.

“That idiot,” he was mumbling, “ he gave my position away.   “I have to move before the moon-bitch finds-oh shit.”  I stood in front of him with my hands on my hips.

“Before the moon-bitch does what?”  He looked up at me, eyes wide.  He swallowed nervously, and started to raise his hands.  I stepped forward, preparing to accept his surrender.  With a bit of roughness.  After all, I’m not my brother, and no one talks to me like that.  No one.  Of course, then he disappeared.

“Fuck!” I heard a scrape behind me, and I whirled around.  He was clutching a knife in both hands, his body half in a shadow.  Literally, inside the shadow.   I had already manifested a helmet, gauntlets and boots to make a presence, but I made the rest of the armor, then batted his knife aside with a long sword.  I lunged for his body,  and as the sword’s light passed near the shadow he was hiding in, his legs solidified and he fell.

/My constructs,/ I realized, /they undo his power./  I grinned at him.

“Oh, you are so totally boned right now,” I said.

“Get back here, you fucking asshole!” I screamed, running towards the nearest shadow.

“Ha!” He screamed, obviously terrified, “You can’t catch me!” I had been about to stab him when he had rolled out of the way and into a shadow, disappearing and reappearing a few yards away. Rinse and repeat.  He was leading me somewhere, I just wasn’t sure where.  Away from the big fight, at least…  or that’s what I thought.  He led me in a circle, so I ended up running right into Giant’s foot.

He looked down at me, and started to wind up for a kick.

/Holy fucking shit.  He’s fucking huge.  He’s kicking, and I can’t move.  I’m going to get fucking pulverized./  

At the last second, I felt a sudden impact at my side pushing me away, and saw Giant’s kick send something black flying.

“Zeta!” I cried.

“I’m okay,” I heard back, “I’ll be fine!”  He flew back over, clutching his side.  “Dammit,” he said, “I think he broke a rib.”

“This is my fault,” I said, tearing up a bit, “I couldn’t even move.”

“Really.  It’s not a big deal.  I can still move.”

“It is a big deal!  I got you hu- uh. uuuuuhhhh,” I groaned, keeling over.

“HA!  NICE HIT, MOUSE!” Giant shouted, congratulating the shadow-porting asshole who had just stabbed me in the back.  As I fell, I turned to look at Jason.  He was rigid, his eyes wide under his goggles.  And then he was gone.  I heard a scream from behind me, suddenly cut off with a gurgling sound, and then Zeta, his hands dripping red, flew into Giant’s face and roared.

Zeta jabbed a flaming fist into Giant’s eye, sending various fluids everywhere, but instantly cauterizing the wound.  Giant screamed, shaking his head and sending Zeta flying off.  He hit an apartment building hard, crushing his arm.  Rather than falling and probably killing himself, Zeta turned on flight and flew into the air.  As I watched, his bent arm straightened out, and he windmilled it, not looking away from the screaming Giant.

/A healing factor?  While flying?  What’s happening?/

Without shifting his position, he sent a bolt of lightning into Giant’s wounded eye, then rushed forwards, leaving a trail of flame.

/Something weird is definitely going on./

Zeta roared again, grabbing Giant’s face and tearing at it.  I saw a dark mist rising around him, seeming to take the shape of –

“shitshitshitshitshit!” A yellow and black shape, low to the ground, rushed past me.  It left the ground and went up Giant’s body towards Zeta, then seemingly disappeared into his body. Instantly, he regained control.  All the powers except flight turned off, and he flew around the monstrous head.  With a quick, fiery stroke at the back of the neck, Giant fell, dead in a second.

He alighted softly on the ground next to me, then offered me a hand.  Unsteadily, I took it, and he helped me up.

“Wow.  That was brutal.  And yet, kinda sexy. I’d say let’s try to pick up where we were, but I sorta have a knife in my back.”  He snorted.

“Are you kidding me?  I’m glad we got interrupted.”

“Wh-What?  What are you saying?” I said, wincing at the sting of the knife wound and his words.

“You know exactly what I’m saying.  You’re weak, stupid, and ugly.  If I never see you again, it’ll be too soon,” he sneered.

“How… How can you s- Hold on,” I said, just before I started crying, “I just realized.  You’re not Jason.”

“HA!  That’s right!  I’m Zeta, now, stronger than ever!” he threw back his chin and laughed.  I narrowed my eyes, looking at his shattered goggles.

“Not what I meant.  Jason doesn’t have two personalities… or slitted eyes,” I said. He looked taken aback.

“Clever girl… very clever,” he said softly.

“You’re Khan, aren’t you?  Why are you trying to drive Jay and I apart?”

“What? I’m not doing that!”

“BULLSHIT!” I screamed, slamming my hand into his shoulder ignoring the pain that went through my side, “You’re fucking playing with us!”  He paused for a minute, then chuckled.

“You see, my intentions are, in reality, noble.  Zeta is weak.  He cares too much about collateral, about other people. He got hurt because of you.  I’m simply trying to remove weakness from his path.”

“His path? What’s his path?”

“Secrets, secrets are no fun, unless they’re kept from everyone,” he sang.

“So, he doesn’t know?”

“Nope.  And he never will.  Even if you try to tell him, I’ll just remove it from his memory again.”

“Again,” I asked, “You’ve done it before?”

“I’m doing it right now.  He’s in his mental landscape, getting a lecture from me about how you had to finish both of them off because he passed out after getting kicked.”

I gritted my teeth.  There was nothing I could do, and he knew I knew it. “But…  I’m a nice person. I’ll let you have your time with Jason.  For now.  If you’re willing to take the risk.”

“Stop speaking in riddles, asshole.  What risk?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.  What I can say is that you will, in all likelihood, live a long and fruitful life… if you give up on Zeta.”

“Threatening me? Bastard.  Get out of his body.  God, you must be the worst compa-  oh.  Oh.  You-”

“Don’t say it,” he said sharply, “Or I’ll kill you right here.”  I closed my mouth.

“Fine.  You win,” I said, dropping my head, “He’s yours.  I’ll spend my time with him as I want, but I won’t tell him about who…about what you are.”

“That’s a good girl,” he leered, “but you don’t even know where to start to figure out what I am.”

I thought of Jason, being shamed with false failure, slowly being isolated from everyone, his relationships being shoved back in his face.  I started to cry.

A week later, we fought Iapetus, and Zeta punched him through a building.

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Tyrant IV. Selene II

“Ugh,” I said, “Is this seriously my costume?  I feel a bit like a stripper.”  I turned around, showing Dagny, no, Mirage the front of my new suit.  It was all in white, of course.  The top part was a tube top reaching down to just under my breasts, with an “S” inside a crescent moon on it. The rest of my chest was completely bare, but the skin-tight pants reached down to the middle of my calves.

“It’s because you’re armoured,” Mirage said sagely.  “A, you’re protected from damage when you’re fighting, so no need to give you protective gear.  B, since you’re an attractive female, the SVRA is going to want to market your sex appeal.  But, since you’re armoured…  the SVRA wants to make the few times you’ll be exposed as revealing as possible.”  I groaned, and flopped down onto my bed.

“This is such bullshit,” I said.  Mirage laughed.

“Hey,” she prompted, “What about this?”  She was holding out another white garment, one that I had chosen to ignore, then promptly forgot about.  I shrugged.

“Dunno.  I felt the leather and dropped it.  I assumed it was like…  fetish wear, but now that I already have pants…  Pass it.”  She tossed it over.  As it flew through the air, it opened up, dropping something on the floor.  I swore.  I shook out the leather, glaring at her.  Because of the glare, she saw what I was holding before I did, and promptly cracked up.

“Oh god,” Mirage choked out, “I don’t have to do any matchmaking after all!  The fucking SVRA is doing it for me!”  I just shook my head.  They had given me a white, kev-weave belly jacket, then styled it to make it look like leather.  Simply put, I looked like a female version of Zeta, but in white.  “I’d bet,” she said slyly, “That if you look on the floor, you’ll find goggles and a utility belt.”  I didn’t bother.  I knew she was right.

 

 Zeta leaped over the rooftop, using his flight to make the jump.

“C’mon,” he shouted, “I’m winning in distance AND style!”

“Show-off,” I muttered, just loud enough for him to hear me.  I jumped as far as I could, then used a strategically placed stilt construct to do a flip over the rooftop.  I nailed the landing, touching down with my feet together and my arms up.  Zeta grinned at me.

“Show-off,” he teased.

 

“Hold on a sec,” he said, panting.  “You win, you win.  I can’t beat you without using flight.”

“Please,” I said, injecting every ounce of haughtiness I could into my voice, “You couldn’t beat me if you had all seven of your powers at once!”  He chuckled. Encouraged, I continued.  “Zeta, you have been defeated!  You cannot hope to stand up to the might that is, I, Mistress Selene, Goddess of the Moon!”  He burst out laughing.   “Oh, come on,” I said, deflating.  “It’s not that bad.”

“Not that bad?  I’m almost positive you stole that from an episode of Teen Titans!”

“Hey, I loved that show!”

“And so did I.  It’s still corny.”  I pouted.

“Well fine, Zeta.  But you-”

“Jason,” he interrupted.

“What?”

“Jason. My name. You can call me by it.  Actually, use Jay.  Most of my friends do.”  I grinned at him.

“Awww, you’d trust me with your name?  That’s so sweet!  I’d offer you mine, but I’d expect you already took it from my file, like you did with my brother.”  He winced.

“He told you about that?  Well, yes, but this is different.  I know your name, but that doesn’t mean I can call you that.”

“Hmm.  So, by giving me your name, you’ve put yourself in an interesting position, then?”  I leered at him.  “I can call you whatever you want, but you’re still forced to call me Selene.”

He didn’t rise to the bait.

“Very true,” he responded evenly. “So, what’s your desicion?”  I thought about it for a minute.
“I will give you my name,” I grinned, “On one condition.”

“Oh?”

“You have to call me Mistress Selene, Goddess of the Moon.”

At that, he broke his poker face, a giant smile spreading across his face.

“Oh, so you’re into the kinky shit now?”  I swatted at him.

“Go on!  Say it, you wimp!”  He fended off my hands, laughing.

“Alright, alright.  I surrender, Mistress Selene, Goddess of the Moon.”  I relaxed.

“Ha.  I actually like the sound of that.  But, a deal is a deal. My name,” I said, Mirage’s words dancing through my head, “is Diana.”

 We paused on a rooftop again, after four hours of absolutely nothing.

“Shit,” he said, “This is really boring.”  I nodded in agreement,

“Absolutely.  Care for a drink?”  He glanced at me curiously.  I dangled Rune’s hip flask in front of him.  Rather than having one of the typical reactions, like, “Oh, sure,” or “No, I don’t drink,” or even the good old, “Drink that Satan Piss?  I would never,” he just started cracking up.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, a bit miffed.

“Hold on, hold on,” he gasped.  “This is good.”  He reached into his own jacket pocket, and pulled out a flask exactly like my own.  “I stole one of his flasks too!”  I collapsed laughing.

“When did you even…  OH GOD, HE’S GOING TO BE FURIOUS!”

 Ten minutes later…

 We sat with our feet dangling over the rooftop, masks off and at our sides, taking the occasional sip from the flasks.

“You know,” I began, “You’re really not such a bad guy.” He looked over at me.

“You know,” he said dryly, “I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

“No, no,” I protested, “I’m serious.  My brother spent half of boot camp ranting about how much of an asshole you are.  But really, you’re nice!”  He sighed, and sat back, lying against the roof.

“Okay, let’s get this over with. I am an asshole.  The biggest.  Sometimes.  It’s like, there’s Happy Jay, me right now, who can crack jokes, flirt with a pretty girl, do normal stuff.  But there’s also Angry Jay, no, wait.  Let’s call it Jay and Zeta.  I’m Jay, and Zeta is me, but angrier, and stronger.  It’s not like, a separate personality, more like, a separate set of emotions.  Got it?”

“Wow, you’re such a great flirt,” I joked, “Word to the wise: if you have to reassure a girl that you’re not crazy, you’re doing it wrong.”  He didn’t laugh, didn’t even smile.

“I wish I could reassure myself of that,” he whispered, so quietly I barely heard him.

“You might think you’re unique, and that’s okay,” I said, gently as possible. “But you’re not.  Listen.  I’ve had my powers all my life, but I’ve always had to keep it a secret.  Secret identities of my Dad and Will, and all that.  So, powers, something integral to me were cordoned off, forced to be something that Diana shouldn’t do, not something that Diana is.  It causes problems.  I think that’s what you’re going through now.  There’s another you in your life all of a sudden, on top of all your problems.”  He smiled at me, a wan, thin smile.

“Another me in my life… Ha. You have no idea how true that is.”

“I just want you to realize, you don’t have to deal with this alone.”

“You’re right,” he mused sitting back up, “I’ve always got Khan there for me…”

“And,” I started to say, then hesitated.  He looked at me expectantly. “And,” I continued, “You’ve always got …” I stared into his eyes, ” You’ve always got me.”  I reached towards his face, as he leaned towards me, and–

Alright, here’s the story.  This was spontaneous and a surprise to the people writing.  It was originally going to be deleted, but then people really liked it, said it was really well written and they wanted to know what happened a lot.  So, we kept it in.  Feedback MUCH appreciated. Do you like it?  Would you like to see more of stuff like this, or less?  Is it anathema to your existence? Thanks for reading!

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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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Auditions II. Everest II

For the first thirty seconds, I was just excited at the changes in the community it meant.  For the next thirty, it started dawning on me that if I went in for an interview, it could mean a high salary and fame for life.  I whooped, punching the air, and trying very hard not to change my density.  I didn’t completely succeed, but hey.  Who’s going to notice a pair of footprints in concrete?  Deciding I needed a celebratory lunch, I turned into the restaurant, pulling out my wallet.  I bought a stromboli and a soda, and walked to the completely full table area.   I started swearing a bit inside my head, but then I saw an old friend of mine.  Not old age-wise, in fact he’s two years younger than me, but we’ve known each other for most of our mutual lives.  I walked over, inwardly sighing in relief.  As I approached the table, I heard him muttering to himself while he was typing, “those… applicants… denied… acceptance to this prestigious…  organization… better luck… next time… the interviews will… be re-”  He broke off abruptly, shutting his laptop when I slid into the chair across from him.

“Hey, Jason,” I said.  “What do you think about the SVRA posters around town?”

“Good thing for the economy, I guess,” he shrugged. His expression brightened suddenly, “I’m thinking about trying out!”  I almost had a spit take. Seeing my reaction, he grinned.  “Yeah.  I’m hoping they mistake my stunning good looks for a super power.”  I sat back in my chair, glaring at him, trying to hide my sigh of relief.  Don’t get me wrong.  Jason is a great guy.  But, he’s extremely vain and tough to get along with.  He’s like a different person every time I see him.  One day he’ll walk into school and try to pick a fight with everyone he sees, the next he’ll be cracking jokes and laughing.  Not really the sort of person I’d want on my superteam.  I broke off that chain of thought when I realized he was saying something.

“Sorry, what did you just say?  I zoned out there,” I said, shaking my head.  He rolled his eyes, and replied, “I said…  Have you seen Cyner around lately?  I haven’t seen him since just after the school fire.”  Oh, I should explain.  Cyner is Jason’s best friend.  He’s about 6’5”, and built like a large tree.  They spend their time together playing video games and yelling at the screen, or eating pizza and yelling about government.  Theirs is one of the strangest friendships I’ve ever seen.  Cyner is a virtually-emotionless stoic who can’t get along with most people and Jason is sometimes passionate, sometimes bland, and always hard to get along with.  Still, somehow it works.  The only noticeable problem is that they both have a random element to their characters.  Jason will occasionally do something completely irrational and insane, and Cyner, already a loner, will sometimes disappear for long stretches without a word.  Hence the current situation.  I shrugged.  “I wouldn’t worry about it.  He’ll show up in a day or two looking satisfied and won’t tell anyone what he did.  That’s how it always happens.”  Jason looked unsure, but he nodded, seeming to accept my explanation.  He chatted until I finished my stromboli, at which point he coughed, and gestured towards his laptop, muttering something about a latin project.  I got the point and left.

Later that night, I was back.  I wasn’t out looking for a late-night lasagna, though.  I had bigger things on my mind.  I wanted to test my powers out on some real criminals before trying for the SVRA.  I wanted to get some practice so I didn’t embarrass myself during the tryout, or however they test field skills.  I had figured out a way to cover distance very quickly, and I used that to go up to the rooftops.  I was rather proud of myself for figuring it out.  First, I increased my density to get some extra strength.  I would crouch down to jump, then right before I left the ground, reduce my density to about a sixth of normal. The extra leg strength combined with reduced weight lets me jump really high.  I tried to use that jump to go from the street to the roof of a nearby restaurant, but I overshot it.  I was windmilling my arms in the air, trying to find a spot to land when I saw two teenagers crouching in a parking lot.  I grinned.  They were exactly what I was looking for.  Dressed all in black, with hoodies and facemasks, they could hardly look more suspicious. I decided to trail them for a bit. When I landed silently a few feet above them, I noticed that they were carrying backpacks and my grin just got wider.  I followed them for about a quarter of an hour before things got interesting.  They walked up to a local theater.  I was disappointed for a second, thinking they were just going to the show, until I realized they wouldn’t have facemasks if they were just buying a ticket.  I hit myself in the face when they snuck into a side door.  I rushed in after them, getting in just before the door closed.  We were backstage, just behind the curtain.  There was cheering and clapping from the other side of the stage.  Curtain call, I guessed.  I had to take this all in a second, because right after the door closed the two teenagers had guns in their hands, with the business end pointed at me.  Raising my density as far as I could without breaking the floor, I laughed.  “What, are you planning to take on the whole theater with those little pistols?”  I was nervous as hell.  The guns they were pointing were not little pistols.  I’m not a gun fanatic, but they were big, and they looked nasty.  The taller of the two glared at me.

“No, I’m planning to take out the whole theater with what I’ve got in this bag, poser,” He said.  I was halfway through my witty comeback when he shot me.

When I heard the clinkclinkclink of the bullets hitting the floor, I just grinned.  I’m not a total idiot, you see.  In the weeks before I even thought about joining the SVRA, I had been testing my powers.  Though I couldn’t safely come close to my density limit, I had tested myself at various densities with knives and a gun I borrowed from a friend.  The gun one took some balls, but when I finally got around to doing it, I discovered that I could walk around at a bulletproof density without messing up the floor.  Since then, I had started keeping my normal density above average, lowering it anytime I had a contest of strength.  That was why I wasn’t too worried about going after crime; I was stronger than most of the stuff they could throw at me.  The two attempted murderers started at me.  I considered finishing my comeback, but decided to go for the jugular.  I jumped towards them, taking their panicked gunfire with my face.  At the last second, I realized that I had miscalculated the jump because of my added density, and I tried to twist so I wouldn’t land on them and kill them.  Zeta has given me some flak on my unwillingness to take lethal measures if necessary, but Apollo agrees with me.  But, that was before I even met um… Zeta, so it didn’t even cross my mind to use lethal force.  I landed on their hands, nearly breaking their fingers.  As it was, they dropped the guns and ran.  I swore as I saw them pull out more “little pistols” as they entered stage right.  As I was getting up, the cheers and clapping from the audience turned to screaming.  I dashed onto the stage, hoping nobody had been killed yet.

Picture that, for a moment.  Me, entering the stage from one side.  The two black-clothed teenagers with a backpack each,  firing into the air in the center of the stage.  From then on, I was a celebrity.

I didn’t bother with the jumping this time, I just ran towards them.  Right before I hit them, I swiped my leg under the closest one. I hoped to be able to take one out before having to deal with the other.  Unfortunately, I underestimated my strength.  While I was making a silent pledge to test everything before I went out again, one enemy with broken legs was falling onto his friend.  I stepped over their bodies, grabbing their guns and backpacks and throwing them to the other side of the stage.  I had just gotten hold of their hoods when I heard the first cheers.  I looked up.  That picture, of me standing over two obvious criminals with my face clearly in view, made headlines across the state.  Overnight, I became a sensation.  “A rookie vigilante,” they called me.  “Mysterious New Hero Plans to Join the SVRA,” blared the headlines.  It was true, though.  Right after the police got there, the journalists swarmed me.  They asked me what my plans were, what my name was, yada yada.  I answered what I could, futilely ignoring secret identity questions. As soon as they published the first photos of me, my name was all over the web.  With all that publicity, I figured I’d be a sure acceptance for the SVRA, but I wanted to go to the interview anyway, to make a good first impression.

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