Folie à Plusieurs V. The Watchmaker I

A figure shrouded in black leaves a building.  He, for it is, in fact, male, makes his way across a human encampment, teleporting, running, and jumping incredibly quickly.  As he approaches his targets, a demonic energy increases in power.  When he encounters the drug dealers, the demon’s presence is indistinguishable from his own.  Though he could defeat a thousand of them in seconds, he draws a fight with three of them to last for five minutes.  He throws the first blow at four minutes and thirty one seconds, without drawing either of his swords.  He reaches out with one hand and lightly pushes on one of their heads. With five eighths of a second left to live, the dealer starts to turn and adopts a shocked expression.  His head, no longer attached to his body, flies forward, smashing into one of his comrades.  The shocked expression of his disembodied comrade is the last thing he sees as his entire body is electrified.  The last of the triumvirate attempts to flee.  He discovers that his feet are frozen to the ground.  His terror increases as he notices the ice is creeping up over his body.  He dies before it reaches his crotch.  The killer begins to feast upon the bodies, an unnatural jaw taking chunks out of their flesh.  I turn around to leave.  This one does not need interference.

A muscular boy is speaking to a reporter.  The boy is not very intelligent.  The reporter is.  One’s name is Oliver Goldberg, but he is often called Everest.  The other’s name is Andrew Myers, but he is frequently called Asshole.  The reporter is angry.  His son is sick, and he blames metahumans.  He is correct to, though not for the reason he thinks.  If he spoke about his son’s illness to anyone, his problem could be solved. Instead, he takes out his frustration by ruining careers.  He is trying to do that now.  He will fail.  Though he will accurately show the lack of intelligence, the muscular boy has a following that is not founded on his depth of character.  The following will be sorely disappointed in less than one month, though not because of the reporter. The reporter’s troubles are drawing to close.

A boy who is almost a man is fighting.  He is sitting in his room.  He, more than any other on his team, is in conflict.  He has great potential, but how he will use it is uncertain.  I will talk to him when he is a man.  Neither of us is in a rush.  We have all the time in the world.

The two I have come here to talk to have just stopped fighting.

The two I have come here to talk to are about to fight.

The two I have come here to talk to are fighting.  I pop up and stand in between them.  The Destroyer’s punch, intended for the Wise Woman hits me, instead. Though I slow the punch before it hits me, my jaw will be pulverised. I wait for it to happen, then reconstruct it, reverting my body to how it was four seconds ago.  To them, it will have appeared as regeneration.

“Hello,” I will say.

“Who are you?” asked the Wise Woman.

“A chronoton is a unit of time that represents how far one can predict or travel in the past or future based on the amount of variables in play.  In the average one on one fight, in a close environment, with no air flow or outside interference, no weapons, no powers, just fists, a chronoton is approximately five minutes,” I say, answering his question.  The Destroyer frowns, then will have an epiphany.

“So, you’re The Watchmaker, huh?  What’s a chronoton?” He asks, looking at me expectantly.  For once, the Wise Woman is confused.

“The Watchmaker,” I will have said.  A look of realization dawns across her face.  I realized the problem.

“Nice catch,” I said, altering my appearance slightly, changing my clothes to fit the time period, “I hadn’t even realized I was off.” The Wise Woman nodded.

“Rune told us to expect you.”  I laughed.

“Oh, Rune!  That ol’ dog! Did he ever tell you about that time he and Bash inspired the Greek legend of Damon and Pythias?”  Seeing their faces, I paused.  “No, then.  Ah.  Right.  He wouldn’t have.”  I looked at the two of them and shook my head, smiling a bit.  “Oh, you two.  You have so much ahead of you.  Exile, you’ll become greater than you can imagine.  Nidh- no, wait.  That’s not your name yet. Well, you’ll see.”  They stared at me in confusion.  “Anyway, I didn’t come here to reminisce about the fun we’ll have.  I want to help you defeat King.  Both of them, though the latter comes later.”  The Destroyer waved his hands in the air vaguely,

“Aren’t you supposed to be some sorta…  benevolent but bound guardian of mankind?  Policy of non-interference?”  This time, the confusion belonged to me.

“Why on earth would you think that?” I asked, furrowing my brow, “I do whatever I want.”  The Destroyer laughed.

“Alright, I can get behind that,” he said, “Now, how are we going to kick King’s ass?”  The Wise Woman looked at him.

“Wait,” she said, “Who’s the second King?”  Without moving his head, the Destroyer replied.

“We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?  Besides, it’s best not to ask more questions than you need to.”  The Wise Woman nodded.  I walked up behind them, and put my arms around their shoulders.

“What’s up, guys!” They jumped and spun around.

“Fuck!” The Destroyer cried, relaxing.  “Weren’t you ahead of-  Oh, for fucks sake.  Of course you would use godlike mastery of time to play stupid jokes.”  The Wise Woman stopped walking.

“Hold on, hold on.  Zeta.  How did you know his power was godlike mastery of time?”  We both looked at her.  Before The Destroyer could open his mouth, I responded.

“It’s best not to ask more questions than you need to,” I said.  She fumed, but didn’t say anything else.  As we walked out of the gym area, The Fool entered.

“Oh, hey, Jay, Sar- Ah!  Zeta and Exile!  Umm…  How goes the crime fighting?”  The two of them rolled their eyes.  The Destroyer took my shoulder and guided me out, bringing me to his quarters while the Wise Woman made her excuses to the Fool.

“So,” he said once we had reached his room, “while Sarah is explaining you to Oliver, what’s the deal?  You have some questions to answer.”  I thought for a moment, tapping my chin.

“Okay.  What you need to know about me for now…  I am called The Watchmaker.  I triggered about six thousand years ago.  Since then, I’ve perfected the use of my power and lived eight trillion years, three months, twenty-four days, three hours, fourteen minutes and fifty three seconds.  I am functionally immortal, invincible, and unkillable.  I am omnipresent, omniscient, and fairly close to omnipotent.  And… I will be your friend.  If, of course, you survive that long, which you will.  But barely, and not without effort and my help. I know about your powers because I’ve seen you in action… with your real power, and I’ve talked with Khan.”  At that, he reacted.

“Where is Khan, then?  He normally likes to be here for things like this.”  I looked at The Destroyer seriously.

“He is not you.  He is not your friend.  Do not forget that.  I have blocked him for now, but I cannot help you with him.  But…  do not be fooled.”  He stared at me and shook his head.

“Why should I trust you?  He’s told me things about myself I needed to know.  He’s helped me plenty.  And what?  You, a random stranger who could be anyone, is telling me he’s an evil manipulator?  Yeah, sure, I’m being tricked by a serval. Sooo suspicious. That’s fluffy doom, right there.”  He stood up and opened the door. “Get some proof, and maybe I’ll consider it.”

“He’s told you you’re weak.  He’s wrong, by the way.  He’s sealing your powers.  I am who I say I am, simply because there is no one who would dare to claim to be me.  Evil?  Yes.  Demonic.  He is no more a serval than you or I.  He can appear however he wants.” The Destroyer glared at me.  “Use your powers, dragon.  See what you can do without his influence.”

“Out.  Now.”  Despite myself, I grinned.  I knew it would end up like this.

“When you’re ready for your fate, let me know.”  I walked out the door, and promptly disappeared.  Next to Rune, in a different, earlier time, I looked at a rampaging superhuman.  Bash swore.

“Shit,” he said, “This guy’s gotta be stronger than me.  I can’t get near him without risking my life.”  Rune frowned.

“Nothing I can do against his caliber without making things worse.”

“He’s protected against me, too.  Sorry.” I shrugged. Bash spat, narrowly missing Rune’s black Regulator uniform.

“Anyone you know who could take him?  Can you pull someone out of their timeline, pull them back here?”  I thought for five seconds, considering the possibilities.  At last, arriving at a suitable candidate, I nodded.

“Nidhogg could take him.”

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Folie à Plusieurs V. Rune I

I tend to get passed over nowadays, ignored as the guy who’s just hanging around, watching over stuff.  I’m okay with that.  I’ve had my time in the spotlight, I’ve been the hero.  I got bored and disillusioned, as we all do, sooner or later.  Later for me.  It took a lot of deaths, a lot of hardship before I saw what He had been trying to tell me all along.  What the ones I’m watching over are on the precipice of learning, still in that blissful period before they start dying and I have to tell them the truth about the SVRA.

Oh, bliss.  Some of them, I won’t ruin.  Exile’s probably figured it out herself, by now.  That girl…  If this were 1,000 years ago, then she would be the greatest hero known to man.  If I had half her talent, or a quarter of her wit, I’d be living in Florida with my best friend drinking hard lemonade and reminiscing about a well spent youth.  Instead, I’m jaded before forty, and I haven’t fought seriously in a year.

Last fight I had wasn’t actually too long ago. I threw a brief sparring match against Apollo, to give him the ego boost he needed if he’s gonna fight King.  Speaking of Apollo, he’s one of the ones I’m going to have to ruin.  He’s a good guy.  Reminds me of…  him.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I can’t believe myself.  I’m being so vague, leaving my backstory as the mysterious mentor figure to be slowly revealed!  Nope.  Here it is:

I have some Gypsy blood, some Italian, some Jewish.  I come from a few long families of mages.  I learned I was a mage before superhumans became public.  My family taught me various magic specializations, and I excelled.  A friend of mine, whom I met playing around the town, found out he had superpowers when we were ten.  We became major players in the superhuman circles, acting as “regulators.”  Basically, we took down anyone who threatened to reveal our existence to the “civs,” as we called them.  We were big, but not big enough to be recruited for the SVRA… at least not before it existed.  The team known as the “Enemies of Injustice,” were gathered together as a back-up plan for if someone got through the regulators.  They would show up, like a bolt from the blue, and save the land.  Then, capitulating on their influence, they would get the SVRA established with pre-prepared legislation, and the rest, as they say, is history.

We joined the SVRA, got assigned to separate teams, kept in contact.  Then, I heard he died.  Killed himself.  Sorta.  Forced into suicide and murder.  I’ve been working on that.  Trying to find his killer, I’ve delved into things.  I pulled strings to put me in the right place at the right time.  I met some people.  Right now, that’s what I’m working on. If I’m to get my revenge, I’ll need help.  I need firepower, more than I can supply alone.  I need this team to get stronger.  Soon, they’ll have to fight for me anyway, I’m just making sure they’re strong enough.

“-still there?”

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“I was asking if you were still there.  I thought you zoned out.  Considering where we are…” With a wry grin, Exile gestured out over the expanse of the city.  Squinting, I looked through her arm.

“Where…?”  She sighed, and facepalmed, her hand hitting her forehead without making a sound.

“Astral form, Alister.  You wanted to see King’s reaction to Ronin’s loss?”  I whipped my head around at her use of my real name. She chuckled, and met my eyes.  “Jeez, it’s like you didn’t just teach me this.  You broadcast your thoughts and can start to fade if your willpower slips while astral projecting.” I shook my head.

“If I didn’t think you already knew it, I’d tell you that-”

“Oh, and don’t worry about the firepower.  We’ve got your back.”  I stared at her, speechless.  “Yeah, that happens to people a lot when they talk to me.”  I shut my mouth and narrowed my eyes.  After a deep breath, I sighed.

“Let’s just see what King’s up to, okay?”

He held his hands, cupped, over Ronin’s stump, a white glow emanating from his palms.  Ronin was tied to the table, writhing and screaming against leather restraints.

“Yeesh,” Exile said, floating over to behind King.  “I don’t think it’s working.”  I ignored the action, pacing the room, waving my hand in front of King’s face, making sure he couldn’t see us.  After checking out the room, I looked at King’s hands, the power he was using.

“What is this guy’s power? A power switcher?”  Exile shook her head.

“I don’t think so.  Upstairs, there’s a ginger girl sitting on her bed, staring blankly at the wall, not moving.  She’s under the influence of some sort of mind control, and it’s connected to King.  I’ve seen him use way too many powers, often concurrently, as well.” I tapped my finger against my chin.

“Something else, then.  A domination power, perhaps?  He can control people… probably with their blood… and use their powers?  That’s probably just within a radius… if they’re willing.  Probably more, too.  A varied powerset.”

“Hmm… So, he surrounds himself with followers to use their powers?”  I nodded.

“I’d guess so.  Tread carefu-” The door to the room smashed open, and a figure surrounded in a glowing bright aura burst in.  Exile and I covered our eyes and retreated, hiding in the corner. From the bright blue haze, a voice came.

“Milord!  A delegation from the Followers of the Path of Mankind has arrived!  They wish to discuss territory!”  King stopped his healing, and looked up, staring right into the figure, as if the lights weren’t there.

“Shit,” I whispered to Exile, “That guy must be a ki manipulator.  He can see us, and hurt us.  We need to go.  Back into the wall.”  She nodded, and backed up, walking through the wall.  I stuck around.  “The Followers of the Path are here…” I whispered, a glimmer of excitement beginning within me.

“Ronin!” barked King, turning his head.  Ronin panted, but his eyes opened, and he moved his head to acknowledge King.  “Go visit the tinker.  She’s a technician, so she should be able to fix you up with something.”  He waved his hand, and the restraints snapped open, leaving Ronin to fall to the ground and stumble towards the door, falling down twice.  “Delegation.  Explain.”  The blue shape quivered a bit… tensing?

“They are led by an unknown figure known as Ranger.  He projects a powerful aura, A-class at the least.  The other members are inconsequential.  If problems arise, they will likely send one of the Apostles.”  My heart lept into my throat.

/No…  They can’t come yet… they’re not strong enough!/

King nodded.  “Get me some of Ranger’s blood, secretly.  I will control him and prevent the Apostles from coming.  He will acquiesce to a deal wherein he shall receive some land, but stay out of mine.  They will send me soldiers, as well.”  I swore to myself.  This was terrible, terrible news.  The team wasn’t ready for the Followers of the Path yet, and if King gained more troops, he would overwhelm and destroy the territory.

/I need to stop King before Ranger comes under his control… but there’s not enough time.  I need The Watchmaker./

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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. Selene I

Selene here.  What’s up?  Err… you probably know me as Luna, if you’ve been talking to my teammates, or my brother.  He’s always prefered that name.  He’s the one who made it up, and he likes to see that I’m being a dutiful little sister…  I’m probably being a bit too harsh on him.  He’s just a bit overprotective.  He had to be, really.  Our dad was always sorta distant, and my mom….  well, let’s say Will’s mom never liked me, and leave it at that.  I never met my own mom.  You could say troubled home, if you want.  After Will’s mom left, and my mom died, Dad started pouring his life into his work, and his…  other work.  Which, by the way, he thinks we still don’t know about.  He’s a vigilante.  Acrobat, to be exact.  You can look him up if you really care.  It’s besides the point.  The point is, no real parental figure for me, so Will tried to pick up the slack.  He got us trainers to prepare for joining the SVRA, made dinner every night, did laundry, helped me with my homework, all the little stuff.  You could basically say that I had two dads, and no moms.  One who was a superhero, one who wanted to be…  both training me for it.  They’ve shown me around SVRA bases and everything.  That’s why I was the only one not gaping when Rune showed us around our new base.

“After the entry hall, we have the common room.  Couches, big tv, game systems, basic stuff.  Through that door on the left is the kitchen, and the dining room is right through it,” Rune was saying as we entered the first room after the door.  “Through that door is the hallway with all your bedrooms, and through those two doors are the gym and the lounge.  Lounge is pretty self explanatory; you can check it out on your own.  Arcade machines, foosball, snacks, basic stuff.  The gym, you might need a tour.  C’mon.”

He led us into a gigantic room, easily three times as big as the common room.  It was filled with weight machines like you’d see at a regular gym, but also plenty that I didn’t recognize, including two vertical poles on two discs, each covered with holes about the size of my fist.  “Those doors over there are the locker rooms, and the pool is through those.  The enhanced strength weights are over on that wall, and the sparring room… follow me,” he said, pointing at various parts of the room, then walking over to a pair of metal-plated double doors.  Inside the doors was a large box with transparent walls, and a control panel attached to the side.  Leading us over to the panel, he started talking about how it worked, but I zoned out.  I had heard a clinking from inside his coat, and I was trying to see what it was.  I heard a few words, but I was focusing on the flash of silver I saw.  So, for me, it sounded like, “….solo… holographic enemies…  viewing wall in the lounge…rating based on perf-” I broke in,

“Is that a hip flask?  Yeah, it is!  There’s two, no three of them!  God, how much do you drink?”

“No,” he replied, flushing slightly, “It’s a magical drink.  It does magic stuff.”  I immediately turned to Exile.

“Is it alcohol?”  Completely deadpan, she replied,

“No.  It’s a magical drink.  It does magic stuff.” Then, slightly under her breath, “Like get you unbelievably drunk the night before you teach me how to summon a greater demon, asshole.”  My brother, rather than laughing, furrowed his eyebrows, looking slightly worried.  He’s remarkably tight-laced about drinking.  When I noticed that, a plan took shape.

“Can you give us a demonstration?” Dagny asked.  I glanced at her in surprise.  That was what I had been about to ask.  She looked at me and winked.

/Psychic.  Right./ I thought.

/Damn straight,/ I heard back, /Besides, I’ll do anything for a scheme like that.  Besides, you’re on patrol with Zeta tonight.  I’ve been trying to get that kid a girlfriend for ages./  I blushed, glancing quickly at him.  He was grinning under his mask, gesturing at my brother and the sparring cage.

/Not interested.  Not even remotely.  Besides, I think my brother would kill me./

/If he survives that long; look./  He was getting into the cage, followed by Rune, who had… yes!  He left his cloak outside.  As soon as the fight started, I rushed over to it, and started going through the pockets. I slipped one of the flasks into my own pockets, then returned to where I had been standing to watch the match.  Rune was glowing brightly, and somehow keeping ahead of my brother.  He was launching small fireballs and running around the suddenly hilly rink, jumping high, running on walls, and even crouching on the ceiling for half a second.  Will was alternating between shooting with his bow and lunging at Rune with a sword when he had the chance.  His guns were outside the room.

Rune jumped to the ceiling again, launched another fireball, then dropped, right onto my brother’s arrow.  He rolled when he hit the ground, holding up his hands and coughing out a surrender.  Will pulled the arrow out and Rune waved his hand over the wound, healing it instantly.  He clapped Apollo on the back, and stumbled out of the rink.

“Wow,” he said, “Good job, Apollo.  All your rooms are labeled, so excuse me if I don’t show you around.  Before you go, Zeta and Luna, you’re on patrol tonight.  Your route is already in the system, check it out before you go.  Lastly, Luna and Dagny, meet me in the common room for a costume discussion.

I felt a vague pang of dread.  I wanted to change the name “Luna,” but if it was already set…

“Selene, here’s your costume,” I heard.

“Huh?”  Rune was holding out a white bundle.

“Your new name.  Selene. We made you a costume,” he said, grinning.  “During boot camp.  We lied about the Luna costume.  Here, try it on.  And Dagny, we need to talk about your name.  How do you like the sound of, ‘Mirage?’”  As they walked away, I just stood there, holding my new costume.  Then, Dagny spoke in my mind.

/You’ve got to show me your new costume!  I’ll come talk to you before you leave for patrol./

I just shook my head in bafflement.

“How did they know about my na-  Psychics.  Right,” I said, answering my own question.

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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. 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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Et Sic Incipit III. Exile I

Smoke. That was the first thing I smelled. I bolted upright in my bed, hair plastered to the back of my neck, and scanned my room for the source of the acrid stench. I didn’t have to search for long. My entire house, or what I could see of it, was up in flames. I vaulted out of my bed and sprinted the two steps to my bedroom door. Without thinking, I grabbed the
door handle and immediately recoiled from the intense heat. That’s when I started to panic. There was no way out. The walls were coming down around me, and I was trapped. I turned in a circle, trying to find something to aid in my escape. The windows were gone. I guess they blew out from the heat. I had no other option.  Taking a running start, I dove through the second story window. I landed on my side, amid the broken glass from my windows and the sharp pebbles that made up our back porch. I took a moment to catch
my breath, and assess the damage done from the fall. I felt, more than heard, the explosion behind me. The sudden wave of heat was so intense that I started to see spots dancing in my eyes. That’s when I passed out.

I woke up to the overpowering smell of antiseptic, and the bright florescent lights
of a hospital. I tried to move my arms, but I was still too weak. I struggled against my sluggish movements.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” I heard. I tried to roll my head around to see to whom I was talking, but I couldn’t move my neck much.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“Calm down,” the speaker told me, as he leaned his face into my line of sight, “I was called in after the fire at your house.”

/Fire… Oh right! Leave it to me to let the house burn down the house the one time my
parents leave me alone./

“What about it?” I asked him.

“The fire in your house… Its traces originated in your room.” I felt a sudden wave of panic.

/Does he think I’m an arsonist, or something?/

“Well, I assure you, I wasn’t playing with matches, or anything of the sort,” I said.

“I know. That fire was no candle that got out of control. You created it. Your entire house caught fire at once. Matches can’t do that. Flamethrowers can’t do that. Hell, it would take a practiced A or S-Class pyrokinetic to instantly ignite an entire house at once. So, either you pissed off Madman, or you’ve got some decent magic potential.”

My face paled. “You’re nuts.” He grinned, and sat in a chair next to my bed.

“Nah. I’m not kidding. Have you taken your MET yet?”

“No, I take it next week.”

“Good. I’ll be there.” And with that, he walked out of the room.

“Number 25!” I stood up as I heard my number called. I hobbled over to the door to the exam room, dragging my backpack along with me. It turns out I had fractured my ankle when I jumped out the window, and the past week hadn’t exactly been great. Never mind that now, I had to focus. I was taking the MET, Magic Evaluation Test, at school. The MET is a test designed to detect basic magical abilities. It was a requirement now, had been since
2017. They needed to know which students were capable of magic, and which were not. The scoring is pretty simple. It’s on a scale of one to ten, one being the lowest. They evaluate you in several areas, elementals being the first. You’re placed in front of representations of the four elements, and one or two reacts. Depending on the strength of the reaction, you get a score.Then, they allow you to “choose” a specialty area that you think you may have a particular talent in. This is scored on a scale of one to
thirty.

As I entered the room, I immediately recognized the man from the hospital. He was seated at a table in the center of the room. Along with him were three other people. One was a severe looking woman with very short hair, almost white in color. She wore a large black robe, akin to the ones judges wear in court. The next was an elderly man wearing a
business suit. The third was a woman with floor length jet-black hair. She had completely white skin, and wore all black clothing as a contrast. It was very unsettling. The man from the hospital was the most casually dressed, wearing jeans and a normal shirt. It was the woman in the judges robe that spoke.
“State your name.”

“Sarah West.”

“You may begin.” She gestured at the table in front of me.

There were four bowls on the table. There was a clear glass bowl with water in it, a wooden bowl filled with dirt, a stone bowl filled with coal, and a fourth, empty, bowl. I was
completely at a loss as to what I was going to do. I had no magic.  Almost as if the idea had been shoved into my head, I remembered what the man from the hospital had told me,  “That was no candle that got out of control. You created it.” I looked at the coals, and thought of fire. The response was immediate, and violent. The coals burst into flames. They rose higher still, spitting sparks, and the ends began to touch the ceiling.

/Stop/, I thought, but they just grew stronger. I shouted, “Stop!” The flames only grew. The heat was intense, almost as hot as the fire in my house. The fire spread out onto the table, hungry for more to consume, and then suddenly went out. I saw the man from the hospital standing behind the table with both of his hands raised, palms up, towards the fire.  “Thank you for that demonstration. You may now move on to your specialty.” I had no idea what I was going to do. I hadn’t given the primary much thought, let alone the specialty. I didn’t have time to think about it now, so I just walked over to a random one. It was a large star, surrounded by a circle drawn on the floor with chalk, with a book lying open next to it. I picked up the book, opened to a random page, and started reading.

“Et ad congregandum

Eos coram me.”

A wind rushed through the room, and a black cloud began to congregate in the center of the star. I could hear it whispering to me. I was suddenly filled with a cold dread, and I
was afraid. My curiosity got the better of me, and I stepped closer, wanting to hear what it said. I had almost crossed the edge of the circle, when the man from the hospital jumped up and started chanting.

“Exorciamus te

omnis imundus

spiritus…”

That’s all I caught of the chant before the wind picked up, drowning out his words. When he finished, the cloud started screeching, then disappeared. “What was that?” I asked.

“Thank you for your time, you may go.”

“But wh-“

“You may go.”

I left the room shaking my head in confusion.

/What just happened?/

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Auditions II. Apollo III

I coughed at him.
“Stop with the Reagan jokes, and save us,” I choked. His grin faded and he walked over to me.
“Man, what the hell happened to you, Billy?” He looked down at me piteously, and I spat up a glob of blood.
“Don’t fucking call me that. How are you not roadkill?”
“Third power. Flight. Woke up in the middle of a falling truck. Now, who tried to kill me?”
“Shadow fucker. Ice and lightning and solid shadows. No rational thought. Enhanced.” He winced.
“Ooh. That’s gonna be h-” He was cut off as his shadow came alive under him and knocked him on his ass. The shadowfiend was standing above him, and plunged a sword at his head. Zeta rolled to the side, and it missed him by an inch. “Woah. Watch it, man.” The other sword plunged into the ground, trapping Zeta.  But, instead of curling into a fetal position, he grabbed a blade in each hand, and drove what must have been a few million volts into the shadowfiend. While he was convulsing, Zeta rolled out from under him. At that, I saw that Zeta wasn’t exactly mint condition himself. He was hurting bad, and one of his hands was covered in ice. He fixed that pretty quickly, though. His hand went up in a small inferno, and water splattered the ground. By then, the shadowfiend was up again. He ran at Zeta, lunging with a razor sharp blade. Zeta saw it coming and jumped, flipping himself up and over the shadowfiend, using his newfound flight to make himself turn in midair, landing right behind the shadowfiend with an arm around its neck. He jumped up, pulling it with him high, way up into the sky. I turned my gaze upwards, but couldn’t see much. I saw a few bright red flashes, then one constant one, steadily growing larger. All of a sudden, I realized it wasn’t growing larger… it was falling. Fast. The body hit the ground hard and fast enough to make it bounce a few feet in the air. Zeta landed softly, and didn’t take his eyes off of him. For good reason, it turns out. Half a second later, it stood up, looking as if it had just stepped off the production line. Zeta, keeping his eyes on his enemy, said, “Dagny. I know you’re there. Link me and this asshole up.” There was a pause. “Yes, I know what I’m doing. I meant what I said! Establish a mental link between me, and the guy who’s been attacking all of us! And cut yourself off from it.” Then, all of a sudden, the shadowfiend’s back straightened, and he and Zeta started walking towards each other. They stopped… maybe an inch apart, and didn’t move. Until, that is, Zeta socked him in the face. The shadowfiend danced backwards, swords windmilling at his sides, and adopted a fighting stance before charging forward, spinning both swords in a whirlwind. Zeta shot flames out at him, but they froze and sputtered out before they could get close to the cyclone of death around the other combatant. Leaping backwards, all fire from Zeta ceased and electricity began spilling down his arms. He focused a moment and let lose a steady stream of electricity at his adversary. The shadowfiend dropped one of his swords and grasped the other with both, taking the full blast head on, which simply dissipated, absorbed into the blade. Arching over, he retrieved his second blade before jamming it back into the ground, sending a rapidly quickening trail of ice towards Zeta. Flames began billowing out again, and the ice stopped in its tracks, but Zeta was breathing hard and sweat was pouring down his face. Using his powers so much was beginning to cost him. He dashed forward, but was repelled by the blades. He tried for a sweep kick, but the enemy simply jumped backwards to evade. Finally,with a primal roar, Zeta charged recklessly forward.
The shadowfiend leveled his blades.
And Zeta was run through.
My eyes widened in shock as Zeta’s quavering arms raised up and grasped his enemy’s face.
“Burn in hell, with the rest of your kind, you bastard.”
And with that, Zeta and the shadowfiend went up in flames. Then, all we could hear was laughter.
It took almost a minute for them to finally calm down. Zeta was collapsed on all fours, but the shadowfiend was oozing darkness as if it was blood, and its swords dragged on the ground, like it barely had the strength to lift them.
Slowly standing while clutching his wounded chest, Zeta kicked the shadowfiend in the jaw with a sickening crunch, then clutched both hands into a ball and brought them down on its head, hard. Gazing at his now defenseless opponent, he shook his head and chuckled.
Zeta, still standing straight, plunged his hand hard and fast at the shadowfiend’s head. There was a sickening crack and squish, as if someone took a sledgehammer to a clay pot full of live flesh. All I could see was Zeta crouching over the body, moving his hand around like he was looking for something. When he stood up, I could see what he had found. He was holding a small, black remora. It was flopping in his hand, and he looked at it with contempt, then quickly closed his hand. When he opened it, there was just a black powder that blew away. Right after he killed the small fish, the shadowfiend stirred, and sat up. I expected its face would be mangled and destroyed, but no. There was no sign of the terrible… demon… that had been attacking us. Instead, there was a thin kid, with long brown hair. His face was unharmed, and the mask was gone. With it went the swords and the shadow that seemed to surround him. He lost all of the ominous aura surrounding him. Zeta gave him a hand and helped him up. They spoke, too quietly for me to hear, and then they shook hands. Zeta turned and started walking towards me. From behind him, I saw a black silhouette appear. At first, I thought it was a back up hero who had just arrived a little late. It was only when he pulled a spear out of his mouth that I got worried. The figure spun around briefly, then lobbed the spear straight at Zeta’s back, then disappeared. I tried to shout a warning, but no sound came out. The spear was going… I have no idea. Faster than I could ever throw one. I thought Zeta was a goner. Already wounded as he was, I doubt he could have dodged. Instead, a change rippled through the kid who had been possessed by a demon. The mask reformed on his face, and two swords appeared in his hands. I didn’t feel that scared, though. There were no shadows around him, and he had lost almost all of the … whatever made me scared of him. If he was still possessed (Well, he was. But, he was only possessed by one thing this time. Exile and Rune later explained that Legion had given him a demonic symbiote with a mind controlling demon inside of it. Demonception. The mask was still there, just not as powerful or driven to kill Zeta), then I was sure he would fall much easier than the first time. However, rather than trying to kill someone again, he just reached out his arm and changed everything. In a different world, perhaps he didn’t, and Zeta died. A lot would be different. Though fate has not yet run its course with us yet, I wonder… maybe the world would be better off.
Regardless of my suspicions, Zeta lived. Legion’s (C’mon, who else could it have been? Legion really has it out for him.) spear hit the guy’s sword and fell. Zeta turned around, and saw what happened. He beckoned the guy over to me, and together, they helped me up. We went around picking up team members, and not saying anything. Everyone was ashamed and angry. While we were trying to wake Everest up, Zeta just collapsed. He had been holding it off as long as he could… but c’mon. It was a bolt of electricity and a ton of abuse. He lay there on the ground, then the guy tried to help him up. Zeta brushed his hand away, and said,
“What’s your name?” The guy, suddenly looking very young, glanced at me and stammered,
“Um, A-Alex. Alex Ro-” Zeta shook his head.
“No. Other name.” He looked at me, 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.” I thought about protesting, but decided against it. Everyone was still alive, after all. Hell, I could even stand again. Besides, Zeta was right. I nodded my head. Alex spoke, more confidently this time.
“Crane. That’s my name. Crane.” All of a sudden, a shadow slunk up against Zeta’s legs. I was worried for a second, but it was just the cat that had appeared earlier, in the van.
“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,” it continued, “Crane shows promise. Not just anyone can cut me so badly. 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 photoshoots. Okay, that’s everyone. Apollo and Zeta, you both are useless assholes.” Zeta and I shared a look, then glared at Zeta’s other self. He looked innocently back at us and purred. Zeta grumbled at him, then said,
“Alright, Crane. Just ignore the talking cat. Now, help me up before the media gets here.” Crane did. Just as he did, the first media van arrived. The camera men jumped out, and the reporters started begging for a sound byte. After that, there isn’t much to say. Rune came back with the ambulances. The attack was called an assassination attempt by Legion (not entirely untrue, I suppose. That’s all Crane ever was to him.) and Crane a concerned civilian who had helped out. The casualties were attributed to Legion, and Rune pulled a few strings to get Crane in the clear. Oh. There is one more thing. As we were all being sent to the hospital, Rune gathered us together and said,
“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 fucking terrible. The only reason you won was because Zeta learned how to punch from picking fights with people bigger than him.” Zeta looked as if he was about to speak up at this, but Exile 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.” He waved and walked away, towards the ruins of the police station. we stood for a minute, thinking about what he said. Then, Luna, my dear, sarcastic, wise-ass sister said,
“So, when should we expect a callback?

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Auditions II. Apollo II

…riding to our first battle.  Zeta was telling us about Legion.  To be honest, I zoned out.  I had already read Legion’s file, and wasn’t worried.  He was the typical wreck shit up, then flee when the going gets bad villain.  The only thing to worry about was his healing factor.  According to the SVRA files, the amount of demonic power in his body had started to change it.  It said he had an extremely powerful healing factor, super strength, speed, and a few… cosmetic changes.  Namely, he’d started to grow horns.  I nearly cracked up when I read it.  His healing factor, on the other hand, is nothing to laugh about.  He’s a power switcher, and if he has those all the time…  since then, we’ve run into him, and he only gets stronger.  Eventually, he’ll probably be able to take on every metahuman in the world.  After all, he is, actually Hell itself.  Of course, I had no idea of how powerful he could become back then.   I thought he was just another villain.  I’m sure the others were freaking out a bit, but I was fine.  I’ve taken down A-class powers before.  I snapped out of the dose when I heard my name.  Zeta was saying the plan, “…You’ll go on the roof.  Use your bow or a gun to hit him in the limbs.  Don’t bother aiming for his head, he doesn’t need it and it’ll grow back.  Dagny,” He said, looking at a pretty blond girl with a drama mask, “you’ll go with Apollo and set up a mental link with us all.  If you can, try to use your telekinesis to reduce the amount of dust in the air.  Everest, you’ll be in close quarter combat with him.  Luna, you’ll protect Exile and Rune.  Exile and Rune will try to set up an exorcism circle and a ring of fire.  I’ll go where I’m needed.  I haven’t unlocked my third power yet, so I’ll only be using fire and lightning attacks.  Any questions?”  My sister raised her hand.  “Yes?”  She cleared her throat and said,

“Um, my constructs do pretty well against demonic energy, should I move to close combat?”  At that point, the van stopped.  Zeta raised his hands as if blessing us, and said,

“Let’s get the Motherfucker!”  We piled out of the van with our weapons at the ready.

We must have made quite a sight.  Too bad there was nobody there.  Legion was long gone.  It was obvious he had been there, though.  The ground in front of us was a giant crater, and there were cracks running up the sides of the surrounding buildings.  I let out a sigh.

“Very…Anticlimactic,” I said.  Exile, the magical prodigy, grunted in agreement.  Zeta surveyed the area, then bent down and ran a finger on the ground.

“No crystals,” He said, but didn’t elaborate further.  “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.  Disperse.”  He walked off with Rune to the edge of the crater.  Without saying anything, Exile and I walked to one of the cracked buildings. I whistled as I looked at the crack, then glanced sideways at Exile.

“So…  What do you think of Zeta?” I asked while recalling the little that was in her file. Magic prodigy, 16 years old, sensible and responsible.  I nodded approvingly.  We could get along well.  She smiled a little before responding.

“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.”  Or… maybe not so well.  I stared at her.

“Are you fucking serious?  He’s a thrill seeker!”  I was all but shouting at her.  She stopped smiling, and stood up.  She put a hand against my chest, and murmured something.  Sweating, I spoke. “Sorry?  I didn’t quite catch that.  What did you say?”  She shook her head.

“Just some latin.”  I gulped.  Latin=Spells.  Spells from a master mage=bad.

“Oh.  Well, that…  that sounds fine.”  She smiled in self-satisfaction and turned away.

“I thought so.  Now, let’s see if we can find anything about Legion.”  She walked off towards the nearest building, and I followed, shaking my head in confusion.

All of a sudden, Zeta called us over to the truck.  He was holding a walkie-talkie, and swearing profusely.

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

Our journey to the police station was tense and silent.  Zeta had no idea what to expect, and was trying to think of a plan with no information on the enemy.  He was brooding.  The others in the van were clearly nervous.  Exile was the only one doing anything.  She had her eyes closed and was muttering softly, creating a small glow around herself.  After a bit, Zeta stood up, cleared his throat, and started to say, “Okay, so-” He was cut off when something large hit the side of the van, denting it and throwing us forward. There was a muffled scream from up front that was suddenly cut short, and we realized something had just killed the driver.  I rushed towards the back, trying to open it, but something was blocking it from the outside.  Exile pushed me aside, then put her hands on the door, about to burn through it.  She didn’t need to.  Faster than even I could react, something bright tore through the side of the van, striking Zeta in the chest.  In front of our eyes, he started convulsing, then fell, a hole in the center of his chest.  The van smelled of ozone.  I had enough time to speak two words before the van fell apart like a coke can in a meat grinder.

“Oh, shit,” I said.  We fell out of the van and scattered.  I drew my bow, and got ready to fire, as soon as I figured out what to fire at.  I didn’t even get off a single arrow.  A guy shrouded in darkness, with two black katanas and a mask clearly visible landed in front of me and cut my bow in half.  I drew my foil to protect myself.  Though his face was covered, I thought he smiled.  He lashed out with a fast attack, but I countered easily.

“You picked a sword fight with the wrong fucking hero, asshole,” I spat.  He launched a fury of quick slices, but I stepped back and parried his last stroke, lunging for a simple riposte.  I thought I had him, but he moved faster than I thought he could, and my blade went harmlessly into the shadows.  I pulled it back as quickly as I could, but not soon enough. He dropped his blade and scored a deep cut on my overextended sword arm.  I grunted and jumped back, clutching my wounded arm and gritting my teeth against the pain.  I expected him to finish me off with whatever he had killed Zeta with, but he simply waited. I swore a little bit and forced the pain down.  I hoisted my sword again, knowing that I couldn’t win.  It wasn’t that he was much better  than me.  In fact, I probably had a slight advantage in speed and strength.  It was a question of weaponry.  One small, flimsy sword can’t stand up to two katanas.  Despite my knowledge of it’s futility, I feinted, expecting him to try to block.  Instead, without moving his body, he brought one of his blades down onto mine, snapping it like a twig.  Right then, I swore an oath to myself to never again be caught without a good weapon.  As I tried to recover, he turned his blade and swiped it right onto my arm again.  I collapsed in pain.  Except this time, it was different.  There was a sharp, bitter coldness to it.  I couldn’t move my head to look at it, but I could feel it.  Ice had formed where he had hit me, and it was slowly spreading.  If I had been able to move, I could have saved myself, but I felt like I was dying.  Later, when the paramedics came, they told me that I had lost as much blood as a person could lose without dying.  The ice forming over the wounds probably saved my life.  If he had been Zeta, or even fully comprehensive, he would have finished me off.  Instead, he looked around, then started walking towards the rest of the team, which had formed a tight group of three.  Rune and Dagny, I noticed, were missing.  And of course… Zeta.  Everest was in front, with his density raised so high the cement underneath him was bending.  Behind him was Luna in her full suit of armour.  Exile was in the very back with her eyes closed.  As the assailant walked towards them, two tendrils of shadow reached out and around Everest.  They raised off the ground, becoming solid somehow grabbing Luna around the chest and lifting her.  The shadows tossed her away.  As Luna went flying away from me, the shadows covered her armour, and it… just dissapeared.  With no protection, she hit a wall and crumpled like a marionette with its strings cut… by a car crash test.  I knew she was okay, obviously.  I was only crying because my arm hurt.  Honest.  With that, there were three combat ready fighters left.  Exile and Everest were still together, and Rune was missing.  I couldn’t find Dagny, either, but I thought I saw a flash of blonde earlier.  The shadowfiend didn’t even bother with dramatics.  He just jumped into the air, stayed there, and beckoned to Everest.  The idiot raised his density and crouched, then jumped, lowering his density to get some extra height.  I closed my eyes, knowing what would happen next.  Everest jumped straight into an outstretched foot, and with his weakened everything, instantly fell unconscious and collapsed at base of the column.  And then there was one less. Two, I think it’s safe to say.  Rune actually had left, but there was help about to come from an unexpected corner.  The shadowfiend (I’m getting to hate that name, but that’s what it was) fell back to the street, and his shadow spread towards the cut up and slashed van.  It became solid again, and like what it did to Luna, grabbed the truck around the middle and tossed it.  Straight up.  It flew out of sight, then landed with an impossibly loud thud.  It was hardly recognizable as an automobile anymore.  I felt sick, and threw up a little when I thought of what Zeta’s body must have looked like at that point.  Exile was looking a little green too, and I knew she was thinking of the same thing as me.  However, she quickly regained her resolve, made a complicated gesture, and a giant scorpion appeared in front of her.  It wasn’t really giant, like, monster movie big.  I say giant because it was much, much larger than a normal scorpion.  It was actually about the size of a german shepherd.

“This demon has the power of corruption, “ Exile said, her voice not even quavering, “Everything it touches will rot and decay.  Have fun, you little shit.”  At that, she turned and ran.   I thought she was chickening out, but she was just trying to get some space.  As soon as she had a few feet between her and the scorpion, she made a triangle with her hands, pointed it at the shadowfiend, and waited.  She didn’t have to wait long.  Her scorpion of corruption didn’t have time to do much other than make a few scuttling sounds before the shadowfiend gestured with his blade and froze it into a block of ice.  At that, Exile said, “Pyramidem igni.” and let loose an immense cone of bright blue flames, only to meet a sudden wall of ice.  She kept trying to melt through it, but from her angle she couldn’t see that the shadowfiend was constantly replenishing it.  Eventually, she fell to her knees, unable to continue.  As soon as she let up on the flames, the shadowfiend relaxed, and the entire wall melted instantly into a puddle of steaming water.  He had taken out the entire team in a matter of minutes.  All that was left was Dagny, and if she had half a brain, she wouldn’t have shown.  But, I saw her peeking her head out from behind a building.  If the shadowfiend hadn’t been hit by something falling from the sky, she probably would have leaped out and gotten herself killed.  But, she was saved by the bell…  ish.  It was actually the horn.  The steering wheel of the van had come out of nowhere and knocked the shadowfiend off his feet.  At that, I started to smile.  I had an idea of what was about to happen.  I guessed right.  Zeta fell from the sky, landing in the classic superhero pose.  “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” There was a pause.  “Are you scared yet?”

(Hey, long update today.  Not necessarily unusually long, but longer than they’ve been so far.  Eventually, we hope, they’ll all be much longer.  But, for now…  And hey, I know we’ve been less active lately.  That’s because of school.  However, there is a chance to change that.  Discharge and I can make another wager if someone comments with an idea (something creative, please), and we are willing to add new stuff.  If you ask for it.  I’ll be taking care of the timeline soon, so bear with the complications for now.  We’re sorta jumping around a few weeks.  That’ll be fixed soon.  Like, one week, soon. -Zeta)

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Auditions II. Zeta II

He leaped at me, screaming, “DIE!”  I switched to lightning, and jabbed at his chest as he flew past me.

“I’ll pass, thanks.  If I died, I couldn’t have fun kicking your ass!”  He turned around, in mid air.  With a thud, his feet hit the ground, and he became wreathed in lightning.  I laughed.  “Oh yeah.  Great idea. Fight lightning with lightning.  That’ll work.” He opened his mouth, stretching it inhumanly, like a snake, and let loose a torrent of power against me.  I didn’t even bother dodging. I let it fizzle against my chest, then rushed forward with my fingers crackling.  But, before I hit him, as I had expected, he switched powers.  What I didn’t expect was for him to grab me by the head and lift me.  You see Legion said he was a power switcher like me.  That means he can switch between various (usually simple) powers, and that he has a companion like my serval, who, by the way, calls himself Khan.  I called him an egomaniac (Khan means king), and he pointed out that he’s just a reflection of my personality.  That isn’t the usual for power switchers, though.  Companions just happen for power switchers, each in a different way, with different capabilities. Mine was particularly obnoxious, denying the fact that he was my companion.  He claims to be my jailer.  I had to find out what his companion was if I had a hope of beating him.  However, I was getting nowhere fast while he was grabbing my head.  I switched to fire and started turning up the heat.  He didn’t flinch. I swore.  Fucking Super Strength.  I started physically struggling, but to no avail.  After that, I blacked out for a minute.  I felt an impossibly powerful pain in my stomach, but after that…  next thing I knew, I was puking my guts out next to the wall of the arena, and Legion was still in the middle. My entire body hurt like I had gotten hit by a bus, and I couldn’t move one of my legs. Then, I saw a slight disturbance in the air, and I was thrown up by my neck and pressed against the wall.  I could feel the heat slipping out of my body, so I did the only thing I could.  I turned my flame on to the max, regardless what it would do to my air supply.  I was barely surviving, at that point.  It was all I could to do keep myself from hypothermia.  Legion leisurely floated over to me.  Telekinesis, I realized.  He looked at me with amusement, the same way a little kid looks at an ant that’s scrabbling at the glass wall of an ant farm.

“Go ahead,” He said. “While you’re struggling, let me give you a little science lesson.” I croaked. He smiled patronizingly, “Do you know what cold is?  It’s the absorption of energy!”  I grunted, getting tired from the constant output and lack of oxygen.  “So, if you pour enough heat into something cold, it becomes hot!  But…   What if all the heat is stored?” He winked, “Of course, this has only been possible since the superpowers came along, but you know that.  Then, the cold thing remains cold until the storage area is full.  When that happens?  All the heat and energy is released in one burst!  Do you know what that means, you pitiful excuse for a hero? It explodes.”  He grinned as my eyes widened in realization.  I slowly let my fire die, and looked at the wall I was being pushed against.  It wasn’t blue anymore.  It was a deep, blood red.  The same color as the crystal that had smacked me in the chin.  The same crystal that had exploded.  “Oh, fu-.”  My vision went black, as if covered by a blindfold in the middle of the night, in a dark, windowless room.  I couldn’t see any of what happened, but I heard it, and god, I felt it.  The earth shook, and it felt like my eardrums would shatter.  The earth under me spun, and I fell.  A few minutes later, I tried to stand up, my vision still black.  It didn’t work.  I fell back to my knees, and a jolt of pain shot through the one I could move.  When I did, though, the black retreated, and showed me…  Khan, licking his crotch in front of me, on what looked like snow. On a second glance, I realized it was the white remnants of the explosion covering the ground.  Thousands, no, millions of little white crystals.  Legion was nowhere in sight.  I looked at Khan again, and flipped him off.  “What.. Where…  What the hell was that, and where the fuck have you been for the past week?”  He didn’t answer for a minute.  He just continued making these disgusting slurping sounds, as he cleaned his privates.  I coughed.  He looked up.  Opened his mouth.  Closed it, and went back to his nuts.  I glared at him, and tried our thought channel for fifth time that day.  You see, this was about two weeks after the school fire.  A week ago, he had just disappeared.  He didn’t show up, he didn’t answer my thoughts… I had just gotten used to life with him, and then he was gone.  I didn’t know where.

/Man, I’m a dick,/ I thought.

/Hey.  That’s me you’re talking about. /

/I know!  Where the fuck have you been?/

/…/

/What?  Why can’t you tell me where you’ve been?/

/I’ve been…. elsewhere. /

/GRAHH.  THAT DOESN’T-  Nevermind.  Fine.  How am I still alive?/

/That’s easy.  I lent you your seventh power.  Just to save your life, mind you.  You still only have fire and lightning at will.  I just didn’t want you dying, so I stretched the rules./

/You can do that?/

/No,/ I heard back, the sarcasm practically dripping off of his thoughts.

Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital, with Rune standing over me.  He helped me pick a name, and acted as the liaison to the SVRA to get the team set up.  He was following Legion, and was rather impressed that I survived the encounter.  Turns out, Legion is the reason there haven’t been any heroes in Connecticut yet.  Legion works for a gang called “The Court.”  I had heard of them, of course, but I didn’t know just how powerful they were.  They’re one of two gangs in the entire state.  They hire metahumans to kill all wannabe heroes, and crush other gangs.  Rune said that nobody knew much about them, but New York SVRA agents had died trying to find out. He was trying to gather information, and saw Legion dispatched on a mission.  He saw the whole thing, but had to take cover when the crystal turned red.  I asked him what I had done to survive, but he wouldn’t say.  I wouldn’t figure out what happened for a long time.

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