Scene 6 – October 15th
Exterior Park, Noon
I got the scan.
The doctor, on hearing an abbreviated version of the story, agreed that it was probably best to check on my nervous system, and had even offered a discount ‘because David is such a good customer,’ he joked. But it didn’t show any irregularities.
Oddly enough, my itching cleared up around that time as well. I had developed a killer headache on the way home, but that cleared up after I got inside.
It was now the next day, and after outlining my Metahuman History paper I was going for a walk in a nearby park. I couldn’t stop thinking about the suit.
It was dangerous, Dad’s story had made that clear. It had killed whoever it was tested on, way back when. Or horribly injured them, at least. But all it had done to me was make me itchy, or so it seemed.
Reluctantly, I admitted to myself that Dad had been right – itching can be a sign of nerve damage. But since I had none, it clearly hadn’t been.
The suit was supposed to awaken psychic powers, and Mom had been convinced that it did – but the people it had been tested on simply didn’t have dormant psychic power. But what if that just meant they didn’t have the right metagene? There was, after all, the theory that cosmic metahumans actually just had undetected metagenes – not everyone who came into contact with alien technology gained powers, after all. Many of them died, perhaps because they didn’t have the right kind of metagene.
I didn’t have any known metagene, but if I did have one… would it have granted me psychic powers? I hadn’t noticed any changes, though. Maybe the PA4 had just stopped working, over the fourteen or more years it had been left in the attic.
I absentmindedly stuck a hand out and caught a frisbee that had been whirring towards my head from the side, then snapped it back at the guy who had tossed it for his dog. “SORRY!” he called, and I gave him a wave to let him know it was fine.
Yeah, the thing had probably just stopped working. And I should head home – while outlining my history paper was enough work on that for today, I wanted to go over my notes for the afternoon’s Organic Chemistry class.
Besides, I was starting to get a headache again.
Scene 7 – October 15th
Interior Townhouse, Afternoon
A little later that day, I was sitting in a small circle in the regular after-class Orgo study group, when Susan Redhorn dropped her eraser, which bounced high over all our heads before coming down and rolling under a massive desk that took up most of the room we met in. “Shit,” she swore, “That’s a nice eraser. Anyone see where that went?”
“No idea,” came the resounding chorus from everyone – I supposed they had lost track when it bounced.
“It bounced into the ether,” Peter Smith said in his typical deadpan manner.
“Yeah, Pete’s right,” agreed Chris Timon. “That thing’s gone. Sorry, Sue.”
I rolled my eyes. “It ended up under the monster desk after it landed,” I told them, pointing.
She slid out of her seat and knee-walked over to the desk, leaning over to peer under it. “Quinn’s right, it’s down here,” she reported, “but I can’t reach it. My arms are too short.”
“Here, let me,” Peter offered, coming over to the desk. He lay down in Susan’s place and struggled. “No, my arms are too thick. I can’t reach far enough under either.”
“Maybe if you and I lift the thing up, Sue can grab it?” Chris suggested, wandering over as well.
“Let me have a go,” I said, knee-walking over like Sue had done. “I’m a few inches taller than Sue, at least.” Peter stood to allow me access, and I made my attempt. Unfortunately it was just out of my reach as well.
“Too far for you too?” Susan asked sympathetically.
“No, I think I can…” I shifted, turning my head to look away from the crack in the hopes that I could stretch that little bit farther. A moment later, I had my hand on the troublesome thing, and withdrew to present it to Susan. I went up to one knee and held it up to her like a knight making an offering to a princess. “Your trinket, my lady,” I joked.
“How kind of you, gentle knight,” she teased back, miming a curtsy despite her jeans before taking her eraser back. She cast a baleful eye over our study mates. “And what help were you two, I might ask? Two big strong men, unable to do such a simple thing for me?” She held the glare for a few seconds before we all collapsed into laughter.
Spending too much time on Orgo does strange things to the brain.
Scene 8 – October 15th
Exterior Hospital, Evening
When I went to visit Dad again the following day, I ran into a friend on the steps outside. Devon Durandel was one of the doctors at New Venice General Hospital, where dad checked in for his occasional relapses. During their residency, Devon had often been Dad’s attending doctor. We ran into them less often now that they had finished their residency and were specializing in Neurology, but it was always nice to see them.
“Hey, Quinn!” they called as I approached from the nearby bus station, dropping the apple they had been eating into a nearby bin. “Good to see you, dude. How’ve you been?”
“Premed is kicking my ass as usual,” I complained, hugging them. “You know how it is. What about you?”
“Same old, same old,” they said. “What brings you here? Don’t tell me David had another relapse!”
“I won’t tell you, then,” I said with a smirk.
Devon laughed. “I should drop in on whoever’s overseeing his care and make sure they’re doing it right.”
“It’s Mark Yaffe.”
“Ah, he’ll be fine then. Yaffe is a good guy.” They smiled at me, then jerked their head towards the basketball hoop a little ways away. “Fancy a game?”
“You know I suck at sports, Devon,” I reminded them.
“So do I. It’s nice to play someone at my level once in a while.”
I laughed. “Okay, one game.”
We grabbed a basketball from a nearby bin and squared off. Devon and I had tussled before on occasion – along with neither of us being very athletic, we were also around the same height, so it was a pretty even match. Or at least, they usually were.
Today, however, I was having an incredible streak of luck – I was handling the ball with grace and ease. It almost floated into my hands, always went where I wanted it to go, and on the rare occasions that Devon got ahold of it I could almost snatch it out of the air without looking. Within a few minutes I had spelled out H-O-R-S-E and won, without them getting a single letter.
“You’ve been holding out on me, Kaufman!” they complained. “Did you get bitten by a radioactive spider or something?
“No, although…” I paused. Weird things had been happening all day, ever since I had worn the PA4 the previous evening – the frisbee that I caught without looking or even paying attention, the eraser that I had tracked also without looking, and which had leapt into my hand despite my reach not being enough, this game… “Listen, I’m sorry to dunk on you and run, but I gotta go. I just remembered something important I need to talk to my Dad about.”
“Alright,” Devon said agreeably, returning the ball to its bin. “Tell David that I wish him a speedy recovery.”
“I will,” I called over my shoulder as I rushed into the hospital.
Scene 9 – October 15th
Interior Hospital, Evening
“…and that’s why I think it might have actually worked,” I finished. “But if it did, I don’t really know what it gave me.”
“Hmmm…” Dad rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Hard to say. The theory was that everyone’s abilities would have been somewhat different, because everyone’s mind is somewhat different, but the thing was meant to grant psychic abilities. Telepathy, telekinesis, extrasensory perception, that sort of thing.”
“Some combination of those could certainly explain today,” I mused. “Mostly the perception thing… but I haven’t noticed any new senses. Wouldn’t I have?”
He shrugged. “Could still be settling in, could be that your brain just folded whatever new thing its picking up into the senses you’ve already got. That seems more likely, to be honest.”
“I guess so. Neural plasticity and all, I’d probably be more likely to get induced synesthesia. But again, I haven’t noticed anything different about my senses. Haven’t seen anything weird, I didn’t hear anything special when the frisbee was coming…”
He flicked me in the middle of the forehead. “Use those bio classes I’m paying for, kiddo. You have more senses than the five obvious ones.”
I frowned. “Equilibrioception, thermoception, proprioception, nociception…”
Dad raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t take those classes. Which are those?”
“Sorry… equilibrioception is your sense of balance. Thermoception is temperature. Proprioception is the position of your body parts. Nociception is pain.”
“Well, I sure hope it’s not plugged into your pain sensors.”
I shook my head. “Definitely not. That I would have noticed. But…” I considered. “It might be plugged into my proprioception. That’s a pretty subtle sense to start with.”
Dad cocked his head. “What would that mean, exactly? To sense the world around you as though it was part of your own body?”
I blinked at him, and suddenly realized that that was exactly what it felt like. “That’s it…” I said slowly. “That’s… Dad, you’re a genius!”
“That’s what it says on my business cards,” he agreed.
“Why am I a genius?”
I jumped out of my seat. “Now that I’m paying attention, I can actually feel it!” I explained. “Everything around me… I know exactly where it is! How it’s moving!” I focused, closing my eyes. “I can kind of sense other stuff, too… their temperature, pressure…”
“How sharp is it?” Dad asked curiously. “Could you read a book from across the room?”
“No, it’s not like seeing.” I told him. “I’m not getting color at all. If it was braille, maybe… well, if I knew braille. But… there might be something else.” If I was feeling the world around me as though it was a part of me, then… could I move it as though it was? I thought I had done something of the sort with the eraser earlier, so…
I stared at my dad’s glasses, little half moons perched on the tip of a wide nose, and tried to imagine them moving. No, wait, that was wrong. You don’t move your arms by just imagining them moving, you just move them. I tried again, and he wrinkled his nose.
“Kid?” he asked.
I didn’t answer, and instead tried a slightly different tact. I was certain that I could do it without moving, but it seemed like it would take practice. For now, perhaps… I made a kind of ‘come hither’ gesture, and his glasses flew towards me. Before they struck me, I held my hand in a ‘stop’ motion and they halted in midair.
“Dad!” I shouted, ecstatic.
“Whoa!” He stared at his glasses hanging in mid-air. “I guess that settles it – you’re a metahuman, Quinn.”
“Yeah.” I couldn’t stop grinning. “I guess I am.”
Scene 10 – October 15th
Interior Hospital, Continuous
Dad didn’t let me celebrate for long, though. “So what are you going to do with these powers? Hero work? Construction? The theater?” He gave a wicked grin. “Villainy?” he teased.
“Give me a second, Dad!” I complained. “I’ve only had them for like, a day. I don’t even know what I can really do with them yet. How am I supposed to know what to use them for?”
“You have to register with the DMO regardless,” he reminded me.
“I know, I know,” I agreed. “But there’s a one-month grace period, right?”
“Right,” he said. “After that, well… we can’t afford those fines.”
“I know, dad.” I said again. “I’ll register, I promise, I just want to figure out what I can really do first. ESP and telekinesis could be great or crappy, depending on what the limits are. I want to find those out before I share this with anyone.”
He watched me for a moment, then leaned forward to take his glasses back from where they still hung it midair. “I suppose I can’t argue with that,” he said, a little reluctantly. “Just be careful when you’re experimenting. There are dangerous people out there. The Buff Boys, the Crows…”
“Why do you automatically assume I’m about to go out and roam the streets at night, playing with my new powers?” I complained.
Dad raised an eyebrow. “Probably because you’re about the go out and roam the streets at night, playing with your new powers.”
I shrugged. “It’s a fair cop.”
He chuckled. “I’ve known you your whole life, Quinn. You’re not going to surprise me.” Then he sighed. “I know I can’t convince you otherwise, and you’re an adult anyway. It’s not my decision, just… promise me you’ll be careful?”
I leaned over his bed and hugged him, then gave him a peck on the forehead. “I promise. I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too, kiddo.” He smiled at me as I turned to go. “Wait!”
“I think that the psychic suit was meant to be armored as well – you should probably wear it if you’re going to go playing with your powers. And if it hasn’t killed you yet, it probably won’t.”
I nodded. “Good idea. It has a full face mask, too – I don’t know if I’ll want to keep my identity to myself, but you can’t untell a secret.”