Scene 17 – October 15th
Interior MLED Compound, Evening
“Ready to go, Canaveral?” came the warm voice of Miriam Wright over his earpiece as I changed into my costume.
I pulled on my other glove, flexing my fingers to get it settled properly before I answered. “I’m ready, Anima,” I responded. “What have we got tonight?”
“Anything you see on patrol, as usual,” she told me. “We also have two things for you to check out in particular. One is that tip-off about the Buff Boys making a large sale around midnight – the other just came in, a security guard reporting a metahuman making a ruckus in the junkyard that he’s patrolling. Sending both locations to your heads-up display now.”
“Thanks,” I said, glancing at the miniature map of the city that hovered at one corner of my vision – the lenses of my mask added a number of useful details to my field of view. “Any details on the junkyard meta?”
“They’ve been mostly tossing around the junk, apparently. No hostile actions towards the security guard – although he said that he hiding in the booth, so he may not have been noticed. His description doesn’t match any metas we currently know of, though. Shortish, full-body costume, wearing a flannel shirt over it.”
“Probably a new meta testing out their powers. That description sounds like a homemade costume.”
“Probably, but don’t take any chances,” she warned.
I grinned. “What’s life without taking a few chances?”
The response that came through the commlink was a sigh. “You don’t know what’s good for you, Abe.”
“Hey! I’m in costume,” I scolded. “You never know when someone might be hacking the comms lines, right?” I struggled to hold back a laugh as I continued, “no sense taking chances!” Another sigh from the motherly woman. “Seriously though, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Powers testing in a junkyard at night? This is not a person who wants to hurt people.”
“And, just to confirm, I’m not waiting on one of the Journeymen tonight?”
“Not tonight,” Anima agreed. “Its Hypnos’ night for patrol, but since he’s excused from patrols where combat is expected, I have him on console with me. Say hello, Nic.”
“Hello, Nic,” a deep, tired voice commented.
“Hey kid,” I said. “How you doing?”
“Great to hear it.” I stretched, pulling my arms behind my back and bending backwards until my palms touched the floor, then rose again. “Alright, no sense in waiting for Starling and Loki to get back when we don’t know how long junkyard kid will be there. I’m heading out a few minutes early.”
Scene 18 – October 15th
Exterior Junkyard, Late Evening
I had to pause briefly to stop a mugging on my way to the junkyard, but I still arrived in good time. “Doesn’t look like they’re here anymore,” I commented. “I’m going to check in with the security guard.” I focused my power as I hopped off the edge and fell towards the ground, leeching away my energy at the last moment to slow my fall so that I landed silently. Unlike most telekinetics, I could affect myself, which allowed me to do fun tricks like… well, like that.
“Canaveral!” cried the guard as he landed. A middle-aged man, somewhat overweight and beginning to go bald – no wonder he hadn’t challenged the intruding meta, I thought, then immediately felt guilty for thinking. “Thank god you’re here! She just left.” He pointed eastward. “That way,” he added, unnecessarily.
“Of course,” I assured him. “We of the New Champions take these kinds of reports very seriously. I’ll follow the meta in just a moment, but first, can you give any more details about what you saw?”
A few minutes later, I returned to the skyline. The guard had described the meta moving erratically and throwing things around without touching them – some sort of telekinesis, likely not entirely under control, I concluded, and Anima agreed over console.
“I just hope I’m able to catch up with her,” I muttered to myself more than her. “I know getting these briefings from the witnesses helps, but it’s so slow.”
“Fortunately,” came Nic’s voice in his ear, “I projected out there to find the meta while you were talking to the guard.” After an experimental magical operation to cure his degenerating hearing when he was younger, Niccolo Mellas’s senses had been spatially disconnected from his body. He could project the point that he saw and heard from at high speeds, and still report back from his own body. “As of about thirty seconds ago, she was at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Grossman Street, heading east.”
I grinned. “Thanks, Hypnos,” I said, and launched myself onwards.
Scene 19 – October 15th
Exterior City, Continuous
It was only a few moments later that I caught up to her, and I paused briefly on a rooftop to get a good look before dropping in. “I can confirm the guard’s description,” I said. “Looks like she’s somewhere between 5’ and 5’6”, maybe on the taller end of that range, dark-colored bodysuit including a full face mask, wearing a plaid shirt. I’m going to go say hello.” I stood and called, “Hello there!” as I spoke – in my experience, people could tell when you smiled while speaking to them, and responded better to it. I had chosen to leave my chin exposed in my costume for much the same reason.
The costumed figure below froze the moment I stood, almost before I had spoken. “What brings you out so late on this fine evening?”
“Canaveral?!?” came the incredulous response. A deeper voice than I would have expected from a shortish woman, I couldn’t help but note.
I saluted, again deliberately projecting a friendly, irreverent demeanor – not that I wasn’t friendly and irreverent, of course – and leapt down to land in front of her. “That’s me,” I confirmed, smiling.
From up close, I could see more details of the meta’s costume. It clearly wasn’t homemade, as I had guessed at first – a pair of white boots were clearly crafted of some sort of tough, armor-like plastic, as were the gauntlets that were mostly covered by the plaid. The darkness of the bodysuit wasn’t completely black, from up close – it bore an faint, irregular pattern in purple, although I wasn’t sure of what. It definitely wasn’t just painted on, though – it almost looked like it was floating within the fabric.
“I have a poster of you in my bedroom!” she cried.
I chuckled. Yeah, this was no villain in the making. Villains didn’t idolize heroes. Well, they usually didn’t. I lifted a hand to one of my cowl’s fins as though touching a button, to signal to the kid that I was speaking to Anima, and said, “I don’t think she’s a threat, console.”
“Understood,” my fellow hero confirmed.
“What’s your name, young lady?” I asked the young meta, dropping my hand back to where it had been resting on my hip. “And what were you doing in the junkyard? Powers testing, right?”
“I’m not a lady. They/them pronouns,” the kid said.
“Apologies,” I told them, guilt writhing in my chest for a moment. I screwed up Loki’s pronouns on occasion too, and it always left me feeling like a shit, accident or not – I hoped that they would let it pass. Best to just continue, I decided. “My questions still stand, though. What’s your name, kid?”
It was a few seconds before they answered – probably trying to think of a name. I remembered that giddy time just after getting his powers, and not being able to come up with a name for a while. “Call me Newton for now, sir,” she said after a moment.
I decided to chuckle again. “I’m no sir,” I told her. “Just Canaveral is fine. Or Navi, if you’re feeling up to it,” I offered. “It’s what most of the Champions call me, since four syllables is a bit long.”
“Since when?” asked Nic. Wasn’t he supposed to be learning comms discipline?
“I think I’ll stick with Canaveral.”
“Suit yourself,” I said, shrugging. “Junkyard?”
“Oh! Sorry,” she – fuck, they said. “Yeah, it was powers testing, like you thought.”
“Mind if I ask what you found out?” Standard protocol – learn everything you can about the powers of other metas, hostile or not.
Newton scratched at the back of their neck. Probably nervous – maybe embarrassed? “Nothing too exciting,” they said quietly. “ESP and telekinesis, sort of.”
They seemed a little down, and I could never bear to see that. Well, I usually tried to keep the exact details of my power secret, but… “Hey, me too!” I told them, offering a high five.
It took them a moment before they responded. “I thought you had some kind of superstrength?”
“Nah. I control the kinetic energy of the things I touch,” I said. “Lets me pull off some tricks that usually require super strength, sure, but its a bit more versatile in some ways. Less in others, admittedly.” That was a pretty big oversimplification – my power was fueled by magic, so was shaped by my instinctive understanding of how kinetic energy worked. I should have been able to use it to do things like silence noises, freeze objects, or set them aflame, but I had trouble wrapping my head around kinetic energy on scales that small. “I sometimes have to ask Vulcan to help open the pickle jar,” I joked.
Newton nodded knowingly. “I usually go for the table saw when I have that issue,” they commented, then suddenly clapped their hands over their mouth.
It took me a moment to decipher that, then I couldn’t help but laugh – a real, genuine, belly laugh this time, not my usual act. “I like you, Newton!” I decided. “That kind of sense of humor is rare.”
“Not rare enough,” Miriam muttered into my ear. No wonder Nic was learning bad habits.
I ignored her. “Want to join me in the next leg of my patrol?”
“Really?” Newton asked.
“Experience is the best teacher,” I explained, “particularly when you have someone to help guide you. Besides, I’m just off to bust a drug deal – shouldn’t be any trouble for two heroes like us!”
“No,” Anima told me sternly. “That drug deal is too dangerous for someone with no training, no metas there or not!” I continued to ignore her. I was the leader of the New Champions, not her, and I wanted to take a chance on this kid.
“I… I don’t even know if I want to be a hero!”
“Really?” That was a surprise. “That costume looks pretty professional.”
They looked away a little. “I kind of… found this costume. It activated my powers.”
That… was suspicious. Not the idea of a special costume triggering powers, necessarily – there were metagenes that could be triggered by almost anything – but just finding a suit like that? “Where?” I asked.
“My patent’s attic. My mom made it.” the kid claimed.
“On second thought,” Anima murmured into my ear, “you ought to stick with them for a bit. It’s still possible that this is all above-board, but it seems unlikely. And try to find out their capabilities.”
Scene 20 – October 15th
Exterior City, Continuous
Learning the details of Newton’s powers wasn’t very difficult – the kid was happy to share what details they had learned about their ESP/TK combo. Not an uncommon set of psychic powers, although ESP paired with telepathy more often than telekinesis, but the specific manifestation of the telekinesis in particular was a little unusual. I gave them a suggestion or two to increase their mobility so that they’d be able to keep up with me, then simply watched.
Miriam made occasional comments over my earpiece, although I didn’t bother to respond to most of them as I watched Newton practicing using her – their, dammit – TK to move. I was more interested in making sure they didn’t hurt themself as they learned how to land safely than listening to Anima quietly inform me that Newton now had a preliminary MLED file giving them rankings of Self Buff 1 (Sensory) and Area Control 2 (Kinetic)* – I had never thought it was a very useful system for sorting powers anway, spreading some kinds of powers too thinly and packing too many others into one rating. Self Buff in particular covered so many different kinds of powers, from enhanced strength to extra senses to super-speed, that it was barely useful.
As Newton started to grow more confident in landings, I began to lead them across the city and toward the site that the drug deal was meant to be going down. “Any more details on that deal, Console?” I quietly asked Anima.
“Yes, actually,” she said. “The same anonymous source called in to say that none of the Buff Boys’ metas would be there.”
I furrowed my brow. “That doesn’t seem likely, not with a sale as big as this one is meant to be.”
“Agreed, but that’s the word.”
I couldn’t help but grin when Newton let out a joyous whoop as they leapt across 3rd Street. It was nice to see young metahumans take joy in their powers, as a surprising number seemed to view them as a curse. Take young Nic – he had only joined the Journeymen to get help training his sensory projection ability, which even now occasionally sent his senses to random locations when he was asleep. He had no intention of becoming a hero, which was why he was excused from combat patrols – in fact, to the best of my knowledge he had no intention of using his powers in his future career at all. Last I had heard, Nic was hoping to get a law degree and become a lawyer.
It seemed strange to me, as I had never wanted to be anything but a hero. But to each their own, I supposed.
“So, what do you think of Newton?” Miriam asked.
“They seem like a good kid,” I responded. “I intend to offer to introduce them to the Champions and the Journeymen whenever they come in to register their powers. Hopefully that will entice them to join.”
“You just want another flippant telekinetic on the team,” she teased. “They even move a lot like you!”
“I won’t deny that,” I admitted with an unashamed grin, “it would be fun to have a mini-me running around. But I do also think they would make a great hero.”
“Their powers would be incredible for search-and-rescue,” Anima agreed. “ESP to locate people, TK to extract them…”
“Exactly. But also, I just think that they seem like a good kid,” I reiterated. “I know first impressions can be deceiving and all, you don’t need to give me the lecture again, Mom-”
“Abe, Nic is right here!” Miriam protested. She didn’t hate being known as the team mom, but she preferred for her role not to be bandied about in public.
“What, you think we kids don’t know how much of a mom you are?” the kid in question asked. “When I came in tonight, you asked me if I had remembered to bring a lunch!”
“The cafeteria food in the overnight shifts is just so unhealthy!” she said before she could stop herself, and both Nic and I laughed.
“My point is,” I continued, getting back on track, “that I think Newton is a good person, and will be a fine hero. They just have to recognize that in themself.”
“What do you mean?” Nic asked.
“I mean that I think they have self-confidence issues. Did you notice how they downplayed their powers when they first mentioned them? Plus, a hell of a lot of people use humor as a way to cover up insecurities.”
“I… didn’t realize, but you’re right,” Miriam admitted, seeming a bit abashed at having missed it. “How did you spot that?”
“Not important,” I said, brushing it away and trying to move the conversation along before they realized – the reason I had spotted Newton’s insecurities so easily was that I had been exactly the same when I was that age. “Anyway, the other reason is that, while I don’t think that they stole the suit, it would be good to have it in an MLED facility where it can be studied. Not to mention that if they did steal it, I doubt it came from a morally-upright institution. They might need protection.”
If you enjoy my writing, please consider sponsoring me on Patreon. If you can’t afford a recurring donation, you can make an individual donation through Paypal, or purchase one of my books. You can even support me for free by voting for Paternum on TopWebFiction every week. The more I make from my writing, the more time I can devote to it, which will improve both the quantity and quality of my work.