Scene 1 – October 18th
Interior Townhouse, Early Evening
I didn’t get a chance to visit Dad for a day or two, too busy with schoolwork – my night out as a hero had left me exhausted, and my tiredness had made me slower than usual as I plodded through schoolwork – but before long he had recovered from his most recent relapse and was on the way home. I was making him a nice dinner to welcome him home, but hadn’t had time to shop for anything special. That meant it was Italian food – New Venice was heavily populated by Italian immigrants, and ingredients for their favorite dishes were always in ready supply.
I had timed it well – he stepped in through the door just as I was straining the spaghetti. “’Home agin, an’ home to stay— / Yes, it’s nice to be away. / Plenty things to do an’ see, / But the old place seems to me / Jest about the proper thing,’” he declared. “Are those meatballs I smell, Quinn?”
“They sure are!” I called back. “Come get something to drink, dinner’s just about ready!”
“Excellent!” My father stepped into the room, beaming at me, and took a glass from the cupboard. “Just water tonight, I think.” As I filled his glass, he said, “Paul Lawrence Dunbar, by the way. One of the first influential black poets in America.”
I went to hug him. “Welcome home, dad.”
He hugged me back, then released me and took a plate. “So how did the power testing go? Defeat any supervillains?”
“Ran into a one and was rescued by Aegis, who offered to give me his power,” I joked.
“Now that doesn’t seem very likely. Are you sure you’re not just offering him the credit for what you did, to stay out of the gang’s eyes?”
“You caught me – it was a giant dragon that I defeated by throwing a spider into his mouth.”
“Not surprised. Dragons notoriously hate spiders. Ancient enemies.”
“I thought spiders hated octopi? 8-legged rivals, you know.”
“Well, sort of. Really the octopusses just wish they were spiders.”
“Well, who wouldn’t want to be a spider?”
We laughed as we served each other – I spooned spaghetti onto two plates while Dad scooped out the meatballs. “But seriously, kiddo, what happened?”
“Well,” I said, taking a bite, “it did actually go pretty well. I went to a junkyard about ten minutes away and played around with my powers – pretty much what we thought they were, ESP and telekinesis. The telekinesis has a weird backlash effect where the same force gets applied to me, but that actually turned out to be pretty useful for moving around. I can walk on walls if I do it right, and jump pretty crazy distances by pushing against the ground.”
“How much force can you exert?” Dad asked. “Is it possible for you to hurt yourself with the backlash? You should be careful.”
“It is,” I said, wincing. “I’ve been super sore for the last two days. It wasn’t as bad the first day, but I tried a moon hop out of costume yesterday and, well, turns out that the PA4 reduces the backlash some. Or maybe makes me physically tougher, I’m not sure. Either way, it’s not something that applies when I’m not wearing it.” I poked at my food for a moment. “Similar thing with the ESP, actually, just a little more low-key. When I can feel too much with it – while I’m outside, really – it starts to build up a headache over time. Again, the suit seems to help reduce that.”
“Maybe you’ll get better at that over time,” Dad offered. “The TK backlash sounds like it’s inherent to the force, but the headache might just be your brain having trouble dealing with so much extra information.”
“I hope so.” I took another bite, then continued. “And then on the way home…” I told Dad about how the night had become the best of my life – how I had met my personal hero, Canaveral, and he had taken me under his wing!
“…and you know, he seemed pretty exasperated with Maxwell, but they also seemed to be pretty… I dunno, intimate with each other? I was getting some kind of relationship vibe there. If they were exes they seemed pretty friendly. Oh, and then we worked out that I can visit the MLED Compound on Sunday, and he’ll introduce me to the other heroes!” I finished, excitedly.
Dad was silent for a moment. “Can we go back to the part where you had a gun pointed at your head, and you completely glossed over it?”
“Oh yeah. That.”
“Yes, that, Quinn!” he snapped. “I told you to be careful, didn’t I? I told you to steer clear of the gangs! And you ran right into danger!”
“I was with Canaveral!” I defended myself. “He wouldn’t let me get hurt! And I have superpowers now, anyway!”
“Oy gavalt, You didn’t have superpowers when that woman was threatening you!” Dad ran his fingers through his hair, a habit we shared when we were angry or stressed. “Why isn’t this phasing you, kid?”
“Because…” I thought back, trying to decipher my feelings. “Well,” I began, “it certainly frightened me at the time. It was only aimed at me for probably 30 seconds at most, but it felt like weeks. But afterward, it seems… I dunno, less important?
“I guess I knew that Canaveral wouldn’t let me be hurt,” I continued. “I mean, he mentioned afterward that if Maxwell hadn’t stepped in he would have let them go, and the police would have grabbed them since the area was surrounded. But even in the moment, his first instinct when I was seriously threatened was to step towards me. I think he probably would have even if the equality had taken away his powers too. He’s a real hero, you know?” I smiled to myself a little. “If I can be half the man he is, I’ll have reason to be proud.”
Dad spent a few minutes digesting this, and I took our finished plates into the kitchen. When I came back, he finally responded. “What would you have done if Canaveral wasn’t there? You won’t always have a partner as a superhero.”
“For one thing, I wouldn’t have gone into that situation without training, if he wasn’t there,” I said. “And anyway, I don’t even know if I want to be a hero yet. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to decide on Sunday.”
He sighed. “I know you’ve always wanted to change the world, Quinn, to make a positive difference. You’re really telling me that you don’t want to be a hero?”
“…yeah, well… childhood dreams aren’t always realistic,” I said, quietly. “I’m just one person, and I know how rare it is for individual people to affect much. If I can contribute a little… that’s why I want to be a metahuman doctor, you know? If I can save the real heroes, the ones who actually can change things…”
“You can change things too, Quinn,” Dad insisted.
“Sure,” I said, not really believing him. “Seems fake, but okay.”
Dad shook his head, seeming a little sad. “I can’t believe that thing holding you back isn’t the gun, it’s that you don’t think you can be a hero.” He looked at me again. “You should take Canaveral up on his invitation,” he said. “Just be careful. And please, whatever they may say, don’t go on patrol or anything without getting training.”
“I won’t, I promise,” I assured him. “And again, I really don’t think I’m going to register as a hero anyway. Being a doctor is already aiming high enough.”
Scene 2 – October 20th
Interior MLED Compound, Late Afternoon
The MLED Compound was a huge building, stretching out over a full block. Rumors said that it held everything from teleporters to other compounds in other cities, to underground shooting ranges, to a full-sized baseball diamond.
I didn’t really believe those rumors – the size of the building was, in my opinion, simply necessitated by the fact that it served such a vast organization. After all, it was not only the headquarters of the New Champions and their Journeymen, it was the only building used by the MLED in New Venice. And with the MLED being nearly the size of the police force, that meant almost 400 agents operating out of it, not to mention secretaries, janitors, management, and so on… and, of course, it almost certainly held things like cafeterias, medical wings, and more. But a baseball diamond?
All that was to say that while it was an impressively sprawling building, I didn’t really pause to marvel at its size.
I entered and met the receptionist, giving him a codeword that Canaveral had given me, and he nodded and directed me to where I would be meeting superheroes! I had entered in the wrong wing of the building, as it turned out, so I spent a few minutes walking, following an orange line that eventually led me to an elevator. I stepped inside it and gave my passphrase again to a microphone in the wall, and it began moving.
A moment after it started up, a panel on the side of the wall popped open, revealing a tray of masks. They were in a few different styles, but all in plain white, as well as a nametag that said ‘VISITOR: NEWTON’. Clever – allowing people to maintain a secret identity, or at least the pretense of one, even without a costume. I selected a domino mask, which self-adhered easily after I pressed a tiny button on its edge, and I found that it came off just as easily when I pressed the button again. I stuck the nametag to my shirt just in time, as the doors slid open just afterwards.
“Welcome!” said a tall, muscular black man wearing a mask that was the same blank white as the one I had taken from the elevator. “It’s good to see you again, Newton.”
After a moment, I recognized his voice as that of Canaveral. “It’s good to see you too,” I said, shaking his hand. “I guess we’re not meeting up in costume? I did wear mine underneath these clothes, but there were masks in the elevator, so…”
“Everyone’s suited up as much as they care to be already,” he told me. “We can take a moment for you to change if you’d like?” I shrugged. “Follow me, then – we’re all in the main common room.”
He pointed me down a short hallway, and briefly explained how their wing of the compound was laid out. One hallway was where the New Champions were located – a common area with couches, a tv, a small kitchen, and so on, with rooms branching out from it. This was mirrored on the other side of the elevator, with a similar setup for the Journeymen – he noted that their side of the wing had been set up for minors and so lacked adult entertainments – like alcohol, he quickly clarified when I began to blush. Adults weren’t allowed in the Journeymen’s area, while the reverse was true of the Champions’ – technically, he noted, they were divided by age rather than team, but they didn’t currently have any adults on the Journeymen so it was a moot point.
“Although that might be changing soon?” he asked me hopefully, and I shrugged, still undecided.
Meanwhile, the central hallway that we were currently meandering down led to shared spaces. A larger common room for the teams to use together, training areas like the gym and the pool, the console room, and the exit that they left through for patrols.
“Are you over or under 21?” he asked me.
“Over,” I answered. “I turned 21 about three months ago.”
“You’d graduate from the Journeymen pretty quickly, then. People think the team is just for minors, but it’s actually more of a training thing – six months minimum on the junior team for anyone registering as a hero,” he explained, “then they’re moved to a main team somewhere in the country. Or not, if they’re still under 21.”
“Makes sense,” I agreed, “but how long is this corridor, anyway?”
“That’s a good question,” he said. “Not this long, typically. Holly, is this your doing?”
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.