Scene 15 – October 21st
Interior Townhouse, Early Afternoon
“…and after I was done crying, I walked back home and went to bed,” I said, wrapping up the tale of what had happened while my dad was out last night. “You weren’t home just yet, I don’t think, but both Legion and Canaveral were gone when I got back here.”
Dad was silent for a bit as he digested this. “I’m not exactly happy that such a dangerous villain was right outside our house,” he said eventually. “It doesn’t seem like there was anything you could do about that, though, and you did everything you could – more than you should have maybe, but you did great.”
I stared in surprise.
“What?” he asked. “Did you think I was going to be mad at you?”
“Well… you seemed upset about the gun thing,” I ventured.
He shook his head. “I wasn’t angry that you were in danger. Worried, sure, but if you’re considering being a hero, then you’re going to be in danger a lot, and that’s just something I need to get used to. I was upset because it seemed like you hadn’t noticed the danger, which is another thing entirely.”
Dad tapped his fingers impatiently for a moment. “I’m certain there’s a quote that’s applicable here, but for the life of me I can’t think of it,” he complained. “The point I’m trying to make, though, is that I don’t want you to rush into danger without being aware of it. That’s how you get hurt. And I don’t want you to forget when you are in danger. But what you did last night?” He took my hand and squeezed it encouragingly. “You knew that you were in danger, but you didn’t fall apart until afterwards. And then, when the danger wasn’t actually over, you held together until it was.
“I admit that I probably don’t know much about what it takes to be a hero, but I would think that being able to put things aside when you have to is important.”
I blinked at him. “Why I did think you didn’t want me to be a hero?”
“I have no idea, kid,” he said with a chuckle. “I would love for you to be a hero. I think you would do amazing. And I don’t want you to give up on that just because you don’t think you can – if you really don’t want to, that’s one thing, but…”
I sighed. “I honestly don’t know at this point, Dad. That fight was…” I drummed my fingers on the table beneath his hand, and he released me. “Exhilarating,” I finally said. “I know that probably sounds weird, but…”
“Not at all, a lot of people think adrenaline feels great.”
I ignored him. “I enjoyed it as I was doing it. But I was so useless. All I did was get in the way.”
“You’ll be trained,” Dad said, trying to comfort me.
“Training? What good will that do when my powers couldn’t do anything? I couldn’t protect myself, I couldn’t help Canaveral, all I could do was…” I sighed, looking away. “All I could do was run away.”
“Quinn. Kiddo.” Dad gently took my chin and turned my head so he could look into my eyes. “You’re letting your anxieties get the better of you,” he told me, seriously. “You’re a beginner at the hero thing – less than that, you haven’t even really started. You can’t compare yourself to people who’ve been doing this five, ten years, and expect to match up perfectly.”
“But I’ll have to, no one is going to slow down to match me -”
“How long have you been training to be a doctor?”
I blinked. “A little over three years, I guess?”
“Does that match up to actual doctors?”
“Of course not, they have another five years of schooling over me, not to mention years of residency before they’re proper doctors on their own-”
“Would you expect yourself to match up to a doctor, then?”
“Well, no, not until I’m through with school-”
“So why are you comparing yourself to heroes when you haven’t even had six months of training?”
I closed my eyes and leaned forward, resting my head on the table. “I guess you’re right.”
“I usually am, kiddo,” Dad said, and even though I wasn’t looking at him I could hear the smile in his voice. “And here’s another secret for you – if someone was injured, and the only other person to help them was some random guy without even your three years of premed, which do you think they would want to help them?”
“There you are then.”
I raised my head. “Maybe it’s just… I feel like I’d be throwing my medical career away, if I went into hero work. It’s not exactly a part-time job, once you’re through the Journeymen. It feels like I’d be losing the progress I’ve made towards one long and difficult career just to start all over in another.”
Dad patted me on the shoulder. “You’d be helping people either way, and either way I’ll be proud of you. And Quinn…” he paused, as though unsure he should say what came next. “Your mother would be too.”
Scene 16 – October 22nd
Interior Thrift Shop, Afternoon
Instead of going home with Dad after school the next day, I decided to head over to the Waterfront district – I had some shopping that I wanted to do. While I still hadn’t made a decision about being a hero, I definitely didn’t want to stop going out and about as Newton – if nothing else, it made commutes much easier. And if I was going to go out in costume and plaid and get it destroyed as I had last night, I was going to need more shirts.
I mean, I wasn’t exactly planning on getting into more fights, but apparently wearing a costume made them inevitable – I was two for two so far. As such, I was out to find all the cheap flannel I could get in the thrift stores that filled the area.
It was going pretty well when I spotted a familiar-looking face – the blonde girl from the Compound, the one who had introduced herself as Loki’s secret identity. She was browsing a little farther down the aisle, with some finds of her own in a bag. What had her name been? Hollis? Sally? No, Holly!
“Hey, Holly!” I called, walking toward her.
She turned to face me, blinking in surprise. “Quinn?”
“It’s nice to see you again,” I said with a smile. “I didn’t expect to run into you!”
Holly smiled back, “It’s good to see you too,” she said, and glanced down at the bag I was holding. “Wow, that’s a lot of flannel.”
I shrugged. “One of mine got kind of destroyed by, well,” I took a moment to peer around with ESP to make sure no one was paying us any attention – it didn’t seem like it. “By Legion – the bossman probably mentioned what happened.”
“Only briefly. Are you alright?”
“Fine,” I assured her. “Tore through the shirt, but I think my suit must be tougher than it looks. I’ve got nothing worse than bruises.”
“That’s a relief.” Her eyes flickered up and down me for a moment. “Heh. I like your shirt.”
I glanced down to see what I had pulled out of my dresser today – it was the shirt I had found the same night as the PA4, the
Mr. Mrs. Dr. shirt that had belonged to my mother. “Thanks! Seems fitting, you know? Anyway, I figure if I’m going to be wearing plaid shirts over my costume, I should probably have some extras. What are you looking for?”
She shrugged. “Nothing in particular, really, I just enjoy looking for deals, you know? I like browsing for stuff and then finding the same stuff, or similar, for less in other places.”
“I see.” I paused, then asked, “do you know if Legion’s been caught yet?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. She hasn’t been seen since that night, actually – the conversation you had with her after retreated from the battle was the last reported sighting.”
We stood there awkwardly for a moment, neither of us seeming to be quite sure where to take the conversation, before she shifted a little and spoke again. “You said the shirt was fitting – do you want to be a doctor, then?” I nodded. “What kind? Medical, scientific, magical?”
“Medical. I’m planning on specializing in metahuman medicine – right now it’s just bio, of course. What about you, are you in college?”
“Yeah, I’m a senior at UNV.”
“Oh hey, me too!” I offered a high five, which she returned.
“Nice! I’d say it’s weird we’ve never run into each other, but it’s a big campus and we’re not exactly in the same department.”
“I think we might have been in the same art history course sophomore year, actually,” I said, trying to think. “Big circular hall with a giant holoprojector in the middle?”
“Maybe,” she said thoughtfully. “I definitely took an art history course in that room – Pardee Hall, right? But it had so many people that I really have no clue.”
“Hm. Anyway, I think I interrupted you – what were you saying?”
“You’re good,” Holly assured me. “I was just saying that we’re in completely different departments – you’re bio, I’m magical studies and art.”
“Oh, you’re an artist too?” I asked. “What kind? I do a lot of sketching, myself.”
“Sculpture, mostly, although I dabble in all sorts. It helps with the…” she made a gesture which my eyes and ESP both insisted wasn’t possible – her fingers seemed to pass through each other, and she suddenly had too many of them, and also too few, and even though it took less than a second my head was starting to ache. When she was done blatantly breaking the laws of physics with one hand, she was holding a rose.
I tried to ignore the headache, and reached out. “May I?” She nodded, so I took the rose. I felt nothing, but it moved as though I was actually holding it. When I pressed my fingers together, it actually seemed to be depressing my flesh as though there was actually a stem in the way, even though I could feel that there wasn’t.
It was very, very cool, even if it wasn’t helping my headache to have my senses arguing about the truth.
“I don’t actually use illusions, I manually control photons and sound waves,” she told me, “so I need to understand what makes art realistic. All my work is in hyper-realistic styles to help me get that understanding, even though I’d prefer to work in a more cartoony style.” She sighed. “It would nice to be able to make a portrait in less than 20 hours, you know?”
I nodded. “I kind of get what you mean. I’d like to draw more realistically, myself, but I rarely have time for more than cartoony sketches between all my classes. Hell, I have to do most of that in class.”
“I’d love to take a look sometime, if you don’t mind,” Holly offered. “I can probably give you advice on making your drawings a little more realistic.”
“Would you? That would be great. Art classes just don’t fit into my schedule anymore.”
“Ugh, scheduling is the worst,” she complained. “Magical studies is easy, but like I said, hyper-realism is so time-consuming. Not to mention my, ah, part-time job, and my independent magical research. And just imagine trying to schedule dungeons and dragons around all of that!”
“How do you find time to sleep?” I asked. “Really, I’m genuinely curious.”
“I don’t,” she deadpanned, “I just cover my eye-bags with magic. Who needs makeup?”
We laughed. After a moment, though, I mentally backtracked. “Hold on, did you say that magical studies is easy? I heard that was one of the hardest majors?”
She shrugged. “Eh. It’s more frustrating than hard. So many mages hoarded – and still hoard – magical lore that there’s just not enough information out there. And there’s no practical magic at all, which is part of my frustration. I mean, how can you call yourself a magician without actually being able to use magic?”
“Or at least wearing a top hat.”