Gravity Chamber, Aiden’s Warehouse, 1:32 PM.
October 20th, 2010.
Aiden panted under the pressure of fifteen times gravity as he repeated the same movements over and over—unsurprisingly, a week had done absolutely nothing to temper his anger, and when he remembered that today would have been the date of his next appointment with Emil, it had only gotten worse.
Nobody had contacted him with anything of substance about Morrow, and Enkidu had remained completely unreachable by phone or text. He dreaded the thought that it was probably already too late to save her.
He wasn’t unaware of the changes his body had undergone—he’d never been this prone to anger before all of this; he’d had a tight leash on it, used it sparingly as a weapon when it would be most effective. Becoming a Sayian had brought with it a much closer connection with his emotions, and there were times where he thought he’d almost drown in them.
Anger, frustration, and an element of condescension were things that came most easily to him in this body, but until recently, he’d managed to keep his slowly fraying leash tightly wrapped around them. He wasn’t out of control, and he had more than enough self-discipline to avoid something as stupid as going on a rampage.
The constant rush of emotions was just wearing him down, grinding away his patience bit by bit, and leaving him exhausted emotionally. He had no intention of letting it remain this way; he would grow used to it in time; he’d learn methods to cope with the intensity and methods to live with it.
Roshi’s technique had become vastly easier to hold the more often he practiced it, and the long spans of time he spent holding the technique had reduced his Ki wastage exponentially. He’d even figured out a way to hold it steady at about a quarter of its maximum output for hours at a time. It still drained him over time, and he’d need to drop it to recuperate, but it was tangible progress.
He’d had no luck ascending, but he hadn’t expected it to be so simple, even with that knot of distinctive texture along his back—it wasn’t something he could just switch on. Concentrating large amounts of Ki into such a small area wasn’t exactly a simple task either, but he was getting better at it.
He was slowly approaching the maximum gravity level of the room as well, which apparently topped out at twenty times earth’s gravity. He’d have to commission Tracy to locate and supply more batteries for the power source, so he could up the level.
Aiden could feel his strength increasing, his maximum pool of Ki rising every day as he spent more and more of it training—the progress was addictive.
He pushed himself to his feet with a great deal of effort, and slowly moved towards the door, shutting it down along the way, before letting Roshi’s technique drop back to its passive quarter-power state.
His phone was sitting on the bench where he left it, only this time it was filled with notifications for several missed calls, all from the same familiar number. Aiden picked it up in one hand, unlocking it while downing most of his bottled water. Pressing it to his eye as he finished the bottle and capping it off with some difficulty before they answered.
“Aiden,” Conner said blandly.
“Sorry I missed your calls; I was training,” Aiden said simply, “You alright? Sound pretty down if I’m being honest.”
“It has been a rough week.” Conner admitted, “Can we talk?”
Aiden cracked his neck and checked his Ki; he still had more than enough for a spar or two. He doubted that Conner had been in the loop for the entire ‘Knock Aiden out for testing’ ploy, but he had a few things he wanted to talk to him about as well.
“Yeah, feel like a spar?” Aiden offered, “I definitely need to beat someone up right now—may as well be an invulnerable Kryptonian.”
“Same spot as usual, in half an hour,” Conner said challengingly, sounding more energetic already.
“A punching bag that’s eager and prompt?” Aiden smirked, “It must be my birthday.”
Conner snorted before hanging up—Aiden was pretty sure the little shit was just doing it on purpose at this point.
Outskirts, Happy Harbor, 2:12 PM.
October 20th, 2010.
Aiden touched down at the edge of the clearing, finding it unoccupied, not unusual—his travel speed if nothing else was vastly superior—he could take pride in that at least. Hopefully, this last week of non-stop training would help bridge the gap between them.
He still hadn’t let his Ki-level fall below half of his maximum, unable to be caught off guard by something as weak as a tranquilizer ever again. If he had to spend the rest of his life maintaining his Ki, he damn well would.
He might have thought Conner innocent in their aggression, but they did know the two of them were in contact now, and there was no guarantee that they wouldn’t try something on him again—especially after how the last confrontation with Black Canary.
Conner’s ever-growing Ki-Signature was easier to pick out of the city of flickering embers, making its way towards his location. Aiden couldn’t help but grin when he realized the lack of starts and stops—Conner’s usual method of leaping, landing, and leaping again had been replaced by a slow but steady flight across the city.
The kid was tenacious, and if he kept practicing every day like he seemed to be, soon, he would see some of the other benefits. Aiden would need to give him a run-down on how to enhance his capability with it, but it was honestly still low enough that that might be a while.
Aiden sat back against the trunk of a tree and waited, and after several minutes Conner slowly touched down in front of him, smiling.
“Nice,” Aiden congratulated, “How does it feel?”
“Amazing,” Conner admitted, before hesitating. “I’m still far too slow, though..”
“You’ll get faster,” Aiden said simply.
“Aiden, Batman told us—me and Karen—what happened at the watchtower.” Conner said hesitantly, “We didn’t know they were going to do that.”
“I guessed as much,” Aiden said easily, “Bunch of dickheads though, last time I trust them with anything—you want to ask them for my ship back for me? I’m pretty sure if I see any of them, it would end badly.”
For both them and me—I wasn’t stupid, Clark and Diana would wreck my shit straight up—Divine had shown me that, but I was more then capable of causing enough collateral damage that if I was truly desperate enough—I might just go for it, dooming a lot of people in the process.
A pyrrhic victory was technically still a victory.
That wouldn’t always be the case anyway; I had more than enough to motivate me now, and I wasn’t going to stop until I felt safe again—needless to say, I was aiming high.
“I’ll tell Black Canary at our next session,” Conner sighed.
Sessions with Canary, huh—he could sympathize with that. When had the younger team gone through that process again? After that training simulation thing had gone terribly wrong?
“Something happen?” Aiden prodded indifferently, “Sound like you need to get something off your chest.”
Conner sat down on the grass without fanfare and stared for a long moment, looking disgruntled.
“It’s not just one thing,” Conner admitted, “It’s like everything is building up—everybody is suspicious of each other because of—stuff. We had a really bad training day—the kind that gets us all put into mandatory sessions with Canary. I see Karen every single day, and I’m constantly reminded that I’m just a copy—an inferior one, who doesn’t have the strength that she has, or the speed, or the heat vision. Clark doesn’t even want to look at me—and it’s not like I can really blame him. I know what I am, and he’s already got Karen to look after.”
Aiden listened to the deluge of problems the kid seemed to be wrestling with, and it sounded like a lot to deal with, even for an adult—let alone a guy that had been pulled out of a tank only months ago.
“I can’t help you with all of that,” Aiden admitted, “But I’ve got some solutions for you if you’re interested in listening to my preaching.”
Conner just watched him.
“Can’t do anything about the sessions with Canary,” Aiden admitted, “Besides, I’m kind of glad that somebody else has to do them—I had to do my time after all.”
Conner scoffed at the smirk he shot him.
“More seriously, if your team is struggling with trust issues, that isn’t going to solve itself, Conner.” Aiden said honestly, “It will take one of you standing up and actually tackling that issue. Let it fester, and the entire system will rot from the inside. These are your friends, yeah?”
“Yes,” Conner said hesitantly. “They are.”
“Then you can’t wait around for one of them to do it, man—be the change you want to see.” Aiden said firmly, “Go find Robin and sit down with him; resolve the problems—then go grab the next one. An even better option is to get all of them in a room together, then do it. Silence solves nothing; communication is what you need.”
“What if they don’t want to talk?” Conner said morosely.
“Fuck that,” Aiden laughed, “One of them digging their heels in? Refusing to participate? Start airing grievances, and when they get fired up enough that they start smacking back, take their issues seriously, don’t just get mad or dismiss them—show you are willing to work towards a resolution. You’re one of the strongest beings on the planet Conner, words can’t hurt you if you don’t let them.”
Conner nodded slowly.
“The whole thing about Power Girl being stronger?” Aiden said thoughtfully, “Just train more often; I gave you the key to solving that problem ages ago—Ki doesn’t just let you fly; you can use it to enhance your physical capabilities once you start building up enough of it.”
“It does?” Conner said, surprised. “How do I do that?”
“With what you have now, you’ll get almost nothing out of it,” Aiden admitted, “You need to constantly use up your Ki, let it regenerate, and then do it again, over and over—if you pushed yourself to max speed, how long could you fly for?”
“Max speed?” Conner said hurriedly, “A minute, maybe?”
Not bad exactly, but he doubted that it was much of a pace.
“When you can fly at that speed for say—twenty minutes,” Aiden said, doing some napkin math in his head, “I’ll teach you how to do it.”
Conner had a fire in his eyes as a concrete goal was placed in front of him—and what else could a Kryptonian do but smash through it?
“How’s Match doing?” Aiden asked, derailing the boy entirely.
“His cells are deteriorating rapidly,” Conner said quietly, “They are working on a solution, but it’s not there yet.”
“His mental state?” Aiden prompted.
“Martian Manhunter says he’s angry, filled with hatred and confusion—I know the feeling well.” Conner said seriously, “I had an idea for that too, we sent a message to the Genomorphs in the city below Cadmus, and they promised to work with us to try and help him.”
“Good idea,” Aiden said, impressed, “They were the ones keeping him calm for most of that time, huh?”
“Yeah,” Conner said, smiling.
“How about those triggers I told you about,” Aiden added, “You get those sorted?”
“Manhunter found them all,” Conner said immediately, “They are gone now.”
There was a silence as they thought about the things they had discussed, and Aiden nodded to himself.
“Well, that’s all I’ve got for you, really,” Aiden said honestly, “—the thing with problems, Conner, is that they will keep on popping up; there’s no getting away from that. You just need to figure out a decent solution and then move forward. So, ready to get your ass kicked now?”
Conner shook his head, smiling.
“You say that every time,” Conner said, amused, “You’ve yet to accomplish it.”
Aiden found that the conversation had done wonders for his own mental state, and he pushed himself to his feet. He held a single arm out in front of himself before clenching his fist and letting his Ki rise to its maximum in an instant; his muscles expanded under Roshi’s technique, and the force of his power-up sent the trees swaying away from him.
“This time’s different,” Aiden said, smirking.
Conner’s short hair ruffled in the wind, and his eyes widened as Aiden threw himself forward.
Byrna’s Workshop, Aiden’s Warehouse, 8:16 PM.
November 5th, 2010.
“Completely over my head,” Aiden said honestly, not even bothering to pretend he was keeping up anymore. “What’s the take away from it?”
Byrna deflated as he failed to recognize her genius.
“The take away is that I figured out how to make the ice skating thing work,” Byrna huffed, “Which means I can finally get rid of these stupid rollerblades.”
Aiden wondered how someone could possibly develop such bad opinions—rollerblades were so much cooler than ice skates, Byrna was utterly insane.
“You could have just said that at the start,” Aiden said, smugly, “Besides, rollerblades are about fifteen times cooler than ice skates—you have terrible taste, just Sayian.”
Byrna slammed her screwdriver down onto the bench and spun to her feet, sending the swivel chair rolling across the room from the force.
“Why do you keep saying that?” Byrna demanded, “It’s the fifth time I’ve heard you say ‘just saying,’ today! It’s not funny—stop trying to make it a thing!”
He smirked at the private joke, and the expression just made her madder—Byrna stomped over and into his personal space, tilted her head back to glare up at him. She leaned right up to his face before suddenly vanishing.
Aiden stared at the spot she had been standing without understanding.
“Byrna?” Aiden said, frowning, “Did you make some kind of stealth thing? Byrna?”
There was no reply, and for a long moment, it was like his mind had completely short-circuited; he didn’t even know how to go about investigating what had just happened. He let his focus extend outward in every direction and then moved towards the door of the warehouse, frowning, as he palmed his mask onto his face.
He’d gotten fairly used to the number of signatures in Boston and the general density of them in each city block—but right now, what felt like more than half of them had just vanished without a trace.
Unfortunately, Aiden now had a fairly good idea of what exactly had happened.
That evil wizard kid had split the world into two—something he had warned them all about in advance. It looked like they hadn’t been able to stop him from performing the ritual after all, but at least they would know what was going on.
A girl, ten years old at most, was sitting on the sidewalk next to an empty car that had seemingly crashed straight into a wall—She didn’t seem injured but was looking pretty worried. Aiden turned to talk to the kid before he stopped on the sidewalk in realization.
He was stuck on the wrong side of the split.
“Mother fucker!” Aiden said, annoyed, and the kid jumped at the noise. “Not you kid—listen, worlds been split into two pieces, adults on one side, kids on the other—following me?”
“Um. Yeah.” She said nervously. “Sir.”
It was probably the mask that was freaking her out, he’d been on the news again after that plant nonsense, so this kid probably knew who he was.
“Good, you’re parents or whoever was driving your car is on the other side of the split,” Aiden said sternly, “A lot of people are going to be hurt, and there are no adults left here to do anything about it. I need you to step up and help me—got it?”
The girl nodded seriously.
“They will return in a couple of hours at most, but that doesn’t mean you get to slack off,” Aiden said seriously, “Heres your job; You find as many kids as you can and spread the word about what’s happening—you know where the central park is from here?”
“Yes, sir.” The girl said swallowing. “We passed it on the way into town.”
The kid was from out of town then, unfortunate, but she seemed to know where she was headed, so hopefully, it would work out.
“Good, that’s your goal; get as many kids to the central park as you can, stick together in groups, don’t let anyone run off alone. You see any young kids in cars—get them out of there before they overheat. See any on the roads that can’t take care of themselves, carry them with you—carefully! You running out of hands and can’t carry them?” Aiden rattled off, “Make sure they aren’t in imminent danger, note the street down on your phone, then find more kids and come back for them afterward, got all that?”
“Yes, sir,” The girl nodded again.
Aiden mussed the kid’s hair up and lifted off the ground.
“I’ll be sending anyone I find in your direction, so keep an eye out.” Aiden said, impressed, “You’re a good kid; What’s your name?”
“Traci Thurston,” Traci said seriously. “You’re the hero from the news, Bubbles.”
Aiden cracked a smile at the stupid name; it got funnier every time he heard it.
“Not much of a hero, kid,” Aiden said easily, “I’m just a shitty bodyguard that sometimes breaks character. Don’t get hurt; I don’t need that on my conscience.”
Aiden darted off towards the next signature he could feel, only a street away.
I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.
My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.
I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.