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Sitting in the barracks, I listened to the other women talking. I was on my bed some distance from them and though they had invited me over I politely refused, preferring a bit of space. They were dressed for bed and clustered around a couple of bunks like it was some sort of slumber party. I felt that roiling sense of tingling anxiety and awkward desire that I felt earlier continuing as I sat there. 

Night had fallen. We were given some time after Bishop’s presentation, for a meet-and-greet, to look over some papers about the kind of training and duties we might expect. I knew I should have focused on it, but my eyes crossed about two pages in, so I ditched them and just wandered around a bit. The soldiers were on patrol around the camp, some of them nodded or said “hello” to me as they passed. This place did not look like much; it certainly did not look like the place where we were going to launch any sort of effective retaliation.

Those of us who lacked the necessary garments received several pairs of sweats and some other clothing emblazoned with the Army logo. Other than my leather coat, I had nothing beyond the ill-fitting clothes the hospital gave me. None of it was what I would have chosen to wear.

Rebecca, the red-head from earlier, was talking to Samantha Roberts, an older woman in her twenties (I guessed), which made her the oldest among us. She wore her hair in a long brown ponytail. There was something incredibly chipper about her, something that made me take an immediate and unreasonable dislike towards her.

“You’ve been here how long?” Rebecca asked.

“Almost two months I think.”

“But how?” several of the girls asked at once, crowding closer. “That was before the attacks,” Rebecca added.

Samantha nodded. “I experienced a visitation. At the time, I thought I was blessed,” she said, and her smile faltered. “I thought the angels were the most amazing things in the world; that things were really going to change now that they had appeared. I mean, you’ve all encountered them, you know what it’s like.”

The other girls nodded, looks of joy and resentment passing between them.

“I had a visitation too,” said Kemi, an Asian girl with spiky pink and black hair. “The government didn’t come to me until a few days ago. How did they find you?”

Samantha looked thoughtful for a moment. “Have they told you about the ‘Seers’ yet?”

This was new. I perked up a bit and started paying more attention. This could be interesting.

Everyone shook their heads.

“Well, I guess it would be ok if I told you a bit.”

Probably not, I’d guess, but hey, it’s not like she was any more military than the rest of us. They can’t really blame her for wanting to talk. So much for ‘Top Secret’.

“Apparently, the first people to change, from the earliest visitations, were these guys. Ever since their encounter, they could somehow predict when and where some visitations were going to occur. They aren’t a hundred percent, not by any means: sometimes they’d get the day wrong but the place right, or vice versa, but they got enough right that people started noticing.”

“Wait,” Rebecca interrupted, “You mean like that guy on TV? The UFO guy… oh, what was his name?”

“You mean that wack job on the news a few months ago?” Samantha asked. “Donald something…” she waved her hand absently, trying to recall the charlatan’s last name.

Several girls nodded.

“Yeah, Seers are like him, only they aren’t full of it. These people can actually do it.”

“Then why didn’t they warn people?” asked Claire, a short, quiet girl with big glasses and long brown hair. She sat with her arms wrapped around her legs, her eyes narrowed and though she seemed surprised to have said her question out loud, her frown and narrowed eyes spoke volumes. She said what I was thinking. During the meet-and-greet, we’d briefly met. She was another survivor, like me, from Birmingham.

Samantha looked at Claire and then shrugged. “I don’t really know. I mean, before, nobody knew they were going to do anything like this. From what I understand, the government has been working with these guys since they started proving their abilities were real, but as a way of observing the angels or entities in case they were a threat. I’m pretty sure no one thought it would come to something like this.”

“What about the three attacks since the first event?” Claire continued, eyes bright, and her cheeks flushing red.

“I really don’t know honey, maybe they didn’t figure it out in time?”

“So what does that have to do with us?” Rebecca said, bringing the topic back on track.

“Well,” Samantha said, her face lighting up, “Here’s the neat part. They started tracking some of the flags the Seers were giving, and they weren’t finding angels… they were finding more Seers! Other people who thought they were going crazy from visions they were having, visions of future places and times. Can you imagine?”

No, not really. The gallery seemed impressed though.

“After that, they started sensing other people, people who were not having visions but often had noticed other, stranger changes. Always they were people who had been present during a visitation.”

“So,” Kemi started, “Every time the angels visited they were changing people?”

“Well, no, not apparently,” Samantha said. “The government tracked down as many people as they could who were witnesses and let the Seers ‘test’ them somehow. Most were just normal people. But there have been so many visitations in the last year that they kept finding more.”

“How many of us are there?” Rebecca asked.

Shrugging, Samantha said, “Who knows? There are people like us all over the world. So who’s to say how many of us there are. But I don’t imagine there are that many. A thousand maybe? I’m just guessing.”

“So what are these powers we are supposed to have? I don’t have any powers,” Rebecca said.

“Don’t worry, honey,” Samantha said. “If you weren’t ‘Changed’, you wouldn’t be here.” She patted Rebecca’s leg. “As to what it might be, I don’t know. Other than the Seers there are several different kinds of powers that seem to have presented. You know there are people who heal really fast.” She looked pointedly at Claire and I, the other girls followed her gaze, mesmerized.

Huh, so Claire could heal like me. I didn’t realize that, but I guess I should have figured it out since she survived an attack like I did. Her meekness and withdrawal made much more sense.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen guys who can run really, no, crazy fast. Some are really strong, like they can lift more than an Olympic weight-lifter, even though they look normal. There are people who have really incredible senses.” She leaned in close, and said in a whisper, “I’ve even heard rumors that there are some who the military are keeping under wraps, but I don’t know why.”

I had had enough. This was pissing me off. She was selling it like we were freaking superheroes. Yeah, sure, I could heal really fast and, apparently, because of that I had a lot of endurance. Wow. Not much compared to teleporting and ripping people in half. Not much compared to clapping your hands and blowing everyone up around you. What the fuck did she think we were going to be able to do?

“So, what?” I asked as I sat up, “We’re fucking superheroes now? Is that it? Why us? Why didn’t we have these powers before now? If we’ve all been ‘Changed’ why doesn’t Rebecca know what superpower she has? How’s she ever going to figure it out?”

The other girls turned towards me, their eyes wide. Samantha held her hand to her chest like she was about to say, “Well I never!” The idea that she might almost made me lose my angry face, but I just managed to hang on to it.

“I don’t know… Peri, is that right? That’s your name? I don’t know why it works or how it works any more than anyone else does. The scientists are still trying to figure it out. I’m just telling you what I’ve been told, that’s all.”

“Well,” Rebecca looked between Samantha and me, “She has a good question. How do we find out? Why have some people demonstrated abilities and the rest of us haven’t?”

Samantha turned towards her but kept glancing at me out of the corner of her eye. “It’s kind of hit or miss. The Seers can help bring out your powers, but just being around other Changed also seems to draw them out.”

Before I could ask it, Claire asked, “And people like me who already know? Why is that? Why did our powers ‘manifest’?”

“Well they’ve said that the closer you were to an angel, and,” she glanced at me again, “...the more traumatic your exposure, these seem to influence when your power will become apparent.” Several of the other girls were staring at me now. They knew I’d been at Rockefeller Center. They knew that was a pretty damn traumatic experience. They had no idea how traumatic though.

“This is fucking ridiculous,” I said, getting off the bed. “Why are you all looking at me like that? You think that I’ve got some cool power? Are you curious, is that why you’re staring?” I leaned on the bunk bed’s metal frame and pointed at them with my free hand. “Yeah, a fucking angel basically killed me, and then I got better but so fucking what? What the hell good is that going to do versus an angel? Am I going to heal them to death?”

Samantha, not realizing that now was not a good time, tried to interject, “Please Peri, there’s no reason to be like this. You are upsetting everyone.”

“Oh, I’m upsetting everyone? You and the military are feeding us this bullshit line about how we are going to be the super-powered saviors of the human race and I’m the one that’s upsetting people? These powers aren’t going to help us fight back.”

“You don’t know that,” Samantha said

“I fucking do! I had a ‘traumatic experience’ like you would not believe. I lost the only person in the world that meant anything to me and now I have a magic power that won’t help me bring them back. What the fuck good is it? Why don’t we have something useful, something that can hurt those bastards?”

“Maybe someone will,” Rebecca said in a quiet voice. She did not sound convincing.

“Face it,” I fired back, “We’re fucked if they are relying on us.”

“You don’t know that,” Kemi said.

“What good is running fast, or healing going to do? It’s useless,” I shouted, throwing my hands in the air, “Fucking useless!”

All of the girls were staring at me, their eyes wide, mouths hanging open in a silent chorus of ‘O’s’.

“What…?” I started asking before I realized I was still holding on to the bed and had lifted the heavy, metal frame up above my head with one hand. It had to weigh two or three times what I did, and I barely felt it.

I dropped the bed and leaped back as it slammed into the ground with a loud crash.

Oh, shit. Oh shit, oh shit. What the fuck? I ran out of the barracks, shame burning my face. I really was some sort of freak. I was used to being shocking; I didn’t care if some soccer mom was horrified by my dress or language or behavior. But this? This was a whole other magnitude.

The door slammed behind me as I hit the cool night air. Hot tears burned my cheeks. What a stupid idiot I was. Why the hell was I so angry with them? What the fuck was I turning into? Why me and not Debra?

If I’d known about these powers, could I have saved Debra somehow?

What was the point of being ‘super’ if you can’t save the ones you love?

I stood there, hugging myself, not caring as the tears ran down my face. I do not know how long I stood out there alone before the door open behind me. Someone stepped up to me, but I didn’t turn around. I didn’t want to look any of them in the eye, much less speak to them.

They cleared their throat. Fine, I turned around. Rebecca was standing there, fidgeting. “Go away,” I said.

That made her look down at the porch. “Um, ok, I can see you are upset.”

No shit?

“And I know that you probably don’t want to talk to me, or anyone, right now.”

I nodded.

“But,” she said in a rush, “I just wanted to tell you something before you send me back inside.”

Crossing my arms, I waited.

“Yeah, I just wanted to say that what you did in there, that thing? I…well, we thought it was awesome,” she looked up at me, a grin spread across her face.

“What?” That’s not what I was expecting. I wiped the tears from my face. “Excuse me?”

Rebecca shrugged. “Well, most of us really don’t know what’s going on. We’ve been told a lot of things, but we’re having to take them at their word that all of this isn’t some bad movie. But you, you really have superpowers. How is that not cool?” she asked, her face lighting up.

“You don’t think I’m a freak?” I asked.

Rebecca winked at me. “I’d never call someone as strong as you a ‘freak!’”

A laugh escaped my lips before I could stop it. She had a good point. It was a good laugh, long and cathartic. I was tearing up again by the time I got control of myself, but at least it was from laughter this time.

She stuck her hand out. “Hi, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Rebecca Avrum. My friends call me Becca.”

Hesitating for a moment, I took her hand and shook. “I’m Peri Delaney,” I said. As we clapped hands, I felt a rush, an almost giddy lightheadedness. Man, my emotions were all over the place.

“Look,” she said, all serious, “I agree with a lot of what you said in there. I’ve got some serious doubts about all of this. But who else are we going to learn about it from? Where else can we go, at least for now? Maybe they are right, maybe they aren’t. Shouldn’t we give them a chance to show us one way or the other?”

I thought of August and the hospital, all the tests, and the strangeness. The only way I’d find out anything was by sticking it out. I wasn’t sure if we really had a choice about that. I kept that suspicion to myself though. I nodded to Rebecca.

“Ok, what say you come back inside with me and meet some girls who think you are a freaking rock star? How’s that sound?”

Despite myself, I smiled and nodded again.

Rebecca walked me into the room where the other girls were waiting. They were talking but stopped upon seeing us. Several of them smiled, even Claire, though Samantha looked a bit cool.

“Hello, everyone,” Rebecca said. “I’d like to introduce Peri Delaney to all of you.”

“Hi,” several of the girls said. Others waved and smiled.

“I’ve taken it upon myself,” Rebecca continued, in a very solemn voice, “To speak to her about her powers.” She closed her eyes and raised her hand, like a politician or a preacher giving a speech, “Peri has promised me that she will only use her powers for good and noble causes.”

Several of the girls giggled while Rebecca continued. “I, on the other hand, promise to use my powers for evil and villainy.”

She paused, looking at all of us.

“Just as soon as I figure out what they are.”

We all broke down with laughter.

Things were better after that. I moved closer to the rest of them and took a bunk by Rebecca. I still was not completely comfortable, but I felt better. My worries about being an outsider abated, for now. We did not talk about tomorrow and what that might bring. We knew that our taste of military life was about to start, and to say we were uncomfortable was a gross understatement.

For myself, when the lights went out, I wondered about my newfound ability. How strong was I? What other powers, if any, did I have? The other girls all tried lifting the bunks, but it was to no avail. Until Claire. She snatched it up without hesitation. When she put it back down, we just stared at each other, silently sharing a giddy rush of power.

Despite the evening’s levity, I could not shake my feeling of anxious tension. There was plenty to worry about, but I did not know if that was what it was. I probed that feeling, worrying it like a sore tooth. In the end, as I was drifting to sleep, I worried that maybe I was turning into a Seer. Maybe this feeling like something was about to happen was real and something very big was coming.

If that was true, I did not think that whatever it was would be good for any of us.

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About the author

Localforeigner

Bio: Though born in the United States, I am now living in bonnie Scotland. Been writing most of my life and though I have some non-fiction (gaming) published, I have never had any of my fiction published in any format. I've written a few novels before but never tried sharing them with the world. My interests are primarily fantasy and urban fantasy. I appreciate any feedback, good or bad.

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