I was glad that the tests started that afternoon, really glad.  

My anger simmered through the afternoon run and other exercises.  Usually, I could clear my head with a run, but not today.  Even Rebecca steered clear of me after I snapped at her when she asked what was going on between me and August.

We were divided up into groups of five and told to wait in a room full of various exercise equipment.  Rebecca and Kemi were in my group, along with the lithe dark-haired guy and some other young guy that looked like some kind of granola hippy and seemed pretty fit already.  I think his name was Marcus...Dean maybe?  Rebecca and Kemi started talking to them while we waited.  I just simmered against the machines. 

The dark-haired guy walked over to me and leaned on a machine next to mine.  “I think this is all a bit silly,” he said.  “What about you?”

“Which part?  Us doing laps and getting yelled at, or working out on weight machines and probably getting yelled at?” I asked.

Chuckling, he said, “Take your pick.”

“Yeah, I’m trembling with excitement,” I said, not wanting to reveal that I was, in fact, looking forward to pushing myself.  Mastering some heavyweight and pretending I was punching August sounded like a pretty damn good idea to me.  But who wanted to admit that?

“You don’t look like you’re cut from the military cloth any more than I am,” he said.

Up close, I got a better look at the guy.  He was tall and thin, but not gaunt, more refined I’d say.  Spikey and stylish black hair shrouded the pale face of a night owl. Piercing, brown eyes studied me.  I had to agree with his assessment; he looked like he belonged to my tribe, not the military. 

That damn itch crept through my belly and across my skin. It didn’t help that he was more my type than any of the people I’d run into on base so far. I could imagine running into him at a club, dancing, maybe kissing in a dark corner. 

“Not really,” I said, trying to shake my head free from the weird feelings.  “I’m only in this to find out what the angels have done to me.”

“Oh,” he said, his voice full of mockery, “That’s not what we are supposed to call them anymore.  It’s not PC, remember?  They’re ‘entities’ now.”

“Fuck that.  You know why they’ve done that?”

“Enlighten me,” he said.

“Because they don’t want to be seen as the ones responsible for blowing an angel’s brains out on television.”  I smiled up at him.  “It wouldn’t be good for one’s political career.”

He laughed.  “Good point.  I’m Alec by the way.”

“Peri,” I said.  

“So, what kind of music do you listen to?” he asked.  Before I could answer, the door opened and a tall blond woman walked in, flanked by two soldiers.  Stone was one of them, but I did not recognize the other guy.  The blond was dressed casually in jeans and a buttoned-up shirt, but she still managed a casual elegance that made me feel frumpy in my gym clothes.

“Hello, everyone,” she said in a clear voice, with a hint of a southern twang.  “My name is Jessica Stewart.  I’m with the Seer Division and I’m here to hopefully help you all discover whatever element of you has been changed by your encounter with the entities.  Since many of the Changed have demonstrated greater than average physical capabilities, we will spend time here, testing you to see what, if anything, has already presented.  Don’t worry, we won’t be pushing anyone too hard.  I know you’ve all been out running today.”  

She smiled a warm, welcome smile at all of us.  Though I usually distrusted tall, beautiful blonds on general principle, there was something genuine about her that made me feel less wary than I would normally.  Besides, she was not August, so I could not complain too much.  I do not know what I would have done if he was the liaison with my group.

“So,” Jessica said, “To begin with, I’d like to take a few minutes with each of you and ask you a few questions.  I need to get a sense of you and anything that might have developed since your encounter.”  She started forward, but stopped to add, “I cannot promise that anything will happen today; it often takes some weeks of work but we will try our best.”

Looking around, she asked, “Are there any volunteers to go first?”  Of course, no one stuck their hand up.  A wise choice.  After the uncomfortable silence, Rebecca stuck her hand up.  “What the hell,” she said, “I would like to have superpowers.”

Jessica laughed and said, “A real sense of adventure, I like that.  Ok, if you’ll come over here with me please?”  She indicated a weight bench in the corner of the room.  “If everyone else wouldn’t mind giving us a bit of space?  That way I can be completely focused on… Rebecca, right?”

They sat on the bench facing each other, talking quietly.  The acoustics in the room were really bad, so I could not make out their conversation. I just saw Rebecca smiling and chuckling occasionally.  Whatever Jessica was saying, she was putting Becca at ease.

“What do you think they’re talking about?” Alec asked me.

I shrugged.  “Don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.  Not shopping I imagine.”

Stone stepped up to the group.  “All right recruits,” he said in a commanding voice, quite different to what I was used to from the first day, “I’ve been told to show you how to use this equipment to make sure that you do not hurt yourself while you are trying to be heroes.  I want all eyes on me and your mouths closed unless you have a question about what I’ve shown you.  Is that clear?”

Alec rolled his eyes, but only where I could see.  I elbowed him and then nodded to Stone.  The others nodded as well.  He and the other soldier then took turns sitting at machines and weight racks and showed us how they worked, how to adjust the weight, how not to hurt ourselves.  It seemed pretty simple, but I guess it wouldn’t do to have us throw out our back or something on the first day.

Now that I saw him in a tank top, I could not help but notice that Stone was ripped. He definitely knew how to use this equipment.

Through the demonstration, Jessica called others over to speak with her for a few minutes.  Catching Rebecca’s attention, I motioned her over and raised my eyebrows and shoulders, as though to say, “Well?”

She just smiled back at me with a faraway look on her face.  I could not remember seeing her that relaxed and at peace.  

When Jessica called Alec over, I kept an eye on them.  Again, there was the amiable chatting, the laughs.  Then Jessica stopped and clasped Alec’s hand which I had seen her do with a few other people.  Alec seemed uncomfortable and agitated.  When she let go of his hand he jumped up and moved back.  She just stared with a confused look on her face before waving him back to the group.  Scowling, he came back to us, but would not meet anyone’s gaze, even though I tried to get his attention.

Then it was my turn.  Sitting on the bench and facing her, I felt an odd sense of peace emanating from her, a sense of acceptance.  It was strange coming from someone I had never met.  “Hello, Ms. Delaney, how are you today?”

I shrugged.  “Fine,” I lied.

Cocking her head, she said, “That does not seem right. You seem very agitated and upset about something.”

“Did August ask you to say that?” I asked a fresh bloom of heat in my chest.

Jessica touched her chest while looking away, as though distracted for a moment.  Shaking her head, she said, “No.  Why would he?  Are you upset with August?”

I sat back, away from her.  “It’s not really any of your business.”

Blinking, she regained her composure without missing a beat.  “That’s fair.  Let’s speak about something else then.  I understand that you have already manifested amazing regenerative capabilities.  You are one of the Survivors and a very powerful one at that.”

“Really?” I asked.  I’d just sort of assumed we were all the same, the Changed, not that we had variations in awesomeness.

“Yes, some of the other Survivors are still recovering from injuries they received during the event, at an accelerated rate to be sure, but few have demonstrated anything like what you have.”

That made me feel pretty good actually, proud almost, though I realized it was a bit foolish to feel proud of something I had no control over.  “I didn’t know,” I told her.

She gave me a vigorous nod.  “I understand that thanks to your regeneration, your endurance and speed are both beyond human levels.  I mean, from what I’ve read about you, the consensus is that you are pretty amazing.”

“Did you read all of that in my file?”

“The specifics, yes.  But when I walked into this room, I knew you were special.  I could feel it in you.  Your power is so strong I was feeling it before I even got in the door.  There was just this… ‘presence’ that could not be denied,” she said with a sigh.

“Really?” I asked, sounding about as intelligent as I felt.  

“Don’t get me wrong, some of the others are very close.  You though,” she shook her head.  “It’s why I saved speaking to you for last.  I didn’t want your…signal to blind me to theirs.”

I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable with her comments.  I was not used to people talking me up.  The snide remark, the subtle put down, the bald face insult; these were more my comfort zones.  “I don’t really know what to say.”

“That’s Ok,” she said, “You don’t have to say or do anything you don’t want to.  I just want you to know that we are aware of how special you are and we want to help you.”

“How?” I asked.  “I mean, I pretty much know what I can do, we’ve already figured it out without any help.  What are you going to do for me?  You don’t have to unlock my potential or anything like that.”

Jessica gave me a lop-sided grin.  “Well, you’re indeed comfortable with your powers already but…” and she leaned in towards me as though to share a secret, “Who’s to say you don’t have any more surprises in store for us?”

Even with my new super-strength, the thought that there might be more had not occurred to me until she said that, not at all.  “Really?  You think I might be able to do more?”

“Maybe,” she said with a shrug, “Or simply do what you already do even better.  We can’t know till we try and find out, can we?”      

I smiled, infected by her enthusiasm.  It would be pretty sweet and I might end up with something really useful, something that could hurt the angels.  I was all for that.  I nodded.

“Ok,” she said, holding her hands up, palms out towards me.  “I need you to take my hands for a moment.”  

I reached up and grabbed her soft hands.  Jessica lowered her head as though in concentration.  “Open yourself up to it,” she said.  I did not really know what she meant or what I was supposed to do, but I took a deep breath and tried to relax, tried to just let whatever was going to happen happen. 

When I did, there was a rush of power that flowed out of her and into me.  Jessica’s eye’s popped open wide as she went rigid.  Emotion welled up inside me, a mixed blossom of overwhelming feelings.  Hungers and desires that made no sense fired through my brain.  I wanted to pull Jessica towards me and feel her soft lips against mine.  I wanted to slap her.  I wanted to do a lot of... strange things.  Jessica let out a quiet moan.

We both pulled away from each other, breaking the weird contact.  Everyone was staring at us, some in mid-set on machines.  My heart thumped loudly in my ears and I felt flush.  That was not the worst of it though; I was aroused.  Jessica’s face was bright red and she was breathing in short pants.  

“You guys all right?” Stone asked from across the room.

We both nodded back to him before returning to stare at each other.  “What the hell was that?” I demanded.

Shaking her head, she said, “I don’t know.  It’s different for everyone.  Occasionally there is a strong emotional rise from someone, but rarely anything like that.”  She fanned herself with her hand while she squirmed a bit on the bench.  Giggling she looked away.  “I’ll have to report this,” she said.  “I’m feeling some pretty…strange feelings right now.  What are you feeling?”

“I, uh,” I struggled, not really wanting to tell this woman I just met what was going on in my head, “Strange.  Strange is a good word,” I said.

“Ok,” she said, taking a deep breath, “Why don’t we move on to the tests?”

“Can’t start soon enough.”  Anything to get some breathing space.

 Everyone continued to watch me as I returned, but Stone barked at them until they were back on task.  When it was my turn, he showed me how to set the weight on the machine.   It seemed pretty common sense.  I sat down and watched as he set the weight to 20 pounds.

“Really?” I asked.  “Can’t I use those over there?” I asked, nodding towards the free weights.  

He chuckled.  “Not yet.  We need a slow start.”

“What?” I asked, “The little girl isn’t allowed to play with the big toys?”

Smirking he said, “If you can handle a decent weight on the chest press machine, I’ll take you over there.”

I pushed the bar forward with one finger, yawning.  

Eyes wide, he said, “Ok, fair enough, we’ll give you some real weight.”  He added another 40 pounds.  I yawned again and pushed it with two fingers.  The guys started to notice and had gathered.  Rebecca and Kemi were whispering and laughing. 

“Come on, Private Stone, I thought you were supposed to test me today,” I teased.

Jessica was standing there, writing on a clipboard.  Stone looked at her and she nodded.  So he set the machine to 160 pounds.  I did it with one hand.  The other guys cheered.  Stone added more weight; 200 pounds total.  I mimicked yawning as I continued to do it with one hand.  “What the hell?  This is impossible,” the other soldier commented.  

“Good things come in small packages,” I said, favoring him with an evil grin.  

“Yeah, Johnson,” Stone said to his colleague, “Isn’t that what you tell your girlfriend?”

Everyone laughed.  Well, except Johnson.  

Stone kept adding weight till he had the full 300 pounds on it.  I still managed to lift it, though now I was using both hands.  “So,” I said, “Can I play with the big toys now?”

We moved over to the free weights and Stone and Johnson added weight to the bar until they were satisfied.  “Now,” Stone said, looking down at me as I lay on my back beneath the bar, “This might be harder to do because you are using several different muscles and…”

“Blah, blah, blah,” I said, cutting him off.  “Just let me lift the damn thing.”

“Ok, it’s your sprain,” he said.

“Or your face if you drop it,” Rebecca added.

But it was not a problem.  I lifted it as easily as I had worked the machine.  So they continued adding more weight to see where my max was.  I had everyone’s attention now, each time I managed a new lift, they cheered and called for me to do more.  It was a nice feeling; different from snide remarks and catcalls.  I wanted to lift more.  I was feeding on their cheers and their joy over my success.  At 600 pounds, it felt like effort, but nothing serious.  At 800 pounds I was beginning to strain a bit and Stone was having difficulty helping me lift the bar off the starting position.

“More,” I yelled ready to push forward.

“I think that’s enough for today,” Jessica said.

I turned my head so I could see her.  “But I’m not done yet, I can do more.”

“I’m sure that you can,” she said, “But we don’t know what, if any, effect this is having on you.  You’ve already gone well beyond any expectations we had of your capabilities, and we have not even tried the other exercises.  I think that since this is such an unknown we are traveling into, we should take the course slowly, don’t you think?”

Adrenaline pumping, I said, “Ok, fine.  But I want to try something else.  Let’s go.”

Everyone just looked at me with shock and wonder.  I was not a freak in their eyes, I was something amazing.  It felt good.  Now if I could just feel that myself.

   The rest of the day was a blur of tests.  My strength was uncanny; well beyond anything anyone of my size had any right to expect.  I was already fast, but I could not tell if I was getting any faster.  When they tested my agility and hand-eye coordination they were shocked at my reaction speed.  I was not the only one though.  Granola guy, Marcus, had a breakthrough as well and was suddenly lifting 700 pounds with some difficulty.  Kemi’s running speed and agility seemed to spurt and then increased by a dramatic margin, beyond mine. When they came into their powers, we all cheered and there were high-fives all around.

We did something amazing and had every reason to feel good about it.  Rebecca and Alec were disappointed that nothing happened to them.  I felt a little sad for them but was too taken away with my own success to be that down about anything.

I didn’t know how else to put it. 

was a superhero.


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About the author


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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