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We talked, and laughed, and cried together for over an hour, about all the reasons we missed Vince and what he was probably doing now. Then Cassie started complaining about being hungry and Micah and I got up to cook dinner.

I felt better after my emotional breakdown, and I think the kids did too. We’d been pushing it too hard. I didn’t think we could afford to take it easy, but I did think we needed to take time to recover.

Today had been a hard day. A stressful one, with both the new monster and the squirt gun theft. Here, safe in the house with the kids, maybe I could afford to lose it, at least a little. If we were going out there, with monsters all around us? With neighbors we needed, but couldn’t necessarily trust?

I needed to be 100% in control for that.

“We’re not going out again tomorrow,” I told Micah as we got dinner ready.

“Not at all?” Micah asked.

I shook my head. “Not at all. We need a break from fighting, and we need to work on the house if monsters are going to try to break in.”

Micah had looked excited when I’d said we were going to stay in, but had grown disappointed at the mention of work. “Do you think we could play some board games after we fix the house?”

I grinned. “Maybe even during? That sounds like a great thing to do while we take breaks. And some of the work is going to be a little too hard for you guys, I think. I’d enjoy watching the three of you play games together while I work.”

“Okay!” Micah said.

Gavin and Cassie had found the bucket of chalk and had been decorating the garage floor as we cooked. Pointy offered Cassie another drawing suggestion, then walked over to us. Her bulbous two-inch legs forced her into an exaggerated gait that rocked her shell from side to side. Even if I hadn’t abandoned my reservations about the AI, I had to admit she was ridiculously cute.

“Micah, your point total suggests that you have passed your next threshold.”

“I did?” he practically squealed. “I was waiting and waiting to check and then when we came in I forgot. I get a third ability!”

He temporarily abandoned the cookfire to do a jumping punch into the air. “YESSSSS!”

His head rose slightly higher than mine when he jumped and my eyes grew wide. I’d thought the boys had seemed stronger and faster, but I’d been focused on other things. My nine-year-old springing nearly two feet straight up was a little hard to ignore. That was about twice as high as I remembered him being able to move.

I didn’t think I could jump much better than normal. I tried, experimentally. Hm. That had been a good jump, I guessed, but nothing wildly abnormal.

I’d been assuming the strength we gained each threshold was some kind of multiplier - you know, so people who’d been stronger before would gain more strength - but I realized now that I’d just assumed that. I hadn’t had any evidence.

Maybe the strength gain was actually flat? Like, if I could lift 50 pounds more at the first threshold, Micah could also lift 50 pounds more? Last I checked, I weighed somewhere around 180 pounds. (Hey! You have three kids and see where you end up. Don’t judge!) Micah was a kind of skinny kid. You know the type - maybe weighs 60 pounds soaking wet. Maybe the same strength that made me able to jump a little bit higher would send a lightweight boy rocketing up.

Oh shit. Wait, Micah hadn’t assigned his third ability yet. This wasn’t the same strength as me - this was less. He, and Gavin, had presumably had this strength for days.

“Hey Gavin,” I called. “Would you mind showing me your best jump?

“Sure!” He grinned and jumped about two feet off the ground.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s really great.” My voice was a little strangled and I was grateful that Gavin took my words at face value.

“And I will show you my best jump!” announced Cassie. I felt my heart catch in my throat and was honestly relieved when all she managed was her typical inch-high hop.

I felt like I was okay at being a mom to normal kids. Giving those kids magic powers had freaked me out. Magic powers and the ability to leap around like grasshoppers? It was intimidating.

A smell of burning interrupted me and I turned to pull the food off the fire and divvy it up. Micah ignored all this, staring into space with a wild-eyed expression of glee that made him look truly unhinged. I assumed he was looking at his interface.

“Come and eat, kids! Micah, that means you too!”

Micah sat down as instructed, but made no move to touch the food. “So, Mom. I have a great idea. I think I should take Channel Electricity. The description says ‘generate and manipulate electricity with your will.’”

Oh no. Micah had always loved lightning and electricity-themed powers in video games, but the sound of Channel Electricity terrified me.

“What about Shocking Touch? I was talking to a woman in the park who had that ability, and it sounded much more controlled. The electricity can only go into whatever she grabs.”

Micah rolled his eyes. “I don’t want to touch things and hurt them. I want to be an elemental wizard!”

“Honey, electricity isn’t like fire and ice, it’s-”

He interrupted me. “YES, Mom. It IS. It’s energy! I know it is, I have a science book all about electricity. It is EXACTLY like my other abilities.”

I sighed. “That’s not what I mean, Micah. I’m sure the synergy would be great. But even if fire spreads quickly, you can watch it happen. At its fastest, it spreads only a bit faster than a person can run. That means you - with your ability - can change what it’s doing if it starts doing something you don’t like. Did your science book say how long it takes lightning to hit the ground?”

He gave me a look of disdain. “The part you see actually comes up from the ground, Mom.”

Lord, give me patience. “And how long does that take, Micah? For the lightning to come back up from the ground?”

He scrunched up his face. “Uh, let me get my book.”

“You do that,” I said, and focused my attention on my food. It might be a little burned, but I had treated myself to a cola tonight, and was savoring every lukewarm sip. I had a couple cases, but it’s not like the factories were producing any more. Once I finished it, it was gone.

Micah returned shortly. “It says it travels at 200,000 miles per hour.”

“Eat a bite of your food, please. Do you… no. Look, let me help you understand how fast that is. The clouds are really far away, but even though the lightning travels, you never actually see it move. You only see where it has already been. In the time it takes you to blink, lightning can move, um…”

Pointy came to my rescue. “Slightly in excess of twenty miles.”

“Yes, thanks. My point is, you can’t actually see lightning move, let alone think about where it's going and make a decision to change it in time.”

Micah looked pouty, rebellious. “I bet I can.”

“I bet you can’t. It’d need to change your brain much more than it needed to change mine for Life Sense. Actually,” I narrowed my eyes, suspicious. “What does your interface tell you? Does the ability look normal, or is it grayed out? Does it say it needs support?”

“...Maybe.”

My oldest son was glowering at his food. Was he looking at his interface?

“Micah. Look at me.”

He kept staring downward.

I reached over and grabbed his face with both hands, forcing him to meet my eyes. “I am serious about this. If you take this ability, I will be really scared for us. I might have to try to make a spot for you in a different house, just so I can try to keep Gavin and Cassie safe.”

That got through to him. “I can’t stay in our house if I take it?”

“I want you to,” I said. “But if you take that power and get it wrong for one second, you might kill us all.”

Micah stared. “Really?”

“Really,” I said. “I don’t know how much electricity you’ll be able to make to start with, but I don’t really have a way to test it, either. We don’t have a way to tell if you would be safe to be around or not.”

“Okay,” he said, voice small.

Thank God. Crisis now averted, I threw him a bone. “Look, this isn’t necessarily a forever thing. It’s a today thing. As time goes on, we’ll be able to get a lot more information about abilities. We’ll be able to talk to more people. Maybe we’ll find someone who took the ability and has found ways to use it safely. If that happens, we can reconsider, alright?”

He nodded.

I hugged him. “Eat your food. Look at your interface. See what else it has if you ask for energy abilities. Maybe some kind of shield or defense that’s energy-based? Or an energy ability actually meant as an attack? You’ve been doing really well with your Conjure Flame, but Freeze doesn’t seem to be doing that much harm and neither of your abilities is damaging enemies as much as Missile or Fire Bolt.”

Micah took a bite of his food and his eyes got the far-off look of someone looking at the interface. I sighed in relief and took another sip of my cola. Aaaaahh, sweet caffeine. How I have missed you.

“It’s not fair,” said Gavin. “Why does he get another ability? I still only have 402 points!”

I looked at Gavin.

I looked at my can of soda.

Maybe today was a day to raid my dwindling dark chocolate supply, too.

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gorn_gorn ago

tftc, well kids do have the tendency to see the fun parts of these things, never the dark parts.

but if he wants an energy based abiity, he can also go for light.

MC of my World ago

telling a kid that lighting moves really fast is just adding fuel, glad the baby isn't trying to kill everyone. yet.

Joyueguie ago

Thanks for writing ! Enjoyed the chapter 😊

LewPow ago

Thanks for the chapter, realy love the story, hope the baby gets an ability soon.

Rhia_reader ago

The boys are gaining strength and as mum she needs to keep up, stay ahead and be awesome just to keep up and her little terrors in line...

Being super-mum is both needed and self defence. Can't be super-mum if you're weaker than your 3, 6 or 9 year olds...

I'm really glad she got to take a break and have an emotional venting session with her kids. Very good to see.

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