Threat Level: N/A
Destructiveness: N/A
Killability: N/A
Might: O
Survivability: O
Recovery: O
Mobility: O
Spark: O
Power Type: N/A
Classification: N/A

Afternoon turned into evening, and Danny didn’t know what to do with himself. If he stayed home for much longer, Kaka would want to send one of the hourly staff home and drag him into the kitchen. So, he considered heading to the gym. However, before he could decide or leave, Danny’s bedside table beeped.

The first drawer didn’t have what he was looking for. Danny didn’t find it in the second one either. Fortunately, the bottom drawer proved fruitful. He found the HoloLens inside a rolled sock. Danny had stopped wearing the fuzzy and frayed garment long before Druid gave him the earpiece. Unlike the HoloLens Danny already owned, it didn’t need a phone to operate and was more advanced than anything available in the market. However, Druid claimed it was outdated when compared to what he now used.

The League had removed the model from their system, but it still connected to the internet without leaving a signal. Heroes relied on such systems to communicate while keeping their identities hidden from telecommunication giants. Danny still didn’t dare use it. If someone traced the device to him or someone found him using it, he could get in far too much trouble. Instead, Danny only used the HoloLens as a means of communication with Druid.

Stay away from the gym tonight.

The message appeared on a translucent screen in front of his eyes as soon as he placed the device in his ear. He tried to send a reply and the messaging app switched itself off.

Can the dickhead read my mind?

Endless questions blossomed in Danny’s head at once. His first thought involved Power Merchant using some unknown basement or tunnel under the gym as his hideout. Danny thought it unlikely. He had trained at the gym as a teenager, learning different martial arts. After turning eighteen and gaining his black belt, Sal let Danny teach classes and eventually, he found a job as a Personal Trainer. Danny knew the establishment, and he knew Sal. He refused to believe the old fighter rented out his gym to a villain. The risks were much too high.

Many of the gym’s regulars served under local villains. Sal overlooked them because the pay-as-you-go system let him avoid keeping records and denying all knowledge regarding their employment statuses.

Danny thought about the neighbouring buildings. Most of them looked like apartment buildings from the outside. He’d seen children around the buildings. Law enforcement and paramedics often visited the neighbourhood, too. Danny doubted a villain as large and infamous as Power Merchant could successfully run their operation out of the business.

That can’t be right. It’s got to be something else.

“Chicken samosas, ready to go,” Danny called, lifting the basket of savoury parcels out of the fryer.

“Pass them to Arun,” Kaka said. “He’ll pack them up for you. Move onto the next ticket.”

“Yes, chef.”

The year before Danny finished high school, the Student Loans Company focused their interests on the awakened. Specifically, individuals with powers that had great future potential. People like Danny got what the SLC called the basic loan. It covered tuition but did little for living costs. The government didn’t want to admit it, but they didn’t expect a lot from the powerless. Since denying them a loan altogether would enrage the public, the government organisation humoured them with a pittance. Danny worked in the restaurant to supplement his earnings from the gym. As a result, he knew his way around the kitchen.

“You need to speed it up, Daniel,” Arun said. “Frier is the easiest section. You need to increase your pace.”

Kaka had put Danny to work in the starters and snacks section. He had experience in every section of the kitchen except the tandoor and worked faster than everyone but Kaka and Arun. Yet the new employee took every opportunity to put him down. He had something to prove.

It’s too bad Kaka won’t fall for this crap, and the dickhead doesn’t understand that I just don’t care.

“Alright, Arun,” Danny replied. He found it funny that the egotistical idiot didn’t treat the owner’s family with more respect. Danny made it clear during their idle chit chat that he had no interests in the restaurant. They weren’t in competition.

Speeding up resulted in more mistakes. Danny almost sliced off his fingertip on the Japanese Mandolin. An hour in, he splashed hot oil on his left hand. Towards the end of the evening, he burned an elbow while pulling a bit of chicken out of the oven. Danny didn’t want to spend his life working in his uncle’s takeaway, but he found himself enjoying the rush. It kept his mind off the gym and Druid’s plans around it.

Danny found himself alone in the walk-in fridge with Kaka twice. They talked casually, avoiding topics regarding the meta gene or future plans. Danny hoped he had bought himself some time by volunteering to work in the kitchen until his next scheduled shift in the gym. It was the end of the evening and Danny was helping with closing when Kaka approached him.

“Danny, I need a favour,” he said.

Dressed in his still unblemished chef’s jacket and hair tied back, Kaka looked younger than he usually did. The kitchen was his element. Kaka’s talent was undeniable. Caught up in his thoughts and ambitions, Danny often forgot about his fluidity in the kitchen.

The techniques Kaka displayed were far beyond what anyone expected of a small Indian takeaway owner. However, the man never displayed the ambition to pursue anything greater or expand despite his success. Danny had never asked him why, and couldn’t help but feel selfish for not thinking of Kaka’s aspirations. He wondered whether the man had given up career opportunities to ensure his infant nephew got ample time and security.

“Our new delivery girl, she had a sugar crash on her way back from the last run,” Kaka said.

“The Rank F Speedster?” Danny recalled the girl from the previous evening. The young woman had the youthful, arrogant super look about her.

Kaka nodded. “She’s been good so far, but these things happen.”

“It shouldn’t,” Danny said. “A speedster, no matter the rank, needs to carry a calorie counter and boosters when working. Make sure she carries those before every shift, Kaka, or you could have trouble.”

“Well, Danny, with your know-how, I can approach these issues better.” He undid his topknot and let down his long salt and pepper hair. “I hate to ask but reckon you can hop on your old bike and make the delivery? It’s in Angel.”

“Isn’t that Wings territory?”

“They got pushed out last week. Dryad is leading the protection in the area.” Kaka handed Danny the padded delivery bag housing the takeaway containers and messaged him the address. “It’s not far past the gym. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll be fine.”

Danny ensured the ThreatLevel App was on before clipping the phone’s HoloLens attachment to his ear. Unlike Druid’s device, it took a second for the devices to pair and he saw all the information projected before his eyes. The League version’s holograms were invisible to everyone but the wearer.

A German Fabricator called Digiphile released a new version of the HoloLens every year. Each version was more advanced than the last. Not long after, the previous models would slow down without expensive firmware updates. Danny believed the super regularly updated his product until he got Druid’s old HoloLens. It was years ahead of the market version. The yearly versions were money-making scams.

The restaurant’s bicycle saw little use, but Kaka kept it in good shape. He liked being prepared. Danny had walked to Angel before, but to avoid the Wings, he always took the long route. Now, the ThreatLevel App highlighted the direct path. It cut through alleys Danny had never dared to take before.

As a powerless, Danny couldn’t help but feel nervous, taking paths he’d never explored before. He felt no shame in the matter. At least half a dozen fledgling heroes died every year in North East London. League needed to step up their presence in Hackney and Islington, but Danny didn’t expect things to change any time soon. He hoped by gaining a hero license he’d eventually bring about change.

“Holy shit.” Danny gasped when approaching Highbury and Islington Station—it sat in the middle point between Seven Sisters Road and Angel. Despite Kaka’s assurances, Danny’s heartbeat picked up at the thought of crossing the tube station. However, when he rounded the corner, his eyes widened and shoulders relaxed.

Dryad had transformed the formerly dreary neighbourhood. What had been a dark park full of junkies, wannabe gangbangers and Wings agents, now flourished with bioluminescent vegetation. It wasn’t just the parks. Glowing creepers framed the shopfronts and crawled up buildings.

There were people out on the streets, too. The smoking sections outside pubs were packed, and Danny heard buskers playing their music in the distance. Now that traffic didn’t need to avoid Angel anymore, the forty-three bus drove down the street towards Angel station. Going forward, Danny could take the bus home.

It makes sense why people love Dryad.

Unlike most supers, Dryad didn’t cause mass property damage while fighting villains. Instead, she made the city a better place for everyone.

Destination in 50M.
Bear left through Islington Green.

Following the HoloScreen’s directions, Danny found his destination. The man at the door grumbled about the time, but paid him in full. For a moment, Danny was sure the man would make a fuss. People had become spoiled by speedsters and drone deliveries. The receipt said he’d been waiting for no more than forty minutes, yet Danny got the dagger eyes from him. Danny smiled and waved. Seeing Dryad’s work had put him in a good mood. Danny hopped on the bicycle and started his journey home.

Danny was nearing the gym when he spotted a familiar face. It was Druid. Unlike last time, he didn’t have his scantily clad mentor behind him. Instead, he ran, clinging to his strange wooden shotgun. Fresh blood painted the left side of his face red. The HoloScreen flashed in the corner of Danny’s vision, demanding his attention.



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About the author

J Pal

  • London


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