Threat Level: N/A
Destructiveness: N/A
Killability: N/A
Might: F
Survivability: E
Recovery: F
Mobility: F
Spark: D
Power Type: Unknown
Classification: Unknown

Danny couldn’t wait to try his new powers outside the confines of his home. However, without a means to hide his secret identity, he needed to tread carefully. To function safely as an unlicensed hero, he needed two vital tools.

Most important of the two was a costume—or at least the means to hide his face. Facial recognition software, passports, and all forms of digital identification made supers easy to track. With barely any savings and no relevant skills, Danny didn’t have the means to purchase a costume or make his own. For the time being, he settled on one of Kaka’s old rain coats.

Fifteen years ago, Kaka was a much a larger man. Raising a child and simultaneously launching a small business took a toll on his health and for a short while his gut ballooned. As a result, the raincoat fit comfortably around his wide shoulders. Undoing the sleeve buttons made them wide enough to fit his widened forearms, too, making it ideal. However, he had too much extra room around the waist. Danny settled for buttoning the garment and binding a belt around the waist.

Since he didn’t want anyone to see his skin colour, Danny wrapped a scarf around his mouth and put on a pair of swimming goggles, too. Gloves with the palms cut out sufficed for the hands. He finished the ensemble with a pair of waterproof trousers and tucked them into his work boots. They protected his toes from dropped knives and pans.

Next, he needed a device that would alert him of his surroundings and help him navigate. Since law enforcement and the League could track most phones and civilian Holo devices, he settled on Druid’s discarded HoloLens. First, he downloaded the ThreatLevel App and database extension. The developers had added anonymity functions to it, so contributors could keep their identities secret. After all, people uploaded details regarding supers’ powers, which they often wanted to keep secret.

Druid had wiped the HoloLens before giving it to Danny, leaving nothing but the messaging app. It didn’t have all the special tools heroes used, but also any security firmware. Much to his disappointment, when he tried to boot the HoloLens through the extension it failed.

Damn it!

Danny expected the plan to fail. He had little knowledge of jail breaking smart devices, and none as far as Fabricator-made devices were concerned. Once upon a time, the League had an Intellectual category. They were the best hackers and tacticians. More progressive communities and supers rallied against using the term since it offended the academically challenged. The League removed the label and reassigned supers in the category to the Fabricator or Mind types. If Danny’s powers put him under either umbrella, modifying the HoloLens for his purposes would’ve been easier.

For the time being, he settled on doing without the device. Danny snuck down the stairs and past the kitchen. He paused, listening out for Kaka. The kitchen’s sounds drowned out all voices. He pressed his left hand against the heavy door and opened the mouth orifice. He still failed to confirm Kaka’s presence.

As long as he doesn’t find out, I’m good.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Kaka’s voice stopped Danny in his tracks.

He saw no point in lying. “I’m going out to test my new powers.”

“And where were you planning on doing that?”

“The underground,” Danny said after some thought. “The city never got around to fixing up the tunnels around Angel station. Now that Dryad is down, that’s not going to happen any time soon.”

Kaka sighed. “You’re not doing that. Come with me.”

“I’ll be fine—”

Instead of continuing the conversation, Kaka opened the entrance to the basement and disappeared down the steps. Danny waited for a moment, trying to find a way to argue without following him down or alerting the kitchen workers. He failed to find the words in the end and followed.

Much to his surprise, when he got to the bottom of the stairs another flight waited for him behind the bookcases. Danny paused, inspecting the metal slab attached to the shelves and the heavy hinges that connected them to the wall. It looked like the entrance to a safe. When he heard Kaka clear his throat from the floor below, Danny hurried after him.

While the first basement looked like a cross between a library and an office space, the second resembled a workshop out of a mediaeval fantasy. Lamps glowing with ethereal purple and golden lights hung from the ceiling, and strange paintings decorated the walls. The Asuran Veda sat on a table against the wall below the stairs. On the opposite wall stood a doorway, glowing with an eerie swirl of blue, pink, and black.

Kaka waited by the door, but as Danny reached the bottom step he froze. The seams at the centre of his palms parted without his prompting, and he felt the muscles inside his hand mouths twitch. Danny’s stomach twisted itself into knots, and his heart pounded in his chest.

“Don’t be afraid,” Kaka said. “The doorway is perfectly contained.”

Danny believed him, but his body refused to advance. While out on the streets, when he saw danger, Danny’s instincts told him to run towards it and help anyone that needed it. He had to fight the instincts and remind himself of his powerless status. Now, every fibre of his being told him to abandon Kaka and flee.

“What is that?” Danny asked.

“You come from a long line of Keepers, Danny,” he answered. “Everything you see around you was born in a dimension that's not ours. They came from elsewhere. Our job is to keep them hidden and out of hands that might use them to hurt others. This door is one such relic. However, I’ve learnt to contain the drawbacks that come from using it.”

Even though Danny willed the hand mouths to close, they didn’t obey. The soft humming coming from them intensified. Even though Danny didn’t directly look at the relics hanging from the walls and sitting in display cases, he got rough images of them in his mind’s eye. The door concerned him more than any of the others. It called on him as loud as the Asuran Veda. The hands’ sonar-like effect detected the frame, but Danny got nothing from beyond the doorway. His heart dropped when Kaka waved at him to follow, strode through the rippling pink, and disappeared.

You trust Kaka. Listen to him.

When his body still didn’t obey, he whispered, “Expel.’” The hand mouths spat out the glassy eyeballs. Now that he saw them in the real world, the spheres didn’t bother him. Instead, he found the way his bones and muscles contorted to push them out disturbing.

Besides the constant feedback of information Danny got from the eyeballs, he sensed a secondary mental link to them. The invisible force felt like two tethers connecting them to his head. When he willed one to drift over his left shoulder, it floated away from the other he obeyed. A dull ache stirred in Danny’s skull, but it wasn’t as bad as when he first summoned the eyeballs. Danny ignored the discomfort and sent one eyeball towards the doorway.

Kaka’s head popped through the rippling lights, startling Danny. “Stop wasting time,” he said. Kaka jumped when he found the eyeball floating inches from his face. “I command this relic. It won’t hurt you. I promise.”

Danny felt a pang of anger at the thought of Kaka being a super all along and hiding it from him. He focused on his breathing, forcing the annoyance away, and reminding himself to stay calm. There were many questions Kaka still hadn’t answered. If Danny wanted the freedom to use his powers while maintaining a good relationship with his uncle and learn more about their family, he needed to cooperate. So he took a deep breathe in and marched through the doorway.

Kabandha’s magic had changed more than just Danny’s arms. Even though his heart wanted to beat its way out of his chest, Danny’s temples didn’t throb like they always did when under stress. Instead, when he focused on deep breathing, the air didn’t just flow out of his mouth and nostrils, but his hands as well. It took a minute, but Danny managed to get his heart rate down and focus replaced fear.

I finally have power. It won’t be long before I join the League. Nothing can stop me now.

Passing through purple swirls felt like walking through a film of ice-cold oil. The greasiness only lasted for a second but sent a chill running down his spine. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust, but Danny found a mirror of the room he had just left behind. Sanskrit appeared in the air in front of Danny and like before he had no trouble deciphering them.

The master of Mirror World has granted you free access.
Secondary life-form detected.
Life-form type: Asura
Kabandha requests permission to manifest his reflection in Mirror World.
As the primary, the decision is yours.

“Is this magic or some sort of advanced tech?” Danny asked. “This feels like some sci-fi shit.”

“That’s the million-pound question, isn’t it?” Kaka laughed. “Technology and phenomenon beyond our understanding might as well be magic to us. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Grant him the necessary permission.”

When Danny moved, the words moved with him, remaining stationary in his perspective. It felt no different from clipping the HoloScreen to a pair of glasses. He wondered whether Kaka’s relic was an advanced version of the Holo devices. Danny had heard the newest models were no bigger than contact lenses. It was likely extra-planar deities had grown past the need for physical conduits and containers.

“Permission granted,” Danny said, and the air next to him shimmered. Wisps of light broke off from every neighbouring surface and coalesced next to him, forming the asura’s ugly form.

“Thank you, Sameer Sen,” he said. “I don’t remember the last time I saw anything besides the ugly index or my forest.”

“Don’t call him that!” Kaka exclaimed, before turning to hun. “That’s no longer your name, Danny. You’re better off forgetting it.”

“Shedding your true name is a rather stupid move,” Kabandha continued. “It’s your heritage, your claim to power!”

“It’s alright,” Danny said. “I understand why you left the old names behind. With them forgotten the chances of anyone connecting us to Rakshasa are low.”

“Precisely.” Kaka exhaled, composing himself. The name appeared to have struck a nerve. He walked up to the asura, not expressing any fear or disgust at his monstrous appearance. Instead, he approached the entity like a scholar studying a new specimen. “Considering your portrayal in the Ramayana, I thought you’d be a lot more…”

“Terrifying?” Kabandha asked. “Or were you looking for menacing? I’ve been both when desperate for nourishment. Danny boy has promised me sustenance. Therefore, I see no need to exert myself.”

How did he survive after the gods cursed him with stubby legs?

“What are we doing here, Kaka?” Danny asked, willing one eyeball to explore his surroundings. The two spheres, along with his sonic waves, studied the reflected room, feeding all the information back into his head. It took a conscious effort to process the information and get a clear picture of everything out of his line of sight.

“Your power as it is now is almost purely sensory. I guess it's a part of Kabandha’s curse. He could see and hear his prey, but never had the means to catch them—”

“That’ll change once I feed,” the Asura said, interrupting Kaka.

“Right, but Danny needs to learn how to use the gifts he has now to survive. This is where he’ll come to train. I’ll teach him how to fight, and you’ll guide him on the path of mastering his power.”

“Alright then, Sameer—I mean Danny. Let’s get started.”


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About the author

J Pal

  • London


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