We’re starting this story is six months after the other one. When we last left our intrepid me, I was employed by Hero Watch, an online blog that recorded fights between superheroes and villains. I’m still working for them, technically. They even pay me, theoretically. But since my lawyer sued them and several other people, we’re less business partners and more like divorced spouses from a whirlwind marriage in Vegas; that is—our actual meeting was an accident and we don’t talk anymore. They simply send the alimony checks to the bank. From there, my legal firm decided where the funds went.
So, yay there.
My life had improved in some ways, but the mad string of superpowered events that constantly interfered can’t be halted by the simple passage of time. Life was, is, and might continue to be chaotic. Normally, when problems occurred, I could maintain a steady heartrate. However, this series of events starts with calmness being impossible. A thudding in my ears didn’t match the rapid-fire pounding of my bare feet. I’d been wearing the best shoes money could buy and they should have been nearly indestructible. They were behind me about two miles back and in shreds.
See, my girlfriend was chasing after me with a knife. I’m rightfully allergic to being stabbed. Most people are. It’s kind of a thing with us mere mortals. Or you lot. I’m fairly sure she can’t kill me. Fairly. Not enough to stand around and take my stabbings.
“Adam!” she cried, it managed to sound like a woman moaning out her lover’s name mid release, or maybe like an axe murderer shouting out their next victim. They’re kind of the same, you know?
I kept running. It hurt, but my feet were tough. The Alice, a deranged, scrawny woman who was closer to an Id, moved supernaturally fast. Regular Alice moved quick, but not faster than a man who’d outrun Lagrange Lizards on Zigeron Seventeen A. That’s a real place somewhere out in there in the wide universe that occasionally tries to invade the Earth. Zigeron isn’t really relevant to the current situation except to illustrate a point; I can run fast when properly motivated.
I’m going to back up and explain something else to you lot. If you don’t know what an Id is, let’s make it simple. There’s “ego”, that is to say, the you which you are normally. There’s super-ego that’s all critical and moral, then there’s Id. Id, apparently Latin for “It”, wants to stab anyone annoying, screw anything appealing, shove food in “its” face, and doesn’t play nice with others.
Hopefully we’re on the same page now. Me running, Id Alice chasing. Stabby, stabby incoming.
Flux kept pace easily. He’s the little floating camera about the size of my head with a red lens on the front. He records everything, up to and including my private bathroom time. It’s exactly as awkward as it sounds.
I ignored him and searched for an escape. There was a gas station nearby. It served as the only piece of fortification in this entire stretch of highway. I had a sinking feeling that life would go from frying pan to fire by going inside, but I really, seriously, truly, did not want to get stabbed by Alice.
“Adam! When I catch up with you, you’re going to—” Her words cut off as I ran inside the first available door and slammed it.
I assumed her next utterance would be a threat to turn me into a eunuch. That would make sex difficult, which Alice really liked, the sex, not difficult sex. As you may have gathered, she wasn’t really a forward-thinking person. Alice existed only in the moment, and after six months, I was fairly sure that statement could be taken literally and figuratively.
It turned out I wasn’t forward thinking either, or I might have noticed the female restroom sign on the door. I sat huddled against the entrance, preparing to hold it against my absurdly strong and lethal girlfriend.
The door buckled and screeched as she, presumably, full on body slammed the doorway. I turned. Flux sat a foot in front of my face, inside the bathroom with me. I’d shut the door on him and he’d gotten in anyway. I stepped away from the door, passed Flux, and searched for trashcans and a second door or window.
There were none. The bathroom door wouldn’t last long. Eventually she’d jab a knife into some sensitive piece of wood, probably the crotch of the stick figure on the door or break the locks entirely. I decided the only sane thing to do would be taking a piss while there was still time.
Does that seem blasé? It should. Blasé is a word I learned from Ted. The fact that I had been forced to figure out what it means makes me want to punch him in the face. I’m not telling you the definition, you can figure that one out yourself.
Somewhere between me throwing a trashcan at the door and running water to help me pee, I noticed the wood splintering. Alice pressed her lips through the crack like a fish and pled her case.
“Adam? Adam baby, we can work this out. All you need to do is call that whore back and set up a meeting.”
“Can’t do it!” I offered while shaking lose a few drops.
“But she saw you naked! And oh god, the things she did to you. I saw them, Adam! No one touches my man like that and gets to live!”
She, the one Alice had been talking about, was Jade. Jade, for anyone playing the home game, is my lawyer. Jade’s powers include a projection of her thoughts, often raunchy in nature, and sometimes so powerful they capture your senses.
I had been on the receiving end of those powers more than once. Jade did her best to pretend none of the thoughts in her head were real but sometimes the rest of us weren’t so lucky. To briefly recap what happened, Alice and I were at an aquarium together, because in theory hell wouldn’t break loose for at least four hours.
Jade called. Jade heard my voice. Her powers went off. Alice stole the phone. Alice got blasted with a sex scene featuring yours truly. She went full on Id Alice, The Alice, horror movie thriller and hot when mad Alice. Cue chase scene montage, involving a half-destroyed aquarium, one ruined wedding banquet where the bride’s dress had gotten absolutely plastered with purple cake, two horrified police officers, and a gut-wrenching teleport later we had arrived here, at the only building for miles.
“Holy,” I shouted out as pain pierced my skull. I fell, clutching my head and panicked. Flux calmly recorded it all. I reached for him in hopes he’d copy something useful to fight this with, but no such luck.
The pressure peaked. I found more air and continued to scream. My hands searched for blood or signs of damage.
“Baby? Who is it? Is someone in there with you?”
The wood splintered from the tip of what was probably a giant hammer. I heard the dull thud as she slammed it repeatedly into the door. Echoes around the room made me groan and twitch harder.
As my eyelids fluttered, I realized there was no blood. This meant everything happening was in my head, literally. The idea helped me unclench. Part of me appreciated anything that could break through the dull haze that I approached everything with.
There’s only one good way to describe this. I had been turned into a stuffed animal in a crane game. You know the kind, where you put in two dollars’ worth of coins and catch some puppy dog by its leg. The puppy normally slips away at the last second and you’re left putting in more coins.
Here’s a better tip for those of you able to legally drink. Take the twenty dollars you’re about to spend getting a puppy dog just to impress some girl who barely likes you, put it in the picture booth so that your would-be girlfriend can put you on her wall of high school shame, and use what’s left to buy beers after she dumps you the next day. Way more effective.
As usual, telling that brief tip is better than explaining how Alice broke a bathroom door in the only gas station for miles. It beats trying to explain the horrified look on the cashier’s face as she walked in the room. But both those things happened.
“What are you doing to my store?” the attendant cried.
The sky opened. Pieces of the roof fell about me. Light, bright, intense and nearly blinding filled the hole and poured over me like Angels were personally crane-gaming me to heaven.
“Adam? Where are you going?”
The ceiling above me broke into more pieces. My body came off the ground. Flux whirred and fired off questioning beeps.
Pressure tore me. My arms felt bound and still threatened to pull apart at the seams. I grit my teeth and felt my groin tighten to keep myself whole. Alice hung onto my feet, crying out.
“Adam? Adam! Are we still on for dinner?” Alice shouted. “We can’t have a romantic dinner on the beach if you go away! Who’s going to fuck me at sunset? Adam.”
I didn’t have the heart, or lung capacity, to say dinner had been canceled. The pressure on my skull tightened. It felt like screws were being socketed into my head. My view world shrank and narrowed to a pinpoint.
Then, for the fourth time in one day, I was teleported. Pain had my stomach in knots, and the sudden shift in space hit me that much harder. There were noises and gasps that only told me that people were surprised.
Dozens of feet were there to unleash bad fried fish upon but they were behind a barrier. I retched violently on the floor of my new location. My pain hadn’t gone down, simply shifted to another part of the body.
“We’ll begin shortly. Kennedy and Clinton are currently engaged in—”
A whoosh came along with two more pairs of feet. I rolled to one side then glared over and upward. A man with windblown hair and another fellow were standing at the crowd’s edge. They were flushed and sweating.
“Ah, good. You cut it short this time.”
“Was that—” the tall well-tanned man with unruly hair started.
“Yes. I turned on your webcam and set it to Email your parents, so they could have proof. This ensures when you are ditching class for quality time, someone will be able to provide proper feedback. Hopefully this will encourage you to be on time for your class. If this does not work I have more effective options.”
The smart-ass know-it-all standing closest to me with his long hair in a ponytail and a short beard, was a person I hated. I mean, there’s a lot of people I hate but this one stood out. The Walker, or Walker, or Wilhem. Not Will, like any sane person, no, Wilhem. He’s supposedly been around since the dark ages and preferred the name he’d been christened with.
“Now that we’re all here. This… is Adam Millard. You should know his name if you were paying attention during orientation,” Wilhem said.
“Isn’t he a no-go?” a student asked.
“Yes. I’m also considered a no-go, and I tend not to care what the governments think. When in doubt, they’ll leave us to sort ourselves out.”
My head still swam and the smell worsened. They’d trapped me in an air box. Trees towered overhead. Weird birds with too many wings flew between their branches. A soft sounding waterfall flowed nearby.
“This will be a first for all of us. Adam is a difficult soul to manage, but perhaps this time he’ll be of use because he is your new Defense Against Stupidity teacher.”
I slowly and methodically set about taking my shirt off to mop up. There were stains from the purple cake. I stopped to eat a rather whole piece and frowned. We’d done the bride a favor by destroying such dry baked goods. And don’t judge me. It was wedding cake.
“Is that even a class?” one of the tall students asked. He looked like every other masked yuppie in the crowd.
Another student said, at the same time, “A first, for you? Is that possible?”
“No. Frequently. Yes,” Walker said.
I didn’t know which answer went to which question and focused on cleaning myself. The mess of barely digested cookies and fish sticks went into a corner. My fingers felt overwhelmingly gross. Barf never cleaned up nicely. Being back with stabby-mode Alice might have been better.
If she hadn’t been able to gut me, then Alice would have demanded I do whatever crazy visions she got from Jade. Doing so in the bathroom floor of a remote gas station would have been bad. She might have nicked me first and triggered something worse than barfing in front of what seemed to be superpowered college students.
Dozens of them stood there. Each had on different colored costumes with weird accessories that might have meant something to people who cared. One man with thick bracers could probably fire projectiles. The person with a thin backpack probably had tech-based powers. The tiny woman with a full facemask might be psychic, or have medusa hair, or think the facemask matched her shoes. Tight-wearers are weird about fashion.
“Whitewash. Demonstrate you’re learning something in the Healing Whatever Ails You class.” He pointed at me.
Whitewash wore a grey set of clothes covering every ounce of her skin. Her knees pressed tight together and eyes were cast down. Her friend elbowed Whitewash and pointed at Walker.
“Sir? I can only block the memory,” Whitewash said.
“Yes,” Walker said.
“No,” I mumbled. The pain would be manageable.
“I need him coherent. As much as he’s aggravated me throughout too many timelines, it’s in our best interests to make sure he is far, far from death’s door.”
Walker, as implied by his name, walked a lot. He did so through time and space. He’d probably had this conversation a dozen times then rewound to the start once he found an appropriately useful result. I took pride in knowing that somewhere out there, in the grand scheme of things, my near death had irked him enough to want me healed.
“Whitewash. You have one minute,” Walker said.
“Oh, I love this idea,” I mumbled then sniffed. Refuse was up my nose I didn’t have enough spare clothing to blow the icky-ness out.
Whitewash strode through a wall of shimmering lights. The yellowish white glowing implied an energy barrier, or possibly magic. It didn’t matter. Whitewash’s support pal glared at me as if daring me to touch the nervous healer.
“You’re not going to summon a sword of healing and stab me with it, are you?” Because that had happened. It hurt, a metric ass ton.
Both women tilted their heads. Whitewash’s expression didn’t reach the extremes of her friend. I squinted and wondered if they were related. They had the same nose.
Walker clasped his hands and resumed speaking to the crowd. “As you may have noticed, Adam’s attitude leaves much to be desired. Or it will. However, unlike your last three teachers—this one is astronomically harder to kill. Trust me. I’ve attempted to cull him in at least three hundred partially formed timelines.”
Whitewash touched my forehead with a pinky. Her companion kicked away my mopped mess with a foot.
That was news to me. “What?” I asked.
“Care to elaborate?” the shirt-kicking woman asked.
“Of course, Leticia, I will expand. Despite extensive testing, I still don’t understand how his power works. It defies all logic and those few higher beings that try to actively kill or restrain Adam Millard, as you saw with Midnight, tend to be halted, violently.”
Midnight was a rail thin white girl with no hair. White girls typically looked neither like a Mid or a Night. Signs of sweat were upon her face. Someone cradled her calmly and rubbed the suffering woman’s head.
“I once found him floating on a rock in the middle of the ruins of an exploded Earth. He had one tree, a pond, and a refrigerator. He threw bananas at me. Bananas. They’d been extinct for ten years at that point and he had some. I tried to destroy the rock using a spaceship I’d stolen from another planet during a war that thankfully won’t be happening. At that point, a fleet of angry flying space monkeys attacked me.”
That sounded possible. I mean, who wouldn’t throw bananas at a self-righteous know-it-all if it summoned flying monkeys to attack? No one, that’s who.
Someone raised their hand and Walker cut them off. “No, that was about two hundred years from now on a timeline that doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve removed the propagators of that outcome.”
The student, either Kennedy or Clinton based on their sudden appearance earlier, pointed to my right. “And what’s that?”
I looked past Whitewash and her bodyguard to see Flux, spinning around lazily and taking in the view. He hadn’t been there a moment ago. The two girls hardly noticed and Whitewash kept doing whatever it is she thought she was doing.
“Flux. An impossible robot that shouldn’t exist but does. The last person to try and tamper with the robot found out Flux could teleport, into people’s chests. For anyone interested, the chest cannot contain the mass of a robot and its normal organs.”
“What?” I needed explanation of that adventure.
“How’s your pain?” Whitewash asked.
“What pain?” I responded while standing. Signs of my own personal distress was all over the ground but my body felt light. Knees wobbled and my chest refused to expand all the way for a breath, but there were no feelings of hurt.
The two shared a glance and shook their heads. They stepped back toward the barrier and I walked after them. They went through, but I bonked into a shimmering field.
One of the students put up a hand. Walker nodded at the young man then answered a unspoken question. His attitude annoyed me. My nose irritated me even more, because that had been a solid thud and I couldn’t feel it.
“Yes, this includes people who can reorganize their organs or have no lungs. To my knowledge Flux can, for self-defense only, make his teleports selective.” Walker put up his hand and forestalled another student’s question. “Selective, yes. You’ll learn about this in Motion Mastery for Dummies, but in short order he can pop over, around your brain, and pop out, separating the two. Across dimensions if needed.”
“He can?” I asked.
Walker ignored me. I blinked heavily, assumed we were in some sort of reverse monolog hostage situation and pondered what to do next with my life. I caught a glimpse of Flux and remembered one of the rules for my video shows with Hero Watch; annoy the bad guy if given a chance.
“Willllllheeemmmm,” I whined in much the same fashion Alice had been crying my name earlier. “Willllhemmmm don’t ignoreeee meee.”
Alice’s tendencies were rubbing off on me. Walker ignored my attempts while the students tittered quietly. There might have been someone who outright laughed, but the scariest thing about Walker involved his ability to manipulate timelines. He’d been known to, theoretically, wipe people out from existence.
Two students in the back whispered to each other. One pointed at me. Another laughed. I prayed an alien spaceship would fall out of the sky and skid into Walker. Knowing my luck there had been one, but he’d decided to hold the meeting elsewhere. It also meant all my attempts at being annoying were watered down compared to what they could have been.
“Why are you doing this Willlllhelmmmm,” I drawled slowly.
Wilhem, Walker, or whatever, kept talking. “Flux has repeatedly eliminated threats to its existence before. As I mentioned, this is only for its self-defense. It’s recommended you avoid trying to take either of them apart like your prior teacher.”
I yelled at the back of Walker’s head. He turned and gave me a sidelong glance. His eyes fluttered and a hand twitched. I smiled then pursed my lips and waited for him to make a move. Wilhem turned back to his students and shook his head.
“I’m aware that there’s no proof of The Land’s untimely demise. How you managed to kill a man who controlled space is beyond me. However, if you can figure out how to kill Adam without catastrophic side effects, I’d be very interested in knowing. It’s all I can do to ensure he’s in a sound proof barrier, and even that will fail in two more minutes because his power classifies being muted as a restriction.”
“What?” I asked a third time.
This son of a bitch hadn’t heard an ounce of my stunning rendition on the child’s classic song. That was just rude.
“In one more minute, I will be leaving, as I cannot stand to be in Adam’s presence for too long without needing to eradicate someone from existence. Thusly, here are the ground rules. When Adam speaks, attempt to listen. Know that despite his attitude, he has seen more than nearly anyone on the planet.”
One student put up their hand.
“No. He has not seen more than me. However, in terms of witnessing powered people, such as yourselves, there are few who know more about the stupid mistakes you lot make.”
Flux buzzed at something being said. He narrowed his lens and fired off bursts of energy from his little rockets that let him fly. The effect disturbed me. Even his red eye had gone a weird bluish green. I leaned over to follow his line of sight.
One of the students in the back had been chatting with the backpack wearer. They both stared at Flux while wiggling their fingers. It seemed like they were taking notes or making magical hand signs. Maybe they were weaving spells and activating some special ability. Superpowered people generally fell into categories, but even then, no two were exactly the same.
I looked at Flux, then the lot in the back, then Flux again. Maybe one of them would take the floating camera apart. Though if Walker had been right, it was probably tantamount to suicide. Which made the blue and green narrow focus of attention even more amusing. Flux had a death glare. We’d been together for over half a year and I’d never seen the floating toaster-humper give someone a dirty look.
The sight only amused me for a few seconds. I turned back in time to hear another half-formed question.
“Why—” the girl with a thin plastic helmet started to ask.
“I simply do not have the patience to teach you everything. I’ve founded this school. I’ve ensured students here will assist this world in continuing to survive, even if it is by dying in class rather than in say, the south pacific as a hurricane passes over.”
One of the students shuffled their feet uneasily. I took note of the person while testing my nose for signs of pain. Whitewash’s power had been extremely effective.
“I’ve even gone the proverbial extra mile, by finding teachers who aren’t too manipulative or liable to be killed. Obviously, I’ve failed in this last regard, which is how we find ourselves needing Adam. And now your minute is up. I will leave you with your new instructor. Good-bye.”
Walker vanished. He hadn’t even waved or spoken to me. I felt slighted and pleased that he hated me enough to pretend I didn’t exist, while clearly needing my services.
I poked at the space where the yellowish energy field had been. No sign of the obstruction.
“Flux? Any of them got a teleporter?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Looks like I’m stuck here until the next disaster.” I rubbed my head with one hand then paused to pick out purple cake.
“Mister Millard, sir?” Kennedy, or Clinton, asked. “What exactly are you going to teach us?”
“Apparently, how not to be stupid. A subject I know nothing about,” I answered while attempting to sound sure of myself. Despite hosting a news anchor show for months I still had to struggle at giving a damn.
Anyway, this is how I met the latest batch of overpaid clowns going through superpower training school. Which is apparently a thing. In another dimension. Because those end well.
Walkers School For the “Gifted”
It’s estimated that out of the eight billion people on the planet, only .01% have actual powers of their own, rent, or heavily influence a known power set. (See: Caretakers, Demiurges, Objects of Worship, Power Fonts, etc.).
That’s still 80 thousand potential powder kegs. Most powers are harmless or find their own balance. Many are wiped out during battles or get removed by hunter programs, for experiments, conscripted into armies, and so on.
Wilhem Walker runs a school to provide superpowered individuals basic training. Not everyone gets to go. This is because of the sheer volume of powered people, country borders (though Walker tends to ignore those, as the 3rd listed no-go he can get away with this) and simple timing. His school reportedly houses about five hundred students each year, and attempts to teach them a modicum of sense.
Class names are outlandish, including “Turning your superpower into a meal ticket” and “Find out if you’re a soloist, team player, or should stay home.” In most cases these classes are designed to keep people with abilities from ruining it for everyone else in the universe. This can be determined by the mandatory class “Maximizing heroism, minimizing civilian impact” and its counter point “Maximizing fear, minimizing resource loss” which has almost the same course material.
Teachers change yearly. Most are notable figures in their fields. Top heroes, top villains, lead scientists of behavior analysts—but they all share one factor. They’re half crazy. Working with a teen who has superpowers? Teaching one to drive is hard enough—now imagine they cause stuff to explode if they freak out, and these teachers must tell them they got an F on their English test.