I don’t know stress like a normal people. My life has been a jumble of chaos for so long that I’m not sure what regular individuals even feel when panicking. Contrariwise, a word I wish I could use right, I’m not sure how to relax. I’ve had a few good evenings, had a few restful nights, but those are stressful too as I wait for walls to melt or ninjas to mistake me for a pop singer.
I can be annoyed. I sigh heavily a lot. At times, almost all of them, I hate the world for bringing shit I don’t like to my doorstep.
Here’s the thing, the lead ship that had burst through the force field above, I recognized it. It had pointed edges and tall spires on the back that would have been pristine and shining crystals if they’d been whole. Right now, they were smudged, dirty, cracked, and even charred.
The next biggest ship, was the Purple Prose. It was owned by a crazy mad man and the last time I’d seen it, the ship had been crashing over either Eastern America, or the Gulf Coast. I wasn’t too clear where given my life’s lack of useful GPS. Ever tried to navigate the moon with a phone app? It doesn’t work.
The smaller ships, looked like someone had taken cans of peas, attached rockets and wings with duct tape, then somehow managed to make those products fly. Typically, this is a mad scientist trick. The drill that encased the entire front implied mole people. Mole people were also insane as a species.
All this added together meant the lead ship with crystals on top was probably a Crystalline vessel. They were a race of smaller people who looked like gems given human form, and shot lasers out of their fingers while going “Pew pew.”
Concerns for Whitenight and Midwash or their angry support groups immediately went out of my mind. Yes, I know those weren’t their names. I don’t care.
“Gizmodo!” I shouted, praying for a tornado style teleportation to Kansas. I did not get one. The few students who hadn’t flown off to battle a clearly innocent spaceship were staring at me with mixed looks.
“You forgot to move back into position,” Clinton offered.
I flipped him off. He and Kennedy both chuckled then flipped me off with four hands. They’d outnumbered me. Even if I added a finger from the other arm, I’d simply look childish. So, I did. They laughed more.
Back to the ships. To the best of my knowledge, the Purple Prose and its crew simply didn’t like other flying vessels. They might have ulterior motives. The mole people flying tin cans and Crystalline mothership were engaged for a much different reason. They were fighting over something called the World Heart. I’d gotten into the conflict once during New York, and that brief scuffle went well. I’d met them a second time when some former crackhead on a nightmare horse interrupted Alice and I mid jiggy-with-it.
Third meetings were often the worst of the lot.
“Stations, people! Come on,” a woman shouted while clapping loudly. Embedded in the clapping was a sound of ice or water crackling. “Ken, Clint! You two need to clear the potential crash sites. Use the repelling field and speed you’ve been practicing, go! Leti, you should escort your sister to a clear zone for medical prep.”
I turned to see who’d issued the sane orders and my jaw dropped. A tall brunette wearing skin tight blue latex, and hands encased in ice.
“Midnight, can you target those?”
The pale girl wiped away a trickle of blood and shook her head. “I’m burned out,” she said.
“Then you go with Whitewash, study, and prepare bandages.”
“But I… ” Midnight said while casting me a non-flirty look. I won’t say what it was either, besides rude.
“I don’t want to hear it!” the bossy woman said. I watched her head shake and noted the tips of her hair were still a sharp blue. “Certified heroes have to have more skills than hitting things. Disaster relief is a huge part of the business. Now go!”
She continued to issue orders to the others. Like I said, their names aren’t important. Smirking chins were put on ground patrol and told to be ready for fires. Others were told to generate shields or manage misfires from the ships above. Lasers pew pewed out of the slowly falling ship toward Purple Prose.
Then she turned to me and smiled briefly before burying the halfhearted acknowledgement under a business face. “Mister Millard, I’d heard you were joining us as a teacher. How’d Walker pull that off? You’re a no-go,” she said.
I nodded dumbly.
Life’s funny sometimes, especially in the superhero world. Faces you’d never expect to reappear do, in different places. It’s like running into your accountant at the supermarket while shopping for beef. At least, I assume that’s what it’s like for normal people.
I say this, because the woman was none other than Ice Princess. We met her once before, when she sort of rescued me from Ted. If you’ve drowned out the memory under endless beers like I have, here’s the recap. Ted wanted to get revenge against Golden Sun for marrying his ex-wife and failing to rescue their daughter. He posed as Tele-Graph, shrill gadget villain, and kidnapped a mess of people as part of a plot. Ice Princess and General “saved” the other hostages and left me for dead. And Ice Princess was never seen again, until now.
So, this was happening. I mean, I’d had a thing for her for all of ten minutes, mostly because she wore skin tight clothes and shoved icicles up Generally-an-idiot’s invulnerable asshole.
“Tina, right?” I asked. She’d had too much attitude for such a short name. It couldn’t contain the sheer power of a bossy woman. That had been my thought when General first said her name, and it was still true. She’d walked in and ordered people around like they were kids. Tina couldn’t have been much older than me.
Flux of course, was still recording. I should have thought about that. I’d catch shit for this later but considered the awkward reunion to be worth getting in trouble over.
“Adam. I should have recognized you. You were there when I quit Eastern Valiant.”
Eastern Valiant was a superhero team. Don’t worry if the name doesn’t sound familiar. Team names are stupid, forgettable, and often change year to year.
“I was,” I confirmed slowly while looking anywhere but her.
“And you’re the one who reported my… treatment of General to the news.”
I hummed and continued not making eye contact. Not even to a well-presented chest or sleek thighs. Never. She continued as if this whole situation weren’t awkward. I mean, spaceships had to crash in this super-secret school every other day.
“This isn’t the best time, but I’m told you have little control over how long you stay in one place.”
My eyebrow lifted slightly and I winced. Oh yes, that ship? It still hadn’t hit the ground. I assume because it was actively trying not to become land bound. Or whatever it’s called when ships crash. Wreckage, maybe. A spire from the top fell but some glob of dirt pushed it away from a clock tower in the distance.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry,” she said.
“What?” I think that was the fifth or sixth time that confused word had passed my lips in since arriving at this school. Too many new bits of information were catching me off guard.
“For leaving you behind. I didn’t even check. It was just mad at Larry that—” she paused.
Great, now I had General’s real name. Larry. Larry sounded nothing like General. General Larry? How on earth was I going to turn this into a stupid insult. Maybe I could drag it out like some childish insult. “Listen, Larrrr-eeeee.” Nope.
“Maybe I could have helped you. I mean, you got classified as a no-go a few weeks after we met and the lawsuits started flying so maybe it’s best I didn’t. Or it might have been pointless to try, but still, I feel bad about leaving anyone behind.”
We needed an exit from this awkward touchy-feely moment.
“Spaceship?” I pointed up. “If you’re worried about people, I’m not the one to focus on. I’ve had enough bleeding hearts.” I paused, wincing, and started over. “Helping me helps no one. Help those people up there in the ship. Kill the mole people. Try not to, uh…” Dammit, I was not good at communicating my emotions. Sarcasm was easier, but her sincerity had thrown me off. “If you see Vicious Violet Vivian, maybe don’t hurt her too much.”
You may be asking yourself who that is. Like I said, it’s been a while, but her villain name was VVV, and she worked with the Purple Prose captain. It was also kind of my fault. We’d also dated right as my powers came online and that’s a whole thing. I had issues with Vivian, because she’d left. Then my parents left, and all of it made me sour.
“Anyway, probably should do something about the Crystalline ship up there. Before it squishes someone important. Like the janitor who’s really a retired four-star general. Or ninja. Or ex-spy for the LSR.” Which is a Russian thing. They’re actually kind of nice if you meet one. Just don’t lie to them or they start literally twitching. “Or something equally stupid.”
I looked away.
Tina’s arms moved. I saw that much. She seemed to be poking the air but I turned to study the distant buildings. They were rather pretty. There were a few mishmashes of different styles. Some buildings looked like they’d been carved out of solid dirt and turned into a tower. Others were sparkling with gems that might have been magical.
I mean, it’s not important in the grand scheme of things. It was just something to avoid making eye contact with Tina. It’s not that I’m shy, or bashful, it’s that I was dating someone and Tina had been too emotional. And it was more interesting to watch various flying heroes switch targets like a swarm of bees. They were already going for the mole people. I smiled as a literal tin can spaceship fell from the sky.
“This is good. I like this,” I said to myself. Well, really to the audience, that’s view this later.
He chirped twice more than spun around. I lifted an eyebrow.
“But they’re mole people. They’re like, giant talking rats. Literally.”
The damn toaster-humper chirped again. He might be pointing out that I was being recorded as a savage who liked seeing others suffer. An actual group existed who fought for the rights of mole people, though I’m fairly sure no one took those idiots seriously. Mole people did more damage to large cities as a species than any other alien race.
“I don’t care. Everyone’s got to draw the line somewhere. I draw mine at mole people. They could all die and the world would be a better place.” I nodded.
Tina said something. I ignored it because two more mole people ships blew up. There were hundreds more, or some other equally pointless number that meant “I’m too lazy to really count them” so let’s pick a random unit. You get used to it in large scale fights. Once I was on a field with a billion Roman soldiers fighting against seventeen human-sized mice with ninja weapons. Neither of those numbers are accurate but there were mice and a lot of Roman soldiers.
“Everything should be set up. It’s the new kids who are toughest to deal with. Anyone with any seniority is already out—” Ice Princess paused and tapped me on the shoulder.
I looked over. Her eyes were blue and skin well moisturized. Not like some heroes who had seen too much sun for years on end. It was nice.
“Statistically, the most likely crash point is near, or around you. You know that, right?”
I nodded dumbly. Of course the ship would crash near me. Everything else did. I’d once had a secret government satellite that totally didn’t exist demolish half a bench I was sitting on. It also took out my tacos that were sitting there, not harming anything but my digestive tract. I still dream about those tacos and how good they must have tasted to warrant being body slammed from orbit.
“Then you’re going to the field. Come on, I’ll boost us. Our other cadet speedsters should have cleared the area.” With that, Ice Princess, or Tina, pointed her hands toward the ground. A light blue set of ice formed almost instantly locking around my feet.
“That’s—” I started to say keeping me in one spot is bad.
“Relax. It’ll be okay. If I don’t do this, you’ll fall off.”
I noticed she didn’t have any ice around her feet, but there was a platform pushing us both off the ground. She kept a hand on my shoulder while my knees threatened to give.
All this and I still didn’t have a clean shirt. I mean, Walker could have given me one. He could have brought a pile of them and simply buried me in them. Was it too much to ask for some damn clean clothes? I needed one that could self-wash. Where I could just shake it and bam all the dirt would be gone. But then some prince from an alternate fantasy realm would declare war upon Earth and it’s “mumble mumble heathen science” and the only casualty would be my shirt.
My toes were freezing.
“I need clean clothes.”
“Yeah. You look like a hot mess.”
I clicked my tongue and pretended I hadn’t heard her call me hot. Women were weird enough before superpowers and trying to search for hidden meanings would be pointless.
“I don’t suppose Walker provided any?”
“At the field. We’re headed there. Got a spot all picked out. Can maybe get you a quick rinse, but that ship won’t last long and it’s still too high for me to get to effectively. Invincible Mandrake Junior and Kid Twerkerous won’t be able to hold the ship up for more than a few minutes, assuming they clear out those mole people shuttles.”
“What about the Purple Prose?”
“Which one’s that?”
“The purple one,” I said.
“They’re both purple.”
They weren’t. I mean, the Crystalline vessel had purple, but pinks and greens were also mixed in. And a lot of black from burn marks that continued to increase as the remaining mob of mole people ships did whatever it was their pea-brained pilots are trained to do. Be stupid I guess.
So, we stopped in a field. A wide field that had seen better days. The dirt had uneven pockets and small patches of grass that seemed to be barely holding on. It went on for maybe a half mile in every direction. I knew for a fact that the two ships above wouldn’t fit here together without turning into a twisted ball of wreckage.
Ice Princess grabbed clothes that had been left on a lawn chair. I assumed both were brought out here by a speedster or Wilhem had preordained this as a location for spare garments. She lifted it in my direction.
“There’s a bucket of water, a washcloth, and some lice remover. Though you don’t seem like you have lice.”
“Not this week,” I said.
She tightened her lips and nodded as though I was the crazy one. “Good to know. You’ve got maybe”— she looked at a wrist communicator then touched her ear—“Junior, where are we?” Tina asked.
Now that our wild ride across the campus had ended, my feet were freed. I went to the bucket. Being cleaner would help me feel better. It’d also be useless in the long run but I’d take what was offered.
“Two minutes! Wait, four,” she finished her earlier thought.
As I reached the bucket, walls of ice formed around me, separating this part of the field from everything but the dull sky above. I stared at a frozen bird for a second before some mole person ship fell out of the sky and woke me from the distraction.
“I hope you all crash and burn,” I muttered and discarded my current filthy clothes.
I’ll gloss over the next bit, but I have learned to clean myself in less than a minute when desperate. This is an important skill to have because sometimes you can forget the trauma you’ve just endured by scrubbing your skin until it’s pink and slapping on new clothes.
I also put an iota of thought into the nonsense that was this entire teaching thing. It was bad enough I’d been drafted for Hero Watch’s website. It all worked out, sort of, and helped me feel useful, mostly. But this was an outright bad idea. No one should rely on me for anything.
I couldn’t save people. I’d tried and failed too many times to count. The only skills I really had were bearing witness to disasters and working to provide some form of closure to the surviving family members. That’s what I’d been doing in between episodes on the website. I’d been recording names, events, relaying the last minutes of those who didn’t survive to the public at large.
Perhaps sharing the stories of those who parted could be considered cruel. I’ve talked a lot here about life. And you’d think it strange to even divert two brain cells toward considering this proposition while ships fought in the skies above us, but as I said before, I’m a jaded soul.
Here’s the events from my early life that matter for the rest of this story, and I’m laying them all out at once for clarity. As much as it pains me to do so.
I dated Vivian in high school. My powers kicked in. The school became ground zero for a few violent fights and stupid plots by villains. A few months later, after one scuffle got my sister’s legs crushed and both parents hated me, I went to Vivian’s trying to find some place to crash because teen life is confusing. We got kidnapped by space aliens. She dumped me. That was a whole thing and in the end, I was shoved into an escape pod by some well-meaning person who left Vivian behind.
Home I went, to an empty house and a note saying, “Don’t look for us.” I was alone, and a day or two later I found myself in another mess, then another, then another. It hasn’t stopped.
At each event, someone usually dies. It’s often not pretty. And I live, knowing that my existence was somehow central to this event happening to that person. It’s a lot to deal with. But I can’t, chose not to be, I think is the most tactful way to phrase that. I don’t want to reallocate myself to the eternal sleep, but I do want my current way of living to stop.
I think that’s fair.
Asking me to teach kids what not to do, which is what “Defense Against Stupidity” sounds like as a class, is ludicrous. I can’t tell kids “Don’t be me.” I mean, that’s the truth. Don’t be me. For the love of God, don’t be me.
Anyway, these thoughts passed through my head during the minute of rapid fire scrubbing where I attempted to exfoliate my skin enough to reveal someone else. That didn’t happen so I put on new pants and hoped to retain whatever dignity I’d been left with. Above, the ship continued to stave off landing, though it was tilting badly to one side.
“You okay in there?” Tina asked. “I didn’t hurt your feet or anything right?”
“No,” I chattered while shaking my head up and down uncontrollably.
“Good. Sometimes my powers make for a rough ride. I’m glad you’re durable. Guess you’d have to be,” she drifted off and started saying something important about how we were still at a probably crash site, before the huge career sized vessel had reached us.
Remember how I didn’t know how to handle stress? That ship is still crashing and I’m worried about scrubbing off barf and getting pants on. So, there I was, vaguely clean and shaking my head up and down like a maniac when I heard another female say, “Adam?”
That is exactly what a shoe dropping sounds like. If you mean, “does a shoe dropping sound like Alice showing up out of the blue while you’re naked, have hard nipples, and being told by another woman that she’s glad I’m durable?” then yes.
Alice had learned to appear out of nowhere. Flux was also here, happily recording. Both were like, inescapable accessories. One as a witness to my awkwardness while the other created more than any one man could handle.
“Hey, babe,” I said slowly. “Fancy meeting you here.”
I didn’t know how volatile she was after our earlier jog through the wilderness. Alice was normal right now. Blond hair, a body that had clearly been a cheerleader or gym bunny based on the way she filled those shorts, plus a winning smile bordering between deranged and confused. I liked blonde Alice because she was reasonable most days and way less aggressive. Blonde Alice was a cuddle and tell me I’m sane sort of girl. She also had nightmares about the Id version of herself, but we were making progress.
I’d get into that now, but there wasn’t time for my thoughts to get much further. I had one leg in the pants, one outside, and no underwear when the wall of ice that served as a makeshift privacy screen came down. Ice Princess stood on the other side, arms up and ready to blast someone with the pointy end of a frozen nightmare.
“Are you okay, Adam?” Tina asked, gaze switching between me and the blonde who appeared out of nowhere.
Alice didn’t miss a beat. A strand of hair flickered to black and a long butcher knife appeared from hammer space. Hammer space is what I called the pocket of whatever she could pull weapons out of. I mean, you didn’t think she carried all those knives somewhere personal, right? Strapped to her leg? Nope, straight out of the ether.
“Who’s this whore?” Alice demanded.
Once again, keep in mind I was still mostly naked. That means this would go from awkward to stabbings in seconds. I groaned in frustration then hopped frantically to get my clothes on. Flux, the asshole, chirped in a stuttering tone that sounded like laughter. He whirred and narrowed his red lens. All we needed now was a tub of mud for the girls to wrestle in.
“Whore? Listen, you horror movie reject.” Ice Princess had no fear. She should have been afraid. I had enough terror for the both of us. “I don’t give two flying fucks—”
Alice went from pleasant blonde cheerleader with an eye twitch, to full on black-haired lovely woman who couldn’t possibly be a horror movie reject. Despite the sudden death match, I prioritized putting my other leg into the pants and buttoning them. I winced when zipping a tender piece of flesh up accidentally.
“Oh bring it, crazy lady!” Tina shouted. Her body backed up and spun in a one eighty until she was up over our heads, anchored by ice powers. Blasts of frost slammed into Alice’s body. Each shot only made more of the other, angry, kill anything annoying version come out. Soon Alice’s hair was completely black. Bigger knives appeared.
“Crazy!” Alice shouted while shrugging off a blast of blue. “I’m perfectly fucking sane. You’re just a whore after my Adam.”
Despite the budding insanity, Tina didn’t back off in the slightest. She didn’t care what she’d been put up against. General, Ted, other superheroes. They were all crazy.
For those who don’t remember, Ice Princess had shoved an icicle up General’s ass. General is one of those smirking chins and more meat than brain cells type heroes. The ones with all the right powers and the idolization of the masses. Yes, I know I’ve mentioned the icicle a few times.
Pants and shirt were in place. This would be the time to interfere with the side show. “Does no one care about the spaceships!” I demanded, knowing full well neither of them gave a shit.
They both turned me and shouted “No!” in unison.
At the time, there was one item I couldn’t understand. It wasn’t Alice related. She hated anyone who remotely infringed on her property and time with said property. For the blonde version of her, I was an anchor that proved she wasn’t crazy. For the other one, I was an object of obsession and a way to unleash urges besides stabbing people. But Tina had no skin in the game when it came to me.
We’d met once. She’d been the instrument of my survival during that episode, and life went on.
Then things went from bad to worse.
“What do we have here?” another voice said. This one more mechanical in nature. I jerked my head up and saw VVV flying above the field.
Purple Prose in the background was the last ship standing. Powered people buzzed around it fighting back an army of tiny exploding minions. The Crystalline vessel loomed closer. Glowing rocks on its underside that served as propulsion sputtered out heat that burned the air but it’s fate was certain.
“Adam?” The Alice said. Her eye twitched violently. One of her arms was in a solid block of ice that caused her body to tilt.
“Not me. I didn’t do it. I am not involved in this at all.” I put up my hands and waved them. “She’s just somebody that I used to know.”
“She?” Alice asked and stepped toward the flying VVV, like air superiority wasn’t a real thing. “That you used to know? Is this an ex-girlfriend? You can get the fuck away or I’ll cut you!”
“Who is this loon, Mister Millard?” Tina asked. She was far away behind layers of ice that showed signs of being hacked at repeatedly with a blade. Extra knives were lodged into the ice, along with a huge ax, two hammers, and a chainsaw. A chain-fucking-saw.
“I’m Misses Millard. We’re married, you homewrecking whore.” We weren’t, Tina wasn’t, but Alice nodded then resumed attacking the perceived threat to our marriage vows to always be faithful until death does us part. I had a feeling that if Death ever embodied a living person, Alice might stab him too just to prove I couldn’t get away that easily.
Aside from the doom being threatened upon Tina, who’d been rather nice actually, I found Alice’s possessiveness attractive. It was like playing with fire and enjoying the scalding burn afterward.
“I don’t care what you two do, I’m here for Adam,” Very Vapid Vivian said from the air.
Then the two-way battle became a three way.
I assumed Vivian wanted to kill me for being part of her kidnapping and eventual whatever at the hands of aliens. That’s fair. Alice wanted other women to die if they got to close. And I hoped that Tina was just trying to do her super heroic-teacher duty by pacifying violence on the school grounds. But part of me hoped it would go another way, with no armor, no powers, and lots of Jell-O, you know?
It didn’t. It only got worse.
Alice threw every bladed weapon I’d ever seen on television and many I hadn’t. Each time her hair flickered between the blonde and raven black tresses. Her clothes started to shift too. Tina had walls of ice cast around but sweat still dripped down her face. Vivian did, gassy things that seemed to slow the other two girls down but didn’t stop them.
I couldn’t figure out what to say. “Stop Alice, I’m not sleeping with them!” might not go over well. It might go over perfectly. Then Vivian would try to kill me and we’d be in this cycle again. Plus, I wasn’t really the heroic director type. I called idiots idiots to their face. I used sarcasm. I did not stop powered chick fights.
It was also kind of weird to know that despite their violence, none of them had been seriously wounded. Clothes were torn. I watched Alice more than a normal man might have. I assume macho guys would throw themselves into combat but I’d seen Alice kill fantasy creatures while smiling. You may want to interfere, I knew from experience that she’d handle herself.
“Biggggg!” someone shouted.
I closed my eyes briefly and pretend it was just another gas ball exploding as Ice Princess tossed cold through the mixture.
“Mister!” that faint voice screamed.
It was only the wind. Right? No, you and I know better.
Because as the girls fought their stupid three-way war to decide my fate, or so they thought, the Crystalline ship had started its final descent. I stared at it and could make out a tiny waving figure on an outcropping at the front of the huge vessel.
“Mister Big!” the shrill voice shouted from the platform jutting out front. I winced, knowing what was coming, and lifted my eyes to gaze upon the tiny crystal child waving his arms wildly. Next to it was a thin waifish female that could give Alice a run for her money. Behind them was a tall, thick woman who could give male body builders a run for their money.
I mean I didn’t have money, but I could always run, right?
Nope. My eyes rolled so hard time stopped. Or, I hoped it had. I wish time had been a personified existence that abruptly said. “You know what, fuck this. I’m out.” And the universe had been left in a freeze frame of impending awkwardness that would surely send Alice into orbit.
God knows I loved the woman, but she understood nothing of my relationship with other people. None of them wanted me, at all. It was only her. It was kind of sad, and sweet in a way. And I use “was” for a reason.
At about this point, the looming spaceship crashed. I smiled but felt incredibly worn out. Whatever would be, would be. The giant ship that made carriers look dainty sent waves of dirt into the air. Ground rumbled as a chunk of displaced mini-dimensional earth came crashing toward me. It tumbled nearby while the ground rolled. I rode the rippling like a seasoned professional and went up, then straight into the ground. The world spun and started to darken.
In hindsight, I’m sure this whole situation was Wilhem’s way of screwing with me. He’d probably vanished to ensure Alice, Tina, and Vivian were all headed in my direction. The druggie who’d interrupted my first planned make out session with Alice, might be a bonus in his mind. The wall of muscle behind her would be even more amusement. That’d be the kind of passive aggressive revenge a time traveler who was still bitter about bananas and space monkeys might engage in.
For the record, I haven’t actually tossed bananas at him yet. Still, Time Travelers are better at holding grudges than a girlfriend who accuses you of stuff you did in her dreams.
An excerpt from an article by Hero Watch - Power Classifications & Misunderstandings – written by correspondent Ted Ross
Anyone labeled a speeder has superspeed. This is the biggest example of a misunderstanding brought on inaccurate language usage. In powered terms, a “speedster” is anyone who can move as fast or faster than an Olympic gold medalist. This also broadly includes anyone who can help a group of people move fast, such as those with telekinetic platforms, summonable spaceships, teleportation powers, and so on. In reality, we should classify them as “transporters” —but for some reason speedster is more popular.
This persists in other generic categories. Mystics is used to refer to anyone who uses a form of magic. Magic is anything science can’t explain. Most magic schools follow rules, with their users finding new uses through methods of observation, trail and error, and refining techniques. This is similar to science being used to understand gravity.
Flight based powers include people using elemental powers to lift themselves, scientist marvels (jet packs or otherwise), and altered appendages. Gliding powers are often included as “fliers” despite obvious differences between the words.
Energy based powers aren’t purely energy but instead include items spun from unseen sources. Prokinetics are often shoved into this grouping despite a more accurate word already being in widespread use. The lazy justification is they have limitations on how long they can be sustained, based on some “energy” that can run out.
Barriers are anything, anything at all, that blocks other things. Heroes who can use barriers, even if it’s their own flesh, are classified as “tanks” even if some are extremely squishy.
The whole thing is a mess because people insist on defining chaos with generalities. We here at Hero Watch will endeavor to make sure all our articles use the English language to its utmost accuracy when compiling data on powered people and events.