Once, and only once, I’d met a talking orange cat who’d told me that Mondays were the worst days in the universe. I’d argued that Thursdays were rather tough. Another man wearing only a towel told me that Tuesdays sucked. During our conversation, someone robbed a liquor store, was captured, but not before they dropped a bag full of cheap rum. We drank. By the end of it I think our general stance turned into “life sucks”.
They were fun.
I tell you that because the next part of this journey is difficult. We went into something that looked like a car. It wasn’t. It flew through a portal that reminded me of whipped cream but gave a hangover closer to ten shots of vodka. We came out somewhere on Earth, which means nothing because our ship immediately tilted back and headed into orbit.
The bright moon practically smiled as our ship approached. I stared out a window that would have been at home on a mini-van and worried about everything. The gaggle of kids did their thing. Cindy galloped through the sky next to us on her pretty nightmare horse. She swerved frequently.
“You should talk to an apothecary about relaxation tonics,” Lady Alexandra said.
She drove our mini-van spaceship. I sat in the passenger seat and all five insane students were in the back, arguing. I mean Midnight and Leticia specifically. It equated to a one-sided list of “you stay the hell away from my sister or I’ll punch you in the stomach” with Clinton and Kennedy responded with “WhiteWash could blah blah blah up her whoo hoo”.
We were in space and they were letting drama rule the van.
Lady Alexandra glanced at me while shifting our course. “These young warriors expect guidance.”
That meant I had to care. But I wouldn’t. I turned around and “helped”.
“If you all don’t shut up, I’m opening the doors and jetting us all into space.”
Leticia flipped me off. Whitewash buttoned up. Midnight continued her brooding silence. Clinton laughed. Kennedy didn’t. The happier couple seemed to realize they were on different wavelengths this time and both eventually shut up.
Lady Alexandra judged me. “A firm hand can be useful but such threats are useless. You are not a killer. None of these younglings would survive the emptiness of space.”
“I would,” I stated grumpily. My arms and legs crossed. “You would. Cindy might catch one of them.”
If anyone wonders how Cindy can gallop through space on the back of her horse without a suit, the answer would be “magic.” Or she had already died which could also be claimed as magic. Superpowers followed no logic but their own.
“What are we doing?” Clinton asked in a more subdued tone.
To this, I had answers and expectations. “Going to the moon. We’ll probably be shot down before we get there. If something does shoot at us, look for someplace safe. Follow Lady Alexandra’s lead.” I studied the cadre behind me. We didn’t have anyone useful for being out here based on my limited view of their powers. Survival and heroes in the vacuum required protective bubbles. “Speed doesn’t work well in space. Neither does pain or forgetfulness. You know your powers though, figure out how to survive without air.”
Small ships flew nearby. They were pink and green hued and might have been giant carved crystals. Two guesses who had started to escort us to the moon base.
“Seems safe enough,” Whitewash said. “They’re guiding us in. Plus, Walker gives students whatever they need if were in danger.”
The shy muted lilt to her words made my eye twitch. I tightened my legs and prepared. It’d been hours since the mother ship crashed and I expected, something. Plus, I’d slept since the last nightmare.
“Walker is content to let people die. He cares more about the long-term picture than day-to-day,” I said. “Never assume he finds you, his students, indispensable.”
From what I understood of Wilhem, based on meeting him a few times in passing and hearing other people speak of him in hushed tones, he didn’t care about anything. Everything about him changed between the gossiped tales. His hair, clothes, ways of speaking, mannerisms. All of it fluid and adaptable to whatever goal he had in mind.
It could have all been a lie. I took it on faith that his abilities let him walk through time back to some point in the past and start over. That kind of power had enough finiteness to it that it would be allowable by the cosmic assholes who handed out abilities. It could be abused like crazy, which he’d clearly done since somehow Walker also became immortal.
“So, what are those?” I pointed at some red dots in the distance. They twinkled happily between the moon and our flying van.
“Explosive ordinance,” Lady Alexandra said calmly.
I turned to the back of the van and thumbed over my shoulder.
“Anyone want to take bets on those attacking us?”
Clinton almost fell for my question but shook his head instead.
“Good answer. As your vaguely unwilling teacher for,” I spaced out and my mind wandered, “Defense against dumbness.”
“Against Stupidity,” Leticia corrected.
“F, because you failed to understand the point,” I responded while pointing at her.
“Is this a quiz?” Whitewash asked her sister.
“Mines!” I shouted. To this day I don’t understand how teachers do anything. Students are like misguided puppies fighting each other or over the same chew toy when there’s six more sitting untouched. And I thought I got distracted easily.
“Mines,” our sandy-haired driver confirmed.
“Explosions!” I helped.
Lady Alexandra nodded. “Undoubtedly.”
“What can you tell us about the moon?” Whitewash asked.
“That we’ll be there any minute now in a flaming wreck.”
“There are gardens. They are well maintained and luxurious,” Lady Alexandra answered. Her gruff voice made the smile on her face feel wrong.
The minefield I’d been eying through the front glass grew steadily closer. I stared at it, waiting for a space whale or some other equally improbable event. There were no black masses floating by or signs that the ships on either side of us cared. Maybe purple and pink ships were colorblind to red flashing dots.
“I’ve read about those. Are they really underground?”
“Yeah, but no one will let you see them. Natives to the moon hate Earthlings,” I said.
“That is incorrect. They simply do not trust you,” Lady Alexandra said.
I shrugged. They were probably right to. If I went to the underground gardens then something would rumble out of the depths and ruin everything. Like a moon worm the size of New York or something. People may not realize it but the moon is pretty damn big once you get onto it. Bigger than New York City and New New New York City put together.
“What about the mines?” I asked.
“You are a worrywart,” Lady Alexandra explained. “Now the gardens. If I have time, I will show your students the beauty of them. As it will take Adam time to deal with reunions. Messy, tear laden, reunion. Ah your mother spoke of you a great deal.”
So, the moon grew closer. The mines got closer. No one cared but me. Or maybe they all expected the mines to do nothing. They hadn’t been there during my last trip. I stopped myself from rolling down the window to shout at Cindy. We weren’t passing cars on a freeway. We were travelers in a van in space.
I stretched my neck, sighed heavily at least three times and decided my attempts at pointing out stupidity could only go so far. Lady Alexandra resumed yammering about my past and the gardens equally and the students were too interested. Clinton’s smirk in the rear view mirror irritated me.
Beyond that, the speed of these events bothered me. Sure, we’d been traveling through space for about an hour now. Even scientifically absurd vans couldn’t sail to the moon that quickly. Clearly Wilhem needed to fire his current assembler of things and hire a new one. The others were banking on Wilhelm setting up everything but I also knew he would send us all to our deaths if he needed a few hours of peace to do something else with long term impact.
I couldn’t figure out what he might care about enough. He could be standing in line at a coffee place, getting ready to spill a crate full of drinks on some poor dating couple, simply to ensure they’d never get together and have kids. That sounded like a time traveler thing to do.
“Mines,” I repeated.
I could see the beady red of their tiny antenna.
“They’re programmed for moon defense,” Lady Alexandra said.
That meant nothing in my world. “They’re not my mines.”
“She said they were on our side.” Leticia sounded irritated. I could practically hear her arms crossing and nose turning upward.
This could not be ignored. “Mines go boom.”
“We’ll be okay, Mr. Millard,” Whitewash insisted in her soft tone. Midnight snorted. I snorted in mockery of her, well you get the idea.
“The ships on either side are transmitting deactivation codes as we speak,” Lady Alexandra said.
I tried one more time, with logic and stuff. “You do know who I am, right? Adam Millard, magnet for disasters. Anything that can go wrong will probably go wrong while a clown laughs in the darkness then ask for three fiddy.” Space did this to me. It made me badly mix three different thoughts in mild panic. It might have been us flying to see my parents but that admission should stay between us.
“He has a point,” Kennedy said. Or maybe Clinton. They may dress different and have different sizes, but they sounded the same in my mind.
“Mines,” I repeated, again.
The two ships on either side of us veered off with, and this isn’t an exaggeration or allegory, rainbows of energy shooting off their pink and purple asses. Sparks flared and died and the light hung long enough to distract the students in the back. I could see their heads, in the mirror, turn to follow the trail of colors.
“There’s no pot of gold that way,” I said.
“There is a ship,” Kennedy offered. “Looks like the same one that attacked the Enlightenment back at school.”
Enlightenment was the name for the Crystalline mother ship that had crash landed. It probably meant something else in crystal person language, but the translation to English would have butchered the result.
“The Purple Prose. My lovely plus-sized ex is a captain on it. Or side kick.” I shifted in my seat to look. Off our port, that’s left for land lubbers, flew the giant purple sub with lightning trailing up and down the sides. Lightning in space. It’s a thing. There’s this nimbus out at the edge of our galaxy that, you know what, never mind. This book isn’t about lightning clouds in outer space. Take an astrology class.
Purple Prose fired at the other vessels—who were aggressively pow powing lasers in return.
“They do not like it,” Kennedy stated.
That was it. His role had become “guy who states the obvious.” Leticia was “girl who likes to correct you.” They’d make more sense once I got done categorizing them. This is a useful skill to have in the wild, when being thrown together with a new set of people every other week.
So, we watched the ships blast each other for a minute while our own vessel continued on toward the moon. The Purple Prose had hundreds of small creatures flying around it like green high-speed ants. Every so often one would explode. Crystalline ships that were maybe twice the size of our van, spun in twists and turns that reminded me of hummingbirds.
“We will listen to their communications,” Lady Alexandra said. She reached for the stereo, turned a knob and banged on the dashboard a few times.
“Ka-pow!” deep voices yelled. Lasers shot out of the ships.
I doubled over in laughter. Of course, the spaceship versions shot bigger blasts than pews and pows. Two ships lined up side by side facing the Purple Prose and their green hulls glowed.
“Pewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww,” the van radio said. The long scream cut off as Lady Alexandra flipped the channel. I continued laughing. None of the other students seemed to find amusement in this situation but their opinions didn’t matter.
“Are they going to make it over here?” Whitewash asked.
“Unlikely,” Lady Alexandra stated.
“Ahhh man. This is going to end great,” I said, coming down from the mirthful high.
“Make them surrender! Go minions. Swarm the ugly one in pink. Show them the inferiority of their color palettes,” a clearly mad male voice screeched. I recognized it as Lord Purple, captain of the Purple Prose. Why Vivian, who had been level headed in high school, hooked up with this guy I couldn’t say. “No, no!”
The swarm of green and purple dots flew all around an orange Crystalline ship. A dozen exploded leaving bright marks in space that faded slowly.
“No! The orange one has too much armor. You can’t blow it up!” Lord Purple shouted.
“Honey. They’re color blind,” Vivian said.
“I designed their eyeballs myself. We should never have bought those third-rate schematics from the Tesselhoffs.”
“Technically, we stole the piece of shit plans,” Vivian corrected. “Next time we hit a Beholder ship, okay? Their eyes are a metric asston better. Remember?”
“Go for the one on the left!” Lord Purple said. The swarm of dots in the distance went right, but maybe it was their left. Space battles a hundred miles away are hard to track.
“Who are those people?” Whitewash asked.
“My ex and her, I guess, mad boyfriend. I’m not sure.” Did dating Lord Purple, since she called him honey and baby, count as a step up from me? Probably, or at least a more survivable relationship.
“Lord Purple is a category seven mad scientist.”
“Oh, category seven. Very impressive. I bet his stock portfolio is diverse and jock strap isn’t stuffed,” I snapped.
“It isn’t,” Leticia helped. “Which means she traded up.”
Clinton and Kennedy made low noises like I’d been served a clever insult.
My mouth puckered and head shook. How in the hell would Leticia know? Then again, asking would probably get me in trouble and surviving angry punches in a van would be bad. She had demonstrated poor self-control.
As you might imagine, the battle going on comprised of equal parts madness and seriousness. With us, driving through space like we were on a tour. They could have sold this attraction at an amusement park. Not that I’d know, having never had time to go to one.
Lady Alexandra twisted the knob on the stereo to the left, then right. She shifted back and forth through channels. I found it odd that our high tech flying machine came with old-fashioned dials instead of an auto scanner of some sort. Flux could scan the radio, but only when it amused the stupid machine.
“Pew, pew, mines,” I said.
“They are getting close,” Kennedy stated. He continued to fulfill his role.
“Can you do anything about them?” Clinton asked.
I turned to tell them the obvious answer when I realized Clinton hadn’t been asking me. Kennedy reached up and patted his boyfriend on his spiked hair. “Maybe. I’d rather not have to. They’re a lot farther than they look.”
“What’s your power?” I asked while pointing at the taller man. Kennedy was the speedster so I didn’t need to ask him.
“Metalkinesis. Telekinesis, but limited to objects with heavy amounts of metal. I’ve got about a hundred-yard range.”
My eyes rolled. “Great. Well, don’t aim it at me. I think one of my bones has iron fillings or something. Or maybe a tooth. I’m sure something on me is metal.” Probably my forehead.
“Really?” Kennedy asked. “Your leg? That would poison you if not coated or insulated.”
“Yep.” It might be normal. Accidents happened and superpowers came with side effects. “Don’t aim it at Flux either. I think he’s made of air but you heard Wilhem’s warning.”
“Oh. Yeah, we didn’t get The Land killed. That was the Jebs.”
My eyebrow went up. “The Jebs?” A pair of hicks, it didn’t go with any of the students I’d seen. Hicks could be superheroes too.
“The ones you asked for beer?” Kennedy answered.
I nodded as it started to make sense. “Those smirking chins somehow got your last teacher killed.”
Clinton and his partner laughed. Whitewash fought back a smile then a frown and seemed at odds with herself.
“Rift in reality right between his eyebrows,” Kennedy added while pointing to his own head.
“They didn’t kill him,” Leticia corrected. “He killed himself.”
“They did get him really high,” Kennedy responded while Clinton glared at the other girl. I took note that he didn’t like Leticia correcting Clinton. “Really, really high.”
My eyes rolled hard and I almost passed out. I managed to put together some details from their conversation. It wouldn’t surprise me if those smirking chins, the Jebs, had been perfectly innocent in their intentions. Back in high school there’d been several teachers I’d love to see baked out of their gourds.
“Then the Jebs dared him to separate his body into a few pieces. We’d seen him do it before to handle students abusing their powers and stuff. He missed,” Leticia stated. “Pulled out part of his brain.”
Midnight spoke for the first time the entire ride, “That’s what they told you.” She continued to gaze out the window, away from the interstellar fight.
“Shut up,” Leticia responded while reaching back to punch the thinner girl. Clinton intercepted while shaking his head. “I saw it.”
“You saw what Walker left for you to see.” Midnight sneered at the window. I tilted my head a bit and realized she must be gazing at the reflections. Despite her aloofness she clearly cared about the events in the car.
The Purple Prose had to contain some serious armor. I could only assume that our defeat of it last time was tied to Flux’s absurd powers of copying. The mechanical eye had put one half formed version above the other and let gravity do the rest. Space might be helping.
“Space rocks,” I said and shook my head. Space didn’t rock, but meteorites might be useful ammunition.
“What are you saying?” Whitewash asked.
“The pew pews, they do nothing.” I gestured to the distant battlefield. “But those little ships don’t have other options, I guess. Here’s a pop quiz, if one type of attack is failing, should you be stupid and continue trying the same thing over and over?”
I could almost hear the whir of another Ka-pow getting ready to launch.
“We learned that in Commander Capable’s class,” Clinton said. He chuckled and his eyes watered. I glanced at the ceiling and wondered about air scrubbers on a space van. Maybe we’d all die of asphyxiation soon.
“Stupid Tactics for Stupid People?” Kennedy asked his boyfriend.
“God, Walker’s naming sense is terrible,” Clinton managed to wheeze the words between chuckles. “So, terrible.”
The two smiled at each other and leaned in. Leticia elbowed them abruptly causing Kennedy to get upset. All three argued with each other while I tuned out to study Lady Alexandra. She squinted and stared at the dashboard. Her large fingers that could easily crush a man’s skull, mine specifically, turned the knob with surprising daintiness.
I bobbed my head and winced as the arguing in the back spiked. The love-struck boys were arguing, again, about Leticia’s overbearing attitude regarding Whitewash and Midnight. What amused me is that both the girls involved chose not to say anything. In the rear view mirror, Midnight’s gaze stayed focused outside the car. Every so often she’d wince as if what had been said bothered her.
So, I’ve also got a pop quiz for those at home. Does having superpowers make you responsible for upholding some social or moral code? I existed as a pretty much unstoppable disaster area and you’d think my opinion mattered enough to force others to change their mind. But I also knew that no matter my status as an Ace Report for Hero Watch, a teacher at the School of Walker’s Graceless Chuckleheads, or an Earth approved No-Go, that Leticia gave zero fucks about words from my mouth. It was a lesson Kennedy and Clinton hadn’t picked up on.
And if you’re wondering to yourself, did this crew really talk about such stupid things while flying into space, the answer is yes. If you’re thinking I was the only sane one, well, no. The others assumed we would protect them or had faith that they were indispensable to Walker’s Utopian future of flying monkeys. Lady Alexandra is a nearly indestructible princess from an alien planet that prides itself on stupidly tough warriors.
The mines in front of us were growing extremely large and their red lights beeped. I thought I saw Flux out there, playing with them but it could have been another mine bouncing around.
“So, where are the mole people,” I stupidly asked. “They invaded the school too. Did everyone forget about them but me?”
“Stop acting like you know everything!” Leticia yelled. Her voice caused my ears to ring and even our driver growled. When a six foot something female with more muscle than a bear growls, you shut up.
She drove us straight into the mine field, which thankfully didn’t attack. I pretended we hadn’t been low key threatened by Lady Alexandra and craned my neck to the side to watch a mine pass overhead. They were half the size of our van with a dozen little jets on them. They made Flux look like a baby robot. Naturally my next thought involved Flux in a three way with a space mine and some flying toaster.
“See? Harmless,” Leticia stated.
“As a hamster,” I answered. You may ask, why a hamster and not something like a fly. We’ll get to it in a bit.
“There. They think they can hide from me. I am the master of the stereo device.” Lady Alexandra banged on the dashboard with her other hand. The car rippled as the static finally cleared.
“Everybody ready?” a voice shouted.
My heartbeat jumped. Only drunk anthropomorphs, that’s the loose classification of people who were part animals, spoke in that sort of gargling tone.
“Ready!” multiple screeching voices responded. They contained more spit than vowels. My groin tightened in budding horror.
“We charge!” the first mole person, who sounded like all the other mole people, announced.
“For the Queens!” a chorus shouted back.
It took a moment to make out the words past all the slobbering. Once I did, I immediately wanted to turn the dial to some pop music or something harmless. But I couldn’t. Lady Alexandra’s beefy fingers were locked onto the knob.
“We are flanking!” they shouted.
“Noooo,” I muttered while looking around. Flanking meant coming in from an angle we weren’t expecting. We were in a damn flying van. They couldn’t flank something this small with windows out all four sides.
“We are sneaky!” they shouted again.
They were. Lots of red dots floated around but I couldn’t figure out where the mole people were attacking from. They weren’t on the left or right. I unbuckled my belt, because it wouldn’t matter to me either way, and crawled to the back.
The others protested. They weren’t kind. I kneed someone in the face and managed to get to the rear. My face pressed into the glass. No sign of the flying tin cans. Someone yanked my shirt and pulled me back toward the seats.
There was only one direction I couldn’t see. “Below!” I shouted. They had to be under us.
“Why are we driving this archaic pile of metal!” Lady Alexandra shouted and rattled the steering wheel. “This is not a vessel worthy of a princess!” She yanked the wheel.
My feet waved in the teen girl squad’s faces as I worked to the back. Someone pushed them to a side which caused more outcries. I ignored their discomfort and my awkward position long enough to get a decent view of the area behind and slightly below us. It didn’t help.
“Five!” the mole people shouted in unison.
“A countdown?” I questioned while tilting my head. Normally I’d be calm, but mole people. Mole people annoyed me. Plus, despite my lack of personal worry, I didn’t want to get the students behind me killed. It occurred to me that I should have tried harder to get the others away.
I listened for the three. They skipped it and shouted, “Two!”
Countdowns weren’t good. I wanted to be a good teacher, even if I knew I’d be a shitty one no matter what happened. So, I bent my thoughts toward figuring out if any powers were useful. Speed, not good in space. Causing things pain? Good, If there were targets. She’d managed to pinpoint me across planes though.
“Midnight? Do a thing?” I asked in hope.
I turned to stare at her. Midnight’s eyes were out of focus and her complexion paler than normal. She rubbed her face where a small welt had risen. Guess who I’d kicked in my flailing? The one person who could cast pain at remote targets.
“One!” the mole’s counted down.
Healing? Not useful until we were blown up. Though Whitewash’s feelings seemed to be less about actual healing and more about something, something. I couldn’t exactly remember right then. Metalkinesis guy, Kennedy, might have an answer.
I jabbed a finger his direction and asked, “You feel any metal? Those mines are moving. Maybe move them away? We’re close enough.” Impending explosions reminded me how little material stood between us and the abyss. Not literal abyss, figurative. Space. Never mind.
Okay, the mole people were confused. That’s normal.
“I can try. My senses aren’t refined to a huge level. These powers only woke up six months ago and they still barely make sense. Walker says… ” Kennedy’s rushed words drifted as the rumble of engines shook us. The radio blared an overloading engine.
“Forty-two!” the moles shouted.
Lady Alexandra found a button the dashboard and cried out in happiness. “I have divined the answer! This switch lets us operate like a proper vessel,” she said. Before I fully registered what that meant, she pressed the dashboard and the van beeped. Our vehicle veered left and I slammed into the passenger window.
“Found them!” I shouted.
A few miles away, which is impossible to actually gauge in space unless you’re high as a kite, flew a series of round ships with drills on their fronts. The red dots of the space mines gathered in a stream behind them.
“For the Queens!” the moles shouted.
“Shit,” I said in unison with Leticia.
“Ahhh mother’s land!” the mole voices shouted and took a deep snort of snot. A school of sick children couldn’t sound grosser. Of course, that meant nothing compared to the realization that those mole people tin cans and a long tail of mines were headed in our direction.
Powered Level & Trigger Correlation
An excerpt from Hero Watch
There’s a connection between trigger and result. This is true for nearly ninety seven percent of known origins. But first we much acknowledge that there’s a lot of heroes out there. There’s a lot of back stories. Almost none come from a happy home that stayed happy. Of those that started in a two-parent suburbia household, some were destroyed shortly after gaining powers.
There is speculation that these numbers are misleading. That the untold origin stories (forty one percent among powered that have been active for two years or longer) – include a lot of normal households. Some even believe that those with normal day to day lives not including a trigger event (murdered parents, evil twins, disfigured siblings, acid baths, being locked in the basement, and a long unhealthy list of other triggers) simply don’t talk about the past because there’s nothing special in their history.
Not only that, triggering events relate to the resulting ability.
Repeated abuse leads to invulnerability or a power that “fights back”’ in opposition to the abuser’s method of damage. A person who’s told their weak while being beat with a belt may become super strong or control belts. A person who’s afraid of the dark and locked in a lightless basement for days may turn into a light bulb or control darkness to make their aggressor suffer.
Hero Watch has compiled statistics (available below) showing a correlation between violence of revealed origins, and level of power. Our version also shares the same results as studies by Oxford, MITTH, and the Dallas Cowboy’s Institute for Rodeo Clowns and Heroes.
Disclaimer; It should be noted that rating powers is a tricky science and most are still debatable. Power strength varies based on utility, limiting conditions, displayed growth, life line of powered user, and speculation on future events.
Regardless, we still stand by the sad but true belief that the worse the moment of awakening is, or the events building up to it, the stronger (and accordingly, more dangerous) a power is. Our suggestion is that everyone work to treat each other kindly.
Because you never know if you’ll be someone else’s trigger.