I don’t know a lot about how normal space operates. When you realize my trips to, well anywhere, are rarely not by mundane means, the reason for my ignorance should be obvious. Magic. Mad scientists. Superpowers. All of them liked to play around with the rules of physics and do whatever they goddamn well pleased.
Again, worth noting, we were in a van. A flying van. We tilted, spun and did two loop-d-loops. I banged on everything in the vehicle and found myself propped between two chairs with Whitewash pushing me away in terror. All the while the others continued talking like we were on a joyride.
“Jinx,” Clinton chimed in. “You owe me a drink.”
“You didn’t say shit. Leticia did,” Kennedy helped.
The mole people flew behind us. A mess of ugly spaceships trailing even more mines that bounced against each other like anxious puppies.
“That’s going to hurt,” Clinton said while pointing at me.
The vessel twisted and tumbled again. Leticia’s glowing white fist whiffed past my crotch as I bounced again through the van.
“Seatbelt!” Lady Alexandrea shouted. “What kind of teacher are you?”
Our van leveled out long enough for me to crawl over the seats back to the front.
“A brilliant one,” I said. The belt barely slid over my shoulder before we veered in a new direction. Lady Alexandrea fiddled with the dial while someone kicked the back of my chair. “Leticia is going to vote me teacher of the month!”
Feet kicked my chair. I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms, and waited for the drive to reach its inevitable metal grinding halt. Or maybe we’d live. Lady Alexandrea did barrel rolls and twists. Our vessel shot left then right. The moles chanted on the radio proclaiming their ever-encroaching doom. My chair continued to rock with kicks.
“Got one!” Kennedy shouted.
“What?” the other guy responded.
“I set off a mine on that ship!”
“What ship?” Clinton responded.
“One of the ones chasing us.” Kennedy groaned. “But now my head hurts. Holy hell.”
So, good for him. Metal-ka-whatever proved to be a better power than unable to avoid super powered events. Surprise. I glanced at Kennedy but he looked less focused with each passing second. Reaching that far with his powers must have drained him. I made a note of it; Kennedy’s powers were crap at a distance.
“There’s so many!” one of the girls said with a confused tone.
“We’ll be okay. Remember to use our auras in space, just like in class,” the overly protective chair kicker responded. “Remember? But don’t touch Midnight or you’ll lose control again.”
Whitewash said something important. I ignored it and drummed my fingers against the car’s interior and huffed hot air onto the window. Fingers worked a masterpiece. A small stick figure on par with Flux’s crayon drawings slowly formed.
Lady Alexandrea’s huge fist slammed onto the dashboard in front of me. I jumped and paid attention with a half-formed salute. “Do not do that. It limits my visibility.” She pointed at the rear-view mirror. “And you! Sit down before I hurl you outside.”
I turned briefly to try and figure out who’d she’d been chastising, but it was impossible to tell. All five students sat perfectly straight. Even Leticia, who’d insisted on making sure her sister and Midnight were on opposite ends of the universe.
While we spun end over end and my stomach wanted to escape out my mouth, I asked, “An aura? That glow stick move lets you survive in space?”
“Sure,” Clinton answered. “Basic training. We wouldn’t have been able to come if we didn’t have some way to survive a few minutes. Though more than that, impossible. Your eyeballs come out your skull and it makes a mess.”
“Evasive manures!” the moles yelled.
I glanced out the front to figure out who was evading which shit. There were no obvious signs. Our course had grown closer to the Purple Prose and a small fleet of Crystalline vessels were powing their hearts out.
We stopped spinning and Kennedy smiled. “Six hours on a tilt-o-whirl and you pretty much get used to this. Did you do that too?”
“Oh, every day,” I answered.
The rear-view mirror showed that no one looked as calm as they sounded. Kennedy fought back a barf. Midnight seemed calm but her pale skin had beads of sweat forming. The lump from my footprint showed clearly. I hoped she might put her mind bullet powers to good use on the mole people but I couldn’t tell if she’d be able to.
Giant purple beams collided with the front of our van. Everything shook. The semi-stoic teens broke into collective cries. Lady Alexandrea cursed. My teeth chattered.
The space van lost power. We floated sideways after a half completed turn. Gravity stopped, which made me blink a few times. I turned to see the hair on the gaggle of kids in the back slowly float upward.
The girls were confused. Lady Alexandrea cursed and turned the key repeatedly. The engine ground like the ignition wouldn’t catch. I felt sick myself and thankful I hadn’t had much to eat. It’d been bad enough throwing up in front of other people the first time. Or the second.
The van rattled as another purple beam hit us. Two Crystalline ships flew by. Red dots blipped behind us as a pile of mines trailed the mole people tin cans. Perhaps I should be thankful they couldn’t fly fast. Though how they kept being slow and still managed to stay ahead of space mines was beyond me.
“If you don’t start I will crush you into a small flat pancake!” Lady Alexandrea yelled.
The key snapped. I shook my head.
“Hold—” Kennedy started to say something when the room spun. Our ship rattled as the energy beam sent us flying. I closed my eyes tightly to prevent the spinning outside from making me sicker.
“They’re too far.” Kennedy gulped.
“Babe, I told you, don’t focus on stuff so far away,” Clinton said. There were patting sounds to go with impending doom to all people in the car. Lady Alexandrea cursed the machinery. It sounded like a user error to me. “Make us move. Turn the key. Feel the engine. Focus on nearby.”
It was almost sweet. I felt sick for another reason.
“We can shield the van,” Whitewash said quietly. I almost missed her words under the roar of a near miss. The Purple Prose might still be attacking. The mines might still be flying toward us with their kamikaze mole people escorts.
“If you’re going to do it, do it now!” I shouted at the lot of them.
Stupid powered people. They wanted to chat with each other while our ship was being bombarded by near misses. My own ability would likely kick into panic mode soon if someone didn’t get us out of here.
“No!” Leticia shouted.
My ears fucking rang. This vehicle only had so much room and space’s natural temperature was nothing like Earth proper. We were going to be extremely cold soon.
“You can’t,” Leticia said. The rest of her words vanished under the combined sound of Kennedy groaning and Lady Alexandrea straight pulling the steering wheel off its neck. She crumpled the device while I tried not to think about everyone in this car dying at once.
“Kennedy, move us!” I shouted. “Throw up later,” I added with a less anger.
The steering wheel turned into a small ball. She’d crumpled it like a drunk might crush a beer can. The sisters argued while Midnight stared out the window. A dribble of blood ran down her nose. I took that to mean she’d been trying to use her “make hurty” powers.
Our driver got her hands into wires and peeled them with her fingernails. I blinked, in an extremely useful manner, and turned my attention to the girls.
“Shields,” I said with all the firmness of a repeat kidnap victim could muster. You know, the kind of “Shut up before you get us all killed” tone that comes with experience.
“They need to work together for that,” Leticia said. Traces of a dozen emotions flickered across her face before she locked lips tightly. The van jerked as another near miss brushed by us. Two responding ka-pows came from the Crystalline vessels.
“Shields,” I tried again.
My eye twitched and foot shot out at her face. I grabbed the loose steering and threw it back at her. She blocked, which said something of her reflexes or my poor aim. Leticia started to unbuckle her seatbelt while I shouted.
“I don’t care if they have to get in the back and make out.” I did care. That would have been a sight almost worth getting stabbed by Alice over. “That’s for them to deal with, but we probably all die if someone doesn’t get up some damn shields! Their crisis can—”
Whitewash reached past her sister for Midnight’s shoulder. The washed-out girl flinched and closed her eyes with a heavy sigh that almost bordered on sobbing.
Leticia lost her god damned mind. As white and black glowing infused the two girls, Leticia answered with an absurd swirl of colors that changed from red to green to everything. It was like watching a pinwheel go insane.
“Let them save you idiots,” I told her. “It’s not my life. It’s yours.”
She didn’t hear me, at all. Leticia reared back a bright red fist and aimed at the offending Midnight, even though the other girl had done absolutely nothing. I tilted my head at the light show.
Kennedy, speedster that he was, had a better idea than watching chicks fight. His body blurred and the red aura that surrounded Leticia died off a blink or two later. Leticia’s eyes wavered and she reeled in her car seat. Then she was out. I had no clue what he’d done.
The blend of white and black behind her continued to blur until the van’s interior glowed gray. I glanced around, half expecting the world to turn tan instead and the drunk unicorn to come flying out of the darkness.
Our van buckled. Clinton groaned and the engine clicked. Lady Alexandrea paused her wire futzing and reached out for some pole in the steering column she’d left behind. Outside the van, gray started to glow too. The haze seemed to grow an edge that distorted our view of the remaining space battle.
“Is that a bubble?” I asked.
None of the girls responded. I glanced behind me for the thousandth time and noticed that all of them were in their own little worlds.
He didn’t answer me.
A large, something blurry, dashed from the Purple Prose’s vessel toward us. It hit the possible bubble’s outer edge and swallowed us before passing harmlessly on. There were no signs of us having been hunt in the slightest.
“All right. That’s useful,” I said while nodding. “I like shields. They mean people don’t die.”
“Indeed,” Lady Alexandrea said. She jerked her arms to the side and the van swung through space. Still no power, so either she’d found a button to subject us to known gravity sources or Kennedy had done something.
Either way, I hoped Lord Purple was having a fit. Let the might of gray show pathetic purple who’s boss. The world was looking up. Leticia had been rendered unconscious. The van moved. No one had died yet. We might make it out of this stupid battle before the mines caught up, or worse.
This is a good spot to point out a lesson. Even when there’s utter chaos and too many people talking, it can always get worse. Especially in space. Especially if you’re me and happened to take a hamster on a field trip during the seventh grade and released him in time to be hit by gamma radiation and space whatever.
Yes, that happened. Yes, the hamster is still alive. Yes, he’s in his space. See, I’m such a positive person. What really confused me is how such a stupid event happened before I actually got powers. Some brilliant decision made by a teacher. The odds have never been in my favor when it comes to randomness.
Anyway, back to space and the ships. The fight kept going outside. It was hard to see the battles because gray overcame everything. It overrode other colors, especially in the back of the van. It was almost impossible to pick out any of the five from the seats. Kind of like those shaggy dogs whose fur matched the carpet. I squinted and wondered why Lady Alexandrea stood out so much. She still had color to her body, but that may have been the miles of muscle and a natural fear of accidentally being caught in a choke hold.
The van’s engine turned over after a rattle filled stutter and settled into happy humming. The cold we’d been feeling drifted away almost immediately as the van pulled in air from god knew where and blasted heat at our heads. I quietly turned the van’s heating vents away from my face.
“Excellent! Away we venture. Toward safer harbors,” Lady Alexandrea said.
A crumpled steering wheel didn’t slow her down. She used two beefy fingers on the leftover pole and turned it accordingly. Our vessel sailed through space, if you can sail in space while driving, and away from the battle.
I tuned the radio.
“The mines,” mole people shouted. “They’re not working!” then garbled nonsense. There had been mines. I assumed they bounced off our shielding like the Purple Prose’s beam of doom.
I changed the station and found music. It’d been an age since I listened to a song but now seemed like a bad time to stop and boogie. There were a few other channels and I briefly wondered what the hell kind of radio they’d put in this crazy space van.
All the while, Lady Alexandrea presumably flew us through space. She was an extremely focused woman. A dozen stations later and I heard a loud rumbling scree of doom.
It overrode the Spanish commercial that had been excitedly talking about something with water. I flicked the radio back to the mole people. They screamed. Their shouts matched the same tone as the rumbling scree. It was like a godly version of a mole had driven all sane thoughts from their already tiny brains. The Crystalline station chattered in a language that made zero sense. At least they were still alive.
I switched channels again and got the Purple Prose’s station.
“Honey, what’s that?” Vivian said. The low hum of an endless cry could be heard in the background. It could be heard without the radio too, but much quieter.
“An anomaly!” Lord Purple’s reedy voice warbled. “A large one. Moving at speeds that do not compute. It’s kipping through space, wait. I have it. I’ve identified the newest space invader.”
“Which one is it?”
“Number forty-two on our register. The twenty-eighth moon of Uranus. Brown-Black Hole!” Lord Purple either shook a lot when he spoke or liked to sound a bit psychotic. Either way, a brown black hole made zero sense.
“That floating fuzzy piece of shit is over here? How’s that even possible. Uranus is far away for a giant gerbil.”
I groaned. Now the brown black hole bit made sense. Plus, I could even tell Vivian how it got to Earth. The answer would be obvious, I’m me. And me in space, plus a childhood pet, often had one specific side effect. Which I guessed was a fuzzy brown critter about the fourth the size of the moon. Big enough to make the ocean cry for a little while anyway.
My head shook. They would not call my pet the Brown-Black Hole from Uranus. No matter how laughably accurate the title was, it was not his name. “Is there a way to respond on this thing? Can I page them and tell them how brilliant they are?”
“You wish to communicate with our foes?” Lady Alexandrea asked.
“Would you believe it’s psychological warfare?” I lifted my eyebrows and struggled to smile in a convincing manner. It failed, but everyone knew it would.
“That is an acceptable tactic. Though potentially dangerous. I will allow it,” she said.
That made my lips curl. She could allow all she wanted but nothing would help her if she tried to stop me from doing something. My powers often made a situation worse after anything halted me from, I don’t know, doing stuff.
Lady Alexandrea found a button on the dashboard. A pocket I hadn’t notice popped open and inside sat a tethered CB style radio. It felt laughably old considering we were in space, but whatever. I picked it up and prepared to deliver my clever commentary to the dumb duo.
“His name his Ham Star, you assholes!” I clicked the little button a few more times trying to tie up the line and annoy them. “Ham. Star. Not Brown-Black Hole. Who the hell names a space hamster after two colors?”
“That is a better name,” Lord Purple said. “But still, nothing compares to the majesty of our armies! The Purple Prose shall be victorious in all endeavors!”
I couldn’t see their damn ship. I wanted to see their ship and Ham Star, since I was fairly sure that the screeing of doom was my childhood pet turned giant space faring critter. Last I’d seen of him, he even had his hamster ball. It was equally monstrous, he rolled around space eating and pooping, which made no goddamn sense.
“I hope he chews your ship to pieces, and your stupid little bomb exploding guys. I hope he farts gas worse than your toxic fumes and you choke and die.”
Vivian cut in, “Adam? How are you on our frequency. This is encrypted by Yang technology we stole.”
I knew some alien races. Yang, or whatever, was not one of them. So, I did what I normally do when trying to mess with people. I made shit up.
“Science. Yeah, baby.” I couldn’t stop myself from waving an arm in the car. They’d never see it, but it made me feel better. “Watch out now. I have a radio and a van full of drama. You’re doomed. After Ham. Star. Eats your stupid purple poser.”
Vivian wanted to kill my parents. My parents who I hadn’t seen for years and had believed abandoned me. There was no way she’d get to them and murder someone before I could have a reunion that involved awkward yelling and introducing my girlfriend to the family.
Plus, I hated Lord Purple. That’s when I hated him more because he popped back on and said, “Oh he already chewed through the back half. But that doesn’t matter. I’m not even on the ship. And you know what, I don’t mind telling you we’ve got another twelve of them back at the dry docks,” in a fantastically suave voice. It felt like a posh man glared down his nose at me while sipping wine and curling his well waxed mustache. He would then laugh, a gwahaha sort of noise and go, “Poor, poor, Adam. I own an entire fleet of purple spaceships!”
Vivian distracted me by saying, “Honey, don’t tell him about our ships. We’re trying to kill his family, remember? He’s not a friend.”
“Right, sorry, dear,” Lord Purple said.
That wouldn’t fly. No way would Vivian and Lord Purple get to outclass me. “I have a space hamster of doom! The twenty eighth moon from your ass! He’ll eat all your ships.”
Vivian cleared her throat, then I think Lord Purple though coughed as well. He started shouting, once again in shrill tones, “Fools! You will fall before the unstoppable army of Lord Purple and his Mistress VVV!”
“Mistress? Really?” Vivian said. “You put a ring on it two months ago, remember? We had that honeymoon raiding party on the people of Zigeron? I bet you still haven’t brought our souvenirs out of cryofreeze either.”
“Sorry, dear,” he responded. “I’ll do that now.”
“You promised to stop getting distracted.”
“I know, dear. I love you. Kisses.”
I tried not to throw up in my mouth, as opposed to someone else’s. They didn’t care at all that we’d found their radio frequency or whatever. They didn’t care at all that Vivian wanted to murder my parents. Lord Purple had been put in his place by my ex-girlfriend who’d been, never mind. It hurts my head to even begin to outline all the screwed-up details of that conversation.
Apparently, I was the only one utterly disgusted by the situation. The boys in the back hadn’t moved. I glanced at them through the rear view. Clinton looked like shit and was pale. Kennedy cared more about the other man than my own intercom battle.
So, we stewed for a minute while heading off to some place I couldn’t even see. The stupid grayness caused by the stupid unable to be together girls and their stupid stupidness blocked everything. That left me imagining scenarios where, however fucked up it might be, Alice showed up out of nowhere and stabbed Lord Purple and his fleet of ships in the balls.
I didn’t even own a ship. I didn’t technically own the hamster either. And if sounds like the whole situation put me into a pity party of one, you’d be right. It was unfair. Get kidnapped by aliens with a girl, and what happens? She becomes a fucking space pirate with a fleet of ships! Where I couldn’t even keep a single pair of pants a week.
“Uhh, Miss Alexandrea—” Clinton said.
“Lady Alexandrea,” the giantess cut him off with a firm tone. “I did not fight two interstellar wars and survive the Kar’lothian Trails to be called Miss!”
“What’s a Kar’lothian?” Clinton asked quietly. He sounded sick. I checked the mirror and saw Kennedy shaking his head in confusion.
“They’re really sexy looking,” I exaggerated in a whisper. Kar’lothians are not at all attractive. Unless you’re a slug who thinks twigs are awesome decoration. Add in a comical amount of muscles that made Lady Alexandrea look like a school girl and you’ve got Kar’lothians.
After a moment of rude thoughts, I added, “And you would never need to bring lube.”
Clinton and his friend exchanged a glance that probably meant they were unsure of my seriousness. I didn’t frown on people who found the interspecies thing entertaining. I’d seen so many strange combinations that something had to be really shocking to make me bat more than an eyelash.
“Right. Can we bring down the shield? Letty’s right that they shouldn’t go for too long. Or that’s what we’ve been told.” Leticia did not seem like a Letty. She didn’t seem like a Leticia either. Bitchicia would have been accurate. I’d have to figure out a good superhero one for her and pass on the tradition Ted started by labeling me “The Fiasco.”
“You may. We have ventured outside of the enemy vessel’s range and the mine fields,” she responded.
“How long have they had the no touching rule?” I switched back to reporter mode, even though Flux was nowhere near us. I’d been staring out the window during our brief bout of peace but so far the red-eyed camera had been absent.
“Since paired exercises on day three? That was four…” Kennedy spaced out while prying Whitewash’s fingers off Midnight. Her fingers were locked so tight that they seemed to sink into her t-shirt.
“Five,” Clinton corrected.
“Fine, five months ago. The teacher had us all use our powers together to complete tasks. Theirs, well it did this.”
“What is this?” I asked, wiggling my fingers at the dull haze overpowering everything.
“Walker called it a plane. Like a small dimension where their rules overlay everyone else’s. It sounded powerful, which is what we all hope for. More power means we can do more. Stop bad guys or help with disaster relief, whatever, right?” Kennedy rambled. He had no luck separating the two girls. He kept trying while Clinton picked up the rest of the story. Talking didn’t seem to help him sound better.
“Walker told us it has a price. When they use it, they stop being two people and start to become one. He said it would be literal and figurative. Until no one could tell where one began and the other started.”
“So Leticia flipped her lid. It doesn’t help that Candace hasn’t come out to her sister yet, or anyone. Then the powers cause an attraction on top of everything else,” Clinton continued. Kennedy grunted and managed to undo Whitewash’s fingers. The gray around us shivered and shook.
“Poor girls. They were doomed before they even started. It’s not right you know? So many people want powers and these two luck out, only to find their powers will probably be the death of them. Or worse, the death of their identities,” Kennedy said. “Then to be gay on top of it? I can’t imagine being handed a death sentence and someone you can’t be with. At least I know that when I go, it’s not so bad. I’ve had a life.”
“Don’t talk like that,” Clinton responded. He reached out a hand.
I sighed and folded my arms over my chest. It should have bothered me that the guys were so willing to talk in front of the other two about this, but clearly Whitewash and Midnight were miles away. If their minds had really melded or something weird like that, then they’d take a lot of time to even walk without assistance.
Powers had side effects. Mine were utter shit. I’d met a fortune teller who’d killed her own baby after being driven mad by visions. Hell, I still hadn’t figured out how she’d had sex in the first place without losing her mind. Their woes sounded bad, sure. I’d also seen worse.
But they were hardly alone. In either sense. Leticia was there for her sister trying to help. The boys were clearly out to help them as well, though they seemed to be doing a poor job. Walker might care enough to solve it, but he might have also sent them with me to see if something else interesting would happen.
I barely understood my own problems and couldn’t even begin to wrap my brain around anyone else’s. My body ached and neck felt tense. I rubbed my head and reminded myself that no one in the van had died. That had to be good enough for now.
Cosmic Rays & Origin Chasers
An excerpt from Hero Watch
As with many items in the powered world, this is a generic yet sensationalized term. Most agree that cosmic rays are “immensely high-energy radiation, mainly originating outside the Solar System” but in a universe where people can teleport to other solar systems and back before lunch – that’s a useless definition. This implies certain solar based powers that go to other planets and come back are firing cosmic rays everywhere.
(We here at Hero Watch agree that exactly this has happened, resulting in the untimely demise of Yorkshire in 1932 – but we also acknowledge that not all similar cases result the same way)
Generally this term means that someone got hit by an energy not from anywhere around here (being Earth) and ended up with side effects that can include flight, regeneration, melty face syndrome, and hair loss.
The awareness item Hero watch wants to bring up, is that chasing Cosmic Rays is hazardous and often times results in health demolishing effects, rather than triggering hero powers. Amanda Bright is the most recent soul lost to what is generally termed “origin chasing”, a practice in which youngster risk their lives for abilities. Others have chased cars, stood in front of freight trains, and swallowed detergent packages.
The odds on gaining a successful power that doesn’t come with crippling side effects are minute. We’ve compiled a study which we fill still fails to underline how dangerous it is – but we are a group dedicated to facts in the news, so the numbers stay as they are shown.
For more information on the 7 in 10 death ratio of origin chasers, please see the link below.
For more on Amanda, please check out her memorial page.