Tomorrow morning was no different than yesterday afternoon. I needed to get a car one of these days. Not that I knew how; Mom and Dad didn’t have the money to pay for one, and Laura was even worse off. I might have been able to get something from the money I, uh, confiscated from Kitten’s gang, but Laura would spend it better. No wonder so many supers go villain, that’s where the money is.
American Lit had us on the Great Gatsby, one of the few novels after World War One that didn’t bother including Imbued, save a brief mention of them as ‘symbols of a changing world, unwelcomed by the upper class’, and bits of speculation about Gatsby being one.
Until yesterday, I found that annoying. Still didn’t stop me from being bored to tears while reading the damn book. Fortunately, the teacher didn’t bother calling on me to answer anything in this class. Miss Carter wasn’t interested in humor, unless it related to her cats.
Physics was more my style. I’d always been good with math, and this was just another kind of math. That and I got to sit with Ben, one of my few actual friends in school. Nerdy type, but with a razor sharp sense of humor, which made him great to hang out around.
“All over you, huh? Y’know, I’m pretty sure hallucinations mean you have schizophrenia, not super powers.”
“Por que no los dos?” I shrugged when he just kept looking at me with his ‘not buying it for a second’ face. “Okay, fine. But if she gave me a closer look, her nipples would have poked my eyes out.”
He smirked at me. “Okay, that sounds like Cassie. So, what were Eddie and Amber up to while you were getting a peep show?”
Probably thanking their lucky stars it would be at least another two or three projects before they’d need to work with either of us again. “Y’know, dude, you really should just ask Amber out already, I’m sure she’d be into it.” Guys aren’t exactly knocking down her door.
“I dunno, what if things get weird?”
“Bro, face it, you are weird. So’s she, which is why it’s perfect.”
He decided looking at the clay was more interesting. “I don’t want her to think I’m a stalker or something.”
As opposed to being a stalker? “Well, the only difference between a stalker and a boy or girlfriend is how the recipient interprets the events.”
I waited for a second to let him absorb my wisdom, and he started snickering. “I knew it was love when he used my own silk panties to chloroform me. I awoke to realize I was bound to an office chair. Facing a computer screen filled with lines of text, the gravity of the situation slowly dawned on me. I had found the man I would be with forever.”
I fell laughing onto the desk. “It’s like if Fifty Shades was honest about itself!” After a minute to recover, I sat back up. “See, you could just write her something. Not that, but something nice. I bet she’d love that high literature stuff.”
“Zach, you only know literature from bathroom walls.”
“Hey, that’s not true!” I tried to act offended. “I also know limericks, and your mother’s phone number. Seriously, though, you’re good, and if Amber has half the brains she likes to think she does, she’ll jump on the offer.”
Ben and I had changed subjects like five or six times before class ended and we went to lunch. People made room for me to pass, as before. Fuck, some of the people that others made way for, like the more aggressive gang members, didn’t bother me.
That would change, as people got used to me; someone would try to test my powers just to see what I was capable of, most likely as part of a gang initiation. That was the tradition, sending the henches after the hero to get an idea of their powers. I probably had a week or two before someone tried.
Ben just watched in awe as everyone backed off. “Dude, you are so fucking lucky.”
I cringed a little inside. Luck can suck my lily white ass, this is only happening because I was stupid and overconfident. I picked up my pace. “Let’s go, wouldn’t want to hold up the rest of the students.”
Ben hurried to catch up. “Dude, what’s wrong?”
What’s wrong is I’m a fuckup. “Just hungry is all. I kinda skipped breakfast.”
“Cool.” He didn’t quite sound like he believed me, but as long as he didn’t pester me about it too much I was good.
We went through the lunch line more or less untroubled. Contrary to popular belief, the food here wasn’t so bad. All those soccer moms and their push for healthy options meant fresh fruit and veggies if you didn’t want to take your chances with the deep fried mystery meat or gas station quality pizza. If Ben thought anything of me picking out a couple apples and a packet of baby carrots, he didn’t bring that up, either.
I, as usual, picked my spot in what was considered the ‘loser’ section. Identified by the lack of gang paraphernalia, or attractive females, or attractive males for that matter. Any other day, this was a blessing, but today the geeks stayed here. And if you ever met a geek, you’d know how much they love superpowers. Well, unless you met Sarah. She was the exception that proved the rule.
“Hey, Zach! What powers do you have?” And here it starts.
“How’d you get them?” “How long have you had them” “Why didn’t you tell us?” “Can I be your sidekick?”
Why didn’t I pick a different table? “Guys. I don’t have the power to answer a dozen questions at once. I haven’t had them very long and I didn’t want anyone to know. I’d rather make the supervillains work for that info.” That’d sell at least some of them. I stepped into the gap between the table and bench and sat down. “But if you really wanna know, I can’t be hurt.” For very long. “Doesn’t matter what you do, I’m untouchable.”
“What? You’re saying you’re an eighth level Tank?” David, this time. He fit the nerdy kid stereotype down to the thick glasses and acne. “And that’s all you’ve got?”
“Kinda, I guess.” I really didn’t feel like sharing my other tricks with them. “Don’t have to eat or sleep, either.” I confirmed the sleeping part last night, the second I dozed off my power popped and I was wide awake. I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to.
David just looked at me like I was an idiot. “Nothing else? Bastion can share his invulnerability with others. And Guardian has the power to warp space and redirect attacks toward himself, or reach attackers faster.”
“Yeah, I have a boring power, I know.”
“Impossible power. No one ever gets only tank powers. It always comes with something else to make it useful.”
Dammit, can’t you take the hint? “Well, does never getting tired for any reason count? I could run without resting until I die of old age if I wanted.” I paused for a second, hoping that’d be enough for him. “Actually, I don’t even know if I can die of old age. Maybe I just haven’t figured out the rest of my power?”
“You might be a Breaker,” one of the freshmen girls I didn’t know offered. “A lot of them have powers that only work if someone else is using powers on them. Like, you could also be immune to mind control or able to see invisible enemies.” I would have to thank her later.
David let out an exaggerated sigh. “Seeing invisible is a Tracker power. To be a Breaker, you need to change how other powers work, not simply have a way to counter them using your own. Otherwise the category would be meaningless, since almost everyone has a power that can counter at least some other powers.”
The girl sneered at him. “Don’t ignore me! If he has some kind of Breaker power, he won’t know what it is until he meets other Imbued. Therefor, there is absolutely no reason he can’t be just a Tank.”
“If he has another power, that means he’s not just a Tank, he just doesn’t- uh.” David stopped speaking, distracted by something behind me.
“So, I’m told you were saying something about me being, and I quote, ‘all over you’.”
Why, hello there fear of death. I almost forgotten what you were like. It looks like you’re planning to visit for a while. Come in, have a seat, would you like some tea? “Umm, hello, Cassie.”
I turned to face the music. Oh, and she brought two of her friends from the cheer squad along as backup. Now there’s going to be three hot girls judging me instead of one. Great. Ben and the other nearby kids slowly scooted away from me. Traitors. “There may have been a bit of a misunderstanding.”
“Yeah, there was a misunderstanding.” She placed her hands on my shoulders. “Just so we’re clear, letting you get a bit of a peek is not ‘all over you’.”
I hurried to apologize. “No, you’re absolutely right, I’ll b-”
She bent over, her arms sliding down my back. The dragging of her fingernails sent shivers along my spine. She didn’t stop until her forehead touched mine. My new sense activated, which was… not interesting in the least bit.
Not because she wasn’t attractive, my other senses were telling me details about her scent, the shape of her dark brown eyes, the texture and heat of her skin. I drank in every detail and loved it. But my power sense was… just not interested, I guess. “Now, how does this compare?”
“Yeah, I thought so.” She stood up and stepped away, much to my disappointment. She turned and took a step away before stopping and looking back. “Oh, and just so we’re clear, that wasn’t ‘all over you’, either. If you want to know what that looks like, you’ll have to ask nicely.”
Hey, brain, what am I supposed to do now? Any ideas? No? Of course not, what do you even do besides prop up my skull? I just stared as the three girls left, giggling with one another. It was a lovely view, and it’s not like I had anything better to do.
Eventually Ben broke the silence. “So, I think we can take eloquent speaker off the list of Zach’s possible secret superpowers.”
Then it was gym class, where I got to change in front of a bunch of other dudes. Who were both trying to stare at me because that was the new thing to do in this school, and trying not to stare at me because watching other guys get naked is hella gay. At least no one tried to make conversation, so that was a mercifully quick humiliation.
Coach Murray, and you had better call him ‘Coach’, not ‘Mister’, was a large man in every sense of the word. Over six foot, and built like a linebacker. He stood right outside the locker entrance and waited for us to all come outside and line up before speaking. “Alright, in honor of Friday’s win, we’re doing flag football today.”
Mutters of displeasure washed across the crowd. But, then, that would happen no matter what he decided upon. Meanwhile, the girls looked just about as happy as their coach, Mrs. Murray- yes our gym coaches are married- told them the same news. Unfortunately, Cassie wasn’t in the same class with us, but I noticed Ferne in the back.
“Jones, Carlton, you’re picking teams today.” He paused for a second. “And, Parker, there was something said about you having powers?”
Oh god damn it, can we skip one class of this? “Yes, coach.”
“You’re out of the game. Go run laps.”
“That’s the law, Parker. Imbued students are not allowed to participate in competitive sports against ordinary classmates.” He looked pissed that he couldn’t make me play, but then he always looked pissed.
“Oh. Guess I run laps, then.” I stepped out of the line. This day was just full of awkward surprises, which now included being legally singled out of the group for being different.
“Actually, coach, mind if I beg out, too?” I looked for the source of the voice, and found Alex. “Still feeling a bit banged up, might be better just to take it easy until I’m at one hundred percent.”
Coach Murray only paused a moment. “Remember to stretch, and if I don’t see eight laps, I’d better see a doctor’s note.”
“Yes, coach.” Alex caught up to me as I headed toward the track. Meanwhile, the others started calling names for their teams. “So, you and Cassie, huh?”
“Just invu…” That’s not what he asked. “I have absolutely no idea what’s up with her.”
“I’d explain it to you, but I’m sure you’ve seen enough videos online.”
“Not what I meant. Pretty sure she’s only interested in me ’cause I have powers now.”
Alex shrugged, kneeling down and doing leg stretches near the track. “Yeah, let’s be real, it’s only because of the powers. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to enjoy it. So go for it, unless you got someone you like better? And if you do, girls love when you turn down other girls to have a shot with them. Especially hotter ones, and Cassie might not be the hottest girl in the school, but she’s definitely the hottest in our grade.”
He has a point. I have to deal with the bullshit no matter what I do, so I may as well enjoy the benefits. “Is that why you’re over here instead of getting picked first for the football game?”
“That and I think it’s kinda fucked up that you got singled out like that and have to run the track alone. That’s just not cool.”
Oh, yay, just what I always wanted, people to feel bad for me. “Not being forced to play stupid games in gym, such hardship, woe is me. I think you just wanted to put the moves on me again.”
“Well, seeing as Cassie tried and failed, I give myself good odds.” He stood up, having completed his stretches. “So, you gonna do the superhero thing?”
Sure, I’ll get on that right after completing my plans to execute a fourteen year old. The police love to hire premeditated child murderers. “Still thinking about it. I mean, any idiot can be intimidating in a good costume, but my face is public. I’ve gotta do it without a mask.”
“Oh, that’s not so hard.”
“For you, maybe. You’re, like, everything they want superheroes to look like for the cameras.”
“Now who’s putting the moves on who?” He smiled at me. “Besides, that’s easy enough to change. All a matter of the ‘tude.”
And just like that, he transformed in front of me. Not powers style, just in behavior. He slouched down, let his shoulders slump. A quick run of his fingers through his hair turned a mane into a mop, obscured his eyes. Like that, it was easier to notice flaws I never picked up on before, like how his somewhat too large Italian nose stood out, making his whole face look different.
“See, it’s all about ‘tude. Body language and the way you carry yourself.” And then he was back to standing upright and pushing his hair back into place.
That is freakin’ insane. “Yeah, well, you can’t hide the fact that you’re ripped.” And, by extension, I am not.
“True. But that just takes time and effort, and it’s good for you anyway. Plus it’s a way to keep Cassie around after she gets bored with the whole ‘has powers’ thing. You’ve got some kind of weird teleportation, right?”
“Uh… yeah, kinda…” Who the hell figured that out so soon? “If I ever get hurt, I heal when teleporting. It cures any poisons and even stops me from getting tired. Or something. I haven’t tested it enough to know everything about how it works.”
“Huh, that means your body is your weapon. Even more reason to get in shape.”
“Right, my ordinary human body.”
“Don’t sell the ‘ordinary human body’ short. You can do a lot of damage with just a human body and no concern for your own health. I mean, look at people on drugs like PCP or amphetamines. They shrug off bullets, get up after being hit by a car and break the car in the process, have almost superhuman reaction times. That’s not because these are some kind of gadget drugs or something. Every healthy adult is capable of it. As long as you don’t mind the fact that you have to destroy your body to do it.”
“And… I have a power that means I don’t mind.” Holy shit, this advice is crazy.
“Exactly. And then there’s all the other rules in a fight that other people have to follow. Like, only the stupid and the cocky will ever go for the face. The bones in your skull are way tougher than the ones in your hands. And there’s nothing you can hit other than the eyes which will slow someone someone down in a fight. You can do a lot of damage just by letting someone hit you in the head.”
And now I feel stupid for the times I hit Kitten in the face. If I’d gone for somewhere else… no, she regenerated her stomach being sliced open, wouldn’t have made a difference. “Okay, that’s something they don’t teach you just anywhere. Kinda like the whole changing your ‘tude like that thing.”
Alex shrugged. “My dad and uncles are really into MMA, especially the powered exhibition matches. Personally, I think it’s kinda twisted to watch people knife each other while crowds cheer, but you will learn a few things. The rest, that just takes an acting class or two.”
Acting classes, that might not be a bad idea. “I’ve never thought of any of it like that.”
“That, and your powers might let you cheat at working out. Proper body building involves damaging your body so it heals back stronger. If you heal instantly when hurt, that means you might be able to get five or ten times as much actual exercise in the same amount of time. Especially since you could do, like, a hundred reps at your max or sprint for an hour. Shit like that would kill normal people, but you can treat it like a light warm up.”
“Or that, I guess.”
“Good, now, let’s start running before Murray comes over here. Besides, I’m feeling competitive, and racing against someone who can’t get tired sounds like fun.”
“Superstar versus superhuman, huh?”
“Such an ego. you’re no superstar.”
“Okay, you’re on.”