Price In Triplicate, Chapter 5- Chloe

I took a slow breath, trusting the new sensations running through my body while trying to ignore the sense of foreboding of what I’d just done. I was always a bit of a supers geek; I knew that there was always a loss associated with powers to offset the gains. It wasn’t a question of if, but how much I’d pay.

My first action was to turn toward the party. No one was looking at me, so they probably didn’t see my brief power display. The second was to check my reflection in the glass. In a moment of both relief and disappointment, I saw the same face was looking back at me as had in the bathroom earlier today.

Now to see what I can do. I stepped out into the lawn and drew on my power, watching in fascination as light radiated from my fingertips; it felt warm, like sunlight. Whatever it was, it made me feel strong.

I pressed against the earth with my power. My foot sank into the soil with all the ease of stepping into bathwater, violating however many laws of physics in the process.

That meant super strength and durability, along with a power that allowed me to exert more force than my own body weight without leverage. Plus, somehow, my shoe and sock weren’t even dirty after their temporary burial. I put my money on some sort of forcefield.

My identity was intact, I didn’t mutate into a freak, and my powers didn’t seem to hurt me. Not only that, but my power protected my clothing. Most Brawlers and Tanks weren’t that lucky; the really unlucky ones didn’t even have a power that protected their own bones. Overall, it looked like I an excellent ability without any major drawbacks.

I looked back at the house. What did I just give away, for this kind of power? No answers came. There were things I couldn’t or wouldn’t test. A lot of Imbued stopped aging, some had to feed on people, many female Imbued lost the ability to have children. I didn’t feel hungry, I’d already knew biological children weren’t in my future. All that was left was aging. Which would suck, but how do you test for that?

I looked at the hole I put in the lawn. Someone will notice that. I stepped around the sides, squishing the soil down until there was a minor dip in the lawn instead of a glaring hole. With any luck, no one would suspect a thing. Even if someone did, I doubted their first guess would be that I used powers to poke a hole in the ground with my foot.

I took the time to smooth my dress, just to make sure everything was perfect before going back inside the party. Starfall had taken her place as center of attention with an almost serene calm. It took a certain special skill to walk into a high society party wearing nothing but a catsuit and a mask, but she made it work. In fact, she seemed used to this sort of socializing; probably how she knew my mom.

The part where she has a figure fit for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover doesn’t hurt either. 

After forcing my eyes away, I noted I wasn’t the only person thinking the same thing. Women looked envious, while men just looked. Mom and Dad were amongst the few who didn’t. As usual, they only had eyes for each other.

When I was younger, it was a source of constant embarrassment for me and my brothers, but now I envied the two of them. How could one not envy a couple that was still so in love after twenty years and three kids?

My father and mother were direct contrasts; her tall and graceful, him short and barrel-shaped. If his hair was blond instead of brown, he could make a passable cosplay of Barney Rubble. Guess which of them I inherited my height from?

I walked over to them, smiling the whole way. Dad saw me first. “Hey, mushroom, done guarding the door?”

Dad had been calling me that since I was four, and somehow I didn’t hate it. “Yup, I figure now that we got a real superhero here, you don’t need me.” I braced myself as Dad’s hand pressed down on my head. Normally, it would be followed by him mussing my hair, but not at a party like this one. A gentle pressure was all the roughhousing he indulged. “Thanks for inviting her.”

Dad squeezed his hand a little, then took it away. “Well, I heard she was your favorite, so when the chance showed itself, I took it.”

I rolled my eyes. “You heard that, huh?” Half of my bedroom was covered in merchandice with her likeness or logo. Other little girls got pink as kids, and then switched to black in high school; I started with midnight blue and still had midnight blue.

Although my powers seemed to decide I liked glowing yellow. I looked over at Starfall. Maybe I can convince her to take me on as an apprentice. We can have a whole night and day theme going on. But if she calls me a ‘sidekick’ I’ll quit. Girl’s gotta have standards.

“You do tend to wear your heart on your sleeve.” Mom’s amused voice pulled me out of my thoughts. “By the way, if you want that chance for a photo, you might actually want to go talk to her.”

Somehow, the neighbors didn’t hear my heart pounding.

Dad chuckled. “Maybe I should go talk to her. We send Chloe over there now, and she might come back with a date instead of an autograph.”

I felt my power rushing up to try to protect me, but I forced it back down through sheer willpower. Pity I couldn’t do the same with my blood; I just had to tolerate my face turning fire engine red. “Daaaaad!”

“I’ll go,” Mom said. She leaned forward and kissed my father on the forehead, which only made me more embarrassed. “Just in case you come back with that date.”

My own parents are teasing me. I focused on that feeling to get over the nervousness.

“No.” They looked at me. Dad was smiling at their jokes; Mom smiled knowingly, even a bit proud. “It wouldn’t mean as much, if someone else does it for me.”

“That’s our little girl, growing up before our eyes,” Dad said. “Just remember to focus on ‘up’ rather than ‘out’.” He patted his stomach with both hands. Mom smacked him and laughed, then they cuddled up against each other. I didn’t stay around to watch; I’d seen them flirt enough over the years, did not need or want a refresher.

Starfall was currently dealing with a flirt of her own. “I’m afraid I’ll have to stick to just the one glass.” Her voice was firm, but she still wore a foxlike smile. “I’ll take comfort that it’s such a fine glass, but superheroes have to keep their wits about them. Wouldn’t want to do something unfortunate and public, after all.”

“Feel free to stop by my townhouse after the party. You can sample anything you like from my private collection.” Mister Fairweather wasn’t even trying to be subtle. Then, he flirted with pretty much any female he could get away with. I wasn’t sure how he hadn’t been sued for sexual harassment yet. My assumption was some blend of being good looking and giving expensive gifts to women.

“I’m afraid I’m far too busy for that,” Starfall answered. Her eyes fell on me. “Speaking of, I see our watchgirl has finally decided to grace the party with her presence.”

Mister Fairweather gave me a brief glance. Somehow, I managed to be both relieved and an insulted that he didn’t check me out. “I guess I have been monopolizing your time, haven’t I? Maybe we’ll have a chance to talk more later.” He knew he’d struck out, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

Now it’s my turn at bat. Wait, that sounds awful. I mean I want to make a good impression. I took a breath and focused on that frustration at being treated like a child. “I’m your biggest fan!” I blurted out. “Umm, well, figuratively speaking.”

She chuckled. “So Amanda tells me. I believed her, but she failed to mention the self-deprecating humor.”

My face threatened to return to tomato status. “Well, I don’t normally do that,” I stuttered. Starfall just waited for me to collect myself. “I just wanted to know if I could, umm, if we could get a picture taken together?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” She reached out and put a hand on my shoulder. “I guess it’ll be your mom taking the photo?”

“Oh, uh, yeah.” I didn’t know my arm could tingle with happiness until today. “How’d you know?”

Starfall pointed behind me. “Oh, just one of those super powered hunches, I guess.” Turns out, my parents snuck up behind me while I was distracted. Starfall moved up next to me and reached around to hold my shoulder. “Now smile for the camera.”

I didn’t have a chance to say a thing before Mom started snapping photos. After a bit, she brought the camera down. “Well, I think one or two of these fifty should be good enough to frame and put on the wall.”

Starfall took her arm away. “Be sure and send me a copy. How else am I supposed to sign it?”

Sign it? I forced myself to swallow. “Well, I have posters, you could sign one of those?” Powers and a photo with my favorite superhero? And now an autograph? This is without a doubt going down as the happiest night of my life.

“I think we can do better.” Dad held up a sheet of plastic. “We’re going to have to laminate the picture anyway. So you may as well just sign this.”

“Smart man.” Starfall reached for the plastic. “That explains why you didn’t let Amanda get away.”

Dad laughed. “You say that like she gave me a choice.”

“Oh, shut up.” Mom smacked his arm. “You make it sound like I threatened to burn down your house if you broke up with me.”

“Close enough.” Dad nuzzled up to Mom, brushing his nose against hers. “I was forced to choose between you, or any other woman on the planet. And from where I’m standing, that’s no choice at all.”

Starfall leaned over to me. She held her hand up next to her mouth and stage whispered. “Are they always like this?”

I rolled my eyes. “Normally they haven’t been drinking.” Starfall nodded her understanding. “They’re even worse when sober. Ever seen the Addams Family?”

“Hazards of the job,” Dad said. “Long hours and meetings with people halfway across the globe. When you might go days without seeing each other, you learn to make every minute the best you can. I’m just grateful for teleconferences. I can’t begin to describe how bad it was before the Internet came along.”

“I know, hard to believe there was a time before computers,” Starfall set the the plastic down on the table and started writing. It didn’t surprise me much that she carried a marker with her. “Here we are living life, and someone just walks up and says ‘Now you can talk to people on the other side of the world any time you want. Welcome to the future.’ I can’t imagine what miracles the next generations will get to witness.”

“I can toast to that.” Dad lifted his glass for a sip.

Starfall pulled the sheet up. “There, I think that’s good.” She held it out to me.

I had to take it in both hands, because I would have dropped it with just one.

To my biggest fan, Chloe. Dynamite comes in a small package.
~Starfall’

“Oh wow, thank you.” I was so quiet I wasn’t sure she could hear me at all.

“Any time. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to drop in next time you have a party.” She gave my shoulder a soft pat. “I really should get going. Give, uh, Jason my apologies for not saying goodbye, okay?”

Mom smirked. “Oh, I think he’ll be forgiving.” I followed her eyes to where Mister Fairweather was flirting with one of the caterers. She was pretty cute and, unlike Starfall, seemed interested.

Starfall sighed theatrically. “Well, there goes my chance at a life of luxury.” She didn’t sound too upset.

Dad laughed. “Are you trying to tell me this doesn’t happen at every party you attend? Because I’m not buying it.”

“I meant until the next party I get invited to.” She gave me a half-armed hug. “Take care, Chloe.” With that, she headed for the door.

I watched her, then looked at the signature in my hands. “Umm, I should put this away.” I rushed as fast as I could for my room. My power made it easier to move in my dress; I hopped up the steps like I was weightless.

Wait! I am weightless! I can fly!

There was only one possible way to make this night better. I closed the door to my room and wiggled my way out of my dress. Mom and Dad wouldn’t be too suspicious if I stayed in my room fangirling for a while. I grabbed my spare gym clothes and my hoodie.

A quick test in the mirror confirmed I could make my eyes glow just like my fingernails. Now that I got a chance to look, it was my blood that was glowing; it was just brighter where it came closest to the surface. With the baggy clothes and the ability to glow, I had a good enough disguise for now.

I pushed open my window. For a moment I wondered why Starfall was heading for one of Dad’s cars. Duh, Chloe, she doesn’t have those kinds of powers. Did you expect her to walk?

At least I don’t have that problem. I jumped out into the night sky.

NEXT

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20 thoughts on “Price In Triplicate, Chapter 5- Chloe

  1. “That sure is a nice family you have there. Be a shame if something happened to it.

    ssssssssssssssssssssss”

    To be fair, I really am putting a lot of effort into showing what Chloe’s life is like, and from both a Doylist and Watsonian perspective… heh. The only question is “what”. I *could* make it so Chloe’s power generates ionizing radiation, thus killing her family. But I won’t, because A: too obvious. B: just gave it away here. And C: I can do far more sadistic than that.

    Also… character with a rich family has family die then becomes a hero? It’s been done.

    …..

    Jeebus, I crammed soooo muuuch stuuuffff into this chapter. People reading this story for the first time, with no knowledge of my work outside Price are going to hopefully enjoy it. People who know my prior stuff will get a laugh or two. People who’ve read In Triplicate and come back for a second swipe are going to have a whole new experience on their hands.

    Speaking of experience… would you guys be so kind as to help improve it for future readers by pointing out the typos?

    And help ME experience the joys of getting into the top 5 over on TWF? http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=price

    I deserve it for such amazing segues, right?

    Like

    1. The ‘much’ isn’t necessary. English allows for dropping redundant adverbs like ‘much’. Adverbs are one part of sentence structure you never truly need. Although I did change it, from “that in love” to “so in love”… because I need to use the word “that” less often in general.

      And the other should have been “they”. And is now fixed.

      Like

  2. I Like Chloe. It’s not often you have “Be a superhero? Oh boy, Do I!” type that just works.

    Now you’ve got me wondering about the price. Identity? Already done. Maybe Starfall moonlights as a villain? Oh! Maybe her parents are the badguys and Starfall and her team might end up trying to bring them in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I was actually anticipating the audience not liking her character. I am dropping her right into the middle of “spoiled rich girl” territory, and dangerously close to “Mary Sue” at that. For reasons I believe are worth it… but I was aiming people to enjoy Chloe’s journey, rather than her starting point. Not that I’ll complain if people like the start… she’s hardly a bad person, just not really a relatable one…

      Starfall’s power is a bit too specific and unique to fake a different power… but I *do* like your train of thought.

      Like

  3. I’m really glad you had Chloe mention the Addams Family, because that was definitely the vibe that I was getting from her parents.

    I don’t have the time right now, but I am going to try to be better about re-reading your early chapters for all of the obvious-in-hindsight foreshadowing. Probably once halfway through the story and again after it is over. I always appreciate how much foresight you have in your stories, to seed the first few chapters with seemingly innocuous tidbits.

    Initial thoughts on Chloe’s power: Her power has something to do with her blood, and tried to “protect” her from teasing that made her blush. No idea what that would entail but it could mean that she gave up the chance for intimacy for her power. Blushing is an autonomous response to several types of stimuli, including sexual arousal, embarrassment, and shyness. If her power reacts to any of those then it would make many normal social interactions much more difficult for her.

    Or I could be totally off base here. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. It was entirely accidental… one of those things that I’m glad my subconscious dreamed up because the part of my brain that tells me what it’s doing had nothing to do with it.

      I’ll let you know when the halfway mark happens. If I do it right, THIS time it should be roughly chapter 15. DoaH got god damn huge… mostly because I ended up telling two stories in one book…

      I’ll be doing something similar with In Triplicate, but those stories will be more tightly bound together. Enough that I can bring this story to a satisfactory conclusion about halfway through, and pick up the second half in the next book(s).

      Learning to plan, y’know.

      And I *do* like your thought process on power issues.

      Like

  4. the price..Hmm.. maybe Chloe’s power somehow negates Starfalls? also, apparently her trust of her parents is down the drain.
    Anyhow, I’m already hooked, and so very much enjoying the story!

    2 points (less typos, more structure)
    I was more terrified that than the ground rushing up to meet me.

    “But law requires the host of an event must be made aware of, and give written permission to allow, a personal double.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many people with so many ideas on the Price. Love it. Love it so much. Still not gonna tell you what it is, because I’m a trolling dick, but I’m loving the speculation.

      Thanks for the grammar catches. The second one’s dialogue quotes… those generally allow sentence structure to be told to fuck itself since it’s meant to imitate spoken word (which is rarely grammatically correct).

      Also… you posted those typos in the wrong chapter, somehow.

      Like

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