I rushed at full speed away from my family, the only home I’d ever known. My power protected me from the biting force of the wind, plus whatever bugs were in the air, but it couldn’t help me with my thoughts.
This can’t be real. It has to be a nightmare. My mother can’t be Starfall, my father can’t be Quash, it’s absurd. I hit my head when I fell and now I’m a medical coma and I’m going to wake up and everything’s going to be okay and I’ll have my family back. Just a silly dream that I’ll laugh about when I wake up.
Even as I screamed that mantra inside my mind, I knew everything I said was wrong. It wasn’t a dream, and it did make sense once I stopped to think about it. I never once saw a dark skinned person work for us, not once. I dismissed it as a matter of there not being a lot of non-whites living in the area, but now I knew the real reason.
Dad I could admit was judgmental, though until now it never seemed sinister. He hated ‘street culture’ and made no secret of it, but I couldn’t recall him ever specifying blacks only. If anything he hated whites who acted that way even more than… Oh. Now that I was piecing it together, it made sense.
Mom was worse; her secret somehow hurt worse.
For as long as I could remember, Starfall was my personal idol. There were a fair number of female heroes, but women tended to get more ‘support’ based powers. Starfall was one of the few frontline fighters, a hybrid stealth-summoner who could manipulate luck. Mom always encouraged me to respect the heroes that led from the front or had clever, versatile powers over the straightforward powers.
Now I had some idea why. Some part of me wanted to believe it was because she wanted me to have a good role model. Part of me wanted to believe she couldn’t have known just how effective she was in her manipulation. Every part of me screamed at the humiliation and betrayal. How could she do this to me and then have the gall to call herself a hero?
My aura flickered, shifting into dark blue territory. I didn’t have much time left before my power ran out. I can just allow it to happen. A few moments of terror followed by oblivion, maybe that’s what should have happened the first time.
No! I am not going to give them the fucking satisfaction. I will be a hero, I will redeem my family name, and I will crush anyone who gets in my way.
I dropped, embracing the adrenalin rush of a thirty story fall before slowing myself moments before hitting the roof of some gas station. I stopped to take a breath, reaching out with my power. The energy I used for my powers seemed weaker here for some reason. I looked around at the generic cityscape of convenience stores, fast food joints and office buildings. Before I’d been at home or in a very affluent corner of the city full of expensive homes, where now I was in a rather depressed neighborhood.
If it turns out I get stronger around rich people, I will go on a murderous rampage. With my power regenerating at less than half the speed I was used to, I started to jog with short bursts of flight just to take me from one rooftop to another. I always loved running, one of the few exercises where my small size didn’t work against me.
Dad insisted my brothers and I get into athletics. One more memory of how much I owed them. I picked up speed, going from jog to a hard sprint. I needed my body to hurt as much as my heart. I got my wish; turns out my power did nothing to protect me from exhaustion. I made it a few more miles toward the edge of town before I managed to burn myself out.
At least my power was starting to recharge at a decent clip again. I looked around to find the difference, but now I was just in the boondocks. Lots of small neighborhoods surrounded by trees along the river bank.
Am I drawing power from the vegetation? Makes more sense than being powered by rich people, at any rate. As far as weaknesses went, not that bad. I wasn’t in any hurry to move to Utah or Antarctica anyway.
I found the building Mom told me about. The roof was just a flat, generic thing. In fact, it managed to be a bit more boring than most, without any sign that people were ever up here even for maintenance.
I found the hatch Mom told me about, just a metal handle sticking out of the roof. I grabbed and lifted, only to find it didn’t so much as budge.
Okay, that’s how it’s gonna be. I wrapped both hands around the metal and took full advantage of my power. Yellow light radiated out, brighter than the day, but the lid didn’t budge. The damn thing was made of lead or something.
My power came from my mind rather than my body, and seemed based at least a little on my emotions. I stepped back, my light switching to deep blue as I concentrated entirely on drawing power. Here, surrounded by trees, I recovered faster than ever before. This time I threw everything into a single burst of power.
Metal groaned under my strength, but what gave first was the roof itself. Metal ripped up through the tiles, leaving behind one hell of a mess. It was only then that I realized the handle was meant to be turned before pulled open. I could have saved myself a lot of effort just by turning the handle first. Either way, it was open now.
I dropped down into the darkness, using my own power to light the way. The insides weren’t just empty, they were only partially completed. There was no drywall anywhere in the interior, it didn’t appear there was any electricity at all, and the floors were just concrete. It was warm enough, at least. I settled on a small office as a place to sleep.
It galled me to be here, but I had nowhere else to go. My friends were all either children of Mom and Dad’s friends, or people I barely saw outside of school. If I went to any of them, uncomfortable questions would be asked. Maybe I could go to some kind of shelter, but that still risked my identity. I was stuck accepting their help, at least for the time being.
About half an hour after I arrived, I heard a knock on the door. I waited for a bit, but there were no other sounds. Rather than risk getting caught, I flew back up to the roof to see who was there. Turns out, no one, just a box.
For a moment, I thought about just leaving it, but that might make people suspicious that I was here. I was pretty certain my parents had it sent here, but it could have been almost any Imbued in the city who delivered it. For a moment, I wondered if it was a bomb. It would be a clean way to get rid of me and protect their precious fucking family.
Time to find out if I’m explosion-proof. Dialing my shield up to maximum, I floated down to examine the package. It was about the size of a microwave box, and had no marks on it save for a note taped to the top along with a key.
Until you’re ready to come home.
I pulled the note off and crushed it. Every ounce of my willpower was dedicated to not allowing myself to cry. I would not let myself cave, not now, not ever. I had to stay strong, because if I allowed myself to miss them for even a second, I’d go back.
Would that be so bad? To let myself return to the happy family I grew up with?
Yes! They betrayed me! I could feel the heat of my tears running down my cheeks. In my case, more literal than most as steam rose off my face. I will do the right thing no matter how much it hurts. Going back to them means accepting what they’ve done. I would rather die than let that happen.
This time, when the note caught fire I didn’t let go. My power seemed to protect me from heat, leaving only enough discomfort to know it was real.
I don’t know how long I stood there before opening the box; long enough that if it were a bomb, I’d already be dead. I was just thankful I was hidden from sight by trees. On top were a bunch of clothes and blankets, plus my school books, and about three grand worth of twenty dollar bills. It made sense; if I didn’t go to school people would start asking questions. I stood there considering just using my power to burn the whole fucking box.
After what felt like forever, I admitted to myself I needed the supplies. I couldn’t survive for long without clothing, and somehow I couldn’t bring myself to quit school. Using the key, I went in through the front door of what counted as my new home. At least it was only a couple weeks until school was over, then I could spend the summer figuring something permanent out.
I found an air mattress and sleeping bag in the bottom. Both rugged looking, meant for much worse conditions than what I had here.
Maybe they’re worried I won’t stay in the building?
I clenched my eyes shut again. Why the fuck do they have to be so damn reasonable? It would be so much easier to accept my parents are monsters if they’d just act like it.
I didn’t even get an hour to enjoy my powers. Is this the sacrifice I’m supposed to make to be a hero? Everyone I’ve ever loved, taken from me? Or am I supposed to run back to become a villain like my parents?
I sat in the office staring at my fingertips. Would I give this up, to have my family back? To live that happy lie instead of this ugly truth? I wanted to say no, that in the end I’d rather know the truth, but I couldn’t force myself to believe it.
I barely heard the sound of the door opening. I jumped to my feet, forcing my power to go dark. It took concentrated effort; I wanted a fight, I wanted to hurt someone other than myself for a change, and my power responded to that emotion.
I quickly dismissed the possibility of the intruder being either of my parents. He was a large man, well over six foot tall and encased in metal. No way he could be mistaken for either Quash or Starfall’s profiles.
I ignored another shudder of disgust at the thought that Starfall was my mother.
The man carried a sword, almost as long as he was, without any difficulty. In addition, he didn’t seem to be making much noise walking around in that metal suit of his. I assigned at least a moderate Brawler and Stealth powerset. Super strength, at the very least, as well as whatever Tank classification was granted by all that metal as armor.
He was looking for something in the building, moving past the office like he didn’t even care what was in it. It didn’t take too long to realize he didn’t know I was here.
Sucks to be him, I am going to start my heroic career right here and now. I let my light burst forward in all its golden brilliance. He didn’t have a chance to so much as cover his eyes before I was on him. I planted both hands on his shoulders, dug my fingers into the metal, and slammed him hard against a concrete wall.
Years of basic martial arts made it pretty easy to get the appropriate angles. Remembering just who was responsible for me having that training only made me more angry.
“You are the least lucky burglar that’s not dead. Yet.”
I dug in, sparks dancing from where my strength fought against his armor. It’s alive. The metal was moving, shifting under my hands like some kind of living thing. That’s when I remembered my instructor’s telling me most potent powers were usually touch range. I threw him as hard as I could. I wasn’t sure how heavy he was in that suit, but he went flying across the room. When he hit the ground, he kept rolling.
I checked my power; still well over half of my charge remained. I was coming to suspect it got stronger when I was angry, and right now I was beyond pissed. I rushed forward, landing on the man and pulling against his armor. It gave way with almost laughable ease. Under the teal light of my power, I identified a torn t-shirt, cut where I bent the metal. I couldn’t help but notice his skin color as well; he was black.
My light’s intensity redoubled. No! They can’t be right! I grabbed the helmet with both hands. How fucking dare this bastard prove them right?!
I started squeezing, bending the metal in my fingers like putty. It struggled against me, forming razor sharp barbs that failed to cut me through my shield. Teal light dripped down on the man’s exposed chest.