Confusion spread through the hall as Gloom Glimmer walked onto the stage and to the podium standing at its center.
“What the hell is that girl wearing?” asked a bewildered Aimi.
Gloom Glimmer was wearing a dark blue pleated skirt that reached down to just above her ankles and a black, long-sleeved shirt – and, if his eyes did not deceive him, neither any kind of footwear nor any bra. At least there were no bra-lines to be seen. Her black hair reached down to her shoulders and her eyes were almost glowing.
All in all, she would have drawn the attention of everyone in the room even if she had been sitting in the back of the hall.
“Guess growing up with Lady Light as your mom might give you a more old-fashioned fashion sense,” commented Tim.
“Seconded,” agreed Basil.
Just then, Gloom Glimmer cleared her throat – and he could hear it where he sat just as well as if he had been sitting in front of her.
Some kind of minor power to make herself heard clearly everywhere in the hall? Very useful for any lecturer, he thought.
The various conversations died down immediately.
“A good morning to everyone. For those of you who haven’t noticed yet, I am not Lady Light,” she began. Behind her, words began to appear on the whiteboard in a flowing, yet easily readable style. Irene Whitaker.
“My name is Irene Whitaker when in Civilian clothes and Gloom Glimmer in costume,” she continued. “I will be holding this seminar in place of my mother, as she is currently too caught up with the international trouble that Desolation-in-Light’s last attack caused.”
She stopped for a moment, letting her words sink in, then she said: “Now, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way – this is a two-hour seminar that will be held once a week for the entire semester. That means that, to get full credit, each of you needs to write either an exam – which I think is very ineffective in order to test your knowledge of the subject matter and thus, will not happen – or three essays building on what we discuss during class. Whoever wants extra credit can also write a term paper.”
Pausing, she seemed to look into empty space for a moment, then she continued: “Read the course syllabus if you want to know the specific rules for essays and term papers. As for the seminar itself – I expect regular attendance from everyone unless there is a very good reason for your absence. If that reason is sickness, then I require a doctor’s referal. Talk to me ahead of time if you know you won’t be able to attend on a particular date and we can work something out. My office hours are each tuesday from twelve o’clock to two o’clock, though, considering my main occupation, they might fluctuate. You can find me in my mother’s office during those times.”
After that, she paused to catch her breath. Suddenly, her head snapped up, looking towards the left side of the center rows. “Mr Polin, I would prefer it if you would pay attention to what I have to say instead of commenting on the shape of my ass,” she said.
The boy she had adressed went beet read, while everyone looked at her with a shocked expression.
“Yes, I can hear every. Single. Word spoken inside this hall. So you’d better not goof off during lecture time. And I can see what people are writing as well, Ms Fitzhampton!”
Basil snickered at that, but stayed otherwise silent.
“Let me make this clear,” she said, raising her voice to address everyone in the room. “This is not just any high school! In most high schools, it is taken for granted that pupils are going to be bored and not pay attention, that only a few will always participate. Not. Here!”
She walked forward, standing on the edge of the stage. “This school was built upon the place where Lennston High stood. It was here that my half-sister, Diantha, gave her life fighting off Desolation-in-Light, when the latter attacked Lennston! My mother founded this school because she wanted to honor the memory of her daughter, because she thought that turning her memorial into something actually useful would be a better way of remembering Diantha’s sacrifice than some big rock with her name on it! And you better believe that I’ll make sure you honor that as well! This school doesn’t just want to prepare you for turning hamburger patties in some fast-food chain, or being just another wage-slave in some crummy call-center! You are here to learn so as to be the best you can be! And one aspect of that preparation is giving you some basic knowledge of metahuman history and the metahuman contidition! Because, like it or not, we are living at the dawn of the Age of Metahumanity! So you’d better pay attention! If you just want to sit around and be lazy, go to another school!”
“Welcome to your first session of Introduction to Metahuman Studies!”
The hall went silent.
Ah, what the hell, thought Basil and started to clap.
He was almost immediately followed by the dumpy looking girl sitting next to him and soon more and more of the shocked students fell in, until the hall roared in clapping.
Who needs telepathy to control a crowd?
* * *
The clapping died down after a while.
On the inside, Irene was all but glowing red – she’d kind of let herself go during those last few sentences. That hadn’t been planned.
Wow. You really did get some of your dad’s love for drama, didn’t you?, asked Polymnia through their link. Irene could feel her snickering on the inside.
You try and get through his drama lessons without them rubbing off.
Wait, he actually-
That was a joke.
Oh. Good. Now you better get on with the lesson.
* * *
“Alright, let’s get down to brass tacks,” Irene said.
Basil perked up, pulling out his PDA to take notes.
“This course is split into three parts. First, you will learn about the Metahuman Condition. Then you will learn the history of metahumanity right from the beginning. Lastly, we will discuss the effects that Metahumans have had on the world.”
Words appeared on the whiteboard, outlining the schedule.
“During this first session, we will outline the mechanics of manifestation and the power classification system. The last one is of particular note, because we will NOT be using the old Cruse-System, but rather set up the new Werdenfeld-Manning-System, which is generally accepted to be much more concise and accessible.”
She stopped for a moment, and Basil leaned forward a bit. This was going to be interesting – there were many, many theories out there regarding how and why people manifested, one more outrageous than the other. He’d read up on what little Lady Light had published regarding that subject – it seemed to be a subject she did not want to discuss at length – and he was curious to see whether or not Irene would adhere to that or have her own theory.
“So, manifestations. You all know what that means – the event that causes a metahuman’s powers to manifest, turning them from an average human to, well, a metahuman. What do we know about it? Here are some facts:”
She turned towards the whiteboard as it was wiped clean, and a list began to appear as if being written by an invisible hand:
1. Manifestation usually takes place between the onset of puberty and the attainment of complete physical maturity.
2. Manifestations that take place outside of this time frame almost always result in unusual powers and/or extreme power levels. Manifestation at a younger age tends to produce more powerful metahumans and vice versa.
3. Manifestation is triggered through traumatic experiences that push a person to their physical and/or mental limit.
4. Physical trauma usually produces physical powers, mental trauma mental powers.
5. The intensity of the trauma required to cause manifestation varies.
6. The more intense the required trauma, the more powerful the resulting powers (with some notable exceptions).
7. Manifestation can not be forced! Every single such attempt has gone horribly wrong, barring some singular successes.
8. Manifestation can not be reversed.
9. Manifestation is usually instantaneous. There are some rare reports of manifestations that take up to 48 hours, but the length of the manifestation does not seem to give any information about the resulting powers.
10. Manifestation is nearly always just as traumatic as the triggering event, if not more so. It always burns itself into the subject’s memory, along with the triggering event that precedes it.
11. There are reports of vision quests, glimpses of the past, present and/or future and contact with strange, non-human entities during manifestations. No two such experiences are ever the same.
12. Manifestation is currently still regarded as a purely supernatural event and impossible to be directly analyzed. We can only research the results of manifestations.
He wrote everything down. Most of it was stuff he had already known, except for the bit about the long-lasting manifestations. They had to be pretty rare.
“Well, this is basically the sum total of what humanity knows about manifestations. Everything else is just speculation. Some few people may know more, but if so, they don’t share.”
She turned back towards the pupils. “Before anyone asks: no, I don’t know any more than you do. Just like everyone else on this planet, I believe that my parents know way more about it. Just like everyone else in the world, I can’t get them to tell me. And I won’t bother giving you my own personal theory, either. Don’t bother asking.”
Taking a deep breath, she began to walk up and down the stage.
“At this point, it would be necessary to talk about non-standard manifestations in order to better understand the whole concept. However, non-standard manifestations almost invariably lead to non-standard powers, so we will first set up the power classifications and briefly discuss the individual powers,” she continued.
“So, let’s get to the power classification system. First, the rating scale.”
The whiteboard was, again, wiped clean. Numbers appeared, going from 1 to 13.
“Powers are rated on a scale of one to thirteen. This scale can further be subdivided into five ‘tiers’, consisting of one to three, four to six, seven to nine, ten to twelve and thirteen. Within these tiers, the difference between the individual ratings are flowing and hard to quantify, with a more noticeable jump from tier to tier.”
A circle appeared around the numbers 1, 2 and 3.
“This is the most common power level. Sixty-eight percent of all registered metahumans are assigned ratings between one and three. Powers from this class are clearly beyond human abilities, but not necessarily beyond the capabilities of technology. They tend to be the most ‘realistic’, for lack of a better word, and the most easily controllable. Examples would include the ability to flash freeze moderate amounts of liquid, restricted flight – meaning that air currents, inertia and gravity are still in full effect – or the ability to create tricked out but still logical weapons of one type – like Spellgun’s… spellguns. Metahumans with this rating have the best chance not to develop mental defects. Also known as the Exemplar Tier.”
The circle moved to the numbers 4, 5 and 6.
“This would be the power class known as the Paragon Tier. This is what most people think of when they speak of metahumans. From level four and up, powers become clearly and undeniably supernatural. Adonis-types of this tier have clearly supernatural beauty and capabilities and flight can often ignore some laws of physics at least partially, like allowing turns that should not be possible. Another example would be Outstep’s ability to twist his personal time to such an extent that it effectively gives him super speed. Unfortunately, the chance for mental defects jumps up considerably with each level, ranging from eleven percent at level four to twenty-three percent at level six.”
Now the numbers 7, 8 and 9 were encircled.
“Now we get to what is commonly called the Apex Tier. At this point, it is rare for a metahuman to be assigned a rating below B. Combat-oriented powers in this tier allow for massive devastation, making the use of mundane weaponry usually pointless for their users. They also tend to be far more versatile than Paragon Tier powers. For example, a level six Kinetic would usually be limited to a specific material he or she can control, like stone, metal, wood or water, while a level seven Kinetic is more likely to have outright Telekinesis. The chance for mental defects rises along with the intensity of the powers, ranging from thirty-eight to fifty-six percent.”
Finally, the numbers 10 to 12 were encircled.
“And now we get to the feared ‘God Tier’ – though most religious groups hate that term. At this point, metahumans become nearly impossible to handle for baseline humans. Examples would be flight that completely ignores the laws of physics, allowing 180° turns without any loss in speed, or instantaneous stopping, the ability to create large numbers of independent agents or lift a skyscraper with nothing but a thought. The jump in power from Apex Tier to God Tier is very nearly exponential. However, the jump in chance for mental defects is also quite extreme, with a chance of seventy-nine to ninety percent.”
Some people raised their hands, but Irene waved them off.
“Yes, I know about the thirteen rating. After all, it has been applied to me. Let’s make it short: the thirteen means that, basically, there is no point in rating the power any more, because it breaks any and every frame of reference. It is also called the ‘Oh God, No Tier’ or, if you want to be vulgar, the ‘Fuck You Tier’. Mostly, it is called ‘Transcendent’, which should tell you all you need to know about it. A transcendent power goes up and beyond anything else. There is no point in discussing this rating in detail, because there are no details, apart from the chance for derangements going up to ninety-nine percent.”
The board was wiped clean again.
“Now, let’s get to the individual power classifications.”