B007 Big Game Hunt (Part 8)

With a final clicking sound, Brennus opened his armour up into standby-mode – open along the back, but not fully disconnected into the individual pieces. That way, he could get out with a step backwards, and just as easily step back in. The downside was that this armour was not quite as durable as the original version.

Finally, he put his cloak back on over his black bodysuit – it was a bit oversized, as he had tailored it for his armoured form – and stretched his neck to get a few kinks out.

Power armour was not really all that comfortable, no matter what you did to make it so.

With a flick of his fingers, he activated the secondary voice distortion device he had built into his face mask, then he turned around to face the girls.

Polymnia was not even looking at him, her eyes glued to his discarded armour, leaning to the side to look around him.

Gloom Glimmer had taken her cloak off and thrown it over a chair, and she was definitely paying attention to him… very closely.

“Stop that, please,” he said while adjusting his coat.

“Stop what?”

“You are analyzing me. Considering what I know about your power, that means you are most probably using some manner of clairvoyance or telepathy. Maybe both,” he replied, carefully picking his words. “Please stop it. I came here to help in good faith, not to have my secrets laid bare.”

She flinched and pulled a small canister out of… somewhere, swallowing four pills she took out of it.

Where does she put that?

“Sorry. Force of habit,” she almost-whispered, apparently ashamed.

“Do not mention it. Now, Pol-“

“What I am not sorry about is pointing out that you’re supposed to drop all of your equipment. But I count a computer, a hard drive, four knives and twelve explosive charges on your body.”

“Uh… this is awkward,” he grumbled, scratching the back of his head. “But I would kind of need to strip naked to get rid of all of those. Besides, I doubt I could harm you even if I had all of my equipment. And you are more than capable of protecting Polymnia, even if I blow myself up. Which I do not want to do. Ever. At all. Under any circumstances.”

She sighed, swallowing three more pills. “Alright. Keep the rest. But I won’t be responsible for what Tartsche does to you if he finds out. He takes stuff like this very seriously.” She took another pill.

She has got to have more canisters, if she goes through them this quickly.

“Thank you. Now, Po- Where?”

She had vanished from his sight while he had been focused on Gloom Glimmer. Turning around, he found her inspecting his armour, having bent over to examine it.

<So you have redundant controls for fingers, toes and your mouth? Talk about prepared,> she commented, the fingers of one hand flying over a small vocoder that produced a surprisingly human voice, as opposed to the usual monotone.

“Never know when I might be mostly paralyzed, or restrained in some other way, and thus unable to control the suit and its systems normally. I also use voice commands as another redundancy,” he replied while walking around the workshop.

He stopped in front of a larger table covered in what looked like gutted speakers and robotic limbs.

“You have… been trying to upgrade your limb system? With what goal in mind?”

She turned away from his armour and pretty much skipped over to stand next to him. <I thought about making the armour more mobile, since no matter how much I reinforce it, there’s no way I’ll be able to take more than a few hits from the kind of villain I’ll be running into, so I’m better off evading,> she explained in what would have been a single breath for someone talking with their own mouth.

Ohh, how I can relate to that problem. “That vocalizer of yours sounds great – it even gets the contractions right and all the inflections – I can barely tell it apart from a real voice.”

She smiled and pulled a second vocalizer out of a drawer, handing the small device to him. It was barely as big as a tablet, and had more keys than any piano he had seen.

He turned it over and opened the casing, his power immediately pointing out the screws he needed to remove (there were more than enough tools lying around). Once he got a look at the insides, his power immediately went from its normal low-level activity to near-full idea-making.

<This is the most recent version of my second invention. Both my sonic cage and sonic blast technology is derived from the work I put into the wave modulation of this little baby. I wanted to make sure that I could still sound mostly like a normal human, and now it’s become the basis for most of my work. The other was my first own violin, I’m sure I have an upgraded version lying around somewhere>

“Sonics, wave modulation, harmonics… Ah, I see. You are using the principles of heterodyning to… can I see your sonic cage projector?” He put the vocalizer down.

She nodded and walked over to another workstation where said gadget – by far her largest work, and the main reason why she needed those extra limbs (apart from the keyboards).

While she explained it to Brennus, he looked into the gutted system – she had been trying to upgrade this one, as well – to work it out. He could not study her blueprints, and her verbal explanations were very basic, incomplete, as she could not put her symphonies into words, but put her words and what he saw together, and…

“Do you think we can apply this concept to light waves?” he asked suddenly.

<Probably. Light and sound are rather similar, in many ways. I think. My power is telling me so, at least. What did you have in mind?>

“High-powered lasers.”

This time, she made that strange squeeing sound he had heard from Hecate a while ago.

* * *

Fifteen minutes later…

Irene leaned back against the wall while watching the other two teenagers going at it.

She’d spent quite a lot of time looking in on other people – in fact, she was still doing it now and then – during precarious situations. In other words, she was used to being a voyeur. There was really no shame left in it for her.

Yet she felt inexplicably dirty watching those two go at it. They were geeking out like two kids who’d, for the first time, found a playmate in their chosen hobby.

It was cute, it was dirty (for her, because her power was giving her ideas, and it was as usual very single-minded), it was frightening what they were discussing…

She needed some soda. And popcorn. Lots of popcorn.

* * *

At the same time…

“Should I feel concerned that Gloom Glimmer just got herself a bucket of popcorn almost as tall as she is?” asked Tyche, who was splayed over a couch in what was the Junior Heroes’ common room. And a way nicer one than ours. They even got a pool table.

“I am… growing concerned,” Tartsche admitted. He was the only one in the room who was still tense after the last fifteen minutes. “She was supposed to stand watch all the time. How come no one in this group listens to my orders?”

“Maybe because everyone knows you’re way too nice to actually, you know, punish insubordination?” Spellgun replied with a grin as he leaned against his boyfriend.

Who just groaned.

“Relax, Gloom Glimmer’s back inside, and Brennus wouldn’t hurt Polymnia anyway… if he knows what’s good for him,” Hecate whispered, glaring jealously in the direction of the workshop.

“And if he tried, our lil’ two-point-oh would squash him like a bug,” came a comment from Outstep, who’d sidled up to Tyche on the couch and was assuming a pointedly relaxed position on it. Not that he had much success in disguising the fact that he was checking out her body, which would have been barely covered by the armour even if it wasn’t mostly transparent (and she hadn’t taken her leather jacket off). Brennus had really done an outstanding job of making it skintight despite the scales.

“Two-point-oh?” the readhead asked with a very satisfied smile at finally having someone actually look. She was tired of having to hide at school and only have Brennus around when she could show off. That boy had a lot of appreciation for forms, but only in technical terms.

“You know, she’s… the white-haired freak’s sister, and they got basically the same power, so…” Outstep explained slowly, hoping that she wasn’t overly sensitive to this stuff.

“Oh. Oh.” She giggled into her hand, trying to stiffle it.

The others simultaneously slapped their foreheads.

Oh ye Gods and little fishes, don’t let her join us. I can’t take two of the sort, was the only thing Tartsche could think.

* * *

Forty-five minutes later still…

Reassign patrol routes, recall any adult heroes we can spare on the Iron Wall, somehow convince those three to join us… the list keeps going, and that doesn’t even include all the administration issues that I still haven’t been able to work through.

Jason walked through the hallways of the headquarters, flanked by no less than five secretaries – actually just one woman who could split into seven clones of herself – who were working through data on their pads with him. He always liked to walk around while doing his work, it helped him stay fit and avoid back problems.

And I should look in on the kids… who knows what they’re up to this time. It wouldn’t be the first time that a junior team acted against orders to help with an S-Class situation… or any situation that was way out of their league. And he was quite sick of losing his kids to that kind of stupidity.

He entered the juniors’ common room, and found them immersed in a discussion they cut off the moment they heard the door slide open.

Jason looked around the room with a raised eyebrow. Tartsche and Spellgun were sitting next to each other, as usual. The witch-girl, Hecate, was sitting at the very edge of the same couch, as far away from anyone else as she could without being obvious about it, though she appeared to have been taking part in the discussion. Bakeneko had sat down in a much too provocative form, probably trying to measure up to the two vigilante girls, but no one was paying the shy girl much attention it seemed. Osore had fallen asleep on a stool. That boy can sleep anywhere.

Outstep and the redhead, Tyche, were sitting way too close to each other for his sensibilities, especially considering how Outstep was pretty much openly undressing her with his eyes – and she didn’t seem to mind.

Ye Gods and little fishes, not this again, he thought.

As for Brennus, Polymnia and Gloom Glimmer…

“Where. Are. The. Others?!” he asked while running his fingers through his hair. He could already see the catastrophe looming.

Tartsche jumped up, which all but threw a yelping Spellgun off the couch. “Here! I mean, in the building! They’re still here, Sir, don’t worry!” He was making placating gestures, and it was actually working.

Tartsche has never lied before, he wouldn’t, not to cover them breaking the rules. He repeated that sentence a few hundred times in her head, until he was calm again.

I need to stop getting excited so easily. Not good for the heart.

“Alright. Alright. Where are they and what are they doing?”

The children relaxed, and Hecate spoke up, despite sounding a bit intimidated. “Uh, they’re in Polymnia’s workshop, Sir. Brennus wanted to work a bit wit-” She stopped when she saw the vein start pulsing on his forehead, right over the left eye.

This is murder for my heart.

* * *

Four almost-strokes later…

“Tartsche, you put two teenage Gadgeeters, one of whom is yet unrated into one workshop!? Are you out of your mind!?

Tartsche was looking ashamed, even though his helmet was covering his entire face. The others were following a few steps back as Jason ran towards the workshop.

“Sir, calm down, Gloom Glimmer is there to stand watch, so she should be safe!” Spellgun threw in while easily keeping up with the steps of the only two people in the group without physical enhancements.

It’s not them I’m afraid of, it’s US I’m scared FOR because they might actually HETERODYNE THEIR POWERS!” he shouted over his shoulder.

“Heterodyning? What’s that!?” asked Bakeneko, probably speaking up for the first time today.

Spellgun explained to her as they approached the entrance to the workshop. “It’s the process of aligning two or more powers of a similar type to enhance them beyond their normal bounds,” he explained. “Like when two laser-projectors line their powers up to produce a laser far more powerful than their individual lasers combined.”

And Gadgeteers are NATURALS at doing that among each other, EVEN ACROSS TIERS!” shouted Jason. He reached the door. “Teenage gadgeteers are even worse and the last time we let two of them work together unsupervised no, Gloom Glimmer doesn’t count, you need someone trained for that – they almost blew up the entire city block!”

He opened the door and they all stormed in.

* * *

Irene’s power had provided her with short-term precognition, so she’d be able to react in time if (or maybe, when) something blew up, so she saw the others coming before they even reached the door, much less opened it.

Popping five pills to fight the precognition down so she’d be able to focus on the present, she took another handful of popcorn out of the almost empty bucket and gulped them down. Next time, more butter.

This was way better than TV. She’d always thought the whole ‘staring at stuff open-mouthed’ thing was just hogwash, but they all looked like that now. And it was hilarious.

Jason was the first to regain his composure and speak: “Gloom Glimmer, what in God’s name are they doing?”

She almost broke out into giggles, but stiffled it quickly. “They started talking about harmonics and wavelength modulation, then about lasers, and then thought about working on some improvements on her spider-limbs,” she began explaining.

And how did they end up building a giant gun?!” Hecate almost screamed.

Irene giggled again. “They got carried away when they came up with a ‘sonic detonator’.”

No one spoke as they watched the two gadgeteers – one of whom was giggling the whole time, and the other one looked like she would be giggling if she still could – climb all over a twenty-foot long gun as thick as either of their bodies.

“I’m getting a bad feeling from this,” whispered Outstep.

* * *

Five minutes later

“Why do I feel like I’m watching techno-geek-porn?” asked Outstep, which immediately set Irene off again.

She had to fight to get the giggles to vanish.

When she got herself back under control, everyone else had taken a few steps back from her, save for Jason.

Did I do something freaky again? she asked herself, but shook her head when her power tried to give her postcognition. Six pills took care of that. Not now, I need to keep up the precognition.

Brennus and Polymnia had not reacted at all to their audience, and the gun they were working on now looked like a cross between a spear and a gun-barrel, without a trigger and twenty-five feet long.

I wish I could concentrate on something for that long.

They kept watching in silence, until her power reacted and then the door slid open.

Jason turned around to the new arrival – and froze, even as the others all retreated from the door.

“Hello father,” she said, a bit restrained, as she turned to look at him. He was in his usual tall form, his six eyes glowing in the darkness of his wraith’s ‘flesh’.

Their argument still rang loudly in her ears.

“Greetings, everyone. I have bad news,” he said, rather matter-of-factly despite his claims.

Everyone tensed up and even Brennus and Polymnia stopped their work for a moment.

“What is it?” Jason asked, having regained his bearing.

Desolation-in-Light was just sighted over Kansas City. We will deploy within minutes,” he explained.

She didn’t need telepathy or anything to feel everyone’s bottom drop off their stomachs.

Not now, oh stars above no.

“Sir, what will happen with Hastur?” asked Jason. “The situation is far from resolved!”

“Hastur will have to wait. Amazon will participate in the defence of Kansas City – we cannot afford the risk of Desolation-in-Light somehow compromising our country’s breadbasket. You are all to stand by and wait for us to resolve that situation before tackling the Hastur issue. That, by the way, is an order from Amazon,” he continued, looking directly at the teenagers in the room, one after the other, making them cower before him (except for Irene, who was his daughter after all, and the two Gadgeteers who were still riding the high of their powers’ going into overdrive).

“Understood, Sir,” replied Tartsche in a subdued voice.

The supervillain nodded, then stepped closer to Irene and enveloped them in a dome of darkness.

She slid up to him and hugged him, her body slipping easily past his darkwraith to hug the man underneath.

“Are you sure I shouldn’t come along? With my power, I-“

“We’ve had this talk before, baby girl. The risks are too great. All of them.”

She nodded. She didn’t like it, but she knew that she wouldn’t win this argument. Her mother would be backing him up, for one.

“You be safe, you hear me? And make sure mama’s safe, too,” she whispered.

“Of course, baby girl. You know us, we’re invincible.”

“Pride goes before the fall, papa,” she half-sobbed. She hated it that people were so… fragile. Even her parents. Especially her parents.

“I have yet to see that proverb be proven. Arrogance goes before the fall, my dear, not pride. There is a difference. Ask Brennus about it, I suspect the boy knows,” he replied and squeezed her, hard.

She squeezed right back, and then she let go, watching him sink into his own shadow, leaving her standing in a rapidly dissolving dome of darkness.

Drying her tears, she stepped out of it, dispersing it. The others were staring, except for Brennus and Polymnia, who were back at work.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. The timing is just too bad.

Minutes later, Jason got a call. He listened, his face turning white.

She didn’t listen to him when he explained to the others. Her precognition had already told her the moment the cellphone rang.

Hastur has been set loose. And the hunt begins… but who’ll be the hunter and who the game?

B004 Introduction to Metahuman Studies (Part 4a)

Melody had met up with Irene and Aimi after school and Irene had teleported them back to the HQ. There they’d split up. She had walked straight back to her workshop, only pausing to change into her workclothes, while Irene walked off with Aimi to eat.

Now Melody was sitting at her worktable (again) and tried to work out the emergency equipment Brennus had constructed for Prisca Fion (again) and was flabbergasted at his work (again).

Apart from the incredible speed at which he’d constructed them, he’d scavenged his stun gun for parts. With Irene’s help, she’d been able to isolate all the pieces that used to be part of the gun, as opposed to the other parts used. Unfortunately, by the time they’d been done, her time at the workshop was over and she had to go to sleep (stupid workshop rules for teenage gadgeteers and contrivers…).

Now, finally, she’d get to work through it.

Strange that this is what I spend most of my time in the workshop doing since I debuted. Then again, I wouldn’t have been able to upgrade my armor like I have if it wasn’t for his ravens and his anti-emp system…

* * *

“So I get to do whatever I want with the money?”, asked Aimi.

Irene shook her head in frustration. “This is the seventh time you’ve asked this question since you joined. You get to do anything that is not illegal”, she explained over a platter of Rainbow Bomb Salad.

“Sorry, I just don’t get it. They’re just giving us five hundred dollars a month, just to be members?”, Aimi asked back.

“Well, there’s more to it. You have to be available during your designated hours, you have to stay in shape, you have to attend the training programs and you have to keep up a minimal grade point average in school. That’s what the five hundred dollars are for.”

“And we get more if we go out and fight crime?”

“Yes, you get more for fighting mundane criminals, even more for super-villains depending on their class and a huge bonus anytime you go up against an S-class threat. So you’ve already made a nice amount of money for the whole fight down at the Acre. Though this money goes into a trust fund, to finance your education after graduating from high school. Anything that remains is paid out to you”, Irene replied.

“Man, that’s a lot of money!”

“Remember, you get it for risking your life. Supervillain fights are not a laughing matter.”

Aimi thought that over. “That explains the bonus money, but still, five hundred dollars just for being on call and doing some training? Plus, they’re picking up all the fees for me going to Diantha High!”

Irene rolled her eyes. “Well, that last part ain’t so big – remember, my mom owns Diantha High. As for the rest – I’m sure you know the statistics, right? So you should understand why they want to make sure you’re happy here and get an education.”

But she didn’t – Irene didn’t even need her power to tell her that the girl wasn’t following her train of thought. Good God, is she really this dense?

After a minute of Aimi eating quietly and trying to figure out what Irene meant, she relented. “We’ve got a serious imbalance between heroes and villains. The necessity for a traumatic experience to achieve powers, as well as the staggering chance for mental illnesses mean that for every heroic or neutral metahuman out there, there are four supervillains. The good guys are very interested in making sure that you remain on the side of the angels.”

Aimi nodded, finally understanding, and went back to her three plates of food.

Irene herself swallowed two of her pills, then finished her salad. She wasn’t all that hungry, but she’d learned the hard way that neglecting her body’s physical needs would make her power compensate, making it harder to stay in control.

And she needed to stay in control, especially around the junior heroes. Melody may have accepted her despite her lapse in control, but it was unlikely that the others would be as accepting – especially Jared.

So she finished the (gorgeous) salad and ordered another round, just to make sure.

* * *

The hospital had been repaired quickly after the Hemogoblins attacked – Basil could not make out any sign of recent repairs.

Well, if mankind had not figured out how to repair buildings quickly by now, no city in the world would still be standing…

<Father, my scans show a visitor in Ms Fion’s room>, said Eudocia, speaking to him through an earbud he had linked to her box.

<Oh? Who?>, he asked, using a subvocal microphone to answer without even moving his lips. There were only one or two people who could be visiting Prisca. One would be bad, the other would be really bad.

<Facial recognition identifies the visitor as Primrose Tamara Fion>

Yeah, really bad. Prisca’s mother… did not like him.

Still, he had come here to meet Prisca and he would be damned if he did not go through with it just because the scariest woman in the world was there as well.

So he walked to Prisca’s new room – she had been put in a more secure room, pretty much in the center of the hospital and underground. While he was pretty sure that Prisca at least did not like this new arrangement, he was glad for the extra protection.

In front of the room, he found a tall, tall man in a black suit and tie. Sebastian, the Butler of the Fion family and Primrose’s bodyguard. He had done some research – Sebastian was actually a very old metahuman, born back in 1934. He had manifested at age seventeen, when he had taken his father’s place as the Fion family’s butler and the then-head of the family had been assaulted by the Dark. He’d managed to save his master and escape and he had been the families most loyal servant since then.

As he approached, he was struck by how tall the man was. Two and a half meters of lean, iron-hard muscle, with shoulder-length golden-white hair, he was rated as a Physique 10, with Protection 7 for his regeneration, Perception 5 for his enhanced and expanded senses and Damage 4 for his enhanced striking power. He could be a top-class cape, even if you did not factor in his sixty-two years of experience, but he had chosen to remain loyal to the Fions.

The butler took one look at him from behind his black sunglasses, which he wore even at night or in a building – they did not impede his vision in any way, but gave his already intimidating presence a barely needed boost and protected him from being staggered by sudden brightness – and nodded, stepping aside to let him enter. He did not pat him down or anything, as his x-ray vision allowed him to check him for any hidden weapons or similiar things. Of which he carried none. Basil had even made sure to leave Eudocia back in his lair, because her box stood out under x-rays.

I would really like to know what goes through the mind of a man like this. To dedicate himself so fully and completely to a family. I hear he has never taken a vacation in over sixty years of service.

He passed by the man and entered the room.

Inside, he found Prisca on her bed, hooked up to her machines. Next to her, on a stool, sat her mother, Primrose.

Ever since he had first met the woman, Basil had felt… uneasy around her. She made no secret of her disdain for him, though he could not guess why she did not like him.

Primrose looked the way Prisca should look, if it was not for her disabilities. She was as tall as Basil, and since she always wore high heels, she stood even taller than him. Her hair reached down to her waist in carefully styled ringlets, with any grey she might have gained by now well hidden. She was no adonis… well, she was no metahuman and so had no Physique effect, but she could still have modeled. Even at forty-five years, she was still stunning, having aged in as dignified a way as one could hope to. The only trait she did not share with her daughter were her pale blue eyes. Prisca had inherited her father’s eyes. In addition to that, she was dressed in a dark green, knee-length dress, a stylish black jacket and the aforementioned high heels. But above all else, the woman had presence. She could intimidate him better than anyone he had ever met.

When she saw him, a frown appeared on her face, but she did not say anything. She stood up, kissed her daughter on the forehead and left without looking at him again.

He did not relax until he heard the door close behind him and the sound of her pumps walking down the hallway. Then he let out the breath he had been holding.

“Has she ever told you why she does not like me?”, he asked.

Prisca shook her head. “No, she just says that you’re giving her a bad feeling. Also, some stuff about you simply not being good enough for me, but I think she’d say that about any boy I might like.”

He nodded and took Primrose’s seat. Then he took a good look at Prisca.

Her kidnapping and the ensuing operation had taken their toll on her. She was paler than usual, her hair stringy and brittle, her limbs even more drawn-out. And her eyes looked so tired.

“How are you feeling?”, he asked, taking one hand between his two, giving it a light squeeze.

“Awful, really. But I guess that is to be expected”, she replied, squeezing back.

“What is the doctor’s diagnosis?”

She averted her eyes. “More damage to my lungs, though less than it might have been and they should recover – a bit. Same for my stomach. But they’re afraid they’ll have to remove a kidney, though they’re going to wait and see if it might recover.”

He caressed her hand with his fingers. I wish I could have made those assholes suffer. Instead all but the Goblin got away scot-free.

“Well, I have got some good news at least. Something positive about this whole business”, he said.

She turned back at him. “How could any of this be positive?”

“Well, you remember how I said it would be difficult for me to help you with some gadgets? How it would be suspicious if Brennus just turned up and left you some advanced tech?”

She nodded, not understanding what he wanted to say.

“Now that Brennus saved you, it would not be that strange for him to take pity and make an effort to help you – I might even be able to work out some arrangement for me to directly examine you!” He was getting more and more agitated. If he could get a chance to use his own equipment to examine her, he might be able to actually find a cure, small as the chance might be.

Her face brightened up immediately, making his heart flutter. I love it when she looks like that.

“Are you sure? You could help!?”

“I can not promise you a cure – but I should be able to make things easier for you, maybe even create some compact machines so you could go outside in a wheelchair!”

She drew him closer, throwing her arms around his neck.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!”, she sobbed, burying her face in his neck.

“Now, now, why do we not wait until I actually manage to help you?”, he said, softly patting her back.

She let go and he helped her lean back again, her short burst of strength already spent.

“You saved me from those villains, remember? You already helped.”

He shook his head. “First, it was mostly Gloom Glimmer who helped you. Second, they would not have kidnapped you in the first place if it was not for the sake of drawing me out.”

“Not your fault. Besides, did you find out what they wanted from you?”


* * *

“So the Savage Six thought you were some other gadgeteer they’ve been looking for? And they organized a city-wide crime spree, just to test whether or not you might be that person?! What the fuck?!”

“Yeah, it sounds strange. I mean, what kind of person must this Macian have been, to make them do something like this just on the off-chance that it might be him?”

“Probably some kind of uber-gadgeteer. A 13/13, maybe? That would make anyone who knows about him go to any length to get their hands on him.”

He turned that thought around in his head. “You know, I think if there was a gadgeteer out there with that kind of rating, he would not remain an unknown for long. I mean, he would have the most sought after power ever, short of the Protege of course.”

“Yeah, something like that. Still, he’s got to be quite the character.”

“Hmhm. So, you have already read about the new Werdenfeld-Manning-System for power classifications?”

“Not read. I watched Gloom Glimmer’s lecture.”


“Didn’t I tell you? I’m going to be following the lecture by video. I’m already enrolled at Diantha High, though I mostly get private tutoring, but since I can’t get Gloom Glimmer over here, I’ll be following the whole course online.”

He smiled, amused. “So there is something your mother can not buy for you?”

“Are you kidding? We’re talking about the daughter of Lady Light and the Dark. Either of them is probably richer than the entire Fion family!”

“Oh, I know. Just teasing a bit”, he replied, giggling. “So, what did you think of the lecture?”

“It was fun, though I must say, she can make her exposition almost as long-winded as you do”, she said.

“Hrmpf. Just because I like to be thorough with my explanations…”, he snorted.

“Hihi, you’re just too easy to tease, you know. I swear, you could be a hundred years old, and you’d still get riled up whenever someone made fun of that.”

He blew her a raspberry.

“Oooh, how mature. That sure put me in my place.”

He snorted again.

“Well, either way, I have something else I wanted to ask you”, he said.

She raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What could that be? Will it be just as much of a surprise as earlier?”

Shaking his head, he answered: “No, I do not think so. But you will like it nonetheless. You see, I want you to do some testing for me. Something to occupy you.”

“That sounds really interesting. Tell me more!”

He pulled a hand-crafted tablet computer out of his backpack. It was a bit larger than the usual tablets, with a rimless screen the size of the usual printer paper. However, it was so thin and light, even Prisca would not have any problem holding it.

“Here, take this. I have already put in your fingerprints as the key to the lock.”

She took the tablet, curiously, smiling when she noticed the light weight, and pressed her finger on the screen.

It lit up, revealing several pre-installed programs and a white background with two black ravens biting each other’s tail, forming a circle.

“What is that symbol?”

“It is Brennus’ emblem. Do you like it?”

She nodded. “It’s nice, and so very you. But isn’t it dangerous, giving me something with your cape’s emblem on it?”

“First, only you can access this tablet. Second, who is going to check? Your mother is not going to rifle through your computer, right? And even if someone sees this, you can just say that you took the emblem as your background simply because he saved you and you like it.”

She nodded and he started explaining what it could do.

“It has got the usual features – internet access, high-definition graphics, compatibility with pretty much everything I could think off, a four-month battery life assuming two hours of use every day and so on. But the really interesting stuff is this little icon here.”

He pointed to a black icon with a red eye on it, formed like lips holding a circle between them. Eudocia’s emblem.

“What does it do? And what’s that symbol?”

“That is a secret – it would not do to spoil the testing by telling you what is behind it, you know.”

She pouted, which looked cute despite her cracked, thin lips, but he did not relent.

“It can only be activated with your fingerprint and you have to also type in the words ‘the world is vast’ as a password.”

“The world is vast?”

“Something that just came to mind. Feels incomplete, but I can not think of the rest of the phrase. Either way, try it out.”

She did so, tapping the icon and then putting in the password.

A black window appeared in the upper right corner. It was empty.

“If you tap this window, you can write into it, you can speak and you can drop in text, audio or video data. It will give back responses to anything you put in. I want you to challenge the program – give it any question, give it riddles and so on. You can even drop in games and watch it play them – or let it play in the background. You can also play against it, if the game allows for it. The purpose of the whole exercise is to see if you can find any flaws – anything it can not deal with, which causes it to fail.”

This way, you get to have some fun and I can outsource Eudocia’s testing.

“What kind of program is that?”

“As I said, telling you would spoil the testing. Do you think you can do this for me?”

She giggled. “Sure I can. And I can just throw anything at it?”

“Of course. If anything makes it hang up, I will know immediately and it will help me work some stuff out.”

“This sounds like fun!”

“I hope so. Now, I will leave you to it – I have work to do today. Specifically, working on that new equipment for you”, he said.

“Sure, sure, you go do that”, she said absentmindedly, already typing something into Eudocia’s chat window.

He smiled, giving her a light kiss on the cheek. Then he picked up his backpack and left, off to his lair.

Time for some work. Besides, Timothy would be there, together with the girls. He wanted to see whether or not they would like him.

* * *

The man (really more of a boy) that they called Hopscotch for the scars on his back that formed one such, had joined the Hemogoblins because… well, because of the girls. Or rather, one girl. The Goblin Queen. He’d first seen her when she’d robbed a bank he’d been in with his mother – she’d just smiled at him and he’d known that he wanted to work for her.

And at first, it had been awesome. Robbing people, assault, some rape, some other fun and, of course, sex with an awesomely hot woman whenever he did good work.

Then, last weekend had happened. Now, the Red Goblin was dead and Switchbitch and Redder were missing, with no trace to be found of either of them.

The queen had been less than pleased, to say the least. She’d been raging and screaming for two days, then started planning to retaliate againt the United Heroes. And Hopscotch would have been more than happy to help her – he might even get some more time with her, now that she wouldn’t be getting more goblins anymore and had to rely more on her real servants. Even though she’d just gotten a new metahuman, a young Japanese guy, as her right hand man, she’d still be thankful for his loyalty, he just knew it.

One minute ago, all of her and Hopscotch’s plans had been torn apart. Two girls had just appeared in the middle of their gathering, right out of nowhere. They wore identical skintight bodysuits and face masks that lacked even eye-holes, coloured Blue and Yellow, respectively. The suits were quite a bit thicker than usual, designed for efficient protection and movement instead of good looks, but they still did not hide that there were two real beauties beneath.

Before anyone present knew what had happened, the two had dismantled the fifteen baselines and two metahumans in the room, killing the twenty-three goblins they still had left.

Now, the Goblin Queen, herself dressed in what amounted to a barely present, black bra and loincloth, was lying on the ground, her hands nailed to the ground with her own knives. The new guy was unconscious, as was pretty much everyone else.

The girl in the yellow costume was standing over the Goblin Queen (she’d been the one to nail her to the ground – somehow), while the girl in blue was at the edge of the room, keeping a lookout.

Hopscotch had fallen where he’d stood, a single blow to his gut taking him out of the fight – though he was still conscious and able to watch.

Through the pain in his gut he watched and listened as the girl in yellow questioned the Goblin Queen about something, though the pain was just too much to really follow. Something about something called ‘Macian’, that asshole Brennus and the Savage Six. Why would they ask his mistress about the Six? Why would someone as magnificient as his mistress ever associate with the Six?

His mistress, of course, refused to answer – but that only made the girl in yellow take another knife that was lying around and impale his mistress’ foot, nailing it to the ground. He cringed in sympathy as she screamed in pain.

An outrage unlike anything he’d ever felt gripped him at the sight of his mistress being tortured, but his gut wouldn’t let him move.

The bitch in yellow questioned his mistress again, and this time, she answered. Though the bitch didn’t seem pleased by the answers, going by how she twisted the knife in his mistress’ left hand. Another round of questioning, and she seemed satisfied.

The blue bitch approached and held her hand out, which the yellow bitch took – and they vanished, just like that.

A minute later, he could finally move again, just in time for him to hear police sirens and watch as they stormed in.

* * *

The moment they arrived in their apartment, the two of them stripped out of their costumes. Both of them hated being part of the spandex crowd, but it was necessary to keep their identities secret as well as be more inconspicious.

Bluebell had laughed hysterically for ten minutes straight when she realized that wearing bright and flashy colours was less conscpicious than wearing normal stuff.

Glik immediately went to her computer, entering what little they had learned.

“Well, that was a bust”, Bluebell commented to her twin, walking up behind her to gather her long blonde hair in a ponytail.

Glik nodded, then stood up to return the favour.

“Do you think we should approach Brennus directly? If he’s Macian, he should recognize us immediately, right?”

Her sister nodded, but then raised a finger.

“But we have to be careful, I know. If he isn’t Macian, if the Six have him under surveillance, if, if, if.” She threw her head back, groaning. “Dammit, this almost makes me hope for another crime spree. It would be easy to contact him discretely if he were out fighting someone.”

Glik nodded again.

“Maybe we should actually contact the United Heroes?”

She shook her head.

“No, you’re right.” If only we knew how loyal Gloom Glimmer is to the Dark. Can’t have her rat us out to him.

Glik sat back down, typing something into her computer, pulling up a webpage.

Bluebell bent down to look over her shoulder. “Ooh, that might work…”

* * *

“Honey, I’m home! I’m hungry!”, Basil shouted as the elevator reached his actual lair.

He was greeted by confused stares.

“Hmph. No one appreciates the classics anymore”, he snorted.

Looking around, he could see his entire ‘team’ – if you could already describe it as such. Dalia was wearing an atrocious combination of orange hot pants and a purple top he hesitated to call anything other than ‘boobstrap’ while taking up an entire couch. Timothy was sitting at the console together with Vasiliki, who was showing him how everything worked (at least everything she could get to work) and Stephie was sitting on another couch, reading a comic book.

Tim spoke first: “It’s more like no one but you even bothers to watch most of the stuff you get your lines from.”

The girls giggled and Basil rolled his eyes.

“So, I guess you guys hit off with each other?”, he asked into the room while putting his backpack away.

“Well, we didn’t kill each other, at least”, said an irritated Dalia.

Stephie explained: “She’s just pissed that everyone’s been making fun of her outfit.”

“Oh, shut up, Mouse Girl”, replied Dalia, making a rude gesture. Stephie just giggled and turned back to her comic book.

Foreseeing more than enough occasions to ridicule Dalia’s wardrobe, Basil decided to let it rest for now.

“So, did anyone pick anything up?” He was referring to his surveillance systems.

Vasiliki answered: “There’s something going on with the Black Panthers. I think they are preparing to purchase something big, but no details yet.”

“Alright, we should keep an eye on that. Dalia, would you man the console? Maybe your power will help?”

The girl snorted, but stood up and walked over to the other two. Though she sat down as far away from them as possible.

“Anything else?”, he asked.

“No”, replied Stephie.

Dalia said nothing.

“I’ll just give Timothy a complete introduction, unless you want to do that?”, said Vasiliki.

“No, I would rather go down to my workshop. I have got quite a bit of work to do.” She nodded and turned back to the computer console.

He went down to his workshop.

* * *

An hour later, Brennus had made quite a bit of an advancement to his work on Prisca’s equipment. It felt strange, but somehow, his power was working more… cleanly right now. There was no other word to describe it. He was far more focused than usually, with less than five or six distractions every minute. Usually, his mind was working on at least twelve different projects simultaneously, though most were dead ends or forgotten before they could solidify.

If it went on like this, he’d be able to deliver the first package by the end of the week!

He was disrupted by Eudocia speaking up.

<Father, you may want to take care of this personally.>

He turned to the screen to his right, where she pulled up a video feed from one of his ravenbots.

This particular one stood on the edge of a rooftop in the Downtown. It showed a young man, twenty-something from the looks of him, standing on the edge.

<An analysis of his behaviour returns a probability of eighty-nine percent of him committing suicide>, explained Eudocia.

Ah, crap.

B004 Introduction to Metahuman Studies (Part 3)

“First, I’m sure that you all know the old Cruse-System for classifying metahuman abilities, named so for Franklin Cruse, who organized and directed the convention that created the system back in nineteen-forty-seven, and which has been in use to this day. Whoever knows it also knows how incredibly confusing it can get, using mythological terms for some powers and a jumble of English terminology for some others. Does anyone here want to guess why it got so confusing?”

No one raised their hand. It didn’t surprise her – few knew this particular little factoid.

I’ve wondered about that, myself, but I could never make any sense of the whole thing, said Melody.

“Fun fact: It’s my father’s fault. The Dark’s. He thought it would be funny to make it as confusing as possible,” she said. People looked at her with disbelieving eyes.

Seriously? He thought it would be ‘funny’? And how did he pull it off?!

I asked him. He seriously answered that ‘It amused me’. And he did it mostly by sneaking into the convention led by Cruse and influencing the gathered specialists. He does stuff like that whenever he’s bored.

Good God, and you grew up with that? Explains so much.

Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?!

Melody didn’t respond.

She focused her thoughts back onto the lecture. “So, after sixty-five years, the Werdenfeld-Manning research team has developed a new classification system. The first and most important change is that it no longer bothers to differenciate between source powers and derived powers. What does that mean? Well, let’s take Lady Light as an example.”

Lady Light’s power classification appeared on the whiteboard.

Adonis 10

Generator 7 → Wild Card 10 (Hard-Light Armament)

“This is my mother’s classification under the Cruse-system. Observe how there is a distinction between her source power – Generator, her ability to create her hard light constructs – and the resulting Wild Card classification, a derived power. Her new classification is as follows.”

New words appeared next to the old ones.

Physique 12

Damage/Protection 7

Meta 12

“Notice first how it now lists the effects of her powers, instead of trying to denote a source power. Notice also how the Adonis-trait has been renamed – we will get to that shortly.”

“Now, you may ask yourselves what the big difference is. Simply put, this new system puts more emphasis on summing up what a metahuman can do, not why. It also necessiates more attention to the individual descriptions of the metahuman’s abilities. The main reason for this change is that it is basically impossible to properly determine source powers, or sum up the powers into a few words. So now, we won’t even try any more,” she continued. “Furthermore, all non-English terms have been replaced so as to make the classifications more easily understandable. This is now the comprehensive list of power effects.”













At least it’s all in English this time, she said to Melody.

Yeah, I never understood how they came up with some of the names they did.

Dad brought a Thesaurus into the convention and randomly dropped suggestions into the minds of the attendees.

The more I learn about your father, the less I respect him…

Tell me about it.

“Alright, we are going to work through this list from top to bottom, working through the effects. I stress, this will just be a short introduction – we are going to revisit it later on. Please make notes, you will need to remember this for every following session.”

The whiteboard was wiped clean again, then the word Contriving appeared.

“Contriving is, perhaps, the strangest power out there – at its most basic level, it allows the metahuman to create placebos through which various effects can be expressed. At higher levels, Contriving allows a metahuman to create pretty much any tool for any task, making it arguably the most dangerous classification aside from transcendent variable powers. At levels one through three, Contriving allows a metahuman to create fantastic equipment and effects within a narrow field. An example would be Spellgun, who can only create various guns and ammunition, and nothing else – all his gear apart from his arms and ammunition is actually mundane technology, only styled to fit his theme. From four to six, we see the capabilities of contrivances branch out – Doc Feral, for example, can bestow a variety of temporary powers with his Power Juice, both to himself and to others. Levels seven through nine, Apex Tier contrivers, are what everyone thinks of when they speak of Mad Scientists – while they may have a focus, they can apply their ability to nearly any field, giving them, perhaps, the greatest versatility of all metahumans appart from God Tier contrivers. An example of this would be Doctor Despair, while the Archmage is an example of a God Tier contriver at level ten. Speaking of God Tier, there is only one known contriver to ever be assigned a rating of twelve – that would be, of course, Memento. While he still specializes in creating numerous robots, he can give them pretty much any power he can think of, as well as create an incredibly variety of support equipment that goes far beyond robotics. Unfortunately, contrivers are the most endangered metahumans when it comes to mental maladies – you can take any of the chances I’ve named earlier and double them for contrivers, up to 99%, which, of course, means that any contriver from level eight and above is pretty much guaranteed to be deranged in some way. And no, we will not get into Heretic in this course. Yes, he is the most powerful contriver ever. No, he will be discussed in a course specifically dealing with contrivers.”

“Now, the Control classification specifies any metahuman effect that allows for controlling other entities, be they humans, animals or constructs, but does not entail the ability to create them. Exemplars can, at best, control insects, simple animals or influence human emotions. A well-known example would be Buggy, a much-loved superhero operating in China, who can control large quantities of bugs, but only within a limited range; or Racer, who can control any car with his insignia on it remotely. Paragons are capable of controlling human emotions to a greater degree, implant suggestions, control a single human under certain conditions or control large quantities of animals. Bestiality is one such controller, a woman capable of controlling entire herds of animals at a time. Finally, in the Apex Tier, we get the much feared true mind controllers, people who can either completely control one person or take control over more than one to a limited degree. An example would be the late supervillainess Darling, who could use pheromones to control anyone who could smell her for significant amounts of time or Mindstar, who can only completely take over the mind of one person at a time, but can manipulate entire crowds to a lesser degree. Finally, we get to the God Tier of controllers – of which there are only two confirmed cases. The -fortunately – late Mindfuck of the Savage Six, the single most powerful telepath on record, and Polis Megalos, the premier superhero of Greece, who is capable of controlling an entire city.”

She paused for while, giving the students time to write everything down.

“Something simpler, now. The Damage classication describes any inherent ability to cause physical damage. The most common example are energy blasts of one kind or another. The damage classification is rarely applied to powers that have an indirect way of causing damage as part of their abilities – for example, if someone can spawn a superstrong minion, they are only given a Spawning rating, not a damage rating – otherwise nearly every metahuman out there would have a damage rating, so it’s only used for specialized damaging effects. With Exemplars, the damaging ability is restricted to damage that can be duplicated by mundane weaponry, like the ability to accelerate small, bullet-like objects to terminal speeds. Paragons go up to the output of vehicle sized weaponry, like gatling guns or tank guns. Apex Tiers describe powers that reach and eventually surpass the potential of artillery or bombardement. In the God Tier, we get the truly terrifying powers, capable of tearing down a good chunk of a large city with a single use. Desolation-in-Light almost always uses at least this level of destructive capability during her attacks. Theoretically, a transcendent damage effect would equal the destructive effect of a nuclear bomb, but thankfully, there has yet to be a metahuman with such power. Except for Desolation-in-Light, though she only used such abilities a few times until now.”

“We are going to skip the Gadgeteer effect for now. Let’s tackle that at the end of the session.”

Oh, you’re so mean.

Don’t complain.

“Manipulation effects entail all effects that, somehow, affect the physical world and do not fall into another category, making it the most expansive power classification. It can range from simple telekinesis to the stranger powers of time manipulation or probability manipulation (which was formerly a Wild Card power) and it can be either ranged, touch ranged or personal. In the Exemplar Tier, we get almost exclusively low-level elemental manipulation, like pyrokinesis that allows the creation and/or control of limited amounts of fire, geokinesis of less than five hundred kilogram, simple photokinesis and so on. The Paragon Tier includes the first universal telekinetics, limited manipulation of time and gravity, and so on. Most electrokinetics also fall into the Paragon Tier, mainly due to their versatility. In the Apex Tier, we get the specialized kinetics who can move more than ten tons of material, universal telekinetics with up to ten tons of strength and this is also the minimal rating for true probability manipulators. Finally, in the God Tier, we find the manipulators who can move entire buildings, using skyscrapers as thrown weapons for an example. An old, thankfully dead example would be Earthmaster, a geokinetic villain who was capable of causing earthquakes that reached up to an eight on the Richter Scale.”

She let that sink in for a while – no one in this room was old enough to remember that asshole – he’d been one of her mother’s first recurring enemies, nearly ninety years ago.

How did Earthmaster go down, actually? I don’t think your mother killed him?

Nope, the Justicar killed him. With a sniper rifle, while he was sitting on the toilet.

“Morphing describes all effects that change the user’s physical form. At the Exemplar Tier, you can find effects like turning limbs into weapons, the skin into diamond or a single, natural form, like being able to turn into a single animal or into a single other person. The Paragon Tier includes the abilities to change into various forms within a single class – different animals, different humans and so on – shapeshifting your limbs into various forms of the same material – turning your hands into various metallic forms, for example – and the like. Apex Tier morphers are capable of freely adjusting their form, though they are generally held back by a single limit – for example, the new UJH member Bakeneko can freely shift her own form, her only limits being that she cannot adjust her mass and is restricted to organic forms. At the God Tier, we find nearly unlimited shapeshifters who are usually only limited by having to remain within a certain mass range. The best known example would be the leader of the Savage Six, Hemming, who can take on any organic or inorganic form and is only limited by his own imagination and his own mass – he has to remain within one tenth or about fifty times his own mass.”

“Movement denotes all effects that enhance a persons capabilities to, well, move around. Super-Speed, flight and teleportation are the most well-known examples. At levels one through three, you find people with exceptional, though not necessarily inhuman speed, the ability to stick to walls, walk on water or fly while still limited by natural laws. From level four through six, you get real Super-Speed, usually up to seventy miles per hour, short-range personal teleportation, the ability to move slowly through solid matter and true independent flight, often ignoring at least wind resistance. Levels seven through nine include flight that ignores most aeronautical laws and long-range teleportation and/or the ability to take other people along on your jumps. At the God Tier, we get people like the late Switchstep, who could teleport himself and up to six tons of mass from the surface of the Earth to the Moon and flight that completely ignores natural laws, including the laws of inertia.”

“Perception effects are all those power effects that enhance a persons ability to perceive the world, as well as all abilities that manipulate other person’s senses. This is perhaps the second-most variable classification, as it includes all enhanced senses, all supernatural senses, psychometry, precognition, as well as illusions, invisibility and other sensory concealment effects. I’m not going to go through the individual power levels here, as this category is far too complex to be quickly broken down into labels. We’ll get into that during the session where we will get into the specifics of the Perception classification.”

“Physique combines the former Adonis and Chimaera classifications. Some of you might know that there has been an ongoing debate over whether or not the Adonis- and Chimaera-traits should even be classified as powers and not as results of a one-time adjustment of the body, as they cannot be influenced by any effect that influences other powers, like nullification effects – even Dr. Null was never able to nullify the enhanced physique of Lady Light or other metahumans, nor reverse the mutations of the Chimaera trait. Well, now this question is no longer important, as the question doesn’t even figure into classifications anymore – we only classify effects from now on. Either way, Physique effects are all effects that improve and/or permanently change the body, including improvements to the brain, allowing for increased intelligence. They range from simply improving – or twisting – the appearance and performance within the normal human range at the Exemplar Tier to the completely inhuman capabilities of God Tier physique effects like Lady Lights ability to shrug off anything short of armor-piercing rounds and punch through concrete. Physique powers are also the only ones that can be assigned a rating of zero, which means that it merely affects the outward appearance and maybe the overall health of a person.”

“Protection effects are all those effects that protect their wearer in some fashion, from extremely tough skin in excess of the Physique rating to force-fields, the ability to turn insubstantial (which nearly always entails a Movement rating as well) and so on. Exemplar Protection grants the ability to simply resist mundane damage better, up to being nearly bulletproof at level three. From level four through six, we get truly bulletproof metahumans, low levels of insubstantiality and so on. Apex Tier brings us the first ‘invulnerable’ metahumans, like Amazon, who can take anti-tank rounds and keep swinging. In the God Tier, we get those rare few individuals who are almost completely untouchable by anything short of equally rated metahuman damage effects, such as the late Protector, who once survived a nuclear explosion and was only killed – in fact, only ever harmed when he ran up against DiL. Protection effects also include the common Regeneration capability of many metahumans.”

“Now, Spawning is one of the rarest and most versatile effects – the ability to create agents, ranging from simple remote-controlled automatons to fully independent, perhaps even sentient entities. It often also entails an unrated Control and/or Perception effect, allowing the metahuman to completely control their creations or share their senses, respectively. In the Exemplar Tier, we get effects that allow for the creation of small, non-sentient and non-powered entities out of thin air or up to medium-sized automatons out of existing material. An example would be the ability to create ‘insect’ swarms out of nothing or animate a single physical object. Levels four through six entail the ability to either animate several medium-sized constructs, a single larger construct, create medium-sized entities out of thin air or spawn semi-sentient entities of up to animal intelligence. At levels seven through nine we get the effects which allow the creation of several larger constructs out of existing material, large entities out of nothing, single, powered entities, and entities with near-human levels of intelligence. Among God Spawners, we get people like The Dark, who can create several independent, fully sentient and meta-powered entities, in his case ‘Darkwraiths’ or a single, extremely powerful entity. There is also a known level thirteen spawner, Weisswald, who could create self-sustaining, self-replicating entities, nowadays known as ‘Spiteborn’.”

“Finally, the Meta descriptor describes all powers that deal with powers. That means, all means of enhancing, suppressing, bestowing, mimicking, stealing or shifting powers fall under this classification. The breakdown of the individual tiers would take too long at this point. Let’s just say that this is the one rating which every tactician out there absolutely loathes to have on the opposing side.”

She stopped, taking a deep breath and letting her pupils jot down their notes. Leaning back against her podium, she got ready for the final part of this topic.

“Now, I earlier said that I’d explain the Gadgeteer rating at the end. There’s a reason for that, because Gadgeteer’s get a special rating scheme. Because Gadgeteering has the distinction of being the only supernatural effect to operate after natural principles – in fact, it ONLY works within the range of natural laws – it is one of the most interesting effects out there. Many people hope that the appearance of a sufficiently high-rated Gadgeteer might lead humanity into a new Golden Age, perhaps even push us towards a technological singularity. Regardless of that, the Gadgeteer effect gets a double rating, going from one-slash-one to thirteen-slash-thirteen. This is because it is important to both describe how fast a Gadgeteer can work and how far ahead of current scientific theory they are. Let’s take, for example, Polymnia. She was formerly rated as a Gadgeteer three for being able to produce extremely advanced acoustic equipment, though she usually only created advancements of existing technologies instead of new ones – her sonic cage invention being an exception. Now, her new rating would be five-slash-three, because while she seems to be limited to current scientific theory, she works a lot faster than any mundane scientist. At higher levels, we get the vigilante Brennus, who’s estimated to be a seven-slash-five, Atrocity from the Savage Six, a six-slash-five and, of course, Sovereign, a seven-slash-seven, with a current debate among several circles within the Department of Metahuman Affairs to re-rate him as a seven-slash-eight, perhaps even an eight-slash-eight. The highest rated Gadgeteer we know of would be the late Su Ling, who is estimated to have been a Gadgeteer twelve-slash-twelve.”

I wish I could get Brennus into my workshop. The inventions we could come up with…

Please don’t drool. Bad enough the boy next to you is drooling already from looking at me.

“Alright, that’s it for the power classifications. And it also looks like I managed to already talk us through most of today’s session. Now, we are also going to have sessions on the more outlandish forms of manifestations, including the much talked about, yet never quite proven process of inheriting powers, as well as metahuman families. Get ready to take a lot of notes, because I’m going to give you an overview of required and suggested reading, as well as some names among metahuman researchers to keep an eye out for…”

* * *

“Man, this was an interesting lecture. Except for that last part, of course…,” commented Aimi.

“Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t even know about some of those books she recommended. Now I finally have something new to read again!” replied Basil.

Timothy and Aimi rolled their eyes, but didn’t say anything. They left for their next class.

* * *

Later, when they had gotten through their last class for the day, the three friends left to walk home. They were on their way past the statue of Diantha Whitaker when Brennus suddenly had an idea.

He had been thinking quite a while on how to imitate Sovereign’s force-field technology, and while he still was not sure he could create real force-fields, it should be-

“Ack!” Basil shouted, holding his head with one hand as a sharp pain lanced through his head.

“Basil? Did something happen?” asked Tim.

He shook his head. “No, I just remembered – today is my first chance to see Prisca since the incident. I had almost forgotten! Now I need to get home, drop off my school things and get over to the hospital!”

“Well, then you’d better hurry, shouldn’t you?” asked Tim with a grin.

All thoughts of new inventions forgotten for the moment, Basil hurried on, running out of the gates of the school.

* * *

Somewhere, at the same time…

She affixed the last photograph to her pinwall. It showed this new Gadgeteer, Brennus, as he was in the middle of evading an energy attack by a spiteborn while simultaneously jury-rigging the bomb that would end the fight in the acre.

It joined an extensive collection of photographs, newspaper clippings and notes, all concerning various Gadgeteers and suspected Gadgeteers around his age that appearead over the last four years. Pins and threads were forming an intricate net, all centered around a central drawing of a preteen boy with long, shaggy black hair and a mechanical left eye.

“Have I finally found you, Macian?” she asked, softly touching the picture of Brennus with two fingers. “I hope it’s you. I don’t think I can take another disappointment.”

She shook her head. This wasn’t the time for self-pity. Pulling on her heavy mask, she turned around and vanished out of the room with a soft popping sound.

B004 Introduction to Metahuman Studies (Part 2)

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.

Sure thing.

* * *

“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.”

B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 10)

Gloom Glimmer had teleported the two of them back to HQ after gathering her ruined equipment. She’d left Polymnia in her workshop to try and salvage as much of it as possible, but the most important parts, her sonic system, were also the most vulnerable.

Two suits trashed in less than two days. This doesn’t really say anything good about my future as a superhero.

Continue reading

B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 7)

“Are you sure you want to do this? You are hurt“, Amy said.

Basil just nodded and stared at his mobile phone – tracking the movements of the so-called Switchbitch.

Amy’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “The Hemogoblins…”

“…are a C-to-B-Class gang, mainly due to their leadership consisting entirely of metahumans, with their actual leader being a B-Class Contriver”, continued Basil. “Their metapowered members are…”

“Alright, alright, so you’ve done some research on them”, Amy cut him off before he could launch into an exposition-rant (not that she didn’t like to do that once in a while. Just not as much as he did). “Still, do you think you can do this? You. Are. Hurt. And your teammates are certainly not up to this – leave it to the heroes! That’s what they’re for!”

Continue reading

B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 6.2)

Getting to the Hospital did not take long – before the reconstruction of the city even began after DiL’s attack, it had been decided that the new public transport system was going to be the most efficient in the world – and they had succeeded (at the time). And while Washington had managed to snatch that title away during their 2001 reworking of their public transportation system, New Lennston’s was still one of the world’s finest. The magnetic trains moved almost soundlessly through the city and one needed half an hour at most to reach any station from any other.

So he entered Prisca’s room just as Mrs. Smith was leaving with the food tray. She did not even notice him, as she had to hurry to bring the tray to the kitchen and then run along to the next patient needing help with eating. And then the next one. Plus those who needed help with going to the toilet – a problem which Prisca wished she had, because it would mean that her bowels still worked well enough to actually process food – and so on.

Which meant that he and Prisca would be undisturbed for at least an hour and a half. Perfect.

Continue reading

B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 4)

2000… you’re twelve?“, asked Melody after a few seconds of first being dumbfounded and then typing on her vocoder.

“Yes… and no.” Irene was looking younger and younger, fidgeting around, looking at her feet as she drew circles with her big toe.

Please, just get to the point. How old are you? And what does it have to do with the scene from earlier?”

Rubbing the back of her head with one hand, still looking down, Irene opened her mouth to say something, but hesitated.

Come on, you can tell me. I’m not going to hold it against you, you know?

Continue reading

B002 Rising Stars (Part 6.1)

A few hours earlier…

“Are you absolutely sure about this?”, Widard asked from behind his desk, incredulous.

Yes. I’ve run every test I could think of at least twice“, Melody answered. She was still in her workshop-jumpsuit (though she had zipped it up), as she had been summoned from her work to discuss her report on the ravenbots.

“We need to be absolutely sure. I know you understand what it would mean if your analysis is accurate”, Amazon answered. The tall woman had joined the discussion as she was the highest-ranking member left in the city. Clad in a skintight scarlet jumpsuit, with a token domino mask, and with short-cut blond hair, she looked every bit the high-level Adonis-type.

“I can confirm her analysis – my power backs her up and it hasn’t been wrong yet”, Irene supplied. Unlike Melody, Irene had changed into her costume, complete with her cape.

Patrid, who was leaning against the edge of Widard’s desk, rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger. “This is the last thing we need”, he sighed, uncharacteristically subdued.

I don’t see why this has to be such a bad thing. Whoever made these could very well be a potential hero – maybe they just started out and that is why we don’t know about them“, Melody replied.

Widard, Patrid and Amazon looked at each other. By silent agreement, Widard took the helm: “Melody, you of all people should know that a gadgeteer needs an extensive support network to even begin working. If whoever made these robots is already able to produce this kind of work, but hasn’t joined either the government – in which case, we would know about them – or us, then that must mean that he or she is getting support from somewhere else. Most likely, then, a supervillain.”

Or maybe he or she is just filthy rich“, threw Melody in.

“True, that is possible. But unlikely, seeing as how the Hawaii Act allows the government to track any and all transactions above 10.000$. We would know if the materials for that mass of robots, along with the facilities and equipment needed to construct them, had been purchased legally. So we have to conclude, until disproven, that whoever did this is either a villain who is not as messed up as the Rabid Eight – a feat that does not mean much, all things considered – or a vigilante. Both of which are a problem”, Patrid said. “I would also like to add the fact that whoever made these had no trouble launching a near lethal attack on El Conquistadore. True, he is a monster, but it still says something about the master of those ravens that they went for the kill.”

Melody chewed over that, then said: “What if their creator is not the same person as their controller? Maybe the Gadgeteer behind them is being forced or tricked into making them for someone else?

Amazon raised an eyebrow. “This sounds almost like you want them to be a good guy. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but why this vehemence?”

“That’s easy, Amazon”, said Irene. All four turned to her. “Melody simply hopes that she and the raven’s creator could work together – her work is extremely advanced and might mesh well with Melody’s.”


We are currently operating under the assumption that the creator of these ravens is female“, explained Melody.

“Any reason for such an estimate?”, asked Patrid interested.

“Melody’s intuition tells her it’s a girl. And my power gives that possibility a 67% chance”, supplied Irene.

“Well, either way, I want the team to take measures assuming the worst case scenario. That means taking note of any raven you see, being prepared for sudden attacks and wearing protection against sonic attacks”, ordered Amazon. “We are currently at the brink of a war with the more militant parts of the Sovjet Union, the Califate is moving, more and more Spiteborn are appearing and criminal activity has picked up since the fall of the Sovjet Union’s leadership, as there are now quite a few army bases where the officers and soldiers are not getting their paychecks, so they are selling equipment to the black market – in some cases, even Gadgeteer-made equipment – so we have more and more normal criminals with the firepower necessary to threaten metahumans up in the B-Class. The last thing we can afford right now is to lose any of you, even temporarily.”

“And on that front, I want you, Gloom Glimmer, to go out for a patrol – your file says that you only need a few hours of sleep a week, so we’d like to capitalize on that”, said Widard.

“Sure thing, Boss”, answered Irene.

Can I tag along? I’m not that tired yet“, asked Melody, only to try and stifle a yawn.

Widard was about to deny her, when Irene cut in: “I could energize her. It’s not even harmful, unless I do it more often than once a week.” Melody gave her a thankful smile.

“Well, alright. Go out and take care you two”, he conceded.

* * *

Let us never speak of that again“, said Polymnia, still flushed from being energized by Gloom Glimmer. After having been charged up in the most embarassing manner possible, she had put on her spare suit of armor. Thankfully, the UJH headquarters had the facilities necessary to process and reproduce her work, meaning that she could always have a spare suit ready.

“Well, did you think I was just going to touch you somewhere and have you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again?”, asked Gloom Glimmer, who was levitating both of them. They were flying North – the UH headquarters were located pretty much at the center of the city, to allow for quick deployment. Since they wanted to circle the city, they would fly to the northern part of the city, then work their way counterclockwise to the harbor.The idea was that they would first fly over the populated areas, where they wanted to be seen by the civilians before bedtime, then end in the harbor, where being seen was not as important.

Honestly – YES! I would not have thought that that kind of procedure would be necessary!”

A mischievous grin spread on Gloom Glimmer’s face: “It wasn’t. I could have just tapped you on the cheek or something.”

Polymnia opened her mouth in a mute scream.

Why would you do that to me?!”

“I just wanted to see if you would go through with it – not to speak of the expression on your face when I told you that it was unnecessary”, answered Gloom Glimmer with a satisfied grin.

Polymnia spent the next minute cussing at her, though the profanity filter in her vocoder muted her words.

* * *

Say, what is that tune you’re humming all the time?“, asked Polymnia after while. They had reached the western district of the city. Below them they could see soft hills and large mansions. This was the part of the city with the oldest buildings, barring the harbor, as it had been the one least destroyed by Desolation-in-Lights attack on the city.

“Oh, that one? I barely even notice it, it’s just something I can’t get out of my head”, Gloom Glimmer replied. Polymnia got the impression that she would not want to discuss this any further, so she dropped it.

“I wanted to ask something as well”, said Gloom Glimmer. “But it’s a very personal question, so don’t feel obligated to answer it, or anything.”

Ask away. Though I won’t promise to answer.

“I’ve read your file. I know where you come from, your familial background and everything. But I’d like to know how you manifested, if you don’t have a problem with it.”

“It’s only me being curious.”

I’ll tell if you tell. And you go first.”

“Deal. But you’ll be disappointed, because I can’t remember.”

Are you kidding me? There is NO WAY anyone could forget their manifestation, unless you’ve been mindf***ed beyond belief!

“I didn’t forget it, it’s just that I had it when I was still in my mothers womb – just like my sister. I can’t remember it because I couldn’t even think back then.”

Your powers manifested in… I though that had only been a fluke when it happened to your sister!

“Well, my parents have only had two children with each other, so there wasn’t exactly much data on that particular circumstance. But yeah, I got my powers when my mother was just seven months pregnant. And I got my first shot of power suppressants barely a minute later, to prevent a repeat performance like with my sister.”

Wow. Talk about a difficult pregnancy. I guess it’s my turn now? Give me a minute.”

They flew quietly over the western district, waving at a few civilians they passed. In one case, Gloom Glimmer fired a golden blast towards a playground that exploded into a shower of butterflies, delighting the children.

I manifested a bit over a year ago. It was… kind of stupid, really. My family is really, really musical – every one knows how to sing, every one knows how to play at least one instrument. But I was never able to carry a single tune. The only thing I was good at was helping my uncle who built musical instruments. But that wasn’t enough to take part in all the family performances we did. And my mother, who’s an internationally known violinist, was always disappointed that of her five children, her only daughter could not sing or play an instrument. So I was left behind time and time again. Then, about a year ago, my family was doing one of their big performances in New York and I was back home because I just couldn’t stand going along and being the fifth wheel. I was sitting in my workshop, trying to play a violin of my mother I had fixed up for her. But, of course, I failed. And I failed. I spent hours trying to play, but I just couldn’t do it. And… well, that’s it. I was sitting there, trying to play the Violin I had just repaired and I was crying, and angry both with myself and my family and… I can’t put it in words, it was like a current was being run through my body and my mind was opening – I couldn’t see my surroundings anymore because I had all these ideas, raw and unformed, pure inspiration. And, at the same time, I started to hear, really hear every sound around me.”

She paused for a moment, lost in her own memories.

When I came to, I was still in my workshop, only two days had passed. I was drenched in sweat, but when I stood up and picked up the Violin, I just knew how to play it perfectly. And I played and for the first time in my life, I was good. And then I noticed that my body had changed – I had grown almost half a foot, plus all the other improvements. Quite a shock, I tell you, though not as much as being unable to produce a sound with my own mouth.”

“When my family came back the next day, I greeted them playing a Violin I had made myself. You cannot imagine their surprise.”