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.”

B004 Introduction to Metahuman Studies (Part 1c)

He’d changed. And it wasn’t a new change, not entirely.

Many small things he had noticed earlier now made more sense – the distance, the aloofness. He’d been acting deliberately ‘normal’, hiding the changes he knew they would pick up.

Or, perhaps, the changes only Tim would have picked up – Aimi wasn’t the most observant of persons.

Either way, Basil wasn’t hiding it, not here. He was sitting on the couch across from Tim, looking at him with a serious expression. He seemed both alert in that he was ready for trouble, but also relaxed in the way only a person could be who was sure they were capable of dealing with whatever came their way.

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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.

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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!”

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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?

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B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 3)

Earlier, the same day

“Melody. Wake up…”

She didn’t want to. It felt so comfortable, lying in her bed, wrapped up in her blankets.

“Come on… we have to get ready…”

Please, I don’t want to perform today. Just let me sleep another day or so.

“No, silly, this is about the debriefing. It’s due in half an hour.”

She turned around, pulling the covers up over her head.

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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.”

B002 Rising Stars (Part 3)

“That. Was. Awesome!”, shouted Dalia as the cameras cut away from the scene of the hotel and back to the studio. Her excitement turned to irritation as the screen switched off. “Hey!”, she shouted at Basil.

“Calm down. They are not going to tell anything I can not tell you. So why listen to a talk show”, he replied with some contempt in his voice – aimed at the show, not Dalia.

“What do you have against talk shows?!”, Dalia asked in a befuddled tone of voice. He just looked at her like she was asking a stupid question and turned towards his computer terminal. Continue reading