Tristan walked toward school. He pushed his black hair out of his face, and wiped a few stray leaves off his clothes. “Hey,” said his friend Jack. They walked toward school together every morning. "I can't believe you corrected Nathan in math class. He's gonna murder you. He hates being wrong.” Tristan nodded. Jack was right. "Do you have the math textbook? I left mine at home.” Jack asked. Tristan had a spare, so he handed it to Jack. Their hands brushed together, there was a little noise, and Jack jerked away and dropped his book. “Jeez! How can you have static every morning! It’s really getting old!”
“Sorry Jack,” I said. “Here’s your book.” Jack took the book, and they kept walking.
Owen kept running. He was always running. He always had been running, he always would be running. Everywhere he went. He shook his brown hair out of his face. A million freckles, he thought self consciously as he zoomed into his electronics classroom, and took out his books and supplies. “Good morning, seniors,” his teacher said. Owen grinned. Thirteen years old and he was already in Advanced Placement, twelfth grade electrical engineering He had an affinity for technology, and so he had been put into advanced classes. He took his metal water bottle out of his neon backpack and took a sip. He nearly spit out his water. It was hot. His mom was always filling it with hot water and saying she didn’t. He didn’t get why.
Connor walked through the hallways of the library. It was always quiet there. He liked quiet. Other people would talk all day if they could. Connor didn’t understand why. It sounded like a bird sanctuary everywhere in the school; tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet. Walking by a bookshelf toward a computer, he noticed the 12th grade school bully, Nathan, trying to get money from Tristan. Connor frowned. Tristan had been his friend for years. He wished he could get Nathan to stop. Nathan staggered, and put a hand to his chest. Putting a hand on a bookshelf, he stooped. Connor’s frown deepened. Nathan never staggered. Nathan was the epitome of confidence, assertion, strength, independence. So why would he stagger and turn pale for no reason? He looked exhausted. Connor felt tired too.
Julia liked walking home. Her neighborhood was always quiet, and in autumn, it wasn’t too cold to be outside, but cold enough that no one would be outside. She walked by a little fountain and stopped for a moment. She took out her water bottle and drank some water. Then she remembered that her water bottle had been empty since sixth period. She opened the bottle. It was full to the brim. She closed it, put it away, and kept walking. She hoped that by May she could get better control of her abilities.
“Hey, Connor” said Tristan.
“Hi,” said Conner. Tristan looked back at Nathan, who was glaring at him with malice. “Why don’t we move. Stay out of his way, and maybe he’ll forget about you.” said Connor. Tristan nodded. He stared at Connor. Connor was a strange kid. Weird stuff tended to happen around him. And he was an albino with nearly neon green eyes. An albino is a type of person who has completely white skin, no freckles, and usually red eyes. But not in his case. Somehow, his eyes had ended up neon green. He was smart though. Heck, that kid probably thought an A- sucked. The bell rang.
“See ya,” Tristan said. He made his way out the door and started walking toward the bus stop. It was only a couple blocks away. The door immediately slammed and locked behind him. Tristan froze as someone said: “Turn left and step into the parking lot, kid. I’ve got two more guys behind you, we’re all carrying pocket knives, and their fists are ready to punch your lights out. Tristan slowly turned around. There were indeed two people behind him. Tristan stepped into the alleyway. The person was indeed holding a pocket knife and a broken bottle, point towards Tristan’s heart. “Not so brave without Connor, are you?” the voice asked. “Nathan,” Tristan muttered. Who had he hired to do this? The kid had to be crazy! "What the heck are you doing?!”
“Clearing my name. I won’t be beaten by a seventh grader and his albino, abominable friend. Now gimme the money I wanted before and maybe your skull won’t get shattered today.” Nathan grinned. Tristan knew Nathan loved every moment of this. “You know what?” Tristan said, barely believing his own words. “I think you’re a waste.” Tristan was tired of being manipulated and bullied and robbed.
“Just give me the money.” Nathan said. Tristan kept going.
“Nothing but a waste of talent and brains and oxygen. Why can’t you just do what you need to do and leave everyone else alone. If you’re so much better than them that you can steal and hurt them, then they must not be worth your time. You can’t run over everyone in this world. You are merely the one who can’t see himself.” Tristan shouted, pointing at Nathan. His finger tingled like a million pins and needles. With a loud KA-BANG! and the smell of melted metal and electrical fire, a blinding bolt of lightning flew out of his finger, and connected with the bottle cap. Then the lightning bolt backtracked and zapped the goons. Tristan dove to the side. The bottle shattered. A metal fragment flew into Tristan’s leg. Nathan flew backward about three feet and crashed into the ground. He was unconscious, and shaking like a maraca. Tristan groaned, struggled to his feet, and limped off as fast as he could.
Owen kept working. His arduino microboard was almost out of digital pins, and his three breadboards and arduino mega were loaded. (A microboard was a type of computer chip, an arduino was a brand of them, and a digital pin was another name for a wire slot.) He frowned. Where could he get another analog pin and another ground terminal without another breadboard? He used his soldering iron* to fuse two wires together. Then he realized he was holding the soldering iron by the metal part. He immediately dropped it. And stared at his hands. Not a crease, not a scratch, not a burn. What the heck? he thought. Then he saw the main part of the soldering iron.
* A soldering iron is a stick of metal that gets heated hot enough to melt metal. At the back there is a ceramic grip so you don’t melt your fingers. You can easily get a second degree burn with one, if not third degree, so you have to be careful.)
The iron had been off, yet it still had been hot enough to melt metal together, and it hadn’t torched his hands. What the heck?! he thought. He put his hands on the desk, and looked at the wires. They were melted together, and had been molten about twenty seconds ago. There was a sizzling sound. Owen looked at his desk. Black handprints were already permanently imprinted on the desk, and the marks were spreading. “Uh...Can I go to the bathroom?” Owen asked. “You need a pass,” the teacher said. Owen went to grab his agenda book, and felt it crumble to ash in his hand. “Uh...I forgot it at home. Can I have a pass on a piece of paper?” The teacher gave it to him. “Thanks,” Owen said, feeling the paper curl inward and smoke in his hand. He ran out the classroom and out the front door of the school, but not before his entire body erupted in flames. He couldn’t feel or be burnt by them, but they did set off the fire alarms.
Connor walked out of the school. The school day was over. He noticed Jack walking on his own and frowned again. Jack never walked home alone. It was always with Tristan. Connor sighed. If Tristan wasn’t with Jack, he was probably in trouble with Nathan. He turned around, and Tristan ran right into him.
“Tristan! What happened?” Connor asked. “Honestly? Nathan brought a knife to school and nearly turned my chest into swiss cheese with it with the help of some mini Arnold Schwarzeneggers. I blasted him with lightning from my fingertips. The knife blew up and he’s unconscious in a dark parking lot.” Connor stood still for a few seconds, and did something he hadn’t done in a year. He laughed. “Ha! Ha ha! That’s the best joke I’ve ever heard!” Tristan pulled up his pant leg. A jagged piece of metal was stuck in his leg, and his sneaker was soaked with blood. Connor stopped laughing. He stopped smiling. Tristan held out his hand. Little arcs of miniature lightning, barely bigger than static, were flying across his palm. Connor’s eyes widened. His jaw dropped like a stone. “You weren’t kidding.” “No, he wasn’t,” said Nathan. Tristan whirled around. Nathan was walking toward them, hair askew and sticking in many directions, like in a comic book. His every movement was shaky and jerky, like he had to make conscious effort to move it. He stabbed a long piece of knife shrapnel into Tristan’s chest and grinned. Connor stared in horror for a single millisecond before kneeling beside Tristan and feeling for a pulse. Please don't be dead... He thought. He looked up at Nathan and glared. He was mad. He had never felt so mad. Nathan staggered. He slipped, fell, and started to scream. He moved in all directions, limbs flailing, screaming at the top of his lungs. At the same time, the shrapnel was pushed out of Tristan due to the fact that his muscle and skin were healing. In seconds, Tristan was fine and Nathan had a bleeding chest wound, with a piece of shrapnel sticking out. Connor stopped. He wasn’t shocked. It explained everything. All the weird occurrences that had happened around him.
“This is the police,” said someone. Julia turned around. She had been just about to walk in her door. “Now, what do you know about these people?” He held up three pictures. One was Owen, the kid from her school. One was Connor, that quiet albino from school. The other one was a person she didn’t know. “I know Owen and Connor, but no one else.” The policeman put the pictures away. “Owen’s in trouble for somehow setting an entire school on fire. Tristan’s in trouble for bringing a taser to school and zapping a kid named Nathan with it. Connor’s in trouble for stabbing Nathan with a piece of metal." Julia couldn’t believe her ears. Owen wouldn’t set a school on fire; it wasn’t in his character. As for the other two...well...she didn’t know. Connor was too quiet. She barely knew him. The policeman held out a card. “If you come into contact with them, call this number.” Julia frowned. “Ok,” she said uncertainly. The policeman got into his car and drove away. She sat down on the step and thought. Owen just wouldn’t do that. And Connor...I don’t know, but he didn’t seem like a vandal. After about fifteen minutes of thought, she saw Connor walking into the yard. She looked up quickly. “Hey,” Connor said. He was supporting the Tristan guy, and Owen was behind him. “Is it true that you stabbed Nathan?” she asked. Then she realized she might not want to know. “No,” said Connor. “That’s a load of rumors and excuses.” Connor told Julia what had happened. Julia was thinking hard by the end of it. If this meant that she wasn’t the only one…”Come into the house,” she said. “We need to get out of town.”
It was still raining in the house. She couldn’t believe it. In the morning, she had been worried she might be late, and it started to rain in the kitchen. Normally, things like that stopped when she left the house. But this hadn’t, which meant that either her powers had started to last longer than she had intended, or she was still excited, worried, or feeling any huge emotion. I must just be thinking about Connor and Owen and this Tristan guy. she thought. She had had her powers since the age of four, and when it had started to rain in her room for no apparent reason, her parents hadn’t known what to think. They had learned that she had apparent control of water. Later that day, a river had literally surged through the house, soaking everything. The house had literally been reshaped, remodeled, and modified so that the water would be safe enough. No one had been inside before, except for her and her parents.
And the first experience she had with the rest of her future BFFs was inside a house filled with mesh and waterproof covers, sitting in a room where it was raining for no apparent reason. she could have kicked herself. “How long have you known about your powers for? They are water powers, right?” asked Tristan. She was stunned. How did he realize it so fast? I mean sure, the rain, but still, he was surprisingly fast. “Yes,” she managed to say. “I’ve known about this for 11 years. Also, you’re not supposed to know. How long have you known about your powers for?” she asked. “We’ve known about them for a whole 2 hours, so would you be so kind as to share your wisdom with us?” asked Owen. “Ha ha.” she said sarcastically. “I think I will. So, basic rule of thumb, don’t get discovered by FBI, NASA, or medical services, or you’ll get dissected in seconds so science can find out how you work. Don’t let anyone know about your powers, just stay safe and secret. I guess I just blew the secret part.” “It’s OK,” said Owen. “At least you didn’t electrocute a kid with lightning.” he finished. “Hey!” said Tristan.”I didn’t mean to do it, and you should talk; you set off half a school’s fire alarms ‘by accident.’”
“What about you, Connor? What’s your ability?” asked Julia. Connor hesitated. His bright green, almost neon eyes looked duller, more dim and deep. “I really don’t know how to describe it. Like I said, I was mad at Nathan, Tristan had been stabbed, and Tristan’s muscle and skin healed, and at the end, Nathan was the one with shrapnel in his chest. I don’t know what it is.” There was a pause. “Well, whatever it is, we can’t get near the government. They probably already know that something’s going on. The few people who saw us have most likely clammed up in order to retain their publicly acceptable images, but the few who have spoken have most likely been assured that nothing supernatural is going on, that it was a tazer and a torch and not lightning and fire powers that caused the incidents, but at the same time, the government knows the truth and are probably keeping an eye out for us.” For the first time, she wondered if the house was bugged. “If they find us, they will study us. They will take bone samples, muscle samples, tissue samples, blood samples, they will test us with chemicals, they will dissect us to study us, and when we die in the lab, they will take out our organs and study them too, before they are auctioned off. We cannot be discovered, or all this and more will happen, and the scientists will do it without a second thought. We have to get out of here. We have to get out of here tonight.”
There was a pause as her words sank in. Surprisingly, Connor was the first to speak. “All right,” he started. “They probably have police, FBI, and NASA looking for us already. The more time we waste, the closer they get. Everyone, grab your things. We’re leaving.”
The driveway was dark. Lights were off. It was two in the morning. No one moved. The silence felt solid, like an impenetrable barrier that no one dared to break. Even the insects seemed silent. Dark was over everything. No one could see more than a foot in that kind of darkness. The quiet sound of crunching gravel creeped out into the darkness. A lone cricket chirped, then was silent. The silence was complete. Then more crunching was heard. A pale figure passed under the only streetlight on the street that was still lit. His face was white as bone, menacing as a spotlight. His cheekbones threw bizarre shadows over the bottom of his face, from the streetlight. His disheveled hair was like a pool a bottomless pool of ink, black as night. His neon green eyes, darkened nearly to the point of greyness, looked dead and desolate, and his pupils looked like two portals to oblivion, black as the night itself. Of course, he was only glimpsed for a second, before vanishing into the darkness again. “The street is clear,” he said. Three other crunching noises followed him, and one by one, three more people entered the glow of the streetlight. A freckled face, with brown eyes and hair walked through the light. He was carrying a backpack. Next came a boy with black curly hair. He had freckles too, but not as many. His skin was the color of an almond. Then there was a girl with blonde hair, holding a serrated kitchen knife in one hand and a bag with supplies in the other. All were wearing dark clothing, and were indistinguishable from the darkness of the night itself. The moonless night, black as oblivion, seemed to wink at them, as they stood under a tree.
“I still don’t know how you got to be such a good shot with that gun,” said Tristan. Connor had shot out almost all the streetlights and security cameras on the streets with his father’s silenced .22. Connor sighed. He could tell Tristan that...couldn’t he? “My dad was into rifle ranges. I watched him practice and clean the gun, and I’m an even better shot than he is. That’s why we keep the gun in the house.” In one of the bags was a cleaning kit with wipes, solvent, oil, ramrods, brushes, and a barrel snake. And of course, the gun. In the other was most of Owen’s electronics, in protective plastic cases. There were also supplies, such as matches, food, water, compass, 100 rounds of ammunition, etc. Owen and Connor’s houses were fairly close, so they had gone there for supplies. Julia also had taken several kitchen knives and some supplies.
A man with a black uniform and the words F.B.I. stitched across the back of the shirt walked on the sidewalk. Then he saw them. He started running toward them, drawing his handgun on the way. He pointed it at Connor’s skull and shouted, “Don’t move!” Owen and Tristan jumped at him. Tristan gave him a high punch to the face, breaking his nose, and Owen launched himself at him in a fully fledged flying side kick. Owen’s kick landed square on his sternum. There were cracks like gunshots as two ribs broke. Owen stepped off him. He looked shocked at what he had done. Tristan walked over. He was shaken too. “We didn’t have a choice. It was him or us.” said Connor. “Besides,” he said as his eyes glowed a little brighter, “He’s not dead, and now I’m sure he’ll live.” They kept moving.
After about twenty blocks, they stopped and made camp. Julia and Owen worked together to make a makeshift shelter. Owen had learned how in Boy scouts, and Julia’s ability to strengthen the structure by putting water on it and then freezing it helped. Connor and Tristan made a fire. “So,” Julia asked. “Are you still in the boy scouts? Don’t put the stick there, there’s a dead bird there.” Owen grinned. “No. I made a miniature chemical bomb for the science badge and accidentally blew it up during the Court of Honor. I was thrown out the same day.” He said. Connor thought; If it were anyone else, he would have dismissed it. But he knew firsthand what kind of damage his inventions could do. He had taken apart a computer and reprogrammed and redesigned it as a robot to correct his homework in thirty seconds per sheet, tops. So he wouldn’t put a miniature chemical bomb past him. He went back to watching Tristan try to light a fire. The matches were wet, and wouldn’t light. “I didn’t know you knew karate,” Connor said to Tristan. “I learned karate and Owen is learning Taekwondo,” Tristan answered. Connor sighed. “Owen, could you help us with this?” he said. Owen walked over, put his hands together, and paused. “Uh, Julia, how do you use your power? You’ve known about yours longer.” he asked. “You think about your desired outcome and put as much of your emotion into one inch. Where you want the element to come out.” She said. Owen concentrated. Connor thought he looked like he was constipated. Then a jet of flame shot out from between his hands and set the fire alight. Owen jumped. Julia smiled. “Nice job,” she said
Owen put his hands side by side as if holding a sphere, then concentrated. A little flame floated in the air between his palms. then Connor thought, What would happen if I was to do that? Would it tell me what my power was? He put his hands together like Owen had done, and concentrated. He hoped it would still work without the desired outcome.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, a blindingly green jet of light flew out of his hand. It flew in unpredictable shapes, crackling and spitting. The entire area, dark as a tomb, was blindingly illuminated. The jet shone as brightly as the sun. It finally flew into the dead bird, which started to glow. The bird’s wounds closed. His skin healed, and his eyes opened. Then the glow faded. He stood and flew off. Connor frowned, and looked at the other kids. They were gawking at him like he’d just brought someone back to life; which he had.
“Good work,” someone said from the shadows. Everyone whirled around, to see a man with a sly grin, holding a submachine gun aimed at Owen’s face. “Now come with me. If I think any of you are going to try anything, I’ll blow the boy’s brains out.” He was wearing all black, but his clothes were ragged. He seemed to radiate coldness and distance. Connor looked at Tristan. Tristan nodded at Owen and put his hands up. Connor got the message loud and clear: If Owen might get a burst of bullets to the brain if we act, we can’t. Connor put his hands up. Julia’s brows inched together, but she put her hands up too. “Follow me,” he said.
Owen couldn’t believe it. One minute they’d been laughing and joking just like any other group of kids, the next moment he’d had a submachine gun pointed at his brain. He and his friends had been roped together and told to follow the person holding the gun. He remembered kindergarten, where they had to hold onto a rope that the teacher would hold the front end of. This was the same, just with bullets and murder.
They reached the subway. It was deserted. When they reached the tracks, the man said, “get onto the tracks.” Connor looked at him as if he’d just told him to...well...stand on train tracks. Tristan said, “You’re crazy.” The man drew his gun again. “Get on the tracks or you get bullets through your brains.” Owen got an idea. He concentrated hard. He’d never wanted something to happen more in his life. the man shouted “Yeeeoooooowww!” and dropped the gun, clutching his hand. It was bright red where he had been holding the gun, and blisters were already starting to form on the burns. The weapon fell, and the gunpowder ignited from the intense heat. There were several loud bangs from the gun. It seemed almost comical. Bang! Bang-bang! pause...Bang-Bang-Bang! Bang bang! Bang-Bang-Bang! Bang! Tristan swung into his Karate pose and smashed him in the face with a backfist strike. As they ran for the exit, a rock flew up from the ground and smacked Tristan in the forehead. He hit the ground, out cold. Julia turned around and sent a blast of water the man’s way. I guess we’re not the only people who can control things, Owen thought. He blasted a jet of fire at the man, thinking, I’m getting better at this. As they reached the stairs, the concrete floor rose up to form a wall, completely sealing off the exits. The man started walking toward them, hands up. “Okay,” he said. “I suppose I should have told you why I was doing all this.”
“That would have been nice,” said Owen. “Preferably before you threatened to send bullets through my skull.”
“That was a cover,” said the man. “The gun only has blanks. I needed to make it seem like I was a policeman who found you two. The agencies were coming and there were policemen everywhere. There were three within five feet of your little campsite. You wouldn’t have lasted the night, let alone enough time for the real agencies to get here. I also needed to get you to move without question. Hesitation could have cost us our cover and our lives.”
“Explain,” said Julia.
“I think that you already know most of what I’m going to say, courtesy of your parents,” he said. Julia frowned, and said, “Then fill them in.” The man took a deep breath and started to speak.
“You already know about all of your powers, right? Well, you aren’t the only ones with those abilities. There are many; about two hundred people with powers in Massachusetts, less than one percent in the entire world, but still many. Many people with powers have invented safe places where people can learn about their powers, meet others with powers, and build communities. There is one in the subway. About thirty feet down the track, there is a tunnel leading to the Massachusetts safe house. That’s where the leader told me to take you.”
“How did you even know we existed?” asked Connor.
“We made a machine that can detect anything that defies the laws of nature; in this case, thunder coming out of anything other than a cloud, fire that doesn’t hurt a certain person, the manipulation of life, and spontaneous generation of water. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to the city.” Connor nodded, and they started walking down the train tracks.
“When’s the next train?” asked Owen.
“Good question,” said the man. “We usually come and go when trains aren’t coming for some time; usually around 12:00 to 2:30, so we should be all right. My name’s Samson, by the way.” Eventually, they saw a hole, high in the wall, going off to the left of the tracks. It was about three feet ahead of them. Samson turned to them and said, “Now, in a few steps, there’s going to be no gravity; that way we can float up there and get inside. The trains don’t notice, because they just zoom right through it with occasionally a small bump or shudder.” They stepped forward, and Samson gently pushed off the ground and floated into the tunnel. Owen and Julia stared, dumbstruck. They all tried it, with mixed results. Connor pushed off perfectly, and landed perfectly in the tunnel. Julia pushed off perfectly, and nearly landed perfectly on the third rail (For those who don’t know, the third rail is a rail which is constantly charged with electricity). Owen pushed off too hard and slammed into the ceiling, along with Tristan. Owen looked down to see Samson laughing his head off at him.
“That happens every time someone new tries it and it never gets old!” said Samson, between laughs. He came down gently and got Julia away from the third rail. Owen pushed off the ceiling into the hole, along with Julia and Samson. They walked through the hole, which turned out to be a long tunnel, and exited it into a huge area. Julia’s jaw dropped. Owen’s jaw dropped. Connor’s eyebrows raised.
It looked like they were outside in a huge field with houses scattered throughout it, except for a few things. A miniature moon, about the size of Tristan’s palm, floated over the village of its own accord. It gave off the same light as the one outside, it seemed. One part of the valley had volcanoes, lava, and giant bonfires three stories high. Another part had enormous rivers and lakes, along with reeds, water plants, fish, and frogs. Another part had a giant field of grass, with trees and plants. Houses were everywhere. Some were in the forest, covered with vines, some were on the sides of the volcanoes, warm and dry. Looking closely, Owen saw blue houses, made out of marble and seaweed, under the water of the largest lake, glowing with yellow lanterns and aquamarine lights. The whole underground valley was about four times the size of a college campus. Everywhere there were people. Young, old, children, high school students, teachers, parents, people from every background, every age, every job. And they were all using powers. A little kid played with a ball of plasma, near the smallest volcano. A high school boy made a tree sapling rise out of the ground with a strong flick of his hand, near the forest. An older woman near the intersection of the three areas took a rock, made it glow with a warm yellow-orange light, and passed it to a third grade boy, who held it as if it were pure gold. “Welcome home,” said Samson.
The woman near the middle of the place started walking over towards them. “Watch what you say,” said Samson. “She’s one of the six who organize the city and keep everyone doing the right thing. She’s also the one who registers new people and orients them.” The woman reached them. “Hello. My name is Grace. You must be the four newcomers. Now, so I can register you, who has what power? Julia looked purposefully at Connor and Owen, worry etched in her face. I’m not sure about telling her either, but what choice do we have? thought Owen. Besides, Tristan needed help for the rock that hit him in the head. It could have caused a bruise or small cut, or a minor/major concussion. “I have fire power,” Owen said. “Pyrokinesis?” she asked. In answer, Owen opened his palm, concentrated, and sent a jet of fire at the ground. She nodded, sat down with them, took out a laptop, and typed something in it. “Aquakinesis,” said Julia. The woman smiled and nodded, saying “No one’s going to hurt you here. I can see you are worried. We are meant to do the opposite: protect each other from those who would destroy us.” She saw Tristan on Owen’s shoulder. Then she looked at Samson. “What did you do?” she asked. Samson shrugged. “Gave him a headache and knocked him out.” She sighed, and said, “We’ll have to treat that.” Then she looked at Connor. Connor frowned, and said quietly, “I don’t know what my power is.” Owen chimed in, “Tristan has electrokinesis.” The woman frowned, typed something into her computer, and said, “How about I assign everyone a dwelling? That way we can all get some rest and come back tomorrow morning. Except for Tristan, we’ll take him to our medical department to be healed. Julia’s eyes flashed worry, and the woman said quickly, “Not a public hospital. We run one here that will not do anything you fear of a normal hospital.” She looked at Owen, and handed him a map, saying, “Go to the house I have outlined in red. That one is yours.” It was at the top of the map, which meant he would be going into the volcano sector. Owen grinned. “I always wanted to live next to a volcano,” he said. Then he started walking. “Stop,” she said. She took a red crystal out of a cleverly hidden pocket. “If you take this crystal and squeeze it as hard as you can, it will take you there.” He took it and squeezed it, and asked, ‘What do you mean it’ll-”, then there was a red flash, and he vanished. She did the same with Julia. Julia’s house was underwater. “You can breathe underwater, right?” she asked Julia. In answer, Julia reached up to her neck, and pointed out two lighter parts of her neck, then peeled them off. They were artificial; attached with clear tape to hide a set of gills. Owen’s eyes widened. “Good,” said the woman, unfazed. “Do you want to teleport, or swim?”
“I’ll swim,” she said. Julia walked off towards the lake. She looked at Connor. “Until you are tested for your powers, I am going to put you into the forest sector, at this house,” she said, pointing to one outlined in green. Connor nodded, and left.
Owen saw a myriad of images flash before his eyes, all tinted red, incredibly quickly. It felt like he was on a rollercoaster that somehow only went one way: forward. Then it stopped. He saw what looked like a library shelf, only the book titles were odd. One had “Common Knowledge School” written on it. Another had “Beginner Kinetic School.” Some had people’s names on them. All of them seemed strange in other ways as well. One book named Vatra‘s heat could be felt from a foot away, and was blistering at three inches away from it. A multicolored book labeled Raktaraza glowed brightly, and seemed more gel-like than a book should be. His eyes fell upon a book labeled Owen, and stopped short. It was a yellow and red book, flaming, snapping, and popping, throwing sparks everywhere. He reached out, slowly. He felt the heat, but it didn’t hurt. His finger touched the flames, and it lit on fire, but it did not burn his hand. He kept reaching out toward the book, and finally, his finger touched the spine, where the word Owen was written. Then, it felt like he was on the roller coaster again, there was a sharp jolt, the roller coaster went straight down, down down. The wind blew his hair in all directions, tearing at his clothes, screaming through his hair, twisting him in all directions, helpless. Then, it slowed down. He landed softly on carpet. He wondered where he was.
It was a house, painted in warm, relaxing colors. As he watched, the walls flickered from red to yellow, to orange, to white, to blue, like candlelight: gentle and soothing. There was a comfortable-looking couch, with a tall lamp behind it. Moonlight flowed gently through a nearby window. Warm mahogany doors went off into different rooms. He found himself relaxing, tense muscles losing their burdens. He walked over to the couch, sat down, found it to be comfortable, turned the lamp off, and closed his eyes. He wanted to explore the house, which was surely his, but it would have to wait until tomorrow.
Julia walked to the water. Reaching the edge, she jumped in. Her gills flared, and the hidden finger and toe webs emerged from between her fingers. She loved the water. A good swim was extremely calming, and helped her to forget everything that had made the day difficult. She looked around. Every house had a name written on the ceiling. One, teeming with coral and seaweed, read Karang. Another, with slightly stronger currents, read: Julia. She swam toward the one with her name on it, and saw a strange red electrical field blocking the doorway. Stepping through it, she found that it was meant to dry the person who walked through it, so that they wouldn’t drip on the carpet, most likely. She looked around the room. It looked exactly like the home she had lived in with her parents. She frowned. Two things puzzled her. Firstly, the house seemed too big to fit in the small, room-sized concrete house she had seen outside. Secondly, someone had obviously spied on her house. How else would they know the exact location of the furniture, the clothes she wore, how they were arranged in the closet, the couches, the computer, etc. Even her dad’s tool bench was exactly the same.
Connor walked slowly, peacefully, through the forest. Although the fall leaves were inches thick upon the ground, they did not crunch under his step. He was incredibly quiet. He was thinking. Connor had never known what it must feel like to have a family; or even friends. His father and mother divorced shortly after his birth. His father had later been arrested for murder, and his mother simply ignored him, waiting for him to be old enough for her to be able to get rid of him. Until he turned eighteen, the law forbade her to mistreat him, not send him to school, or get rid of him. She was stuck with him, until now. Finally, he had been given a good excuse to run away. At school, the normal kids stayed away from him; intimidated by his silent demeanor and albino appearance. And the bullies stayed away too. They used to bully him, until one of the bullies ended up with three fingers on his left hand and seven on his right, somehow. Even his friends thought him weird, and he could tell. He really must seem strange. Albino, neon eyes, strange powers, it couldn’t have seemed normal. His sanity might even be in question. He saw a house with his name on the nameplate. He tried to walk in the door, but just as he was about to step into the house, he bounced off something that felt like a glass wall. Confused, he threw a rock into the house. It reached the opposite wall, and broke. He tried to reach in and grab a piece, but his hand was unable to move past the doorframe. So, it was just him that couldn’t get in. He sat down at the tree trunk, confused, Why had the house not let him in? It was obviously his. The nameplate and the woman had made that clear, but it would not open for him. He decided to walk to Owen’s new house and see how he was settling in.
Tristan opened his eyes, saw a marble ceiling, and groaned. His head felt like someone had tried to split his skull with a railroad spike. He couldn’t think about much more than how much it hurt. Whoever the man was who had knocked him out with the flying rock, he knew how to use his power. Someone walked up to his bed. He could feel the bed under his legs. “Oh, good, you’re awake,” said a voice. A man in doctor clothes walked to his bed. He had almost no hair, save on the sides of his head, blue eyes, and glasses. He was wearing blue scrubs. “We were worried we might have to do head surgery if you didn’t wake up or show signs of not being concussed.” “What happened?” asked Tristan. “We sent Samson to bring you and the other three here, so we could inform you about your powers, train you, and ask that you join the international group of kinetics, also known as the SSK (Secret Society of Kinesi).” Tristan felt dumbfounded. Our powers? Training? Kinetics? Maybe the rock had hit him a little too hard. But for the rock to hit him, the man had used his power to lift it. Maybe he was going totally insane. The doctor noticed, and said, “Ok, maybe I should explain in further detail. I haven’t even told you my name yet.” He sighed. “It’s Michael. Now, about your powers. I believe you have caught on to what yours is.” And although he could not understand it, he knew what his was. “Electricity,” Tristan said slowly, trying to distract his pain receptors from his head. Michael nodded. “Yes. I analyzed you before you regained consciousness. My diagnosis is that you are an electrokinesi; you have complete power over the movement of electrons.” Tristan remembered the lightning he had summoned when he was with Nathan. He nodded. “We have a globe and maps here, and whenever things happen which defy the laws of nature currently known to the public, the place where it happened is highlighted in yellow on the globes and maps, automatically. A few hours ago, we saw your school become highlighted, and later, the road where your campsite was. We sent Samson out to retrieve you. When he arrived back here, he took you to the hospital, here. There was apparently a bit of a scuffle earlier, and you were hit in the head with a rock and knocked out. He admits to sending it your way, but we will address that later. Your head is fine now, and you are in the SSK base in Massachusetts.” Michael filled Tristan in with basic information about the base. Tristan nodded, and tried to stand up, ignoring the stabbing pain in his forehead. The world looked tilted and a little blurry, but his eyes adjusted and he started to get out of the bed. “Don’t get up,” Michael said. “I’m fine,” grunted Tristan. Michael thought, then said, “At least let me log your medical report.” He pulled a little device the size of an iPhone from his pocket. Tristan recognized it as a Zotex Zbox Pico, one of the smallest publicly available computers in the USA. Plugging it into a nearby set of two cables, a monitor and keyboard lit up, and he started typing.
“Date of injury?”
“Date of release?”
“No idea.” Michael looked outside. The moon was still up.
“November 7th, 3:00 AM. You may go.” Tristan stood up.
“It was nice to meet you, Michael,” Tristan said, and went outside. A gray haired, older woman stood outside, directly under the miniature moon. She raised her hand in the air. The miniature moon shuddered, and slowly, gently, sank down into her hand. She waved her hand over it, and it turned into a ball of plasma, about the size of an adult’s head. It slowly rose, until it was at the height that it used to be. That must be the equivalent of a sunrise here, Tristan thought, in awe at the woman’s power. He walked to the woman. She turned and saw him. “Feeling better?” she asked. Tristan nodded, and asked, “So...your power is plasma, right?” “Yes,” she said. “I have control over plasma and moonlight. Although we have work here, everyone has another job, part time or full, that they do outside here, to earn money. At the end of the day, we take all of it, bring it to the city center, and vote on where to spend it. About 20% is given out as profit, since food, water, shelter, security, etc. is already provided here. 30% is saved in a vault inside the city center. And the other 50% is voted on.”
“What’s wrong?” asked the woman. Tristan thought. What was wrong? He now knew that he wasn’t the only one with powers, he had found a family who would understand, and he might even get a chance to actually learn how to use them. He quietly said, “I just...I’m blown away by what’s going on. I didn’t even know that I had powers until earlier today, I’ve been hit by a rock moved by someone’s mind, I’ve watched my friend shoot out streetlights with a rifle, and everyone else, except maybe Owen, seems to have everything under control. I’m just blown away. I don’t know what any of this is. Not even the computers! I’ve never used one and can’t imagine doing that either.” There was a pause. “Or maybe I just need to get my bearings.” The woman thought. “How about I get you signed up for a class? I needed to do that soon anyway. We offer many diverse classes here, from advanced manipulative technologies to kinetic martial arts. I understand you did Karate?” Tristan nodded.
“Great. What kind of karate?”
“We learned kicks, punches, gymnastics, and sparred.”
“Good, so I’ll sign you up for a class that includes weapons. Samson found the guard that you and Owen decimated, and he says that he thinks that you’ve received all the training with kicks and punches that you need. My name’s Maggie, by the way.” They started walking towards a large forest area. “Is the the forest Michael told me about?” Maggie said, “Yes. We have martial arts classes near here, and your house will be here too.” They reached a building, and entered. Tristan looked around. On racks, there were long, curved, deadly metal weapons. On another were knives. He recognized one: the Sai. There were staffs of various lengths, and three section staffs, as well as five pairs of rubber nunchucks and three pairs of metal ones on a wall. The floor was white, and the walls were mirrored. A large octagon drawn into the ground was most likely for sparring.
Someone stepped out of a back room. He was tall, with bulging arms and legs, yet at the same time, he was thin and looked agile. He walked over to Maggie. “Who’s this,” he asked.
“Your new trainee,” said Maggie. “He arrived here last night, just like I said he would. He has a full knowledge of weaponless techniques, and he needs to be trained with weapons.” The man nodded. “My name’s Tristan,” Tristan said, and held out his hand. The man looked at his open palm. Then, he went to a shelf, came back, and put something in his hand. It was a sickle, with a red handle about 5 inches long, with a curved blade about 7 inches long on the top side. The blade was dulled and wooden, obviously for practice. There was a sound that sounded like a quiet breeze. Tristan looked up to see a wooden sword, with a blade about 2 feet long, flying downward towards his head. Tristan slid to the side, but saw the blade coming back at him. The man had expected that, and had not struck downward, he had struck diagonally, so the blade was still headed for him. He tried to block it with the wooden scythe. The wooden sword hit it, and it flew out of his hand. Tristan turned his head to see it fall ten feet away. There was a thump, and Tristan’s side felt like it was on fire. He dropped to his knees. The man drew his blade away from his rib cage, and said, “In a real fight, you would be dead now. Try again.” There was a flash of wood, and Tristan found himself holding a wooden spear, except for the fact that about three inches from the top, another blade stood perpendicular to the spear for an inch, before curving up and becoming parallel. The same thing was on the other side, only the blade curved down to become parallel instead. The sword came swinging from the side this time. Tristan stepped backwards, and tried to stab at the teacher. It was clumsy, impeded by the length of the spear, and the teacher whacked the sword aside and made a stab for Tristan’s sternum. Tristan tried to catch the blade between the two parallel points that pointed forward. He missed by about a foot and a half, and he felt a sharp jab. It didn’t feel too terrible, but it stung. “It took me less than fifteen seconds to ‘kill’ you. Surely you can do better.” He tossed Tristan a long staff. It was just like the spear, but without a point. Tristan was starting to understand. The teacher wanted to test him. If he wants me to defeat him, then I will oblige, Tristan thought. The pole’s length made it difficult for him to use well. The next weapon was the Sai, the two one-foot knives with two guards on the sides. With those he had trouble getting close enough to do damage. The long pole with the curving blade at the top, the Naginata, was simply impossible. The one and a half foot poles with the handles on the sides were manageable; he could guard his arms from the wooden sword’s strikes with them, until it came to hitting the other person. The two foot pole that was shorter than the staff was usable for both, but after about a minute of using it, it felt heavy and seemed to move slower. He tried to mimic the teacher’s movements when using a wooden sword of his own, but he was slower, clumsier, and the teacher smacked his blade out of his hand and swiped his legs out with ease. He was moderately good with the nunchucks, and was able to guard some of the teacher’s strikes with them, and hit the teacher on the shoulder once, but then accidentally hit himself in the nose with the swinging end, giving himself a bloody nose. By the end, he was tired, bruised, and unsure what the teacher was going to do next. The teacher took a deep breath, and said “I will teach you with the Tonfa, Jo, and the Nunchucks. The tonfa are the wooden poles with side handles. The Jo is the second-longest pole. And you know what the nunchucks are. You have potential. But you need to be taught.” Tristan stood up, slowly. His legs stung, His sides were sore, And his sternum was really starting to hurt. The teacher left. He came back moments later with bruise removal cream. “These are the first injuries that you have received in weapon-oriented Karate. If you work with me, cooperate, and train until everything from your skull to your toes is sore, then they can also be your last. Tomorrow will be the first day of your classes.” Tristan finished putting the cream on his many bruises, thanked the man, and walked out of the training room. Maggie was outside. Tristan tilted his head back and pinched his nose closed, to stop his bloody nose. “How did it go?” she asked. “He’s going to teach me Tonfa, Jo, and Nunchucks.” Tristan replied. “Three weapons?” Maggie asked, sounding incredulous. “Yeah. Why? Is that strange?” replied Tristan. “He’s lived here for 20 years, and in that time he’s only taught one student in two weapons at a time. Most people don’t have the potential for excellence in more than one. You are the first to learn three. His first lesson always goes like that.” she said. “Ok. One thing I wonder is, why not teach people sharpshooting here, instead of martial arts?” Maggie replied, “Long story. Besides, a lot of the things we are fighting are bulletproof, but can be sliced just fine.” “Ok. See you tomorrow, Maggie,” Tristan said. Maggie waved goodbye and walked off. Wait... enemies? I thought we were only up against government… Tristan thought.
Owen woke up to someone banging on his door. Groggily, he tried to get off the couch, tripped over a coffee table, and fell over. Knock knock knock knock, went the door. “Coming,” Owen said. It sounded like a primitive grunt. Owen walked up to the door to see Connor. He looked strange, as usual, but Owen could almost see the smallest hint of sadness in the middle of his pupils, a dot of white in a sea of darkness. “Hey, Connor,” Owen said. “How are you settling in?” asked Connor. “Just woke up from a nap. What’s wrong?” Owen inquired. “Nothing.” said Connor. Owen could rarely tell when someone was lying, but Connor was the type to lie when questioned. Owen looked back at Connor for a few moments, and then something even more unusual happened. Connor took a deep breath and said, “Ok, I lied. My house won’t let me in.” Owen blinked. Connor wasn’t the type to admit fault. “Show me,” Owen said. Connor nodded, and Owen stepped out of the house, and they started walking. They arrived at the house a little later. Connor said, “Watch.” He tried to step into the house. It was like trying to walk through a brick wall. His face, arms, legs, and chest simply wouldn’t go past a certain point. Owen tried to do it, and he could. Nothing obstructed him. “Something wrong?” asked someone. They turned around to see the woman behind them. “Connor can’t get into his house, miss” Owen said. “Call me Maggie,” she said, and walked to the door. She looked inside, and sighed. “All right. Would you like my honest opinion on why it doesn’t work, or would you just like me to try to fix it, along with a full apology?” Owen looked at Connor. “Explain,” Connor said. “Ok. The houses are enchanted to change their interiors to make them most like the best home the inhabitant has ever known. To the best of my knowledge, this means that you, Connor, have never known a comfortable home. Therefore, the house is confused. It has nothing that it can make itself into and still be comfortable. Therefore, it prevents Connor from entering.” Connor’s eyes flashed sadness again. Maggie picked up a phone and said, “Hey, George. You enchanted the houses, right? I need you to custom decorate one for my friend Connor. His house refuses to decorate itself. Thanks.” She hung up the phone. “He’ll use a crystal to get over here. I let you use one on the way over here, right Owen?” Owen nodded, remembering how terrifying the fall was, but how interesting the bookshelf was.
There was a flash of red light, like a camera, and when the spots stopped dancing in their eyes, a large man stood where the light had come from. He was about average size, with black hair and huge hands. “Hey, George. Can you help me?” she asked. George nodded, and went inside the house. He poked his head out and said, “I should be finished by tomorrow.” “Good,” Maggie replied, and then she turned to Owen. “All houses usually have a guest bedroom. Can he stay with you tonight?” “Sure,” Owen replied. They walked back to Owen’s house. They walked inside, and then Owen’s phone rang. He sighed. It was going to be a long night. “You can go to bed if you like,” Owen said, wondering if Connor ever slept at all. “I don’t need more than three hours of sleep. I think I’ll wait, if you don’t mind.” Owen picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Owen, this is Julia. Could you come to the city record library? It’s in the water.” Julia said into her phone. “Well...I...uh…” he began, and then she remembered that they had seen her gills. They might not have realized that the library was in the shallow end of the water, and had an enchanted air pocket inside for breathing, so that the books didn’t get wet. “Don’t worry, it’s in the shallow end, and there’s a breathing pocket.” “We’ll be there in five minutes,” said Connor. Julia hung up the phone and went back to the records. She had found something astounding, even more amazing than the gill anatomy books on some of the shelves. She stepped out into the water, moving the water out of the way of the book, to keep it dry. She found that now that she had gotten the chance to use her gills for the first time in years, the air felt hot and stale, but the water was fresh and clean.
The record said that about nineteen years ago, an asteroid had struck the planet in siberia and buried itself deep in the planet. It seemed to be burrowing into the earth, and the ground above it closed. NASA wanted to recover and study it, but the dangers of burrowing into an unknown depth into the earth were too large, and the US army, government, and EPA vetoed the idea. Later, the planet’s energy, in the form of heat, ultra-high frequency sound, and electricity was showing a large decline. Under further study, scientists found out about energy, anergy, and exergy. The planet earth has a certain amount of energy to use, in the form of friction, heat, electricity, etc. Every time energy is used this way, in the form of anergy, some energy is lost. Eventually, scientists deducted, there will be no usable energy left. This was known as the heat death of the universe. Anergy was being drained by the satellite. But this was not noted. Another thing noted was the fact that it was calculated by the SSK that after 20 years, there would be no usable energy left. The satellite was storing energy, like a capacitor, unusable until released. After 1 year, the satellite took over creating life, and gave itself an extremely advanced artificial intelligence. It created life forms to protect itself, as well as humans. Eventually after 10 years, the earth became a completely dormant rock, like a zombie, in an attempt to conserve and protect remaining energy. Dead, but controlled by something else, a parasite, to take on the semblance of life. The satellite took advantage, and sealed it into its dormant state. After 18 years, NASA was given a license to investigate by US national security, EPA, and government, but they found nothing. Those that got close were killed by the parasite’s guards. After 19 years, the SSK mission statement changed from “provide a safe haven for those with kinetic and manipulative powers” to “create a capable extraction team to destroy the parasitic satellite, releasing the stored energy and preventing the premature heat death of the earth, if not the eventual heat death of the universe itself.” After reading the record, it seemed clear to Julie that this would happen soon, and that they might be selected. From what she could see, the martial training facilities seemed fairly new, and most people, even the librarians, carried weapons. Also, people responded rather quickly to the discovery of her and the others. Normally, it could take days to find the person with powers, talk with them, show them the base, and welcome them. Her and her friends had had nine hours at most. She decided to check for Owen and Connor. She swam to the surface and looked out. “Hey Julie,” said someone behind her. She turned around to see Tristan, Connor, and Owen treading water behind her. “What did you want to show us?” Owen asked. “Come to the library,” Julia said, and dived back down, gills flaring. Owen whispered to Tristan, “I know me lighting on fire is probably creepier, but to be honest, the gills kinda scare me.” Tristan looked at Owen, and said, “You’re right. Seeing you flaming with the fire alarms blaring “BLOODY MURDER!” was creepier.” Connor nodded, kneeled, and dove into the water. Tristan and Owen followed. Julia’s gills flared, and clear water blew through them. She wished she could stay under the water for longer, but for her friends’ sake, she swam into the library, sent the water on her clothes back into the water, and did the same for her friends. She picked up the file, and opened it to her friends. One hour later, they were filled in on the situation.
“So,” Julie asked, “How do we respond?” Tristan said, “You guys are my first priority. I’m
going to learn how to use the new weapons I’m being trained in as soon as possible, and the same goes for learning how to use my power.” Owen nodded. “I’ll do the same. I’m being trained in the Dan Bong and Bahng Mang Ee, which are both staffs of various lengths for me to use.” Connor said, “I’ll focus on whatever my power is and try to use it.” Julia said, “I’ll find out more about this “heat death” and the asteroid.” They nodded, and walked out.
Voice 1: (calm, controlled, female) Ladies and gentlemen, I believe you know why we are here.
Voice 2: (gruff, deep, male) I do, but I don’t like it.
Voice 3: (strong, medium pitch, male) Neither do I.
Voice 1: (ignoring them) You are here to decide on the important matter of the extermination team that we have spent years forming. They left for the core through the siberian hole days ago. They left with cell phones, advanced magical communication devices, and crystals, as well as tracking devices with encoded signals. After ten hours, we lost contact at exactly 3:52 AM. By 3:55, the tracking device signals had all vanished, after not moving for three minutes. My suspicions are that neither we, nor anyone else on this particular world and dimension, will ever hear from them again.
Voice 2: All the more reason not to--
Voice 1: Despite these losses which should be mourned, the end result is that we are no closer to stopping the ETT (extraterrestrial threat) from destroying the energy for heat, sound, wind, powers, and life itself. Therefore, we should send a new team into the planet core, to eliminate the ETT.
Voice 3: Look what happened to the members we sent in after just ten hours! Ten hours! And they didn’t even make it past the planet’s crust! How can you try this again?
Voice 1: (hard, steeled, agressive) It is all we can do. If you have another idea, then please tell me. I’m all ears
Voice 3: I have no suggestions. But this is unthinkable. Whoever you choose to send, you send to their graves. You sending them is equivalent to you pulling the switch of the electric chairs. You are their executioner, and they are the victims of your mistakes and actions.
Voice 2: (angry, bitter) Sending them alone is suicide. I say we move everyone into Siberia to attack. They have an army. Sending less than ¾ of that is nothing short of certain death. (getting louder) You need numbers! The thought of sending less than an army to obliterate them is murder!