Scene 3 – October 20th
Interior MLED Compound, Continuous
Suddenly, the world changed. No longer were we slowly walking down a hallway towards a surprisingly distant light – instead, we were walking on a treadmill that stood in the middle of a comfortable looking lounge area, while a small group of teenagers and adults watched. One of them, a muscular young woman with dark skin and an impressively-poofy afro, was chuckling. “We were wondering how long it would take you to notice,” she teased. “And you just won me my bet by noticing first, new guy! Thanks! And pay up, sucker!” She jabbed the woman standing next to her in the ribs, shorter and thinner with pale skin and long blonde hair. Both were wearing the same white masks as me and Canaveral.
“Introductions first, I think,” Canaveral said, chuckling as the blonde girl, grumbling, passed a bill to the other. “Superhero name, civilian if you’re willing to give it, and one interesting thing about you. Oh, and pronouns,” he added. “I’ll start.”
He turned back to me and took off his mask what was happening. “Abraham Armstrong, aka Canaveral,” he told me, seeming quite amused at the flabberghasted look that was surely plastered on my face despite the mask I was wearing. “Hey, don’t look like that! I don’t actually have a secret identity, you know, I just don’t really spread it around like some people do,” he said with a mocking glance at an attractive hispanic woman who was taking up an entire couch
“Love you too, babe,” she shot back, unbothered.
“Anyway, I’m he/him, and I used to date a supervillain.”
“Was it Maxwell?” He nodded. “I thought so.”
“I’ll go next. I’m Holly Koval, aka Loki.” said the handsome blonde girl who had lost money, and her mask simply faded from existence. “Sorry about the prank, by the way – it was all in good fun – and it was Journey here’s idea anyway.” She jerked a finger at the black girl.
“It’s all right,” I assured her.
“I use she/her as a civilian, but he/him in costume. My interesting fact is that I’m the only one on this team who actually learned magic, instead of just relying on an innate knack.”
“I’m Simone Destrey,” said her amazonian neighbor, “aka Journey. She/her, and Holly is lying.”
“That’s neither interesting nor a fact!” Holly protested.
Simone crossed her arms. “Fine. My interesting fact is that the Journeymen are named after me.”
“No we’re not,” said a young man in a hoodie who was leaning against one wall. “You’ve only been part of the group for two years. It’s been the Journeymen for what, six?”
“Yeah, it was shortly after I joined,” Holly agreed. “Try another fact, Simone.”
“I’m relentlessly bullied,” she complained with a sigh, but she smiled as she said it. “Is that good enough?”
“Yeah, that works,” said the hoodied kid. “And I’ll break the trend by not revealing my identity, I mean come on. I’m Hypnos.” He didn’t seem to be wearing a costume, really, just the comfy-looking hoodie and a pair of sweatpants, with a domino mask under the raised hood. “He/him, and my fact is that I don’t want to be here. Also, I’m deaf. I wear hearing aids, but I might not be able to understand you if you don’t speak clearly. Don’t make a big deal of it.”
“And I’m Emilia Alvarez,” said the hispanic woman, sitting up from where she had been lying on the couch. “Better known as Zookeeper – she/her. My fact is that I have an eidetic memory. That’s everyone who could be here today – Anima is on patrol with Sequoia, Vulcan is on console duty, and Referee is out of town this weekend.”
“What about Ben?” Canaveral asked.
She shrugged. “Starling just said no. You know he’s not exactly social.”
There was a moment of silence before I realized that everyone else had introduced themselves and was now watching me expectantly. I nervously ran a hand through my hair, then decided to pull off my mask. They had trusted me, after all, and if I didn’t become a hero I wouldn’t have a secret identity anyway. “I’m Quinn Kaufman – they/them,” I introduced myself. “My fact is that I got my powers less than a week ago.”
“And Abe is already trying to recruit you? They must be pretty strong,” Emilia commented. “What can you do?”
“Well, I can open pickle jars, and I can draw pretty well,” I began.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“I’m not much of a singer, but I can whistle.”
“My classmates tell me that I’m a good tutor, and with all humility I can say that I’m a beast at air hockey.”
“Can you play the piano?” Holly asked.
“How about parkour?” said Simone.
“Poetry,” was Hypnos’s contribution.
“Yes but not for years, yes, and no but my dad is a professor of poetry.”
“How are you at cooking?” asked Canaveral – Abraham, I supposed.
“Dungeons and Dragons?”
“Speaking other languages?” Emilia asked, apparently having decided to go with the flow.
“Pretty decent, not great, not since highschool, no, and a little Spanish.”
“Ever wrestled an eel?” asked Simone.
“Or gone white-water rafting?”
“Acted in a play?”
“Kissed a boy?”
“Kissed a girl?”
“No, no, yes, and gentlemen don’t kiss and tell and neither do I.” I said with a grin.
The impromptu quiz continued for a few minutes more before the group seemed to get bored with coming up with increasingly ridiculous questions, and the topic turned back to my powers. “Seriously though, what can you do?” Emilia asked again.
“I have a sort of omnidirectional sense paired with a kind of telekinesis that includes a backlash. Think of it like…” I paused for a moment, trying to decide how to describe it. “I have telekinetic arms that extend like an aura around my body. Anything within line of sight of me, I can feel and move as though I held it – which means, when I try to move massive things, that I’m moved instead.”
“Self Buff (Sensory) and Area Control (Kinetic),” Emilia guessed. “Am I right, babe?”
“You’ve got it,” Abraham agreed.
“What is that? Some kind of power rating?” I asked.
“Pretty much,” the heroine confirmed. “The MLED rates powers in four ways, each with one of four ratings.”
“You weren’t kidding about them liking fours,” I said to Abraham, who nodded sadly.
“Each power is labeled by area of effect, type of effect, power level, and general effect,” she continued. “The idea is that it’s the order of information you need to know in the field – area of affect tells you if you need to stay out of their touch range, sight range, or just away, with self range powers not being dodgable for obvious reasons.”
“Meanwhile, type of effect tells you what it’ll do to you if you don’t steer clear,” Canaveral said, taking up the thread. “Buffs make the target better at something, debuffs make you worse, damage will just hurt you, and control is kind of a catch-all but is theoretically about things that’ll control the target. Everything from mind control to telekinesis.” He glanced at the three younger heroes. “Which of you wants to take the next one?”
“Oh shit, is this a quiz?” asked Simone.
“Well, it is now,” Emilia agreed. “And I think you just volunteered.”
Holly laughed. “Sorry, Simone!”
“It’s fine, I know it anyway. Third is a numerical danger rating, 0-3. 0 is for stuff that’s barely or not at all dangerous, like this kid at my martial arts dojo who can walk on water but nothing else. 1 is stuff that’s dangerous but can be dealt with by a normal human. 2 is stuff that you can’t deal with without powers, but which is limited in scope, and 3 is powers that can do almost anything.”
“As you can imagine,” Emilia commented, “ratings of 3 are very rare. Most metahumans have ratings of 0 or 1, with even most superheroes and villains only having ratings of 1 or 2.”
“So like… Graviton, or Cobalt Red?”
Abraham nodded. “They’re two who have 3 ratings, yes,” he said. “Legion is another, as was the Mountain King back in the day. The only ones in New Venice right now are Rube and La Borda.”
I thought about this for a moment. “How is this different from the threat level rankings you told me about?”
“Threat level covers people as a whole, which means it takes their personality and goals into account,” he said. “Power rankings are strictly for powers. So Max, for example, has a low threat rating, but his hammerspace power is ranked at 2.”
“That makes sense.”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you two!” Abraham suddenly cried, pointing at Holly and Hypnos, one with each arm. “There’s still one category left in the power rankings!”
“Sure, but it’s the silliest one,” Holly said. “It’s just a brief descriptor of the power. I don’t see why they can’t condense it all a bit. Like, why not just give you ‘touch kinesis 2” instead of ‘touch control 2 (kinetic)’? Seems like an over complication.”
“I dunno, I can see the rational for both,” I put in. “But then, I’m coming from the outside. Maybe it makes less sense in practice.”
“Honestly, it works pretty well in practice,” said Emilia. “These two just like complaining.”
“You say I like complaining, but I have actual issues with the system,” Abraham insisted, and Holly nodded. “I mean, just think of how many different kinds of powers are all grouped together in Self Buff!”
“So…” I said, trying to move on from the argument, “if I’m Self Buff and Area Control…”
“At ranks 1 and 2 respectively,” Abraham added, “although those ratings are provisional depending on what power testing shows when you register and go through it.”
“What are the rest of you guys?”
“I’m Touch Control 2 (Kinetic),” the hero said. “Powerful and versatile, but I can’t do everything.
“I’m Self Control 2 (Animal Shifting),” Emilia told me. “Any animal I know the form of, I can transform into. I have to put in the work to learn their form, but thanks to my eidetic memory, my roster only ever expands.”
“The magic I’ve learned lets me control light and sound,” said Holly. “The MLED gives me an Area Control 2 (Illusion) rating, but that misses so much. I mean, I’m not making magical illusions – those are mental constructs placed into the psychic landscape. I’m actually controlling photons and sonic energy. I can make lasers and concussive blasts when I need to. See, this is why the current rating system is -”
“I have Self Control 1 (Teleportation),” Simone interrupted. “Myself and anything I can lift. I have a distance limit that rises as I move physically, and falls whenever I teleport. That’s why I have to work out so much, and that’s why I’m called Journey.”
“I thought you were just a fan of the band,” I joked.
“Well obviously I love their stuff, but I’m not gonna name myself after some middle-aged white dudes,” she retorted.
We glanced at Hypnos. “Self Buff 0 (Sensory Projection),” he reluctantly said. “My senses can fly around disconnected from my body.” I winced, and he shrugged. “Sure, the MLED thinks it’s useless, but I don’t want to be a hero anyway. I’m just here for training, because I can’t always control it – I often end up projecting randomly as I sleep.”
“Well, I’m sorry that your powers aren’t always under your control,” I told him. “But they do sound really useful, for recon work and the like. I assume that you can’t be hurt when you’re projecting them?”
He waggled a hand. “Sort of. Things like flashbangs that target the senses will fuck me up something fierce – no actual damage, but I get a terrible migraine and can’t keep projecting until it goes away. But stuff like fire or electricity are dulled enough that I feel it without feeling pain.”
“So are you thinking about joining the Journeymen?” Holly asked. “We’d be glad to have you, and I’m sure Sequoia and Referee would agree. I know she’d love to have another trans person on the team, and so would I.”
“Between the three of you, we poor cis kids would be almost outnumbered,” Simone commented with a chuckle.
“At least we’d keep up our all-queer streak.”
“I’m… considering it. I admit, I’m leaning towards ‘no’ right now, but it’s got nothing to do with you guys, you all seem lovely.”
“Well, do you have any questions?” Holly asked. “Anything we can do to try and convince you?”
“Anything?” said Simone, leaning forward, clasping her hands behind her back, and waggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Holly sprayed her in the face with a bottle of water that materialized from thin air. I assumed it was an illusion, but it seemed to be real enough to make Simone splutter. “There’s a time and a place, Simone, and this isn’t it,” she scolded, surprisingly sternly given her earlier prank. “Leave the flirting for another time.”
“Or at least be a little more subtle about it,” Emilia advised.
“Well, one question I have is -” I began, but was interrupted by a blaring alarm and a red light that began sweeping the room.
“Console to stand-by,” came a quiet voice through speakers in the ceiling. “We have reports that Legion is in the city. Repeat, we have reliable information suggesting that Legion is in New Venice.”