1.3

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Averton, Washington, USA – Sunday, the 27th of May, 2012. 9:45 AM.
 
 
After fleeing from the Museum Parkway, all Chris wanted to do was to secure at least some refuge from the condemning eyes she felt all around her. And unless she wanted to like in the crevice in Founder’s Rock for the rest of her life, she knew she’d never be able to escape the public that was apparently suspicious of her.

I guess it’s time to adapt a little, Chris thought ruefully. She’d have to get a costume to show the world that she was wearing her new status without any ill-intent. In the USA, costumes were mandatory for any Evolved, though only heroes were under enough surveillance to enforce the law. Identity protection had nothing to do with it. Costumes were a means of alerting everyone of a powered person’s presence.

Chris sought out the closer of Averton’s two costume stores. In the two years since the Pulse had introduced superpowers to the world, the costume garb business had overtaken some of the market share that used to be held by sports jerseys and athletic posters. But not everyone was a fan, and not every clothes shop was in the costume business.

As Chris entered the store, she noticed it seemed to offer a good selection of hero apparel. Themed merchandise hung in rows from the clothes hangers that filled most of the shop’s interior. T-shirts and sweatshirts mostly, featuring the most popular heroes like Radiant, Samael, and Queenie. Even Athena’s armored image was there. In fact, all members of the Covenant—a handpicked selection of the world’s most powerful Evolved who used their powers at the bidding of the UNEOA—were represented in the shop.

The American hero division was represented there, too. Several of the Wardens’ most popular heroes stared back at her, including the national favorite, Kid. The young girl’s plucky image stared back at Chris from t-shirts, sweatshirts, and ball caps, as well as book bags, pencil cases, and mugs.

Although most national hero teams like the Wardens did little beyond the occasional interview or PR campaign—governments deemed the risk of collateral damage to be too high, and the police wanted to keep their jobs—the public had been greatly influenced by pre-Pulse superhero fiction. Some people were very eager to celebrate their homegrown heroes.

Life-sized cardboard standups had been positioned before each suite of racks, depicting the heroes’ individual fashion styles in great detail. Even Shanti’s cardboard image was present. Chris wasn’t sure for how much longer, though. The Indian rogue’s power surge a few weeks before had sparked a slew of international discussion about how much power was too much.

The handful of hero costume knockoffs for sale throughout the store had been conspicuously labeled with big yellow signs. They informed buyers that they were strictly forbidden from wearing any of those costumes in public spaces.

Chris raised her hood over her head and quickly slipped past the shop assistant before he got a good look at her face. Even though she was wearing the green UNEOA armband, she didn’t trust people’s reactions.

Once the sales desk was out of sight, she felt safe enough to take a closer look around. She spotted what she was looking for, a slew of random dress-up merchandise—like Halloween costumes and colored wigs—at the back of the store and made a beeline.

I could dress up as a Covenant heroine, Chris thought as she examined a Queenie costume near the back of the store. The idea amused her enough to grab the snow-white gold-hemmed dress and hold it against her body.

She eyed herself in a mirror, thinking that she looked about as ridiculous as she’d expected. Her arms and shoulders were too strong to match the dainty lace hems, and the fact that she was wearing loose jogging pants underneath the multilayered spill of skirts wasn’t helping.

Chris hung the dress back on the rack and looked around for alternatives. Curly purple wigs. Gargoyle masks. Oversized neckties. How was she ever supposed to find anything that spoke to her in a place like this?

Frustrated, she nearly left the store empty handed. But after catching her hooded reflection in the mirror, she realized that there was exactly one reason why she needed to get a costume: to do her thing without people freaking out left and right.

Costumes help people forget that the Evolved used to be as normal as they are, Chris reflected. It was too much for most people to accept the fact that transitions could happen at any time, to anyone. The disguise essentially created a barrier which helped them to maintain the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Chris knew the truth. If she rebranded herself with a costume, her old life would disappear beneath it. Maybe the costume would help her feel better about herself.

Chris grabbed an archer’s costume with a quiver, calf boots, and a felted jacket with a spacious hood. She’d never liked Robin Hood, but this outfit looked like it was the best option available so she headed to the cash register with her choice in hand.

When she arrived at the front of the store, she saw that an older lady with a grayish complexion had entered the store while Chris had been in the back. The woman was talking to the cashier as she fumbled in her purse. Here’s hoping these two haven’t watched TV lately. Chris adjusted her hood with a tug, pulling it as far down over her face as she could. She set her costume choice on the front desk.

The instant the shop attendant turned his full attention to Chris, his smile froze as a ripple of recognition crossed his face. He glanced down at her armband, then back up at her face, clearly at a loss for words. Shit. He must have seen an ANBE News segment with me in my hoodie. Just seeing the guy’s face was enough to make Chris wish she could sink into the floor and disappear.

The older lady managed to finish digging a bill out of her purse. The instant she saw the shop assistant’s expression, she put the bill down on the desk and turned. Her eyes widened as one hand clutched the front of her blouse while the other moved up to touch her quivering lips.

“Oh, child, is that you?” she whispered. “Yes, it is! I recognize you. Do you know you’ve been touched by the almighty Lord?” She shuffled one step closer to Chris as she said these last words.

The gleam of adoration in her eyes compelled Chris to retreat a similar distance. She looked to the shop assistant for help, but he was frozen on the spot.

“Um… I actually just wanted to pay for this,” she told the older woman, eyeing the exit.

The woman let her hand drop away from her lips to reach out to Chris. Not quite touching her, but almost. “Please, will you pray with me? My two grandchildren are sick, and my husband has been unemployed since his accident. Will you just say a few words? Or just touch me, even. Please?”

That last ‘please’ was one too many. Chris left the faux fur costume at the cash register and made a dash for the exit, crossing the distance in the blink of an eye. As soon as she found herself outside in the cool morning air, she felt better.

“Geez, that was creepy,” Chris muttered to herself. That must have been one of those Godkin fanatics her family had been talking about last night. One of Preacher’s followers.

Once a pedestrian walking in her direction on the sidewalk recognized Chris, he picked up a small lapdog and made a hasty retreat away from her.

She tightened her hoodie around herself and set out for Averton’s other costume store at Southport Corridor, just a few blocks away. Wanting to feel at least somewhat normal, she shuffled at a quick human pace instead of using her hyperspeed.

She headed down Jefferson East and then past the Adventure Park Mall. On her way to Southport Corridor, she passed the soccer field behind her high school—well, her former high school. She pressed her face against the mesh wire fence and stared at the abandoned field, its green grass slick with dew.

In a way she was sad it was a Sunday morning, because she would have liked to hear the grunts and cheers of an ongoing game one last time before leaving town. Some of her best memories were tied to this place.

After a few minutes, a certain rawness grated in her throat, letting her know that it was time to leave. She turned to walk away before her mind delved too deep into the idea of never playing soccer again.

She had almost reached Southport Corridor when she spotted Aaron Cusak and Oliver Beech, two former classmates who she had a bit of history with. They hadn’t exactly had the guts to bully her, but their provocative sneers and hurtful jokes had followed her for the better part of her high school career. Oh look, it’s the Iron Maiden. Still not dating anyone? Big surprise.

The two of them were leaning against the graffiti on the side of the Hackman Brothers bicycle repair shop, smoking cigarettes and radiating fake coolness. From the looks of them, they hadn’t gotten to bed last night. Chris assumed that they had seen the news.

As she moved closer, she heard Aaron’s voice. He was wearing a smug smile as he talked into his smartphone. “So this chick, you know, the one we met at Garry’s place last week? So she actually sent me—”

Chris had nearly closed the distance between them before Aaron spotted her. As recognition dawned on his face, he tensed. His face went blank except for a dumbfounded stare, all the smugness gone from his expression.

“Shit. Oh, hi, Chris,” Oliver stammered, raking his fingers through his tousled hair. His eyes flitted about, searching for anyplace to land but on her. There was no doubt now. They had seen the news.

Hearing the quiver of anxiety in his voice didn’t give Chris any satisfaction. Looking at them now, she realized that those guys were peanuts, hardly worth her attention.

She reached out and plucked the half-smoked cigarette from Oliver’s fingers. “Smoking’s bad for your health, you know,” she said. She brought the glowing cig to her lips and took a drag, then exhaled. “Lucky for me, I’m already fucked up. Thanks.”

She continued on her way without sparing the two of them another glance. Not long after she had turned her back, she heard a belated barrage of swearing followed by the sound of hurried footsteps. Knowing them, they were going to text everyone they knew to brag about how they’d survived an encounter with her. Most likely they’d make up some juicy details for added wow factor.

She turned a corner, putting Aaron and Oliver behind her. She stopped walking and leaned against a brick wall in the alcove of the Southport Community Center. As she pulled on the stolen cigarette, she pondered how distant it all felt now. High school. Home. Guys like Aaron and Oliver.

After walking the final block to Southport Corridor, Chris entered the Masquerade Costume Shop. She was happy to note that it was empty except for the salesgirl, a heavily made-up blonde in her twenties. Her black tank top was so tight that it did a pretty good job of distracting the viewer from the shop logo that was printed on the front. To Chris’s relief, the girl had the look of someone who spent too much time partying to keep up with the news.

This store was smaller than the last, with less emphasis on hero apparel and Covenant merchandise. It did, however, offer a larger assortment of traditional Halloween and carnival attire. Mannequins wearing sample costumes had been positioned between the shelves to show off the boxes’ contents. Cat costumes. Pirates. More gargoyles. Chris didn’t see anything that grabbed her attention.

The shelves were stacked with boxes, each one tagged with measurement indicators in thick black lettering. Chris took a step closer to some random boxes. Sizes 34, 36, 38, and 40. Huh? Everything was in European sizing instead of the S, M, L, and XL American sizing she was used to.

“Can I help you?” the salesgirl asked, suddenly beside Chris. She sounded bored.

Chris hadn’t heard her approach. “Um, I’m not sure. I’m looking for a costume. Just something simple and cheap. Something unique, I guess.”

The salesgirl squinted, like she was computing a hard algorithm in her head. “Well … if you’re looking for unique, then I’d suggest putting together a few individual pieces. You know? That way, the chances of someone else showing up at the party dressed in the same costume you have are, like, none.”

Chris almost smiled. She wished she was going to a party. Actually, what she really wanted was just to get the hell out of there. “Sounds good,” she told the shop girl. “Can you choose some things for me? Whatever you think would fit. Something easy. And likeable.”

The salesgirl’s face didn’t react. Maybe she got requests like that all the time. “How much you wanna spend?”

“Um…” Chris counted the bills in her hoodie pocket. She had fifty dollars, but she didn’t want to spend all of it on a getup. “Will thirty bucks do it?”

Again, the girl’s face contorted in deep thought. After a moment she headed over to a large bin marked ‘Bargain Basket’ and rifled through.

Happy that her task had been offloaded, Chris absently browsed the accessories aisle. Saint Patty’s Day hats. Feather boas. Devil’s horns on a headband. Who actually buys this stuff? she wondered as she made her way to the front cash to wait for the sales assistant.

After a couple of minutes, the sales girl emerged with several plastic packages and medium-sized cardboard box. “I just picked what I would wear if I were you,” she informed.

Chris’s eyebrows raised as she eyed the girl’s tiny tank top. Oh well, it’s too late now, she thought.

The girl rang up her purchases and bagged the items. “Twenty-two fifty,” she said, passing over the bag.

Chris handed over three wrinkled tens. “Thanks for your help. Keep the change.”

The girl looked pleased. “Thanks. And have fun at your party!” she called as Chris headed for the door.

Chris opened the bag once she’d rounded the corner into a deserted alley. When she finally opened the box, she couldn’t help but smirk at what the shop girl had selected for her. Her new persona consisted of a fuzzy golden bear mascot head with large ears and eyes, as well as a matching fur bodysuit. Luckily the cut didn’t obstruct her vision too much. There was also a fuzzy brown wrist band with an attached Hello Kitty purse. Definitely huggable and family friendly. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the irony of it. If last night hadn’t drained her of all emotion, she might have done both.

She threw the wrist band in a nearby trashcan. There was no way in hell she’d wear a Hello Kitty purse. Not in a million years. Regardless, it would be a massive improvement over being seen as a walking threat—that much was for sure.

Goodbye, Chris, she thought as she pulled the furry brown bear visor onto her head.

 


 

Chris ultimately decided to take the train to Seattle rather than run at hyperspeed along Interstate 5. Even though she was going to the city to start her new life as an Evolved, she wasn’t ready to completely say goodbye to life as she knew it—at least, not quite yet. She still didn’t know how far she could sustain her new power, and she didn’t want to end up stuck on the side of the highway with only a stupid bear head for company.

It was amazing to see how much her transformation into a cute mascot changed people’s reactions to her. Less than an hour ago, people had crossed the street to get away from her. Now they were smiling. The fact that she wasn’t wearing the face of that antisocial teenager from the news had to play a large part in it.

Chris made sure that the green UNEOA armband was quite conspicuous around her arm, but not many people seemed to take notice of it. They smiled at the fuzzy mascot head instead, taken in by its big cheerful eyes. Some of the younger kids even waved or squealed with glee. Chris noted with some satisfaction that the fuzzy bear head succeeded in hiding her face much like her hood had, but with a notably less standoffish effect.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to rehabilitate my reputation a little before the news people catch up with me in Seattle, Chris mused as she boarded the train. She slowly made her way down the aisle to find herself a seat, negotiating her oversized bear head with only a little difficulty. She chose an empty aisle seat in the middle of the car. There was a newsmagazine discarded on the adjacent window seat, but there weren’t any other signs of anyone sitting there.

She settled into her seat and closed her eyes. It felt like years since she’d last sat on plush furniture. After a few minutes, the train moved forward. The steady motion almost put Chris to sleep.

“Excuse me,” she heard a voice ask. “Would you mind taking a picture with my son?”

Chris opened her eyes to see the expectant face of a plump dark-skinned woman sitting across the aisle from her. From the seat beside the woman, a curly-haired boy of around six watched Chris with interest, a huge smile on his face.

“Huh?” Chris mumbled in surprise, her sleep-blurred mind busy connecting the dots.

“You’re with the Wardens, right?” the woman asked, motioning to Chris’s armband with a hand.

Then everything fell into place in Chris’s mind. She was a hero now—or so she appeared. It was only natural for people to think that she was with the Wardens, the American heroes branch. She decided not to bother correcting the lady’s observation. Being ‘with the Wardens’ sounded much better than being a ‘UNEOA-approved cooperative rogue living in America’ so she simply nodded.

“My son is such a fan,” the lady gushed, leaning across the aisle excitedly. “He collects the action figures and everything,” she said with a laugh. It was a warm, honest sound which made Chris feel a little guilty about not clearing up the misunderstanding.

“That’s nice,” Chris said, unsure how to reply. “Who’s your favorite hero?”

“Samael!” The boy cried enthusiastically. He tossed his hands into the air, then brought small balled fists down to strike at some imaginary target. “He flies up, and he sees everything with his silver superhero mask! And pow! pow! The bad guy can’t run, he’s too slow!”

Chris couldn’t help but to smirk underneath her mask. “Yeah, Samael’s pretty cool,” she lied. The kid looked way too happy to be told that his hero came across as a self-absorbed jerk.

“Who’re you?” the boy asked, his eyes narrowing questioningly.

An embarrassed smile crossed his mother’s face. “You’ll have to forgive him,” she said, apologizing on her son’s behalf. “He only knows a few of you guys.”

“That’s okay,” Chris assured her, adjusting her fuzzy bear head. “I’m sort of new on the scene.”

The woman dug a smart phone out of her purse. “Would you mind taking a picture together?”

“Um, sure,” Chris agreed.

At his mother’s urging, the boy slipped past his mother’s knees and landed beside Chris. He gave her furry arm a pet. “What’s your name?”

Chris said the first thing that came to mind. “Mascot.”

“Mascot!” he squealed in delight. “Cool! Me and Samael and Mascot! We protect people! Pow! Pow!” His tiny fists landed a series of punches on the back of the seat in front of him as his mom’s smartphone camera flashed. Click.

Just like that, Chris was stuck with a new identity. A commitment marked by a little boy’s gleeful squeal.

But something about the enthusiasm in the boy’s words struck a chord with her. Somehow it just felt right, and, for a fraction of a second, she was overcome with the feeling of almost remembering something important, something buried so deep in her mind that….

It was gone before she could get hold of it.

The mother thanked her, and held her hand out to the boy. “Come on, Elliot.” She picked up her oversized purse and the little boy’s Covenant backpack. “It’s our stop coming up.”

As the train slowed to a stop at the station just outside of Averton, the woman began to lead little Elliot down the aisle. “Thanks again,” she called warmly over her shoulder to Chris.

“Pow! Pow!” Elliot said, imaginary guns blazing all the way down the rail car until he was safely on the platform.

Chris closed her eyes behind the mascot oversized mask, and leaned her head back against the headrest. But after a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep, she turned her attention to the discarded magazine on the seat beside her. It was a month-old edition of Evolved Revolution, the sort of magazine she’d never paid much attention to before.

But for the next fifty miles or so, Chris flipped through the glossy pages with interest. Nobody knew for certain why transitions happened or if they were truly random, but Evolved Revolution tried to demystify the phenomenon.

She skimmed over the first paragraph of an editorial which condemned how one Antonio Verras, the man known as Preacher, was raising millions in private rightwing donations to publish some whitepaper on how God had supposedly abandoned the earth and redistributed His powers among the Godkin.

“Wacko,” Chris muttered. She didn’t finish reading the letter. It made her think of dinner last night, of Helen and Ryan and her parents. She just wasn’t ready to go there. Not yet.

She flipped the page to a long story about the latest scientific Pulse theories. One of them claimed that the thirty-minute global power outage of February 2010 hadn’t been caused not by an imploding star in the next galaxy, but by some sort of energy surge originating from the earth’s own core. She also read about how scientists around the world had confirmed the sixty-two seconds that had disappeared from the global population’s collective memory.

Chris was doubtful of this last factoid. She remembered the day the Pulse happened. It had been a perfectly normal day until the power went out everywhere and everyone freaked out about it.

An elderly man shuffled down the aisle, holding the backs of the seats as he made his way to the rear of the car, presumably to use the bathroom. She felt a dull ache as she watched him painstakingly make his way past her. He nodded at her furry bear head as he passed.

She flipped over to the next article: a feature about the earliest transitions. The first one had happened to a fourteen-year-old boy in Turkey a few days after the Pulse. The boy had gained the ability to speak every language and dialect perfectly, and was soon declared a saint by various Muslim leaders. They’d named him Prophet. Despite his young age, Prophet possessed seemingly superhuman wisdom and diplomatic skill. His intervention had peacefully resolved numerous conflicts, primarily in the Middle East where his opinion was valued by many.

The following article featured Katsuro Sakai, who had transitioned while attempting to resolve a hostage situation in Osaka, Japan. After changing his name from Ronin to Paladin, he’d worked alongside a United Nations task force to form an independent sister organization, the Evolved Oversight Authority. He had been the first member to join the UNEOA’s international superhero team, the Covenant.

Chris turned to stare out the window at the passing scenery again. How was she supposed to live up to the expectations set by these other Evolved? Getting her own life in order seemed daunting enough. How was she supposed to change the world?

She decided it wasn’t doing her any good to get down on herself. She flipped to the back of the magazine to where the word games were printed. They all shared a common theme: superpowers. Chris groaned at the irony. Although it is a magazine about transitions, she reasoned as the elderly man shuffled past her again, back towards his seat.

She didn’t have a pen, but she tried her best to answer as many crossword puzzle questions as she could.

Those able to alter the laws of physics? Evokers, Chris thought.

She checked the answer on the backside of the page. She was right. She must have picked up more knowledge about this superhero stuff than she’d thought. She flipped back to the puzzle.

Those who can apply superhuman technologies? Technicians. Those with clairvoyant abilities? Visionaries. Those with the ability to alter physical matter? Chris didn’t know the answer to this one so she flipped the page.

Transmuters.

The last clue in the puzzle brought a smile to her lips. Ability to protect others?

“Guardians,” she said out loud, the sound barely leaving her lips. She leaned her big mascot visor against the headrest and closed her eyes, remembering Athena’s words. You seem to fit into the Guardian classification, just like Sanctuary and Saint.

At that moment, a new thought overtook her. Just because I’m not with the Wardens doesn’t mean I can’t protect people, she realized. It just means I can do it on my own terms. For the first time since last night, she felt a flicker of hope inside her. Maybe things would be okay after all.

Then she fell asleep to the gentle rocking motion of the train.

 


 

Chris awoke with a start to a flash of burning pain. When she opened her eyes, she realized the train was passing through the outskirts of Seattle, and through a densely populated outlying neighborhood.

The flash of pain subsided, but was soon replaced by another and then another. Each one felt a little different, and even the intensity of the sensation varied. She was reminded of what she’d sensed the previous night right before the car crash. Once the suburb was behind them, without anything except forest and fields surrounding them, the pain disappeared.

She soon realized that she was picking up brief moments of danger that popped into her range just as the train passed by them.

Chris braced herself as the train entered another populated area. Flash upon flash of pain overtook her limbs, her head, her torso. Athena hadn’t been kidding when she mentioned that there might be changes in how she experienced her new power in the days following her transition.

Stop. Please stop, Chris begged silently.

After a while, as the train moved on, the sensations reduced to brief flickers, dull and distant.

Why did I have to become a Guardian? she thought miserably. I didn’t ask for Saint’s martyr powers, and I don’t want them.

Maybe it was karma. The universe restoring balance by rubbing other people’s pain in Chris’s face. She knew all about the concept thanks to her dad, who was a strong believer in any sort of Eastern wisdom that might help him to rein in his younger daughter. For the first time, the idea didn’t sound so farfetched to her.

Apart from the new element of pain, Chris’s supersense was providing the kind of feedback that she’d experienced the night before. Her inner eye caught snapshots of potentially harmful situations. A flicker of fear here, a distant cry there—all faded before she could guess their origin as the train made its way past.

As the train neared Seattle’s heavily populated downtown core, the frequency of those visions—and their associated pain—increased. Since she couldn’t do anything about them, Chris did her best to shut them out of her mind.

The UNEOA’s rules will make it hard to do anything about anything, she thought, peering out the window as the train rolled into King Street Station. But I can’t just do nothing. She thought of Prophet, the Turkish teenage boy who was younger than she was. He was a rogue who didn’t need to follow any instructions. I’m just gonna have to break some rules, too, she decided. Again.

Chris got off the train without a specific destination in mind, regretting that she hadn’t used her time on the train to work out a more concrete action plan. How was she going to protect people exactly? Was she just supposed to wander around and see if she randomly stumbled across someone who needed her help?

If I was a cool movie dude, I would stand in the middle of the station and stretch out my arms and the bad guy would just appear.

As she left the King Street Station, her danger sense flared lightly. A brief vision of a child falling from a jungle gym filled her mind and a sharp pain shot through her knee. She winced.

“Are you okay?”

Chris looked up and realized that she was doubled over, grasping her knee with both hands. A chubby kind-faced woman in a railway blazer was standing in front of her, her heavily made-up eyes looking at Chris in concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just….”

“Looking for the local Wardens office?” the young employee asked as she eyed Chris’s armband. “It’s on First Avenue.”

“Actually, could you tell me where the nearest playground is?” Chris asked.

The worker looked surprised, but was eager to help. “Oh, sure. The closest one’s just down the street. Go through the main entrance, and it’ll be on the west side. About a block or so away.”

“Thank you,” she said. The pain in her knee had subsided. No doubt the child was safe in his mother’s arms by now.

Chris crossed the station hall, with its polished wooden benches, terrazzo tiled floors, and candelabra. She ignored the pointed fingers, stares, and whispers as more and more people noted her presence.

She reached the main entrance and headed west. After a short walk she spotted the grassy clearing that served as a playground, complete with a jungle gym, swing set, and sand pit. The distance was about a block, give or take.

So my range is at least a city block, Chris deduced. Maybe more.

She sat down on a bench, unsure of what to do next. She decided that it would be prudent to try to figure out if she could create one of those energy protection shields at will—the kind she’d created last night as the car crashed.

After a brief moment of concentration, she willed a force field into existence. Its charged energy caused the air that surrounded her body to vibrate. It wasn’t visible, but it made every inch of her skin tingle. She knew from last night that the force field had incredible protective powers. Even a speeding car couldn’t breach it.

I wonder how big I can make it. She already knew she could cover at least two people. She gave the force field a mental nudge, willing it to expand. A test with her extended finger confirmed that she’d extended the energy shield to cover a larger area. Not huge, but enough to cover a car or something.

Enough to cover three people, not just two.

She pushed the thought from her mind before it could settle there and become a pain in the ass. Her powers had evolved considerably in the last few hours, just like Athena had said they would. She had to believe her powers were stronger and more reliable now than they’d been last night.

Her stomach growled, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten a proper meal in nearly twenty-four hours, so she decided to head to the downtown core to get something to eat.

As she walked, Chris picked up some minor conflicts and accidents. A drunken brawl, a man falling down the stairs. But to the local police’s credit, her physical instincts noted a distinctive lack of crime anywhere nearby. Seattle didn’t really seem to need a superheroine.

While spending some of her last money on Chinese food in the International District, Chris overheard two women gossiping about the nightly occurrence of gunfire recently in an area known as White Center. Apparently three gang members had been found dead that week alone. Chris took in as much information as she could. This was her chance to do some good. Maybe not peace-in-the-Middle-East good, but it was still something.

With that decision made, she spent the rest of the day by laying low in the Community Garden, undisturbed by anything but insects. As night fell, she began to make her way across town.

Time to prove what you’re worth, she challenged herself.
 

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19 thoughts on “1.3

  1. Here we go with the first wednesday update, I can’t do these too often, but when I do, they’ll be announced in a sunday update comment.

    I’m not super happy with this chapter, but I hope it turned out okay.

    The next one will contain some down-to-earth action. I’m looking forward to it.

    • “I’m not super happy with this chapter, but I hope it turned out okay.”

      What the heck do you think you’re talking about? I loved it. Maybe you won’t be believe me but I was grinning like an idiot as I read the whole chapter.

      The interactions with the store clerks, the kid in the train and her internal monologue, are not only funny, but also satisfying in the fact that not everything is dark for the sake of being dark. I like the fact that Chris is not the typical, brooding teenager.

      And the bear costume! Gosh, that was great! It’s probably not what you had in mind, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Yogi Bear. “Mascot: smarter than your average bear! She can sense danger like Yogi can sense pic-a-nics.”.

      Oh, I’m so glad I decided to follow this web serial. If I had moneyz, I’d throw them at you… somehow.

      • Thanks so much for the comment, Charly. When the usual commenters were quiet all day, I was getting worried everyone hated the chapter. This is a huge relief.

        On that note, if anyone ever does hate a chapter, please don’t be afraid of posting negative comments. I really, really appreciate those as well. If I’m losing readers, I’d rather know why, and do better with future chapters.

  2. Hurrah, I finally had some time to write a comment. Blame midterms. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting the name Mascot to be literal like that. It’s a nice touch of comic relief. Not to mention the interaction with the civilians after having the costume.

    The scene with Aaron and Olvier is also good for relieving tension. …and causing laughter. What are new powers and a reputation good for, if they can’t do that?

    For the record, some of my comments might not have much to say, but you should always assume that I, at least, love the chapter more than hate it. I’ll be sure to let you know if there’s any problems that lead otherwise. This is a happy chapter, mostly! Happy chappy!

  3. Don’t think I mentioned this before, but I think the title of the event that started the superpowers, Pulse, is a cool name!

    Loved the interaction with the kid, Elliot. Gives Chris a yardstick in which to make her decision.

  4. I know this is a bit of a necropost, but I just wanted to leave here a thought that has been bothering me as I read this chapter: how do rogue evolved get any money, besides robbery?
    I guess that’s kind of the point of the system, but no human or citizen rights must make it hard to get work, or even a bank account…

    • There are no necroposts in web fiction!

      The loss of citizen status is an US specific thing, other countries handle rogues differently. France, for instance, is very welcoming of Evolved. Many rogues have migrated there. There are also those whose transitions weren’t public, and who decided to keep their powers a secret.

      The USA want rogues to join hero programs so they can be monitored.

      • It just doesn’t strike me as a very well thought policy – it drives anyone who doesn’t want to register to either crime or the emigration.
        Unless they’re gunning for that latter scenario, where unwanted Evolved become Someone Else’s Problems, it sounds like setting up a barrel of powder.

        • There is almost no Evolved crime at this point. The Covenant is very, very good at killing anyone who has been classified a ‘villain’. Queenie locates them very easily, too.

          • Wow. That’s a shitty situation to be in. Hard to hold down a job – no citizen status and all the discrimination. Nothing shady, either – big brother’s watching and is not afraid to shoot strangers.
            Low numbers also mean it’s hard to effectively unionize. This is a humanitarian nightmare. Also, I stay by my “this looks like it would blow up in someone’s face” line.

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