2.2

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Boltigen, Switzerland – Tuesday, the 5th of June, 2012. 09:47 AM.
 
 
Dancer closed in on her opponent, letting her aura sweep across the charred remains of the village. All around her, the damage of the Pyromancer’s attack was undone. The grass regained its vivid green hue. Singed housetops were made whole again by unseen energy. Shattered windows were mended within seconds. And it was all thanks to her, she was doing this.

Dancer caught up to her nemesis on top of a small hill overlooking the area. He was clad in red leathers and sported a voluminous moustache and a pair of glowing red eyes. He looked suitably evil, just how she’d imagined him. Of course, she was imagining him. Just like she was imagining everything else. But whatever. She was playing the scene out in her head for lack of better things to do.

She had been practicing the perfect hero speech in front of the mirror for hours. By now, she was ready to unleash it on a coat rack if she had to.

Dancer fired her prepared barrage of words while shooting finger guns at her mirror image. “Alright, villain, don’t move! And don’t do anything stupid, either. It’s over!” He didn’t respond, but that was okay. They both knew the end was inevitable.

“Now, tell me why you set those fires. Did you think of the families who lost their homes? Some of them have little kids!”

Dancer adjusted her grip on her make-believe weapon and raised the barrel slowly, the way she’d seen it done in a movie once. She didn’t need a weapon, of course. Not even an imaginary one. But it looked cool in the mirror, and it and served as a way to occupy her hands.

“For your crimes, I sentence you to lifelong imprisonment in the Thorberg underground facility, where you can consider the consequences of your actions for the rest of your life!”

Dancer paused, pursing her lips. That sounded stupid. A real villain would probably need some sort of elaborate, futuristic prison construction to prevent him from using his fiery powers to escape. She looked around at her very real surroundings, there was nothing futuristic about them.

She made another attempt. Glaring at her mirror image, Dancer forced a threatening edge into her voice. “For your crimes, I will lock you in a prison of ice to douse your powers. Any last words?” She let the imaginary gun drop. “Yeah, well, me neither,” she muttered.

Sarina was left staring in the mirror, her hands hanging limply at her side.

A few years back, before Evolved humans existed and before the Baumanns had come onto the scene to save her from her jumbled mess of a life, Sarina had often daydreamed about having the power to make people love and accept her. The junkie mother she hadn’t seen since child welfare services had taken her away as a young child. The cranky old lady who’d acted as the custodian at the juvenile facility where Sarina kept getting bounced back to. The failed foster families who’d remained cool and distant, as if they didn’t believe she was worth getting emotionally invested in. She’d imagined being able to make someone love her a million times.

Then coke became her superpower. It made her feel good about herself and her life for once. Whenever she was high, her boyfriend seemed perfect and all his friends were witty and awesome. So long as she’d been high, life just didn’t seem so hard. It was like she was a superheroine who could finally solve her own problems. And then she’d been embraced by her new family, who had shown her how to solve her problems for real.

Since then, whenever she’d fantasized about being a hero, she concentrated on others who needed saving — not herself. That was a nice change. And when Shanti had transitioned a few months ago, she’d begun admiring her the way other teenagers idolized pop stars.

Sarina raised her imaginary gun again. “That’s right, Pyromancer. Shanti and I are working together now,” she told her reflection.

The familiar ping of an incoming message distracted her from her make-believe setting, delivering the promise of social interaction. She lowered her hands and turned away from the mirror excitedly.

After the loneliness and confusion of the last few days, she was eager to chat with just about anyone. After her life-changing performance on stage, the security guards had kept her in a back room until the army had showed up to drive her here — some empty military barracks on a secluded Alp in the middle of nowhere. So far, the only visitor she’d been allowed to receive was Queenie, the Covenant heroine assigned to her case.

Other than that, she’d spent her first thirty-six hours in custody alternating between sobbing fits and staring at the ceiling numbly. She had soon come to hate her ugly basement room with its gray walls and tiny window panes. At least it was more spacious than a prison cell.

Getting internet access on her second day there had been a godsend. She could talk to her family over the webcam, and the chats helped, but they did little to cure her homesickness. They were probably monitored, along with all her internet use, but Sarina didn’t care. Social interaction of any kind far outweighed the negative taste left in her mouth by the thought of some uniformed guards scrutinizing what kinds of books she checked out on Amazon.

Sarina ran the few steps to the computer desk, her socks gliding to a halt on the smooth parquet floor. She hastily sat down in front of the gunmetal gray desk.

A small chat window was displayed in the upper-left quadrant of the desktop monitor. There was one message written in English: “Morning, Dancing Queen. How’s the government treating you?” Jasper’s avatar picture, a blue and red fox wearing large white headphones, was displayed next to the words.

Sarina smiled. She’d met the twenty-something British rogue Evolved over a message board two days ago. Since then, her chats with him had constituted the only pleasant moments in her dull superheroine life with the exception of her twice-daily family web chats.

Her fingers were already typing a response before she’d positioned more than half of her butt on the vinyl seat of the stiff army-issue office chair. This was one of the rare occasions when she was grateful for the English she’d picked up from the Scotts, the British national foster parents she’d had for three years before they’d changed their minds about her and returned to England, leaving her to be legally adopted by the Baumanns.

“Still boring,” Sarina typed into the chat window. Not for the first time, she wished she could Skype with him. But Queenie had laid out a number of rules, and Skype chats being reserved for family members was one of them. She pressed enter and waited for Jasper’s response.

As usual, she only had to wait a few seconds. “What, they don’t have you off on some secret mission somewhere?” he typed.

Sarina smiled and thought about how to word her response. “Cheeseland is too neutral to do anything but sit around and argue about law changes,” she typed. “I’m a new problem. I don’t think they have any idea what to do with me.”

A ping sounded a couple seconds later. Jasper was a fast typer. “Apply for asylum in the UK?” He ended the question with a smiley face emoticon.

“And then we could go save the world together? Heh.” The sound of the old keyboard was amplified by the bare cement walls.

Jasper’s reply came thirty seconds later. “My government doesn’t let me do much, either. There are hordes of scientists who analyze my music, but the Covenant doesn’t need me to use those tracks. So yeah, saving the world with you sounds like a great plan to me.”

She typed a winking smiley face and hit enter.

She couldn’t deny that the idea of saving the world with Jasper, aka DJ, had more appeal than her current situation. Besides, he was a music composer, and she’d always liked hanging out with quirky and fun creative types. Working towards the betterment of the world with him sounded like fun.

There was just one problem. Her fantastically neutral Swiss government probably wouldn’t be willing to let her cooperate with any other organization or individual without months of talking. Suffocation by red tape was a common condition where she was from.

Not to mention the fact that no one — least of all herself — understood how her power worked, which certainly wasn’t helping. She hadn’t even succeeded in activating it since they’d brought her here. At first she’d held out hope that maybe she hadn’t really transitioned after all, that it was all some sort of mistake or hallucination. But the fact that thousands of people had witnessed how she’d teleported her family to the event hall, and how she made her surroundings literally come to life, had made it hard for even her to deny.

Without active control of her power, she was basically an Evolved cripple. A Wildcard, as Queenie called her. Still, it would have been nice to at least meet some of the heroes from the European Evolved Union. Aura, the Union’s Empath, was a little younger than Sarina and seemed really nice. At least that was the impression she’d left with her homepage.

The ping of another incoming message drew her attention back to the screen. “You just might be the only one who can do something about the Sleepwalker,” Jasper had typed.

Sarina stared at the text bubble, totally at a loss for how to respond. Just thinking about the Sleepwalker made her uncomfortable.

People caught in the Sleepwalker’s aura died gruesomely or were driven to insane bloodlust. If even the Covenant couldn’t figure out how to kill that thing, how was she supposed to know what to do? She stared at the blinking cursor blankly.

After resting her fingers on the keys for a few seconds, she began typing her response. “I think dealing with that huge lake in Africa is more my speed, if Shanti doesn’t get there first.” She added a smiley face and hit enter.

She’d read about all those poor farming families who’d lost everything or drowned in the flood Monsoon had created the week before. She wished there was a way she could restore it to the way it used to be.

Except I don’t know how to do anything with my power, she thought, frustrated. Sure, she could daydream about being able to help people, but apparently that was her only plan of action.

Another ping sounded. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you how you changed the music to something the event location didn’t even have on record. I’d love to know how to do that!”

Sarina gave a bemused little laugh. Yeah, I wish I knew, too. They’d given her a secure room filled with a bunch of monitoring equipment to use as a dance space. But even after hours of trying, she hadn’t been able to trigger her powers again.

“I don’t have a clue how I did it,” she typed. “I still don’t know how my power works . . . if it works at all.” She pressed enter.

“What does Queenie say?” came Jasper’s immediate reply.

Over the past two days, Sarina had been keeping Jasper filled in on her experiences at the holding facility. It felt good to have somebody to confide in . . . even if her correspondence was being monitored.

“She visited yesterday morning and said that the Covenant thinks my power is either useless, basically, or else a ‘game-breaker’. They aren’t sure which.” Her fingers flew across the keyboard. She hadn’t really understood what Queenie had meant to say, and she was anxious to get Jasper’s take on it.

It took him a couple of minutes to respond, which seemed unusual since their previous chats had always moved along very quickly.

Finally the ping arrived. “She used the term ‘game-breaker’?”

Sarina wrinkled her nose, trying to remember. Her English was good, but not great. Still, she was positive that that’s what Queenie had said. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure,” she typed. “What do you think that means?”

There was another long pause before Jasper’s reply arrived. “She probably meant that most of what they thought they knew about powers doesn’t apply to you.” A few seconds later, another message arrived. “They thought the maximum range of powers was a few hundred meters at most. But your parents were how far away? A couple kilometers? That’s pretty crazy, especially since it was just your transition.”

Sarina thought back to all the life forces she’d sensed as she’d transitioned. There had definitely been a lot of them, scattered across Zürich’s entire downtown. The scientists had been surprised by her report of everything she’d felt during her transition period. Of course, telling them everything had been the right thing to do.

Besides, the fact that her parents had still been on Route 4 when they’d suddenly appeared at the Maag event hall gave everyone the solid evidence they needed to firmly determine that her abilities were beyond the range of ‘normal’.

Yeah, that is crazy, Sarina silently agreed. Sure, the Traveler teleported himself across the globe, but he couldn’t take anyone else with him. And other Evolved with the ability to move things around were limited to their field of vision.

She wished she could trigger her power right now to teleport her family her. This whole power quarantine deal was starting to get really, really old, and she certainly wasn’t feeling sick.

“If my power stays useless for long enough, maybe I can go back home,” Sarina typed hopefully.

“You’ll figure it out,” Jasper assured her.

All of a sudden, she wasn’t sure if she even wanted to figure it out any more. “Saving the world sounds cool, but I miss my family.” This time, she added a sad emoticon before pressing enter.

As she waited for another long stretch for Jasper’s reply, she leaned into the edge of the metal desk until it cut into the thin cotton of her t-shirt. She struggled to suppress that annoying burning tingle in her eyes, knowing full well she’d never get a chance to use her power to really help people if she couldn’t get over her crybaby self.

Superheroines don’t cry, and they never get homesick, she reminded herself.

The chat messenger finally gave another ping. She rubbed her nose with the back of a hand before glancing at the monitor.

“Maybe this will cheer you up,” Jasper had typed.

There was a file attached to the message. She double clicked it without hesitation.

Then her screen was filled with the image of a brown-haired guy in his early twenties. Jasper, she presumed. Around his neck he had a set of white headphones just like the ones his fox avatar wore. He was posing with a King Kong action figure balanced on one upturned palm. Jasper’s face, only inches away from the miniature ape, was scrunched up in a hilarious grimace of mock horror. The figurine’s position made it look like the ape was swinging its monstrous fist at a large clock tower in the background.

Interestingly, an image of Sarina breakdancing had been edited into the city scape near the base of the clock tower. The way the image was set up made it look like Sarina’s extended leg was about to give King Kong a really good kick. The photo had a caption: “DJ and Dancer saving London.”

It was kind of silly, but she couldn’t help but laugh. It was cute how much effort he’d invested to cheer her up.

Sarina leaned forward and took a closer look at the person who’d become her friend. The photo showed a guy in his early to middle twenties with that modern rugged look that was in fashion with guys nowadays. His short brown hair had been styled in a rough-and-tumble, artificially tousled fashion that nearly covered his blue eyes. Definitely cute, she decided.

“You’re funny,” she typed. Then, after a pause, “Where’d you get that picture of me? I never sent you one.” She added a smiley face so that her message wouldn’t sound accusatory.

This time, he responded quickly. “They’re everywhere. You didn’t google yourself?”

The thought gave her pause. She’d been so busy trying to learn about other people’s transitions that she hadn’t even considered researching herself.  Besides, she’d never been all that interested in computers, the internet, or all that social media drama. After all, while other kids her age had been addicted to their smartphones, she’d been tied up in the real thing. Those years had left her way less comfortable with computers than other teens she knew.

“Don’t care that much what random people think of me,” she lied. “Besides, I don’t spend all that much time online anyway.”

“What, so you’re a real Swiss child of nature, are you? Yodeling, flowers in your hair?” he joked.

She smiled and typed ‘lol’ into the chat window. She was about to hit enter, but her curiosity got the better of her. “So there’s a lot of stuff on me?”

She chewed on a thumbnail as she waited for Jasper’s response. She wasn’t quite ready to find out firsthand what people were saying about her online.

Thirty seconds later, there was a ping. “The phone video someone uploaded of your transition crashed the YouTube servers. Hundreds of millions of clicks within the first hour!”

That gave her pause. Hundreds of millions? Holy cow.

She rested her fingers on the keyboard, unsure of how to respond. That number seemed . . . unreal to her. Too large for the reality she was used to.

“God, that’s embarrassing,” she typed after a moment.

“No it’s not! You look great in it.”

She felt a smile cross her face. She wasn’t used to accepting compliments. Luckily, Jasper changed the subject a moment later. “That reminds me. Try listening to this.”

The chat window promptly displayed a link for a downloadable audio file. He must have created one of his special tracks for her. From their previous discussions, she’d learned that Jasper had the ability to boost people’s performance in doing certain things, powers especially.

Sarina hovered her mouse over the link, which she could see was for a file named SarinaTrack14.mp3.

Fourteen? She noted. That seemed like a lot.

Before she could give it more thought, another message came in. “Just music, no lyrics, so it should be safe. But if something weird happens, better stop.”

Sarina was about to type a flurry of questions when the ping sounded again.

“I gotta go. See you soon!” He signed off with his signature emoticon, :DJ.

She wanted to point out they weren’t exactly going to see each other, but he was already gone. She was left frowning at the monitor, puzzled by his abrupt departure and lack of an explanation. They’d chatted for hours and hours over the past two days, and they’d only stopped when they had to.

Weird, she decided. Something must have come up.

Still curious about what sort of ‘weird’ thing might happen to her if she listened to his track, Sarina clicked on the link he’d sent her. The file didn’t auto-activate, however. She clicked again, but still nothing happened. Ten or twelve clicks later, she gave up. Maybe whoever was monitoring her didn’t want her to open it. Or maybe she was just that bad at computers.

Sarina exhaled a frustrated puff of breath, unsure of what to do next. It was still too early to call her parents if she wanted to catch her dad and David at home. The homework her former teachers had left in her inbox didn’t appeal to her, either. Knowing she wouldn’t ever be allowed to return to school put a huge damper on it.

She considered grabbing her phone with its stored playlist of favorite tracks, but she didn’t feel like going to the monitoring room to dance for the scientists’ cameras right now. In fact, strangely, she didn’t feel like dancing at all. It used to take her to her happy place — a place previously occupied by drugs — but now it came with too much pressure. Pressure to figure out how her power worked. Pressure to prove that she wasn’t useless, after all.

She decided that she might as well look over the research document she’d drafted out of boredom the day before. She remembered leaving too many questions about her transition unanswered. She opened her Word file and read the first line of text:

Why couldn’t I get a power that actually works? Like flying. Or talking to birds.

Hmm, she mused. Still a good question.

She skimmed the rest of the first page, hoping for new insights.

 

The Pulse happened on February 24, 2010. The entire world lost power for at least half an hour at 11:20 AM Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Everyone lost about a minute of time that they can’t remember (although some lunatics claim they remember it, but no one believes them). There are many theories on why it happened, but no one really knows.

 

Sarina paused. She remembered the day of the Pulse; she’d just moved in with the Baumanns and was still getting accustomed to her new life. The power outage hadn’t seemed that strange until they learned that it had affected everyone, worldwide.

The next part was about transitions. She kept reading.

 

Immediately after the Pulse, someone new transitioned every few days, seemingly at random. However, since mid-2011, new transitions have become quite rare (for instance, only a few every month). But it’s likely that not all transitions get reported, and China doesn’t reveal how many they have, either. Scientists estimate that there are never more than around 200-250 Evolved in the world.

There are many known power classifications. The number of Evolved in each category stays more or less the same over time. The categories are: Transmuters, Evokers, Technicians, Revokers, Empaths, Lightshapers, Darkshapers, Guardians (rare), Visionaries, and Wildcards. Shanti is the only known Healer to date, so it’s unclear if that’s a power category onto itself. Some Evolved have hybrid powers, like Paladin (for instance, a Revoker with super strength who creates barriers and dispels power effects). Wildcard refers to the ones they can’t really classify, like me.

 

Sarina wished she had more information in this section, but she didn’t. It seemed that nobody online knew much about Wildcards, and not every world government even used the UNEOA’s defining term for unclassified powersets. She skimmed down to a topic for which there was a lot of online chatter these days.

 

Power surges started happening a couple of months ago. They seem to be as random as transitions, but they only happen to people who are already Evolved. Sometimes the surge makes their range increase or gives them new abilities, etc. The end result is that they usually become much stronger (e.g., Monsoon).

 

For the second time that morning, Sarina wished she could help those poor victims in South Africa. What was the point in having transitioned if she couldn’t do anything useful with her supposed powers? The whole thing was frustrating.

She scrolled further down to get her mind off that track.

The most powerful Visionary is the Oracle, but no one really understands all of her prophecies. Everyone hopes she’s wrong about the coming of the Antithesis, the Anathema or contrary force to the Healer . . .

Sarina read over the rest of the research document she’d put together, filling in any gaps wherever she could. But no matter how she turned the facts around or tried to piece them together, she couldn’t figure out anything new that seemed relevant to her situation. There had never been any other case where a person had transitioned but then not been able to use their own powers.

Just my luck.

Rubbing her eyes, she picked up an empty mug from beside her monitor, then padded across the cold parquet floor to the small bar fridge that had been hastily installed the day she’d arrived. She took a carton of orange juice out and filled her cup to the brim.

She emptied the mug in less than a minute, and was left feeling refreshed from the sugar high. Afterward, she felt ready to head back to the desk and read through the many questions she hadn’t yet been able to answer for herself. She scrolled down to the heading titled “Unclear Stuff!”

 

  1. Why is this happening to me? Is there a pattern for why some people transition and others don’t? Is there any truth to what some people claim, that transitions aren’t random?
  2. Why is my power not working anymore? Maybe it decided I’m not worthy of it or something?
  3. When/if I get my power to work again, what can I do with it? Teleport things? Paint walls? It’s not like I can stop a bad guy just by dancing, right?

 

Sarina paused, trying to imagine interrupting a burglary or something and then dropping it like it was hot. The bad guys might stop what they were doing, but only because they’d be laughing so hard. They’d think she was an idiot.

She finished rereading her notes, then continued on with her Google search. She typed in the question that was at the forefront of her mind: “Do some Evolved have ineffective powers?” She surfed around for the next hour or so but found nothing but dead ends.

There was so little concrete knowledge out there — and the information that was available was hidden away beneath heaps of rumors and conspiracy theories. Sarina was tired of slogging through blogs and forums full of bickering and disagreements. The entire exercise left her feeling even less inspired than she’d felt before. What she really needed was someone to commiserate with, and it was still too early for her to call home.

If Jasper’s too busy to chat, then maybe I can find someone else to talk to.

Sarina opened her web browser and typed in the address of the public Evolved community forum where she’d first encountered Jasper. Although she had to admit he was a rarity; most of the forum regulars just sat around, twiddling their thumbs until the next interview appointment. Kind of like she and Jasper were, but she wasn’t getting interviewed. She sighed.

She remembered reading some rumors about secret online societies that acted as virtual meeting places for villains and other shady figures. Not that she wanted to befriend villains or anything. But if those communities existed, she imagined them to be the opposite of boring.

Once she got signed into the public hero forum, Sarina discovered a new post by Paladin in response to a thread titled “More big threats?” Unfortunately, the founder of the Covenant didn’t include anything juicy or particularly informative in his reply, just a reminder for everyone that spreading rumors was bad and only served to freak people out. He closed with the affirmation that the Covenant was more than capable of handling “big threats.”

Sarina scrolled up to see what had evoked Paladin’s prickly response. To her disappointment, the two preceding posts by Overdrive and Rune had been moved to moderation and were no longer visible.

Well, that’s one way to squelch rumors, Sarina thought.

She checked her private messages and wasn’t surprised to find three from Overdrive, one of the American Wardens. She closed them without reading. After the last dozen or so he’d sent her, she had a pretty good idea of what they’d be about. And she definitely wasn’t looking to be his girlfriend.

Overdrive had sent his first message within minutes of her finding this forum. At first she’d been excited by the prospect of connecting with someone else like her. But instead of sharing tidbits about their lives, communities, and daily routines, their exchanges had quickly derailed to become something reminiscent of certain idiots at her high school. Truth be told, he made her feel pretty uncomfortable. He’d even tried to get her to trade photos. She’d been glad to meet Jasper, who seemed completely normal.

Sarina checked who else was signed in. There was Overdrive, which was no surprise. But no DJ. No Mascot, either.

Sarina was curious about the newest American transition, but as far as she knew, Mascot hadn’t even signed up for the forum.

Aw, come on. Aren’t you bored too?

Overdrive had been frustratingly stingy with the details, but in one of his more normal messages he’d inadvertently mentioned that the American hero team had tons of free time. The US government apparently didn’t let them do any real hero work, either. Although Overdrive was quick to brag that the whole lot of them were about to do some ‘really important stuff’. But of course he couldn’t share the details with outsiders. Yeah, right.

She logged out of the forum and turned away from her monitor. She was starting to get a headache from staring at the screen for so long.

Sarina reclined on her office chair, passing a glance over her new home. She hadn’t gotten around to decorating the basement with any of the little treasures her mom had packed into cardboard boxes and sent to her on her first full day here. The naked gray walls insulted her sense of aesthetics.

The only windows were tiny panes no bigger than her palm, positioned high up near the ceiling. The bed, a simple military cot, had been pushed against a wall opposite the non-windows. There was a dresser with a mirror. And the computer desk and chair, of course. But that was it.

The bathroom, which had incidentally been constructed for male soldiers, occupied a section of the abandoned barracks further down the hallway, beside her impromptu dance chamber and tucked amid a bunch of other rooms she wasn’t supposed to use.

Clearly, the Swiss government didn’t consider the comfort of their only would-be superheroine to be a priority.

Her father and brother wouldn’t be home for another couple of hours, so Sarina decided to pass the time figuring out Jasper’s music file. She googled her problem and found a step-by-step guide on how to install the media player she needed. A few minutes later, she was able to open the link, and a feeling of pride washed over her.

She slid the headphones down over her ears so that none of the guards who sometimes patrolled the hallway would hear what she was up to. Then she clicked the play button. At once, her ears were filled with undulating flute sounds, followed by warbling bird calls.

Huh? This was not her usual fare. She checked the file name to see if she had she clicked on the wrong thing. No such luck. She frowned. For something cooked up by a professional, powered musician, the composition seemed kind of unimpressive.

Then the sounds began to develop, picking up fragments of a pervasive electronic bass that, while a definite improvement over chickadees or whatever, just didn’t seem to fit. Still, there was something familiar about it. Something she couldn’t put her finger on.

Some part of her subconscious recognized it, though, and her body responded by sitting up straight. Then slowly, ever so gradually, she began to be filled with a feeling of possibility. Of potential and presence.

Her power had been triggered somehow and was coming on, she could feel it. It was starting to expand inside of her along with the bass, pulsing beneath her skin and through her bloodstream, threatening to fill her with something darker than confidence.

I am here.

It was a feeling rather than a concrete thought.

When she realized what was about to happen, Sarina knew she had to stop. Jasper had told her that she should shouldn’t continue if anything weird started happening, and this definitely classified as weird.

She peeled off the headphones and tossed them on the desk, then tried to slide her office chair back for good measure. But its wheels barely budged.

Sarina dropped her gaze to the floor and was startled to notice that a colorful floral-print carpet was now covering most of the dull parquet.

When she looked back up, an array of bright colors teased the edges of her field of vision. She turned her gaze on those ugly gray walls. Except they weren’t gray anymore. Twisting bands of electric blue and neon purple ran across their full width, arranged in artful, convoluted patterns.

“Whoa,” she said, not sure whom she was talking to.

Had she done all this? She must have. With the help of Jasper’s track, of course. She couldn’t even fathom what might have happened had she not stopped listening to the track when she did. But I wasn’t dancing. Not even a little.

She tried to bring her emotions — surprise, shock, and a little bit of satisfaction — under control. Remembering how freakishly enormous her range had been during her transition, she snuck over to the door and peeped into the hallway. Still dull and gray. Fortunately, she had somehow been able to keep a lid on it.

She took a deep breath, then returned to the computer monitor to type an offline message for Jasper.

But instead of the chat window she expected to see, the screen was showing a big black square that hadn’t been there just moments before. As she watched, a few words of white blocky text began to appear in the box, being typed by some invisible hands.

She spent a few dumbfounded seconds staring at the crude input console before her eyes processed the message on the screen.

“Hi, Dancer. You look bored. Wanna have some fun?”
 

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13 thoughts on “2.2

  1. Ended up posting this one two hours later than usual – slept in and remembered my plans to make some final edits, sorry about that.

    For those of you not terribly familiar with Switzerland – an Alp is a pasture area for cows and goats fairly high up in the mountains, usually only used during the summer.

    As always, thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the chapter – votes and comments still make me happy. I’m writing this story to reach as many people as I possibly can with it, and votes bring more readers in. http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=anathema

    I’d also like to give a reminder that you can request more information about specific people, background events or anything you like, and I’ll work more of it into future chapters.

  2. What just happened to the computer!

    Also: kind of weird, you have people with powers and then you treat them like trash – which is totally going to make them cooperate with your researchers and generally be safe people to be around >_>

    Actually knowing my government (UK) I guess I can believe that.

    • In their defense (slightly), the Pulse only happened a bit over two years ago, and they’re still rather unprepared to properly deal with that kind of situation.
      Many nations don’t even try, and let the UN handle the mess instead. Less expensive, and lets them blame someone else if something goes wrong.

  3. I hope you take this as constructive criticism and not just me attacking your story. I’ve been reading your story for a few weeks now and while I like the premise, I’ve been having some trouble really getting into the story and the reason is a lack of information.

    For example, while chapter 1.6 did answer some questions about the world of Anathema, it would be a lot better if you somehow found a way to introduce that information more organically in the story itself feather than making a chapter long info dump.

    Also, you tend to withhold information about the world in favor of focusing on what the viewpoint character is doing and thinking at the moment. While this is very good for character development, it creates a disconnect between the reader and the character when they talk about things that are common knowledge to them, but unknown tho the reader. If these background details were a mystery or something the reader and characters find out at the same time that would be okay, but as it stands, I just keep wondering what the characters are talking about and hope it gets explained soon.

    Anyway, there have been two questions I’ve been dieting to get the answers to:
    1. When Chris transitioned, why did she suddenly decide to become a superhero? I’ve re-read chapter 1.1 and I don’t recall anything in her personality that would suggest that she had a desire to stop crime if given the chance. It just seems that she once she got powers she decided she was going to be a superhero just ’cause.
    2. From what I’ve been able to gather, the Covenant is a United Nations organization who’s job is to find newly transitioned individuals and lock them up until said super powered individuals agree to join up with them. I’m guessing the United Nations has more power in this story than the real world because of the pulse since they seem to have juristriction in both the U.S. and Switzerland and presumably everywhere else. What I want to know is what exactly they do, how they go about doing it and their history. For such a big part of the story so far we know very little about them, and since Chris and Serina seem to know about them already, I don’t think it would be a spoiler to learn more about them.

    Sorry this post is so long, just a lot I’ve wanted to get off my chest. Until Sunday goodbye.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback! I intend to re-write the end of chapter 1.5 some to make that final decision more clear. 1.1 doesn’t tell as much, because the situation changes quite a bit with the events mentioned in 1.5. Other readers had suggested switching to a first person narrative for similar reasons, but I think I can achieve the same with third person. Hopefully the second arc does a better job with the characterization than the first.

      I had planned to feature the Covenant with much more detail in the third arc, but if that’s too late, I’ll see about covering some of it during the second arc.

      The common way of inserting background information into a superhero narrative appears to be by having characters attend classes. But I’m avoiding the superhero high school theme, it has been done plenty elsewhere, and powers appeared so recently that many factors remain unexplained to date. I hope you’ll enjoy delving into the various Unknowns together with the characters!

  4. Typos:

    considerations.”I read that many poor farmer families —> Missing space between sentences.

    homework emailed —> I think we found the missing space! There are two spaces here.

  5. Typo:

    She felt a smile cross her face. She wasn’t used to accepting compliments. Luckily, Jasper changed the subject a moment later. That reminds me. Try listening to this.”

    She felt a smile cross her face. She wasn’t used to accepting compliments. Luckily, Jasper changed the subject a moment later. “That reminds me. Try listening to this.”
    ^- Missing quotation mark here.

  6. Reading the first part of this chapter, I was speculating that Serina’s powers only work when she has an audience. But then the audio file from Jasper voided that theory.

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