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  1. Yesterday
  2. Technical matters

    Ok. Stream speed up to 30min.
  3. Last week
  4. Technical matters

    And it worked. 2h speedwork.
  5. Technical matters

    Ok. I make this stream today for few hours. I prefer some material, I think I will go smooth. Come if you have questions or want to see how it all works.
  6. Technical matters

    I think of making a stream when I show how to make a process. From sculpting character to character game ready with all animations and fully controllable. I think all process (without sculpting) take me like 15 min. But I can explain every matter if someone asks. I try to make a recording of this stream. Hm. I need to find some time to make these things.
  7. Earlier
  8. There’s a lot of driving going on (Patreon post for 03-04-18)

    If you have questions, you can ask them in the comments below or by emailing them to s.stpierre@thetigerwrites.com

    As I mentioned last week, I now drive later if I want to. This week I did it every day because I wanted to make sure that I’d be home on time to start my vacation, and I am writing this...

    If you want to read the rest of the post, which includes more about my week, as well as my writings, you can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/17503055

  9. Chapter 05

    I hesitated in front of the door. It was glossy white, freshly painted like the porch. It was one thing to believe my friends would be ok with the way I looked; it was another one completely to put it to the test. I steeled myself and knocked. There was silence. I prayed that they were home and knocked again. "Hold on to your fucking horses," came a Wilma's voices from somewhere deeper in the house. The door opened. "Ok, what's you want?" Wilma was a small woman at five-four. I never used 'petite' to describe her be cause she had quite the set of curves on her body. Her blond hair was tied back in a pony tail, she didn't have any make up on as usual. She was wearing an old faded t-shirt, pink with an arrow on it pointing up 'my eyes are up there' was written underneath. I'd gotten her the shirt two years ago for her birthday, she always like showing off her breast so I figured it would help her play on that. I'd accidently picked one that was a size too small. She'd never complained about it. Purple sweat pants completed her ensemble, except for the cherry lollipop she was holding in her hand. "It's me, Jim. Can I come in? She looked at me for a moment. "Jim Benton?" I nodded and she moved away from the door with a surprised expression. I quickly stepped in, in case she changed her mind and closed the door on me. I closed it behind me. Wilma and Walter owned the house together. They were brother and sister, twins actually. I'd known them for almost ten years now, not long after I'd discovered he furry community. They had been the first furries I'd come across on the net who turned out to be local to me. Wilma looked me over and her expression slowly turned from surprised to suspicious, but before she could say anything Walter poked his head in the entryway. "Who was that sis?" He asked before even looking in, and then "Whoa, cool fursuit." While these two were twins, they looked nothing alike. Where Wilma was small and full of curves, Walter was a good six inch taller and very angular. Her voice was sweet and his usually sounded like his throat was full of sand paper. He was gay, she wasn't. About the only things they had in common where the blond hair, although his was curly, and steel grey eyes. I looked at Wilma, "I'll explain later," and walked to Walter, throwing him over my shoulder and heading directly to his bedroom. * * * * * I was looking at the ceiling, completely awake. Only two hours of sleep after our marathon session and I was fully rested. Chock another one to my increased healing I guess. I carefully untangled myself from Walter and went to the attached bathroom. He kept on sleeping soundly as I moved from under him. Walter had taken no time to get over the realization I wasn't wearing a fursuit. He had a thing for fursuits, in fact he couldn't have sex if one wasn't involved. I'd hoped that realizing I was the real thing would push his buttons, and I hadn't been disappointed. My need for sex had been dealt with after the first time, but my desire hadn't, which was a good thing because he wasn't going to let me rest until he'd explored every part of my new body. I locked the other door, the one leading to his sister's bedroom, and got in the shower. I went through almost all of his shampoo in the process and had to use a comb to tease the dried cum out of my fur. I had suspected I had more stamina now, as well as a faster recharge, but I'd never known that Walter could cum so often. Those previous times when we'd have sex we'd cum once and we were both done. This time it happened so often that I lost track. I had to clean my fur out of the drain three times during my shower to prevent the water from overflowing the lip. One more thing I'd have to get used to, although since I had a bath/shower at home I could let the water rise until I was done. Drying myself I went through all the towels in their linen closet. I was going to have to invest in some heavy duty blow dryers when I got back home. My chain of thought derailed. *If* I got back home. For a moment I'd forgotten that I was on the run from a secret government agency bent on throwing me in a cell and forgetting about me. As real as I knew it was, I still felt like I was in a bad sci-fi movie. Once I was dry I piled up the towels and got dressed. Walter slept through it, even when I bumped into the dresser and left two inches long skid marks on the wood floor. I rubbed one of them with my foot, barely feeling the scoring in the varnish through my thick pad. I'd deal with that once Walter was awake, maybe offer to pay to get it fixed. I didn't expect him to make a big deal of it, but I was still going to offer. I grabbed the towels and headed to their laundry room in the basement. Wilma wasn't in the living room or kitchen as I came down the stairs. I wondered if she's gone out. I could smell her in the room as well as the nuances in her smell, but I had no idea what those meant. I went down the other set of stairs and caught the sound of her breathing. Half the basement was her training room, which consisted of the floor being covered by mats. I saw her eyes turned in my direction as I reached the floor, but she didn't stop going through the movements. I admired her focus. I don't think I could have kept on doing what I was doing if something as freaky as me walked into the same room. I went to the other side of the room, where the washer was and dumped the towels in it. I started it and looked for the soap while it filled. After that I considered going back up, but I still owed Wilma an explanation. I sat down on the floor and leaned back against the washer as I waited for her to finish. She didn't hurry on my account. It was thirty minutes before she came to a gentle stop. "So I didn't imagine you," she said as she stood still, eyes closed. I shook my head. "No," I then added. "I'm sorry for barging in like that, but I'm in a bit of a bad spot and you were the only ones I could think of who might help." "You mean Walter," her voice was colder than I'd ever heard it, "if I hadn't been surprised I'd have thrown you right out." I nodded and looked at the floor. She was right; as strong as I am she could have sent me flying out that door without much effort. She was a black belt in Tea-Kon-do. My ears heated up in shame and splayed against my skull. "I'm sorry." "It's too late now. It's obvious Walt digs you." "I'm sorry," I said again. "Stop saying you're sorry Jim," She sounded annoyed now. "It's obvious you needed to take care of it, and it's not like I'm your type." I thought I heard her smile at that and looked up. She was wearing her Gi now, loosely tied so that the opening showed the curve of her breasts. She wasn't doing that for me. She probably didn't even realize she was showing herself off like that; or this being Wilma, maybe she did, even if she knew it had no effect on me. "What happened to you?" she asked, looking straight at me. I gave her a quick rundown; the wish, waking up like that, the police, waking up in the cell, escaping. I even mentioned the blue balls. She looked at me without saying anything. "I know," I added, "sounds like the plot to a bad movie." "So that was you this morning," she said instead. "Me where?" "There was something on TV this morning about a group of robber with one of them in a fursuit." I leaned my head back against the washer just as it buzzed and stopped shaking. "So now I'm a thief too." "If they're a secret organization, they can't just come out and say what really happened. Come on, cheer up, you're the only furry I know who's gotten his wish and become a real one. You had to know there was going to be repercussions." "I didn't know it was going to come real," there was only a small amount of anger behind my voice, over all I really did enjoy what I'd become. "If I'd known what would happen I'd have been a bit more careful." She grinned at me. "You an over-sexed furry? Who'd have thunk it." "Very funny," I said dryly. "Come on, it isn't so bad anymore, is it? Walter's going to be happy to help keep you libido down. You're a dream come true for him. After what you two've been up to you must be hungry. Throw the towels in the dryer. I'll be in the kitchen. Oh, are you purely carnivorous now?" "I don't know." My stomach growled loudly and I realized that with everything that had happened, I hadn't eaten anything since getting up in the morning. Even with all the stress, how had I managed to go more than 24 hours without even feeling hungry? "We'll have you try a few things and see how you react to them." After that she went up the stairs.
  10. The Lord Tiranis, An Origin, Part 3 (1st third) (an excerpt) Tiranis is a world of humans and furries, of super science and super powers, of ordinary people and extraordinary ones. Stories of the Past is a series of stories exploring the history of the city of Tiranis, as well as the world it exist in or sometimes people of importance in it. This is excerpt is about 1000 word of a 7,500 word chapter. You can read the full story, as well as other stories set in the world of Tiranis by joining my Patreon at the 1$ level: https://www.patreon.com/posts/17449797 A story of the past He was toward the back of the camp when there was a flash of light accompanied with an explosion. Something came at him. He only saw it from the lamp light reflecting off it and raised a column of earth to intercept it. It thudded against it with enough strength to embedded itself in. He walked around to see what kind of projectile it had been. It was a large cooking pot. It was dented and scuffed in place. He looked at the tent, he could see lights in it, hear people talking, he sensed five of them, one of whom was heading for the tent's flap. She was human, shoulder length blond hair, although it was wild around her head at the moment. She wore a lab coat over a bright red shirt and yellow pants. The coat had holes in it in places and burned spots. Like he did with every human he met, he classified her. She fell squarely in the 'not having sex with her' category. He couldn't tell if it was her crazy color sense, or the slightly mad look in her eyes, but he was going to stay as far from her bed as he could. "Good, good," she said, sounding like she was a gun instructor approving of a good shot placement. She stopped in front of him, but her eyes were fixed on the pot. "Nice thing you did there. I don't have to chase this thing to the other end of this place this time around." She grabbed the handles and with a grunt pulled it out, stumbling back a few steps. "No new damage, that's progress at least." Without taking her eyes off the pot she offered her hand to the lynx. "I'm Jenn, you can call me that, or Jenny, or Jennifer. Just don't call me late for breakfast." She turned and headed back to the tent before El could shake her hand. He watched until she was inside the tent, then followed her in. "Stevenson," she called, as El entered. "What was that? You almost killed one of the soldiers. You're lucky there was a hill there to catch the projectile, or you have another black mark on your record." The inside was brightly lit, a dozen powerful lamps hung from the ceiling, and each of the six tables had two more on them, among the.... El wasn't sure what to call what was on the tables. Garbage was the only word that came to him. Another human, a man this time, Glanced at her. He had short black hair and soot on his face, as well as the lab coat he was wearing over a black shirt with some sort of design on it El couldn't make out. "It worked, didn't it?" He was working on...something. El couldn't tell what it was, other than it seemed to be composed of the same kind of garbage that was strewed on the table. He could see a dented oxygen bottle, but with the regularization cap removed. There was also a computer screen, a portable radio; not a communication unit, but one to listen to music, and a blender mixed in with far more items he couldn't identify. The human, Stevenson, made an adjustment to the blender. "That's obvious, but the plans called for it to be a multi directional explosion, not directed. If it had worked the was the plans said, you would have taken out the entire tent." The man looked at her. "What plan?" She pointed to a paper on the table. "That plan." Stevenson looked at the paper. "who did this stupid thing?" "You did. That's the plan you submitted for the weapon you're building." "No it isn't. That thing's all wrong. And I have the plan for this in my head. Why would I bother drawing it? It's a wasted of paper." "You know it's protocol. Every design has to be submitted to me and approved before being built." "Really?" the man seemed surprised by that. He looked at the table, and El noticed that some of the garbage were actually connected to each other, possibly other items the man had built. "Are you sure? Because I don't think I submitted any plans for these either." She sighed. "Stevenson, I keep telling you, you need to submit plans before you build anything. This is the army, not your basement. There are procedures to follow." "Why?" "Because I need to understand what you are building so I can explain it to the brass." The man scoffed. "You couldn't understand what I'm making even with the plans." "Are you saying I'm too dumb to understand your work?" The man took the paper and handed it to her. "There you go, have fun trying to understand it." She took it. "See, that wasn't so hard." She turned and headed to another table with yet more garbage on it. El looked from on to the other. Hadn't he just handed her the paper that wasn't the plan for what he wasn't making? The man didn't act like he had pull one over her. He was back to work, using a welder on-was that a sink? He looked away and around the tent. Two other women and a man, all human, were working on their own things, and showed no signs they had been aware of the discussion between Jennifer and Stevenson. The women looked to be anywhere between twenty-five and thirty-five, just like Jennifer, one was dark skinned, the other's skin tone made El think she was from the Mediterranean area, at least when he'd fought in Greece, he'd seen a lot of people with that same tone. Both had a similarly odd color sense, on was dressed in green and copper, the other in black and bronze. The man was older, and his lab coat pockets had wrenches and screwdrivers in them. He was bent over some sort of...? El had no idea what that could be.
  11. Chapter 04

    I moaned in pain slightly. Over the last hour my balls had become so tender that the smallest movement felt like they were being crushed. Jess was right, having blue balls sucked. "How are you doing?" Harry asked. "Not good," I replied weakly. "You should jerk off. You said that would take the edge off." "They probably have cameras watching us." "Who gives a fuck if they are watching or not. You're in pain, and jerking off will help so just do it." He was right, if I didn't do anything it would only get worst. I turned on my back, closed my eyes and did it. It didn't take as long as I thought it would, as soon as I started my imagination kicked in. I guess I was really horny. When I was done I lied back and let out a sigh of relief. The worst of the pain had definitely gone away. I wiped my belly fur as best as I could with a hand and licked my hand clean since I wasn't going to wipe it on my pants. I'd still need a shower to clean off the stuff that I couldn't remove by hand. "Feeling better I take it?" Harry asked. "Yeah, but this is only a stop gap. In not too long I'll probably be in as bad a state." "That's ok. I have an idea to help with that." He didn't give me a chance to ask. "I know you guys are watching and listening," he yelled as loud as he could, "so why don't one of you come down here. We have someone who's in pain and he needs help." "Are you nuts?" Mike screamed at him, but Harry didn't listen to him he just kept on yelling at our unseen watchers. Harry was loud, loud enough that I had to cover my ears. He kept on going for over twenty minutes, only stopping once someone walked in. "Listen here." The man said when he was in front of Harry's cell. What I saw of him when he walk by was pretty attractive. He was a few years older than me, blond hair cut short, clean shaven and looking trim under his dark blue suit. He was definitely doable. I closed my eye as I realized where my mind had gone. In the state I was in I'd probably do who ever offered. "I'm not here to see to the needs of some sex depraved deviant, or to listen to you scream your head off. So I'm just here to tell you that I'm turning off the sound. You can scream as loud as you want now." "What he's going through isn't something he can control. It's a side effect of the wishes he made. You know tigers can have sex hundred of times in a day, right? well, he didn't word it as well as he should have and now he's stuck with their libido. If he doesn't get off he's going to be in pain." "So what you expect me to find him a girl or something?" "No. just put me in his cell and I'll help him with it." My ears perked. Had Harry just said he was going to have sex with me? I had hit on him a few times after he and Pat broke up, but he'd never been interested. "You're kidding right? You'd fuck another guy just because he's a friend and he's in pain?" "No, I'm going to have sex with my friend because I happen to like having sex with guys, and it's going to help him out." The man was silent for a moment. "I'm not supposed to put two to a cell." "Come on man, what are we going to do? If we could get out of here we'd have done it already. We're just going to have sex. You can hang around and put me back in my cell after. Considering the state he's in we shouldn't be too long." I sat on the edge of the bench, panting in the silence. I was really hoping the guard would agree to it because now that I'd experienced blue balls I didn't want to ever feel that again. "Fine, I'll put you two together, but don't try anything." "I swear, I won't. All I want to do is help out Jim." There was the sound of foot steps, a pause and more steps, those were Harry leaving his cell. Then there was a gasp of surprise, something hitting the wall and crumbling to the ground. Mike was up and standing at the edge of the cell looking at what was happening excitingly. I got up and went to the force field of mine. "What the fuck?" Harry said. I could now see him studying the wall. The guard was sprawled at his feet, unmoving. "Where's the control panel?" "He put his hand on the wall between the fields," Mike said, "about where you're looking." A moment later there was a light glow against Harry's face. What ever else happened didn't please him. He grabbed he guard's hand and lifted it to the wall. There was that glow again, but this time Harry was please with what ever had happened. He dragged the guard to the other side of my cell and did the same thing on that wall. There was a slight flicker in front of me, like the channel had jumped for a moment and when I tested the space where the force field had been, there was nothing. "I take it we're not having sex." I said as I followed Harry dragging the guard to Mike's cell. He placed the man's hand against the wall. I couldn't see any kind of marks indicating there was something there, but when the hand made contact a square of light appeared around it and Mike's force field flickered off too."No, sorry. I'd rather we take care of that after we've gotten out of here." He moved on to Pat's cell. "Are you going to be ok until then?" "I know how long that's going to take, but hopefully I'll manage." "Good. Can you carry him?" Harry asked after he'd removed the IV needled from Pat's arm. I picked him up, and the lightness of his body reminded me that the muscles I had weren't just for show. I was much stronger than I had been before. "How are we doing this?" Mike asked, "are we sneaking out?" "No, they've probably already seen that we're out of our cells so we need to make a straight line for the outside." Mike rubbed his hands together. "Good, that means I get to smash anything in our way." "Try not to hurt anyone too badly." "No promises." Mike headed directly for the metal door and ripped it off its hinges. We made it down the corridor before encountering a pair of guards. Mike was on them before they had time to take out they guns. He just grabbed them by the collars and slammed them against the wall. They fell to the floor and didn't move. "Elevators are that way," he said, indicating the junction on the left with a nod. "Good," Harry replied, "the stairs should be nearby." "Why bother with the stairs?" Mike asked as we headed in that direction. "You really want to lock yourself in a box that someone else can control?" Harry replied curtly. "What do we care what floor they have us get off? Me and Jim can take care of anyone they throw at us." "Only if you're conscious. I'm willing to bet Jim wouldn't be affected, but I doubt he would be able to handle carrying the three of us and deal with any opposition. You take the elevator if you want. The three of us are sticking with the stairs." Harry speed up. I just shrugged as I walked by Mike, accelerating to avoid being left behind. I heard him grunt and then run to get in front of Harry. "Fine, but stay behind me, you're not bullet proof." As Harry had guessed there was a stairwell not a hundred feet from the elevators. I was surprised that no alarm sounded when Mike pushed it open. The stairs were large, me and Harry could easily fit side by side in them. Painted in the wall by the door in red was 'S3'. "We're going up," Harry said. He didn't get any argument. The ground floor was announced by a large red 'L'. Mike opened the door a little and peeked. "ok, I can't see the main entrance, but all the light's coming from the right, so that's were I'm guessing they are." "Did you see anyone?" Harry asked. "No." "The only people I heard," I added, "were in the distance. I don't think there's anyone near this corridor." "Good, then as soon as we're out the door we go left." Mike gave Harry an incredulous look. "You're kidding right? the door's right there." "Yeah, with a lot of witness to watch us leave. I'd rather go out the back way and avoid making a scene." It looked for a moment like Mike was going to argue, but instead he looked out the door and quickly went left. I followed him with Harry right behind me. I knew Harry was right, but I didn't feel good heading deeper into the building. We made a couple of turns until we ended up in a larger corridor that seemed to cross the entire building. "Which direction?" Mike asked Harry. Harry took a moment to reply so I offered. "I think the back of the building is that way," I pointed to the left. "I can hear something that sounds like cars coming from there," I nodded to the right, "so that's probably the front." "Sounds good to me," Harry said and headed to the left. "Is this place being empty making you guys as nervous as I am?" I asked softly. Except for the two guards we hadn't encountered anyone at all. "It's the middle of the morning so everyone's probably in their offices." Harry offered. "Or they've emptied the place because they know we're out of our cells." Mike countered. "Not exactly helping," Harry said. Mike looked over his shoulder, "maybe not, but which one sounds more plausible to you?" Just as he finished saying that three guards rapidly turned the corner, gun drawn. "Shit," I muttered and turned. Harry was a dozen steps behind me so I lobed Pat at him. "Catch. Stay behind us." I added when he was holding him. I ran next to Mike as the men fired at us. At first I wasn't sure they were actually shooting at us since their guns were completely silent. Even with my enhanced hearing I didn't hear a thing, but I felt them sting. Fortunately they didn't hit anything that slowed me down so that I reach one of the men before he could think of running off. I back handed him and he flew against the wall. I heard a loud crunch when he hit and rushed to him fearful I had killed him. He still had a pulse so I sighed in relief. I hear Mike take care of the other two behind me. When I looked at him he was holding two limp forms by the collar. At his feet were their guns and a pool of crushed metal pellets. Curious I picked up a handful and found one that was almost intact. It was a small bearing not even an eighth of an inch diameter. I wondered what kind of gun fired bearings for a moment before Harry elbows me. "Come on, we need to get out of here before they send more people after us." We made it to the loading docks with only one other confrontation, this time we surprised the guards and they were unconscious before they could draw their guns. Outside we were in a narrow alley, hardly wide enough for two cars. "Were to now?" I asked. "We need to find someplace to hide until we can figure things out." Harry said looking around. "You guys go hide," Mike said, "I need to go find Jess." "We can't split up. We need to stick together through this." "Yeah? According to what rulebook? This isn't a comic book Harry. We aren't four friends who were given powers to fight the good fight. All I want is to make sure my boyfriend's ok." Harry grabs Mike's arms as the man was turning away "Fine, but don't run off right now." Mike looked at him, they both knew that if he decided to there was nothing Harry could do to stop him. "Give me five minutes to at least come up with a way for us to stay in contact. We can't afford to completely lose track of each other." "Fine," Mike said, "but make it quick because they are bound to check here." While Harry thought things over Mike just leaned against the wall while I looked around. All I could see at the end of the alley was another highrise As I looked up I saw part of the logo. "Guys," I said, "I think we're downtown." "You're kidding." I pointed at the building. "Unless you know where IBM owns another highrise I know where we are." "Ok, I know how we can do it." Harry said, "We're going to use Craig's list." Mike looked at him, "how the hell is that going to allow that?" Harry took a moment to calm himself. Even I was starting to get fed up with Mike's attitude. "when ever we need to reach the others just put an add there with the header "looking to sell five calico kitten" then in the body make sure that every sixth word forms the place and time were you want to meet up. Give it a few days in case we might not be able to online every day." "You expect us to manage to make an add using . . ." Harry cut him off. "Stop acting like such an idiot Mike. It doesn't take a genius to arrange words around to make something that will look like an ad even just a little." Mike looked at him for a moment. "Yeah, sure, what ever." He turned and walked away. "You guys have fun," he said with a waving at us. "What the hell is wrong with him?" Harry asked when Mike was a small shape in the distance. "Stress I'm guessing, and he's worried about Jess." "Yeah, I guess so. But I've never seen that turn him in a jerk before." "Different level and kind of stress." I said. "Could be. Anyway, he has the right idea. We should get out of here." He started walking. I stayed where I was. "I think it's best if I head out on my own." Harry turned. "What are you talking about? I meant it when I told Mike we had to stick together." "Look at me Harry. A much as we'd like to, I can't exactly walk out on the street and blend in. You take Pat and you find a safe place. I'll keep an eye out on the net for your message." "Where are you going to go?" "I know a few people who'll take me in even looking like this. I'll use back alleys to make my way to them." "We can go with you. I mean it's not like we have any urgent appointment to keep here." "No, somehow I don't think it'll be easy to sneak three people around the alleys. You find a place to wait out Pat. Once he's awake you two hide and figure out a way to get us all out of this mess." Harry hesitated a moment but then nodded. "Ok, I don't know how long it'll take but we'll find a solution." I nodded and waited. Since he didn't start moving I turned and headed toward the other end of the alley. It took me most of the day to travel maybe one mile. Not to say I had to deal with my blue balls. I had to jerk off every hour or so just so I could keep walking. I had to borrow, well steal, some clothes to cover myself up. Every so often I had to cross an open road and by the time I reached the other side I was shaking like a leaf from the stress. But finally, a bit after supper time, I found myself in front of a small two story house with red brown bricks, a recently rebuilt porch painted light blue and a perfectly manicured lawn.
  12. Chapter 03

    I stared at him mouth open. I couldn't believe Mike had just said we should wish all of this away. "No," Jess said resolutely. Mike looked at him in surprise. "You can't be serious. Not after the way you freaked out this morning." Jess cupped his cheeks. "Honey, I was surprised. Yeah, I never expected this to happen, but it is something I've always wanted. I don't have to settle with being a drag queen anymore; I'm a bonafide female impersonator." "I don't want things to change either," I stated. Mike looked at me and rolled his eyes. "'course not," he muttered. "How about you?" he asked Pat. Pat leaned against the table, looking worn. He looked at the four of us and then at his hands. He looked completely lost for a moment and then he closed his eyes. "I, I don't know," he said, rubbing a hand over his face. "I wi . . . I wish I'd known it was going to come true so I could have put a few more caveats on it works. The way things are though? I just don't know." "The point's moot anyway," Harry said, "we can't change what happened." He was looking at us with a slightly disinterested expression as he took another swig form the juice bottle. "What do you mean?" Mike asked, "you still have one wish." "Yeah, but if you remember the wording, it has to be a selfish wish. I defy you to convince me to want to wish myself back to being an idiot." He put a lot of anger behind the word 'idiot' and stared directly at Mike as he said it, literally daring him to try. "Great, that's just great." Mike grumbled. "I don't see why you have such a problem with this," Harry added. "You've got strength, invulnerability and handsomeness" "Not that you ever needed *that*, dear," Jess commented on the handsomeness. Mike looked at his boyfriend and a small smiled cracked his dour face, widening to an open mouth grin. I swear I saw the light reflect on his teeth as he did that. "Good," Harry said as he rubbed his hands together, "now that's settled, how about we get out of this place. I'm hungry and I can hear books calling my name." That seemed to settle it, we left Harry's condo. Harry and Pat were walking in front of me on the way to the elevators. Harry placed an arm around Pat's shoulders, but the other man shrugged it off. The football player's body tensed for a moment and I caught a smell off him that my brain identified as disappointment. I was surprised that I could identify the smell, as well as Harry's reaction; I would never have guessed that he still carried a torch for his ex. Behind me Jess was still telling Mike how everything was going to be ok. The ride down the elevator was in silence. I distracted myself by identifying the multiple smells contained inside the cage. Someone had brought groceries in recently, and my stomach growled in response. I hadn't eaten anything yet either. I got a few amused glances and I just shrugged as the door opened. We stepped out in the empty lobby and I heard something rip. Jess cursed as I turned around. His shirt had caught on a burr and there was a long rip along his sleeve. I stifled a chuckle as he slowed down his walk to try to fix it. Jess' vanity wasn't quite legendary, but it was impressive. Even Mike shook his head in amusement and kept on walking. Jess would catch up to us once he was happy he looked presentable. We stepped outside the building to an odd sight. Police cars were parked in the street, with officers behind them, holding guns and riffles. The strangest thing was that they were pointing them at us. On the other side of the street, behind a barricade was a crowd of people and standing out in the group of men in blue was a man in a gray suit talking with one of the officer. Mike, Pat, Harry and I looked at each other as we stepped forward, almost more out of curiosity to find out what was going on than anything else I think. I heard a cacophony of guns being cocked. "Do not move," Yelled one of the officers. He didn't have to use a megaphone since there was barely thirty feet separating them from us. "Stay where you are, get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head." "Guns and riffles jam!" Pat yelled in return, at the top of his lungs. Harry took another step. "What seems to be the problem?" his voice carried without him having to yell. "I said; don't move." The same officer repeated. "Just get own on your knees, put your hands behind your head and everything will be okay." "We haven't done anything wrong," Harry said, but he tensed, He'd noticed too that a few of the officers had tried to fire their guns. They were now looking at them and each other, trying to figure out why nothing had happened. "We're just doing our job, son. You and your friends need to come with us." I wasn't paying attention to the officer anymore, the man in the suit was talking on his cell phone and I was trying to make out what he was saying. Unfortunately the noise made by the officers made that impossible. A moment later something stung my back, hard enough to really hurt. With a growl of pain I worked at reaching that spot. When I did I pulled a dart out. I turned toward where it had to come and another one hit me in the chest. I pulled it out too and I roared in anger, trying to see where it was coming from. A few more hit me but I ignored them, obviously what ever they contained didn't affect me. "Pat?" Mike kneeled next to him. He was sprawled on the ground and Mike was shaking him, trying to wake him. I saw that Harry was also on the ground, unconscious. I slowly turned, a growled coming from deep inside me, I looked at the cops and roared. Everyone cowered back, except for the man in the suit. He was still talking on the phone while looking at me. Since of everyone here he was the only one not afraid I figured he was the one in charge. I ran toward him and I saw signs that he was getting nervous. Just as I was about to jump over a police car something hit me in the back so hard that I crashed in the car, smashing the window. I used the car to help me up, not paying attention to the red stuff I could see plastered on the door, I was too intent on the man. I was standing again when another hit sent me in the car again. This time I caught the faint sound of the shot being fired. I never stopped looking at the man as I stood again. He was definitely nervous now. "He's healing, are you hearing me?" he said. I could hear him now since he was almost screaming. "Make it a head shot for God's sake!" I heard the shot almost at the same time as my head was slammed against the hood of the police car and the world went black. * * * * * I have to say I never expected to wake up. When I'd called the healing ability 'Wolverine level' I hadn't really considered the extent of what that meant. Now I remembered reading a comic where he put a claw through his own brain. The reason why he'd done it escaped me, but he'd survived something that should have been fatal. So had I. I opened my eyes and they adjusted automatically to the bright light. I looked around the completely white room. Well, except for the missing wall opposite where I was lying. I did expect to feel pain, just not where it was coming from. My head felt fine, so did my body, there was no indication I'd been shot, not even the telltale sign of pink skin. No, what was hurting were my balls. How long had I been unconscious? I sat up cautiously, my balls were pretty tender. I looked for my cell so I could check the time, but my pockets had been emptied. I hoped I was close to the twenty four hour mark, because this was pretty annoying. I didn't want to think it might be getting more painful. I stood and headed out of this room. Only to hit an invisible wall that gave me quite the electrical shock, sending me reeling back. "Watch it, those thing sting." I recognized Mike's voice and realized that there was another cell in front of mine. Mike was sitting in the bench, watching me. "Thanks for the warning," I grumble. I moved back close to the force field, rubbing my muzzle, which had taken the brunt of the shock and looked around. On each side of Mike were other cells. In the one right next to him I could see Pat on a stretcher. "What's wrong with Pat?" I asked him. "He's been sedated," came the answer, but from the cell on my right, in front of Pat's. It was Harry. "Are you ok Harry?" There was a sigh. "I'm fine. The hangover passed hours ago." I sat down and leaned back. "How did they get you?" I asked Mike. "They rushed me and then gassed me. I think I hurt a few of them," he said remorsefully. "I should have wished for his super breath instead." "I know what you mean," I said as I rested my head against the wall. Mike snorted, "right, like you'd have done it different." "Excuse me?" I said looking at him. "Do you really think this is what I would have wished for if I'd known it was going to come true?" Mike Snorted again. "Of course you would have. Being one of those furry things with an out of control sex drive's always been your dream." I stared at him, momentarily speechless. Was that what he though of me? I walked to the force field. "You really think I'm some sort of freak don't you?" I growled. "You with the perfect life, the perfect job and the prefect boyfriend," I added with derision. "Hey!" Mike snapped, standing too. "What, you think I'm happy with this?" he was yelled, showing me his hands. "I'm afraid of touching Jess 'cause I might break him in half if I'm not careful." "Boo hoo hoo," I mocked loudly, "cry me a river why don't you. At least you're able to go outside without having the cops shooting you." "You've always wanted to be different, well now you've got your wish so stop bitching." "Shut up!" Harry said before I could reply. "Will the two of you just shut the fuck up!" He sighed loudly. "Did one of us wish for you two to become children or what?" "Sorry," I said meekly as I went back to the bench. Mike was still angry at me, I could tell, but he looked at Harry and when he spoke his voice was controlled. "What about you? Have you been able to think of a way out?" "No, I haven't," he answered flatly. "How come? I thought you were a genius now. Shouldn't you be able to think of a way to turn off those force fields; reverse the polarity or something?" "I might be a genius," Harry responded, and I could hear the glare he gave Mike from the tone, "but I'm an uneducated genius. Give me a couple of books on electronics and structural supports and I would have us out of here in a jiffy. Without those we're stuck." "How about using . . ." "I can't." Harry interrupted. "What do you mean? Don't you still . . ." "I just can't ok? Just leave it." Harry was spared Mike's reply because we heard a door open and close. In the following silence came the sounds of footsteps. A few moments later a man in his late sixties came into view. He was a little shorter and heavier set than I used to be, but he wore it much better. Actually with the well cut beige suit and crown of silver hair he looked pretty damn good. He stopped before our cells and held his hands before him. Looking at him standing there silently he looked a grand father, kind and understanding. Of course, since he was on the other side of the force field I was pretty sure the image was false, but it was still there. "I'm guessing you're the guy in charge," Mike said with derision. The man turned around to study him. "No, I am not," he replied after a moment, in a deep voice. "My name is Joel Montgomery, I am here to evaluate you." "So it's Judge, jury and executioner kind of thing?" "Please Mister Marcozy, this is the United States. I am here to talk with all of you, once that is done it is my hope that I will be able to tell my superiors, the actual 'people in charge' as you put it, that you are sound of mind and pose no threat to the general population." "All of us?" Harry asked, "How about Pat?" Joel stepped in front of the cell and looked at him, lying on his cot. "I am afraid that Mister Lennon will have to remain under sedation, at least until we have secured a cell that is not so reliant on technology." He turned back to us. "We saw him command the police's weapons, so we would prefer not to give him the opportunity to let any of you out. I am certain that you are good people, but considering your current circumstance I am doubtful that you were be inclined to remain here if you were given the choice." "You got that right," Mike snarled. "Michael just stay quiet, will you?" Harry said with a sigh of exasperation. "You aren't helping the situation right now. I take it these aren't our new permanent residences then?" "Hardly," the old man answered, "this is merely an evaluation station. I am highly confident that once I am done you and Mister Marcozy will be allowed to leave." "What about me?" I asked. The man moved closer to my cell. The way he looked at me I could tell that even with his age he didn't need glasses. "I fear that you pose a different problem. Your appearance is the issue. Allowing you to move about the population will make it difficult to keep the existence of Wishers hidden." "What's a Wisher?" I asked him. "That would be the four of you. I would hazard a guess that rather recently you made one of more wishes, probably simply as a way to pass the time, without any belief that they would come true." "We're not the first ones, are we?" Harry asked and continues without waiting for an answer. "This place is set up to deal with people who can do things out of the ordinary. You wouldn't have something like this if it hadn't happened before." Joel nodded. "You are correct. In fact the first time we became aware of Wishers was during the Great War. We have come across other Wishers since that time, but I believe that you are the first group we have found so close to when the wishes were granted. When did you realize your wishes had come true?" Mike looked from me to Harry with a definitive shake of the head. "Sometime during the night," Harry answered. Mike glared at him. "Harry. You sure it's wise to tell him?" was all I said. "What do you want to do? We're not really in a position to hold anything back. You and Mike might be able to withstand what ever torture they put us through to get the info, but I'm just a regular guy." "You are hardly normal anymore; Mister Marcozy called you a genius. How smart are you now?" "He's smarter then Einstein," Mike offered sharply. I rolled my eyes at his behavior. I'd never seen Mike act like that. Joel looked at him over his shoulder before focusing back on Harry. "How many wishes did each of you make?" "Two each," Harry said. The old man raised an eyebrow. "Only two?" "Yeah. That was the game we played last night. Two selfish wishes." "And what did you wish for?" There was a moment of silence. "Pat wished to be able to talk to machines, and have them obey what he said. Mike wanted super strength and invulnerability. Jim went for the tiger form and healing." "What bout you?" "I wished to be smarter than my friends put together." "What was the second one?" Harry hesitated again. "I had to use the second one to lower my IQ," he said with definite embarrassment in his tone. Joel cracked a smile. "I see. Where were you when you made the wishes?" "We were at a diner on . . . I, I don't remember where it was." "Are you trying to protect someone there?" Joel asked. "No, I was rather drunk when we got there. Either one of you remember where it was?" he called out. I tried to recall, but I had been pretty drunk myself, and I hadn't really been paying attention, Jess was telling a story about something happening backstage at one of the shows, I couldn't even remember what *that* had been about, and his stories were always memorable. "Not really," Mike said, "I think it was named after the street it was on." "Me neither; I don't remember anything about how we got there, except," I added as a though resurfaced, "something about doing some cleaning. Does that make any sense?" I had no idea where it had come from but I clearly remembered thinking about cleaning my place as we got close. "Broom's Diner," Mike suggested after a moment of silence. "That's right," Harry picked up, "near the corner of Broom and . . . Damn it, I can't remember that either." "That is quite alright, I believe that is enough information so we can start the investigation." I lied down on the bench; my balls were getting more painful by the minute. "This place seems rather high tech," Harry said, "how did you build it?" "As I said, you are not the first Wishers we have come across. In the Twenties it became obvious we needed a way to secure Wishers so we build this facility. In the Forties we found a Wisher who like you gained a higher intellect and he upgraded the facilities. In the early Eighties we found one who could build virtually anything he could imagine." He chuckled and I could hear in his tone that he was reminiscing a little when he started talking again. "Poor Seth was very much out there, like he would say. He added the force field and quite a few other things. Now we use this facility to house Wisher we can't be certain can be contained in other ways." "When you let us out, is there any chance I can meet him?" Harry asked, "I'd love to discuss how he built it." "I am certain that can be arranged, although it might take some time. The last news I heard from him he was taking himself off the grid, somewhere in the mountains I believe." "That's ok, there's no hurry. Once you're done here what happens? You call your boss and tell him to let us go?" "No, I will be making my report in person. You and Mister Marcozy should be released within the next forty eight hours. In spite of his attitude I believe that it will be safe to allow him in the general population; after a course on etiquette, of course. Unless you have other questions for me I shall see to it." "I'm good, how about you two?" Harry asked. Neither Mike nor I replied, so Joel left. I curled up and tried to wish the pain away.
  13. Chapter 02

    Something buzzed loudly. I groaned in complaint, my face buried in my pillow and blindly smacked the side table trying to hit the snooze button. I connected with something and it fell to the floor. The buzzing stopped. I sighed in relief and went back to sleep. The buzzing started again. "For god's sake," I whined as I pulled a pillow over my head to muffle the noise, "stop it already." The buzzing stopped a few second later, but the damage was already done. I was awake. I stayed like that for a moment, head sandwiched between two pillows hoping I'd be able to fall asleep again, but it didn't happen. With a sigh I turned on my side, keeping my eyes closed. I might be awake, but there was no way I was going to acknowledge that fact without protest. Through my eyelids I could tell the sun was up, and that it was bright. Maybe it was late enough that it was worth getting up. I slowly sat at the edge of the bed. I didn't want my head to ring any louder than it had to, and I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't ring at all. It was definitely later than I thought if my hangover was gone. I stretched with a jaw breaking yawn and then rubbed my face. I immediately opened my eyes when my hand touched my face, the shape was all wrong. The room was immensely bright for a moment as I opened my eyes and then it faded to normal level. The first thing I noticed as I pulled my hand away was that there was fur on it. It was orange with small black stripes. It went up my arm to my shoulder, chest . . . I touched my face again, not quite believing what I saw; the shape that had felt wrong was a muzzle. On top of my head, among the hair I had two fan like ears; they twitched under my touch. I slowly looked behind me and a tail lay on the bed; it started twitching as a grin spread on my face. I ran to the bathroom. I had to confirm what I thought I was seeing. In the mirror over the sink a tiger's face looked back at me. The top of its muzzle and forehead were orange with black stripes. It had an uneven white mask around caramel coloured eyes and the fluffy white fur from its belly went up its neck, under its muzzle and up its cheeks. I wriggled *my* cheek and the whiskers moved in response. I guess I should have been stunned, confused and maybe even scared, but only one thought was in my head. "This is the coolest dream ever," I said out loud. My voice had gone down at least an octave. There was no way Jess would tell me I could pass myself off as a woman over the phone anymore. I looked at my hands again, there was no fur on the palm and the underside of my fingers, but the skin was tougher than it had been. I ran a finger across is; I didn't seem to have lost any of the sensitivity there. I flexed my fingers, and claws came out from their tip. They weren't big, maybe half an inch in length, but they were sharp. I ran a hand along my arm. I could feel the muscles under the fur, they felt hard. I tightened the bicep and it got bigger, large enough that I could see some definition through the fur. I was ecstatic; I'd never had anything I could call muscles before. After that I ran my hand down my stomach. I couldn't see them because the fur was longer, but I could feel the six pack there. My eyes moved further down almost of their own accord. I don't know how I had managed to wait this long before looking at it, but my cock was standing proud. It was long and thick. I knew that it would be almost nine inch in length if I measured it since everything else matched the image of my dream lover perfectly. I ran a finger along the short barbs and my entire body shivered at the pleasure I felt. I was able to resist jerking off long enough to look at my legs. They too were muscular. The white belly fur continued down over my balls and on the inside of my legs, although it became shorter and came to a point under my knees. My feet were fully human, except for the fur and claws. Once that was done I came back to my balls. I wrapped a hand around them; they were more than a handful now, and massaging them felt much better than before. The ways I could go about pleasuring myself flashed in my head. I could spend weeks exploring the different ways this body reacted to stimulation, but I realized there was one thing I wanted to try before I had any chance to wake up. I sat down on the floor, hooked my arms under my knees and . . . lets just say that I confirmed that I was very flexible, that doing it myself was fun, but it didn't beat getting someone else to do to me and that it taste much better than it used to. Once I was done and had taken time to catch my breath I figured I should go outside, see what the world looked like through these new eyes. Getting dressed proved to be easy. The nice thing about being over weight is that it's easier to tighten a belt than try to loosen it past its last hole. It did occur to me that since this was a dream I didn't really have to wear anything, but everything felt so real that I decided to just go with it. I did have to forgo shoes. My feet had increased in size like the rest of me so none of those I had fit. I didn't think it would matter much. The sole of my feet was like my palm, but more so; the skin was hard and I couldn't feel all that much when I pressed on it. I wasn't going to test it by walking on broken glass, but I was confident I could do it without hurting myself. I finally checked the time when I unplugged my cell, it was almost eleven and I had a message. "Jim, it's Pat. Something really weird's going on here and Harry's not answering his phone." He sounded really worried. "Can you call me as soon as you get this, please?" I spent the ride down to the ground floor trying to figure out how I was going to hold my cell to my ear and still be able to talk in it. I waved to the guard and ignored his shocked expression; I wasn't going to let other's reactions bother me inside my own dream. I dialed Pat's number and put the phone to my ear, the only solution I'd come up with was to talk louder. "Jim! Thank God you called. Are you ok?" Jim asked, frantic. "Of course I'm fine." There was a moment's hesitation. "Are you sure you're ok. You're voice sounds odd." I swallowed a chuckle. He was in for a surprise when he saw me. "Must be a problem with the phone. What's going on?" I smiled at the people on the sidewalk, amused at their fearful reactions. "Harry's not answering his phone. I'm scared something's happened to him." "Are you sure he hasn't just left already?" "Of course I'm sure," he answered harshly, "his coach called me to find out why he's missed his flight." "Ok, ok, no need to bite my head off. What can I do?" "Can you meet us at Harry's place? Sounds like you're the only one of us that's ok." "Yeah, sure. I'll grab a taxi and head there directly." I hung up and flagged the first taxi I saw. Instead of slowing down he sped up so I flagged another one, who did the same thing. "Fine," I said under my breath, "if that's the game we're going to play." I stepped in front of the next one. It screeched to a halt and before the driver even had time to realize what had happened I was sitting in the back. "I need to go to fifty-eight fifty-three Grand Alley," I told him as I put a fifty through the grill separating us. The driver was staring at me in the mirror, not moving. What I could see of his reflection made him a good looking guy, black curly hair, square clean shaven jaw with a slight tan. If the rest of his body looked like I imagined it, I'd happily do him. I tapped the grill, making the fifty fall on his side. "I'm in a bit of a hurry, how about you start driving instead of staring?" I gave him a smile that exposed my teeth. His head snapped forward and with a strangled 'yes sir' the car sped off. I spent the ride imagining what I could do with the driver. I didn't try to guess what was going on with Pat or Harry, or even where the dream might be going. I'd never had a dream before where I'd realize I was dreaming so I didn't know if there was any kind of rules. Since I wanted this to last as long as possible I was simply going to go along with everything. "How much do I owe you?" I asked once the car stopped in front of Harry's building. "It's ok," the driver answered nervously, "it's all covered." I took out two twenties. "I'm serious, that was just to get you to drive faster." "It's really ok," he said quickly, a pleading look on his face. "Please, I have to go pickup another fare." "Oh, yeah, sure." I stepped out of the taxi and leaned back in. "Any chance I can get your number?" I barely had the time to get my head out of the way as he slammed his foot down on the gas. "I'll take that as a no," I said as I watched the car speed away. I turned and walked toward my friends who were standing near the entrance to the building. The three of them wore a shocked expression on their face, but Mike looked really good with it. I couldn't put my finger in it, but he looked much better than usual, and he usually looked pretty good. "I thought you said you were ok." Pat almost yelled as I got closer. He looked like he'd slept in the clothes he was wearing. I realized he was wearing the same clothes as last night, so he had slept in them. And as I got close enough I could also tell he hadn't showered. "I am ok." Pat looked me up and down. "You call *that* being ok?" "Of course," I replied and then nodded to Mike, "looking good Mike. Hi Jess." "What the hell is wrong with you?" Pat actually yelled this time. I looked at him, trying to understand why he was such a basket case today. "I'm fine," I reassured him, "as long as I don't wake up, I'm just perfect." Pat stared at me in astonishment. "Jim, honey, this isn't a dream." I smiled at Jess. "Of course it is. I don't look like this when I'm awake." Mike rolled his eyes. "You really think you're dreaming?" he asked me in a very annoyed tone. I nodded. "Then this should wake you up." And he slapped me. At least that's what the motion was. When his hand connected with my cheek there was so much force behind it that my head spun away, and the rest of my body followed. I spun in the air and crashed to the ground with a groan. "Ouch," I said as I turned on my back. Saying that also hurt. "Shit Jim, I'm sorry. I forgot, I'm still not used to being so strong." I didn't really pay attention to what he was saying. I was touching my tender jaw; it was crooked. Mike's blow had broken my lower jaw. As I realized that I felt a sharp pain, and it moved back in place. After that there was no pain, even my cheek felt fine. When I paid attention to Mike again Jess was scolding him. "There was no need to do that. I could just as easily pinched him." "Pinching isn't a proof of anything," I said before I could stop myself. Jess glared at me. "Do you want me to tell Mike to hit you again?" "No, that's ok. I believe you. I'm not dreaming." Mike offered his hand and pulled me up. I looked at my hands again. I'd gotten my wish. I was the tiger I'd imagine being, and I had Wolverine's healing ability. Which mean that my other wish had also come true. I looked at where the cab had been parked. I had twenty hours or so to get laid before I got the blue balls I'd wanted to experience. Based on the reaction of everyone I came across today I was going to have them for quite a while. I looked at Jess to get my mind off that thought. "You don't look any different," I said. "That's because I was smart to say I could transform into a woman, unlike a dufus I know who got himself stuck looking like a fur rug." "You should have heard him scream this morning when he changed for the first time." Mike said. Jess glared at him. "Hey, I was surprised. I would have like to seen you react to seeing someone else in the mirror." I kept my mouth shut. "Still," Mike continued, "you shrieked like a girl." "That's because I *was* a girl." Jess retorted. "Are we done with the comedy routine already?" Pat growled angrily. "For all we know Harry's dying and you guys are standing here wasting time." "Calm down, dear," Jess said trying to sooth him, "you have no way of knowing that anything's wrong with him." "We got our wishes, right?" I asked. "He just wanted to be smart, how dangerous can that be? He probably just got lost in some science book he finally understands." "Alright," Pat replied, taking a deep breath, "can we still hurry up and go check in on him?" "Ok," Mike said before turning to me, "you're probably going to want to stay out of view until we're back." I tried to raise an eyebrow, and instead felt an ear tilt sideways. "Look around, it's a little late for that." A crowd had started gathering at a safe distance. "The cat's out of the bag." Jess groaned and Pat rolled his eyes. "You never were in the fucking bag to start with." With that he turned and headed for the door. I smiled at Mike and shrugged as I walked by him to follow Pat. The entrance door required an electronic key to unlock, or to be buzzed in by the guard, but Pat simply said "open" as he put his hand on the handle and the door opened when he pushed it. He did the same thing for the door leading from the lobby to the elevator and then pressed the elevator call button. The three of us stood next to him as he fidgeted and pressed the button again. I looked at the indicators and all six elevators were going up. "Come on," Pat grumbled as he looked at them too. "Hurry up and get down here already." A moment later all the number started moving down, very fast. The elevator to our far right was the first one to ding and open its door. Before we could go to it the one right to our left dinged and then the one in front of us. As we watch the four people in it hold on to the rail for dear life the other three elevators dinged. "Sorry," said Pat as he stepped on. I got on next and the man and three women recoiled at my presence. Before Mike could get on they fled the elevator. With all of us on Pat pressed the button for the forty-third floor. Harry's number was fifty eight, it was a corner unit. I was sometime jealous of his condo, but all I had to do was remember that he paid three times more than I did and I was ok with my tenth floor, middle of the wall apartment. Pat put a hand on the handle and whispered "lock, open." The light on the door lock turned green. "Why are you whispering?" Jess asked, also in a whisper. "My voice carries too far here." He answered at a normal volume, "If I'm not careful every lock that hears it will do what I say. I caused a power failure in my neighborhood this morning. I yelled at all the appliance in my house to shut down because they were too loud, but my window was open and there was a power box right at the corner of my house." He pushed the door, but the chain on the inside prevented it from opening. "Damn him and his locks." He put his shoulder against the door and forced it. "Harry," Pat called as the chain snapped. "Harry!" Pat ran to the body lying on the living room floor. We gathered around the jock. He was on his back, eyes opened and glazed over, drool running down the side of his mouth. Pat shook him before looking up at us. "What the hell's wrong with him? How can becoming smart leave him like that?" I didn't have a clue. It was Jess who offered a possibility. "I think he's too smart." He said softly. "How can he be too smart? Are you saying he should have remained a dumb jock?" "Of course not, but he wished to be smarter than the four of us put together. We're all pretty smart to start with so that give him and IQ of what, four or five hundred? At that level he can probably grasp the entire universe." "What's wrong with understanding the universe?" Jess knelt next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Honey, it doesn't matter how smart he is. I don't think the human mind is capable of holding all the information needed to understand the universe." "So what are we suppose to do with him then? Hook him up to a machine that's going to keep him alive for the rest of his life?" "He still got two wishes." I said. Pat glared at me. "And how much help is that with him in this state? How are you going to get him to say his wish?" "Jim's right," Mike said, "and we don't have to get him to say it. We never used the word 'say' only 'make'. As long as he can make his wish it should come true." "But how can we get him to make it. Is he even still in there?" Pat asked, almost panicking "You're going to have to get through to him." Jess told him. Pat nodded resolutely. "Right, so all I have to do is talk him into wishing he was less smart." "Use a number," Mike said, "using 'less smart' is too vague. You have no way of knowing how Harry or the wish will interpret it." "Ok, what number then?" "Well," Jess said, "I think Einstein IQ was two hundred." Pat looked at him and nodded. "Two fifty then. There's no way I'm going to have Harry be dumber than that guy." Pat lay next to the football player. "Harry, it's Patrick." He spoke softly, but with my keen hearing I had no problem listening in. I folded my ears against my head and went into Harry's bedroom; it was the furthest room, and with the door closed I couldn't hear what Pat was saying. I didn't want to hear it, it too much of a reminder of what they had shared once and thrown away. Of something I'd never even gotten a taste of. Harry's bedroom wasn't the center of vanity you'd expect of a football player on the road to stardom. There was only one football related picture on the wall and it wasn't of Harry. It was a team picture of the college team he'd played on. The other two on the walls were a print of a mountain as one of a cloudy sky. On the night table was a picture of his parents and sister. I'd never met them, but he'd shown me pictures before. Next to it was one with two young boys; nephews I guessed. I'd never been in this room before, and the urge to snoop was pretty strong, but I went to the attached bathroom instead for a glass of water. Drinking with a muzzle took some getting use to. I managed it, but about half the content ended up running down my chin. I was going to have to remember to buy larger glasses for my place or I'd have to start lapping water out of a bowl. I'd just finished toweling the floor dry when I heard Par yell Harry's name, so I rushed back to the living room. Harry was sitting, still looking dazed. Pat grabbed Harry's head and turned it so he would look at him. "Are you ok?" It took Harry a moment a focus on him and when he did he smiled. "I'm fine. Hi guys," he added when he noticed the rest of us. "You too, huh?" He said that looking at me. He stood, a little unsteady. "I take it we're all received out wishes." He walked to the kitchen and took a jug of orange juice from the fridge. He took a swallow before offering it to us. We passed so he finished it. "What happened to you?" Pat asked, he'd been fidgeting, trying to restrain the question while Harry drank. The jock stared in space for a moment before focusing on us again. "I got here after walking you home, closed the door, headed for my bedroom, but before I reached it I had a thought." He paused for a moment before looking at Pat. "And then I heard you whispering to me." "So you don't remember anything?" Jess asked. Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry," Pat told him. "Don't be. I'd rather be here and conscious than stuck in lala land, no matter what I might have known during that time." "What do we do now?" Jess asked as Pat hugged Harry. "That's easy," Mike said, "Harry uses his last wish to undo ours and get things back to normal.
  14. Chapter 01

    "Wait," Pat said as the waitress put our coffees on the table, "I thought we said only three wishes." Jess looked at him as he reached for the sugar. "That was only three, honey." He raised a finger. "I'd want to be able to turn into a gorgeous woman." A second finger. "As her I'd have a wondrous voice; so that when I spoke everyone would listen." A third finger. "And when I'd sing my voice would be so beautiful it would make men and women alike cry with joy." Jess could already do a pretty good looking woman, he constantly came third or fourth the drag queen competitions, I guess it weighed on him more than he let on. And his woman's voice wasn't that bad either, although it came across more like that old aunt of yours who spent her entire life smoking rather than a diva. "How about that part about having the straight guys fall in love with you?" Pat asked as he poured three of the creamer container in his cup. Pat was a radio tech; he was the one who made the morning crew's show so fun to listen to. He was also a gear head. His basement had more electronic parts than the radio station he worked for had ever owned, and while he never admitted it to anyone, even us, I was pretty sure he was the pirate broadcaster the local stations kept complaining about. Jess smiled at him his sweetest smile, the one that even without makeup made him look more like a woman then a man. "That wasn't a wish dear, just a side effect of the body and the voice." He took a long sip of his coffee while piercing Pat with a gaze. "What are your wishes dear? Lets see if you enjoy having me poking holes through them as much as you seem to liked doing it to me." Pat nodded, "so, nothing like wishing for world peace, right?" "Yep," Answered Mike leaning back in the corner of the booth. He took a quick sip of his coffee; he drank it black, like me. "They have to be completely selfish wishes, only for you." "Ok, I'd want to be rich." Jess raised a thin eyebrow. "That's creative." Pat shrugged, "this isn't a creativity contest, it's just us wishing." "How rich?" Harry asked while Pat and Jess silently stared each other down. "Huh?" was Pat's only response as he broke the staring contest. "How much money is rich?" Harry asked the question slowly, as if he was still trying to formulate it as he asked it. Which might not be too far from the truth; Harry wasn't the smartest person at the table. He couldn't hide that he was a jock. In fact his nickname from the other football player his team in college was 'Harry har har' because they could tell jokes at his expense and be certain he wouldn't get them. Neither one of us really looked like he fitted with the other three, but for completely opposite reasons. Maybe that was why we were both sitting at the end of the table, ready to make a quick escape if our presence became too much for the others to bear. Harry weighed at least forty pounds more than I did, but he was almost pure muscle while I . . . wasn't. "Harry's right," said Mike, "Father Fred would happily argue that just by knowing the four of us you're already richer than anyone. How much money would you need to consider yourself rich?" Pat looked surprised at the question. He thought about it while he finished his coffee. "A hundred million," he then stated. "That doesn't sound like all that much," Jess said, to which Pat simply shrugged. He didn't reply, instead looking at Harry. Harry's face was scrunched in concentration as he tried to figure out how much money that was. Math certainly wasn't his strength, in fact it wasn't even on the list of what his strength was, but he'd get there eventually, and we gave him as much time as he needed to make it. He finally looked at Pat eyes wide in surprise. "Wow, that's a lot of money." Pat smiled, "well, it's enough. Even in this current economy I could get a four percent return on it, so that's four million a year to live off. Yeah, I think that would be enough. Oh, and no hidden clause about the money being stolen or anything like that. It's all legal." Jess looked at Mike, "What do you think, honey, is that a second wish?" Mike shook his head and signaled their waitress for a refill. "Nah, it's a conditional added to the first wish, just like people crying when they hear you sing." Jess nodded, satisfied. "Next wish?" "I'd want to understand machines, be able to know how they work and what's wrong with them with only a look." He stopped and his face lit up. "Scratch that. I want to be able to talk with machines of all kind, talk and have them respond to me and me only and get them to do what ever I want." "Woh there," Mike exclaimed raising a hand. "I'm willing to grand you the revision of your wish, but that's a hell of a lot more than just a conditional. You can either talk to machines of have them obey you. Not both." Yeah, Mike was the lawyer of the group, bar accredited and all that. Pat shrugged, "ok then my second wish is that I talk to machines and they respond, and my third is that they obey me. Your turn." "Easy. I'd be Superman." On top of being pretty smart and a lawyer, Mike was a comic book geek. "no no no, you can't wish that." Jess exclaimed. "Yeah," Pat agreed, "your boyfriend's right. If you didn't let me put talking and controlling in one wish, there's no way you can get everything superman does in one either." "Ok, ok." Mike said with a smile, "Then I'd be invulnerable and super strong." "What's the third one?" Pat asked. "I'd be super handsome." He struck a pose, straightening up, fists on his sides and a wide smile showing his white teeth. It didn't have quite the effect it has on comicbook covers since he was still sitting down. While the rest of us shook our heads and tried not to laugh, even Harry though that was pretty absurd since Mike was already a pretty good looking guy, Jess mimed a ray of light hitting mike's teeth and then said "bling," splaying his finger as if the light was reflecting off it. "Brendan Fraser," I said without even thinking, "As DJ in Loony tunes, back in action." Pat groaned "God that was a bad movie." "It wasn't that bad," I said. "I liked it." Harry Agreed. Pat smiled sweetly at the jock, "you would, it was right at your level." Jess threw Pat a warning glare, which he ignored, while Harry nodded in agreement with Pat. Jess didn't have to bother with it since he knew as well as the rest of us Pat would never intentionally hurt Harry. These two were a pretty serious item for a while. That was actually how the four of them had first met Harry. We'd gone to the football state championship, not really because we'd really cared about it, but because it was held at our school, and the dean made it clear those who didn't go and support our team wouldn't like the consequences. I actually enjoyed the game. It was one of those guilty pleasures I'd normally allow myself when alone, watching a sport game and wondering what my life would have been like if I'd been a jock instead of an overweight geek. Our team did win, so everyone went celebrating, which meant the school grounds were deserted. We used the opportunity to enjoy one of our favorite spot in peace for ones. It was the outdoor eating area just off the lunchroom. We'd meet up there everyday to eat together and talk about what ever we felt like talking. So that's where we were when this almost six foot six jock came walking toward us with a hand behind his back. We'd never been bothered by anyone because we were gay before. We kept mainly to ourselves, not that we were outcast, but we'd never felt a need to force others to socialize with us so we had a small circle of straight friends, but most of the time it was just he four of us. The tension went up the closer he got. It didn't take long for us to recognize him, The star quarterback's face was plastered all over the place, especially after it was revealed that he'd been drafted by a professional team. I have to say that the first thing that popped in my head was that he was here to get some cheap thrill by beating up a bunch of fags to add to his victory. So you can imagine my surprise when he presented Pat a bouquet of flowers. They were field flowers, he'd picked them on his way. He'd been trying to work up the courage to approach Pat for months now and the high from the victory had been what finally gave him the confidence to do it. They were together for almost three years, and then things cooled down and eventually they broke up. Neither ever said why, but we suspected it had a lot to do with Harry being constantly on the road, but after that they were just best friends, with benefits. "What would you wish for Harry?" Jess asked. "I'd wish to be smart," Harry answered immediately, "Really smart. Smarter than the four of you . . . put together." He'd been giving this a lot of thought, a whole lot of thoughts. "Ok, that works, what's your second wish?" Jess asked. That seemed to stump Harry. He'd spent so much time thinking about being smart he hadn't bothered thinking about anything else. "Well?" Jess insisted. "Give him a break," Pat said, "It's not like he has to come up with them this very minutes." "Well, we have to play by the rules." "The rules don't say anything about that," Pat countered "It's implied." "Bullshit," Pat said, you could hear in the way he said that one word he was getting angry. He turned to Mike. "Does he or doesn't he have to give them all right now?" Mike tended to be our arbiter when it came to settling our dispute. His background in law gave him an advantage plus he was also pretty fair. Of course because of that getting into an argument with him was almost impossible. "No, he doesn't. The rules only state that he has to come up with them, no time frame was mentioned with we came up with them." Mike looked at Harry. "So no hurry, when ever you think about them just tell us. Your turn Jim." I didn't answer immediately, instead giving our waitress time to refill my cup. "I'd want a Wolverine level healing ability," I then said "A what now?" Jess asked. "Wolverine is a comic book character," Mike answered. Considering those two lived together I would have thought he would have known about Wolverine. "He heals almost instantaneously; he can't get sick or be poisoned. Is that what you mean?" I nodded. "The next one would be to have an out of control sex drive." Pat rolled his eyes. "Here we go again." "What?" I asked. "You're always complaining about your low sex drive and yet anytime someone lets you, you have your hands in their pants." There were nods of agreement around the table. "That's got nothing to do with being horny, I'm just being playful. The guy can then walk away and it doesn't bother me. I'd love to know what it's like to be really horny all the time." "That sounds pretty disruptive," our waitress commented as she handed Mike his cup back. I hadn't really paid attention to her before now. "What do you mean?" Her tag said her name was Anna. She looked to be about my height with short light brown hair. She looked to be in her early fifties, but my gut was telling me she wasn't older than forty five. "Well, if you're that horny all the time how are you going to do things like go to work?" "Oh," I was a bit crestfallen, I hadn't thought of that. I turned to Pat. "Look, have you ever reached the point where you need to have sex so much it hurts?" Pat looked at Harry before saying, "yes, I have." The tone had been conversational, but I noticed Harry looking away. "Well, that's what I'd like to experience. So, if I don't have sex in," I was going to say a week, but this was just a game so why not make it a little more impressive, "twenty four hours then I'd reach that point." "Count yourself lucky it's only a game, then," Jess said, "that's called having blue balls, and it isn't pleasant." "When did you ever have blue balls?" Mike asked. Jess smiled at him and patted his hand, "that was before you, dear." He looked back at me, "what's the third one?" "Wait," Pat said. "How about jerking off? Would that fix the problem?" I thought about it, it would certainly be an easy out. "No. It would take the edge off, but the only way to reset the clock would be to have the kind of sex that requires two people or more and not just sucking off. I'm talking full contact, name screaming, cock in . . ." "Watch the language Jim," Mike said, "we're in public." He indicated Anna with a nod of the head. She was still standing next to our table, coffee pot in hand. "Don't mind me dears, with the things I've heard, and seen, in my life you can't offend me. And you're the last customers here so you don't have to worry about anyone else either." I looked around to confirm that we were indeed the only ones left. I looked at my watch; it was past three am. Had we really been here for almost two hours? "Still, we get the picture," Jess said. "So what's your third wish?" "I'd be a tiger," I said softly. I had the image in my head. It was an image I'd spent years constructing, more as a dream lover than as a look for myself, but if I was given the choice that's what I'd want. Close to Harry's height and build, but with more defined muscles and a tail; a tiger's head, muzzle, ears, whiskers and all. The whole body would be covered in fur, cropped close to the skin for most except the head and belly. It lead to a thick cock almost nine inches long. It was human looking, except for sensitive barbs under the gland. The hands and feet were also mostly human, but with retractable claws. "What do you mean a tiger?" Pat asked. "You know, a tiger," I said sharply, "I'd walk on two legs but I'd look like a tiger." If I had been more sober I would have found a more innocuous wish, my furry fetish wasn't something that I normally brought up, even among my best friends. We might be drinking coffee now, but there had been a lot of alcohol consumption at the club. "Like those drawings you get off the net?" Mike asked with a hint of disdain in his voice. "Yes, like those," I answered, exasperated. For all the comics Mike read he couldn't conceive of sexualizing them. When he'd accidently found some of the drawings and stories I'd printed out as jerk off material he'd been thoroughly disgusted. What he'd told me then had really hurt and it was almost six month before we talked again. The others also knew about my thing for furries, and they shared similar reactions to Mike, if nowhere near as extreme. "Look. I'm sorry I brought it up, ok. If you want I'll make another wish." "No," Harry said, "it's ok." The four of us looked at him. "I don't get it, but you do, so that makes it ok." Jess placed a hand over one of Harry's. "Wisely said, we all have things that we normally keep to ourselves. That's part of being human." He finished his coffee. "I think we should head out. I, at least, need my beauty sleep if I'm to dazzle the crowd at the show tonight. You'll be coming, right?" "I can't," Harry said sadly, "I have to fly out for training Sunday morning. I have to be rested and sober." The rest of us agreed that we would be there, paid our bill and went our separate ways. Well, I did. Jess and Mike left hand in hand, and Pat and Harry left together. I sighed as I watched the two pairs walk away and thought that I should have wished for a boyfriend instead. I chuckled, not that it would change anything since it was just a silly game. I was the only one riding the very late bus, and the driver eyed me suspiciously until I got off near my apartment building. The building was completely silent as I entered it. The guard barely looked up from his news paper as I crossed the lobby to the elevators. Once in my apartment I made a beeline to the bathroom, and then to the bedroom. Barely moments after getting out of my clothes I was unconscious on the bed, happy that I didn't have to get up for work today.
  15. So, this is late (Patreon post for 03-04-18)


    If you have questions, you can ask them in the comments below or by emailing them to s.stpierre@thetigerwrites.com

    First off, I need to apologize. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but last Sunday I completely forgot to the write up the post. I remembered as I was driving on Monday, but I had to drive late and that evening I had to finish writing a chapter. On Tuesday I’d forgotten about it again, when I remembered on Wednesday, I didn’t really see a point. So here we are. I’m sorry.

    Driving wise there hasn’t been much worth reporting. Saw an idiot truck driver again who was either oblivious to what was...

    If you want to read the rest of the post, which includes more about my week, what my thoughts were on the movie "Despicable Me 3," as well as my writings, you can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/17366291


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  18. Chapter 05

    thanks you. No, it is not the end, there are 2 other books planned for this, unfortunately, they are in the pre-planning stage at best and at this time I don't know when I'll get back to them (I have at least a dozen novels to write before I can start considering putting this in the lineup.)
  19. Chapter 05

    This ended surprisingly well... That was very good... But epilogue? Is it the end? So soon?
  20. Chapter 04

    I may have to adjust this when ever I rewrite the story into a full length novel (There will me more space so it might be easier to do) but when I was writing this, my thought on it was that Jayson's big fear until this point, one of the reasons why he refuses to become a super hero, is that he will hurt someone because of his strength, and here, in his anger no only does he do that, but he kills him so on top of that he broke one of the strongest commandment. I didn't reread this before posting it, so it's possible I didn't address that aspect of it properly before this moment.
  21. Chapter 04

    Well, he was trying to kill you (and probably rape you too)... So... To be honest, I am not capable of understand why you are feeling this way about killing him... I understand how he feel, but still, I'm incapable of understand it...
  22. Turn Based RPG battle system

    Working on some quick animations. And I put some models.
  23. SO! I saw that over on twitter its Minotaur March so I decided to make a moomoo for this month!

  24. Chapter 05

    Part 5: Resolutions I don't remember anything about the run itself, but when I stopped I was in the school gym. I was too busy fretting over what I was going to do about killing a man to wonder why I'd come here, I mean I'd just damned myself to Hell, how was I going to get out of *that*? "Are you ok Jayson?" I stopped my pacing to look up at Coach Warner standing across the room. My first thought was to run out, but he was blocking the door. "Jayson, what's wrong?" He started walking toward me and I backed up until I was against a weight rack. He wasn't blocking the door anymore. I could run past him and flee, but my legs weren't listening to me. I couldn't stay here, I couldn't let him find out what I'd done and damn him by association. He placed his hands on my shoulders. "Whatever it is Jayson, you can talk to me." His touch was gentle and I could see the worry and caring in his eyes. For a moment I wanted to tell him everything, I even opened my mouth before I regained my senses and pushed him away hard. He backpedalled and by the time he'd regain his balance he was almost back in the door way. "Damn it Jayson, I'm trying to help." "You can't help! I'm damned and there's nothing anybody can do about it!" "You're not damned Jayson. Trust me; I know a thing or two about these things." He took a step in my direction and I screamed. I grabbed a weight plate off the rack and threw it in his direction to force him to stay away. Only after it left my hand did I realize it was a twenty-five pound weight, that I'd thrown it with all my strength and that I'd aimed it directly at him. Time seemed to stretch into infinity as I realized I was about to kill another man. Coach Warner caught the weight in one hand and placed it on the floor. "You need to calm down Jayson." He crossed to room again. The shock of what he'd done kept me frozen in place. He'd caught the plate. That thing should have gone through him and then two or three walls after that with all the strength I'd put in the throw. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. "Tell me what's got you so scared." The way he was holding me against him felt so good, warm and safe. "I killed someone," I said softly. He didn't tense up at the news, he just kept holding me. I started crying. He let me cry for a few minutes. "How did it happen?" I told him everything; the attacks, Maggie and Marvin protecting me and what I did to the man I'd killed. I didn't stop crying while I talked. At some point he let go of me. I don't how long I'd been crying, but the front of his shirt was soaking wet. "I need to go take care of something," he said looking me in the eyes, "I want you to promise me you'll stay here until I get back." I nodded and he left. I kept standing there for a while, unsure of what to do. There were all those weight machines I could use to keep myself busy, but I didn't feel like using them, I was too tired. I sat down in a corner, brought my knees against me, folded my arms over them and rested my head. I was woken up by voices in the corridor, Coach Warner speaking with someone else. "You're the one who got me into this so you're going to help out," the coach said. "I was not given a choice," the other replied in a deep and vibrant voice, "he requested you personally." "You could have said no." "Not quite, I owed him this favor." "I'm not saying you should have said no, I'm actually liking it here, but he needs your help. You know I'm more of a sword and shield kind of guy, that's not what he needs." They entered the room and the coach's friend surprised me, from the voice I'd expected someone tall and broad shouldered like him; instead he was shorter than I was and didn't look muscular at all in dress pants and baggy shirt. "Jayson," Coach Warner said as I stood, "I'd like you to meet Al, he's," there was a moment of hesitation, "a friend of mine." "Thor has told me some of what happened to you," Al said standing straight and commanding. I gulped. "What I need to know from you is why it came to this." I tried to answer, but I found myself staring at the floor instead. "Thor, would you leave us alone please?" "Sure thing, I have to make a few calls anyway. I'll be in my office if you need me." "Jayson, please look at me," Al said a few moments later. I did and found myself gazing into his eyes. They were grey like storm clouds and I could have sworn that just like clouds the colors were shifting. "Now, tell me why someone who has the training to fight let it come to the point where you lost control." "I don't know how to fight," I said weakly. "Thor has told me that you are a trained martial artist." "It's not the same thing. In class it's controlled, my opponent knows the moves I'll make and what to do against them. In the tournaments I do worry about hurting someone, that's why I don't fight as hard as I could, but at least I know that we're all trained. Out there, I don't know what to expect." "So killing that man was an accident?" "No," I said with shame, "I got angry that he hurt Maggie, but once I started punching him my anger became about being pushed around and not able to do anything about it as well as all the other things I can't do so I won't stand out." "That can't, or won't do?" "Same difference; unless you haven't noticed this town isn't exactly tolerant of anyone who's different." "I have just arrived. I have not had the time to observe." "Trust me, in this place if you don't fit within a mold they consider normal you're shit out of luck." Al gave me a small smile and then looked around. His gaze stopped on each machines in the room and I could see him judging them and not being impressed. Finally he went to the Lat workout machine. "Thor has also mentioned that you believe you are damned." "Well yeah. I killed a guy. That's a straight line to Hell." "I was under the impression that your god was a forgiving one." "I can't ask him to forgive that," I said looking at my blood covered hands, "What I did is just too horrible." It hit me that I hadn't even thought about how I was going to face my parents. "Before the thoughts you are currently having depress you so much you cannot do anything productive come help me." Al's commanding tone snapped me out of it and I joined him by the machine. He was crouched down placing the pin in one of the lower plate in the weight stack; he pointed at the bar above my head. "Please grab it and pull." I did and at least three hundred pounds of weight went up. "Pull it until it is as high as it will go." I followed his instructions, and then he kicked me in the stomach. The kick had more strength then someone his size should have and I lost my balance, falling back over the bench and letting go of the bar. I hit my head on the floor and the ringing mixed with the clang of the plates reaching bottom. "What was that for?" The ringing quickly subsided as I stood and the pain was a dull throb. I completely forgot about it when I saw that Al's hand was under the fallen plates. "What did you do?" He pulled his hand out and wriggled his fingers. "I have demonstrated that I am not easily hurt." I looked at his moving fingers and the strength of the kick came back to me. "You're a parahuman." I stated. He seemed to think about it for a moment and then had a knowing smile. "If that term helps understand the situation, then yes, I am one." Something else occurred to me. "Coach Warner is one too!" Al didn't say anything he just looked at me with that smile. "But what does it mean?" "It means that if you let me I am capable of helping you." "How?" "The training you need is in dealing with the unexpected. You are aware of this, but have not looked for help in this regard, presumably because you fear what the people you ask would think due to the mind set in this locale." "So?" "So, I am not from here, nor do I share the local attitude. I have seen to the training of many warriors and I can help you overcome this weakness so that you will not have to fear needlessly hurting someone else again." I looked at him dubiously. "Ok, but why are you even offering to help?" "Because Thor asked me to." "Except he's only here because you sent him." He leveled his gaze on me. "You overheard our discussion." "I have pretty sharp ears," I said with a smile, enjoying the feeling of having put one over him. "An old acquaintance asked for a favor to repay a favor and I agreed, sending Thor here to look over you." "But why?"Al didn't answer me. "The attacks." He nodded. "The coach was supposed to protect me? But he never did anything?" "If Thor had felt you needed more protection than you already had he would have intervened." "Do you know who's behind it?" "No, I was not provided with that information." "Then how about why?" He was silent for a moment, studying me. "I do not know, but I am starting to have suspicions." "Are you going to tell me?" he shook his head. "Arrrg! Why won't anyone tell me anything?" this was infuriating. "Because you are a child and we are the adults." I spun on my heels and glared at him hand closing into fists. I wasn't just some kid he could speak down to, I was sixteen. "You wish to strike me," he stated as if he'd read my mind, "what is stopping you? Why are you not doing it? Do you believe I cannot take it?" The sneer in his tone is what made me lose control, my fist flew at him and he caught it in a hand. Then I was flying over him to land on my back with my arm outstretch and his knee on my throat. "Consider this your first lesson in the unexpected; not everyone you will try to strike will be unable to avoid the blow." He let me go as Coach Warner knocked on the door frame. "Can you guys be disturbed? Jayson's friends are here to see him." "That is quite alright, I am done with Jayson for the moment." "Good." He left and moments later Maggie and Marvin ran in. "Maggie, your arm?" the sling over it was the first thing I saw, then I noticed the cuts and bruises on her face. She looked down at it. "Oh, it's nothing, you know me I was just climbing a building and fell." Climbing a building? Falling? "Hi," she said looking at Al, "I don't know who you are, but do you mind leaving us alone?" "Not at all," he answered, "Jayson, talk with Thor when you are done with your friends, he will let you know when to come see me. Please follow me Thor." Coach Warner rolled his eyes before following Al. Marvin checked that they were out of earshot. "Why did you run off like that?" I looked at my feet. "I couldn't stay there after what I did." "Because you fought him?" Maggie asked. "No, because I killed him." "No you didn't," she said "Of course I did. I beat him to a pulp; no one could have survived that." "They took him out in an ambulance," Marvin said, "I'm pretty sure they don't bother doing that when they're dead." I stared at them. He wasn't dead. I hadn't killed him. I heart flew in relief, and my knees failed. The next think I knew Marvin was keeping me standing. "Don't pass out on us, wouldn't look good for the hero to faint." I hadn't killed him. It took a few moments for my legs to be steady under me. I hadn't killed him. "What happened after I left?" I was eventually able to ask. "I carried Maggie to my car and went to the closest phone booth. I called 911 and waited out of sight to see what the cops were going to do." "What they did," Maggie continued, "was look the scene over, call the Ambulance and then everybody left." "How did you know I was here?" "The coach called me, he said he'd found you here shaken up and bloody. He said that you'd been in a fight and that we should come quickly. Who was that?" Maggie asked. "That's Al, he's a friend of the coach. He said he can help me defend myself." Marvin looked at me. "You don't need any help defending yourself, did you see the number you did on that guy? I don't even understand why Maggie wants us to look out for you." The memory of the fight made my stomach churn and I forced myself to remember that he wasn't dead. "I don't want to ever do that again." "But why? You're a natural at this." I felt like hitting him, but he wouldn't survive it; or maybe he would with that Norse thing of his, but I really didn't want to fight him. "Maggie, why don't you explain things to him? I have to go talk with Coach Warner and then head home. I've missed dinner and my folks are going to worry." The door to the coach's office was open and he was sitting behind his desk. "Where's Al?" I asked after looking around the office and closing the door. "He went home." I sat down in one of the chairs facing him "Why didn't you tell Maggie and Marvin that you know about them?" "Because it isn't something they need to know. Being a hero here requires anonymity, if they realize I know it'll just add one worry over everything they have to think about." "Did you know about them before I told you?" Coach Warner shook his head. "I knew someone was looking out for you, but that was it. It never occurred to me that Margaret would be one to take to the fight." "Marvin?" "The vibs I got off him made me suspect he was a parahuman, but he didn't seem the type to do anything with it." I shrugged; I hadn't known him before he got forced into the part of hero. "Al said you'd know when I should train with him." "He was thinking that you could train with him instead of going to your Karate class." * * * * * "Jayson Mortimer," mom said in a stern tone the moment I opened the door, "where have you been? Dinner was two hours ago." "Sorry mom," I said as meekly as possible, "I met one of Coach Warner's friends and then I found out Maggie got hurt." "Maggie's hurt? What happened? Will she be ok?" "Yeah she'll be fine, she broke her arm," I smiled a little at having diverted her anger. "That's good, I'll keep her in my prayer tonight, but that's no excuse not call us to tell us you'll miss dinner." "I know, I'm sorry mom," I smiled mischievously. "Maybe if I had a cell phone it would be easier for me to let you know that stuff." She looked at me. "I don't think so; you're far too young to get one of those." "Plenty of guys at school have them." "And plenty of *young* people at your school smoke; it doesn't mean I'll let you do that too. Now come on, I'll reheat your dinner and then you can go to your room, you have school tomorrow." I nodded, I hadn't expected her to agree to it, to be honest I wasn't even interested in one but it was something else for my mom to focus on instead of my lateness. "Mom, what would you think if I stopped going to Karate class?" "Stop? Why do you want to stop going? I thought you liked it." "I do, but the coach's friend I met, he knows martial art too, and he could teach me, but I don't really have time to do both, and he wouldn't charge anything." Mom looked at me dubiously. "He's willing to do it for free? Are you sure he doesn't have some ulterior motive?" "Come on mom, he's the coach's friend. Coach Warner would never let him do anything bad." "Maybe, but I think I'll want to meet him before I agree." "Sure mom." I introduced them a few days later and she liked him, on the way home she said that he had an old style charm to him, whatever that meant. Al's training method was weird. Him and me would fight and at random times Coach Warner would throw a box at me. In the box could pretty much anything, a vase, a five pound dumbbell, a beach ball or even eggs. The only way I had to know what was in it was to read the description on the box as it was flying at me while Al was trying to beat the crap out of me. He didn't pull his punches and he was much better than I had imagined. He said it would teach me to pay attention to my surrounding while not losing my focus. I don't know if it did that, all I know is that I broke a lot of their dishes during that first month of training. On the twenty third of February my birthday came and went without too much fanfare; I turned seventeen. Maggie, Eddy, and yes, even Marvin were the only ones I invited. As much as I tried to hate the guy Marvin was very likable, he was funny, pretty intelligent, and good looking; his trenchcoat hid how muscular he was. Most of his jokes were at the expense of the Norse gods and that caused the one moment of discomfort during my birthday. I had to explain to my mom that he wasn't trying to convert anyone; his jokes were just that, jokes. She didn't get entirely comfortable about it, but Marvin did manage to get her to laugh. My parent's gift was a driving course. * * * * * "Hey guys," Maggie said as she sat down next to us, "have you heard?" Me and Marvin looked at her. "About what?" I asked. We didn't see Eddy that often during lunch time anymore. He was spending more and more time with his girlfriend. He'd introduced her to us and for a while she ate with us. She was pretty nice, but definitely from a different social circle. He still did his best t hang out with us, but travelling in the higher class took up a lot of his time, and with March break coming up they were busy planning their trip to Aspen. "There's a lawyer in Denver that's trying to get the Good Samaritan law over turned?" "What's that?" Marvin asked. We both stared at him. "Man," I said in a lowered voice, "if you're going to be in the super hero biz you really should know about that law." "So explain it to me." "The law was setup back in the sixties to prevent villains from suing heroes over damages they received." Maggie explained. "Now it's been extended to also protect the heroes from lawsuit for collateral damages caused from fighting a villain." "So a hero can do anything when fighting a villain and not worry about it?" "Well, not anything, Excessive force can still override the Samaritan law; that would be based on the perceived danger to civilians, but the hero would have to prove his case in court." "What about civilians who get hurt in the fight?" "Unless they can prove negligence on the part of the hero they'll have to rely on their insurance." "So how is that lawyer trying to overturn it?" "He claims that it's unconstitutional; that Mister Terror is entitled for full compensation for not being able to work his normal job because Thunderclap put him in the hospital for 2 month while stopping him from robbing a bank." Marvin looked at me for help, but I shrugged, there was no way I was able to keep all those parahumans straight even if I wanted to. I knew Mister Terror was some sort of second string villain who could make people afraid, but I had no idea who Thunderclap was. "Anyway, I'd be surprised if it'll even make it to court, no judge in their right mind would ever even consider it." Maggie was right; two days later the case was thrown out. March break was marked with Fist and Viking stopping an attempt on Blue Jay's life by Bloodhound. Being a parahuman signer she was Maggie's favorite and the three of us had gone to her concert in Houston; Marvin even let me practice my driving on the way. The concert was uneventful until after the intermission. In the middle of her first song this guy dressed in a leather dog costume jumped down from the rafter and started tearing up the stage. Blue Jay wasn't a hero, she could only create a nimbus of blue light around herself and objects, still she did all she could to keep his attention on her while the musicians ran off the stage. When Bloodhound did manage to get his hand on her he shook her about and then threw her at one of the supports for the lighting gear, only to be caught by Viking. Marvin and Maggie had pulled a quick disappearing act as soon as bloodhound appeared. The fight was quick compared to those you see in the movies, but compared to real parahuman fights it dragged on for ten minutes. In the end Maggie had to throw a grenade and Viking had to amplify the effect with magic just to stun bloodhound; that gave Maggie time to shove a rag soaked in Ether, finally rendering him unconscious. Blue Jay tried to get them to stay on stage while she finished her show, but they declined and disappeared backstage. What surprised me the most through all that was how calm the crowd had been. The people in the first rows moved back, but no one panicked. They were worried and fearful; they knew enough to realize this wasn't part of the show, but even those who left did so calmly. I thought about helping out, but I didn't have any way to hide my identity. Maggie and Marvin missed the two songs Blue Jay performed after they were able to get the stage to working order. They had had a hard time finding a place to change out of their costume since a lot of people used the time as second intermission. I distracted them through most of the third song by apologizing over and over for not helping out. In the motel room where we spent the night Maggie couldn't stop talking about how she'd gotten to meet Blue Jay, even on the drive back the next morning she was still beaming. When we got home we learned that the fight had been recorded and every news show was showing it. One of the news anchor called Viking and the Fist 'misfits' and within a week everyone had adopted it, making it, much to Marvin's concerns, their team's name. A lot of stations tried to track them down for an interview, but they managed to avoid them while continuing their occasional patrol. And while a few reporters hung around longer trying to find them. The news stations moved on to someone else within a few days. * * * * * The mood at school changed after spring break, this was the last stretch before summer vacation; everyone studied a little more and partied a little less. No one wanted to fail their year, even Billy was now leaving me mostly alone since he didn't want to be held back another year. Maggie spent most of her school days studying so she'd have her weekends free to patrol. Marvin didn't seem to be worried about studying at all. I wasn't worries about my grades either; I knew I was going to pass all my exams without having to cram and I didn't have a need to be the best like a lot of the others at the school did. Coach Warner did convince me to practice my running; he challenged me to place second or even first without giving away I was a parahuman. That made me very nervous, I'd spent my time making sure I didn't attract attention, and now I'd be putting myself extremely close to the spotlight, and even in it. I thought about saying no, but he'd been there for me and I didn't want to let him down. I was on the track every afternoon before my training with Al and every other chance I got. I needed to get perfect control over my speed, if I was going to be noticed I couldn't afford any accidental bursts. I placed third in the trials we had in mid April. I was aiming for second place, but I lost my nerves just as I caught up to Melanie. I'd never been faster than her before; wouldn't people start wondering how I'd done it. Maybe there would be a drug test; could parahuman abilities be detected that way? Next thing I knew the race was over. Coach Warner didn't show any signs he was disappointed I hadn't beaten her, but I felt like I'd let him down anyway. So now I was training even harder; that's why I didn't notice I had an audience until I finished my five minute mile. Randall Mitchell was leaning against the doorframe, watching me intently. I ignored him while I cooled down, it wasn't the first time he's been watching me; it was creepy, but he never did anything. He blocked my way when I headed to the lockers. "Good to see you finally pushing yourself Mortimer." "I didn't know you were a fan of Track, Mitchell. Now if you don't mind I need to change and go home," I said as I tried to pass him. "Oh, I do mind," he replied pushing me back. "Didn't Bill warn you about bugging me?" "That bully's an idiot. The only reason I hung around him was because I thought his bullying would be what made you accept what you are." He swung at me. "And what's that?" I asked as I dodged it, "the low man on the totem pole?" I punched him in the stomach. It felt good to finally hit someone back. "Is that all you got," he said wheezing for a few breath. He straightened and took a deep breath. "Ok, lets see what you've got." He rushed me. He swung, I blocked, he swung again and I dodged. He wasn't a good fighter, but he had strength behind his blows. When I saw my opening I struck him in the shoulder. He staggered back and smiled at me. "Is that it?" That blow should have sent him back much farther. We exchanged more blows before I was able to kick him in the face. "That's more like it," he said shaking his head. He gave me a vicious smile as he wiped the blood of his cheek. The cut I'd inflicted closed itself as I watched. Another parahuman? Was this school some sort of parahuman training ground? I started hitting him harder with each strike, but he barely felt them. In contrast his punches had more and more strength behind them. None of them connected, but I could feel it each time I blocked. I gave it everything I had and he barely reacted to it. "What's it like being just like everyone else?" Mitchell asked as he grabbed me by the collar and threw me against the wall. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder as it connected with the brick and more pain as I crumpled to the ground. I sat up to watch Mitchell walk toward me with a satisfied expression on his face. He looked down on me and lifted his fist. "Time to end this; it's been great knowing you loser." Before he could bring it down a hand wrapped around his wrist and held it in place. Mitchell turned to look at Coach Warner as he tried to pull out of the grip. "What do you think you're doing Randall?" "Whatever I want," he answered. He lifted the coach over himself and threw him to the track. Coach Warner landed, rolled and was back on his feet in a crouch. Mitchell took a step toward him but stopped and looked at me. "Don't go anywhere," he said before heading back to the coach. I tried standing while they fought, but the moment I started putting my legs under me my head started spinning. When I gave up Coach Warner walking toward me, dragging Mitchell by a leg; he dropped him a few feet away. "How are you feeling?" "It hurts, al lot." "You have a nasty gash on your forehead." "It hasn't healed yet?" I asked touching it and wincing in pain. "I think Randall's some sort of leech. He stole your parahuman abilities." I thought about it for a moment. "He's going to wake up soon if he heals as fast as I normally do." Coach Warner nodded and went inside, coming back with a roll of duck tape. He taped Mitchell's arms together behind his back and then wrapped them in tape from the wrist to the above the elbow. He also taped his ankles together before calling the police and an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital amidst the police cursing about having another parahuman in town. I ended up with a sling to hold my arm still, stitches for the cut on my forehead and some pain killers. It meant I couldn't run in the next race at school, I couldn't even run just for the fun of it since every time my foot hit the ground my shoulder hurt. Al did decide it was the perfect time to work on avoiding hits. Much to the doctor's surprise my shoulder was fully healed in only two weeks, but it wasn't until mid May that I felt I was back to full strength. Being as close to 'normal' as I could get made me realize that I did cherish my abilities; I hadn't really thought about where they'd come from, no one really knew although they were hundreds of theories out there. Now I realized that they were a God given gift, and I couldn't spend my life ignoring or hiding them. I didn't want to attract attention, but Maggie and Marvin were both heroes and still managed to have a normal life. Still, I needed to get someone's permission before I started on a hero career. "Mom, can I talk to you?" I asked as she walked by my room with the laundry basket. "Of course Honey, is everything alright?" She put the basket on the floor and sat next to me on my bed. "Yes, I just have to tell you something." "Ok, what is it?" "It's about me, and it's pretty big." I had to pause to figure out how to say it. "It's probably going to change how you and dad think about me, but I want you to know that it's still me, I'm still your son and I hope you're still going to love me." She hugged me and kissed my head. "Oh Honey, I already know and I still love you." "You do? How?" "Jayson, I'm your mother," she said with a smile, "mother's have a sense about these things." I just looked at her, she knew? "It doesn't matter to me that you prefer guys over girls, love is love and will always be proud of you for loving someone." Wait, what? "How could you have picked up on that? I've always been careful not to let it show." She chuckles and waved at my room. "You need to work on your subtlety." I looked at the posters of athletes and martial artists I had on my walls. "I don't get it." "Where are the women? The pinup girls that every teenage boy is putting up on their bedroom walls, and then there's Maggie." "What about Maggie? I haven't done anything to her." "Exactly, she's turning until a beautiful young woman and yet you're happy just being her friend. That meant you were either blind, or gay, and I know you're not blind." I had no idea what to think, I was so sure I'd hidden that secret from them. "Does dad know?" "I think he suspects, but he hasn't said anything." "Do you think I should tell him?" "Whenever you're ready to tell him, he'll be ready to listen." I nodded. She moved in front of me and held me by the shoulders. "You don't have to be afraid, you'll always be our son; we will never stop loving you. That it be about the boyfriend you'll eventually find or anything else you decide to do in your life, we will support and encourage you. You are the most precious thing in our life." As she said that I could see tears falling down her cheeks. I hugged her tightly. "Thanks mom." She dried her eyes and picked up the basket, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I had just come out to my mom, and she was ok with it. I had never even though about telling her I was gay, I knew it was something that would come up one day, but I'd figured it was still years away. I smiled as I realized a weight I hadn't noticed until now was lifted off my chest. She was ok with me being gay. And in a roundabout way she'd given me permission to become a hero. * * * * * The school year ended without any other major surprise, I told dad I was gay a few days before graduation and it shocked him, He tried hard not to let it affect how he saw me, but it took him time to come to terms with it. It was no surprise that Maggie graduated at the top of her classes, me and Marvin were somewhere in the middle, and Mitchell didn't. After he attacked me he was transferred to a center for dangerous parahumans. The one small surprise was Bill, somehow he managed to graduate. After the graduation ceremony Marvin, Maggie and me went to the mall to celebrate; we're already worked it out with our parents, this was just for us. We had just left the restaurant when we heard the disturbance at the other end of the hall. "You've got to be kidding," Marvin said, "someone's trashing the place on graduation day?" "Maybe they figure the Misfits are too busy partying to intervene," I said. "Whoever they are, they're about to find out we're never too busy to kick some butts," Maggie said looking around for a place to change. "Are you joining in?" she asked me. I shook my head. "I still don't have a costume, remember?" I'd been trying to find an identity since the talk with mom. Marvin's suggestions had been to put on any old mask, but I wanted something that felt right. "You two go have fun, soon enough I'll be able to help out." With a nod they headed toward the noise while I stayed where I was. The crowd around me split into two, those heading toward the commotion and those heading away from it. At this rate it wouldn't take long for me to end up alone. Something caught my eye over the crowd. It was in the display window of a store. I waded through the crowd until I was close enough to see it was a half mask resting on a shelf; it was a cat's mask, with ears and even whiskers. The holes for the eyes were covered up with holographic lenses of cat's eyes. I walked in what turned out to be a novelty store and put it on; it was made of cheap leather with an elastic to hold it on my head and the visibility was quite good. I looked at myself in a mirror and I couldn't stop myself from smiling; it was definitely a cheap mask, but it looked right on me I added a black wig and I looked like . . . well, not like me that was for sure. I put the two price tags with thirty dollars behind the counter and made my way to the fight. "Stop moving so I can turn you into dog food," someone growled ahead. The crowd got thicker and I had to elbow my way through it. Once people got a look at me they gave me room. I made it to the railing to see the fight was on the level below; Viking and Fist were fighting Bloodhound. I paused for a moment as Bloodhound caught Viking's sword and flicked it away. Viking raised his shield just in time to take the blow that came next, but still went down to one knee. I jumped over the railing, landing in a crouch and catching everyone's attention. I looked at Bloodhound without getting up "here doggy doggy," I said softly before springing toward him. This was going to be fun. * * * * * EPILOQUE The older man entered the younger one's office closing the door behind him. "You wanted to see me sir?" "Yes Albert, I need you to inform the Combine that I won't need their services anymore." "Yes sir, I'll inform them we are terminating the contract." "No, we are severing all ties to them." "They will not be pleased with that." "That's not my problem. Point out to them that after ten month the target's still alive." "Multiple parahumans have been running interferences." "Why should I care? I paid them to take care of the problem, not to make excuses. I'll take care of this problem myself." "Very well sir, anything else?" "No, that's all." Once he was alone the younger man took a folder from a drawer and read through it. In it were the names of many men, and a few women as well as a list of their accomplishments. He took one out before putting the folder away. "I need you to get me in contact with Adrian Price," he said in his intercom. "Sir," the woman on the other end replied after a moment, "Mr. Price is currently in Atlanta." "And?" "In prison, awaiting trial." He took a deep breath to avoid snapping at her. "And that's a problem how?" Five minute later his phone rang. "Adrian, how long until you've solved your current predicament?" "A day or two, sir. Everyone's in place now. As soon as Whip is adequately distracted we'll be done." "Good. Once you're out I need to you locate and retrieve a new employee." "Yes, sir. What is his name?" "Joshua Hunter, you can start your search in Africa."
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    Working on this.
  26. Chapter 04

    Part 4: The breaking point After the attack all Maggie would talk about was Marvin, on the way to and back from school, during Karate classes, he was even sitting with us in the cafeteria. Did I know Marvin's family was originally from Norway? Did I know his ancestors were Vikings? Did I know Marvin's sword could now slice through metal? Did I know Marvin could do magic? It was Marvin this, Marvin that. It was driving me nuts. The guy was stealing my best friend without even trying. I did what I could to avoid him but it wasn't easy. Maggie enlisted him into protecting me. I let him know in no uncertain terms I didn't need his protection, it didn't stop him. Thanksgiving was the first break I got from Marvin. We drove to Dallas to celebrate it with my father's parents. It was the one time of the year Dad got to see his whole family. Grammy loved having us over, it gave her an excuse to cook. Every year it was a turkey, the stuffing changed each time as she experimented with different herbs. She made her own cranberry sauce as well as the pumpkin and apple pies. The only store bought things Grammy allowed for her thanksgiving dinner was the pop for the kids and wine for the adults. We left an hour early because traffic was always heavy on thanksgiving. We still got there late; Reverb and Boombox had torn down an overpass in another one of their fights so we had to detour through the city. Both had sound based powers, Reverb could generate sounds while Boombox could turn sound he heard into concussive blasts. They had been fighting for years now. She'd beat him into submission and he would escape from whatever prison she put him in then come right back after her. People described it as the rivalry of sounds. Me, I just thought they should get a room and work off the sexual tension there. That way the rest of us could go on with our lives. Because we were late the poker game was already under way. Grammy's tradition was cooking, Grampa's was poker. Grammy hugged and kissed me, she was a plump woman a little shorter than I was. Every time I saw her she was jovial. When I was younger I thought that her super power was to chase the bad things away, as I grew up I realized that bad stuff did affect her, she simply didn't let any of her grandkids see it. After the greeting my folks joined the game. They sat opposite Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty; dad's other sibling, Greg, was seated next to mom. Betty's husband DB, I never got anyone to tell me what the initials stood for, was next to Greg's wife Judith. Grampa and Grammy were seated at each end of the oval table. The fact that Bert's wife Elizabeth and his kids weren't here told me something was up more than the lack of wine glasses on the table. It was a poorly kept secret within the family that Bert had a drinking problem. Uncle Greg told me Bert was in the process of getting divorced and had joined AA in the hopes of getting some custody rights to his kids. The kids had a game going to, but I just watched them play, poker wasn't a game I cared for; I couldn't win at it. "Did you ever find out why you were attacked?" Lizzy asked me. She was fourteen and her name was Elizabeth, but there was already one in the family so everyone called her Lizzy. "No," I answered after remembering everyone knew about the first attack. I didn't feel I was lying, someone kept sending parahuman to kill me, but I didn't know why. "It must have been so cool being saved by a super hero," Benny said. He was eight and Lizzy's brother. His full name was Bernard, but he hated it and got us to call him Benny instead. "Yeah, is was," I lied as I ruffled his ginger hair. At his age he didn't need to be burdened with the reality of the fear and pain associated with the attack. "The Great Fireman came to our school last year," Marc said. Sam, his twin, nodded in agreement. "This year they are saying we're going to have Techknight give the year end speech." "Techknight? From the Justicars?" I asked incredulous. These two might go to an expensive school in Oklahoma City, but I somehow doubted the Justicars would send someone all the way from LA just to speak at a school. "Yes Sarah," Aunt Betty said to my mom, "why don't you tell us what came of it? I'm afraid it didn't make the Dallas news." "Nothing's come of it. The police are still looking for the parahuman who saved Jayson." "Why are they still looking?" she asked, looking at her cards before putting chips in the pot, "Didn't he give his statement?" "He murdered the men who were assaulting my son, so no, he didn't give a statement." Mom still had trouble resolving the gratitude she felt toward the parahuman who had saved me and the atrociousness of the way he had killed them. "That is simply horrible," Betty said, "how ever did Jayson cope?" "Jayson's tough," mom replied. She didn't know about my fear of a patch of sidewalk or how it took Maggie to force me to get over it. "Hopefully the media helped him get over it." "No reporters talked to my son," mom stated. They had waited a few days before knocking at the door and she had unceremoniously slammed it in their face. When one of them sneaked into the backyard and cornered me dad chewed her out so badly that none of them showed up near the house again. He also made sure the school knew about them so no reporters were allowed on the property. That just left them while I ran to school and back to try to interrogate me, but I didn't give them the chance. Even without pushing myself I could leave them in my dust. Once they realized this story was going to take more work than they thought they dropped it. "How could you let such an opportunity pass?" Betty asked, aghast, "Do you realize how much work I have to put into getting Elizabeth to appear on television?" Lizzy rolled her eyes. Ever since she was five years old Betty had her participate in all sort of pageants. She had loved them at first, but now she was doing it just to keep her mom happy. Lizzy had decided to become a scientist Betty didn't care for that idea. She felt there was no future for a woman scientist and gave my mom as an example. Fortunately Lizzy had a better head on her shoulder then her mother and didn't believe her. If Betty bothered asking me I would have told her my mom was a more successful woman than a has been beauty queen like her. The oven beeped and announced the game was over. Everyone went about setting things up and soon we were eating. The rest of the evening was, thankfully, without any discussions of what had happened to me. * * * * * After Randall attacked me in the hall he really started giving me the creeps. It got to the point where I'd even seek out Marvin if I couldn't find another one of my friends. Of course I couldn't always find someone. When he managed to corner me on my own he wouldn't actually hurt me; oh he'd shove in against a locker or a wall, but he wouldn't hit me, he'd just give that same warning. There was a hunger in his eyes when he said that and it freaked me out. A few days after thanksgiving Randall had me cornered again. It was early morning I'd just arrived for my workout and I was putting my bag in a locker when he grabbed my shirt's collar and pulled me back hard. I backpedaled until I tripped on a bench and hit my head on the lockers. "It's just a matter of time now," he said looming over me, "you better prepare yourself." Sometime I wished he'd just get it over with and gave me the beating he so obviously wanted to. "What the hell are you doing here?" Billy said from the doorway. And here I thought my day just couldn't get any worse. "I was just talking with him," Randall said. "Yeah, right," Billy said pulling him away from me, "that's why he's on the floor." I used the opportunity to get up. "I told you before. No one touches the matchstick but me." To make his point Billy punched me in the stomach. "You try to rough him up again and I'm going to pound you to a pulp, you got that?" "Sure Billy, whatever you say," Randall replied. "Good, now come on we got to get going." What do you know, I thought once they'd left, Billy has a special place in his heart for me. The chuckle at my own lame joke didn't last long, it made my stomach hurt. I decided to forget about training and headed directly to the classroom. * * * * * It was the middle of the last period before lunch on that same day when the loudspeaker squawked "May I have your attention please," Principal Pullox's voice came, "Due to . . . unforeseen circumstances classes are ending now for today. Students who normally take busses home are asked to go to the cafeteria, arrangements are being made. Everyone else, please go home to be with your families." We all looked at each other to see if someone knew what was going on, Mister Pullox's tone had been so somber, but it was clear no one did. "All right," Miss Tatia said to get our attention, "you heard what the principal said, classes are over, but that doesn't mean you get to leave here without homework, I want you to read chapter twelve and thirteen, covering the civil war. We'll be discussing it next time." With that most students ran out the class like this was the start of the holiday vacations. "Do you have any idea why we're being sent home?" Maggie asked as I reached my locker, she been was waiting there for me; Marvin, the magical wonder, was with her of course. "No," I answered as I put my books in it, "I don't know any more than you do." I made sure the books I needed for my assignments were in my pack. "How about you? Heard anything from up on high?" I asked Marvin without looking at him. "It doesn't work that way. He only talks to me to tell me what to do. And the less he talks the happier I am." When I turned to leave I had no choice but look at Marvin and I saw some more of the momentary glimmers I'd been noticing on his black trench coat recently. I really wanted to ask him about them, but I had to remind myself I didn't like him. I just tolerated him. "Do you need a ride home?" Marvin asked us as we made our way through the crowd. It didn't look like anyone had listened to principal Pullox, everyone was in the hallways. "No," Maggie answered, "we live just a few miles from here." "Ok, then I'll see you two tomorrow." I was surprised that she refused the offer. I would have expected her to use any excuses to spend more time with her new best friend. I almost asked, but figured it was better if I kept my mouth shut, I might have lost the best friend status, but I didn't want to lose her as a friend completely. The walk home was eerie, everyone was going home and it wasn't even lunch time yet. People were driving like maniac to get there. Some were white as sheets while others were panicked. It didn't tell us anything about what was going on, other than it wasn't just the school that was affected. Dad was home too. The only sound was the television in the living room. "The object," a woman said, "is now passing by Grove Beach, as you can see it has caused the highway to come to a complete stand still as some people are abandoning their cars to either flee or move as close to the water as they can to get a better look." I peeked in the room, my mom and dad were riveted by the image of a crowd of people standing on a beach looking at some sort of disk in the air. "What's going on?" I asked dropping my pack. He didn't say anything, he just pointed to the television. "For those who have just joined us," the announcer said, "Early this morning a saucer shaped object was seen off the coast of Pirate Bay. Words from a fisherman is that it came out of the ocean about 20 miles off the coast. It's been moving south along the coast since then at about thirty miles an hour. "Parahumans have been coming and examining the flying saucer, but none of them have been able to determine the nature of the object." The camera roomed on the disk like object and half a dozen parahumans were flying around it. The only one I recognized was Techno, in his white and silver power suit. The only notable one was someone with a bird like fire around him. The others weren't even in any kind of costume; two guys and two girls. I sat next to mom and she hugged me tightly. I didn't really get why everyone was making such a big deal of it. It was probably going to turn out to be something a parahuman inventor made. Parahumans came and went, the one with the bird like fire aura eventually landed and a reporter asked him for an update. The name Phoenix appeared at the bottom of the screen as he explained that Techno was trying to find a frequency that would let him talk to whoever was inside. He didn't look any older than I was and he was rubbing shoulders with heroes like Techno. I felt a momentary pang of envy but then I reminded myself that I wasn't a hero like they were. One of the woman in civilian clothing said that she was here to try and figure out how the craft flew. She declined to give her name when asked and simply said that she worked for NASA. An hour later the crowd became excited as wall of water became visible in the distance following the shore. The camera zoomed and I could see that the wall of water was the wake from someone flying just over the surface. I could only make out that he or she wore red, but it wasn't long before I saw there was a white maple leaf on the man's chest. "This can't be good," dad said. "Is that?" the reporter said over the image of the man slowing down. The camera zoomed out and we saw Techno flying in his direction. "Yes, it's just been confirmed. It's Maple Leaf, the Leader of the Canadian super team. Ron, do you know what he's doing here? Has the Canadian government made any statement?" I understood my dad's worry. Canadians were nice and friendly, but their army was scary. It had the largest concentration of Parahumans in a military force in the world and while they didn't make a habit of using them, when they did they didn't hold back. There had been that thing with the province of Quebec back in the seventies. They'd tried to split off; there had been bombing and kidnappings. The Canadian army was sent in and the stomped on them so hard the world noticed and it was still part of *our* history books. They never attacked anyone else after that. They promised the world that they would only act as peace keepers, and only go where they were invited. Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan where three countries I remembered who had asked them for help. They were at peace now, but the Canadians had been ruthless in bringing it about. They completely wiped out the opposing forces. The UN tried to restrain them, but it didn't work. The Canadians hadn't committed any kind of war crimes; they had just fought those wars extremely efficiently. With an army like that willing to come in and help a country fight off invaders you'd think there wouldn't be any wars anymore, but it wasn't so. Countries still fought each other and most of the time neither one of them called in help. We were lucky that our war with Iraq was so short; no one had time to call them in. Maple Leaf's uniform was the colors of the Canadian flag; a white maple leaf on his chest and the rest red. He was standing in mid air talking with Techno, by the expression on his face he was more likely shouting. Techno's face was hidden behind his helmet's silver visor so I couldn't tell what he was feeling but he looked relaxed, his jet boots keeping him level with the Canadian parahuman. The camera focused on the reporter. "I've just received word from the studio that Canada is claiming the craft belongs to them. That it's part of an experiment they ran in the eighties and that Maple Leaf is simply there to ensure it is returned unarmed. "Do we have any way to hear what they're saying?" She wasn't talking in her microphone but to the people around her. Someone pointed to an older man sitting on the sand wearing large earphones. He was pointing a parabolic antenna toward the parahumans. "Excuse me, sir" the reporter asked tapping him on the shoulder, "are you able to hear what they are saying?" The man looked at her and blinked before removing one of the earphones. She repeated her question. "Yeah, I can. The guy in red identified himself as Maple Leaf, he said that the saucer's his and he's taking it back to Canada. Techno said it was in US airspace so it was going to remain here until they were done with it. They've been exchanging threats. Oh My. Techno just said that he wasn't getting it without a fight. Maple Leaf said 'gladly'" "The Leaf's strength and invulnerability against Techno's armor," dad said, "it isn't going to be pretty." I nodded. Maple Leaf was suppose to have been the inspiration for the superman character in the comics. The camera turned and caught Maple Leaf just as he threw something behind him. There was a flash of light and five people were standing on a silver disk floating a little higher than the Canadian Parahuman. I didn't recognize any of them, I'd have to ask Maggie later. One of them looked like an Eskimo, with winter gear and everything, one looked like a large bear. There was a thin woman who glowed slightly and one who seemed to be absorbing the light around her. The last one was crouched with his hand spread on the disk. The Parahumans who had been studying the craft flew to join Techno, although two of the civilian ones seemed reluctant to do so. Phoenix's flames burned brighter and larger. The crowd gasped and the camera looked around trying to find what had caused the reaction and eventually zoomed on the craft. There was a small black rectangle on the underside, it hadn't been there the last time the camera had show it to us. As I watched someone jumped out of the rectangle. The camera zoomed close enough I could tell it was woman, she had short dark hair with almost white bangs around her face. She fell of a seconds and then sparks lit up around her. My mom gasped and stood. The sparks became a field of electricity around her and she wasn't falling anymore, she was flying. "It's Electrika," mom said a moment before the reporter, "She's back." Electrika flew next to Techno, and a moment later he and the others left as fast as they could fly, leaving her alone with the Canadian team. Maple Leaf seemed amused. "What are they saying?" the reporter asked off camera. "Dunno," the old man answered, "all I hear now is static." Maple Leaf lost his amusement to rage. Electrika just shrugged and there was a bright flash of light followed by static. "What happened?" dad asked. I had no idea. Had Electrika caused that? I couldn't remember any news story where she did anything like that. The static was replaced by colored bars and 'please standby'. A moment later we were looking at a news room where the news anchor was running toward his desk. "It seems that Lisa is experiencing some technical difficulties. To recap, this morning, around seven pacific time a saucer shaped craft was spotted off the coast of Pirate Cove . . ." I tuned him out and answered the phone. "Did you see?" Maggie almost screamed in my ear, "Electrika's back. I knew she'd get back." "Yeah, I saw." I couldn't quite work up her level of enthusiasm. "Can you believe it, she's back. I hope Claw's back too. Do you think he's in the flying saucer?" "Take a breath Magster." She paused. "don't you find it amazing at all?" "I guess," I said after a moment of hesitation. "You guess? Come on, this is Electrika we're talking about. She's been missing for months now." "Was there ever any doubt she'd be back?" I asked. Maggie was silent. "You said it, she's Electrika, leader of the Justicars. Of course she was going to come back. And of course Claw's with her, probably in the flying saucer." "You could sound a little happier about it." "I know, I'm sorry," I said. I looked in the living room to make sure my parents weren't paying attention to me and lowered my voice. "It's just that after being attacked by parahumans myself the whole thing starts losing some of its appeal. You're having fun playing hero, but I'm just the victim here, over and over." "You don't have to be the victim," Maggie said after a moment, "you can be a hero too." She was right, of course, but. . . "No, I'm not going to fight, ever, I told you before, I don't care what happens, I'm never going to fight. I'm leaving that to you." Mom walked by and I covered the receiver. "What's going on?" I asked her. "Electrika fried all the electronics on the beach when she stunned the Canadian parahumans. The reporter was able to call in the station. Electrika and the flying saucer are heading to Los Angeles, to the Justicars headquarters. They'll be there in a few hours and they'll give a conference. I'm going to make lunch while we wait." "Ok, I'll be there to help you in a minute." "There's no need honey, you keep talking with Margaret." So I did for a while. After that we ate. Around two the flying saucer arrived to LA. And as it flew between the taller buildings I get a better sense of its size. If you took a Boeing 747 and spun it around the middle point you'd have a disk that was pretty much like the one I was watching. The Justicars building was twelve stories tall, just outside the financial district. It looked like nothing more than an office building; no big neon sign, no spotlight on the rooftop, but as the saucer came to a stop a few feet over the roof it seemed to acquire something special I couldn't place. I couldn't help feeling that even after the saucer was gone no one would ever look at the building like it was ordinary. A podium had been setup and hundreds of reporters were seated and standing looking in silent awe as the saucer stopped moving. The underside that was facing the reporters opened up, Electrika, Claw and someone else stepped out. Their companion was tall, almost seven feet tall and very thin, almost gaunt. His bald head was proportional, but looked larger because his features were smaller than usual. A group of people welcomed them with hugs, most, but not all, were parahumans. After that Electrika took to the podium. "Before we start," she said, bending down to the microphone, "I'd like to say that it's very good to be back." "Mirian Bromont, from MSNBC. Where exactly have you been?" "It's more of a when, rather than a where. We don't know how, but while we were sailing on the Pacific we found ourselves in the mid eighteen hundreds." "George Snip, CNN. What did you do while you were there?" "We were taken prisoner by pirates," Electrika said with a chuckle, "we escaped, we lived in the town that used to be where Pirate Cove is now. We investigated ghost stories, which turned out to be an alien, fought it and met Alistair in the process." "Did she say alien?" I asked chocked. "Who's Alistair?" George asked quickly. Electika indicated the tall being who had exited the flying saucer with the. "This is Alistair. It's not his real name, but we never managed to pronounce it so we gave him that one." "Can we talk with him?" an Asian woman asked standing up, "Chen Lee, LA Kanton news." "Do you mind talking with them?" Electrika asked him. He moved to the podium and bent down to the microphone. "Is the space ship yours? And where are you from?" Alistair pointed to the ship, nodded and then indicated he sky. The reporters gasped. "What's going on?" dad asked. "Maybe there's problem with the microphones," mom volunteered. A short man with bleached blond hair stood. "Could you repeat that? seems my studio didn't get it." Alistair nodded and bent down closer to the microphone. The man put a finger on his earpiece. "No, they still can't hear you." Claw moved to the podium. "You're gonna have to 'scuse us. We been working with Alistair for a year, we forgot about that." Claw was around six feet tall. He only wore some tattered pants. He was muscular enough to rival Coach Warner and he was covered twith light brown fur from muzzled head to toe. "What did you forget?" the man asked. "Alistair's race is telepathic. It's the only way they talk. No vocal cords. I'm gonna translate for everyone at home. "The ship's not technically his, it belongs to the exploration guild, of which he's a member." Claw turned to the alien. "You sure 'bout that? You never know, might still be around. "That he was a member of," he said to the reporters, "he doesn't think they're still around anymore. Which I guess means the ships yours now." There were a few chuckles. "As for where he's from, he hasn't been able to figure that out yet, the computer was damaged when it crashed here and his maps were scrap, but he's been able to work out that the trip took 'bout five million years." My jaw dropped. An alien, a real live alien. * * * * * School opened up as usually the day after, but none of the teachers could get anything done. The only thing anyone wanted to talk about was the alien. I wasn't any different. Eddy Maggie, me and even Marvin spent the day trading theories as to where he was from and what he was doing here. Billy even forgot to bully me because of Alistair. The Sunday church service was interesting. The two priests got into an argument over if Alistair was from God or the devil. It might have been funny if the answer hadn't been so obvious. He looked like us, so he had to have been made in God's image. It made me realize just how much of an impact on the Church his arrival had. It hadn't occurred to me to question God because of him. I mean God was everywhere, not just on earth but in the entire universe, so of course it made sense that He had other creations. Ok, if Alistair had had hooves and horns maybe it would have been tougher for me to think that, but the guy pretty much looked human. The Church didn't agree. Within a week there were a dozen groups that splintered off, the most extremist of them declaring that Alistair had to die because he was an affront to God. Didn't we already have enough extremist bigots using God's name to justify their hate? We had a serious discussion about if we were going to Christmas Mass. Dad ended up calling our priest and letting him know in no uncertain terms that if there was any discussions of aliens we would be walking out. Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not some species from far off in the galaxy. We picked up Grandma Doris, my Mom's mom before Mass like we do every year. The congregation that year was smaller than usual. After Mass we headed home to celebrate. It wasn't the party it had been when I was a kid. I was old enough not to need to have gifts anymore, although I was always happy with the pencils Grandma gave me. Just the four of us around the table was special enough. I knew it meant everything to Grandma. We were the only ones spending the holidays with her. Her two other daughters lived out of state and never visited. I hadn't even met them. The reason given every year was that it was too far, but what I'd been able to piece together led me to think that it had to do with a lot of money being lost in the eighties. After the Christmas dinner we went to drive grandma home, only to find a foot of snow on the ground. I couldn't believe it. I had never seen real snow before. Even mom and dad were overcome with wonder. Grandma sat on the porch wrapped in multiple blankets while he had a snow ball fight. The next day she took care of us as we came down with colds. I was the first one to get over it so I helped her. The snow only lasted the day here, but in Dallas it fell for three days, they had six feet of it by the time it was over. The city was completely shutdown, and they had to deal with flash floods when it melted over the next day. My dad's folks were ok. The flood cause some damage to their house, but nothing Grandpa couldn't fix himself. The freak storm sparked a debate about Climate Change. Debate might be the wrong term here, shouting match would be more accurate. Everyone agreed the weather was changing, but no one could agree what was the cause. Scientist pointed their fingers at the carbon emitted by the various industries. Corporations pointed their fingers at weather controlling parahumans. Except for one, parahumans stayed out of the argument. Green Peace hacked the conference's video system to give the Terrorist's opinion on the matter. Science showed Oil using corporation were to blame and since they didn't want to work toward fixing the problem he was going to do it for them. The next day he destroyed an entire oilfield in Iran by petrifying the oil in the wells. * * * * By the middle of January you couldn't really tell anything had happened. The water damage had been repaired, Alistair's ship was parked at the government's parahuman research center in Area fifty-one, the church had put out most of the fires caused by the splinter groups and Billy was bulling me again. Like the previous ones the next attack came out of the blue, I'd almost started to believe they were done and over with. It was the weekend and I was hanging out with Maggie and Marvin. She'd invited him along of course, and he drove us to the old textile factory on the outskirt of town. We were there for two hours chatting about everything and nothing when the guy dropped in front of us. We looked at him mouth opened as he dusted himself off. He'd landed on his feet, cracking the pavement. He was wide shouldered, heavily muscled and chomping a cigar. "I got to go take care of my car," Marvin said, the first of us to find his voice, before running off. "I'll help you," Maggie said as she ran after him. "Nice friends you got there kid," the man said in his gruff voice. It matched the rest of him; ripped jeans, dirty wife beater, unshaven chin and messy black hair. I knew why they had left, I knew that they were going to change and come right back, but I couldn't help feeling abandoned anyway. I pushed that feeling aside and tried to calm myself. All I needed to do was stall him long enough for them to come back. "What are you called?" It sounded like a stupid thing to ask, but that was all I could think of. "Don't have a name yet," he said as he took the cigar out of his mouth, "media hasn't heard of me yet. He spat before putting back in. "But after I'm done with you they're gonna call me the ass raper." I stared at him and he just smiled around his cigar. For once my legs obeyed me; I turned and ran. "That's it, run. 'Just gets my blood going. Don't expect anyone to come to your help this time. I checked the place out and it's just the two of us." Right then I didn't care about help. All I wanted to do was get as far away from him as possible. I wished I'd paid attention while we were walking around because then I might have known how to get out of here. The place wasn't one large building, it was a dozen of smaller ones, although smaller was a relative turn, placed in what felt like random. That created a bunch of maze like path that often became dead ends. It forced me to keep my speed much lower than I'd liked. I was back tracking away from another dead end when he stepped in front of me. I didn't have time to stop so I sped up. I didn't gain that much speed, but I figured it would be enough to shove him aside. Running into him was like running into a wall. I bounced off him and into the brick wall. I then ended up face first on the dirt. "Well that was fun," he said as he pulled me up by the neck and shoved my face against the brick, "just the thing to get me worked up." I saw starts for a moment and then I felt the pain flare up as he scraped my face against the wall. I ignored it. He was pulling my belt off. Please God don't let him rape me, I prayed as I grabbed his arm and tried to get him to let go. Instead he pressed himself against me. "Keep fighting me," he whispered, "you have no idea how much of a turn on that is." He wasn't lying; I could feel how hard he was. I fought harder to get him to let go. "Release him mortal!" boomed behind us. My attacker tensed. "How the fuck did you find us?" I managed to crane my neck just enough to catch a glimpse of the parahuman who had spoken. The media called him the modern day Viking with his winged metal helmet, chainmail shirt, fur lined cape and boots, sword and shield. I was familiar with how he looked, after all Maggie as enlisted me to help Marvin design his costume. "Why the hell do they keep showing up? You their pet or something?" "Unhand him immediately or feel my steel." I winced internally, Marvin had to work on his one liners. My assailant shoved me to the ground. "Don't move. I'm going to take care of the anachronism and be right back." The Viking stood still as the man stomped in his direction. He raised his shield to take the punch and the symbols on it lit up. The man struck it again hard enough that Marvin reeled back even if the magic on the shield was suppose to absorb the impact. Marvin swung his sword over head and the man caught it with one hand. I couldn't understand how he'd done that, I'd seen that sword slice through steel. The man's smirk lasted only until the blue flame erupted from the blade and engulfed his arm. "How do you like the feel of Hearthfire?" Viking said as he watched to other man try to put it out. I winced again. When this was over I was going to tell Marvin not to talk when he was Viking. He sounded way too corny and fake. With a yell the man slammed a fist on Viking's shield and he went down to a knee. "Hey Vicking, scram," the Fist said as he stepped out from between two buildings. The man looked at the new arrival while Viking did what he was told. When the man looked back Viking was several feet away and running. The Fist lobbed two balls at the man's feet. It took me a moment to realize what they were. I covered my ears and looked away just before they exploded. I was going to have to ask Maggie where she'd gotten grenades. The man stood back up. His clothing were in tatters and pieces of shrapnel were imbedded in his skin. He locked eyes on the Fist and ran toward him yelling in rage. When he was close enough the man swung wildly and the Fist dodged. Viking joined in the fight, but he was swatted aside quickly. Seeing Marvin fly back before crashing down shocked me. It finally dawned on me just how dangerous the man was. He'd shrugged off fire and grenades, he'd swatted Marvin without even thinking about it. What was going to happen to Maggie when he finally connected a fist? Thinking about it made it happen. I didn't see the impact, but I heard Maggie's grunt before she flew into the wall. I heard something crack and then she was on the ground, immobile. I looked from her, to Marvin who was trying to get back on his feet, to the man who was smiling with satisfaction and I saw red. I ran at him screaming. He swung at me, but I caught his arm, twisted it hard and punched his shoulder, dislocating it. He was still yelling in pain when I tripped him back and kneeled over him, knees on his shoulders. Then I started punching him in the face, over and over and over again. It felt good to finally hit someone back, to hear bones breaking under my fists. After all the bullying I had taken, after all the times I had held myself back to avoid drawing attention to myself this was one time when someone was going to feel what it was like to be on the receiving end. "Jayson!" My name finally registered and I looked up a Viking. I had the feeling he had been calling it for some time now. He pulled his helmet off and it shimmered, turning into the hood of the shirt he wore under his trench coat. With it off the rest of his costume shimmered back to his normal clothing. "Man, I wish you'd told me you were able to take care of yourself like that." I looked down at where he was indicating and didn't immediately understand what I was looking at. It looked like a rumpled bag in shades of red and pink with a black carpet on top of it. Why did I have a bag between my legs? I looked behind me and for a moment saw only a buck of town clothing before the image readjusted itself into a body. I looked back at the 'bag' and this time I knew it was a face. There were no recognizable features. Where the eyes, cheeks or nose should have been there was only a bloody mess. I jumped off the body and got to all four before throwing up. "Are you ok?" Marvin asked putting a hand on my shoulder. "Don't touch me," I yelled, shoving him back harder than I'd meant to. I ran off, but I couldn't shake the bloody image from my head. I'd killed him. I had killed someone. But worst than that. I had enjoyed it.
  27. Steps to Reproduce: From the home page, click on "Create" near the top of the navigation bar Choose Gallery Image as the media to select and an album controlled by the user Upload an image and proceed to the next step Scroll down to where the user can write down the description of the image Expected Results: The user should have a blank text field loaded for the user, and not one from another previous submission Actual Results: The user can find the text field already preloaded with a description from a submission made in the album Devices & Configuration Windows 10 PC Lenovo Laptop / Chrome 64
  28. Chapter 03

    Part 3: Revelations and Complications The office was large and well furnished. The occupant was obviously wealthy, but his wealth wasn't displayed in gold or silver, it was displayed in age. The desk was over two hundred years old and if the stories were to be believed had been Abraham Lincoln's presidential desk. It was massive and made of mahogany wood; polished to a shine by the care of many previous owners. He had acquired it from the museum where it had been on display for years. The two chairs before the desk had been obtained from Buckingham Palace and were supposed to have been built by Leonardo daVinci. The fabric had been replaced multiple times, but the wood was original. The chairs had been so well built that there wasn't even a crack in them. The settee by the window was from Louis the sixteenth's castle and had to have been liberated from a museum in Paris. The book case taking the entire wall behind the desk was the man's most prized piece in his collection. It had been built in the fifteenth century in a Monastery in Ireland. It had been the most difficult piece to acquire as the monks had been quite reluctant to let go of it. In the end he had had to pay the mercenaries extra because of the trouble the monks had caused them, but it had been worth it. The man was sitting in his only concession to modern time, the presidential chair of Eisenhower. For all his time spent behind his desk he was a well built man. He made sure to go to the gym every day and the gray suit he wore enhanced his form. His black hair was cropped short and it flowed on the side of his square face directly in his beard. "Come in," he said in his deep voice when someone knocked at the door. He was reading a risk to cost assessment on a lumber project in the Amazon. Attached to it was a report on the big cat population in the area. The man who entered was rail thin and much older, with only a crown of gray hair left on his head. "The second attack failed," he reported as he closed the door behind him. "Do we know what happened this time?" He set the report aside and leaned back in his chair. "Sanguine was left tied up, but alive," the man said. He didn't move away from the door. "The Combine liberated him from the police and forwarded us his report. According to it a parahuman intervened and prevented him from terminating the target; some unknown martial artist." "How reliable is Sanguine?" the younger man asked after a moment of silence, "can he have made up the parahuman to cover up his failure?" "That's unlikely, sir. While he's very much at the bottom of the ladder among the Combine's assassins, he has no history of lying with previous failure." "How likely is it for two attacks to be interrupted by two different parahuman?" "Rather unlikely, sir, but still possible." The younger man rubbed his chin for a moment. "How about the people we have studying him, have they reported anything?" "Nothing out of the ordinary; as far as they can tell he's a perfectly normal boy. He's bullied, he's among the better runners the school has and has a small circle of friends, none of whom also seem to be anything special." "Thank you Albert, please remind the Combine that they will not be paid until the boy is dead, and that I will take it very poorly if they decide to renege on the deal. Also, call my wife to confirm she still wants me to pick up the children from school." "Very well, sir." The man waited until his secretary had left before taking an envelope out of the desk. It was yellow, but it wasn't because of age or coloring. His scientists had told him that the paper was made from untreated wood pulp, but they hadn't been able to identify the type of tree it came from. He was surprised that there was a tree left his scientists hadn't catalogued, but the world was large and still kept many secrets from him. From the envelope he took out a Polaroid of a skinny boy. On the back was a name, an address as well as the name of a school. With the picture was a letter written on the same type of paper. The writing was very precise, the mark of someone who had to take great care with his writing. The ink was made from squid ink, but it didn't contain any of the impurities now common in it. "The picture," it read, "is that of a man who will cause you great problems if he is allowed to come of age. You must take every step possible to destroy him regardless of the cost." The letter had arrived over the summer, it had showed up in his personal mail without postage and no one in the mail room could recall seeing it before. Unlike what the letter advised he didn't rush to have to boy killed. He hadn't become a successful businessman by blindly jumping at every warning he was given, but he also wasn't going to ignore something that had seemingly magically appeared in his office. He'd had one of his researchers compile a file on the boy and nothing unusual came up. Still he had contacted the Combine and hired them to remove him, but not at all cost. He wasn't going to put his plans at risk for some unnamed potential ally. "Who are you," he asked the letter, "and what do you have to gain by this boy's death." He folded the letter, put it and the picture back in the envelope. He probably wouldn't find that out, but it didn't matter. With the Combine executing the work the boy would die, it was just a question of time. * * * * * As I'd predicted, after a week of Maggie meeting me after each one of my classes, people started talking. It took me that long to convince her that she didn't have to follow me around in school. No one was going to attack me here, not with a school's worth of witnesses. Of course, by then I had already been branded as the uncaring boyfriend since she was obviously head over heel in love with me and I didn't treat her as anything more than a friend. Those who knew us a little figured it was about time that we got together; we'd been best friend for so long it was the natural next step. Eddy was the only one who knew us well enough to believe us when we said we weren't together. He did question why she was following me everywhere if that was the case. I could tell she wanted to tell him the truth, but instead she told him it was a social experiment. After that she'd meet up with me at my doorstep and then as we left school. She also forced me to get over my aversion of that spot of sidewalk in front of the Pater's house. It was about a week later, we were heading back home. As I started to turn to go to the other side of the road she grabbed my arm and stopped me. We were at the corner of the block. "Okay, this has gone on long enough," she said as she started pulling me along, "you have to deal with this." I dug my feet in and we stopped moving. She was a little shorter than I was but about the same weight so I only had to put a little of my strength in it to keep us where we were. "You can't make me," I stated. "You can't ignore this for your entire life." "I figure that once I've moved out to go to college I won't have to think about it anymore," I replied trying to make light of the situation. She sighed and let go of me. "This isn't healthy. If you don't deal with this it's going to come back to haunt you." "Look, I don't want to deal with this," I said, "not now." Or ever, a voice added in the back of my head. "Well you can't just avoid this like you're trying to avoid fighting. You need to learn to deal with stuff." "What do you want me to do," I said angrily, "just pick a fight with someone and hope I don't break their necks?" "Of course not," she said with a touch of exasperation in her voice. "Obviously fighting isn't something you can just jump in and work on, but this is." She pointed down the length of the sidewalk and I looked in that direction. Like every time before I saw the blood and the body parts. "I can't," I said weakly. "What are you so afraid of? They aren't going to come back." She eyed me for a moment. "Or do you think you should have saved them?" "Of course not," I said forcefully. Don't you? the voice asked, 'thy shall not kill' is one of God's commandment. Shouldn't you have stopped him from killing them? "Then what's the problem?" "I don't know, I just can't." "Let's just try okay? We'll walk together." I looked at her and the earnestness in her eyes made me nod. I looked down at my feet and took a step forward. The second one was shaky. On the third one I happen to look up to see how far I was from the spot and the sight of all that blood froze me. "I can't," I was barely able to say. I wanted to turn and run in the opposite direction, but I couldn't get my body to do anything but stare ahead. "It's okay," Maggie said, "breathe." Only when she said that did I realize I'd been holding my breath. "Close your eyes." I did as she instructed. The inside of my eyelids was blood red. "I want you to imagine that you're jogging on the track at school. You told me once that when you jog you feel like you can leave all your worries behind you so that's what I want you to do now." I did that and the red was replaced by the blacktop of the track. I forced myself to hear the sound of my shoes hitting the ground rhythmically and I felt my breathing calm down. I had to keep my breathing calm when running to maximize the oxygen going to my lungs. "Are you ready?" she asked. I felt her place hand in mine. I nodded as I closed it over hers. "Good, were going to take one step now." There was a flash of red but I focused on the blacktop again. "Another." My breathing sped up. I forced myself to slow it down. I couldn't afford to hyperventilate while running. "Another. "Another. "Another. I froze as a cut up body appeared on the track. The blood pooling around it was vivid red. "Are you okay?" she asked when I didn't move. "Just a minute." There was no body on the track. Coach Timberson was adamant about the track always being clear. There also was no blood. In fact there was nothing red anywhere near the field. The closest to that was the brown brick the school was made out of. The body and blood disappeared from the track and I started jogging again. I took a step, and then another and another. When Maggie had me stop and open my eyes we were on the other corner. I was panting and shaking. I felt as if I had been running around the track instead of imagining it, but I had made it across. "How about we don't do this ever again?" I asked fighting the impulse to look behind me. "How about we do it again tomorrow instead?" Maggie replied with a smile. It took me over a month to be able to walk this block with my eyes open, but it wasn't until after Halloween that I was able to do it without Maggie holding my hand. During that time the Terrorist destroyed an oil refinery in Fort Worth. It made the news because it was the first time he destroyed something in Texas. In the last five years he had destroyed over thirty factories over the world, all of them big polluters. Each time he gave a warning a week ahead of time that he was going to do it. That if the plant was completely shut down by then it would be spared. No one ever did it, even after all this time. Three of the Dallas/Fort Worth parahumans; Smack Down, Whiplash and Reverb, tried to stop him, but by the time the fight was over they were left unconscious and the refinery had been turned to dust. There hadn't been any casualties. He always gave everyone inside his targets time to leave, sometime going as far as throwing them out himself. How he destroyed his targets was something of a mystery. There weren't any explosions or radiations afterward, only a large pile of dust. Some scientists claimed that he had found a way to break the bound between atoms, but even they didn't know exactly how he did that. Some argues that he was obviously a scientific genius; his power armor was ample proof of that, so it had to be a device, while others thought the suit was just to confuse them and it was a parahuman ability that allowed him to do it. Green Peace released another of the Terrorist's message after the destruction stating that until mankind started taking steps by itself to stop polluting the environment he was going to continue protecting it his way. The mayor of New York City went on TV claiming that he was the perfect example of why parahumans needed to be registered. The President also went on TV to say that the United States wouldn't give into terrorism. That if the Terrorist really wanted to protect the environment he should turn himself in and use his obvious intellect to help them come up with a less disruptive solution. Personally I thought the guy had to be plain nuts. * * * * * "What are you guys dressing up as for the Halloween party?" Eddy asked. It was free period and we were sitting in the cafeteria just wasting time. "I haven't decided yet," I said with a shrug, "a ghost maybe." "That's creative," Maggie said, "Maybe you should go as Claw. He's big, strong and can really lay the smack down on the bad guys. You know, what you don't do." The look I gave her told Eddy there was some subtext he was missing, but he didn't comment. "What about you Maggie?" he asked instead. "I'm going as Madam Curie." We both stared at her. "What?" "How come you aren't dressing up as a parahuman again this year?" "Not everything I do has to revolve around parahumans you know," she answered with a distinct lack of conviction. I reached in her bag and pulled out a random note book. On it were half a dozen stickers of Justicar Members. Electrika, Claw, Black Jack, Goliath, Plasma and Phoenix. With a smirk she took the book out of my hand and shoved it back in her bag. "You should dress up as Electrika," I said, "it maybe Reverb." "How about Whip?" Eddy offered. Maggie guffawed. "No way, even if I dared wearing as little as she does I don't have the figure to pull it off." Whip was the most popular parahuman out of Atlanta. All she wore were leather high heel shoes, leather panties, leather bra and a leather mask. I wasn't surprise Eddy had suggested her. She was the subject of a lot of teenager's fantasies. "What are you going as?" she asked him. "I'm going as a Na'vi." "Well you certainly have the height and thinness for it," I commented. "Are they even going to let you in wearing that little?" Maggie asked. "Good luck getting a date being that much of a geek." I said. "I already have a date. Eliza is going with me, also as a Na'vi." "Eliza Munroe?" Maggie asked and Eddy nodded. We both looked at him. Eliza was among the best looking girls in our year, I mean even *I* had noticed how much of a looker she's become. "Err, are you sure she isn't pulling a prank on you?" I asked. "I am, we been going out for a few months now." Now I outright stared at him. "How come this is the first we've heard of it?" Maggie asked. "Because my private life is private," Eddie stated. We were both surprised at that comment. Eddie used to be someone who shared everything about his life with us, even stuff we'd rather not know about at times. "And we won't be the only Na'vi there. There's going to be about a dozen of us. Even Chris Landon is doing it." "Chris Landon?" I asked, "Small and pudgy Chris?" Eddy nodded and I opened my mouth to say something, but I closed it just as fast before I said something even I would think was stupid. "I will not judge, I will not judge," I repeated softly to myself instead. "How about we change the subject," Eddie said, "have you decided what to write about for the history essay?" "Yeah," I said, "I'm going to write about how the Church mishandled things during the Second World War." "Aren't you Catholic?" Eddie asked. "Yeah, so?" "That doesn't sound like a very Catholic thing to do, speaking against the Church like that." "We're not blind followers," I said with a shrug, "anyone who bothers reading history books can see that the Church made mistakes at times. What are you going to write about?" "The destruction of the Twin Towers." "Does nineteen-ninety-eight really qualifies has being history?" I asked. "It might not have been that long ago, but there never was destruction on that scale due to parahumans fighting before. That's what launched mayor Guiliani on his quest to get parahumans registered." "There isn't any proof that parahumans were responsible for that," Maggie stated. "What else could it have been, and how about the record the news crew made? The explosions, light and other weird stuff that was visible." "That could have been special effects," Maggie replied, "Tell me this, if it was a fight between two groups of parahumans that brought the Twin Towers down, how come not even one of them has ever been identified?" "That's Guiliani's point," Eddie countered, "If they had been registered he would have known they were in New York and it he would have been able to prevent it from happening." I don't think either one of them noticed when I left the table. I didn't want to be caught in the middle of that argument. Eddie was very much a proof and scientific method kind of guy, and Maggie couldn't tolerate having parahumans painted as bad people as a group. So I sought the quiet of a table on the other side of the cafeteria. I took out my sketchbook and flipped through it until I came to the drawing I'd done of the Fist. I'd drawn my first savior so it seemed appropriate I draw my second one. Since saving me the Fist had made it on the news shows twice. The first time because he saved a woman from a robber, the image was grainy, from a security building on an adjacent building. The woman had been interviewed and described the Fist as being quick, efficient and polite. A few days later the robber was on the same news show going on and on about how the Fist had broken his arm and leg. In that report the robber was treated as an innocent victim of a ruthless parahuman attack. That report got at least twice the airtime of the previous one. Maggie had been pissed about it, but I reminded her that this was Tyberon, reports like that were about the best she could expect. It took her a few days to calm down and put it out of her mind. I flipped to the drawing of my first savior. I still looked at it once in a while to see if I would remember anything else to add. Nothing had come in a few weeks but I still did it. "That's pretty good," someone said behind me. "Thanks," I said as I looked over my shoulder at Coach Warner holding a tray. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he asked pointing to the seat in front of me. "No Coach." I wasn't going to complain about having him sit in front of me, I didn't often get to look at a well built guy without looking suspicious doing it. "Please, call me Thor," he said as he sat down. He put his tray down on the table. "Can I see it?" he asked as he pushed the tray aside. I handed him my sketchbook, "I'm not really used to calling one of my teacher by anything but their last name." "That's ok, you'll get used to it." He flipped through a few of the other pages but came back to the top one. "You're quite good. That's a very accurate drawing of him." "Thanks," I said blushing slightly. It wasn't often that an adult other than my parents or art teacher complimented me on my drawings. "Wait a minute. You said it's accurate. You've seen him before?" "Yeah," he said with a small chuckle, "I used to hang out with him a long time ago." I looked at him for a moment. It was strange hearing someone who couldn't be more than thirty talk about 'a long time ago.' He must have known him when they were kids. "Can you tell me his name?" "Sure, it's Kindar." "Do you know why he saved me?" "At a guess I'm going to have to say that someone paid him to do it. He's never been keen on the whole hero thing. He didn't mind saving people, but usually there had to be some coins attached to it." His eyes became distant for a moment. And then he was silent. It gave me the time to work up the courage to ask my next question. "Do you know why he killed them?" I asked softly. "He probably thought it was the best way to protect you," he answered as he gave me back my sketchbook. "Did he happen to say if he'd be looking after you for a while?" he asked with a tone of hope. I shook my head. "He said he wasn't coming back." "I guess I shouldn't be surprised," he said with a sad smile. "It's been a while since you saw him?" I asked. "Feels like many lifetimes ago." "I'm sure you'll get to see him again." "I know I will," he replied with a smile, "so long as certain people keep their promises. I saw you met the new parahuman." He pointed at my sketchbook. "Yeah, he stopped someone else from killing me," I said. Coach Warner, I just couldn't get myself to call him Thor, or even Eric, raised an eyebrow. "He said, Kindar I mean, that others would try to kill me." I wasn't sure why I told him that, other than we both knew him I guess. "What are you going to do?" he asked after studying me for a moment. "I don't really know." "Well, if you need any help you know where to find me." I looked at him as he started on his lunch; the cafeteria meatloaf, a coffee and slice of apple pie. He didn't react the way I expected an adult to react. He didn't tell me what do to, who to call and all that. It felt strange having an adult let me do what I thought was best in this situation. I was tempted to ask him about it, but the bell rang. * * * * * "The Magster wants to see you in the science lab," Eddy told me when he walked by me on his way home. I was standing by the school doors waiting for Maggie to arrive. "Why?" "She didn't say, but I'm guessing it's got to do with lifting some heavy equipment." That explained why I was still waiting for her. Normally she would be the one waiting for me. I went back inside the school. It had been a long time since I'd been in the school after hours. I'd forgotten how quiet it got; just going up one flight of stairs and the noise of the few people still leaving completely vanished. I slowed down my running to enjoy it. I never heard him coming. One moment I was listening to the silence, the next my face was being grinded against a locker. My mind went black with fear. One of them was in my school. "You think you can hide it," he whispered in my ear, "but I know what you are. Soon there's going to be a reckoning." He pushed my face against the locker again before letting me go. I spun around, this time I was going to defend myself, and watched Randall Mitchell walk away. I sighed with relief and leaned back into the locker. Randall wasn't out to kill me, he was just one of Billy's cronies. What he said confused me, what did he know, and how had he found out? Did it mean Billy knew too? And why had Randall harassed me on his own, Billy usually didn't let anyone else bully me. I looked around while I caught my breath and noticed that I was alone. With Randall gone there was no witness if someone decided to attack me. I ran all the way to the science lab. I heard Maggie exerting herself in the back of the room. "What are you doing?" I asked. She was bent over a slab of metal. "Good, you're here. Put that in there." She indicated one of the two square buckets against the wall. "Sure." The slab looked to be about a foot by a foot and a half and a few inches thick. It had been cast with handholds on each side. I grabbed one and lifted it, and almost wrenched my shoulder out of its socket instead. "Fuck, what is this thing made out of?" "Tungsten," she answered as she went to the storage room. "How much does it weigh?" I bent down and grabbed both sides this time. "About four hundred pounds." I believed her. I carefully put it in the bucket. It looked to be homemade. "What are you doing with it?" "I want to see how strong you are." She came out of the closet pushing a cart with more slabs on it as well as a disassembled bench press. "You're kidding, right?" "Nope, completely serious. You're afraid of your own strength. First step to overcoming fear is getting to know it. So we're going to figure out how strong you are and go from there." "Look, I'm not afraid of my strength, I just don't want to fight." "Fine," she said rolling her eyes, "then just think of it as indulging my curiosity. You're the only Parahuman I know. I want to see what you can do." "Okay, but you try to get me to fight and this friendship is over." "Sure," she didn't believe the threat any more than I did. "Now help me assemble this and we can get started." Once it was assembled she put the bar on the top notch. "I don't think so," I told her, placing it on the lowest one. "But I need to know how much you can support." "Doing it that way the moment there's more weight than I can lift the bar falls, breaks my neck and your parahuman best friend is dead." "Oh." "Yeah, oh," I echoed, "this way if I can't lift it, then I just can't lift it and you'll know. Also we're going to put something under those bucket so there's no weight on the bar when it's resting." We built a stand for them out of the notebooks and I put the buckets on them before adding a slab in the empty one. "Are you sure the buckets are going to hold up? There's going to be a lot of weight in them." "Yeah, I had them made by a guy I know who has shop classes." "I hope you're right," I said as I lied down on the bench and grabbed the bar. "Okay, we're starting with four hundred pounds on each side." She hooked the bucket and moved away. I easily lifted the bar a dozen times before putting it back. "That easy?" she asked. "Pretty much." I put another slab in each bucket. "We now have eight hundred pounds in each." Again I did twelve reps, but this time I felt the last three. I added one slab each. "twelve hundred pounds," Maggie said with trepidation. I didn't feel her excitement; in fact I was a little worried. I wished we had smaller weights. I lied down and gripped the bar. I focused my breathing for a moment and then forced it up. And I do mean forced. It took every ounce of strength I had to lift it. I lowered it and went for a second one. I was halfway there when I knew I shouldn't have tried it. Before I could lower it my arms gave out. The buckets slammed on the books and sighed in relief. It didn't last long. The stack of books on my left leaned out, I hadn't worried about it because it seemed solid enough, but now with the weight bouncing off it it moved a little more and then fell apart. I only had time to move the bar over my chest before I felt the full weight. At least I'd saved myself from a broken neck, but I had trouble breathing. Maggie ran off and I heard her break open a cabinet. I grabbed the bar and tried to lift but I couldn't get any leverage. I could barely take some of the weight off my chest so I could breathe. I swung an arm and hit the buckets, but it didn't move. Maggie came back with a large jar and a Bunsen burner. She emptied the jar around the inside of the bucket and then lit the content with the burner. The stuff burned so bright I had to look away for a moment. When I looked again there was a glowing line through the metal around the bucket; then the metal stretched and ripped. As soon as the bottom half fell off I threw the bar off me. To the sound of the slates tumbling out of the bucket I sat and held my chest. "How painful is it?" Maggie asked. "Pretty painful," I answered weakly; breathing was difficult. "Take off your T-shirt, I want to see how bad it is." I tried not to make faces as I took it off, but moving my arms caused the pain to flare up. "That looks pretty bad," she commented. "I know," was all I could say. The line made by the bar was red and the skin had broken in places. The Magster took out her camera. "Do you mind if I take pictures, I want to document how fast you heal." I tried to sigh, but the pain wouldn't let me. "Go ahead." She took her pictures and then we cleaned up. She poured sand on the fire that was still burning and melting more metal. I have no idea why there was sand in the science lab. She didn't want me to help, but I was the only one who could pick up the slates, although I had to be careful doing it. When everything was back in the storage closet the only evidence left were the vicious burn marks on the floor around where the bucket had landed. Maggie was going to have to do some creative thinking to explain that. * * * * * Maggie had to spend the next two weeks helping out her science teacher clean up the lab after school to pay off the damage to the floor and the material we'd used. She didn't mention my involvement, she told him that she had been testing the reactivity of burning magnesium to tungsten, whatever that meant, and that it had gone out of control. I offered to help out, but she wouldn't let me. I still waited for her. Partially to keep her company but mainly because Randall's attack had reminded me I was in danger and I didn't want to take a chance by walking home alone. On the up side, my reputation as a boyfriend got better for it. Mom approved of my making sure Maggie didn't walk home alone. She said it made me a gentlemen. Dad thought it was sweet how I paid attention to her now that she was becoming a woman. I just rolled my eyes; dad had started hinting that I should find a special lady friend since the school year had started. I'd told him I wasn't interested in getting a girlfriend, but I don't think he really heard me. It was Friday when I was attacked again. It was suppose to be Maggie's last day of punishment, but her teacher let her go instead because she'd been so good about doing her sentence. To celebrate we were heading to the mall for a few hours before our Karate class. We were walking through the park when I saw the man come toward us. He was of average height and build he wore jeans and a white t-shirt. There was nothing out of the ordinary about him, but my body froze anyway. "What's wrong?" Maggie asked. She'd taken a few more steps before realizing I'd stopped. I didn't answer, I was too busy looking around for people. If I could find someone who could act as a witness I could convince myself I was panicking for nothing, but there was no one. We were in one of the small clearings that dotted the park and normally there would be people picnicking or just lounging, so where were they? When I looked at the man again he's covered half the distance separating us. He was looking straight at me with determination. I forced my body to take a step back. Maggie looked at the man coming toward us. "Oh shit," she said. I wanted to echo her, but I couldn't get my mouth to work. She looked around quickly. "I'm, I'm going to go get help," she said before running into the woods. I knew what she was going to really do, but I couldn't help feeling like she was abandoning me. "The pretty girl is smart to run," the man said. "Sharp doesn't like hurting pretty girls." He was now within striking distance. I told my hands to close into fist and hit him, but they wouldn't obey. He swung at me and at the last moment I was able to move out of the way. I dodged the next swing and took a few steps back. I closed my hands into fists and felt relief wash over me. I'd be able to fight back this time. Maggie was right. I couldn't spend my life being afraid. I'd take it easy with him at first and hit harder as needed. The pain of his fist hitting my jaw broke my chain of thoughts. Next there was a fist to my stomach and another to the jaw. Then I was on the ground. "Sharp waits for you to get up," he said. "Sharp is patient." Sharp didn't sound like he was the sharpest tool in the shed. "Hey," someone yelled, "get away from him." The Fist had arrived, I thought, but then realized the voice had been wrong. I looked up to some someone in black holding a sword running toward us. "You don't move," Sharp told me, "Sharp fights the black man and comes back to you." Sharp turned and walked toward the new guy. "Get out of here while I keep him busy," the man in the black said just before swinging at Sharp. I wanted to obey him, but again my body wouldn't obey me. He looked vaguely familiar with his black trench coat. What was it with trench coat, did everyone who saved me had to wear one? Even his shoes were black. "You have a sharp thing," Sharp said, "Sharp has sharp things too." His fingers elongated until they were thin, two foot long, skin colored blades. He used them to block the next swing and then swung at the swordsman. The man brought it up to block and the finger blades sliced through it. "You have got to be fucking kidding me," the man said as he looked at the three inches of blade still attached to the hilt. "I just finished making it today!" "Then you shouldn't have attacked Sharp," he said before swinging back and forth at his opponent. The man in black could only back up each time. Maggie came out running of the woods wearing her mask and trench coat. When she was just a few feet behind Sharp she jumped and kicked him. The man in black moved aside as Sharp toppled to the ground. "Get up Sharp," she said in her deepened 'Fist' voice, "I want to show you what happens to parahumans who come to my city causing trouble." "How do you know Sharp's name?" he asked as he stood. "You're joking, right?" Fist answered, "You're saying it every time you open your mouth." Sharp looked at Fist doubtfully before rushing. Fist easily moved out of the way of the swings and threw in a few strikes in the process. Sharp swung wildly to force Fist to move away. I could see the anger in Sharp's eyes now, and so could Fist. He reached inside his trench coat, and when Sharp rushed him again he threw what he was holding at him. Sharp stopped as the cloud of fine dust spread around his face. I closed my eyes as Fist brought the lighter out and even through my eyelids I saw the flash of light as the magnesium dust ignited. When I opened them The Fist was putting his foot back on the ground after kicking Sharp in the face. Sharp spun and stumbled around trying to keep his footing. The flash had pretty much blinded him, I'd been there the first time Maggie had experimented with the magnesium dust; I hadn't seen anything for a good two minutes, so he didn't see the man in black flip his hilt and hit him across the jaw with the pommel, hard enough that the hilt went flying out of his hand afterward. Sharp dropped like a rock. It was over. I couldn't believe I had been attacked again. It had been so long I'd begun thinking I was safe now. And I couldn't believe that someone else had been drawn into this. This hadn't been just a thug sent to hurt me; this had been a real parahuman. Maggie could have been really hurt, or worse. "What the fuck is wrong with you," I yelled at them, "you could have gotten killed!" "You have to excuse him," The Fist said as he handcuffed Sharp, "He gets like that when he's scared. He still doesn't get that this is what us heroes do." "Oh no," the guy in black said backing away, "I'm no hero, this was just a one time . . ." he froze in mid step. Maggie took off her mask as we exchanged a look. The unexpectedness of it chased my anger away. She stepped to him and waved her hand before his eyes. "Marvin, you okay?" she asked. Marvin didn't reply or even move. I couldn't even tell if he was breathing. "You know him?" "Yeah, he made the buckets we used to test your strength." He was in shop class. That's why he seemed familiar, I'd seen him at school. "You okay?" she asked me. "I'm fine, I'm more worried about what could have happened to you. This guy was an actual parahuman, not just a hitman in costume." "It was bound to happen eventually. Even if whoever wants you dead didn't escalate I'm considered a parahuman crime fighter. Someone was going to take a shot at me eventually. That's why I've been working on those gadgets to help me. All I need now is some form of protection and I'll be good." "No! You one eyed son of a bitch! That wasn't part of the deal!" Marvin said fist shaking at the sky. "All I was supposed to do was make a sword. You were supposed to leave me alone after that. I don't fucking care what the fringe benefits are going to be, I am NOT playing your game." Maggie waited a moment after Marvin was quiet. "Marvin, what's going on?" "It's Odin," Marvin replied with a groan still looking at the sky. "The bastard won't leave me alone." He paused and looked at Maggie. "Hey Maggie, when did you get here?" "I've, err, been here for a while." Marvin looked at her, his eyes going to the mask she was holding. "You're kidding. You're the Fist?" "Yeah, I am," she said, "you don't seem too surprised." "It's tough to be surprised anymore when you have an ancestral God meddling in your life. And it explains the experiment you had me helping with. Who's your friend?" "Marvin, this is Jay, Jay this is Marvin." "Pleasure to meet you," I said as I shook his hand, "not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here?" "Odin told me to come here." "You mean here, here?" I asked. "Wait. Are you talking about the Norse God Odin?" "Yes, and yes." He took out a GPS unit. "The coordinates he gave me are just behind the tree line." I kept my mouth shut, the guy was obviously deranged. "Did he tell you to come here to help me?" Maggie asked him. "No, I was here to bless my sword." He looked at the pieces on the ground. "Aww man, now he's going to tell me to make another one." He reached for the hilt and as soon as he touched it, it started glowing. The other pieces glowed as well and then slid on the ground until they were all together. The glow intensified and then disappeared where the pieces touched. When the glow dissipated the sword was in one piece. "Okay," Marvin said with awe, "that is cool." He picked it up and swung it a few times. "How did you do that?" Maggie asked. I would have asked the same thing, but I was too stunned at finding out there was another parahuman in my school. "I don't know," Marvin answered. He was still looking at the sword in awe. "I take it that's one of the fringe benefits to whatever Odin wants you to do." "I guess so." "What does he want you to do?" "He wants me to become a hero." "Cool," Maggie said, "you wanna join my team?"
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