Echos: Chapter – II
Tom and Max had finished hauling Tom’s belongings six feet across the country, a concept that still made Max’s brain hurt to think about. While it didn’t compare to hefting luggage up 30 stories, even with the aid of an elevator, the effort of helping Tom combined with his own move and the trek up those damnable stairs had left Max thankful for the tower’s hardy air conditioners keeping the summer heat at bay.
Tom wiped his hand on his pant leg before offering it to Max. “Thanks for the help, man. My mom and I are going to grab some pizza before I go get my books, you want to come along?”
“Thanks, but no. I think I’m going to find my way to the student center, maybe learn my way around campus. If you’re looking for someplace, I saw a pizza place just down the road.”
“What, Chicago pizza? No. Heeelllll no.” Tom said, drawing the word out. “All due respect for our new digs, but that is not pizza. For your sake I’ll bring back a couple slices this evening, get your education started right” Though Tom’s tone was serious, his eyes were light and he had a smile on his face. “Anyway, I’ll see you later.”
He turned and jogged through the portal back to New York. After he passed through it, Max saw him turn around and snap his fingers and the portal shrank from six feet, to maybe the size of a quarter. Max had grown up in a small town in Iowa, and even though it was only about four hours from the Sizemore campus, it was worlds apart. He was the only super in a town with a population of about three thousand. Now he was one of dozens of supers, going to a school with a student body of more than five times the size of his home town. When he was accepted to Sizemore’s HCP, Max knew his life was going to change. But seeing the bustling activity around campus and the casual way Tom used his powers, he was beginning to suspect he had underestimated how much.
Max turned away from the now considerably less interesting, and physics defying, wall and looked at his pile of boxes and luggage. He was hungry, but he wanted to get himself unpacked and settled in before dinner. It had been a long day and he was pretty sure he was going to crash after getting something in his stomach. Besides, he hadn’t met his suitemates yet.
After a while, the sun had started to set and Max could look out and see the city of Chicago light up outside of his window. As he was sliding some empty boxes under the steel frame of his bed, a massive banging rocked the suite door.
“Hey! Anyone in there?” a voice boomed, despite two doors separation.
Max slid the last box under his bed, got up and went quietly went out to the suite’s door. Looking through the peephole, all he saw was a wall of white.
“If there’s anyone in there, could you open the door? I ran out of hands!” the voice boomed again, that much louder just on the other side of the door.
With a shrug Max opened the door and immediately took a step back. Max was more than familiar with big farm boys, but the young man standing on the other side of the door was absolutely gigantic. Standing at least six and a half feet tall, nearly as broad across the shoulders, and with long blonde hair tied back in a tail to go with an impressive beard, he looked more like a professional football lineman than a college student. The giant in the doorway had a white t-shirt stretched over his massive physique, and was apparently balancing a whole car load of boxes.
“Thanks. Mind giving me a hand so I can get my door open?” he asked.
“Yeah… Sure” Max answered. He took as many boxes as he could off the top of the pile. Even though it wasn’t even half the boxes, it was enough that the big youth in front of him could set the rest down on the couch. After unlocking the door he turned around and stuck out his hand.
“Thanks for the help, name’s Erik Danielsen, Erik with a ‘k’, everyone always gets that wrong.. I guess we’re gonna be living together”
Max traded grips with his new suite mate, though it felt like he was shaking hands with somebody wearing a catcher’s mitt. “Good to meet you, I’m Max Hall. Did you just get in?”
“Yeah. My parents are down parking the car, so I just grabbed my stuff and headed up” Erik said
“You know you’re not supposed to let on that you’re a Super, right?”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t using my power. It’s not like it was that much, and I had it balanced pretty well.” With that he started carrying some boxes into his room. “Hey, did you happen to meet Peter yet?” he called out from the room, as Max stood there awkwardly, wondering if he should offer to help.
“No, not yet, why?” Max answered from the common room.
“Well, he’s all moved in, and he left me a note saying he went to help his sister get settled, and he’d be back after dinner”
“Oh, nope. Haven’t seen him. He must have gotten in early.” He paused for a second “do you need a hand with those?”
“Nah, I got them up here, I can finish the job” Erik said with a laugh.
“Well, if you sure. Oh, I got to meet my roommate.”
“Nice. Is he cool? Where is he?” Erik said as he carried the last of his boxes into his room
“He seems pretty cool. And grabbing a pizza with his mom. In New York.”
“New York… How does that work? Is he a teleporter?”
“No, as he puts it, he can connect two places through portals. He left one at home in New York, then opened another one on our bedroom wall. It was really surreal.” Max said.
“Okay, I can’t wait to meet this guy. And I hope he brings back some for us.”
“I just hope he doesn’t come back too late. We’re supposed to have our orientation tomorrow, whatever that’s supposed to be, and I’m going to have a hard enough time falling asleep as it is”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m pretty amped up for this year.” Erik agreed, after a pause adding “Huh… Now that I think about it, maybe that did help with the boxes.”
“Oh, so what can you do? I mean, I already dished on Tom, so its only fair that you spill”
“I can do a bunch of things. I can belch the alphabet, I can dunk, I can play Chopsticks with my toes, I can do that thing where you rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time…” He said, looking thoughtful, then his eyebrows went up “Oh you probably mean my power. I get stronger when I fight. What about you?”
Max took a few seconds to process Erik’s answer before answering. “My body generates a force field. Or maybe its an anti-force field. Energy just kinda slides off me”
“Oh, that’s just cool. So you can’t get hurt? What would happen if I hit you?” Erik asked.
“If I had my field up? It’d probably feel like you punched a brick wall, whatever that feels like to you” Max answered. “But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It took me a while to get it under control, and trust me, life kinda sucks without friction.”
“Yeah I guess I could see that” Before he could say more, his pants buzzed. Erik answered his phone, with and spoke quietly for a few minutes. “Welp” he said “my parents got the car parked and are outside the tower. You want to meet them?”
“Sure, I guess so. It’s gotta be better than sitting in my room. But why don’t they come up?”
“Well… My mom’s a powered. Pretty much the same powers as me, but she doesn’t have a real good handle on her temper. My dad can usually keep her pretty calm, but she might get annoyed at having to climb all those stairs.” His eyes narrowed for a second “You’re not one of those supers who hate powereds are you?”
“Oh, no. Hell, I thought I was a powered for years” Max said simply “Well, let’s get started, it’s a long way down” Inside, Max hoped going down those stairs would be easier than going up them. Having to climb them again didn’t bear thinking about, but at least he’d be ready for sleep when they got back.