Over the few months since starting with Variant Child Services Stella did keep in touch with her friends in Richmond; despite her apartment and the DVA headquarters being a good distance north of the city.
More interestingly, the impish Andrea had cajoled her co-worker, the statuesque school counselor David Mykonos, into joining the group on a few of those outings. He continued to prove himself a charming and intelligent man, and fit easily into the group of friends. Though Stella felt that Andrea needling them about how they should just go on a date already had delayed the date from happening.
The frantic work and training schedules that both Stella and David were under during the spring semester of school didn’t help. Soon enough it would be spring break, and while Stella was warned that the VCS would probably remain busy, David’s schedule might open up quite a bit. Stella resolved to get him out on a real date well before then.
Since she knew they’d worked with David, Stella asked her fellow intervention team members about him. This resulted in Stella having a conversation with Linda Anderson, the stern and forbidding lead of intervention team three.
Linda gave Stella a hard look and started in on what was obviously a prepared lecture.
“David is an excellent young man,” Linda said. “And given his circumstances he’s done very well in life. It’s not often that a powered is allowed to work in such a sensitive position, and even more rare still for a powered to be allowed to do so much good in the world.”
“He’s a powered?”
“Don’t interrupt young lady. Yes, he’s a powered, he would not choose to look like he does if he could control his ability. Every once in awhile we get a nullifier in to turn off his power, so he can go back to looking a little more human before his power takes over again.
“That brings me to my first and most important point. If you break that poor boy’s heart your achievement with Danny Smith last week will mean nothing. I personally will see to it that you suffer every bit as much as you make him suffer. If you have any problem with powereds, you’d better not date him at all. Everyone here loves that boy. Me and Miriam were actively involved in seeing him grow into the man he is today.”
“I don’t have any problem with powereds.”
“Good. You won’t last here if you do.
“Second, you will not talk about work with romantic partners, even with David. Not even on cases you share. David himself knows all too well what happens when the wrong people get too much information about children with potent abilities. You’ve signed the paperwork, and you know the penalties, but it bears repeating. What we deal with aren’t just cases of children and families in a bit of trouble. What we do is regarded as a matter of national security.”
“Ok,” said Stella. Despite Linda having the least impressive power of all the intervention team agents, she had Stella well and truly intimidated. Linda had been a costumed hero before she’d retired to work at the DVA, but how someone who’s power was to read and influence the language centers of the human brain could handle hero work was beyond Stella’s comprehension. All that Stella had seen was that Linda could speak to anyone in their own language with perfect fluency.
“Finally,” and here there was an unexpected grin. “Have fun. If I were a younger woman… Well, what you wanted to know was if there was anything you had to be careful of with him. He’s far too dedicated to his job sometimes, and we’d like to see him happier.”
So it was that Stella found herself with an unexpected case of first date jitters. Apart from a few hookups, at least one of which she wished she could forget, Stella had little time for dating and romance. On visiting her apartment, and seeing what Stella had for clothes, Michelle and Mitchell ejected Andrea from date preparation activities. They then spent a day dragging Stella out on an epic clothes shopping expedition. An activity that was only just tolerable thanks to good friends hauling her through it.
What most people didn’t know about the incredibly shy and reserved Michelle was that she was also unusually beautiful. She wasn’t just traditionally attractive, on the occasions that she displayed her assets rather than conceal them, she was devastating.
Michelle’s knowledge of fashion was partly a defense mechanism, but also the consequence of a most unexpected hobby. She was, anonymously, one of the most popular cosplayers on the planet. Stella had been unwillingly dragged to a science fiction convention to meet Michelle in costume only once, and it was a startling experience. The terminally shy girl was gone, and entirely unrecognizable; replaced with a gregarious flirt of a video game character.
Mitchell on the other hand, had just embraced the stereotype of the openly gay man with a passion for the theater and arts.
By the time they were done taking Stella from one place to another Michelle and Mitchell had made an impressive dent in Stella’s savings, despite her more than generous salary. Stella was just about the opposite of a clothes horse as could be, but she had to admit that the day spent going from one store after another was worth it. The outfit for the first date was casual, but did more to highlight Stella’s assets than anything she’d owned up to that point.
When she showed up at David’s apartment, his eyes visibly widened before he regained his cool. Knowing he was a powered did not detract from his attractiveness, though Stella still didn’t know what he could do. When she’d asked at work she hit a wall of confidentiality from both her coworkers, and the computers.
“So are you going to show me yours if I show you mine?” Stella asked.
David snorted at the line that’d been repeated several times by Andrea over the past few months since they’d first met.
“Actually,” he said. “You have to show me your first.”
For the first time since she first met him, David looked shy and unsure of himself. “I’m not a super. I’m a powered. I uncontrollably adapt to my environment. I get strong and tough just going through life. That’s why I look like this. When a super or a powered uses an ability in my vicinity I get an ability for a while. When the other person is a powered, I too become powered.”
“So you copy people’s abilities?”
“I get something similar to what they can do. Something that will protect me from that ability. If you have the power to summon flames I get the ability to freeze things, if you can teleport I get a dimensional lock ability, and if you’re a strongman I become a speedster. If I’m only close to one or two powereds or supers at a time it’s totally under control.”
David sighed. “My powers emerged in the middle of a battle involving more than a dozen criminals and heroes with abilities. I couldn’t control it, and they classified me as an Armageddon level threat in short order. If one of the heroes hadn’t been smart enough to work out what was happening I’d probably have been killed. I spent a lot of time after that at Strickland.”
It took Stella a while to remember what Strickland was from among all the information she’d had to absorb in the past few months. “Isn’t that the hospital in Wisconsin?”
“Yeah. It used to be a mental institution. It’s still used that way some, but mostly it’s for safely warehousing dangerous powereds, and the odd super in need of counseling. Close enough to some big cities if they need to get help there quick, but far enough from everything to be safe if someone explodes.”
“I’m so sorry,” Stella said. “I feel like an awful date.”
In response, David stepped up and gave Stella a gentle hug, which Stella returned in kind. The embrace quickly became more impassioned. Before things could go too far David interrupted. “I’ve got reservations at a nice Italian place in the neighborhood. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to get some food in me before we do anything else tonight.”
“I still have to show you mine,” said Stella. “Besides, now I’m all curious to see what you’ll get.”
Stella turned her body into aluminum, in deference to David’s apartment being on an upper floor of his building. In turn, David shuddered as if struck with a sudden chill, and turned into a cloud of gas.
His clothes, however, did not. By the time David had fled back into his bedroom, turned solid, and gotten into some new clothes, they were too late to make their dinner reservation, ordered in, and then much later, Stella got him to repeat the trick a second time.