There was no set order for the seven to meet with the staff therapist, so Jennifer volunteered to go first, since it was partially her fault. So Wednesday after gym found her down on the range level looking for an elevator to take her back up to the hidden back entrance to Dr. Gibson’s office. Since it would be difficult to explain why all seven people living in the same house all had appointments with the staff therapist, secrecy was necessary. And apparently they wouldn’t be the first people to use the secret back way, as many student thought of therapy as a kind of weakness and wouldn’t want to be seen by the general population going to appointments.
Jennifer found the non-descript door and opened it find a small room with elevator doors along three of the walls. The one on the opposite wall was supposed to open right across from Dr. Gibson’s back door. The elevator opened and directly across from it was another plain looking door with no markings, name, or number, so she knocked on it.
“Come in,” a voice called from the other side. Jennifer opened the door and saw what she actually thought a psychologist’s office would look like. There was the stereotypical couch, with a chair near the end, but there was also many other places that seemed available to sit, two comfortable chairs near a gas fireplace that slightly angled away from each other, there were pillows on the ground if for some reason you wanted to sit there, and there was two chairs in front of his massive desk that looked comfortable enough to have a session in. The walls were filled with bookshelves which were filled with more than just psychology books, there seemed to be fantasy and sci-fi and even romance novels mixed in. He had his credentials behind his desk and a few photos as well, a cursory look showed most of them with him posing with people in costumes; she’d have to be much closer to see if she recognized any of them.
Finally, she turned to the man himself, calmly sitting behind his desk waiting for Jennifer to take it all in. He was what Jennifer thought of a typical psychologist would look like and it took her a moment to relieve why; and it clicked, he looked like Sigmund Freud. Bald on top of his head, with a horse-shoe shaped hair along the back going down to a full beard, which was all white, while the hair left on his head was fighting to remain black, but losing. He was older, mid-fifties maybe, when he stood to shake Jen’s hand he was a little portly and average height. “Hello, I’m Jennifer,” she said shaking his hand.
He looked down at a paper, which Jen saw had all of the seven’s names on it, “Good,” he said, “I’m Doctor Gibson. Have a seat anywhere.” Jen chose one of the chairs by the fake fireplace. Dr. Gibson came over with a notepad and took the seat opposite her. “So, Jennifer Lee, freshman. Part of a program to test whether there is an inherent bias against those with familial ties to criminal supers when it comes to admittance and advancement in the HCP. Would you like to tell me about the criminal super in your family?”
“Don’t you know all about it?” Jen asked.
“I have not read those files yet. I don’t want it to cloud my initial impression of you.”
“So I could lie?” Jen asked.
“Of course, but I didn’t say I wasn’t going to read them, only that I haven’t yet.”
“Oh. And what if I’m not ready to talk about it yet?” Jen asked.
“Then we’ll save it for another session, but the specific point of these sessions is for me to get an assessment of how that relationship is affecting you now. So eventually, if you’d like the sessions to end, you’ll have to discuss it,” Dr. Gibson said.
“Oh…I guess I’ll get it over with then.”
“Well, it’s not something you can just ‘get over with.’ It’s a process, it does start with your point of view of the events, but then it leads to questions and analysis, and back to parts of the story and events and conversations that came from that event and so on and so on, until we can flesh out how it ultimately affected you and may continue to affect you,” Dr. Gibson said.
“And what if it didn’t affect me?” Jennifer countered.
“Then you’re either a robot or a sociopath, either way that presents its own issues to work through.” Dr. Gibson said, “Are you done deflecting yet?”
Jennifer let out a sigh/huff, “I don’t even know why I’m part of this group! My brother is not even a super, he’s just an angry powered!”
“What happened?” Doctor Gibson asked calmly.
Jennifer looked pensive for a few seconds as she stared off into space and sorted through her memories. “It was a few months after I got my powers, and in fact it was the day we got back from the city where they confirmed I was a super and not a powered…like my older brother. He was five years older than me and had been dealing with being a fire based powered for six years. Luckily for him and us that he would only trigger under intense rage, so for that six years there had only been two minor incidents, and in fact nobody in town even knew about him, aside from the required paperwork for the school, police and fire department. So anyways, that night after we got back from the city, there was a massive fire in an abandoned warehouse. The sheriff came to our house, he did know I was a fire super, since I had been showing off at school and got in trouble for that. He questioned me, pretty forcefully, or what a seven year old would consider forceful, but eventually he was convinced I had nothing to do with it, and I don’t know what the investigation was, but I don’t think anyone even considered my brother a suspect.
“Then things went back to normal for a few months, then a second fire, this time in a business, nobody was hurt, but again the sheriff paid me a visit and this time he also talked to my brother. And again as far as I could tell, nothing came of it. But, the very next night, a third fire, and this time a whole family died. This was huge, and the DVA arrived in town and brought with them a telepath. I was questioned a third time, this time my parents had a lawyer there, so I didn’t actually say anything, but the telepath was listening. Then, I left the room and passed my brother as he was going in for his interview…and that was the last time I ever saw him.
“My parents refused to tell me almost anything for years, but the town knew and the comments and snide remarks and accusations against me happened. It took until I was 13, but I found the newspaper articles from the event and confronted my parents for some answered.
“Apparently I was the catalyst for my brother’s murderous rage. After it was discovered that I was truly a super and not a powered like him, he snuck out of the house and went to the warehouse that a bunch of local kids liked to hang out in. He spend about twenty minutes yelling and throwing things and breaking stuff, then he literally exploded and everything there that could burn, did. After that he figured the rage would be a form of ‘control,’ so he practiced and every time he’d picture me having the life he never could. Apparently he started many fires in that two months between the major ones, but he was careful to avoid causing damage until he was ready to reveal his new ‘control.’ He probably believed that once he could show that he could make himself angry enough then he wouldn’t be labeled a powered anymore. Even though that would truly never change, like a powered who teleports when they sneeze, just because they could make themselves sneeze, it doesn’t equal control.
“I don’t totally know what his plan was, why he attacked that business or what that family ever did to him. As far as anyone could tell they really didn’t have a major connection, besides what you’d find in any small town. So the DVA telepath came in, pointed the finger at him and he was taken away. He was only 12, so he wouldn’t have been tried as an adult, but it didn’t matter, he was deemed ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ and sent to a powered mental hospital in Washington. I’ve wanted to go see him, but I’m denied access, because apparently he’s still using me to fuel his ‘rage control.’ It’s been 11 years now and as far as I know there is no word that he wants to see me or that he’ll get out anytime soon.”
“Do you blame yourself?” Dr. Gibson asked.
“What!? No, of course not, I was seven and never did anything to provoke him. I don’t even think I ever got to show him what I could do with my power. I didn’t gloat or show-off, or rub my control in his face. It was his twisted fantasy life that my existence ruined. Maybe we can let this settle for a while and move on to something else…I went on a date with a woman for the first time this weekend!” Jen said.
“Alright, we’ll move on for now.”
Michael was next up, and he felt even more indignation about being a part of this group than Jennifer did, even though if he admitted it to himself, his Grandfather’s body count would surpassed the other six combined by a huge margin, and that’s not even taking into account his uncles, aunts and cousins. He chose to sit on the couch, but not lay down and Dr. Gibson sat in the nearby chair. “Where would you like to start Michael?”
“Let’s just start with why I’m here and get this over with.”
“And why are you here?”
“I’m here because this damn program said I was an ‘at-risk’ candidate and they stuck me with those others.”
“Do you not like your roommates?”
“No, they’re fine, it’s not their faults any more than it’s mine, but I feel…like I don’t belong there. I went almost 17 years with no connection or tiniest thought that I might be connected to someone like that. It didn’t affect my childhood, or my friendships, or shape my early development. My mother didn’t even say one word about it until I mentioned I wanted to try for the HCP during my junior year. It’s ridiculous to lump me in with the others when I decided to try to be a hero completely independently of the knowledge of my family’s crimes,” Michael said.
“Fair point, but tell me what you know anyways.”
“It’s my grandfather, my mom’s father. I don’t know what you know about politics or the drug trade in Columbia, but basically…my grandfather runs the largest and most deadly drug empire there and has direct control over the government,” he said letting it hang in the air for a moment.
“Most of what I found is conjecture from conspiracy theory websites, but there are a few solid facts. When he was a child he did what any Super in a place like Columbia would do and sold his services to the cartels. After a few years, through power and force of will, and betrayal he moved up to run his own and then he gathered Supers around him, but he was always afraid of their own betrayal, so he set out to build his own super army, from his own children. He gathered any woman who was either super or powered and bred with them, apparently age, looks, relationship status, or willingness were not factors in these conquests,” he paused again.
“After five years he had 23 children, and although it took years to figure out, of those 23, 12 were Super, 8 were powereds and 3 were normal, including my mother, but he wasn’t just going to throw away the normal ones. He told my mother all the time that when she was old enough she’d be given to one of his enforcers as a wife, or just passed around until she got pregnant and that would be the whole of her existence. So when she was sixteen she escaped to the United States and the knowledge she provided against her father was enough for asylum and witness protection. Apparently, by the time my mother escaped she thought her father had upwards of 80-90 children, and if the percentages held true, that force would be extremely deadly and dangerous. They moved her to Phoenix, changed her name and told her she was now Puerto Rican. She got her GED and became a nurse, then she met my father, a computer programmer. They got married, had a son, and then my father got a job offer in Madison, Wisconsin, and that’s where I grew up, thinking I had normal human parents and that I was half Mexican, half Puerto Rican. Never did I even considered my grandfather was a psycho drug-kingpin and that if he ever found out about me or my mother he’d send a death squad after us!” Michael finished, staring off into space, his fist closed so tightly they were turning white.
“And you don’t think you need to be here?” Dr. Gibson asked, almost patronizingly. “You’re angry Michael. If you somehow made it to Hero, while still holding onto that anger, I can guarantee that that would be the cause of your downfall.”
Michael glared at him, “Are you an empath like Allison?”
“Are you even a super?” Michael asked.
Michael waited for the follow-up, but he didn’t go on, “So what’s your power then?”
“I can take people into their minds; see their memories, sub-conscious, emotions, and imagination.”
“Did you ever try for the HCP?” Michael asked.
“No. I didn’t see a practical use for my power in the field, so I never attempted that route.”
“So how can you judge what my reaction should be to the HCP?”
“Because, ‘anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering’.”
“You’re quoting Yoda?”
“Yes, it’s a very apt concept, but George Lucas wasn’t the founder of the philosophy, it’s a very old human failing. And just like in Star Wars, you can’t be the Hero with darkness in your soul.”
“Maybe we should talk about something else,” Michael said looking away from the doctor’s accusing eyes. “There’s this girl I’ve been sleeping with…”
Tony laid on the couch in Dr. Gibson office because he thought the cliché would be funny. He’d also immediately had gone into detail about his relationship with El, with little formal greeting and no preamble, because he thought that concept would be funny too, plus he really wanted some advice there.
“So, do you love her?” Dr. Gibson asked, once Tony finally paused for a breath, not skipping a beat.
“I…don’t think so,” Tony admitted. “She’s beautiful, stunning even, she’s kind and smart, but we don’t…click.”
“These are your college years, there is generally nothing wrong with sex for sex’s sake, as long as neither party is hurt by the experience. But, unfortunately for you, it sounds like El is hoping the relationship will take a different path. And the kind of person who’d want to be a hero, wouldn’t be the kind of person who would lead her on like that.”
“So what should I do?”
“I would suggest the truth.”
Tony panicked a moment, “What truth!?”
“That you’d like to continue to see her, but you ultimately don’t see the relationship going the distance. She’ll either want to end it, or she’ll try to work through the issues that are holding you back. Of course you have a near insurmountable obstacle to overcome if the relationship is ever to work.”
“And what’s that?”
“The lies,” Dr. Gibson said frankly. “The HCP. You wouldn’t be the first HCP student who risked telling a civilian the truth, but the risks are inherent; if the relationship does end after the cat is out of the bag, and they happen to be vindictive, there goes your chance to be a Hero. And even if you were willing to take that risk yourself, do you have the right to take it for the other six?”
“Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the right to make that choice for the others, which means I can’t tell El the truth, which means I have to keep lying to her, which means the relationship can’t work, which means I have to end it, period,” Tony said, then went silent, and thought about how he’d feel about ending the relationship, and he felt sad. He wondered if that meant that he cared about her more than his words suggested, but it was unfortunately a moot point. He wouldn’t put this own happiness above his housemates dreams. His eyes teared up a bit.
“Would you like to talk about the criminal super in your family?” Dr. Gibson asked after a respectful amount of time.
“Oh, sure,” Tony said sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “My mom is/was the greatest teleporter-thief in the world.”
“Really, what’d she steal?” Dr. Gibson asked, genuinely curious.
“She liked museums, and she liked to steal big things, a t-rex skull, an Egyptian sarcophagus, Archie Bunker’s chair, stuff like that. It wasn’t worth very much, she just liked the challenge. In fact one of her favorite things to do was steal something, then try and put it back the next night when they were on the highest alert.”
“When was she caught?”
“When I was 13.”
“Did you know about what she did before then?”
“No, neither did my father. She had all the documents and pay stubs and time cards from her job as a teleporter delivery woman. It was a great cover and she did actually do her job. So, basically her boss would pay for her to travel the world so she could add locations to her repertoire and while she was in these countries she’d visit the museums and add them as well, and then come back later for what she wanted.”
“And how do you feel about what she did?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you sound proud of her.”
“I can respect her skill, and still love her as a mother, while not condoning her actions. And of course I’m angry that she did something that took her mostly out of my life.”
“Yeah, she got the judge to sentence her to the Alcatraz Island Super Human Prison, not too far from where we live and I’d fly out there every weekend to see her.”
“So, you don’t hate her, or resent her, or want to punish her by refusing to see her?”
“No, of course not. I love her. It’s been hard to go so long without seeing her and not being able to until Winter break, but she understood. She was so proud that I got into an HCP program.”
“So you told a known criminal super that you were going to part of the Sizemore HCP? You don’t think she’ll betray you?”
“What!? Of course not…What kind of mother would do that?”
“And if you made it to Hero, how would you feel if you had to capture Supers and take them away from their families, like she was from you.”
“I…don’t know. I think I would do my job,” Tony said, but he wasn’t sure.
“I want you to really consider that question and have an answer for me by next week. And I expect to hear that you made some progress in your relationship with El.”
The silence stretched to the ten minute mark; Dr. Gibson usually preferred to wait out his patients who didn’t want to talk, but Allison Beckett was being unusually stubborn. It was an unfortunate problem that many psychic minds had; the more they learned or heard or felt from other people’s mind, the tougher they blocked their own thoughts and emotions and they could actually come to resent people for having said stray thoughts and emotions. “Allison?” Dr. Gibson said, and she looked at him. “Talk to me. What are you thinking about?”
She took a loud breath, and her lip quivered as she spoke, “my mother.” And then she stared off into space again, but Dr. Gibson knew she was going to come back in once that current memory finished. “She killed herself when I was six,” Allison said with a tear rolling down her cheek. “That Man!” she yelled. “If he was still alive…I’d make him pay for what he did to her!”
“Tell me what you know Allison,” he said handing her a tissue.
“I really wished you would have read it yourself first,” she said blowing her nose and sobbing.
“You need to say the words. You have to confront these memories.”
She went silent once again. Dr. Gibson had seen this before, she was steeling herself and ordering the memories, and then she’d rush through it, although when there is this much pain and anger they often go off on tangents and it takes five times longer than if they spoke more naturally. But either way it would get it out in the open.
“My father,” the word had so much anger and venom in it, “who I’m going to only be calling ‘that man’ for all story and session purposes was a rapists, torturer, kidnapper, murderer, and empath.
“That man, he’d go into bars, find the lonely, the ones who wouldn’t be missed. Then he’d up their love and happiness emotions. It would be like thinking you found your soulmate, and then that same soulmate getting you hooked on heroin all in a matter of five minutes. Once they are enthralled they’d follow him anywhere, tell him anything, empty their bank accounts and thank him for letting them do it.
“Once he had them and their money, he’d always…use them, sexually, in what can only be called rape. Then they’d talk, if they would be missed by anyone, he’d even their emotions out a little, or if he was feeling especially evil, he’d up their sadness so high that they’d commit suicide within a few days. But if they wouldn’t be missed, the drifters, the orphans, the runaways, those, he would collect and take to his compound. Add them to his fucked-up harem. It’d take about a week of constantly upping of the love emotion, but eventually it’d screw up the brain so bad that nothing but another empath, years of therapy, and some powerful medication could ever reverse that devotion. Then once he ‘truly’ had them…that’s when things got bad. Sex was a constant, but that man was so violently depraved, he’d torture them and not just BDSM stuff, but like Nazi experimentation-like torture; mutilation, amputation, just…the stuff nightmares have nightmares about.
“My mother was one of the lucky ones. Although using the word lucky within the same sentence as ‘that man’ makes me physically ill. But one of the other fun things he did was that he’d send woman away. It’s like sending the hardest drug addict away and letting them detox cold turkey…it’s mental, emotional and physical torture. They loved that man so much they couldn’t refuse him, but the pain of that loss, combined with fucked up brain chemistry, some only lasted hours before they killed themselves. My mother lasted a week, then she discovered that she was pregnant. I don’t know how she did it, maybe a mother’s instinct turned that love towards the fetus, but she made it and I was born.
“Once I was out of her she jumped on anti-depression drugs and ate them like candy. I don’t really remember if she was a good mother; I remember we always had an apartment and food so that was quite an accomplishment for someone going through what she was, but still nobody knew she was a victim of that man, so nobody tried anything other than drugs to fix her, and that love prevented her from telling anyone the truth. So the brain continued to rebel against its messed up chemistry and it likely randomly broke like a flood gate and so much emotion flooded her mind that she too eventually ended her life…” Allison paused again at that point, she’d never said all that before, even to herself. The tears were flowing pretty solidly now, but she didn’t notice, she was just thinking about that day.
“That day is so vivid to me. I was at the babysitter and my mother was an hour late and there was no answer on the phone. So she put me in her car and we went to my home…the door was locked, but the lights and TV were on, so she used her spare key to get in. She told me to wait on the couch and she went deeper into the apartment, about two minutes later she ran back out and went straight to the kitchen phone. I know now that she called 911, but I didn’t understand any of it at the time. Then she bundled me up in her arms and we went down to her car and just sat there. I was a real quite kid so I didn’t ask her what was going on and she didn’t offer any explanation, we just sat there until an ambulance arrived, she got out of the car, spoke to them quickly then got back in, a few minutes later a police car showed up and she spoke with him too, longer this time.
“The EMTs came out without anyone on their gurney, again I didn’t know my mother was even hurt or what’d it mean if she was but didn’t get brought out, but that empty gurney has haunted a few of my dreams. My babysitter again got out of the car to talk and listen, there was yelling and pointing at me and then me and my babysitter went back to her house. She fed me, then put me down to bed, I started crying at that point, and she held me, but still didn’t explain. That sad look she gave me that night is another thing that’s always in my nightmares. The next morning Child Protective Services showed up.
“I remember them asking my name, Allison Marie Beckett, and my birthday. Then she talked to my babysitter, I didn’t understand the words at the time, but I remembered; apparently, there was no record of my mother under the name she gave, she paid the landlord in cash and sometimes sex. The word prostitute was causally tossed out there, and I’d really like to deny it, but it fits too well with what I remember. There was also no record of my birth in the state, so they took DNA, not only to prove that my mother didn’t kidnap me, but in hopes of finding a relative.
“And unfortunately they did…that man’s DNA was in the system. They obviously didn’t tell me about him, ever, but when I was old enough and had control of my power I ‘convinced’ my case worker to show me the file. That Man was killed in a hero raid, as was a big part of his harem when I was about four. And also every time I was considered for adoption, some stupid state law made them reveal the truth about my father and any hope about me getting a home fell apart with that little tidbit of information. Therefore, I spent the last 12 years in foster care.
“I hate that man like you cannot believe, I hate the foster care system, and I even hate my mother for leaving me…” Allison finished, the tears had stopped and she had taken on a look of fearsome determination.
Dr. Gibson was a bit taken aback by that story and he sort of wished he had read her file first. He’d worked with veteran heroes who seen and done terrible things, but this was so much worse because it had happened to a child, who’d been stewing in that hatred for more than a decade, he really hoped this wasn’t her first therapy session. He’d long ago learned to steel his emotions, but some pity would definitely be bleeding through and he hoped she wasn’t focusing on his emotions. “You know we are going to have to work through that hate if you ever hope to be a hero right?”
“How can you say that!? That man deserves my hate!”
“The only thing that man ‘deserves’ is to rot alone and forgotten in the dirt. When you hate him, you remember him. When you remember him, you keep him alive and you’re letting him continue to torture you. He’s still beating you even though he is long dead.”
“And how do I forget?”
“It’s not about forgetting, it’s about letting go. You picture him and the memories and you let go of the hate. You’re an empath, you manipulate the emotions of others all the time, so you just need to work on your own. Picture the hate in your mind like you would in another person and reverse it. I’m not saying it will be a quick as a super-powered fix, and it shouldn’t be, but you ‘have to’ start letting go.”
“…I’ll try,” she said, then she got up and left, not knowing if they were truly done for the day.
“You must be Sam,” Dr. Gibson said shaking his hand Saturday morning.
“Yes, hello,” he said, “can we make this quick, I’ve got another challenge today.”
“We have time, I looked into the combat challenges. It’s quite impressive, you think you can get to first?” Dr. Gibson asked, since Sam was so into the challenges it would be a good place to connect with him.
“Yes,” he said plainly. “The initial trials were a fluke. In any one match I will always have the advantage, it’s when there are multiple matches with unknown opponents that I have trouble.”
“Really? How do you know you’ll have the advantage?”
“Well, let me put it this way, if I put all my power into my strength I could match Titan for about 29 seconds, and I don’t think there is an opponent in this class that could stand up to Titan for 29 seconds.”
“Wow, but Titan is more than just rare strength, he has experience and skill that will take you 10 years to match.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t say I could beat Titan, only that I could match him and with just the one match on one day, I don’t have to hold back my energy reserves. I’m almost positive I can beat Pinnacle. Michael is a question mark, so I’ll skip him if I can.”
“So, who are you fighting today?”
“Oh, really? Isn’t Jennifer dating one of those personalities?”
“Yeah and James is dating another.”
“Really? Jennifer didn’t mention that.”
“Yeah, and if that wasn’t weird enough for you, I had slept with Candy before either of those two asked her/them out, but I’m pretty sure they don’t know that.”
“Oh. These are the kinds of things you can only hear when working with college aged supers in the HCP,” Dr. Gibson said smiling. “How about you give me a quick rundown of your criminal super relative and we’ll try to get you out of here so you can prepare for your match.”
“Yeah sure. You know I’m the only one in the house who doesn’t seem to have a problem talking about their family. The others are all like ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ or ‘it’s not important,’ but I don’t think that can be true. I was shaped by what my dad did, every time I go to visit in prison, he slams home how stupid he was and makes me promise to choose a better path. I’ve wanted to be a hero since I first got my powers.”
“Well it’s good to hear something positive came from it. What happened?” Dr. Gibson asked.
“My parents were pretty poor, living in a pretty bad neighborhood in Los Angeles. A few days after my mom told my dad she was pregnant with me he decided to rob a bank to help the family move to a better neighborhood. His power was similar to mine, in that he absorbed sunlight, but he turned it into energy blasts.
“So he goes into some rinky-dink bank, shows he has energy blasts and demands the money. He gets like $2,000 dollars and is heading out the door when he is tackled by one of the security guards. He claims he has no idea how it happened, but his power hit the man in the stomach and, well it wasn’t pretty. My dad looked down at the man in horror, killing wasn’t what he wanted. So he stopped what he was doing, dropped the money, put his hand behind his head and then dropped to his knees and just waited to be arrested.
“At the trial the judge appreciated the fact that the death was an accident and that he surrendered when that happened, but my dad’s power is ‘a deadly weapon’ and also certain minimum sentences must be applied when powers are used in a crime. So my father got a 62 year sentence, but has his first chance at parole in 11 more years.
“It was really hard on my mom after that. Pregnant, already struggling even when there was two people bringing in some income. She ended up dropping that apartment and spent more than two years at a woman’s shelter. Then she met my step dad, he’s a great guy and he had a really good job, married my mother and moved us to his house on the beach. Never treated me as anything but a son. Even took me himself several time to visit my dad, with no resentment that I could tell from either of them. Since all that happened before I was old enough to remember, I would say my life was pretty good. I feel like I’m well adjusted, and ready to be a hero.”
“I would have to agree that you seem okay with everything, but I am going to want at least one more session and we’ll go a little deeper, but I do think you’re on the right track. Good luck in your match today.”
Sam stood in the combat cell stretching a little, when Sandy came in the other door. “Hey Sandy,” he said.
“Hi Sam,” she replied, they were getting to know each other now that she was over at the house so much, either as Sandy for James, Andy for Jennifer, or as Candy, being one of Hope’s friends. And of all those visits, Sam hadn’t met Mandy yet, even though Hope tried to draw her out for some conversation.
“Yeah,” Sandy said and was quickly replaced by Andy. Sam always found how fast they could turn from one to another impressive, in under a second the hair and eyes changed color. The buzzer sounded and Andy recklessly charged forward. Sam had already raised all his power to match what he thought she was fighting at. She was a more skilled fighter, her moves were always fast and perfectly placed, and if Sam only stayed at her level then she’d win, but he could be so much stronger and faster that it wasn’t even a contest there, but he wanted to test her out and have a little fun.
She moved in quick and got around his guard and slashed his chest with his claws, leaving big gashes in his skin. He thought his durability was high enough to prevent that, there must be something more super about the claws, they were too sharp. He upped his durability even more, healed the damage and also increased his speed; he didn’t go overboard yet, just enough to even out their skill.
They clashed again, his speed was doing the trick with blocking her attacks, but he couldn’t land a hit, she was too flexible and precise in her movement. Sam would have found the way she moved erotic if he had time to think about it, but he had to focus. She once again got around his guard and slashed his arm and once again it went through his skin like he had nothing in his durability. The claws definitely had some extra super ability, not just ‘cat claws.’
Which meant Sam couldn’t play with her. He upped his speed and perception to super levels, kept something in durability in case she punched or kicked, but he had to keep the strength on the low side, because she didn’t have a lot of resistance to that. He charged her and with his speed he got around her with no problem. Once behind her, he punched her in the back, then grabbed her uniform, upped his strength and threw her over his shoulder towards the wall. She hit the ground hard and rolled, then lay unmoving.
Sam started to creep towards her, then he saw her hair change to Mandy Red, and a few seconds later to Candy Blonde, who stood up and changed her posture. Sam knew her power and knew she planned on screaming, he upped his speed and perception to the speed of sound, which was on the high end of power and would drain him very fast. He watched as the air in front of her distorted and spread out to a circle about five foot in diameter, he watched where it was heading and moved out the way, he tried to turn and get behind her, but at this speed he was having a lot of trouble getting traction. For true speedsters they always have tech super designed shoes, but his, while advanced, were not designed for this type of speed.
So he slowed his speed to the point where he could maneuver, but kept up his mental speed so he could track the sound waves, it wasn’t really necessary, because even at half the speed of sound he reached her before she finished with her first scream. He got behind her and put her in a choke hold. With how fast he was watching, he saw her hair begin to shift, he could see the individual strands change from the root to the tip, and then Andy was back and clawing deeply into his arm, but Sam just healed it as fast as she scratched, and she was down five seconds later. He set her down gently and checked his energy, it was low. Looked like it’d be another day wasted in the sun and it was getting cold outside, this was going to suck.
Hope walked into Dr. Gibson’s office all pomp and swagger, plopped into a chair in front of his desk and threw her feet up on the edge of his desk. He looked at her with stern eyes, but didn’t make a comment. Hope was there on a Saturday, it was the first time this year she’d chosen not to make a challenge, so far she’d fought three of the five that were ahead of her, and except for Allison, who she was pretty sure she couldn’t surprise again, she’d lost all the matches, and nothing was coming of finding the hidden power the focus VR game had shown her. She’d decided to accept her combat ranking and look for another avenue to move up in; weapons maybe. “Hi Doc,” she said.
“Hello, Miss Simons?”
“Yup that’s me.”
“Could you take your feet off my desk, it’s an antique?”
“Oh, sure Doc, no problem. So what so you want to know?”
“What would you like to talk about?”
“Ah, no Doc. None of that psycho-how’s that make you feel bullshit. What do we need to do to get from point A to finished?”
“Fine. Tell me everything you know about your criminal relation and don’t sugar coat it and that will go a long ways towards ending these appointments.”
“Deal,” Hope said. “Alright, it was my father who broke the law, and he was like a proper supervillain, or at least as much of one as you can be working from the shadows. Even had a code name and henchmen and stuff, he was ‘The Power Broker,” dun dun dun,” she said adding the cheesy effect.
“Never heard of him,” Dr. Gibson said.
“Not surprising, like I said, ‘worked from the shadows.’ Anyways, he had the power to take the powers from supers or powereds and give them to someone else…temporarily.”
“What!? I’ve never heard of anything like that. That would have been big news on the hero front.”
“Well, again I think you’re missing the ‘worked from shadows’ part. But the reason I don’t think it was bigger news was what made him so great. It’s a little complicated but I’ll try to make it clear. Okay, let’s say you have a powereds with super strength…my dad takes that power, leaving them normal for a few days, which by the way, not a powered out there that wouldn’t pay to be normal for a few days a years, which was half of the money making process. So then he gives that super strength to a normal human, again humans wanting to experience powers also pay well, and if that had been the end of his business venture, no problem, but we’ll get back to that.
“So, you know, of people with powers, about 40% are supers, 60% powereds, right. So talking about that ‘powered super strength’, if my dad took a random 10 people and tried to give them that power 4 of ten would have controlled super strength, 6 would be powered. Cool right, and you might be thinking that those four are like ‘super carriers’ or something, but no, you take another power, try the same 10 people 4 different people get the control. Although those original four will always be able to control the super strength. Therefore the trick is to find who can use what and go from there.
“Now since you know he’s a villain, you can probably guess how he used his power. It was a slow progression, first the more or less legal avenue of wish fulfillment, but soon he found a small time smash and grab crew and offered to make them ‘great.’ So now you have a bunch of what looked like supers in town committing a crime spree and this brought the heat; hero teams. So my father had no qualms about leaving that town and moving on, he was already in the process of divorcing my mother anyways. But, he didn’t want to go looking for more powered once he set up his new base of operations. So, he kidnapped the ones he already knew about, kept them drugged and locked up. His ‘crew’ now had ten people and he had ten powereds locked up.
“So, a team of ten villains…the attention they got was huge and like anything that high profile…they were caught. A telepath was brought in, but somehow none of them could remember…anything. My father had kept around an actual super that could mess with memory. So those ‘human’ crew members were so easy to replace and he just moved on to the next city, did it again and again. It took years before there was a slip-up and a subtlety hero found him, but then there was a mysterious fire and only a body was found.”
“Why’d you say it like that? You don’t think he’s dead?”
“Well it’s all a bit cliché, don’t you think? Hero corners the villain, but he’s like ‘you’ll never take me alive.’ And then the only thing left is a burned corpse. With all the powers that exist in the world and my father’s penchant for collecting people with said powers. I don’t know, I’ve read those old comic books, back before they wrote about real heroes, and the villains were always rising from the dead. Ha, it wouldn’t surprise me if Globe was alive too.”
“How would you feel if he was alive?”
“Who Globe?” she joked.
“No, your father,” he said with seriousness.
“Can’t say I’d care much. Didn’t know him, never wanted to know him. Although he did leave me a sizable and legal trust fund, so he couldn’t have been all bad right?”
“So why do you think I’ve never heard of this?”
“Don’t know,” Hope said shrugging her shoulders. “It wasn’t exactly a rousing success by the DVA or the heroes, so they wouldn’t want to advertise. Plus like you said, his power was a game changer. What he could offer to research alone would be huge, maybe they didn’t want to get everyone’s hope up that they could have or could get rid of powers. And it helped that the one power rule held.”
“One power rule?”
“Yeah, as a rule, supers have one power, although obviously there are oddities that can be sited that would seem to contradict that, it really is one power. So, those humans he enhanced could only have one power in their bodies at a time and supers or powereds couldn’t be given a second one unless the first had been sucked out first. So since none of them were ‘insanely powerful,’ I think they were even slightly weaker versions of the powers, they didn’t stand out as much. ‘Super Crews’ are always popping up, so what was a few more?”
“And how do you think your father’s actions lead to your desire to be a hero?”
“Hard to say. I always felt my power was totally inferior to my dad’s, so I know I want to prove it’s not. But as far as some creed like ‘I vow to balance the scales of my father’s evil deeds,’ no, not really what I want or care about. I know the crimes his ‘crew’ pulled off weren’t completely bloodless, but they were about money and staying low profile, so murder was avoided. I’m not going to even defend him a little, but I don’t think he was evil, just greedy.
“It obviously had some influence on my decision to try for the HCP, but really that was an after-thought, I never thought with my power I’d get accepted. So if I didn’t really plan on joining the HCP, and I didn’t care if I did and didn’t think I would even get in, I can’t really say I gave the why too much thought.”
“Well, you’re going to have to come up with a good reason. I’m going to give you homework; I want a paper called, ‘why I want to be a hero’ by next week. Make it compelling.”
Hope glared at him, “this is because I put my feet on the desk isn’t it?”
“I would never be that vindictive,” Dr. Gibson said and fought a smile.
“Are you James?” Dr. Gibson asked.
“Yeah,” James said going over and shaking his hand. James hated this, he had no desire to talk about his feelings and even less desire to talk about his dad.
“Good. I’ve got say, on the whole your group has been some of the most interesting sessions I’ve ever had and I’ve worked with veteran heroes before.”
“Glad we could make your day,” James said sarcastically.
“Have a seat anywhere,” James moved to the chair by the fireplace. “So how do you like the HCP so far?”
“I saw you just moved up to third in the overall rankings…that must be exciting.”
“Sure, except for the fact that the person I passed is my girlfriend, and I only passed her because my friend and housemate beat her in combat. You have any idea the position that puts me in?” James asked.
“I see. Has Sandy said that she’s angry at you?”
“Well no, but she refuses to talk about the combat match at all. I may not be the best at reading people, especially woman, but I know she’s fuming about the loss.”
“Just because she’s angry, it doesn’t mean she had any animosity towards you. It’s not like you challenged her personally and if her rank was so important to her, she could have refused the challenge. She probably accepted the challenge so she could be tested and through the loss, she can improve. Don’t belittle her emotions, but I’m fairly sure that they are not directed at you in any way.”
“Well that’s good to know.”
“You want to talk about your criminal relation?”
“You asked if I ‘want’ to talk about it. There is little I want less than talking about him. But since apparently I have to talk about it, we can.”
“Start wherever you’d like.”
“Kind of hard to get the order right. He was arrested when I was not even two and the government seized almost all the property and money, leaving my mother with almost nothing to try and start over with. Luckily, they had a green card marriage, because otherwise he wouldn’t have married her and she would have gotten less than she did. We moved to bum-fuck, Iowa and she cleaned houses around town. She refused to tell me anything about my father, and the internet, while it did have a lot on his ‘accomplishments,’ there was little on his arrest.
“I actually had to file a petition under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ to get a look at the file, and still it had a lot of redactions…
“So his power was the ability to steal knowledge and memories from people that he touched. In high school he’d walk through the halls, bump into ten or twenty people, take a bit of smarts from each of them and ace his classes with the stolen knowledge. He did the same thing for the SATs and got a perfect score, which lead to scholarships from most major universities. At college he continued to steal small bits of knowledge, but it was harder and more competitive than High school, so he needed more to stay on top, either more people, or more knowledge from a smaller pool. He went with the latter and discovered that when he took more, he got experiences and memories and ideas at a much greater level.
“It didn’t say it in the file, but I think he became addicted to certain memories. There was talk of people losing the memories of sexual encounters and drug use and a whole host of ‘happy’ memories. But it was still low key enough that he finished up school with perfect grades and amazing papers with revolutionary ideas. He got a job at a government think tank, and all he had to do was come up with new things, inventions, medical advancements, mathematical theorems, anything. But stealing small amounts of knowledge from hundreds of people on the street wasn’t enough to help him create original ideas…
“I think all the stolen memories had driven him insane at this point, but it could have been any number of things that drove him to do what he did next. He’d read magazines about the scientific community and look for people who were ‘on the cusp of a new discovery,’ then he visited them, and he’d steal almost everything, he didn’t just take their idea, he’d take their whole lives and what was left of them was something akin to an amnesiac infant, little to no thoughts left in their heads. Now, the memories would fade from my father and return to orginal owner in time, but that would have presented its own risk for him. First someone seeing their loved ones like that, it would only take two or three for a pattern to become crystal clear, and second, if they did regain all memory, they could just point to my dad and say ‘he did it, he stole my work.’
“So he had to silence them. Once he had all their knowledge he could perfectly mimic tone and handwriting and even give a compelling reason why they’d commit suicide, and with little thought left of their own he could direct them anywhere, or hang them, or let them ‘play’ with a loaded gun. For a few years the academic community lost many of their greatest mind to suicide…
“It was a subtlety hero that eventually saw the problem and traced the source. He was so insane at that point that it wasn’t much of a chase. He was too crazy to stand trial and has been in a padded cell for years,” James finished.
“First impressions?” John Allen asked Ron Gibson as he handed him a drink, the meeting was informal and losing the titles and adding the drinks would allow it all to stay off the official record.
“Hard to say as a whole. There are seven of them and they range from hate, anger and shame to pride and indifference.”
“Tony Price’s mother, a successful thief, he’s enamored with her legacy.”
“Is that going to be a problem?”
“No, with him he’s proud of what she could achieve and he’ll try to match her in his own way, if he becomes a hero, he’ll try to be the best, same if he ends up being something like a lawyer.”
“Let me ask you this, if you only had the files, would there be any of them you would have rejected outright?”
“Yes,” he said with certainty. “I don’t know why we need this review. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the HCP knows there is a bias.”
“You’re not going to put that in any official report are you?”
“Of course not. But, they are changing my mind; there is not a one that I would say that we should drop right now. A few have a long ways to go before the end of the year, but their pasts made them all stronger and more determined than almost anyone else in the program. They will try harder, fight smarter and never intentionally quit; it won’t matter what Tillman puts them through, not one of those seven will give up.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“Depends what you want,” he said making eye contact, trying to get a read about how the dean felt about the program. “If you want the best heroes and all biases removed from the program, then yes it will present as a good thing. If you want the DVA to stay out of the selection process, than it’s not going to help with that.”
“I see,” John said not commenting on what way he wanted it to come down on.