This was weirdly hard to write. There were so many stops and starts, but alas, readers expressed interest and I was honor-bound to press on. 🙂 Anyway, since this is obviously free and I did work pretty hard on it, might you consider voting for this site on Best Male Blogs as compensation? I’d appreciate it and it only takes a few seconds. Click here to vote.
It had been nearly six weeks since I joined the SLA and so far my ‘training’ had consisted of watching a lot of instructional videos, trying (and mostly failing) to keep up with the intense gym regimen that Justin had assigned me, very occasionally practicing controlling my power, and analyzing recordings of the city’s heroes in action…in slow motion.
Justin, my recruiter and occasional jerkoff buddy, wasn’t terribly keen on giving me first-hand experience.
“Look, Nick. Your power is novel, I’ll give you that—” he had told me, “—and like I said before, I could see it coming in handy during a pinch, but you’ve never had proper training. You’re not exactly at peak physical performance. And there is a lot of red tape I need to get through before you even see the far side of a combat area.”
He was right, of course, but I was getting antsy sitting in a dark room watching video clips all day. I wasn’t thrilled about getting thrown into harm’s way, but doing nothing was starting to eat through my patience reserves.
Once I tried to use a pheromone nudge to make him a little more open to the idea of letting me do something more hands-on, but in return he shut down my power. It was the first time I’d ever seen him use his power and the first time (that I know of) I’d ever had someone use their power on me. I don’t know how to describe it except to say it was like being dumped into a cold bath: jolting, disturbing, and it left me feeling rattled for longer than you would think.
By the time I was able to speak again his eyes were already shifting from emerald-green back to their natural hazel. Not everyone has a ‘tell’ — some external signifier that they were using or had recently used their power — but some do, usually the stronger powers. The flashier ones. I, of course, do not.
“Don’t try to push me again, Nick. Or I’ll shut you off for a week.”
I had no idea if his power could work that long-term, but I didn’t want to find out either. I kept my pheromones to myself after that.
I’m sure it sounds like Justin was hard on me in those early days, and it’s true, he was. But he was always clear that this was a part of becoming a superhero, that it was like any other job and that I’d be no good to myself or my future teammates without proper training. I didn’t know it then, but Justin, for all his easy smiling and casual attitude toward sex, had seen heroes, friends even, die and that has to leave some scars.
And it wasn’t all bad, eventually Justin and I headed to a local gym and he had me practice on the people working out. He explained that a part of my training would be an extensive survey of human psychology & physiology. This would teach me the limits of altering someone’s impulses without them becoming aware that something was being done to them. It was the standard training for telepaths, which I wasn’t, but it had been decided that I more or less fit under their umbrella.
So first he had me use my power (at a sizable distance for the first time) on a guy on the bench-press. Justin was clear that too much of a push would distract him and could cause him to injure himself, so I had to be subtle. I started off gently, just barely pushing at him, just barely feeling the tension building in my stomach and chest. Even with only six weeks of training behind me I could already feel how different it felt to use my power with a body that was a little more fit. It was like using a finely tuned violin after strumming on a homemade fiddle.
The guy on the bench-press didn’t seem affected at first so I put a little more into it. I had to be careful that I was properly isolating my influence to this one guy and not affecting the entire area. My power is complicated chemically and I can barely keep track of the specifics that they’ve pinned down in the SLA labs. Basically it comes down to this, I can produce incredibly general (which is easier) or precision pheromones keyed to certain individuals (which is not so easy), alter them on the fly, and generally fuck with everything from sex drive to hunger to general mood. Guess which one’s my favorite?
I still couldn’t tell if he was feeling it so I gave him a little extra jolt and the bar wobbled in his hands. I could catch Justin’s expression in my periphery and I apologized while trying to even out my output. Sweat was starting to form on my forehead and behind my ears from the effort. If it was this hard to control my power, I couldn’t imagine grappling with something like laser beams or weather.
It took another few moments of consistent pressure before the guy decided to hand off the weights to his spotter and sit up. He gave some excuse to his friend or personal trainer, whoever the other guy was, and then headed off to the locker room. I grinned widely. His erection was way too prominent to be easily concealed.
“Did you see that?” I said to Justin. “I did that from across the room. I’ve never done it that far before.”
Justin patted my shoulder and squeezed it. “Good work, little rough, but we can work with that. How are you feeling?”
“Great. Completely great. I just —”
I never got to finish that sentence because I kind of, sort of, blacked out. It was only for a moment, but it happened all the same. It was incredibly embarrassing. Justin brushed it off, apparently it happens to almost everyone when they’re first learning to control their power, apparently it has something to do with the amount of blood required to fuel the part of the brain that regulates our abilities. At least that what he said, maybe he just made it up to make me feel better. I appreciated it either way.
On the way back to the SLA headquarters Justin got a call about a skirmish going down near our location. Apparently the heroes had things well in hand, but the higher-ups thought it might be a good chance for him to show me some fieldwork in action. I jumped at the chance and Justin, despite some reservations, eventually relented.
The GPS in Justin’s car lead us straight to the location, a construction site where a multi-story bank was in development. He parked and turned to me. “We’re just here to watch, got it? No heroics, no stunts, no interference. Unless someone throws a punch your way, you’re not to get involved.”
“Do I look like the Lone Ranger? I’m not getting involved.”
“Dude, you’re not even Tonto yet.”
With that Justin unlocked the doors and we stepped out of the car. At first there was nothing to see, but then Justin pointed to the upper reaches of the building’s skeleton and we saw where the fight was taking place.
The antagonists were twins, at least they looked identical, though one held a long curved blade and the other a spear. They were dressed in black outfits that flowed around them as they moved in a way that suggested there was more than just wind at work.
The heroes that fought them were a younger team with some good press under their belt, but not a ton of experience. One of them was a slender woman in green and gray robes who stood on a lower level of the structure and commanded a huge, network of creeping vines to climb the beams of the building and snap at the villains like living whips from all sides. Justin informed me that her pseudonym was Thumb, short for Greenthumb, and she hated it. The expression on her face made it seem like there wasn’t very much that she liked, especially not being able to get hold of those villains. They moved in sync and managed to stay out of the range of the attacking vines, and cut them down when they came too close.
Another one of the heroes was dressed in a cerulean blue t-shirt and a pair of khaki cargo shorts. He had both hands up and the index, ring finger and thumb of each hand extended: a few inches from both of his hands was a small floating ball of water that moved where with his fingers did. At first it seemed a little silly to put a ball of water against someone with a sword, but as this hero pressed the attack on his sword-wielding enemy the water-spheres were a dervish of activity. He used them almost like a set of dual knives and when the villain dodged a particular blow, I watched as one of those spheres sliced clean through a section of a steel beam. Whenever the water-spheres struck the villain’s sword though, the spheres were parted only to reform again at the hero’s command.
“That’s Stream, he’s an aquakinetic with high level combat training. It’s unusual, but I’ve seen him fend off a half-dozen combatants using his own sweat,” Justin explained.
The final hero was the star of the team and its de facto leader. He went by Zash and his power had something to do with messing with the laws of physics. As I understood it, he could conserve force and velocity and then unleash them at will as well as enjoying a certain amount of protection from the effects of physical trauma. I didn’t understand how it worked until I saw it in practice. Zash went after the spear-wielding twin and got a kick launched at him for his trouble. He fended off the twin’s foot with an arm-block and then something curious happened. From my perspective it looked like the spear-twin was struck by some unseen force and went toppling off the side of the beam he was standing on. Then Justin explained that Zash had stored the force of the kick on contact and instantly returned that force on the spear-twin, who was clearly not ready for it.
The spear-twin went hurtling toward the ground, but one of Thumb’s thick vines snatched him out of the air and instantly got to work growing over him and restricting his movement.
That left Stream and his fight. In the time that we were watching Zash it looked like the sword-twin had opened up an ugly-looking cut along the aquakinetic’s left bicep, but it hadn’t slowed him. Stream’s fingers were a flurry and his water-spheres moved so fast that were barely visible, still he could not land a solid blow against the sword-twin whose blade always seemed to be just a moment faster. But with Zash freed up from his fight and Thumb refocusing her efforts on the remaining threat, the sword-twin seemed to realize that he was outgunned. His expressionless face registered just a hint of a frown and then he cut through the beam below and allowed himself to fall. Thumb extended a vine to try to catch him, but it was too late. Zash went after him too, but the sword-twin seemed built for evasion. In a few minutes he was gone and none of them were in a position to catch him. Instead they turned their attention on the spear-twin whose face was perfectly placid despite his recent capture.
The three heroes left the building with their prisoner in tow and came straight over to the car where Justin and I were standing.
“Good work, team. You kept it together in a tight spot and managed to take a prisoner to boot.”
Zash nodded tightly at that and Stream gave a wide smile and a thumbs up, even as he held a hand to his cut and blood ran between his fingers. Thumb seemed pleased by the compliment, but the brunt of her focus remained on keeping the prisoner wrapped tightly in his living shackles.
“I wish we would have gotten both of them, but this is an acceptable outcome I suppose,” Zash said.
Justin shook his head. “Don’t beat yourself up. Whoever these guys are, they are very well-trained. You held your own. Be proud of that.”
“Not to break up this chatfest, but can we make sure Stream’s arm doesn’t fall off?” Thumb asked, and pointed to the blood on his hands. Stream just shrugged and made an amusingly nonchalant gesture.
“Of course, I’ve already called in a retrieval unit. They should be here momentarily.”
After that I got a taste of the tedium that comes with an SLA retrieval and engagement post-mortem. Each member of the team had to give a full report while Justin and I as witnesses had to give equally lengthy statements. Afterward, Justin and I headed back to headquarters.
“What do you think of Zash and his team?” He asked.
“They’re good. They’re…amazing. To see people with real powers fighting. It was a little scary to be honest, but exhilarating at the same time,” I answered.
“It’s always a little scary, but a little fear is healthy. Makes you cautious. Do you think they work well together?”
“Yeah. They were great.”
“I’m glad you think so, because you report to Zash’s team first thing monday morning. Consider this your graduation of sorts. Welcome to the big leagues, Tonto.”
And just like that I went from being a hypothetical superhero, to being an actual superhero, and the only thing I could focus on was not pissing myself.