I sit down at the table, studying every one of the attendees one by one. To an extent, we clash, but I can’t help but feel that if we just try, we could work together well.
“I was meaning to ask, in the interest of getting to know each other better, how each of you got your powers.” I say. “I was born with an identical extra copy of one chromosome; it interacts with the rest of my genome in ways which I doubt science can yet explain.”
“And you know this how?” Saxon asks.
“I wrote a computer program and messed around in the genetics lab. A few people I know are going into molecular biology and genetics, it wasn’t that hard.”
“Were you speaking Greek? Because I’m not sure I heard you correctly,” Rebecca says.
“She’s a genius. Lit-er-al-ly,” Audrey interrupts. I sigh.
“Audrey, really. You taught me everything I know about programming,”
“And you learned it all in under three months,” Audrey replied. I sighed.
“Moving on,” I said deliberately, “how did everyone else get their powers?”
“You already know,” Audrey said.
“Everyone else doesn’t,” I pointed out. Audrey sighed. I pushed my hot chocolate toward her. It was caramel–her favorite. She gave me a pointed look at the obvious bribe, but acquiesced anyway.
“Mom was a mad scientist,” she recounted with relish. “Her family died in a fire. It started as looking for better ways to ensure people’s safety in fires and ended with trying to make it possible for people to control fire and stop them as soon as they begin.”
“She really was,” I put in. “I’ve had a look at her notes. They’re indecipherable, even to me. I can’t understand half the physics, and I’m not even sure what some of those formulae mentioned are. It’s as if she was referencing from some other world, where the laws of physics are entirely different from Earth’s.” Saxon shifts slightly in her chair. It’s hard to tell whether it’s just that she was uncomfortable in the chair, or if it’s something else. “She did think she had it, at last. She tested it on herself and couldn’t seem to get any result–whatever she came up with only seems to work pre-puberty.”
“So she did the logical thing and tried it out on her daughter,” Starlight says, sarcastically.
“But how did you get the technopath powers, then?” Rebecca asks. Audrey shrugs.
“I think it’s a completely unintended side effect. From what I can deduce, the drug seemed to be in two parts, one that would encourage the development of superpowers, the other to induce the desired powers. There was probably a short span of time after she developed pyrokinesis when the first drug, the mutagen, was still active, and outside influences caused her to develop technopathy. The other possibility is that she already had the potential. Her father was, after all, among the premier software designers in the world. The drug took that and did something bizarre with it.”
“If your theory is correct,” Starlight says, “those drugs could be very dangerous in the wrong hands. Potentially, anyone could develop any superpower, it would be very easy to abuse…”
“If,” I say, “there’s someone out there who could re-create Audrey’s mother’s work.”
“Trust me, there probably is,” Starlight says. “Where are those notes now?”
“In a box in my closet,” I say, deadpan.
“For safe-keeping,” Audrey explains.
“Do you always finish each other’s sentences like that?” Rebecca wants to know.
“Sometimes,” Audrey says, grinning. I sigh.
“What about you, Rebecca?”
“I was born with mine, I think. They just started showing up, one day.”
“Born with them,” she says shortly. Again, I get the strange feeling that she’s not saying something, but she has a right to her privacy, so I don’t pry.
“The origin of my powers, like my name, is my own affair. I would tell someone if I trusted them. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if I am safe to trust you.” That is complex, but not unexpected. I put my hand down on the table.
“Right. I’m not asking anyone to… start using her powers in a way she doesn’t already… This is to help us stay undercover, to help us adjust to our powers. I’m not sure if any one–apart from Starlight, that is–of us has it in us to actually be a superhero. I was hoping that Starlight could help us adjust to our powers… maybe show us how to control them better… or suggest how to use them constructively.” I can tell, without using my telepathy, that Starlight’s thoughts on my powers are keep out of people’s heads.
At least it’s a start. (I hope.)