I have not the brainpower to write up a cool intro right now.
This is a story. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read all these other parts and catch up. If you know what I’m talking about, yay, another story part for you.
-I worded- -aren’t you all proud of me-
Calling in the expert
Dallas left to get a few gadgets and told me to stay waiting in the garage for him to get back. He was pretty hesitant to leave and assured me multiple times that he’d be back quickly.
Which . . . I mean, I didn’t blame him. I didn’t even trust myself to be left unsupervised at this point.
The elevator doors slid shut, closing Dallas off from view and I leaned back against the hood of his car. I let out a long breath.
The odd, heated feeling I’d been getting inside of me ever since last night built up again slowly. I put out one of my hands and turned it over, letting out some of the flame.
It sprung up as fast as if I’d thrown a match on gasoline, flickering over my skin. It didn’t even hurt now. I just got this sort of warm feeling when I did it.
Apparently the physical manifestation of my personality. Fire and explosives.
Destruction and death.
Literally everything I’d been trying to get away from.
The playback from that morning, when I’d accidently exploded that fork, flashed in my mind and I closed my eyes. I’d been sitting right next to Liza. News was just right over the counter and a bit of metal had almost . . .
I almost blinded him. Without even trying.
I felt sick just thinking about it.
All that. All that and I have to go back now. I have to keep these stupid flame powers and . . .
I clenched my teeth and swallowed, putting my hand back down. What should I even do? Apart from the obvious going-back-to-Silverwing and continuing my infiltration, going through everyday life with this problem sounded nearly impossible.
If I weren’t so opposed to small spaces, I’d have locked myself in a box to try and keep from hurting anyone until I could get this turned off.
Back in the day, didn’t they have some sort of power-control training that went with the superhero program . . .?
I suddenly realized my hand was still on fire and quickly stopped touching Dallas’s car, blowing to try and get the flames out. They obediently flickered out at my will, but there was still a singed black smudge on the green paint of Dallas’s truck now.
I groaned, stepping back and putting my hands over my head. Idiot, how could I . . . The pressure built inside again with my frustration and I held my breath for a bit. My foot bumped against an old, empty pop can. Something to throw. Something to . . . explode, maybe.
That could work. No one’s around . . .
I glanced around before bending down to pick it up. I held it tight in my hand for a few seconds, feeling the surface get hotter under my grip before it started glowing strangely. Just like the fork had this morning. The Coca-Cola symbol mottled unrecognizably.
I clenched my fist tighter around it before chucking it against the cement wall behind Dallas’s truck. The explosion echoed through the garage and tiny metal shards clattered to the ground around the area. I winced at the noise. A smoke splotch was left as a mark on the wall.
Yep. It still worked. Just as horribly as before.
I wondered how many other things I could turn into explosives at will. Or without even meaning to. Maybe even big things like cars or . . .
My heart skipped a beat.
Maybe I just shouldn’t touch anything?
God, help me. I can’t hurt anybody with this, please . . .
The elevator doors slid open again with a soft chiming noise and Dallas stepped back out, lugging a file box full of something that rattled and clanked together. His pace slowed a little as he saw the smoke stain on the wall, but he didn’t remark on it.
I opened my mouth to explain, closed it again and stuck my hands in my pockets. A bit of heat flared inside me again.
Dallas set his box in the bed of his truck and stood on tiptoe to shove it far into the back. He stood back up and looked over at me, his brow furrowed in concern. “You know, I was thinking . . . maybe we should call . . . someone.”
Like the fire department? Give me a constant bodyguard?
“Someone like who?”
He rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well . . . Mr. Fernsby? He did go through the Hero training much more intensively than I did and knows more of the techniques for getting powers under control. Mine were somewhat out of control at first as well and he helped me figure them out.”
Silence between the two of us for a few seconds, only the faint car noises overhead filling in the quiet.
I bit my tongue, considering for a minute. What the Fernsbys would think of this whole thing. Oh man, if Angela got wind of it . . .
And this would probably mean at least letting Charles in on the fact that I no longer had a job, because being at work and infiltrating secret organizations/getting uncontrollable superpowers were generally incompatible.
And Leif. I didn’t want Leif seeing me like this. Even though he’d probably think it was cool as heck and want me to show off. I wanted to project a “good big brother” image to him, not a “flaming human matchstick” image.
I looked over at Dallas. “Do the other Fernsbys and Leif have to know?”
Dallas shook his head. “I don’t think so.” He watched me carefully, either waiting for my answer or waiting for me to burst into flame again.
I let out a breath. I could get some actual training. And if I was going to keep this crazy fire power for any amount of time, that was pretty much a necessity.
“Yeah. Call him.”
Dallas nodded. His gaze flicked up to my hair again.
I patted my hand on top of it. The cowlick had flickered into flame again. I pressed my lips together tightly and ran my fingers through roughly, willing it to extinguish. “Sooner the better. Tell him to come to the Den.”
I probably wouldn’t have been able to get things out in a succinct enough way over phone call, especially while driving and trying to keep myself from bursting into flame, so it was a good thing Dallas made the call.
Dallas’s little truck peeled off from behind my car before we made it out of the city and I guessed he was going to get Charles.
I made it back to the Den before either of them made an appearance. And, per my new ritual, I got the car into park, stepped out, and promptly burst into flames. Letting out all the buildup that had collected during the drive.
I gulped in a few breaths of air as the tension relieved. Flames licked up my arms and flickered around my face. It was almost scary how I didn’t feel any of it.
Okay, scratch that, it was scary. Just not quite as scary as if I could feel it.
The flames died down after a few seconds. I flexed my hands, opening and closing my fists as a few remaining sparks hopped over my skin.
“Successful trip?” News’s voice called from the grocery store front. The sound of the door clanking shut echoed dully across the lot.
“Depends on your definition, but sure.” I turned to walk towards the entrance, jamming my keys in my pocket. “Also, we’re having guests. Dallas and Fernsby are coming over.”
News stood, leaning against the wall with a dishrag thrown over one shoulder and his tie looped loosely around the collar of his shirt. He grinned. “Awesome. It’s grilled cheese for lunch. What’re they coming over for?”
“Hopefully to help me not light everything on fire and/or blow it up,” I replied, seating myself on the curb to wait. I didn’t necessarily trust myself indoors anymore.
Bad News headed back inside to finish the lunch preparations and I stayed outside. My hands flickered into flame every few minutes without me trying to restrain the energy.
Within ten minutes or so, a green truck and a smaller, white car appeared around the bend, the midday sun glinting off their paint. They bumped along the uneven road and into the lot, parking next to my car. I pushed to my feet.
Charles’s car door opened first and he jumped out, immediately fixing his gaze on me. He barely even looked down to lock his car. His eyebrows raised up so high that his forehead wrinkled.
“Wolfgang?” he cautiously started towards me, scanning me up and down with a concerned intensity.
I put up my hands in a slight shrug, not quite being able to muster a smile.
Dallas’s car door slammed as he got out. “I told him everything you told me, Wolf.”
Charles reached my side, still sweeping his gaze up and down me, looking for any physical change. Silence for a few seconds before he finally opened his mouth again. “So. Dallas says you’ve got superpowers.”
“As of last night, against my will, yes, I do.”
The door to our side swung open and Liza stepped out, stopping as she saw Charles and Dallas.
“Right, well.” Charles took a deep breath and stepped back. “Do you think you could . . . you know, show me?”
Dallas stopped his advance just a little further back than Charles. He’d already seen what I could do.
And I probably traumatized the poor kid now. Great.
I glanced over at Liza.
She raised her eyebrows and folded her arms. “Bad sent me out to say he’s got lunch ready whenever you fellas are, but I want to see what Superman over here can do to help you. I’m staying, mate.” She leaned against the doorframe.
I let out a breath and held up a hand, watching it ignite.
Charles’s eyes widened. Dallas flinched.
Fernsby watched for a bit longer before nodding slowly. “So you can do that and . . . anything else, particularly?”
“I can turn things into miniature explosives. Not sure how large of things I’m limited to at a moment.”
I let my hand down as he worked his jaw, trying to collect his words.
Charles ran a hand over his hair and let out a breath. “I . . . okay, then. Alright. So. These are the same type as Dallas’s powers. The serums that go off your personality, obviously.”
I bristled. “What do you mean, ‘obviously’?” A spark of heat built inside of me and I felt a ripple around my hands again.
“Well, just . . . he means these aren’t the typical powers, and there are only two types, so the difference was obvious.” Dallas was quick to step in to try and smooth things over.
Liza gave a humorless laugh. “You’re hot tempered and explosive, Wolfy. That’s how it’s obvious.”
My face reddened a little bit. “I’m trying to do better about that, do I even get credit?”
Charles was oblivious to the conversation, his eyes narrowed in thought as he rubbed a hand along his jaw. He muttered a few things quietly before nodding again. “Alright, so your main problem is just trying to get them under control, right?” He looked up and met my gaze again.
I nodded. “Preferably as quickly as possible, since the next meeting is tomorrow evening. And . . . I need to keep the powers on to stay in the game.”
“Right, right, of course.” Charles folded his arms. “Well, going off that these are the same sort of powers as Dallas’s the process should be pretty similar. They’re crazy for a day or so after first getting them, but you have to get a handle on it before they’ll really calm down. Putting it briefly, the abilities link into whatever emotion most strongly connects to your personality. Or whatever the nanites read as the strongest element present.”
He stepped closer, tilting his head a little and looking back down at my hands and frowning for a second. “So, what it read into on Dallas . . . when his powers flare . . .” he looked back at Dallas. “Forcefields tend to show up when they’re needed. When he feels like he needs either to protect himself or others. Teleportation flares when he’s nervous.”
Dallas grimaced a little at being talked about and rubbed his hands together slightly. I noticed a flicker of blue.
“Sorry, Dallas.” Charles raised a hand in an apology before turning back to me. “So have you noticed any particular emotion that flares these powers?”
I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times.
So this was going to make one particular emotion flamingly obvious. Great. That would be fun.
“I-I’m not sure if . . .”
“I got a guess,” put in Liza. “Remember, Wolfy. This morning that fork went ballistic when News suggested we could put in a fireplace now and just have you keep it lit for us. You got ticked off and things got . . . you know.” She wrinkled her nose and shrugged. “And just by the looks of things, I’d say it flares when you’re angry.”
I bit my tongue, thinking back.
Every instance where it flickered on or flared badly without my noticing so far had involved me getting mad.
So great. Anger. Key part of my personality.
Thank you, nanites. Real booster for my self-confidence. Why didn’t you just turn me into The Incredible Hulk while you were at it?
I noticed that Charles was staring at my hands and I quickly clamped down on the annoyance before the flames could grow.
“Great.” I nodded, giving a tight-lipped smile. “That’s it.”
“So that’s what we’ve got to get a handle on, then,” Charles continued cautiously. “That’ll partially be the training. Whenever you start loosing your temper, you’ve got to keep an especially close mental hold on the fire powers. They draw from your energy, so you can make them work even when you’re not angry, but anger boosts it quite a bit.”
I nodded, flexing my fingers in and out from the fists I’d kept them in. Even though they didn’t hurt, my scars were looking more irritated since the day before, getting all red again. My hands were shaking on and off as well, but that was more or less normal, especially for a stressful day.
Charles nodded back and clapped his hands together. “Right, starting training then? Or did you have anymore questions . . .?”
Liza raised a hand. “Yeah, er . . . how is it not . . .” she waved her hand back and forth. “ . . . you know, burning him up?”
I’d wondered the same thing, but as it seemed to be working just fine, I didn’t want to bring it up and jinx myself to be roasted alive.
“Ah, excellent question,” Charles walked over to my side, studying me as if trying to find some hidden button. “The nanites are pretty smart, as far as making things not harmful to their users . . .”
As to the user’s friends and family and all those in close proximity . . . that’s a whole different mater entirely . . .
Liza came over closer, joining in the search for goodness knows what. Charles rubbed at his jaw again. “Here, could you light it up for just a bit?”
I sighed and held up a hand, flaming on.
Liza squinted. “Looks like it’s . . . leaving a tiny gap-space between your skin and the flame?”
“It could be similar to the invulnerability I had with the superman powers,” Charles remarked. “I was never that good at getting it to work, but it was sort of like a close fitting, personal forcefield. Maybe this one is special to protect from the flames.”
Well, I hadn’t heard that one before. Invulnerability. Probably explained how unscathed he was by a few close-range attacks I’d made during my villain days.
I let my hand down again. “Okay, this is all great. But I’m still not really getting anywhere closer to no longer spontaneously combusting. Can we start whatever training you had in mind?” I probably needed to head back to my apartment again soon and I’d rather not turn Lucius into roast falcon.
“Yes, sorry.” Charles stepped back out from by my side. “Well. As far as basic control goes, Dallas and I started out with target practice.”
Dallas had been sitting quietly on the curb and frowned, looking out over the parking lot. “There isn’t a lot to use here, though. Do we have any sort of . . . boxes maybe? Or metal things, since those won’t burn?”
Asking if we had target-practice worthy things around the Den?
I looked over at Liza and she smirked. She saluted Dallas with her metal hand. “Have I got the targets for you.” She ducked back inside.
Not ten minutes later, we had a nice lineup of old scrap metal, ditched prosthetic arms Liza had decided she didn’t like, and a couple of cardboard boxes. The row of odd objects stretched across half the length of the parking lot.
I stood there, looking them over and calculating the short distance. Liza elbowed me.
“How’s that, eh?”
My gaze settled on an old metal arm I’d seen Liza toting around more than once, lying by itself on top of a box. “Sort of disturbing, honestly.”
“Aim for the other targets, then.” Charles chuckled. He pulled his expression back into seriousness as Dallas set up the last metal sheet and came on back to us. “Right. So this is just for general power control.” He pointed to the first piece of scrap in the lineup. “See if you can aim and hit that one.”
Getting past the weirdness it was of Charles telling me to burn something for once, I held up my hand. It ignited with barely a thought. But aiming over a distance . . .?
I narrowed my eyes in concentration for a few seconds, then threw my arm forward like I was pitching a baseball. A stream of fire fell short, flickering onto the pavement in front of us before dying out.
“Try again,” Charles prompted. “Just more energy.”
I focused harder on the fire in my right hand and pitched again, a little higher and harder this time. It went far enough, but streaked past the target.
I wound up to go again, somewhat surprised by the diminished burning in my chest. I could actually feel the pull on my energy as I threw the fire.
More energy . . . I squinted at the target, briefly imagining it as Mansley. Maxine. Some Silverwing snob.
It didn’t give me much, but it was enough of a boost in annoyance that this time the fireball hit straight on.
Liza gave a whoop, smacking my arm. “Attaway, flamethrower.”
“Flamethrower?” Dallas blinked.
“Oh, shut up,” I rolled my eyes, pushing back a bit of a smile. Still hated this thing. But . . . I mean, it was sort of satisfying to get a better knowledge of how to use it.
With Charles’s prompting, I moved on down the line of targets. Even made one explode when I tried. By the time we reached the end, I really got what Dallas was talking about when he’d said that using the forcefields made him tired.
Seriously, I needed a nap or something. All the excess fire I’d used up with loosing my temper and missing targets hadn’t helped an already intensive target practice.
But I knew how to aim and fire now at least.
I hit the last one barely trying and stopped to take a few deep breaths.
Charles clapped me on the shoulder. “Well, for some pretty crazy powers, you’re doing really well.”
“Thanks,” I replied a bit breathlessly. “So . . . this should . . . help things, right?”
He nodded, hesitating only slightly. “Keep practicing. And . . . um . . . anger management is still on you. There’s not much I can do there. It’ll still get out of control if you loose it.”
Loud clapping from behind us made me jump. We all turned to see Bad News with a giant bowl of popcorn, sitting on the curb. He clapped for another few seconds, grinning widely, before he took the bowl and stood up.
“Great show. Way to work up an appetite. Now let’s have some lunch.” He grinned and waved us all towards the door.
Dallas nudged me as we started back for the Den. “And I need to give you those gadgets afterwards.”
Right. Hopefully I’d have a chance on that mission now.
Hope you enjoyed the part and we’ll be back on Thursday with more!