Superhero society was small. Turns out, all the movies and comics got one thing wrong- the average person, endowed with special abilities, used it almost exclusively for their own gain, and they clung to anonymity carefully, lest they be manipulated into servitude.
I wasn’t aware of all that. In fact, I, like most people, wasn’t even aware that ‘super powers’ even existed, until it was too late.
On the night of my eighteenth birthday, I was celebrating in the traditional fashion. Going to the bar, to have my ‘first drinks’. Of course, I’d already had a few beers in private with my friends- but my parents didn’t know that.
While my Dad secured us a table, Mom and I read over their menus- I was in charge of selecting the booze, and she, the food.
“You like soft shell tacos, right?” Mom asked.
“You bet. Messy, though, if we’re all going to be drinking.”
“Good point.” She replied, and looked over the menu again.
I’d made a deal with Mom and Dad- if I stayed sober until my 18th, they had to keep up with me, drink for drink, and drinking whatever I was drinking. I was in the mood to mess with them a little bit- I was thinking I’d start with a G&T, then rum and coke, then beer, and, if I was sure I wanted all of us to be ill, I’d add wine somewhere in there.
Not that they’d done anything to annoy me- I just thought it’d be funny.
Dad came back and showed us to our table.
“Why is it so busy?” I asked.
“Turns out it’s a trivia night.” Dad replied.
“Oh.” I thought about it for a moment.
“Should we find somewhere else?” Mom asked.
“Nah! It might be fun.” I responded as we took our seats.
The night began, and my parents gave me mockingly scolding looks as my drink selections got progressively stranger.
Finally, after we finished our third round, the trivia started.
Table 1 was asked random trivia about Harry Potter- which they got wrong, but I stole the answer right after. Didn’t everyone know Cedric Diggory’s dad’s name? I thought that was pretty common knowledge.
They came to us, Table 2, and asked what the basic needs for achieving flight were. Dad was a pilot, so he answered- but I mouthed the answer right along with him.
Mom looked at me with an arched eyebrow.
Table 3 got their answer right- one of them must’ve been a marine biologist to know that one.
Why were these questions so difficult?
Our fourth round of drinks arrived, and I nodded gratefully at the waitress.
“What’s in this?” Dad asked after the first sip.
“This is the Brown Sugar Grapefruit Whisky Smash. Brown sugar bourbon, a quarter of a grapefruit, simple syrup made from cane sugar, mint leaves, ice cubes, served in a julep glass.” I responded without thinking.
“Did you take a mixology course or something?” Dad asked.
“Nope. I mean, you can taste it, can’t you? The flavors are pretty obvious.”
“Hmm.” Dad said.
The trivia came back to us- except, while we were distracted, the host had changed. There was now a very tall, lanky man asking the questions.
“Where were you when the lines were drawn across the Universe?” He seemed to be addressing me moreso than the whole table.
“I was but scattered energy, coherent of nothing, wanting for nothing.”
The lights seemed a touch dimmer now than they had been a moment ago.
“Who is it that gives the orders to the ocean, instructing when it can rise and fall?”
“Baalschepsuit, the man who usurped God.” The answer came out of me automatically, as though I was required to speak.
“And where is Baalschepsuit now?” The man asked.
“He is with you now, is he not? He stands behind you.”
The lanky man whipped around, shock and fear plain on his face- only to be met with a powerful fist.
The lanky man crashed into the crowd, who had been, for some time, completely motionless. I hadn’t really registered that until now.
“Yours is a most interesting ability, young man.” Baal stepped out from behind the darkness. “These people you were speaking with, they meant to recruit you. They had discovered your power. But- I think I can offer you a better deal. Come serve me, and you will want for nothing. Refuse, and I will render your tongue into scalded ash.”
This man radiated power. True power. I had met high profile people before, Dad often piloted for them. Some of them had charisma, or an intimidating presence.
This was something else. I knew it was his power that bade me to speak, that had frozen the crowd. I was helpless before him- and there was no sense in dying for a cause I didn’t even know existed.
I stood, and approached Baal, though my legs trembled with fear.
“Where are we going?” A small part of my mind continued to be aware that my responses may have been…compromised, as though Baal controlled not only time, and immense power, but also some element of mind control.
Baal smiled, and rows of crooked, sharp teeth revealed themselves- rather like a shark’s mouth might have, if it was forced into human shape.
“Heaven. As you know, I am in command up there. You will find it…somewhat different than you have been led to believe.”
With that, Baal and I left the bar, and Earth, behind.
The lanky man was known as Ibis. He had discovered his own power many years before- the simple ability to detect and concentrate energy. This was the same ability that led to the emergence of the human race- though it was not Ibis who had done it, but Ibis’s predecessor, who had served the original God.
His jaw was broken- twice, if he was not mistaken. The pain clouded his thoughts. How had he not detected Baal’s presence?
“Mistrah, help.” He called into his radio, hoping she was close enough to hear and respond.
Ibis waited, trying to clear his thoughts. He may have been internally bleeding in his brain. He needed a hospital.
Mist showed up before long. She was nearly as tall as the man she came to save, but instead of Ibis’s own characteristic jerkiness and awkwardness, her every step was fluid and graceful. “Another failed recruitment?”
“Not like other time. Found new power, looked. Baal came.”
“Oh, Gods above.” Mist pulled her dark red hair back from her face as she saw Ibis’s jaw. “Well, he didn’t outright kill you.”
“New recruit young.” Ibis said.
“Didn’t want to scare him too badly. I see.” Mist pulled Ibis from his spot on the ground. “Let’s get out of here before the Humans wake up.”
“Gotta help him. Just little kid.” Every word hurt to form, but Ibis knew once he was in the hospital he wouldn’t be coming out for a while. “Big threat. Knows everything.”
“He knows everything?” Mist asked.
“Well…if we can’t save him before the week is out, then we’ll have to kill him. He could tell Baal where we’re hiding- or where God is licking his wounds, waiting to return.”
“I will if I have to, Ibis. Let’s pray that it doesn’t come to that.”
Mist didn’t bring Ibis to a regular hospital- regular hospitals wouldn’t have been able to endure a long-term stay with him.
Ibis was aware of this, of course. Whenever he needed to heal, whenever he slept, Ibis drew energy in from the area around him. If he wasn’t in one of his special sleeping pods, he could easily have killed the people around him by drawing on their power.
Luckily, the Grey had prepared for people like him.
The Grey were an underground movement trying to oppose Baal- they weren’t large, well-organized, or even especially powerful, but they had managed to hide from Baal’s sight for a long time. That was more than any of the other opposition had managed.
Hell, they were doing better than God’s own angels had managed to do- assuming the angels were even trying to save God in the first place.
Upon reflection, perhaps it was because the Grey were weak that they had survived.
Mist followed her usual route towards their underground safe house- it was disguised as an abandoned skate park, and was surprisingly large. Most of their actual equipment and services took place three or more stories deep, far away from any mundane prying eyes.
Mist kept Ibis in her purse. Reshaping people’s structure wasn’t easy, per se, but she had become quite good at it. She could hear him trying to keep cool, but his jaw must’ve hurt a lot. Ibis wasn’t one to complain…yet he was definitely complaining.
Eventually, Mist reached her destination. Four floors underground, there was a peculiar disbarred doctor who was somehow intimately familiar with the supernatural beings she surrounded herself with- she understood the scope of their abilities and how to effectively treat around them.
“Good evening, Doctor Rochelle.”
“Ibis?” She asked, indicating Mist’s purse.
“Indeed. You knew he was here?”
“I have sharp ears.”
“He got punched by… a tremendous force.” Mist said, as she pulled Ibis free from her purse.
Ibis, in this scale, looked very much like a pen.
Mist allowed Ibis to return to his original shape, slowly, so he wouldn’t become ill from the process.
“Jesus, Ibis…” Doctor Rochelle said as she palpated along his jaw. “The whole damn thing is pretty much shattered. Gonna have to test you for concussions and brain bleeds, too. We have your special sleeping pod prepared, as well.”
Mist prepared to leave, only to find herself hemmed in by six of the other Greys.
“Mist, we’d like to speak with you.”
“No.” She said neutrally, and walked through the group.
“Please, Mist!” One of them called out to her. Tijn, this one was called. He was a young man, perhaps seventeen, a bit short for his age, earnest and hardworking.
“I know what you want, Tijn, and the answer has not changed.”
“We’re bleeding members, Mist. We will never make any headway without you.”
Mist could feel every pair of eyes on her back as she walked away.
The Grey had been hunting for a leader for years. Some had tried to fill the role, but it wasn’t the kind of task you could simply slide into. Mist had…relevant experience. She also had a firm desire to never put someone else’s life at risk ever again. She’d lost friends, people who were practically family-
Mist had done enough. She was not willing to become a leader again.
She reached the elevator without further disturbance, only to find someone on the elevator, going up.
It wasn’t a coincidence.
“Fence.” Mist greeted casually.
“Mist. Going up?”
“You know I am.”
Fence was perhaps the only other superhuman who was in the same caliber as Mist. His abilities lent themselves to combat in a way that made him unstoppable against even dozens of regular men. He looked the part, too- his dark hair was cropped short, his beard did its best to hide the many scars on his neck and face, and his nose was crooked from one too many breaks. In a rugged way, he was handsome. To normal women, he probably only looked dangerous.
“I have a proposition.” Fence said, pushing the ground floor button.
“Shut up, Mist. You don’t even know what I’m offering.”
“Don’t really care-“
“Even if it has to do with the Sechelt Corps?” Fence asked, a grim smile on his lips.
Mist felt a chill crawl up her spine, drawing her to her full height. “If you’re fucking with me, Fence, I will kill you, regardless of how many Greys they put in front of you.”
“I have a lead. It isn’t a lot, but it’s something.”
“Leadership. These morons don’t know battle tactics from their own backsides, and they’re supposed to take down Baal? Bullshit. It’ll never happen. With you, though, given some time, a pissed off Ibis, and what’s left of God?”
“Leave Ibis out of this.”
“He’s our best weapon.”
“He isn’t a weapon, you ass.”
“Well, I guess that’s for you to decide, O Leader.”
They arrived at the ground floor.
“I have a better idea. You’ve been wanting to see for years who’s the better fighter.”
Fence arched an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“We fight. Winner takes all.”
“Two weeks of servitude for me, and permanent leadership from you?”
“Too sweet of a deal. You that confident you can win?”
“You won’t land so much as a scratch on me, Fence.”
“I may have gotten a little rusty running goods for these sloppy pricks, but do you really think it’ll be that easy? You’re on.”
“Take us there, then.”
With a wolfish grin, Fence touched the B6 button- the basement of the Grey headquarters. The arena.
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