A story of nobody with the powers to be anybody.
When you think about it every journey really does start with a single step. Only people usually omit the fact that you need to learn to walk first before you can take next step onto the road lidded with broken glass and other obstacles. The journey is never easy, and the first few steps are the hardest.
As for me the challenge was even getting out of bed. Now I'm not a morning person, nor am I someone who sleeps till noon. The problem is when you have multiple finals all lined up one after another and barely getting a wink of sleep for five days straight, all the while having to balance your headache inducing job. That is enough reason for me to be lazy just this once.
Sadly, I don't agree with myself. For whatever reason I had the bright idea to buy one of those alarm clocks that sound off and start running around the room to hide and you have find it to switch it off. What's worse, I put the alarm sound to the gentle voice of a woman, then a few moments later it starts screaming in that stereotypical American drill Sargent voice. Oh and is it loud. Much louder than that small thing has any right to be.
So here I was crawling around the room in a half zombie state looking for a small Drill Sargent I needed to bop on the head. I really hated myself sometimes.
Finally, after hitting my head twice, I found the little bastard. The damn thing was stuck inside a loose pair of underwear. I should probably clean my room now that I got free time.
Regardless, I checked the time on the alarm and placed it back on it's charging station. It was 8:36, still early enough to take a shower and grab a quick breakfast. I rummaged trough my clothes and fund a clean button-up shirt and pants.
As I was walking over to the bathroom I could already hear two of my flatmates bickering. Luka and Elisabeth, Lili for short, were at it again, the two of them could fight over anything given enough reason, which wasn't much. Deciding I was too sleepy for it at the time I made a straight line for the bathroom and jumped right into the shower.
To no surprise of mine, even after some ten minutes, they were still at it. With a sigh I decided to see what it was all about. Totally not because they were fighting in the kitchen and I was very hungry.
"Morning." I mumbled.
"Good morning Stef," Luka greeted and then motioned toward Lili, "can you tell Fartzilla here not to use her powers to cook anymore."
Ah yes, the famous incident where Lili, while cooking with her pyrokinesis as she did every morning, let out a very loud fart. To the horror of some, and my amusement, her pyrokinesis translated into the fart as well. I don't know how or why, but it did.
It burnt straight trough her pants and continued onto Luka. It burnt his hair and left a permanent bald spot on the side of his head. He nearly reported her to the Ministry of the gifted for abuse of her ability and attempted murder. It took many tears and apologies from Lili to convince him to drop it. In the end I believe the agreement was for her to get and pay one of her friends, with a healing ability of some sort if I remembered correctly, to fix it for him. The three observers, myself and other two flatmates that left, were sworn to secrecy.
"Oh come on, it was an accident!" Lili protested, "I even fixed it for you!"
"A: You didn't fix it for me, your friend Ravioli did."
"Raul." she corrected.
Without a pause he continued. "B: It's still not fixed, the hair is growing way slower than it should." He pointed at a patch of hair that was shorter than the rest.
"It happened once, I apologized, fixed it and payed you back for it. What's done is done, let it go."
"Unbelievable, Stefan are you hearing this?" he turned to me, "Please tell her to stop."
Lili looked offended. "Yea, tell HIM that HE is wrong." She said stressing out the words.
I really didn't want to get messed up into this. I got up and took a few steps backwards; my hands in a surrendering gesture.
"I think I'll get something to eat from the bakery."
I went back to my room and put my leg braces on, took my cane, my bag filled with everything I needed and my pretty black business suitcase that I was very proud of.
Ignoring the cries of 'traitor' and some colorful Italian curses I left.
In the end I decided to get something to eat after work. I was too lazy to go now and it was too bothersome to wait in line with everyone else.
Driving to the Vienna Port station, one of the many inventor class projects, was quite uneventful. It was a station with multiple teleporter pods that led to other stations or personal pods that could teleport you to pods located in locations or buildings that were owned by individuals or companies.
While the ability to teleport was awesome, it was limited. The power-source was something beyond my understanding. It was built by people with the specific power of building stuff - inventors.
They were the gifted with the ability to invent, fix or build almost anything. Most of them were very specialized and couldn't do much beyond one specific kind of machine. Many variations, but limited to it still. Funny enough the inventor class was supposed to be called the engineer class, but then actual engineers protested that people who just happened to be born with the gift were not equal to them.
Their inventions, however great, were still limited to an extent. Teleporters were limited by range. Going from city to city was easy and took little to no delay time. Going country to country, within Europe mostly, was a bit harder and depending on how far the points are it took longer for the teleporters to be ready again. How or why was beyond my knowledge.
I parked in the underground parking lot, got the bag from the back seat and started getting into costume.
To be quite honest, it was no costume. Only thing that was unusual was the mask, a silvered one way mirror helmet that I wore to conceal my identity. It also served as a gas mask, underwater mask with 30 minutes of air and sunglasses.
The rest was a regular brown suit with kevlar and other neat gadgets and gear built into it. The cane and my large assortment of hats were my own perosnalization. My favorite thing about it all is that my cane was also a sword. It was so cool.
Taking the elevator to the ground floor I stepped out and made my way to the reception desk. My ticket was to a private port.
I don't think I'll ever get used to feeling normal walking around in costume and people acting as if it was completely normal. Hell, I was wearing the mostly normal looking suit. Other wannabe heroes and villains were dressed in half assed costumes. Some had too much plastic for the costumes to be practical, some were way too heavy or gaudy and others were literary spandex costumes. The former no one should have to see... So many bulges.
It's hard to believe that it has only been a bit more than a decade after 'The Gifting Day', the day people started getting their powers, that the world has changed so much. Some changes were good, others bad. The world experienced a boom in technology, there were people with nature powers who were revitalizing the environment and some with energy generating ones helping curb out the need for some things or lessen the consumption of fuels. Yet there were bad things too, way more than good to be honest. Countries with large populations, such as India and China, were speculated to become the biggest world powers. Instead they devolved into gangs of warring warlords and aspiring dictators. US was barely a country anymore, what with Texas leaving the union because they believed the powers were Gods gift, it didn't help that they got some of the strongest fighters around. Africa was just a mess, it was bad before now it was just a bloodbath every day from what I've heard. Australia was pretty alright, if it weren't for the internet presence people would have been worried if they hadn't wiped themselves off the map by accident.
Then there was Europe. We were on the brink of World War 3, some would say we still are. When people got their powers some of them wanted to enact revenge, had twisted views of how history should have been or just wanted power. The EU crumbled, Italy invaded Slovenia and Croatia, Serbia more or less attacked everyone except Romania and Montenegro. Russia decided to take back it's territory. Germany went viertes Reich and went for Poland and Austria. Britain invaded Ireland and won, then had a civil war - or five. Luxembourg, surprisingly, was on a warpath with the likes of Luminosité who wielded light itself , Drude who could enter peoples dreams and scare them to death and others. Everyone was attacking someone.
This went on for almost a year, with many lives lost and much destruction caused. Then groups of gifted from every country decided to band together and convince their people to stop the wars and make peace. First they went about it the peaceful way, France went on strike, Germany held a debate, the Balkans had a quick war, Britain had a debate, everyone in their own way. Ultimately it failed, so they went with plan B. They would all enact terror attack on their own countries, with the goal to scare instead of kill, which culminated in the reveal of their partnership. They gave Europe an ultimatum, unite as one country with no borders or the Children of Europe would do it by force.
Most countries agreed, people were tired and everyone knew that they couldn't fight others and themselves. Those that didn't were eventually absorbed one way or another. A new EU was born, where every country became a province and had equal say in matters, but some countries were more equal than other. That is why people can travel between countries with zero extra costs, and why the teleporters were such a cheap mode of transport. Well cheaper and faster than planes.
I made my way over to the registry and handed the lady my phone with the private ticket. She didn't even blink at the costume and casually answered.
"Thank you for choosing Vienna Port station, a staff member will be here shortly to escort you to the private stations."
True enough a man in a suit came and escorted me to the waiting room. A well furnished room with a bar and comfortable looking sofas. This was a first class ticket it seems, I've never been to one of those. I could get used to this.
Sadly this was probably because the job was a sudden call, bastards woke me up at 02 just to tell me I have an important job in the morning. It was supposed to be my week off, but nooo I don't get breaks. I plumped down on one of the sofas and waited for the announcement. They needed to get permission to teleport first, set up the relay and only then could I actually step trough. I expected it to last at least half an hour, but it seems the other side was eager to get this done with.
"The teleporter is ready, sir. Please follow me." a man in a suit said as I was engrossed in one of the magazines about selling your soul and booth kidneys for a nice watch.
I got up and followed him to another room, this one plain looking with steel walls and a glass panel to the side where people were manning the machine. The floor had a transparent diamond look to it, much different than the regular blue one you get on the economy class. How much had they spent on this?
"Sir, please step on the platform." A voice over the speakers said.
"In 3, 2...1." They counted down and on the last count everything went white.
The next moment I was standing in a different room, the usual feeling of nausea strangely missing. I was still standing which was another thing. I really liked this first class teleporters, I'm going to ask them to send me trough them more often.
My musings were interrupted by a blond teenage girl, sixteen or seventeen, dressed very informally. Jeans, Converse, a starfish mask and ... ugh a sweater with Typhon's name, a coworker of mine, and his logo on it. Please don't be a fan-girl, please don't be a...
"Hi I'm Translator and I'll be your Star girl!" she said so fast with a strange English accent that I barely caught it.
Yep, a fan girl. I decided to play along. "Nice to meet you Translator, I am..."
She cut me off and continued, "Niko, Mr. Nobody, M. Blanc, Herr Niemand, the Warden, Zero, Null," she went on and on, listing so many names I never knew about. She knew my own name better than I did, this was a whole other level of fangirl.
Deciding that I'd rather continue with the job before I find something about myself that I didn't like, I placed a hand on her shoulder. She stopped and gave me such a look of unbridled adoration that I didn't know was possible. She looked at my hand and went all giddy.
Then she took out a knife and cut herself. I repeat, she just casually cut herself. What kind of lunatic does that!?
"Excuse me!?" I yelled, my voice positively shrill. I tried to pull my hand away but she had a pretty firm grip on it.
A moment later I could see her cut healing in front of my eyes. She looked disappointed.
"Aw, it didn't work."
"What were you expecting to happen?!"
"I thought you stopped my powers and I wanted to see." she said with a pout.
"That's not how it works." I tried to pinch the bridge of my nose, but well the mask.
With a sigh I started to take one of my leather gloves off, but then I thought about it. She was going to cut herself, probably worse considering she was sure I did stop her powers. I even contemplated going back and telling the people manning the teleporters 'Beam me up Scotty', but then Gaia would probably have my head and kidneys. This was an expensive job and he doubted he could ditch it.
I decided to make it look like I was readjusting my gloves, and not taking them off so a teenage girl can cut herself.
"How about we get this job on the way?" I said changing the subject and trying to keep my voice as natural as I could.
Considering she pursed her lips angrily. It didn't work. That or she was more perceptible than I thought.
"Can you just show me how it works, it will only take a second." She pleaded and then tried to give me the puppy-dog eyes "Please."
"I doubt your boss will be happy with you wasting their money, I'm expensive you know." I tried to bullshit my way out.
"Ha, you aren't wasting a cent." she said matter of factly. "The paid portion of your job starts only after you touch the person. So that means you can do it for just a few moments."
I was about to say something to get out of this, but then I thought about it. They never told me who I was supposed to detain, so I could spin this and try to milk them for more. I grinned behind my mask.
"You know what, you're right." I took my glove off and touched her neck, stopping her power. "There."
I felt my power working. I could feel the cuts I made while shaving healing. The fatigue lifting off of me and any sores I had were gone. The only bad thing about it was the feeling of hunger. Now even stronger than before.
I also gained knowledge about her power. It was a healing power, obviously, it functioned by using the users bodily reserve's to heal them. Any fat, food or waste that you had would be re-purposed in any way to heal. In extreme cases body parts or non-crucial organ would be utilized as well. The healing was perfect, but limited. It wouldn't scar, but wouldn't heal back after a certain period. If the person were to lose a limb or scar, which was impossible with it, it would recognize it as the default setting to go back to after a few months; which was, again, impossible with the power.
"Now, because it hasn't been specified who i was supposed to detain. It means that...Kuku mene ti si luda!" I started to explain, unable to keep the smugness out of my voice, but then she started hacking her hand with the knife. She didn't just cut it like last time, she was hacking at it like a butcher would. Carving peaces of meat, making blood splatter all around her and getting to the bone. All this with a enthusiastic smile, as if there was nothing strange about it.
Worst part was that the bits and blood struck my suit and left stains. I'd have to get it cleaned now.
I took my hand off of her and waited a bit for her to heal. Then I cleared my thrught and started over.
"As I was saying, we were not informed who the prisoner was. That means whoever I am instructed to use my power on first will be considered the subject at hand and the job will begin." I explained, glad for the mask concealing my smile, she was already panicking. Just for effect I added. "That means you just now."
"That's not right, this was a sudden job, true." She started saying, looking nervous."But that doesn't mean THIS is what we meant you to do." She gestured to herself.
"Technicalities, I am afraid I cannot risk it. We cannot afford the liability that we are being tricked into working without pay, it would look bad on us - and you." I was so enjoying this.
"No! I was just a fan, I wanted to test your power!" She started screaming.
"Are you an employee of the organisation that hired me?"
"Then you are able and responsible in starting the working time."
She was on the brink of tears. Good, I could use this. If she behaved politely I'd forget the whole thing, if not then I would walk out with a bit more spending money and she would get a reprimand. Win-win for me.
"Should we get going then?"
She looked up and nodded, walking briskly out the exit. I wasn't in a hurry, why would I be? Instead I took my time getting off the platform, I needed to be careful when stepping down, wouldn't want to slip and fall. Putting my cane down for balance then one foot at a time was crucial. And of course I should tip my hat to the nice people managing the teleporter. I put one foot after the other, a slow squeaky stride with my braces. Every step seemed to make Star Girl angrier and angrier.
"Can you stop walking like a grandpa and hurry up?" she hissed trough clenched teeth.
I put my hand to my heart in feign hurt."I am a poor disabled individual, you cannot be insensitive about it. I am going as fast as I can."
She didn't buy it, but it did annoy her which was the point.
We continued down the building, going wherever they needed me apparently. The building was very bland, a prison probably. Not a standard one, it wasn't meant to rehabilitate people. No, this was a high security prison and a special one at that. The walls were steel on the outside and some 50cm thick from what I could gouge by looking trough some of the cells; they were probably reinforced from the inside. Whoever I was meant to detain was high profile.
We made our way to a hot section, as in the prisoners were detained by using fire or heat in some way. I didn't get to see any in action during my brief tour, but I guessed they weren't worried about being humane.
There was one cell, the air was shimmering from the heat and the floor wasn't completely solid, it was mad out of bars that were meant to drain the water. The man inside was in a seamy-conscious state. Apparently I stopped and stared for a moment, because Star Girl took notice.
"Moroz, Артем Shevchenko, Ukrainian rank 8.5 villain. His powers are hydrokinesis, favoring ice and freezing powers, regular water manipulation seems to be limited. He was arrested in Russia after his Ukrainian base of operations was taken down. Person who officially captured him was Tsar, The crime lord of Russia and parts of south Asia."
"That's quite detailed description. Is it part of the job requirement?" I whistled in amazement. It was impressive, that's some good on-the-spot knowledge.
"Thank you." I could swear she started to walk a bit faster." Yes, it's required for everyone to know the prisoners powers and capabilities. If one were to escape everyone should be prepared to take appropriate mesures."
I nodded in understanding, but there was some thing that bugged me. "And the ranking system? Is it just for the prisoners or do you rank everyone whose powers are know?"
She stopped and turned on her heel, she was giving me a strange look. "Shouldn't you know this? It's the basic power ranking system. True that ours is much more detailed, because we have access to the people and we withhold a lot of the info from the public, but still you should know this."
"Nope, no idea. I only research people when I'm given a job. Otherwise I live my normal life."
Her jaw dropped. "The Warden doesn't know? No, doesn't care about the ranking system or knows anything about villains. Unbelievable, and there I was thinking you would be some kind of professional and have ungodly knowledge about... well," she gestured around herself at the prison cells, " This!"
She put her hands on my shoulders and started shaking me. "You are one of Gaias right hands! You're the seventh Titan, number seven out of twenty! What is wrong with you!?"
I pushed her hand off of me, turned her around and started pushing her down the hallway." First off: Personal space, respect it. Second: I have no idea how I got the nickname 'Warden', I only help when they need to detain someone, transfer them to some other place, interrogate or have them appear at court. There is no prison that I keep all of them in. I don't care about their powers for the most part." The last part was a lie, I did care, but I got my knowledge trough my own power. It was much more reliable than some online forum.
She stopped us and pointed at the right corridor. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt that she wouldn't fog up my mask again and let her walk on her own. "Third: I am at my position because of how useful my power is, it's unique and very versatile. I am not as powerful as Crusader, Doctor Chrónos or Lord Fabulous Phoenix. I am more of a pacifist with my powers."
"That's even more reason to read up on people, so you know what you're up against. You're the illusive brains of your group. The planner, the mysterious person pulling all the strings."
I snorted. "I wish."
After that we walked in awkward silence. I knew she was disappointed and had way too many questions she was too afraid to ask. I had some of my own I as interested in, so I decided to brake the tension.
"So where do I rank?"
"What's my rank in the system?" I elaborated.
She seemed to perk up. Topics about gifted individuals and ranking systems were something she likes, might be useful information for later. "You're a four with an asterisk."
Wait, that seemed kind of low. "Why a four?"
"Well we don't know that much about you, no one does. That's why I said that you are the 'mysterious puppet-master'" She wiggled her fingers at me for emphasis.
"And the asterisk?"
"It's there to inform the reader that your powers are still unknown and that the ranking is potentially higher. Just a warning if anyone thought you were easy game."
Ok, I was thankful for the warning there, but the rank was way too low for my liking. Maybe I could bring it up a bit, I'm sure no one would mind.
"How do you increase the number?"
That seemed to make her uncomfortable for some reason. "Why would you want to know that?"
I shrugged. "Just curious."
She was not convinced. "Just curious, yea. Well, if we knew more about your gift it would probably go up a bit. It changes depending on how powerful and dangerous the gift is. Some simple gifts are ranked lower, but depending on the persons control their classification will be higher. For example there was Fée, who could create the semi-intelligent invisible force projections. They could lift stuff and weren't that strong, but Clara was suffering from schizophrenia and though they were faeries who were born when a person died. Let's just say she got creative in her quest to 'expand her family'. "
That was disturbing. I even think I was the one to bring her in. "Was she the girl that started screaming bloody murder when I used my gift on her?"
"That explains a lot. She's been clinically depressed ever since her trial. I thought she just realised her projections weren't really magical. She probably thinks you killed them all when you stopped her power and she couldn't feel them anymore. No wonder she hasn't been using her power at all." She mused out loud. "You should probably avoid her - forever."
"Good to know." I agreed, that girl had a powerful set of lungs."Anyhow, what would I have to do to increase my rank?"
She hummed, thinking. "Well, I don't know why you would want to do that in the first place. I personally think it's much more advantageous to have a lover rank and high standing as you do now."
"As you mentioned, I'm painting a bigger target with my current ranking. People think I'm withholding some big secret or that I'm the secret mastermind."
"True, true. Then you could tell me more about your power, we know next to nothing."
"What can you do? We know you can stop other peoples gifts, but that's about it."
I thought about it for a moment. I could gain knowledge about the gift of the person I am using mine on. I could use their gift when touching them. Not as well as they could, but with time I could probably match them. Other than that I don't think there was much else my power could do. Now should I tell her I could use other peoples powers or not, that could be a double edged sword.
"I can gain detailed knowledge of peoples powers when I use my gift on them." I decided to play it safe and start with the knowledge part.
She barked a laugh. "Yea right, prove it."
Why was she so skeptical about this, it's not like I could liquefy solid object like some people I knew. "Your power is regeneration, you use the excess fat, waste, and anything in your system to fix wounds and damage done to your body. In case you deplete your reserves your body will start to use your muscles, non-vital organs or even whole body parts to fix the damage. However you are not able to regenerate if you were to be decapitated, or fix any brain damage because of the unique properties of brain cells." The last part was just common knowledge. " It can also backfire and kill you by starving you out of sustenance or important vitamins. It's powerful, but you need to eat a lot to keep it from killing you. Also, you need to breathe; suffocating is still as dangerous to you as it is to anyone."
Star Girl stopped in her tracks. She was looking at me with a strange mix of disbelief, fear and excitement. "Tha... That's actually right. I didn't know it would start consuming my limbs if it came to it." She said, looking at her hands. Her voice was so small and quiet, a stark contrast to her exuberant personality from before.
"So how much would my rank go up with this?" I tried changing the subject, didn't work as well as I hoped it would, but she looked a bit less sulky.
"You have to touch them first?"
"And you instantly gain full knowledge about their gifts?"
"No, that would probably kill me. The longer I am using my power on them the more knowledge I get, if I get the time to use it I can experiment and find out more."
"Wait, experiment as in use it?" Shit.
"No, I meant experimenting by making scenarios in my head." My pitiful attempt to backtrack was pitiful.
"Show me." Fuck me.
She stuck her hand out towards me. I sighed in defeat, this is what I get for trying to pump my own ego.
"Sure, give me your knife."
"Well I don't have one!" Left middle pocket of my coat, concealed behind a long pocket., but she didn't need to know this.
"Fine, here." She said and handed me her knife. When I tried to take it she reinforced her grip on it. "Just remember that you can't kill me that easily."
"How would I know how to get out of here anyway?"
She didn't say anything.
I checked the knife over, it wasn't the same one she used on herself; there wern't any blood stains. Taking off my right glove I took a deep breath, steeling myself for what I was about to do next. I put the knife over my wrist and made a horizontal slash, then another and another. It fucking hurt. Aaahh, shit, fucking fucker. They weren't even that deep, fuck. I sucked in a breath and showed her my bleeding wrist, oooh the air made it sting even more.
"See, normal bleeding wound." I said trough clenched teeth.
I took her hand and activated my gift. If I thought the cutting hurt then this was a whole other level of pain. Wounds usually heal over time and you don't notice it that much over days or weeks. Stars power made that process momentary. I felt my own flesh knit itself together, it hurt so fucking much. To top it ll off it even left me with a painful feeling of hunger. It wasn't much to heal, but I was already running on empty. But the pain, sooo painful. I could feel the skin fusing and making a new layer. The old one was being shed off, how did she not go crazy from having her skin re-grow itself all the time!?
"That is very concerning." Was all she said.
The fuck it is, this shouldn't hurt so much!
That's when my stomach growled in protest. I hadn't eaten anything since yesterday and now for the second timetoday I used this hunger inducing power.
"Here, it's a protein bar you should eat one." Star handed me some bland looking gray bar.
I took it. Then I looked at her, then the snack bar, then her. Yea, I would definitely eat that, trough my mask...
She came to the same conclusion. "Oh, sorry. I can turn around or go around the corner while you eat it."
I quirked an eyebrow, but it was under the mask so she didn't see shit, this thing seemed to give me more problems today than ever. I turned my head form side to side, towards the prison cells.
"Yea, you're right. Umm let's see, there's a mess hall for the staff close by. I can call in and tell them to clear out so you can eat something, I know how draining my gift can get so we'd wan't you at your full strength.
"That sounds like a good idea."
"Great, let me just inform them." She then took out an armoured brick out of her pocket and started typing. That thing looked like it could survive a bullet or a grenade. Hell, that thing could be used as a grenade.