Its time I gave people a reason to care.
|Prince George Public Highschool, Mr. Monkmans English Class
Ethan stared at the clock twirling his pencil between two fingers nervously. Two minutes, I need to hang on for two more minutes. What started as a tiny pinprick of sensation in his hand, slowly crept up his arm and felt like painful acupuncture therapy. Seconds passed, the pain grew in increments, becoming difficult to bear. Ethan started to squirm like a drug addict going through withdrawals.
One minute, I have to hang on for sixty more seconds. Like some unidentifiable virus, the pain spread to the rest of his body. The wooden pencil clattered to the ground, and tiny sparks danced over the thrifty clothing. Pinpricks of pain turned into sharp stabbing sensations, all over his wiry frame.
Getting out of class gave way to surviving the moment. Every hair on his body stood on end, and the smell of electricity filled his nostrils. Ethan's breathing was ragged now, desperately trying to get some measure of control over his body. Muscles went taut and threatened to snap like a rubber band stretched too far.
The rest of the students were now facing him cameras out recording the incident hoping to birth the next viral video. His slender hands gripped the desk with white knuckle intensity, while he gasped for air. A surge of energy jerked his arms upward. A ferocious snapping noise filled the air, as he tore the veneered particleboard off the cold steel frame. An acrid mixture of burning plastic and wood drifted around the classroom.
Ethan's classmates were now gasping and pointing, while still recording the incident on their wretched devices. Tiny sparks intensified to long bolts appearing at random. The teacher who had dozed off at his desk awoke to the din. His cheesy toupe flew from his head to the floor, exposing his shiny bald head.
Ethan watched as the cheap tweed jacket rushed towards him. The weathered face looked down at him with concern. A wrinkled hand slowly reached to touch him. A soft touch yielded a deadly result. Tiny bolts of immense power jumped up the veteran teacher's arm launching him back five feet, adding burnt flesh to the list of unwanted smells.
A mousy girl with glasses shouted, "Someone call nine one one."
Ethan's vision blurred fading to black, sending him into a dreamless sleep.
The video of Ethan's ordeal appropriately named, "superhuman floppy chicken," went viral instantly. It got a hundred thousand hits on the first day, two million by the end of the week. It became impossible for Ethan to go anywhere without being recognized.
Mr. and Mrs. Argent, now terminally embarrassed by their son's apparent disability, were under constant scrutiny from neighbors and friends. Rather than stand by their confused child, everything became about how the incident affected them. Ethans woes didn't end at home either, the board of education held a special hearing to decide if he could finish high school.
Superintendent Kadwell presided over the hearing, with his attorney Zebediah Catchpole. Both men wore power suits and ties with an intimidating presence. Rumor had it the pair lived together in marital bliss.
Ethan strode into the auditorium and stood behind the wooden podium with a thin microphone. The screech of feedback reverberated around the room, causing all to clutch their ears in displeasure. Ethan took two steps back, and it stopped as quickly as it started.
Florence Barton, a feline-like mother of the PTA, had a large stack of papers with her. She gave Ethan a malicious smile before standing behind her podium. Her platinum hair shone brightly in the light.
The rest of the board sat behind a long table with serious expressions. Kadwell smacked a gavel against the strike pad. His ridiculously high voice didn't match his mountainous physique.
"I call this meeting to order. We are here to decide if Mr. Argent will be allowed to continue his education in a public setting...Mr. Argent, where are your parents?"
Ethan's face reddened, and he was stammering a little. Ms. Barton looked at her phone, pretending like the whole meeting was a waste of her time. Her shrill snotty voice was like nails on a chalkboard, "Superintendent Kadwell, I move..."
Kadwell banged the gavel, "Mrs. Barton, your feelings are abundantly clear on the matter. However, Mr. Argent has yet to explain why his parents are not present." He turned to Ethan, "Could you explain their absence?"
Ethan twirled a pen between two fingers while gently tapping his neatly combed blonde hair, "My parents did not want to risk further embarrassment. They were worried about being the subject of gossip."
The table of suits and skirts, whispered among each other, shaking their heads. Kadwell sighed, "Have you no one else to stand by you?"
"No, sir, it's just me."
Florence smiled like she swallowed a canary, "His parents want nothing to do with him? I moved we expel him from school with all possible haste."
Kadwell glowered at the woman as did the rest of the people seated at the table, "Mrs. Barton this hearing is not about what you want, it is about what is best for the student body. Now please hold your silence." he pointed the gavel back to Ethan, "Mr. Argent, was there anything you could have done to prevent this incident?"
Ethan shook his head, "No, sir. I found out at the same time everyone else did. If I had known about my powers, I certainly would not have used them in the classroom."
Kadwell got a tired look on his face, "Mrs. Barton, what do you say to that?"
Florence held up a stack of sheets, "I feel it does not matter whether he knew of their existence or not. His powers posed a significant threat to his classmates and the faculty. Mr. Monkman had to get his pacemaker replaced."
Ethan put his head in his hands and raked his hair in anguish. Why was this woman coming at me so hard? He had never met her before this evening. Ethan didn't remember meeting any of her children either, assuming she had any.
Kadwell motioned Florence to the stage, "I assume you have a signed petition for the board to take into consideration?"
Florence beamed at the group of officials, "Four thousand signatures against Ethan returning to school."
Kadwell rolled his eyes, "I admit it would make a compelling argument if Mr. Argent had a history of violence. His record suggests he was going to graduate early with full honors. I also see a scholarship to Digipen. Do you feel you can finish out the year in relative peace, Mr. Argent?"
Before he could answer, Florence was already submitting another form, "I figured you soft-hearted fools, would rule in favor of the menace. I had each parent send a letter to the Minister of Education. I have a signed letter from the minister with his recommendations."
Kadwell motioned her forward again and sighed. He took the paper from her, "I need a few minutes to confer with my fellow associates concerning this matter."
Florence leaned against her podium, "I bet you think you are so special with your powers and scholarship."
Ethan was genuinely confused, "Did I do something to offend you?"
"Ask your whore of a mother, she can tell you."
"What does this have to do with me?"
Ms. Barton glowered at him, "You could have been my child, and my ticket out of this crappy city. You cheat on someone with one hockey player..."
Ethan wanted to bang his head against the podium. Think fast, Ethan, or you aren't getting out of this crappy city. Hope was slipping away, and he needed a miracle. A moment later, divine inspiration struck, with all the subtlety of a hurricane, "Do you want to hit my parents where it hurts the most?"
Florence looked at him sideways, "I'm listening."
"My parents are not so fond of me right now. They hate all the ruckus my 'disability' is causing. Find some newshound to follow her for a while. I promise it will get under her skin, and all you have to do is back off of me."
Florence frowned and then slowly smiled, "I wish you were my son. Only a Barton could be that devious. My boy is like his father, born without a spine. I caught the two of them crying over some chick flick."
"Do we have a deal?"
Florence nodded, "Deal."
What happened next surprised both of them. Ethan accidentally used his power. His fist crackled with electrical energy. He was stunned at first but decided to capitalize on it, "You had best keep your end of the deal, Mrs. Barton. All sorts of crazy things could happen, your car could short out, or maybe you stand next to me with one foot in a puddle, and then ZAP."
Florence squeaked in fear and fell backward on her buttocks. Her hands were covering her face in fear, "I promise, I promise."
Kadwell had just turned around in time to see Ethan helping Florence to her feet.
"Superintendent Kadwell, I believe I have been too harsh with Mr. Argent. I let my fear get out of hand, and I apologize."
Kadwell seemed pleased, "I am happy to hear that. However, these recommendations are reasonable." He paused to pour a glass of water, "Mr. Argent, you may return to school on two conditions. One, you see the school counselor every week. You have been cut off from your support network, and unresolved feelings may lead to further incidences."
Ethan let out an explosive breath, "What is the second?"
Kadwell smiled, "You get tested so we may understand the full extent of your abilities. Knowing this will allow us to prepare for disaster accordingly. Do you agree to these terms, Mrs. Barton and Mr. Argent?"
Florence nodded, "Yes."
Ethan didn't have to think twice, "Yes."
Argent Family Home.
Ethan got home found a note on the table for him. He poured a glass of milk and took a seat on the African cherrywood chair. Fear crept over him as he stared the elegant script of his mother.
We both apologize for how we treated you over the last couple of weeks. It seems like yesterday we brought you home from the hospital, we felt so blessed. I was unable to conceive, and we used an experimental procedure to bring you into the world.
We want to make it up to you. This Sunday we have a big surprise for you. We were busy preparing for the big day, which is why we were absent at the hearing. It will change all of our lives for the better.
Were they turning over a new leaf? Ethan contemplated the question du jour with a critical eye, "You left me to deal with the school board alone. Why should I trust either of you?"
Ethan walked to his bedroom. Most would expect to find posters of models, fast cars, and movies. Ethan's posters of Steve Jobs, Konrad Zuse, and Tim Paterson plastered the walls. He often imagined being the owner of the hottest programming company.
His mind kept drifting back to the elegant script in the letter. He looked a the statue of Captain Canuck, his favorite superhero. He grabbed the tightly muscled figure and sat it down on the bed.
"What do you think, Captain, should I trust them? My life was fine, and my parents were proud of their little genius. I know dad is all about his reputation, but I expected better from mom."
He paused to lay back and set the statue on his flat stomach, "I am not looking forward to school either. How are they supposed to measure how powerful I am if I have no clue how my powers work? At least I won't be bullied anymore, right?"
He yawned, placed the statue on the nightstand next to the bed, and went to sleep. In the world of dreams, Ethan was homeless and fighting for his life every step of the way. Every person he fought was spewing computer code while wielding mice. Only one gap-tooth bum spoke English, "You will never make it."
Prince George Public High
The testing went as expected. Ethans, physical attributes were reasonably boosted. He felt a certain amount of confidence, knowing he could lift three thousand pounds with considerable effort. A singular punch from Ethan's spindly arms could exert eight thousand newtons, at maximum output. Double what it took to break human bones. As for speed and agility, he could run at thirty-five km at a jog, sixty-three at a dead run.
"It makes sense, your body wouldn't be able to handle the electrical output otherwise," Mr. Wickerson said, fingering his push-broom mustache. The students called him the hairy beanpole. Mr. Wickerson, always had some chest hair sticking out of his button-up shirts. "Speaking of which have you be able to produce an electrical charge at will?"
Ethan sat on the frosty ground, and shook his head listlessly, "I hate this. I used to dream about having superpowers now I would give anything to lose them. I almost lost my scholarship, Mr. Wickerson. I got it all on my own without help."
Mr. Wickerson sat next to him, "You know Ethan, we could turn this into a brilliant paper about the science behind your powers. I know Ivy League School would salivate over such a submission."
"True, but it would expose my weaknesses. It's bad enough the world knows about my powers, putting my weaknesses out there could lead to people exploiting me for criminal gain."
"What if the research helps stops others from using similar powers for criminal gain?"
Ethan refused to give the hairy beanpole any satisfaction, "I read the latest report. I am one of the seventy-five superhumans in the world. As far as I know, two went vigilante, and the only villain in recorded history died in a hail of carpet bombing."
"Ethan, we have a chance here to prevent another incident like that..." Mr. Wickerson said. His tone was forceful.
Ethan felt his blood boil, and the lightning blue eyes dilated. He stood clenching his fists in rage. A familiar tingling ran down his arm, followed by tiny sparks winding and twisting over the appendage. He now held the crackling energy in the palm of his hand.
Mr. Wickerson looked afraid of him now. Fear filled eyes stared deeply into his, "Ethan, calm down. We have tried everything else to get your power to come forth. I figured emotional stimulus was worth a try."
"It complicates things. If someone pushes me too far..."
"We have discovered the trigger. Now we must pull it. Try and throw an electrical charge."
For a solid five minutes, he tried to shoot the electrical charge in his hand to no avail. He was greatly relieved by the discovery. Being able to throw lightning bolts would have ruined his life further.
Mr. Wickerson twisted the stray chest hairs in thought, "Interesting, you are not an arc thrower. Perhaps you are more akin to an electrical eel?"
"You mean I am a walking taser gun?" Ethan asked.
"I believe so. Can you conduct an electrical charge through objects?"
Ethan wondered the same thing. He picked up a metal pipe from the table the Hairy Beanpole had set up. He focused on the memory of his parent's response to his powers. The energy came more quickly this time, and the pipe began to hum quietly.
Mr. Wickerson smiled and clapped, "Well done, Ethan. We know you are only as dangerous as your proximity to viable conductors. We will have to test further to extract the upper limit of your abilities. Avoid raging out and make sure you visit the counselor, and you can stay in school."
Ethan nodded and looked towards the two-story building. Members of the hockey team were watching him the same way a hawk watches its prey before swooping in for the kill.
He went to see the counselor, who asked him, "How do you feel about that?" an awful lot. Ethan played along for the sake of his scholarship. He would have seen a hundred counselors if it meant getting away from this crazy place.
The challenge of high school was far from over. In addition to being called a grade grinder, people flapped their arms and clucked like a chicken. Ethan knew it was a direct result of the video, superhuman floppy chicken, and did his best to ignore it.
The outcast and picked on stayed close to him in hopes he would protect them. Using his powers for any reason could cost him everything. In short, he chose to do nothing. They were teenagers for crying out loud, and high school was not forever.
On the second day back, things went awry, and it all started after gym class. Mr. Stokes, the gym teacher, excused Ethan from Greco Roman wrestling, for the obvious reasons.
Ethan would watch the sweaty teens grunt like wounded water buffalo as they tried to pin each other to the blue mats below. Alex Chambers and his band of idiots kept glaring at him. Ethan swore, hoping the glaring didn't end up in fisticuffs.
Alex was a simple lad, with a penchant for small words and moronic actions. He wore large, ostentatious belt buckles and a black Stetson cowboy hat. He was the cock of the walk, with girls clamoring for his attention and the other boys worshipping him like some demigod.
Ethan managed to avoid Alex during lunch and both recesses. Unfortunately, He and his knuckle-dragging cohorts cornered Ethan at his locker after school. Alex handed his hat to the newest member of the group revealing his shaved head.
"I have question Chicken. Why was I deprived of my chance to beat you senseless in gym class?" he laughed, and his little group of yes men followed suit.
Ethan didn't bother saying anything at first. Instead, he pointed to an empty locker. He drew back his fist and drove it through the locker door. It sounded like a gun had gone off in the halls. Students dove for cover, others ran through the halls in panic.
Alex looked afraid for half a second. However, Ethan knew Alex's reputation was everything to him and wouldn't back down now. He felt stupid for trying to scare him.
"I know you can't do anything to me, or you will lose your chance to get out this hellhole freak. So you are going to stand there and take your beating like a good boy. If you don't, I will hunt you down every day, to give the pounding you deserve freak."
Ethan glowered at them, "No."
Alex glared at him, "Excuse me, freak?" His fist smacked his open palm. "Looks like we get to have our fun after all," He said.
Alex drew back his fist and swung with all of his might. Hockey fights are not sophisticated. Two people holding each other by the shoulder, trading blows, does not a fighter make. Ethan dodged easily, and Alex's fist struck the locker.
I have to get these guys to back off without hurting them. His palms crackled with energy. He thrust two fingers forward in the blink of an eye, and touched Alex. He stiffened and fell to the ground. The other members of his little posse were afraid now.
"Mr. Argent, to my office now." a loud male voice boomed.
Ethan turned, and there was the principal, Mr. Rowley. The middle-aged man had a wandering eye, earning him the nickname Mr. Roly. The click of his cane on the ground, caused Ethan to bang his head against the locker.
Alex woke up and stared at Ethan in terror, "Just stay away from me,
Ethan's actions resulted in expulsion. As a result, he lost his scholarship. His parents were waiting at home dressed in their Sunday's finest. A man in his thirties, wearing a sweater vest, with glasses so thick, the lenses extended out past the frames.
The newcomer was rather comical to watch. He had to hold objects up to his face to see them accurately. His parents had letters prepared. It felt like am intervention.
"Ethan, this is Mr. Nottle, from social services. We are signing you over to the province and putting you in foster care."