“You guys are so lucky,” Sasha said to me and Kevin once the elevator doors had closed and it lurched into motion. “You don’t have to wear these stupid masks.”
“You don’t have to either,” said Wren. “The dean said that doing the program anonymously was optional.”
“Yeah, it’s optional, but everybody does it,” Sasha retorted. “Including you, I might add. You want a bunch of superpowered dropouts like Liam to know who you really are?”
“Well, no,” Wren said, adjusting his own grey school-provided mask.
“Case in point.”
We were silent for a moment, then Wren said, “Thanks for agreeing to do this with me, Kevin.”
“Don’t worry about it. I need to make up for what I’ve done somehow.”
The elevator jerked to a stop and the doors slid open. Twenty or so other students were gathered in the Davis Gym, talking or warming up. The whole class barely filled one corner of the massive space. Most of them wore the grey school-provided disguises, but a small group of students wore distinctive custom-made costumes.A few of the second group looked our way when we entered. One of them punched one of his friends on the shoulder and started walking our way.
“Now, why did they let in a couple of villains?” asked a man in tight-fitting white fencing jacket. He placed a hand on the pommel of the elegant sword slung at his waist. Though I couldn’t see his expression though the fine metal mesh over his face, I could tell he wanted to pick a fight.
I knew this was going to be a problem.
“Hey back off,” Sean said, stepping in front of us and spreading his wings for intimidation effect.
“Oh thank you,” I said. “I mean, really, I’m flattered that I was that convincing. I think it’s the color.” I let my sarcasm drip into the last sentence. I looked over at Kevin, whose angular, crystalline facets gleamed in the harsh lights. “One look at a person made of shadows and people get all judgey. Racist bastard.”
“Excuse me?” the man with the sword said. I had to choke back a laugh at how affronted his tone sounded.
“But let’s be honest here, do you believe everything you read on the internet?”
He scoffed and stalked away, and the moment he was a reasonable distance away, Sean and Sasha burst out laughing.
“Oh god, that was great,” Sasha said between bursts of laughter.
“That was Rapier, whose sharpness does not extend to his wit,” Sean said.
“He’s not gonna make it another semester,” Sasha added. “Kind of a dick, but that’s what you get when you’re a rich and a meta.”
“I have to confess, this is weird for me,” I said, looking around the gym. “I’d kind of resigned myself to picking this stuff up on the job because of that stupid grandfather clause.”
“Yeah?” Sean said.
“Hold on, there’s a grandfather clause?” Sasha said. “Like the Jim Crow thing?
“I guess?” I said. “Is that where the term comes from?”
“Yeah, it was a requirement that you could only vote if your grandfather could vote,” Sasha explained. “Perpetuated a lot of bad stuff.”
“I guess that makes sense,” I said. “I feel like the kids of a lot of villains probably end up villains because they don’t have any options, just to avoid a possible security risk.”
“To be fair, I don’t exactly want Dr. Destructo’s kids in my classes,” Kevin said. “So I can see where they’re coming from, but nothing’s stopping them from getting a normal job.”
Dr. Destructo’s kids… Will Adam have to deal with this too? I wondered.
At that moment, a small, steely-eyed woman entered the gym and the students fell silent. As she crossed the room, she split into two transparent copies of herself, and kept multiplying until there was one of her for each student. Five copies of her split off and approached our group. Her already silvery hair looked even paler when split across twenty or so duplicates.
After introducing herself as Coach Mary, insisting that her first name was “Coach,” she spent the rest of the class trying to teach me how to fly. My first attempt had me repeatedly teleporting up the parachute cord I wore on me.
This is not a good idea, I thought in a panic as the ground rushed towards me. The first few jumps had been easy, but my speed increased second by second, and soon I couldn’t keep up. An idea struck me and I used my power to flip upside-down. The room rotated around me and I shot up towards the ceiling. When I reached my apex, I teleported the rope up above me and used it to tie myself to a beam running across the ceiling.
I dangled from the rafters of the gymnasium, head spinning. A dull ring of darkness crept in at the corners of my vision. Too fast. I held myself still and calmed the air around me. As my lightheadedness started to fade I took a look around the room to see what the others were doing. Kevin was easy to pick out, currently in the form of a whirling vortex of shards that took laps around a section of the gym at a blinding speed. Sean held a glowing bow, shooting arrows of light into a mat that leaned against the wall. Wren took a bit longer to find, but I eventually spotted him talking with another student. Sasha I couldn’t see at all.
“Need a break already?” said Coach Mary. Her incorporeal form drifted up to eye level.
“Nah, I’m good,” I said. “I get lightheaded when I’m moving fast.
She nodded. “Similar to hyperventilation for your physiology. If you’re not careful, you could black out.”
Now that’s a scary idea. “Wait, you knew that was a possibility?” I looked down towards the floor thirty feet below. Heights normally didn’t bother me, but I still felt a wave of vertigo at the thought.
“I did, yes.”
“And you let me do this anyway? What if I’d blacked out while I was falling just now?”
“I find that object lessons are particularly effective.”
“You don’t have to come with us,” I told Kevin as I threw my body armor into my gym bag. Sean had suggested the idea of using a gym bag to carry my costume, and I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.
“I want to,” he said. “I’d like to make up for helping Blackwell.”
“You’ve done enough,” Sean said. “You helped us get Charity out.” He held up his scarred metal breastplate and inspected a gash torn through it.
“I helped fix a problem I created. I’m not gonna let myself off that easy,” Kevin said. He stood in the doorway of our room and watched us gather our equipment.
“Fine by me,” I said. I coiled and uncoiled my rope to check it for wear.
“So where are we going?” Kevin asked.
“Down to the bay,” Sean said, repeating Jamisson’s instructions. “The police are having trouble dealing with a metahuman Anchor Boys member who’s been trying to take power.”
“What’s he do?”
“He’s called Ransom. I’ve run into him before. He creates copies of people that he can use like voodoo dolls. Goes straight through any defenses.”
“Damn,” Kevin said appreciatively. “How do you deal with him?”
“Well, ideally you want someone who’s bulletproof for something like this, but even then he could just take someone else hostage, Sean said. He hefted his bag over his shoulder. “Or you can take him out before he can react.”
We left the residence hall and stepped out into the snow. A flurry of white flakes swirled around us and the inch that had already accumulated crunched underfoot as we walked.
“Woah! When did this happen?” Kevin asked. He looked around at the pristine white blanket covering the quad, eyes wide with surprise.
“Wait, have you never seen snow before?” I asked.
“I have, just not this early. It’s not even Thanksgiving!”
“Actually, it’s not even Halloween,” Sean commented. “Not until tomorrow.”
“Halloween’s tomorrow?” I said. “Woah.” I guess I’ve been busy. “But yeah, here we typically get snow starting at halloween and lasting until Easter. It’s something to do with the ocean currents around here, because you go fifty miles north and there’s half as much snow there as there is here.”
“Huh. Weird. So how are we going to get there? The docks are on the other side of the city.”
“We could try the Hypertube,” I suggested. “They said they still accept the old cards, so I could let you guys on.”
“Oh man, can we?” Kevin said, face lighting up. “I’ve heard it’s super cool.”
The hypertube station bustled with activity, but most of the people were crowded towards the back, watching others use the Hypertube. At the opposite end of the station stood a series of ten arches with colorful tile mosaics labeling half as “Arrival” and the others as “Departure,” each with a moving sidewalk leading out of or into it, respectively.
As we approached, I saw a woman in a neon green winter jacket step through one of the mosaic arches at the end of the station and vanish. Only a heartbeat later, she reappeared through the closest arrival gate and stumbled back onto the moving sidewalk that carried her back onto the platform.
“Whooo!” she shouted and ran back down the moving sidewalk that lead to the departure gate. She hopped through the archway again and vanished as soon as her feet hit the floor, only to reappear again through the arrival gate.
“Here goes,” I said, and stepped onto one of the moving sidewalks.
“Please state your destination,” said an electronic voice from above me.
“Uh,” I took a moment to remember which station was closest to the docks. “Marina Street,” I said.
“Marina street station is currently closed. Please select another destination,” said the voice.
Of course it’s closed. It’s probably buried under a ton of concrete. I scanned through my mental map of the city to find another nearby station. “Caravel street?”
“You have selected: Caravel Street Station. Watch your step.”
I reached the end of the moving sidewalk and stepped onto the strip of glowing yellow floor that lay beyond.
As soon as my foot touched the floor, I froze in place. The walls blurred, and the yellow strip resolved into a series of advertisements that scrolled past under a clear surface beneath my feet. I barely had time to register them before I was spat out of the tube through the departure gate at Caravel Street station, and my momentum carried me out onto the moving sidewalk beyond the arrival gate. Throughout the whole process, I felt no acceleration, as if I’d stepped into one gate and then out the other.
“Woah, that was crazy.” Kevin said behind me.
I turned to speak to him just in time to see Sean zooming towards me at a blistering speed, before coming near-instantaneously to a halt at the lip of the arrival gate.
“Wow,” he said, blinking in surprise.
“Not quite what I expected,” I said. “That’s miles away from how the old subway worked.” A memory of the ghost train came unbidden to my mind.
“Seems really efficient,” Kevin said. “I wonder how much power it uses.”
“It’s tinker made, so it might not use any, for all I know.”
We exited the station through the turnstiles, which were identical to the ones from the old subway system, except shinier.
“And now the fun part,” Sean said. “Finding somewhere to change.”