Originals and Outsiders: Assemble
The Man On The Train
Two and a half months ago
Two boys walked side by side down the street, the facade of their school at their backs, the bells ringing, signaling that school was over.
“Hey Nick.” the boy on the left said, “What did you want to talk about?”
Nick shook his head, “Not here man. We gotta find some place private.”
The first boy gave the other a look of confusion, but the two continued on anyway. Making their way down the greasy steps of the River City subway entrance, the two chatted about their days at school. Nick, the quieter of the two mostly listened as his companion talked about the girl he’d been trying to go after and how she didn’t even seem to know that he existed.
“It’s like Jason D’Angelo is a name that’s been wiped from her mind or something.” he complained.
Nick shrugged, “Doesn’t help that you’re more interested in chemistry than social skills Jay.”
Jason shrugged right back, “I mean you’d rather just play D&D then deal with the real world.”
Nick cocked his head to the side and said nothing, silently acknowledging the truth of that statement.
“Damn. This train is taking forever.” Jason grumbled.
“Just be patient.” Nick chided him, checking his phone.
“Come on! Can’t you tell me what your big secret is!? Or whatever?”
Nick shook his head, “Oh look. There’s the train.”
The subway car screeched to a halt in front of them and the doors hissed as people filed in and out. Hopping into the first car they could, the two awkwardly shuffled their way into some open seats.
As the train pulled away from the station and made its way into the dark tunnels beneath River City. Nick’s eyes glanced around and briefly met another’s gaze. A clean shaven man of middling age and slight grays in his hair with piercing dark eyes like coal. For whatever reason, Nick could not look away and neither did the man, their eyes were locked and Nick had never felt a more powerful gaze. Nick shuddered a bit at the attention.
Their vision broke as there was a stir in the crowd and then a scream. Nick whipped his head around to see people parting like the Red Sea as a masked gunman stalked down the aisle.
What the fuck!? Nick’s mind screamed. This can’t be real!
Racking his brain for what could possibly be going on and rapidly glancing around to see that Jason was just as shocked as him, Nick’s eyes fell upon the warning sign at the front of the car. The train operator was just in front of them. Was this gunman intent on sabotaging the train?
For a few seconds no one moved, but suddenly, quickly and confidently, the middle aged man whom Nick’s eyes had locked with stood in the gunman’s way.
“Stop.” The man said, “You don’t want to do this.”
“Get the fuck out of my way!” The gunman bellowed, “Or I’ll shoot.”
“I think if you wanted to shoot me, you already would have.” The man replied, “Professionals sense resistance and snuff it out immediately. You did nothing.”
Is this dude off his rocker!? Nick thought to himself.
“Don’t play with me like that!” The gunman cried, “This has got some serious firepower! You don’t want to be—”
“It’s a Steyr M1912, machine pistol. High upward recoil, fairly precise from the hip with the first shot. It’ll kill me with a few shots and hit me with a few extra with just a twitch of your finger. I know.” The man calmly replied. “And you’ve got that thing on safety.”
“I’m warning you!” The gunman clicking the gun off safety, his hands trembling.
I can’t just let this guy get mowed down!
With barely a thought, Nick rushed forward, arms outstretched, placing himself in front of the middle aged man. As the bullets fired, they seemed to freeze in place in front of Nick’s body, just inches in front of his skin, a single bullet right above his forehead. And then just as suddenly, they rocketed away, being thrown straight back into the gunman who flew back with severe force, crashing against one of the hand-grip poles at the center of the car. The train stopped, and the doors opened.
Several passengers leaped on top of the assailant, as the middle aged man picked up the pistol which had clattered to the floor. Expertly disarming the weapon, removing the clip and stowing the gun, the man gestured with his finger as he exited the car. Policeman and Swat teams swarmed the train car.
“Whoa.” Jason exclaimed quietly as he came to stand beside his friend.
Nick turned and followed his friend’s gaze to just outside of the car where a highly attractive woman dressed in a business suit was talking to the middle aged man and briefly gave him a hug. She was young with dark hair and high cheekbones. Slim yet seemingly quite well built, she had an aura of confidence that emanated from her. Several people walked up to her and talked to her, asked a few questions, and then left. She seemed to be in charge of the police forces that had arrived on scene.
The middle aged man pointed at the two of them indicating them to the young woman and soon a police officer had made his towards them.
“You boys mind following me? Miss Lauren would like to speak to you.”
The two boys followed the officer out of the car as Nick turned to his friend,
“So that was what I wanted to talk about.” he said sheepishly.
“You have fucking super powers!? Hell yeah we need to talk about that.”
“Well here’s the thing buddy.” Nick said with a smirk, “My powers…well let’s just say that I’m not alone.”
“Yeah I know that, there are like other supers out there but—”
“Ah good. You’re here.” Miss Lauren said as they found themselves in a small room that had been commandeered by the police and turned into a makeshift office. The room had once been the information desk you could approach to ask questions about fares and routings in the River City Transit system full of simple papers and handwritten notes. Now it was filled with state of the art equipment and holographic screens. The middle-aged man was standing there as well, flanking Miss Lauren’s right side with a powerful presence. Now that Nick could get a better look at him, the man had an aura about him that was quite intimidating.
“I’m Special Investigator Lauren Albinn and this—well this is my father. Kyle Albinn.”
“And you’re Aidan Nicholas Park and Jason D’Angelo.” The middle-aged man said.
“You know us?” Nick replied suspiciously.
“What the fuck?!” Jason let out a cry.
“I had to track you down. And well, these events sort of got in the way, but fate worked it’s way around for us to meet.”
“Dad stop. You’re confusing the poor kids.” Lauren frowned, disapproving of her father’s antics. The older man simply chuckled,
“I was superhero once.” he said, “Just after the Golden Age where Omega Girl was still in her prime, just after that.”
The man smiled wistfully, “Back when supers were a lot more accepted and people weren’t as scared of us ‘freaks’ as they are now. Though kids your age have probably never heard of me.”
Nick grimaced, thinking back on his limited knowledge of the history of superheroes. It had been several years now, maybe for the past decade or so that super powered individuals had been gone from revered to maligned in society. He had been just a young boy when the last true remnant of super heroes had hung up their literal or proverbial capes. Nick had always idolized the heroes of old but due to public sentiment largely remained quiet about his love. Only Jason knew of Nick’s affinity for the caped crusaders of the past, he hadn’t dared tell anyone else.
“What was your name?” Nick asked.
“I had a lot of names, but I ended up on Magnavox.”
“You saved the world from some big confusing mythological threat right?” Jason added.
“Ophidian The World Eater to be exact.” Nick nodded.
Miss Lauren’s eyebrows raise as Kyle’s face broke into a warm smirk.
“You kids know your hero history huh? Rare nowadays.” Kyle said, “That might make things a little easier. You see, I’ve been looking for you Nick.”
“Cuz of my powers?”
Kyle nodded, “My sources identified you as a potential super. Seems my sources were correct.”
“Jason and I are a package deal if you’ve got some sort of scheme cooked up.” Nick stated, “He’s got powers too you know.”
“WHAT!?!” Jason exclaimed.
“Really?” Kyle asked. “How do you know?”
Nick nodded, “My powers. I can identify powers of people, their power levels and I have a radar sense for them. I could tell you were powerful as soon as you stepped up to that gunman. But I’m not super precise yet unless I have physical touch. My powers helped me identify most of my powerset. I also am immune to all form of attack or tampering. I simply repel it all, hence the gunshots rebounded. I’m not sure there’s a limit to my ability to reflect.”
“Wait! What about my power?” Jason interjected.
“We can get to that.” Kyle said with a grin, “Though don’t worry, I won’t let you stew for long. Please allow me to test your ability. If I may?”
Kyle extended his hand and Nick took it firmly, immediately feeling a rush of power.
“Hmmm. You’re…quite confusing honestly. A technopath, a psychic, magical abilities due to Asgardian blood, you lost your powers once, you have the ability to…absorb other powers! Incredible.” Nick thought out loud as he seemed to mentally sense his way through some maze of information.
“He’s like a living breathing super power radar.” Jason exclaimed.
“More like a touchstone or litmus test.” Lauren corrected.
“And a precise and excellent one at that.” Kyle added with a smile, “You even sensed my loss of powers at one point.”
“I heard stories about you, from backchannels and darker recesses of the internet.” Nick breathed, “But your array of powers, it’s impressive.”
“I appreciate that. Let me be frank.” Kyle continued, “I’m a part of something a little bigger now. A school of sorts, for those like yourselves.”
“Your mission, if you should choose to accept it—” Jason interjected with a chuckle.
“Shush.” Nick chided his friend, earning a smile from Lauren.
“I planned on asking you to join Nick. But with the demonstration of your powers, I think I’ll extend that invitation to you as well Jason.”
“Wait! Stop, stop, stop! Pleasssssseee tell me.” Jason pleaded, “What are my powers!?”
Nick smirked, “Oops. Yeah. Buddy hold on, let me—”
Nick took hold of Jason’s wrist, “Right. Your power is kinda elegant, but basically you have the potential to learn any ability and train yourself to replicate that ability. If you watched a martial artist practice, you could practice for a few hours, maybe minutes even, and copy his moves. You also seem to have the potential to train or learn uses of supernatural abilities, but that’s only if you can somehow actually get or mimic those supernatural abilities. So like, if you could grab boots that allowed you to be more agile, you might be able to mimic a ninja’s jump flips or if you had super strength you could emulate a strong guy’s masterful use of a car as a blunt weapon.”
“So you’re saying that I’m basically a super genius?” Jason smirked.
“Don’t let it go to your head.” Nick said with a smirk.
Jason’s grin was a mile wide, “I can’t believe this is real!”
He made a show of stretching and bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, energy running through his body.
“Shall we try something simple?” Kyle asked, “Lauren if you wouldn’t mind?”
Lauren looked over at her father with annoyance, “Fine. Just don’t cry if I accidentally shoot someone.”
Lauren pulled out a hand pistol from the inner side of her suit jacket and pointed it straight at her father. With panther like quickness, Kyle executed a spin kick that knocked the gun from her grasp.
“Alright Jason. Your turn.”
“What? Me?” Jason asked, suddenly growing a bit nervous, “I don’t know, I don’t want to accidentally kick her arm or face or something.”
Lauren smirked as she walked over to retrieve her gun, “I didn’t get to where I am to have some kid kick me in the face. Don’t worry kid, let me have it.”
Jason frowned, “Well ok…”
Concentrating as hard as he could, Jason eyed the gun in Lauren’s outstretched hand which was now uncomfortably pointed at his forehead. Picturing in his mind’s eye the move that Kyle had executed, he took a deep breath and then attempted the same move.
He was just a hair off, kicking Lauren’s hand and dislodging the gun.
“Gah! Sorry! Sorry!” Jason cried as soon as he realized his mistake.
Lauren simply chuckled, rubbing her wrist, “That was actually pretty good for a first try.”
Kyle nodded, “Yes. For your current level of physical fitness and your relative inexperience with martial arts, that was fairly precise. Astounding really.”
“I still sorta kicked her hand…” Jason frowned, “And besides, like Nick stopped an actual bad guy!”
“Don’t remind me.” Nick said, “I sorta killed the guy.”
Kyle nodded, “It was quite unfortunate. The news will no doubt spin it in a negative light. ‘Wild Teenage Mutant Murders Man On Train.”
Nick’s expression darkened and the mood in the room immediately sombered.
“Hmmm, well this is why I tracked you boys down in the first place.” Kyle spoke, attempting to move the conversation forward, “I’m part of a school of sorts, to train young supers like yourselves. Supers have the potential for great good, or great evil, and well I’d like to push them along the path towards good. The school’s been around for some time, but well, I just recently took over and I’m looking for new talent to train. I’ve gotten a few signups already, but you two might just be our missing pieces.”
“So this is like…like we’re going to attend a superhero school?” Jason asked.
“Basically.” Kyle confirmed.
“School by day, hero by night?”
“There will be on the field training as well, but now is the perfect time to start. The summer means young students like yourselves are hitting summer time schedules and you have the perfect excuse of ‘attending summer camp’ or whatnot to come train with me over this summer.”
“So…” Jason thought briefly, “This sounds awesome! Let’s do it!”
“Nick?” Kyle asked, “You’ve been quiet, what are you thinking?”
Nick frowned, “Hmph. What did you mean by ‘missing piece’?”
“Well, we have a few recruits already, but we lack a versatile swiss army knife to complete our team, which Jason conveniently fulfills, but we also lacked a formal leader. And I was going to bring you in with that role in mind.”
“A leader huh?” Nick said, “I’ll have to decline then.”
“Oh really?” Kyle said, both Lauren and Kyle raised an eyebrow in a near identical way.
“Might I ask why?” Lauren chimed in.
Nick shook his head. “I’m no leader. I just play video games and D&D. I sorta hate people. How am I supposed to lead a team of superheroes into battle?”
The two adults in the room looked at each other and Kyle gave Lauren a nod.
“There are two things that Dad always looks for in a leader.” Lauren spoke, “He probably wouldn’t say this, so I will. He wants a sharp mind that thinks quickly on his feet, and he wants someone with a good heart, a heart that will choose to do right with his back against the wall. Dad’s confirmed today your heart is strong and that you didn’t blanch in the face of danger. Instead you thought on your feet and took action to save a total stranger.”
“Dude. You like lead all of us nerds at school anyway.” Jason encouraged Nick, patting him on the shoulder, “You’re like the head nerd. Everyone in our circle thinks of you as C41N anyway. C41N the mighty guild master who took us from nothing to something like lightning in a bottle. Like our WoW group would be totally fucked without your decision making.”
Nick shook his head even stronger, “That’s just fucking Warcraft dude. I can play around with people’s characters, not their actual lives.”
“You’re understanding of the weight of that responsibility would be the exact reason I chose you in the first place.” Kyle smiled at him, “Look Nick,”
Kyle looked Nick right in the eye, “Heroes aren’t made overnight. They grow up from children, to teenagers to adults. They mature. But a truly good leader has a knack to choose what’s right and have others follow, that’s something that can’t be learned. Sure someone can get better at giving orders, delegating work, or whatnot, but there’s something special about someone who can choose to lead his people into the unknown and still choose the right thing, no matter what. It takes a special person to not let the power get to them and not sway from their course regardless of circumstance. I believe that’s who you are and who you can become. A hero’s merit is determined by a few moments; the moments where most others would choose evil, they choose good. You can be that person Nick. I really believe it. I honest to the gods do.”
Nick mulled this over for a few seconds, rubbing his jaw and fiddling with the keychain on his house keys.
“Flattery really does get you everywhere with me.” Nick sheepishly admitted. “Alright, I’ll try out this school thing. But if I suck, you better fucking tell me that I do so we can find someone else to take my place.”
Kyle extended a hand, “It’s a promise.”
Nick took his hand and shook it with conviction,
“Alright. That’s settled.” Jason chortled, “When do I get to meet Omega Girl?”
“In about 20 minutes I’d say.” Kyle said with a knowing gleam in his eye.
“Wait what!?” the two boys exclaimed.