Put Our Differences Behind Us.
My powers seemed to be pretty diverse. Invisibility, duplication, density manipulation. So hey, maybe probability manipulation wasn’t out of the question, because the sheer unlikeliness of everything that had happened so far was kind of doing my head in.
I stared down the alleyway at the group of… well, I didn’t know what they were. They obviously weren’t associated with the Tower, not with Fog’s reaction, but they’d intervened for much the same reasons. I decided, tentatively, to extend a measure of trust.
“I’m…” I trailed off. What should I say? I couldn’t tell them to call me Hannah, obviously. Should I make up a codename? But what if it sucks? And then I’ll be stuck with it forever, and everyone will laugh, and I won’t be able to go out in public ever again, and…
I may have started hyperventilating, I’m not sure.
Thankfully, they didn’t seem to notice. The woman in grey was still standing in the mouth of the alley, watching me, but the man in the balaclava and goggles had leant against one of the walls, arms crossed, and the one dressed as a pilot had dropped down into a sitting position, her arms wrapped loosely around her legs. Apparently, that explosion had taken something out of her.
The dark-skinned woman chuckled. “New, huh? Don’t worry, we were all there at some point. I’m Skew. This is Freefall and Flatline.” She gestured to the woman in the bomber’s outfit and the man in the balaclava, respectively. “I’m guessing from that little display that you're not associated with the Prettiest Princess back there?” She flicked a thumb over her shoulder in the direction Fog had fled in, and I gave an involuntary snort.
“No, I'm not… She just showed up, and I tried talking… she wouldn't listen and I…” a horrifying realization ran through me. I'd antagonized, intentionally or no, one of the Tower’s biggest biggest heroes, and by extension, the whole organization. “I was just… just trying to stop him,” I finished lamely, gesturing to the tattooed thug still gasping for breath on the pavement.
The lady, Skew, looked down at the man and clucked her tongue.
“Right, him. Probably not the best audience for this conversation.” She tucked her hands into her pockets and began walking down the alleyway. “Walk with us, Scarf Girl?” The other two fell in behind her.
“...sure.” I fell into step with her as she passed, but not before taking one last glance over my shoulder. “Do you… think he'll be okay?” I asked tentatively.
“Well, he’s probably going to have a bit of an issue the next time it snows, but yeah, that wasn’t long enough for serious damage.” She looked up at me and grinned an insouciant grin. “And believe me, I’d know.”
“I… umm, should I be scared?”
She laughed and chucked me on the arm. “Relax, kid. We’re basically the good guys.” The way she said the word ‘basically’ made it sound like it belonged in parentheses.
“Are you?” I asked, hesitance momentarily forgotten. “Because… as soon as you showed up, Fog started swearing like a sailor and ran away, and that kind of doesn’t sound like the reaction a hero would have to ‘the good guys’. Even if she is kind of shitty.”
Skew laughed again as we rounded the corner, but this time it was laced with bitterness and anger. “Alright, first lesson on the street, Scarfy. Just cause the Tower calls themselves the heroes don’t make it so.” The tinge of an accent began creeping into her voice, something South American, maybe? “Once you peak behind the curtains, you start seeing them as what they are; actors playing a role because they like the attention.”
I leaned away unconsciously. She must’ve noticed, because her posture loosened, and she blew out a breath. “Sorry, sorry. Touchy subject for me. For all of us, actually.”
Wisely, I decided to leave that alone. “Us?” I asked instead. “Are you ‘the good guys’, then?”
That got a snort out of the man, Flatline or Freefall, I couldn’t remember. “Shut up, you,” Skew said over her shoulder. Then, to me, “We’d like to think so, yeah. In practice, who knows? At the very least, we’re better than the Tower.”
“Are there more of you?”
She nodded. “Us three and seven more.” Ten?! Who are these people, and how have I not heard of them? We generally only come together for big stuff, at least in theory.”
“And you’re the leader?”
“In absentia,” she said with another smile with a bitter undercurrent. “Our leader proper has a bad habit of being flaky.” The other woman snorted at that. I wondered why they weren’t so much participating in the conversation as reacting to it. Maybe they were used to Skew talking for them.
“But enough about us,” she said, and my gut felt like someone had clamped a vice around it. “What’s your story, morning glory?”
“VerysorrybutIhavetogonowverynicetomeetyougoodbye,” I babbled, before reaching down into my core, shutting off my power and vanishing in a cloud of smoke.
Suddenly, I was back in my body, standing near the opposite end of the alleyway, breathing heavily. I dropped my back against the wall, and slid down it until I was sitting.
“Darnit, Hanners, I thought we were over this.”
I know, I know, it’s just… it’s just a whole new situation, and I’m in costume, and they’re actually other people with superpowers, and they were asking about me, and I don’t have a name and my costume is stupid and-
“Just calm down, okay? Deep breaths, in, out, there we go. Now get back up and go apologize to the nice people. Apart from being the only people who have actually been nice to us tonight, they might know about Green Cloak.”
…right. You’re right.
“Of course I am. I’m you.”
I stood up, and brushed off my pants, then walked back towards the way we’d been walking. When I rounded the corner, the three of them were only a few meters away.
Skew skidded to a stop, a wild grin on her face. “Hah! A teleporter! Fucking beautiful! Okay, I was kind of being coy about it, but screw that noise; if you’re willing, the Outliers would love to have you.” That name sounded familiar for some reason.
“Oh,” I protested, “no, I’m not-” I snapped my mouth shut. These people seemed nice so far, but they didn’t need to know how my powers worked. Heck, I barely knew how they worked. “It only works for me,” I said instead, “and it takes a while to recharge.” A lie that would be easy enough to hold up.
She visibly deflated. “Aww. Still, offer's open.”
“I’ll… think about it,” I hazarded. “Anyway, sorry for running off like that. I’m just nervous about, well, everything.”
“Most people have breathing exercises for that, Scarf Girl. Bursting into wisps of smoke is a bit more of an unconventional coping method, no?”
I gave a weak chuckle. “Sorry, I panicked. And…” something in her sentence caught in my brain. One of the words.
Yeah. Yeah, that’ll do.
“The long and short of my story is that I’m looking for someone,” I said. “And..."
"You can call me Wisp.”