That time three friends with special abilities were thrown to a new world where superpowers don't exist
“We’re on a completely different Earth.”
Nikola frowned, prompting John to continue.
“It’s exactly like the one we came from, but here the people don’t have powers. That’s why the homeless guy reacted like that, and why our money doesn’t work.” He said.
“That’s insane,” Nikola said, to play devil’s advocate if nothing else. He stretched his back, waiting for a response.
“Not really,” Seth said. “Think about it. We know nothing about the woman that brought us here. It might be her ability to move between worlds. Maybe even more than that. I mean, did you see her? It looked like she was the center of existence.”
“I’m telling you, it’s possible,” John said. “Look, my power is based around funky spacetime stuff, so I’ve done my research. And look at the universe we come from. We have people who can fly, teleport, throw lightning... Is a multiverse really that far-fetched?”
“Maybe not,” Nikola said, scratching his chin. “Either way, there’s one way to prove it.”
“How’s that?” John asked, raising back to his feet. “At this point, I am pretty sure of myself, so if you can get the last nail into the coffin…”
“It’s simple. Seth, listen to the clerk’s thoughts,” Nikola ordered. Seth nodded and focused his mind. Nikola waited for Seth’s go-ahead, then went into the store again with a huge smile plastered onto his face. “Excuse me, Sir,” he called out, giving a friendly wave. “If you don’t mind me asking, what is your ability?” Under normal circumstances, Nikola would never ask a stranger that question. It’s considered extremely rude, and borderline illegal.
“What do you mean ‘my ability’?” the clerk asked, confused.
“Like, your superpower,” Nikola prodded, leaning onto the counter.
“Kid, I don’t know if this is some kind of mind game,” the clerk said, furrowing his brow. He put a hand on the register, just in case Nikola tried something. “But I’d suggest you stop. Aren’t you a little old to believe in superpowers anyway?” Nikola breathed a sigh. He wasn’t sure if it was relief or annoyance. He straightened his back and meandered out of the store, giving the clerk a half-hearted wave as he exited.
“And?” he asked Seth.
“He wasn’t lying,” Seth said. “Superpowers don’t exist in this world.”
It had been almost half an hour since the encounter with the store clerk, and the three were walking in heavy silence, each lost in their thoughts. Nikola was trying to think of a way they could get food and shelter, John’s mind was fixed on thinking of a way back to their world, and Seth was probing the minds he sensed around them for any useful information. They could very faintly hear the sounds of families preparing dinner, and generally enjoying each other's company.
“Ok, guys, where are we even going?” Nikola asked, jumping forward and spinning around to face the others and finally breaking the silence.
“I don’t know, Nick!” John said, a bit more aggressively than he meant to. “There’s nowhere we can go!”
“We need a plan,” Seth said, calmly.
“Oh really, do we now?” John asked, sarcastically.
“What’s gotten into you, man?” Seth asked. “It’s not like you to freak out like this.”
“Because half of my power got cut off, Seth,” John answered. His eyes were wide, and his speech was frantic. “I don’t have any safe spot I can take us to. We’re vulnerable out here, and you can’t rely on my power to save us.”
“Dude, it’s ok,” Nikola said, putting a hand on John’s shoulder. “It’s not your fault. Your power will still be useful if we’re in trouble. Line-of-sight is still pretty damn far. And it’s not as if I’m in a much better position. I’ll have a much harder time charging my reserves in this world. You’re not alone, ok?” John looked appreciatively at his friend. He took a deep breath and composed himself.
“You’re right,” John said. “We shouldn’t freak out now. We need to make a plan.”
“Glad you’re on board,” Seth said. “So do you have any ideas? And try to keep it down this time, we don’t want to draw attention.” The question was met with silence. They pondered their limited options for a minute, before Seth’s head jerked up. The others reacted.
“What is it?” John asked. Seth slid the backpack off his back.
“We never checked what Alice gave us,” he said. John and Nikola’s eyes widened too. They slid their backpacks off and began rummaging through them.
“Ok, a notebook, some pens, a wallet…” Nikola rattled off. He took out the wallet and inspected it. He looked shocked.
“What’s in there,” Seth asked, opening his wallet. He quickly joined in the shocked expression. Inside were a few bills, an ID card, and an ATM card, with a small slip of paper that seemed to contain the PIN and the current balance. It wasn’t a lot, but they would be able to survive for a little while.
“Seems like just enough to keep us from dying, just like she said,” John commented. “What about this?” He held a manilla envelope in his hands. The others removed theirs from their backpacks as well. Peering inside, it was filled with a bunch of documents.
“Let’s find a place to sort through this,” Nikola said, suddenly aware of how suspicious they looked in the middle of this upper-class neighborhood.
“I can hear a fast food place up ahead,” Seth said. “We can get something to eat too.” Seth set off, and the other two followed close behind. It was clear that, for the time being, Seth’s ability would be the most useful. They arrived at a familiar place, the bright red-and-yellow facade noticeable from miles away. They went inside, and joined the line, trying to blend in. As usual, when a person tries to go by unnoticed, they stood out like sore thumbs. Fortunately, the line was short, and before long they were sitting at a cheap table enjoying their food.
“Alright, what do we have here,” Nikola said, pulling everything out of the envelope. The documents seemed complicated, but most noticeable atop the pile was a SIM card, taped to a piece of paper listing the number and monthly allowances. He put the card into his phone, and the others followed suit. Seth began dialing almost instantly. The others looked on in anticipation.
“No dice,” Seth said, lowering the phone. “I can’t get through to my Mom. Not that it’s surprising…” He lowered his head, flipping to the next piece of paper. “Birth certificate, more identity documents…” he muttered as he read through, stuffing some fries into his mouth.
“Holy crap,” John said. “Look at this!” He held out a printout. “This is a lease on an apartment, and a note that says a month’s worth of rent has been paid up-front.”
“That’s not the only surprising thing,” Nikola said. “Do you guys have these too?” They examined the document in his hand, shock dawning on their faces. They flipped through their stack of papers, producing similar documents in turn.
“So, I guess our original plan is still in place?” John asked. Laid out before on the table were three university acceptance letters. Seth chuckled.
“We should thank Alice next time we see her,” he said. “You know, right before we kick her ass for doing this to us.”
“We should get a cab and go to check out our new apartment,” Nikola said, packing everything back into his bag. He tossed his food wrappers in the trash. “We can make a long-term plan there.” Seth and John packed their things and followed Nikola’s lead.
They exited the restaurant and called a cab to take them to their new home. The cab driver informed them that, to their delight, the university was within walking distance from their apartment.
“Prime real-estate, huh?” John asked rhetorically. “Rent is gonna be a pain.”
“I have never been more whelmed in my entire life,” Seth said, looking around the apartment. It was furnished with the bare necessities, but not much else. An ancient-looking fridge, a small oven, four burners on the stove. In the living room was a couch just big enough for three, with a surprisingly big TV. A rug tied the room together, giving a pseudo-cozy feel to this open-plan hellscape.
“Whelmed?” Nikola asked, frowning. He was inspecting the kitchen cupboards, taking stock of what they had. It looked like whoever filled them based their purchases solely on college stereotypes from TV. Instant ramen, boxes and boxes of cereal, and enough alcohol to kill a man. There were some canned goods too, but whoever filled the cupboards clearly did not have a rounded diet in mind.
“You know, not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, just perfectly whelmed,” Seth replied, lifting up the rug. A wave of dust rolled out as he dropped it.
“I can feel my IQ dropping by the second with this,” Nikola said.
“You know I am the smartest between us, right?” Seth asked.
“You’re definitely the most full of yourself,” Nikola shot back.
“Have you guys checked out your rooms?” John asked, peeking out of a door down a short hallway.
“No, why?” Seth asked.
“It’s stocked up with clothes and linens and stuff,” John said. “Everything in the right sizes too. Bathroom has the basics as well. Three toothbrushes, soap, all that good stuff.”
“The kitchen is reasonably stocked as well,” Nikola said, closing the last of the cupboards. “About a week’s worth of supplies, not counting the junk food.”
“By my count, we should be able to make it for a month with that and the cash we have,” Seth said, counting on his fingers. “Not a coincidence that the rent is paid up until then as well. Alice wanted to give us some time to get our bearings.”
“How nice of her,” John sighed. As much as he wanted to somehow spite that woman, she had gotten them good. They had no choice but to play her game now. “So, what’s the plan, boys?”
“First thing’s first, we have to keep our powers under wraps,” Nikola said while walking over to them. “We might just be the most powerful people on the planet. I doubt the natives of this world will take kindly to learning that.”
“They’ll probably cut us open and study our organs,” Seth said, falling onto the couch. John took his cue and sat down too.
“Second, we should attend university,” Nikola said, pacing up and down. The others looked at him with a fair bit of surprise.
“Why?” John asked.
“We need to learn about this world,” Nikola said. “And more importantly, we have to blend. We can do both on a campus filled with people our age, and we won’t fall behind on our education, assuming we can find a way home.”
“If you say so,” Seth said, leaning fully back into the couch. “We’ll also need part-time jobs to cover our expenses. Rent shouldn’t be too bad if all three of us pitch in.”
“Exactly,” Nikola said, snapping his fingers. Both John and Seth noted it was a bit louder than it should have been. “And if we can get jobs where we can use our powers, we can have an even easier time.”
“You just said we have to hide our powers,” John said, scolding Nikola. “And don’t waste your energy like that.”
“Doesn’t mean we can’t use them at all,” Nikola said, glossing over his apparent misstep. “As long as no one finds out. You two need to be especially proactive with your abilities.”
“Yeah, we know,” John said. “I need to find and go to useful places so we can portal out to them if the need arises, and Seth needs to read minds so we can learn useful stuff and catch potential enemies before they can sneak up on us.”
“You guys are taking this really well,” Seth said. John and Nikola turned to him, confused. They noticed him holding his hands together, trying to stop them from shaking. They hadn’t noticed how scared their friend was.
“I’m glad you think so, but I’m terrified,” Nikola said, his voice cracking. He fell to his knees, clasping his hands together in his lap. “I have no idea if we’ll be ok, and if all hell breaks loose…”
“I get it,” John said, putting his hand on Nikola’s shoulder. “Since your power is the best in a fight, you feel like you have to protect us, right?” Nikola nodded.
“Well, no need to worry about that,” Seth said, standing. “If we get into a fight, we’ll all fight together, and if we have to, we’ll die together.” Nikola looked up, into the smiling faces of his friends.
“Don’t worry too much, guys,” John said. “We’ll find a way through this. I’m scared too. I think I’m the most shaken of all of us, but still. It’s not like we can give up, right?”
“Right,” Nikola said, standing too. “We’ll see this through, and find a way back home.”
John was tossing and turning in his room. No matter how hard he tried, sleep evaded him. He grabbed his phone to check the time.
“Two A.M.” he muttered, then sighed, falling back into his pillow. “Dammit.”
“Yo, John, you awake?”
“Yeah, Seth, come on in.”
Seth opened the door to John’s room, trying to keep quiet. He eyed the room, identical to his own. It was small, with a bed, a desk, and a closet filling the space, leaving just enough room to move around.
“Can’t sleep either?” Seth asked.
“No, not really,” John replied. He rolled onto his side, propping himself up with his arm. “Can you blame me?”
“No, not really,” Seth said, grinning. He sat on the floor, back against the wall. “You know, I just thought of the worst part about all of this.”
“And what is that?” John asked. “You might never see your family again? You might die a painful death here? Maybe a love you wish you confessed to?” The last part was said in a teasing tone.
“No,” Seth said, mentally hitting John with his own pillow. “I just realised I’ll never find out how my favourite anime ends.” Seth barely managed to duck the pillow aimed at his face.
“You weeb,” John said, falling flat onto his back again.
“Oh, hi Mr. Pot,” Seth shot back.
“I told you not to call each other black,” a voice rang out from the doorway. Nikola didn’t manage to duck the two pillows thrown in his direction. They didn’t seem to have much effect on him though, falling straight to the floor after impact. “I take it you guys can’t sleep?”
“Yeah, we’ve been through that already,” John said. “You’re late.”
“Sorry, got held up in traffic,” Nikola said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “Get dressed, I have an idea.”
“I like ideas,” Seth said, leaving to get dressed. They were all back in John’s room in a few minutes.
“So what’s the idea?” John asked, leaning against the wall.
“I want you to take us back to that hill we were on earlier today,” Nikola replied.
“Why?” John asked.
“I want to fight you guys,” Nikola said. His tone was casual, not even remotely matching the content of his demand.
“Dude, you know that’s illegal,” Seth said, scolding him again.
“No, Seth, it was illegal,” Nikola replied, with a devilish grin. It took only a moment for the others to realise what he meant, and a few short minutes later they were in an open field miles away from town, through a chain of portals from their room, to the hill, and beyond.
“Try not to kill us, ok, Nick?” Seth said, crouching down low. He reveled in the cool breeze against his face.
“Yeah, no stopping our hearts,” John added. “That’s cheating.”
“No promises!” Nikola replied. They had wanted to test their powers against each other for years, but with all the laws against violent uses of abilities, unless it was in self defence, they could never get the chance. Until now. “Ready boys?”
“Ready,” John said. He eyes his surroundings, mentally preparing a few spots to open portals to.
“Born ready,” Seth said, opening his mind and gripping a few nearby stones.
“This is Falcon. I’ve settled near the area of the anomaly, and I’m beginning my investigation first thing tomorrow morning.”
The man, presumably Falcon, hung up the phone and put it in his pocket. He gave a light chuckle.
“This corporation and its codenames,” he said to the empty air. “If I didn’t know any better I’d think it was run by a child.”
Falcon took a tour of his new living space. It was by no means big, or even that nice, but compared to what he was used to it might as well have been a palace. He sat down on the couch and tuned the TV to the news. He didn’t expect anything of use, but you never know. Sometimes the big media companies are on top of things. After a few minutes of watching he confirmed that this was not one of those times. He pulled out his phone and navigated to a place he knew he could find reliable information.
Most of the crazy conspiracies posted online are, of course, total crap. Falcon knew this. He also knew that most were not the same thing as all. He narrowed his search to only include posts that happened within a day of the anomaly and within a hundred kilometers of the epicenter. As usual, there were UFO sightings, posts ranting about secret government-controlled agencies out to subdue the masses, and sightings of strange creatures. He was about to give up when he stumbled across a post that claimed to have seen a flying man.
Falcon bolted upright. This was what he was looking for. Attached to the post was a blurry picture of the city’s skyline, taken from someone’s window. Near the top of the image, there was a black spot that was vaguely humanoid. Everyone dismissed this as a doctored image, but Falcon knew it was no coincidence that something superhuman was spotted this close to the epicenter of the anomaly.
“Oh, the boss is gonna love this.”