That time three friends with special abilities were thrown to a new world where superpowers don't exist
Nikola was nervous. He eyed the giant lecture hall analytically. He had expected larger classes than in high school, but the size of this room was almost ridiculous. To make matters worse, he was split up from John and Seth. Just like in their original world, each of them had a different career path in mind. They had seen so much of each other since arriving in this world that each of them wanted some time apart from the rest, but now that Nikola got his wish, he wanted nothing more than to have his friends by his side. He was wrapped up drowning in these thoughts when a tap on his shoulder pulled his mind above water.
“Yo, are you ok, man?” A voice asked. He turned to find a guy his own age with almost-white blonde hair.
“Uh, yeah,” Nikola said, trying to regain his bearings. He gestured to the lecture hall around them. “All this is just a little overwhelming, you know?”
“Right?” The guy said, adamantly agreeing. “I’m not used to this many people around.” He looked Nikola up and down, then extended his hand. “I’m Logan, it’s nice to meet you man!”
“Nikola,” Nikola introduced, shaking Logan’s hand. “But my friends just call me Nick. It’s nice to meet you too Logan.”
“You seem like a back-bencher, like me,” Logan said. He pointed to the row of seats farthest back. “How’s about you and I go claim some prime real estate before someone beats us to it.”
“Sure, lead the way,” Nikola said. In truth, he would have preferred to sit closer to the middle to avoid drawing attention, but this was a kind of blending as well. Someone had to be the delinquent-type in class, and with his long hair, he fit the bill in terms of looks. May as well lean into it. Logan led the way to the seats at the top-left corner, right by one of the exits.
“So, I’m gonna come clean,” Logan said. “I saw the fight this morning.”
“You did?” Nikola asked, cringing. They weren’t supposed to make this much of a splash on their first day.
“Yeah!” Logan said, taking his seat. “You guys were awesome. I wish I could have seen it in person.”
“Wait, if you weren’t there?” Nikola asked, confused. “How did you see it?”
“Oh, like five people recorded it,” Logan said. “It’s all over the internet. A group of first-years fighting before classes even started made a lot of waves. I’d be surprised if there was anyone who didn’t know who you were come tomorrow.” He pulled out his phone and played one of the videos. It had barely been half an hour since the altercation, and the video already had more than a hundred views. Nikola let his head fall into the desk in front of him.
“Great, now people are going to try to pick fights with us, or think we’re violent people,” Nikola complained.
“I doubt it,” Logan said. “I mean, it’s clear the other guys started it. On top of that, you three can clearly kick ass.” Nikola looked up. Aside from Seth, he didn’t see their fighting abilities as anything above average.
“What makes you say that?” Nikola asked. Logan gestured to the screen, prompting Nikola to watch.
“For starters, look at the bald guy,” Logan explained. “It’s like he could read the moves before they happened. And how smoothly you and the tall guy stepped in to help him. It’s all insane!” He scrubbed through the video, landing on the point where Nikola caught one of their opponent’s arms mid-swing. “Look at that, man! You must be strong as hell to stop his arm dead like that.”
“It’s all about your footing, you know?” Nikola said with an awkward chuckle. Logan didn’t realize it, but he just called Seth and Nikola out on their superpowers.
“It’s still impressive,” Logan said. “Most of all is how you three had each other’s backs. You didn’t talk once, and you perfectly stepped in to help the bald guy. It was pretty cool.”
“Thanks, I’ll introduce you to those two sometime,” Nikola said, desperately trying to think of a way to change the subject. Luckily the professor walked in, saving him from grasping at straws.
“Hey, so I’m going to a house party tonight,” Logan whispered. “The guy I live next to invited me. If you want, you’re more than welcome to come too.”
“I’ll run it by the others,” Nikola replied. It would be nice to get out and be between their peers.
John was lost. This was a relatively frequent event. He always found it painfully ironic that his ability was to effortlessly travel to any location across space, yet his sense of direction was comparable to that of the more rotten-half of a potato. He checked his class schedule again and scanned the hallways for anything that looked familiar. At this rate, he would be late for his first class. He decided to pick up the pace, rushing around the next corner and colliding head-on with another person. Both of them overcorrected after the collision, sending them tumbling backward onto their respective butts. It took a considerable amount of mental effort from John not to catch himself with a portal.
“Sorry,” John said, dragging himself to his feet. He got a good look at the person he had crashed into. It was a girl. Scattered around her were a bunch of books and papers.
“You should watch where you’re going,” she said, rubbing the back of her head. John bent down and began gathering the books and papers into a pile.
“Yeah, sorry,” he apologized again. “I was lost in thought. Coincidentally, I’m also lost in this building.”
“It’s a damn maze,” the girl said, shifting to be on her knees. She began gathering papers too.
“What’s with all this stuff?” John asked.
“It’s a long story,” she replied. “Did you hear there was a fight earlier?” John shuddered a bit.
“Uh, yeah, I heard something about that,” he said, putting the last of the papers on the pile.
“Well, when the loser ran away he ran into me. My bag got hooked on his arm and got ripped,” she explained. “So now I have to carry all my stuff by hand.”
“I’m sorry that happened,” John said. He picked up the stack of books.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” the girl said.
“It’s the least I can do,” John replied. “What class are you in?”
“I’m actually heading to the lab,” she said. “We were told to gather there, but I have no clue where it is.”
“Yeah, join the club,” John said. “I take it you’re a physics major too?”
“Yes!” the girl said. “I’m Olivia, it’s nice to meet you.”
“John, nice to meet you too,” John said. “I’d shake your hand, but…” He lifted the stack of books in his hands.
“Oh, that’s fine,” Olivia said. “So how do you feel about being lost together, John?”
“That sounds wonderful,” John said. “Which direction do you want to be lost in first?” Olivia pointed down a hallway neither of them had explored yet, and they set off. John was about to start the conversation up again when her phone went off.
“One second,” she said. She pulled out her phone and read through the message she got. Then she started playing a video. John strained to hear what she was watching.
And our friends stay out of it. This is between you and me.
Fear shot down John’s spine. He recognized the voice and the words. He heard it only a few minutes ago, after all.
“Uh, what’s that?” John asked, trying to sound casual.
“A video of the fight this morning,” Olivia responded.
“Maybe you should put that away,” John said. “I could use an extra set of eyes to look for the lab.”
“Yeah, yeah, one second,” Olivia said. She studied the screen more intently, then looked at John, then back at the screen. John kept his eyes trained forward, refusing to make eye contact.
“You!” Olivia exclaimed, hitting John in the shoulder. “You’re one of those… those…”
“Delinquents?” John asked.
“Exactly!” Olivia said. “It’s your fault my morning started off like this!”
“Hey, I’m trying to make up for it,” John said, motioning with his head to the books he was carrying.
“How could you get into a fight that early?” Olivia asked, apparently ignoring his reasoning.
“It’s not my fault,” John said. “Besides, that guy was being a douche.”
“That’s no reason to act like a caveman,” Olivia said. Her voice had taken on the tone of a grade school teacher scolding a misbehaving child.
“I wasn’t going to let Seth get sucker punched, ok?” John said. “I just stepped in to help my friend.”
“I guess…” Olivia said. “Still, though, you shouldn’t get into fights.”
“Ugh, fine,” John said. He clearly wasn’t going to win this argument, even if he wasn’t wrong. “Do you always go around preaching to guys you just met?”
“Only the ones who knock me to the ground,” Olivia said.
“Touche, Olivia,” John said. “Touche.”
Seth was bored. His first class had been going for almost fifteen minutes now, but it was all introductions and going over the syllabus. He had memorized all of that information the night before, and now he found himself with nothing to do while the professor droned on. He looked down at the rest of the students, some paying earnest attention, others sneakily listening to music to pass the time, and some even sleeping on the desks. He admired the bravado of the last group. To fall asleep on the very first day was certainly an achievement.
Seth decided to probe the minds of some of his classmates. He started by just opening his mind, taking in the passive mood of the room. Just as he had suspected, the majority of the people in the room were bored. Even the professor gave off a weary aura, years of repeatedly giving the same class clearly taking its toll. Seth then began focusing on individual minds. He didn’t find anything that really surprised him. The professor wanted to buy his wife some flowers after work. Several of the students were thinking about the various parties and get-togethers they would be attending that evening.
Seth locked onto one mind that seemed particularly aggressive. He was grumbling about losing a fight earlier.
“Of all the people,” Seth whispered to himself. “I end up in a class with that guy.” He listened more intently to Mike’s thoughts.
I should probably just avoid those guys. I don’t stand a chance in a fight.
Seth grinned. He was more than happy to let bygones be bygones. He wasn’t planning on seeking Mike out anyway, so having Mike actively avoid him was positive in his eyes.
Seth expanded his mind again, wrapping the entire room in his telepathic bubble. He didn’t like doing this. Unlike earlier when he just opened his mind to passive thoughts, he now heard the exact thoughts of everyone in the room. It was like hearing a room full of people all talking at the same time, all directly next to his ear. It wasn’t fun, but it was good for training his focus, and for practice in isolating one person’s thoughts from an ocean of others’. He did it earlier as well, right after the fight. That’s when he picked up on that disturbing energy.
Seth’s head perked up at that thought. It was a lot more toned down, but he was sure he felt that intense mind he had earlier. He looked around the room, trying to figure out who it was coming from, but as quickly as he found it he lost it again. Seth rubbed his chin, thinking. He was sure those thoughts were directed at either him, John, or Nikola. If he could only get them to spike again as they did after the fight…
Going on a hunch, Seth pulled a piece of pencil lead out of his bag. He gently tickled the inside of his nose with it, trying to elicit a sneeze. His plan worked and he sneezed loudly, warranting glares from everyone in the room. Outwardly he looked apologetic, but in his mind, he was cheering. His plan worked.
When everyone looked at him that intense stream of thought came up again, and this time he could catch it. It was strange, though. It wasn’t coherent thoughts. It was just raw emotion and so much of it that he struggled to make out if it was good or bad.
This was something people always misunderstood about his ability. He could read exactly what was going through a person’s mind, that much was true, but people didn’t seem to realize how often a stream of thoughts made absolutely no sense. A lot of thoughts didn’t even take the shape of words or phrases, but rather images, or abstract concepts. Those were difficult to interpret, and though Seth was quite skilled at it, some things still slipped him by.
Whatever it was that he had felt, the sheer strength of it put him on edge. He looked down at the origin of the thoughts. A girl in the very front row. She seemed completely normal on the surface. She was on the shorter side, with black hair put into a ponytail. He couldn’t see her face, but from the small case in front of her he assumed she wore glasses.
Seth frowned, digging deeper into her mind. He could pick out her thoughts between the ocean of emotion, but it wasn’t easy. It took genuine effort to piece anything useful together. Seth wanted to see her face, more specifically, her eyes. He mentally grabbed the pen in her hand and tossed it behind her. It looked strange, but no one would guess it was him. Telekinetics were fictional, after all.
The girl turned around and picked up her pen. Seth took this time to study her face and was taken aback. It looked completely normal. Her eyes were gentle, and she had a kind smile. It didn’t remotely match the turmoil in her mind.
“What the hell?” he muttered. He decided to stop his investigation for the time being and leaned back into his chair. He tried to make sense of what was going on, but couldn’t find a solution. Before he knew it, the class was over and he was no closer to figuring it out.
John spotted Nikola leaning against the wall at the spot they agreed to meet at lunchtime. Next to him was another guy John didn’t recognize.
“Hey, Nick,” John greeted.
“Hey, it’s the knee-guy!” The man next to Nikola said.
“His name is John,” Nikola said. “John, this is Logan. I met him in class, and he saw our fight.”
“Who saw our fight?” Seth asked, rounding the corner.
“You timed that, didn’t you,” John accused. “How long were you hiding behind that wall?”
“Longer than I’m proud of,” Seth said. “I’m Seth, by the way,” he introduced to Logan. “It’s good to meet you.”
“Same here,” John said.
“Thanks guys, it’s a pleasure to meet you two as well,” Logan said. “How was your first day?” John beamed a smile at that question, and Seth seemed to lose his will to live.
“I’m getting mixed reactions here,” Nikola commented. “What makes you so happy, John?”
“I met a cute girl,” John said. “It was like destiny.” Nikola wanted to tear into that proclamation, but couldn’t say what he wanted with Logan here.
“And you, Seth?” he asked.
“The day’s been rougher than I expected, that’s all,” Seth said. Of course, that wasn’t all, but he couldn’t really share the rest of his story with a stranger there.
“Well, now that I have the three of you here,” Logan said, “I would like to formally invite you to a house party tonight as my plus ones.”
“I already accepted on your behalfs,” Nikola said. “If you guys refuse now you’d be making me a liar. You wouldn’t do that to me, right?”
“Yeah sure, I’m in,” John said. Seth thought about it for a moment. He would rather just go home and sleep, but maybe some socialization would do him well.
“Why not,” he said, signaling his agreement. “I’ve got nothing better to do, after all.”
Seth frowned, already beginning to feel the oncoming headache. This is why he avoided parties. The loud music paired with the exciting thoughts of dozens of people isn’t a pleasant combination. Once alcohol joins the mix, as he expected it would that evening, it all gets amplified. He looked at his companions. Neither of them seemed very excited about this either.
“Nick, remind me why we came here,” Seth asked.
“Because we have to blend. After this morning it won’t exactly hurt to just act normal with a lot of people,” Nikola said.
“Yeah,” John agreed. “Because of those damn videos, our faces are pretty familiar to a lot of people by now. We should do some damage control.” Seth sighed. He couldn’t argue with that, but that didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.
“If it makes you feel better, you don’t have to listen tonight,” Nikola said. “I doubt anything major will happen.”
“Don’t go setting flags,” Seth grumbled. “Now come on, let’s get this over with.” He led the way, walking up the driveway to the moderately-sized house. They arrived half an hour late in order to blend better with a larger crowd. Seth knew he didn’t have to, but he kept a passive awareness of the minds around him. It wouldn’t catch everything, but it should act as an early-warning system.
“Hey, you made it!” Logan cheered as he threw open the front door. “I spotted you through the window.”
“Yeah, we made it,” Seth said, walking past Logan. “Nice place.” Nikola and John both let out pained noises.
“What’s wrong?” Logan asked.
“He always says that!” John yelled. “No matter where he goes, no matter how many times he’s been there, when he walks into a building he always says that. He’s been doing it for years now, and we are so tired of it.”
“Listen, John,” Seth said, turning around. “It’s called manners. You should read up on it.”
“Screw you,” John said.
“Girls, you’re both pretty,” Nikola interjected. “Can we move on now?” His comment earned him a pair of death glares.
“Nick’s right,” Logan said. “It’s a party! Come on in.” They followed his instruction and found themselves in a much more pleasant atmosphere than expected. There were a lot of people present, but not so many that they felt cramped. The music was not as loud as it seemed from the outside, and a few tables were set out with snacks and games. Everyone there seemed to be having a genuinely good time. The three guys let their guard down a bit. Just because they were strangers in a strange world didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy themselves from time to time.
Seth automatically gravitated towards the ping-pong table. It was a game he loved since it was so easy for him to cheat. He also very rarely got to play it, since it was so easy for him to cheat. Nikola and John wouldn’t even let him watch them play.
“Mind if I play the winner?” he asked the people playing, a man and a woman.
“Sure thing,” the guy said. “Though she might as well give you the paddle now.”
“Someone’s feeling confident,” the girl said. She served the ball with tremendous force, sending it zipping past the guy.
John found his way to the TV, where a bunch of people was gathered. He let his eyes wander to the TV, curious about what they were doing.
“No way…” he said with bated breath. He rushed forward, sliding onto the ground next to one of the gathered people. “Is this Generic Fighter 12?!” he asked.
“Hell yeah, it is,” the guy next to him said. “You know it?”
“Of course I do!” John replied. “How did you get a copy? I thought they were sold out!” John didn’t mention that he also didn’t think the game existed in this universe.
“We were just lucky, I guess,” the guy said. He tossed John a controller. “Fancy a game?”
Nikola stood against a back wall, observing the crowd. He knew he said that they should socialize, but he was never too much of a social butterfly. He took note of what John and Seth were doing. Seth was clearly planning on cheating at ping-pong, and John was with a group of people clustered around the TV. Logan had also wandered off somewhere, and Nikola had lost sight of him. This all equated to Nikola being alone and bored. He could go latch onto John or Seth, but he knew he had to expand his circle. He decided to make his way to the kitchen to get something to drink.
The kitchen was strange. At its core, it was a normal kitchen, but a few stools and an extra table were set up to give it both the appearance and function of a bar. It seemed that everyone had to help themselves, so Nikola went to grab a glass of water, then retreated to a corner of the room. He eyed his options. In the opposite corner, one guy was shotgunning a beer while his friends cheered him on. Near the door, a group of girls seemed to be gossiping about something or other. Sitting at the bar were two people, a man, and a woman.
Nikola couldn’t read minds, but even he could tell the girl was uncomfortable. It looked like the guy was trying to flirt with the girl, and failing. Nikola cracked a smile. He had been waiting for an opportunity like this. He hadn’t had many chances to flex his ability since they were brought to this world, and now he had the perfect opportunity to try something new.
Nikola started absorbing all the sound energy around him. He didn’t actively take sound out of the room, only letting the sound that hit him be absorbed. After a moment he was bathed in silence. Next came the hard part. He had discovered a year or so prior that if he focused he could differentiate between the different frequencies of sound, but he never got a chance to test it. Now he could. He began letting different combinations of frequencies slip through his absorption and into his ears. He was trying to catch everything but the voices of the couple at the bar.
His brow furrowed as he concentrated. This was harder than he expected, especially since he was trying to hear two different people. It was like trying to tune two radios with a station on every single frequency, and without knowing what station he was looking for. He locked his eyes onto their mouths, trying to match sounds with the movement of their lips. Occasionally he would catch a little of what one of the two were saying, before losing it again. After about a minute of searching, he finally managed to lock onto their voices. It was mangled in with the music, and any large variation in their tone would send them out of earshot, but this was good enough to make out the gist of the conversation.
“Don’t be like that,” the guy said. “We’re young and in college. We gotta let ourselves be free.”
“I told you, I’m not interested,” the girl replied. “No can you please leave-”
The music changed to a more bass-heavy track, causing Nikola to lose his focus. The sounds around him rushed back, almost sending him to the ground. He staggered but managed to remain standing. That took a lot more out of him than he expected. He looked at the guy sitting at the bar. He didn’t seem like he’d have the guts to try anything underhanded, but that didn’t mean Nikola should let the girl suffer in discomfort. He walked over and positioned himself in between the guy and the girl.
“Listen, bro, she told you no,” Nikola said. “Take it like a man and move on.”
“Buzz off, dude,” the guy said. “She’s just playing hard to get.” Nikola turned to the girl.
“Are you playing hard to get?” he asked. The girl shook her head. He turned back to the guy. “She says she’s not playing hard to get.” The guy’s face twisted into a frown and he clenched his fist. Nikola thought back to this morning and decided to try to smooth things over. “Ok, listen. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot here. I’m Nikola, but you can call me Nick.”
“Call me Sean,” the guy responded. He grabbed Nikola’s shoulder and shoved him aside. “Now get out of here.”
“Hey now, that’s no way to treat your new friends,” Nikola called out.
“What is your problem, man?” Sean asked. “Are you jealous or something?”
“No, I’m not jealous,” Nikola said. “But I’m also not just going to stand idly by while you sour her night.”
“Oh, you wanna be the hero?” Sean asked, standing. “Let’s go a round, see who the real hero is.”
“This again?” Nikola sighed. “You know what, sure, go ahead. I’ll give you the first shot.” Nikola spread his arms and closed his eyes, leaving himself wide open.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Sean said. He stepped forward and threw a hard hook directly at Nikola’s face. His fist made contact with Nikola’s cheek, and then… nothing. Nikola didn’t budge from the hit. It didn’t even feel like a hit at all.
“Is that all you got?” Nikola asked, lowering his arms and opening his eyes. “Is it my turn to throw a hit now?” Before Sean could reply, Nikola threw a hook of his own, mimicking Sean’s attack. His attack laded, and Sean was sent tumbling to the ground. He clutched his cheek, staggering back to his feet.
“What the hell?” Sean yelled.
“You started it!” Nikola yelled back. Sean was clearly dissatisfied but decided not to keep the fight going. He grabbed his drink off the bar and stormed out of the kitchen. Nikola took the now-vacant seat, letting out a relieved breath.
“You didn’t have to do that,” the girl said.
“I don’t mind,” Nikola said. “And I was bored.”
“I’m Emma,” the girl introduced. “What can I call my knight in shining armor?”
“I’m Nikola, but you can call me Nick,” Nikola introduced. “And I can do without the sarcasm.”
Seth threw John onto his bed. He dusted off his hands and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“How did you end up like this?” He asked.
“You should see the other guy,” John slurred. Nikola walked in and placed a trash can next to John’s bed.
“If you need to throw up, do it in here,” he said. “I’m not cleaning up after you, got it?”
“I still can’t believe you were playing Generic Fighter 12, and you didn’t tell us!” Nikola said.
“Shut it, you,” Seth said, shoving his finger into Nikola’s chest. “You were too busy making kissy faces at that girl to check up on this mess of a man.”
“Oh, like you can talk,” Nikola shot back. “You were so busy cheating at ping-pong you didn’t even notice him getting nearly blackout drunk ten feet away from you!”
“Guys, can you get along please?” John asked. He sounded like a kid asking his parents not to fight. Nikola burst out laughing, and Seth shook his head with a disappointed smile.
“Sure thing, kiddo,” Seth said. “Now get some sleep. Another big day tomorrow.” He walked out of the room, and Nikola followed his lead.
“Just for the record,” Nikola said. “I wasn’t making kissy faces at anyone, not that you can talk.”
“First of all, you totally were,” Seth said. “And second, what do you mean I can’t talk?”
“I’m talking about that girl that kept staring at you while you played,” Nikola said. “You didn’t notice her?”
“No, I didn’t,” Seth replied, perplexed.
“In that case, looks like you have a secret admirer,” Nikola said. He turned around and walked to his room. “I’m going to sleep. See ya.”
“Goodnight,” Seth called after him.
“A secret admirer, eh?”
“This is Falcon. I’ve started building up my information network. I’m blending in well, and I highly doubt anyone suspects anything. I haven’t heard or seen anything of interest thus far. Will keep you posted.”