Chapter 6:

A Loose Thread

That time three friends with special abilities were thrown to a new world where superpowers don't exist

After Seth’s proclamation the previous night Nikola had excused himself and went to bed. It was still pretty early, but he was exhausted and ended up sleeping like the dead for eleven hours. He would have slept longer, but John had woken him up, saying that he had to go to class. Breakfast was a silent affair, at least to him. Nikola, who wasn’t a morning person, to begin with, couldn’t muster the necessary brainpower to listen to the conversation John and Seth were having. As it turns out, they were discussing nothing of great importance.

“What do you mean you want a codename?” Seth asked.

“Well, we’re gonna be superheroes, right?” John said. “If we do that we need to have codenames!”

“Or, alternatively, we don’t,” Seth said. “We’re not spies, we’re just guys. Besides, we never said we’re gonna be superheroes.”

“Are you kidding me!?” John asked. He couldn’t believe Seth was fighting him on this. “Dude, that video of Nikola has gotten thousands of views. It’s a miracle he’s not plastered all over the news!”

“Exactly!” Seth said. “We’re supposed to be keeping a low profile. Right now the only people who know for certain that they saw something superhuman are the people that were there. Anyone else will chalk this up to special effects or something. Our main priority should still be blending in.”

“Seth, come on,” John said. “You can’t tell me you’re satisfied with that! I know deep down you want to get out there and flex your powers too.”

“Of course I do,” Seth said. “But we have to be responsible. If we became superheroes everyone in the world would have their eyes on us. I looked into this yesterday. The idea of superpowers is idolized in this world. It’s something people dream of. Can you handle being one of only three superheroes in the world?”

“You have a point,” John said, defeated. “It would be a lot of responsibility to bear.”

“Exactly, so for today let’s just keep a low profile, ok?” Seth said. “We still need to figure out how Nikola did that lightning run.”

“Electric Sprint,” Nikola mumbled, finally waking up enough to form words.

“What?” Seth asked.

“That move,” Nikola clarified. “I’m calling it my Electric Sprint.”

“Oh no, not you too,” Seth said. “Dude, you’re the one who said we had to keep our powers a secret.”

“I know,” Nikola said. “But I have to admit, it felt really good saving those people, and I discovered something new about my power.”

“Do you think you can do it again?” John asked. “The Electric Sprint, I mean.” Nikola shook his head.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I know it’s possible, but I have no idea how I did it. I was operating on pure instincts. And besides, it took a lot out of me and it drained my reserves a lot.”

“Yeah, I guess the human battery is having trouble without elementalists to charge him, huh,” John said. He had thought about this since the day they came to this world. Nikola was essentially a battery for all kinds of energy. Back in their universe, he could just find someone with the power to throw fire or lightning and ask them to give him some energy. Most didn’t mind since it gave them a chance to throw everything they had at someone with no risk of injury. In this universe it was different. Almost all forms of energy were hard to come by, so Nikola had to work sparingly.

“How much energy do you have?” Seth asked. It was an important question.

“Well, I have my core energy, but I can’t use that,” Nikola said. “Aside from that I am still pretty well stocked. I charged up a lot, and even back home I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to throw out energy.”

“What the hell is ‘core energy’?” John asked. Nikola frowned a bit at the question.

“I never told you guys?” he asked. John and Seth both shook their heads. “Well, it’s a little dark. There were complications when I was born, and I died.” Seth and John’s eyes widened in surprise. “Or, at least, I was supposed to. The moment my heart stopped beating everything in like a five-kilometer radius went dark. Apparently, my power kicked in and took every Joule of energy it could. All the cars stopped dead, all electrical equipment stopped working. According to the stories I even took all of the light. There was one picture floating around that someone on the outside took. It was just this pitch-black bubble enveloping a huge part of the city. No one inside it knew though. I’d put everything in there in some kind of stasis.” Nikola took a sip of water. Seth and John’s shock didn’t fade.

“What do you mean you put them in stasis?” Seth asked.

“Listen, this is as weird to me as it is to you,” Nikola said. “It’s not like I remember it. It’s all stories people told us. Allegedly I took even the vibrations of individual atoms. It basically froze everything perfectly in place. Then, after a few seconds, it all started up again as if it never stopped.”

“Dude, your ability is insane,” John said.

“I don’t know man, I’ve never been able to replicate anything like it,” Nikola said. “And I’ve tried a couple of times on a much smaller scale. Anyway, you know how when I absorb energy I can get rid of fatigue and small amounts of pain?” Nikola and Seth nodded. “Well, apparently I took in enough energy to fix whatever killed me and restart my heart.”

“And that energy is what you call ‘core energy’?” Seth asked. Nikola nodded. “Why can’t you use it?”

“I tried once,” Nikola said. “I threw out everything else I had, then made a lighter-sized flame from my core energy. I passed out, and I woke up in the hospital. The doctor told me that it’s very possible that my core energy is actively keeping me alive, so I should never use it.”

“That might be the scariest thing I’ve ever heard,” John said. “So if you throw out the wrong bit of energy you die?”

“It’s not like that,” Nikola said with a chuckle. “My energy is like a stack of boxes. When I absorb I put more on top of the stack, and when I throw it I usually take from the top of the stack. That, and my core energy feels different.”

“How so?” Seth asked.

“I think it’s just because it’s been a part of me for my whole life,” Nikola said. “Usually our powers start accidentally going off around four years old, and most people can control them at age six, right?” Seth nodded, confirming what Nikola said. “Well, I had this energy since the second I was born, more or less. I can tell it apart from the rest of the energy I keep stored”

“Your power is complicated, man,” John said.

“Says the one that opens tears in the fabric of reality,” Nikola shot back.

“I just make portals. Nothing complicated about that,” John said.

“Everything complicated about that!” Nikola yelled. “You can bend spacetime to your will.”

“You make it sound so dramatic,” John said nonchalantly. “So back to us being superheroes.”

Seth let out a very painful groan, slamming his head down on the table.


Seth wandered into the classroom and took his usual seat. On the first two days he was completely alone here, and he fully expected to be alone again.

“Nikola was really cool last night, wasn’t he?” a voice behind him said. Seth’s blood ran cold, as he slowly turned around. It was the girl he sensed before. The one with the very intense thoughts. Feeling her mind up close made her skin crawl, and what she said made it even worse. The fact that on the surface she looked completely normal was the worst part.

“What are you talking about?” Seth asked. A lot of times in his life he saw his power as a curse. He heard a lot of things he wasn’t supposed to hear. Malicious thoughts hiding behind fake smiles. Right now he was thankful for those experiences though. They had taught him how to keep up a normal act no matter what he heard. He didn’t let a hint of the chills doing a conga-line up and down his spine show.

“I’m talking about the video, Seth,” the girl said. “You know, the one where he saves the jumper, and that kid.” She fell into the chair next to him.

“You know that video is just special effects, right?” Seth asked, doing his best to sound nonchalant. “And how do you know our names?”

“I’ll tell you that, but first tell me if I have this right,” she said. “John can create portals, Nikola has some kind of energy manipulation power, and you,” She paused for a moment. It felt to Seth like she was staring straight into his soul. “You are telekinetic.”

“Again, I have to ask, what are you talking about?” Seth asked. It was nearly impossible to keep his composure. How did this girl find out about them? And how did she guess their powers so accurately?

“Seth, if you admit that I’m right I promise I won’t tell anyone,” she said. “But if you keep playing dumb I’ll spread the news. That rag on his face might have protected his identity, but once I out him people will be able to see the similarities.” She moved slightly closer. “You know what will happen to him if people found out, right? He’ll never get another moment of peace.”

Seth racked his brain, desperately looking for any way out of this. She had him nailed to a plank. The odds were low she could convince people the video was real, but there was a chance. Was he willing to bet one of his closest friend’s peace of mind on that small chance?

“Can I at least know the name of the woman accusing me and my friends of having superpowers?” Seth asked.

“Of course!” she replied. “I’m Elain. It’s nice to meet you, Seth.”

“Can’t say the feeling’s mutual,” Seth said. “Look, I don’t know where you’re getting all these insane ideas from, but you should leave the stories for the writers, ok?”

“Suit yourself,” Elain said. “I guess Nikola can find a way to live with all the attention.” She rose to her feet and began walking away. Seth watched her go. He knew this was the right decision. There was no way she could convince people. He could go home and forget about this. Nikola would be fine. Right?

“Wait!” Seth called after her. She spun around and came skipping back to him. “Meet me by the library after classes are done.” Elain shot him a victorious smile.

“Can’t wait,” she said, turning to leave again.

“And you better not say a word to anyone,” Seth warned. She giggled and nodded. He couldn’t believe that this sweet and innocent-looking girl somehow found out their secret, and was now trying to force him to admit it. He thought about calling John and Nikola but decided against it. He might still be able to find a way out of this.


Seth paced up and down in front of the library building. There were a few other students dotted about, but for the most part, he was alone. He kept his mind open, waiting for Elain to arrive. It took a few minutes, but he finally picked up on that intense mental signature. A few moments after he sensed her mind he spotted her coming around the corner. She smiled and waved at him. If the situation wasn’t so dire it would have made him very happy to have a girl as cute as Elain look so excited to see him. As things were, it just made him feel even more on edge.

“Hey, Seth!” she said, quickly crossing the distance between them.

“Elain,” he greeted. He was being short with her, not giving her even an iota of emotion.

“So, are you ready to admit it?” she asked.

“Elain, superpowers are fictional,” Seth said. “I just called you here since I don’t want you making trouble for my friend.” Elain’s smile disappeared. “I’m sorry, but I’m not playing along with your game.”

“Seth, you can’t convince me I’m wrong,” Elain said, her tone more serious than Seth expected. Seth noted that she seemed genuinely sad that he was lying to her.

“Why not?” Seth asked.

“Because I saw you,” Elain said. For the second time that day Seth’s blood froze in his veins.

“I was driving back to my apartment after I was out of town,” she said, refusing to meet his gaze. “I saw a flash of light some ways off the road. I got out of my car and ran over to see what it was. That’s when I saw you three fighting each other.” Seth thought back to their first night on this world. Nikola had used a flash of light to blind him and John right as they started. That must have been what Elain saw.

“You must have imagined it,” Seth said, though at this point he knew he was fighting a losing battle.

“No, I didn’t!” Elain said. She looked into his eyes, the determination dancing in her own catching him by surprise. “I saw you throw rocks without touching them. I saw electricity sparking over Nikola’s fists. I saw John make portals. It was incredible. I couldn’t help but look into it. I was worried I’d never see you again, but then you got into that fight on the first morning.” Seth cursed himself again for being dumb enough to pick a fight on the first day.

“I was so happy when I ended up in class with you,” Elaine continued. “I wanted to come to talk to you, but I was so nervous. I thought I was crazy. But then you threw my pen, and Nikola did all those amazing things to save those people. Now I’m certain.” She seemed to steel her nerves for the next part. “I know you three have superpowers!”

“Elain…” Seth began, then trailed off. He couldn’t think of anything to say. She had them dead to rights. There was no way he could fight her on it. The only thing left to do was the most drastic choice of all. Tell the truth. “Come with me,” Seth said. He grabbed her wrist and dragged her behind him.

“Where are we going?” Elain asked, seemingly more than happy to be dragged along.

“Home,” Seth said.


Seth tried to be stealthy when he entered the apartment, Elain tailing behind him. She had a look of wonder in her eyes. Seth wanted to catch the guys up to speed before he introduced them to Elain so they wouldn’t do anything stupid. He also hadn’t decided how he was going to tell them yet, so he was more than happy to take his time. He walked her to the kitchen.

“Stay here, I’ll go get the guys, ok?” He said. He looked for any sign of agreement in her face, but instead, he saw a mixture of surprise and wonderment. He spun around. Behind him was a blueish ring, through which he could see John’s room. A moment passed, and the ring vanished, leaving John standing there. He was facing away from them and almost jumped through the ceiling when Elain let out a screech of excitement. John spun around, and a look of horror dawned on his face.

“Seth!” he yelled. “You have to warn us if you bring people over!” He turned to Elain. “I don’t know what you saw, but you got it all wrong.” He was stammering as he spoke. As usual, he handled pressure worse than a land mine.

“John, cool it, she knows,” Seth said. John stopped his stammering and stared down at Seth in disbelief.

“You mean she knows knows?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Seth said. “She knows knows. Make a portal into Nikola’s room, I’m don’t feel like walking there.” John nodded, and another faint blue ring appeared in front of them. This time they could see Nikola’s room through it, with the man himself sitting on his desk writing in a notebook. Elain made another excited squeak. Nikola’s head perked up, and he spun his chair around. Upon seeing Elain through the portal he had such a big fright he fell backward with his chair.

“Dude, what the hell?!” He yelled, trying to extricate himself from his chair.

“Calm down, she already knows,” Seth said. Nikola managed to get to his feet.

“You told her?!” Nikola asked, disbelief written across his face.

“No, she figured it out herself,” Seth said. “Now get out here, we need to talk.” Nikola did as he was told, crossing through the portal. “Let’s go sit down. We have a lot to talk about.”

Everyone wordlessly followed Seth’s instructions, taking a seat in the living room. A heavy silence hung over them. John and Nikola were still reeling from the shock of finding out someone knew about them, and couldn’t think of anything to say. Elain was content waiting for someone else to talk first. She wasn’t the one carrying such a huge secret, after all. Seth listened to all of them think these thoughts. He knew he would have to be the one to talk first, but he was hoping someone else might rob him of the chance.

“Ok, let’s get this over with,” Seth said. “Elain, before we say anything can you promise us that you have never and will never tell a soul about what we are?”

“I promise,” Elain said, her sweet smile strongly going against the dark feel of the room. “I just wanted to hear you say it. I don’t want to cause trouble for you guys.”

“Thank you,” Seth said. He meant it. He’d read her mind while she talked, and although her mind was still an intense fireball of emotion that was hard to read, he could at least tell she wasn’t lying. He noticed Nikola and John look expectantly at him. “She’s not lying, guys. We’re good.”

“How do you know I’m not lying?” Elain asked. Seth’s eyes widened. She didn’t know he was telepathic too. This was their trump card. If they could keep that under wraps he could at least keep tabs on their secret.

“I’m good at reading people,” Seth lied.

“He always has been,” Nikola said, feigning frustration. “Seriously, never play cards with this guy. No matter how good your poker face is, he’ll see through it.” Seth felt like kissing Nikola at that moment. He’d flawlessly picked up on the lie and played into it. Elain bought the lie, and a small weight lifted from Seth’s shoulders.

“How did you find out?” John asked Elain. “I feel like we hid our abilities really well.”

“You almost always did!” Elain said. “But I saw you on your first night here. I thought I was crazy, but seeing Nikola save those people made me realize I was right!”

“You still haven’t told me how you know our names,” Seth accused.

“I stalked you,” Elain said as if it was a completely normal thing to do. “I’m in the same class as you, and I found out about John and Nikola at the party on the first night of classes.”

“I knew you looked familiar!” Nikola exclaimed, snapping his fingers in recognition. “Seth, this is the secret admirer I told you about!” Seth turned to Elain, whose face turned red.

“So you followed us around and asked people for information on us?” he asked. Elain nodded.

“Yeah, that’d do it,” John said. A small portal appeared to his left. From it, he pulled four cans of soda. He distributed them around the room.

“I hope you didn’t steal that,” Nikola said, cracking his open.

“They’re in the fridge, moron,” John said. “I just didn’t feel like getting up.”

“You can really be the laziest man alive, couldn’t you?” Nikola asked.

“You’re just jealous ‘cause your power isn’t useful,” John said.

“By my count, I’m the only one who’s actually saved lives,” Nikola shot back.

“Yeah, but can you do this” John said. A portal opened up again, this time into the snacks cupboard. He pulled out three bags, tossing one to everyone but Nikola. Nikola retaliated by grabbing John’s bag and setting it on fire, quickly incinerating it.

“I’ve been dying to ask, how did you get your powers?” Elain asked, interrupting their fight. “Are you secret government agents? Or some kind of mad science experiment?” Once again, John and Nikola looked to Seth for guidance.

“The cat’s out of the bag, we may as well tell her everything,” Seth said. He took a sip of his drink, then crossed his arms. It was clear even if he was ok letting Elain know all about them, he sure as hell wouldn’t be the one to tell their tale. John and Nikola exchanged a look. Wordlessly their fists rose to the air. They shook them three times, and dramatically gestured their moves. Nikola’s paper lost to John’s scissors, dooming him to tell the story.

“We’re from another universe,” he said. “About a week ago a woman named Alice yanked us from our lives and threw us here. In our old world, everyone had abilities. Here it’s just the three of us.”

“So the multiverse is real!?” Elain asked, her excitement bubbling over.

“Maybe,” John said. “Or maybe there’s just two worlds. Also, this all might be a hallucination the three of us are sharing.”

“Point is,” Nikola said, trying to get the conversation back on track. “We were born with our abilities, and we’re just here till we can figure out a way back home. We weren’t supposed to go out into the open, but I couldn’t just watch some people die, so I had to step in.”

“How do your powers work?” Elain asked Nikola. “I know Seth is telekinetic, and John can make portals in space, but what about you?”

“I’m basically a battery for all types of energy,” Nikola replied, manifesting a small flame in his palm to demonstrate. “I can absorb energy and then throw it back out when I want to.”

“How did you run so fast?” Elain asked.

“My, you are just full of questions,” Seth said. He was getting tired of humoring this girl.

“Of course I am!” Elain said. She rushed over to Seth, getting a bit closer than he was comfortable with. “You guys are real superheroes! How could I not get excited? This is by far the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me!”

“Yeah, Seth,” John said. “Cut her some slack. We’re kinda destroying her entire worldview here.” Of course, John would say that. He couldn’t feel just how unsettling her thoughts were. Seth dared take another peek into her mind. He was surprised. Her thoughts were still practically on fire, but they seemed to be more ordered than before. Seeing something that defied all logic and reasoning must take more of a toll than Seth expected.

“Anyway, I have no idea how I did that,” Nikola said. “It just happened.” And so the conversation continued long into the night, Elain dragging every small detail out of them she could, asking more questions than an overexcited child. Seth was still wary of her, but for the time being, he’d let her be. She seemed pretty harmless, after all.


“Sir, we haven’t gotten an update from Falcon yet,” the communications director said. Her hands were still flying across the keys as she delivered her update, her multitasking skills second to none.

“What was the last we heard?” A man in a crisp suit asked. Those who worked with him wondered if that suit was the only clothes he owned.

“Falcon was going dark to track down some targets,” the Coms Director said.

“Exactly,” the Suited Man replied. “We have no reason to worry. I’m sure Falcon would let us know if something happened. For now, let’s find out as much as we can from here.”

“Yes, Sir!”