That time three friends with special abilities were thrown to a new world where superpowers don't exist
In retrospect, releasing a loud bang while guns were involved was probably not the best idea Nikola ever had. The crowd instantly began panicking, shoving each other to try and escape, only to be met with either brick walls, flaming ruins, or men with guns. Luckily for Nikola, he also attracted the attention of the gunmen, so the flashbang did its job. He now had a few precious seconds, and he wasn’t going to waste a single one of them. He immediately sprang into action, leaping forward into the nearest gunman with great force. His shoes were destroyed again, but he could always buy a new pair.
He absorbed the impact against the gunman, and immediately released a blast of electricity. He was careful to put his hands below the man’s heart. He wanted to avoid killing anyone if it was possible. Using the man’s leg as a stepping stone he launched himself to the next. The man’s leg was surely broken, but that was fine by Nikola. The next gunman had just regained his sight and tried to dodge out of the way. This put Nikola in a disadvantageous position. He couldn’t repeat what he did with the first guy. Instead, he simply blasted a wave of kinetic energy at the second gunman, sending him sailing several feet away.
This was something Nikola had to teach himself how to do properly years ago. When he first started using his kinetic energy, what this world knew as Newton’s Third Law applied. If he applied force in one direction, he would feel an equal force in the other. That was the very thing that let him launch himself through the air. It also meant that he had to brace himself if he didn’t want to go flying, and the amount of force he could use was directly tied to how well he could brace himself and how much force his body could handle.
A limit to his power, something he saw as his biggest weakness, was the fact that he couldn’t absorb and expel energy at the same time, so he couldn’t just absorb the pushback. This was different though. When he absorbed an impact, he absorbed both sides of the reaction. The initial force, and the ‘equal and opposite reaction’ to that force. That meant in theory he could separate those two sides. It took almost a year of trying, but he finally managed to do it. He now saw his kinetic energy as two different kinds of energy.
If a normal human threw a punch, whatever they hit would feel a force, but that same force would also travel up their arm. The energy that impacts his own body, and the energy that impacts the environment. Those were Nikola’s distinctions for his kinetic energy.
He could still release both at once, applying force to himself and the environment, like he just did to the poor first gunman’s leg, but he didn’t have to do it like that. He could now throw out as much energy as he had stored with no pushback, or launch himself as far as his energy would carry him without shattering the pavement. Because of this, the blast that sent the second gunman sailing had no effect on Nikola’s trajectory. He landed with a roll, taking most of the force of the impact with the ground. He was about to jump again when he heard the shot.
He immediately made his whole body absorb kinetic energy. Multiple bullets hit his chest and fell harmlessly to the ground. The man shooting at him watched in awe. Nikola bent over and picked up one of the bullets. He pretended to examine it, then flicked it with his fingers. He applied more energy to it than any gun ever could, sending it blasting right by the gunman’s head. It crashed into a part of the auditorium’s wall that was still standing, completely obliterating it.
“It’ll be your skull next time!” Nikola yelled, adding a growl to his voice to try to disguise it. He noticed the gunman’s eyes dart behind him and spun around just in time to see the one he had blasted away charging him with a knife. He threw a pillar of flames out of his hands to act as a smokescreen while he ducked out of the way. The flames weren’t very hot, so even if they hit the man the most that would happen would be a few singed hairs.
The few thousand volts that arced through his body a few moments later would do a little bit more than that, though. Nikola didn’t like throwing lightning from a distance. It was a waste, and the farther he was the more energy he had to use. It was also a lot more dangerous since it became harder to aim the farther away he was. If he was shooting at something inanimate then accuracy usually didn’t matter, but with a human, a few inches of inaccuracy could be the difference between life and death.
Nikola tried not to think about his own lethality. By his count, he still had four gunmen left. The one he scared with the bullet, and three more on the other side of the crowd. At least, that’s what he thought. In reality, only the one he gave the need for a new pair of pants for was still left, and a flash of light followed by a well-placed tazing was enough to deal with him.
Seth had been doing work. Crowd control turned out to be a lot simpler than they expected. He ran into the crowd and repeatedly told people not to panic, which almost guaranteed that they would. He then told everyone which direction John would be in, and to go there as fast as they could. Once he got a few people moving the crowd automatically followed. He tried to keep tabs as best he could on the mental states of everyone around him, but with so many minds panicking it was a lot harder than it first seemed. Besides that, there was a problem that was a lot more pressing.
Nikola’s flashbang had bought them enough time for John to drop Seth into the crowd and place himself by the door the crowd had just exited the auditorium from. The gunmen were recovering now though, and Nikola had his hands full. He had started at the middle and worked himself to one side, but now the other group had recovered and were seemingly intent on opening fire into the crowd. Seth didn’t have the mental strength to stop one bullet at this short distance, let alone the bullet storm that was about to rain down. Luckily, there was a much simpler solution.
Like Nikola, Seth had had to learn how to use his ability in different ways. When his telepathy first manifested he didn’t know how to turn if off. He was always berated with the thoughts of the people around them, whether he wanted to hear them or not. This problem hit its climax when Seth overheard one of his parent’s close friends planning to lure his dad into a shady deal that would benefit the friend but leave Seth’s father in a very dire position. Seth was too young to understand the nuances of committing fraud and setting someone else up to take the blame, but by that time he had gotten very good at telling whether someone was feeling positive or negative about someone else.
The amount of negative energy the family friend seemed to be beaming at Seth’s father angered him. He stepped in and told him to leave his Dad alone. That was the moment his telekinesis manifested, sending a vase flying into the poor man’s face. Once Seth learned he could use telekinesis, he thought about using it to try to reign in his telepathy. To his surprise, it worked.
Eventually controlling his telepathy became second nature but for a while the only way he could control it was by visualizing his telekinesis controlling mental tendrils that stretched to people’s minds. He didn’t know it at the time, but this was incredibly good training for his telekinesis. While Seth’s total telekinetic strength wasn’t a lot, his control over multiple objects at once was stellar. If he really concentrated he could independantly move up to twenty small objects.
The three guns aimed at the crowd were almost too easy. Seth couldn’t help but crack a smile. The gunmen looked completely ridiculous trying to control the guns that seemed to have minds of their own. Seth could feel that these men were strong. If he was dumb and tried to move all of the guns the three men combined would probably outperform his peak mental strength. Seth wasn’t dumb though. He only grabbed onto the very tips of the barrels of the guns, giving him the mechanical advantage.
The gunmen were so busy trying to wrestle their guns that they didn’t even notice the magazines being removed, and the bullets in the chamber being unloaded. Seth emtpied the magazines and put them back in the guns. After that, he finally released his grip. The gunmen spun back to the crowd, only to find Seth standing in front of them, seemingly shielding the crowd. They immediately opened fire. Soft clicks rang out through the air as the firing pins came down on nothing.
“Are you done?” Seth asked, making his voice high-pitched and striking a flamboyant pose. Normally he would never do something like this, but that’s exactly why he did it. He had to distance himself from his real identity as much as he could. The gunmen lowered their guns and took a step back. “Ok then, my turn!”
Seth grabbed onto the guns again, ripping them from the gunmen’s grip. He threw them into the heads of the gunmen, sending them crashing into the ground. He used a lot of force, but he knew he hadn’t killed them. The mild static coming from their minds told him they were just knocked out. Seth turned and ran to check on Nikola. He had heard gunshots and wanted to make sure Nikola was alright.
John had the easiest job of the three. It was a good thing too since he could barely stand. He couldn’t tell while time was stopped, but he had worm himself down a lot. He forced himself to remain standing, though. He waved at the crowd and gestured that they should go through his portal, leading to a parking lot on the other side of campus. John didn’t know if it would be safe there, but it was all his tired mind could think of. They seemed hesitant, but Seth’s prodding got a few of them moving. Once the first few took their tentative steps through the portal, a steady flow followed. John had to focus and keep his portal open. The last thing he wanted to do was accidentally cut someone in half.
This was a lesson he had to learn the hard way. His power manifested in a pretty normal way. It was a few weeks before his fourth birthday. He was at a daycare center while his parents worked. John only had a younger sister, and at that point, she hadn’t been born yet, so his parents had to leave him in someone else’s care. One of the carers at the daycare center had just scolded him, and this made John upset. He wanted to go home more than anything at that moment, and a hole in space opened up in front of him. On the other side was his bedroom. The carers noticed this, of course, but they couldn’t stop him in time. He stepped through, and the portal closed.
John’s parents were immediately called, and they rushed home. John was fine, watching a cartoon on the TV. Ever since then his portals manifested whenever he wanted to go somewhere he was familiar with, whether he wanted them to or not. It took almost three years to finally be able to control when they opened. When he was twelve he got jealous of Nikola and Seth’s powers and wanted to prove his was cool too, so he started teaching himself how to open portals anywhere he could see. It was a pretty simple form of training. He just had to want to go to a place within his line of sight. Later he learned how to change exactly where both portals were, and at what angle they manifested.
John’s portals were strange, even in their super-powered community. They perfectly connected to spaces, and to each other. Both sides of his portals could be walked through, the front of one connecting to the back of the other, and vice-versa. It was rare to see such a perfect connection, and even rarer that he could open his portals anywhere he wanted, even in midair. It wasn’t unheard of, but it was also not common among those with transport powers.
John loved experimenting with his powers. When he was sixteen he realized he never tried to see what would happen if one of his portals closed while something was still inside it. He was so excited by the idea that he didn’t even think twice about putting his pinkie finger through the portal and closing it. Luckily the doctors managed to reattach it, and all that was left to remind him was a small scar that ran the circumference of his pinkie.
This is why John had to keep his focus. Under normal circumstances keeping a portal open and letting a few people pass through were effortless. These weren’t normal circumstances, though. He was already more exhausted than he had ever been, and these weren’t just a few people. Hundreds of scared students were rushing through, and the more material passed through a portal the more effort it took to keep it open. He kept his will though, trying to guide people through as fast as possible.
A few gunshots rang out, and the students began panicking and shoving eachother through. One guy was thrown against the inside edge of the portal, sending a bolt of pain through John’s mind. It took all he had to keep the portal open. Pressing against the inner edge of the portal destabalised it. Again, under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a problem, but these were anything but normal circumstances. John set his resolve. He would keep this portal open until he couldn’t stay awake anymore, and even then he would try to do it from the darkness of sleep.
Seth confirmed that Nikola was, in fact, still alive. They had dealt with the immediate threat, but they didn’t know if there were more gunmen incoming. For all they knew this was just the first wave. Seth instructed Nikola to tie up the gunmen using anything he could find. Nikola nodded and rushed off, trusting that Seth had a plan. He did, in fact. He was about to try the first experiment that could lead to them getting home.
Lifting people was difficult for Seth. In most cases, it was dangerous to just grab onto someone, cause he might accidentally only grab their heart or something. If he had a moment to concentrate he could do it, though. This made traversing the crowd easy since he just floated above it. He landed next to John, who looked like he had already paid his fair for the ride across the River Styx, and was now simply waiting his turn.
“I have an idea,” Seth said. “This might feel very weird, but whatever you do, don’t close that portal.”
Seth focused his mind. This would be difficult for him to do. Lifting objects with telekinesis was easy. It was just a matter of visualizing what he wanted the object to do. Sending out raw force was more difficult. He could do it, but doing it in a controlled way was still challenging for him. Sending out a blast of force was one thing, but what he was about to attempt was something completely different. He formed a ring of telekinetic energy inside the portal, perfectly along the rim. The portal wasn’t a physical object, so he couldn’t just grab onto it. He then took his ring of force and tried making it larger. He felt almost instant and insurmountable resistance but kept going.
“What are you doing?” John asked. His jaw had unclenched. The portal felt a lot easier to keep open now.
“I’m helping you hold it open,” Seth said. “Don’t relax your effort, though. This isn’t exactly easy for me.”
Nikola finished up tying the guards, using their belts and gun straps to render them immobile. The crowd had thinned considerably, and it wouldn’t be long before everyone was safe. He could hear sirens approaching. He really would have liked avoiding talking to the police, but with John preoccupied with the portal and Seth handling crowd control it looked like he wouldn’t have a choice. The police cars sped closer, screeching to a halt. Several officers jumped out and immediately leveled their service pistols at Nikola. He threw his hands up. The bullets couldn’t hurt him, but if the officers missed the students behind him would be in trouble.
“We aren’t the terrorists!” Nikola yelled, still trying to disguise his voice. “The guys you see tied up on the ground are. We just came to help.”
“What is that blue ring?” The officer in charge asked. His uniform indicated he was a sergeant.
“It’s a portal, Sergeant!” Nikola yelled back. “We are taking the students somewhere safe. Don’t worry, we’ll show you exactly where it is! I swear the students won’t come to harm!”
“How did you make that portal?” The Sergeant asked. “Are you scientists?”
“No, we’re not!” Nikola yelled back. He thought for a moment how he should explain this. He racked his mind, but it only spat out one solution. “We’re superheroes.” None of the officers seemed to believe him, so he lifted an arm and shot a pillar of flames into the air.
“Who sent you!?” The Sergeant yelled in a very demanding voice.
“We are acting independently,” Nikola replied. “Now, if you could please detain the terrorists, that would be great. I doubt my knots will hold.”
The three tired men finally stepped through a portal. The police refused to let them go until they confirmed that the students were safe and there were no more gunmen loose on campus. It took several hours, but they finally managed to get home. Nikola tore the covering off his face and went to the kitchen to down some water. John shakily collapsed onto the couch. He had been on his feet the whole time, and he felt like he was about to drop dead. Seth sat down next to John and put a hand on his shoulder, trying to impart a little comfort. He wasn’t exactly full of energy himself, but he knew John must have been even more exhausted.
“Can we talk about what happened today?” Nikola asked, walking in with three glasses of water. Seth and John gratefully accepted his gift.
“What’s there to talk about?” John asked. “The world now officially knows about us. We managed to keep it together for less than a month.”
“Well, that is a part of it,” Nikola said. “But I also want to talk about how you literally stopped the flow of spacetime!”
“That was pretty impressive,” Seth said. “I think you just became the strongest between the three of us.”
“You’re not off the hook either,” Nikola told Seth. “You could use that new technique of yours, and so quickly after you figured it out.”
“Yeah, about that,” Seth said. “I could use it cause for the first time… ever, I wasn’t being berated by minds from all sides. It was just the three of us. It was a lot easier to reach into your minds without all the background noise. But that raises the question…”
“Why were you two aware of what was happening,” John finished for him. “And I think Nikola is right. It might be a side effect of our reality. We’re foreign material, so to speak. Maybe this world’s physics acts differently on us. At least differently enough to keep your minds working.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too,” Nikola said. “Or our abilities were shielding us, somehow. Either way, it was extremely cool.”
“I hope you got your fill,” John said. “I don’t think I can do that again even if I tried. It took so much out of me.” Seth and Nikola exchanged a look. This was a feeling they understood very well. Both of them felt it to a degree after they found out their new abilities, but they had doubts the toll on their bodies was as aggressive as it had been on John’s. He had completely stopped time, after all.
“So what’s our next move?” Seth asked.
“I say we all go hit the hay,” Nikola said. “Give this whole thing a night, and check the news in the morning. We can judge people’s reactions then.”
“I think that is a phenomenal idea,” John said. “You guys mind if I hit the showers first?”
“Not at all, dude,” Nikola said. “You need some rest.” John nodded, his eyes overflowing with gratitude. He excused himself and went to take a shower.
“So about your combo move,” Nikola said, once John had left.
“Yeah, we had to be able to talk to each other,” Seth said. “I went out on a limb.”
“It’s a good thing you did, but that’s not what I meant,” Nikola said. “I saw you help him keep the portal stable. I didn’t know our powers could mix like that.”
“Me neither,” Seth said. “I just went out on a limb.”
“Going out on a lotta limbs today,” Nikola said. “We’re really lucky it worked. And I’m happy that John got a chance to shine. I think he’s been feeling down about the fact that both of us grew in some way.”
“Yeah,” Seth said. “At this point, you’re the one that’s being left in the dust.”
“About that,” Nikola said. “You’re combo move gave me an idea. Can I borrow you sometime during the week?”
“As long as it’s not tomorrow,” Seth said.
“Yeah,” Nikola agreed. “After that, I think we all deserve a day off.”
Falcon was ecstatic. The unbelievable luck! Not only did the superhumans show up to the event, but they got there much faster than anyone was supposed to be able to. He could get a good view of their powers. Energy manipulation, telekinesis and possible telepathy, and portals in space. His information had just become a lot more reliable.
Not only that, but a certain girl spoke about how she was in the auditorium when the bombs went off, and the very next she was outside. Even with the portals, and the super speed one of them seemingly had, they could not have gotten there that fast from the outside. They had to be there. That could only mean one thing.
The three disturbances they picked up on a month ago, these three superhumans he saw with his own two eyes today, were hiding among the first years. It was genius on their part. They could blend in effortlessly. Even if they came off as a little strange, there is no stranger group than college freshmen. If anything being completely normal would make them stand out even more. A little eccentricity here and there was an almost unbeatable camouflage in this environment.
The group Falcon had to search for just narrowed down from several million to a few hundred people. There were also a few ideas floating around in Falcon’s mind space of exactly how to draw them out. For now, though, a celebration was in order. The plan went absolutely perfectly.
“Watch out, superheroes. I’m coming for you.”