Chapter 10:

Side Effects

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

Nikola made some tea for himself and the others. Even after a night’s rest, they were all exhausted. Nikola was tired from having to deal with the police. He constantly had to think on his feet to avoid saying something that might reveal their identities, and his throat was sore from putting on a voice the entire time. He was almost certain the police would have held them there if they thought guns would be effective. Luckily for them, Nikola and Seth very clearly portrayed that guns would not be effective.

Seth was tired from the overuse of his ability. By now he was used to keeping his mind open to the passive feel of a room, but actively listening to an entire crowd was a completely different story. Using the mental communication while time was stopped also took a toll, and capping it off by helping John keep the portal open was a perfect recipe for a splitting headache. He hadn’t felt it at the time, the adrenaline caused by the situation sparing him. Now that they were safe, though, it hit him in force.

John was tired because he stopped time. He felt like that was plenty of reason to be as worn out as he was. As far as he knew he was the first man in history to ever stop time in its tracks. A lot have claimed to be able to slow down time, but all of that was chalked up to superspeed or some other form of heightened reactions. What John did couldn’t be disputed, though. Time was most definitely frozen. Throwing a couple of hundred people through a portal after the fact barely registered now, though at the time it was torture.

“Here, it’s jasmine,” Nikola said, passing out cups to John and Seth. “Supposedly it has a lot of health benefits.”

“Since when were you a health-nut?” John asked, taking the cup.

“Shut up and drink the tea,” Nikola said. He fell into a chair with as much force as he could without spilling his tea. A minute of silence passed.

“Ok, I guess I’ll start,” Seth said. “We should talk about yesterday.”

“I thought we already did,” John said, taking a sip of tea.

“Barely,” Nikola said. “I’m already dreading Elain’s reaction.”

“On that note,” Seth said. “Don’t tell her about John stopping time.”

“You still don’t trust her?” Nikola asked. “Dude, she’s done nothing but help us, and she hasn’t told anyone about us yet.”

“I know,” Seth said. “I know I’m being irrational, but on the off chance that my gut is right I’d prefer to have a few aces in the hole.”

“We can’t exactly count my time-stopping as an ace in the hole,” John said. “I have no idea how I did it, and I doubt I can do it again.”

“Still, I’d prefer if she didn’t know,” Seth said. “Also, have you guys checked the news yet?” Nikola and John shook their heads.

“Is it good or bad?” Nikola asked. Seth pulled out his phone and began scrolling.

“From what I saw it’s a mixed bag,” Seth said. “The farther it gets from campus the worse it gets, though. The students are all praising us as heroes. The faculty issued an official thank-you, but also threw a bit of suspicion our way for the destruction of the auditorium.”

“So, even when the terrorists were there, plain as day, they still blame us?” John asked. “Should have let the ungrateful twits die.”

“Like I said, the students are on our side,” Seth said. “A few have even begun petitions and stuff to protest the pressure put on us from the government to reveal our identities.”

“Pressure on the what from the who now?” Nikola asked, nearly choking on his tea.

“I told you, the farther we get from campus the worse it gets,” Seth said. “In town, it’s mostly fine, save for a few tabloids claiming we might be working with the terrorists, or that the terrorists targeted us and the college got caught in the crossfire.”

“It’s not unreasonable to think that,” John said. Seth and Nikola looked at him with confusion. “Look at it from their perspective. They don’t know us. To them, we are three demigods who just happened to appear the moment terrorists attacked. For some that might just be too big of a coincidence.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Seth said. “Anyway, we were mentioned in a few nationwide publications as well. Those are mostly just factual, no emotions or insinuations were made. Then we get to the statement from the government. In short, it said that if we were truly innocent we should have no reason to hide behind masks.”

“So they’re idiots?” Nikola asked.

“They’re politicians, what do you expect?” Seth asked rhetorically. “Point is, we need to very carefully consider what our next move will be. I would really like to avoid becoming enemies of the state, you know?”

“Are we going to become superheroes?” John asked. He knew it had to be asked, so he just ripped the bandaid off. Nikola and Seth were just as aware that this question had to come up eventually, but both expected it to happen later, and both were expecting Nikola to ask it.

“Depends what you mean by that,” Seth said. “I’m not going to wear a super-suit and patrol the streets.” He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket. “But I’m going to carry this around with me. If I see people who need help, I’ll act in any way I can.”

“Seth’s right,” Nikola said. “I doubt seeking out trouble will play well, but I also don’t want to stop helping people. It feels nice. So I think I’ll follow his lead, and help where I can when I have to.”

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” John said. “I’ll do the same. Now that that’s settled, there’s only one thing left.”

“And that is…” Seth prompted.

“We need to address the public,” John said. “At this point, I doubt people know what to think of us, so we should put out some kind of statement. We shouldn’t reveal anything, but I think letting people hear us would humanize us more and take some of the heat off us.”

“He has a point,” Seth said, slightly taken aback. He didn’t expect John to be able to think of an idea like that. “How do we handle that?”

“I have an idea,” Nikola said. “Do you guys trust me?”

“No,” Seth and John said in unison.

“Why?” Nikola said with a hurt whine. John and Seth laughed at the expense of their friend.

“We’re just joking,” Seth said. “So what’s the plan?”


Students were milling about campus. It surprised them just how quickly things seemed to return to normal. Just the day before a bomb went off, both literally and figuratively. They were the target of a terrorist attack, and the existence of superhumans was revealed to them. Yet here they were, going about their business as if their entire existence hadn’t just been changed on a fundamental level.

The first years were especially affected by this strange phenomenon. The previous night they had all went home with their worlds turned upside down. Some called their parents and loved ones. Some told others their true feelings, whether it be good or bad. Others attempted to drown themselves in absurd amounts of alcohol. Yet here they were too, living this surreal life. The previous day should have been highly traumatic, but thanks to the work of those three heroes they were safe. They could live to hear their mothers’ voices again.

All the students wanted to meet the heroes again. The first years, to show their gratitude. The other students, to show appreciation and adoration for these people that were more than human. Unfortunately, it seemed the heroes had vanished after the crisis, and no one had any clue whether or not they would ever be seen again. Some thought they might never appear before them again. And they kept thinking that, until.

In the center of the most crowded part of campus, a hole in the floor opened up. An amazingly bright light shone from it, causing everyone to avert their eyes. When they looked back, there stood the three heroes. They had different clothes on than the previous day, but all wore the same facial coverings. The students who bore witness could not believe it. Immediately cellphones came out of pockets, intent on capturing this event.


“Ready?” Nikola asked. John and Seth nodded. A portal appeared above them, and Nikola blasted light through it. Seth grabbed onto them and slowly lifted them through the portal, careful not to accidentally dislodge any organs. As soon as their feet hit solid ground again Nikola stopped throwing out light.

They stood there, waiting for what they knew would come. Students began murmuring between themselves, and quickly phones were pulled out of pockets to record them. Nikola couldn’t help but crack a smile. People were so predictable.

“Listen up, and make sure you record this!” Nikola yelled, trying his best to mask his voice again. The tea had soothed his sore throat, so he could pull this off. “We are the three who helped yesterday. Some of you have called us superheroes. Whether we are heroes or not can be debated. The undeniable fact is that we are super. We three wield abilities the average human could never even dream of. We don’t know if there are more like us out there. To our knowledge, it’s just us three.”

“We are here to set a few things straight!” John continued. “We are not involved with the group that attacked this campus yesterday. We don’t know why they came here, or why they attacked us. It is possible that it was done in an effort to draw us out since one of us fell into the public eye with the suicide jumper incident. We can’t say that with any confidence though. It might be an attack with a completely different goal. Point is, we stepped in.”

“We did that because we knew we could survive!” Seth added on. “Please, do not try to replicate what we did. We really do possess special abilities. If you are in danger, call for help and run away. Also, please respect our privacy. We are humans under the masks. We have what you refer to as secret identities. We would like those to remain private. Please do not try to seek us out. If you are in danger and we can help in any way, we promise we will try. In exchange, please do not try to find out who we are, and please don’t try to be the hero if you can avoid it. That is all from us. Please upload this to the internet and tell the other students here. We need you to hear this message.”

“Stay safe,” John said. “No amount of honor and glory is worth your life.”

“And above all else,” Nikola said. “No matter what, do not trust the cafeteria food.”

A small laugh echoed through the crowd. Nikola wanted to end on a lighthearted note. He was about to let loose another blinding light so they could make their exit but was stopped by a shout from the crowd.

“Wait, please!”

All three tilted their heads to see who was calling out to them. All three cursed under their breaths when they saw it was Logan. Behind him were Emma and Olivia. It made sense, they’d become friends at the party Nikola had organized. Elain wasn’t visible. Either she was staying hidden, or she wasn’t there.

“Yes?” Nikola called, trying to keep his face hidden behind some of his hair. Those three had stepped a few feet in front of the crowd. At this distance, they might get recognized.

“Why did you save us?” Logan asked. “You had no reason to.”

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Nikola called back.

“You can’t say that!” John hissed. “We’ll get in trouble.”

The three considered their options. If they revealed they did it to protect their friends it would make it so much easier for antagonistic forces to find out who they were.

“It’s a reason to use our powers,” Seth said. “We don’t have much use for them in day-to-day life, so why not try to become superheroes?”

“How did you get here so fast?” Emma asked. “I know one of you can make portals, but even with that there was no way you should have been able to get the news so fast!”

Seth cursed again. This was bad. He didn’t expect anyone to be that observant in a crisis. The fact that it was one of their friends made it so much worse. He had to think fast. There weren’t many options in play here.

“I sensed the explosions,” Nikola called out. Technically it wasn’t a lie. “Part of my power is to sense the flow of energy. You know we were in town since you saw me in the jumper video. I felt the explosions go off here and had my colleague here open a portal so we could help.”

“Did you get me out of the auditorium?” Olivia asked. Nikola was expecting this question. He cast a sidelong glance at John, who gave him a small nod. He didn’t enjoy the idea of taking credit, but it might be the only option. Better than revealing one of them had the ability to stop time.

“No, that was our portal-making friend,” Nikola said, hoping she’d buy the lie. “He threw a portal over you to get you outside. You were under a lot of stress, so it makes sense you didn’t notice.”

“Thank you!” Olivia called out. A cheer rose from the crowd. Nikola lifted one of his hands in the shape of a fist. To the crowd, it was meant to symbolize victory, but for him, it was a lot more practical. John and Seth followed his lead. An explosion of light shone forth from his fist, blinding the people and overwhelming the cameras. John opened a portal below them and they fell through, clumsily landing on the floor of their apartment. The portal closed the moment they were all through.

“Well that could not have gone worse,” John said.

“No time to grumble, we need to get back there,” Nikola said, throwing off the top layer of his clothes and putting his hair up in a ponytail. Seth and John quickly followed his lead, sans ponytail. Once down to t-shirts and jeans they jumped through another portal into a bathroom stall that was closed for repairs. They quickly exited, thanking their lucky stars that no one saw three guys coming out of a stall together. They rushed out of the bathroom and tried to merge with the crowd, looking for their friends.

“Nick, John, Seth!” A voice called out. It was Logan, waving at them. They waved back and ran over.

“Did you see that?” John asked excitedly. “It was actually them!”

“I can’t believe it,” Logan said. “They exist.”

“What do you mean?” Olivia asked. “Didn’t yesterday prove that?”

“I wasn’t convinced all that wasn’t a hallucination or something,” Logan said.

“That all of us shared?” Emma asked. “Did you smoke something?”

“Nope,” Logan said. “That’s why I was concerned. Anyway, that was insane, right?”

“Yeah,” Nikola said. “Honestly I’m still a bit shellshocked from yesterday. I’m glad you’re all ok.”

“Ok is a relative term,” Logan said. “You know since my entire worldview was forcibly changed in about ten minutes.” Nikola suppressed the urge to apologize.

“It’s insane that we’re just back to normal life,” Seth said. “Less than twenty-four hours ago none of us were sure if we’d survive. Now we’re just back to this.”

“It’s surreal,” Olivia agreed. “But no use dwelling on it. We should waste our time on something else.”

“What do you have in mind?” Seth asked.

“Achoo!” Nikola sneezed. His eyes suddenly grew wide, shock and terror written across his face. Seth and John shared in the terrified look. They seemed to relax a bit when none of their friends shared the expression.

“I think we should go home,” Seth said. “All three of us have been feeling kinda off since yesterday. It might just be nerves, but just in case we wouldn’t want to infect any of you.”

“There’s no need to worry about that,” Emma said. “I don’t mind a case of the sniffles.”

“But we’d feel bad,” John said, pulling on Seth and Nikola’s shoulders. “We should really get going. See you guys later!” They turned around and very quickly walked off before their friends could protest. They turned a secluded corner and quickly jumped through a portal back home.

“Are your clothes ok?” Seth asked Nikola.

“I’m fine,” Nikola said, checking himself over. “We got lucky.”

“Damnit, I never even thought of this!” John said.

“Well, whatever I have you two probably have it too,” Nikola said. He was about to continue, but his face contorted. “Portal, portal!” he gasped. John quickly obliged, making a portal to their usual training grounds. Nikola quickly jumped through. He was barely on the other side before a violent sneeze escaped him. The air around him was bathed in a sea of flames and a shower of sparks. He stepped back into the apartment.

“You good?” John asked.

“For now,” Nikola replied. “It’s such crap. I can’t release two energies at the same time if I try to, but when I get sick I can basically throw out everything.”

This was something that everyone in their original world had to deal with. Special abilities were just like any other part of the body. If they got sick, there were side effects. Even worse, the side effects often seemed to be on a whole different level than the powers themselves. The most common trigger for side effects was sneezing.

For Nikola, it would release energy. The amount and types were never consistent. Sometimes it would be a small amount of heat, not even enough to notice. Other times he would be like a walking bomb, destroying everything in his vicinity. John and Seth knew this and were both ready to act. John could take him somewhere remote, and Seth could at least somewhat shield the portal with his telekinesis, although it was extremely hard to manipulate energy in any meaningful way.

For John, sneezing would cause him to randomly teleport a few feet away. His power did seem to have some form of self-preservation, so he never ended up cut in half by a wall, or teleporting inside another person. That was as far as it went though. He could be sitting, then suddenly be in a sitting position without anything to support him. It was very frustrating since he could never teleport himself otherwise, only move through portals. Seth and Nikola were aware of his side effect, so both are always ready to catch him, Nikola by absorbing the energy of his fall, and Seth by grabbing onto his clothes.

For Seth, sneezing was the most unpredictable. Since he essentially had two powers one could never predict which one would act up, or if both would. The telekinesis reacts in a rather simple way. A wave of force gets released from Seth’s body, sometimes barely registering as a light touch, other times throwing things and people across the room. His telepathy was much more destructive, however. People in close proximity could be given splitting headaches or even pass out from the surge of mental energy. Nikola and John were aware of this, so protocol was similar to Nikola. Take Seth somewhere remote and have Nikola absorb all the electromagnetic wavelengths below infra-red to try and catch the burst of brainwaves and minimize the telepathic damage. As for the telekinetic damage… he just tanked the hit.

“This might just be the worst-case scenario,” Seth said. “We don’t know if the viruses and stuff on this world are different. For all we know we could have zero immunities.”

“Calm down, you guys don’t have fevers yet,” Nikola said. “Which means if I get rid of this then we’ll be fine.

“No, you are not doing that!” John said. “You almost died last time!”

“If you’d rather teleport into our weird neighbor’s bathtub be my guest!” Nikola shot back. “Just trust me, I got this.” Seth and John nodded and took a step back.

“I’ll monitor your brain. If I feel something going wrong, you stop, ok?” Seth said.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Nikola said.

“John, be ready to make portals,” Seth said. “Training site and the rice paddies.”

“Got it,” John said. Both stood ready. Nikola got down on his knees, crossing his arms over his chest as if he was in a coffin.

What he was about to try was very dangerous, but in theory, it could kill any foreign entity in his body. Because of his power his body had a natural resistance to energy. He didn’t sweat or get cold easily, and he had survived many electrical shocks that should probably have killed him. Because of this, he developed this trick. He only tried it once before, and as Seth said, it nearly killed him. That was a few years ago though, and he was much stronger and much smarter now. Or at least so he hoped.

Nikola began by absorbing heat from his own body, cooling it rapidly. This rapid cooling would usually kill a person, but Nikola’s built different. He knew this, so he kept going. Seth monitored his brain, waiting for even the slightest deviation from normal brain function. Nikola kept his temperature low for a while, then quickly flooded his body with heat. This was a part of his power he almost never used. Just like he could expel power outwards, he could also expel it inwards. His body temperature quickly rose, soaring to above even the hottest fevers. Sweat started to drip off him, but he didn’t let his temperature drop even a tenth of a degree. He held this state for as long as he could, then absorbed the heat again, bringing him back to a normal body temperature.

“There, nothing but my own body can survive that,” Nikola said, slowly getting onto his feet. He looked worse for wear. “I’m gonna go sleep this off.” He stumbled into his room, collapsing onto his bed.

“That guy’s an idiot isn’t he,” Seth asked. John didn’t reply. Seth turned to see what was up, only to see John pulling a face. “Oh no.”



Falcon was ecstatic. People often referred to certain things as being too good to be true, but what had happened today genuinely seemed too good to be true. Not only did the superhumans show their faces again, but they encouraged people to film and upload them. Now there was an all-you-can-eat buffet of video and audio of them. It was invaluable information for the hunt for their identities. Falcon was close. Close enough to smell the success. All that was needed was that one last nail in the coffin. There are many ways to make that happen. Again Falcon would just have to practice patience, and maybe a little bit of manipulation. The mission would be accomplished. And soon.