That time three friends with special abilities were thrown to a new world where superpowers don't exist
“I just came back from the hospital. That girl’s gonna be fine,” John said, peering into Nikola’s room. A bandana hung loosely around his neck.
“That’s a relief,” Nikola said, the extended exhale betraying just how worried he was. “I was worried that I might have hurt her with the stasis.”
“Nope,” John said. “Doctors say you probably saved her life. That puts you even more in the lead.”
“What do you mean ‘in the lead’?” Nikola asked.
“The number of people you’ve saved,” John said. “Seth and I have the crowd at the first attack and our friends in the truck. You’ve got the jumper and the kid from when you did the Electric Sprint, and now you have this girl.”
“You shouldn’t keep score about that stuff,” Nikola said. “It doesn’t sound very heroic.”
“We’re the only superheroes on the planet,” John said. “Everything we say is heroic.”
“Yeah, don’t let it go to your head,” Nikola said. “I know I pushed for this but I still don’t like it. We know there are people out there that are after our powers. Our number one priority has to be to make sure they don’t get them. If they do it’s game over for this world.”
“Even if they caught us, who says they’d be able to replicate what we can do?” John asked, sitting down on Nikola’s bed.
“Who says they won’t be able to?” Nikola countered. “Even if they can’t, brainwashing and blackmail is a thing.”
“Ok, with brainwashing you have a point,” John said. “But what would they blackmail me with? You two can fight for yourself, and I don’t really care enough about anything else here to let them use my power.”
“Olivia,” Nikola said. He didn’t elaborate.
“Point taken,” John said, falling backward onto the bed.
“Seriously, man, when are you going to ask her out?” Nikola asked. “We’ve all been waiting for it to happen, you’re the only one dragging your feet.”
“I’ll act when you two do,” John said. “I mean Seth and Elain are practically together already.”
“And doing an awful job of hiding it,” Nikola said. “Seriously, you’d think for a telepath the man would be able to tell when he isn’t being subtle.”
“Cut him some slack,” John said. “It’s college. The perfect time to be doing stupid crap like rushing headlong into a relationship that’s bound to fail.”
“Such a romantic,” Nikola scoffed. “You should write poetry.”
“And you need to stop being a wuss,” John said.
“Are you seriously going to pull that card?” Nikola asked. “I’ve already told you, Emma and I aren’t like that.”
“Yeah, save it,” John said. “Seth already told me.”
“I’m going to kill him,” Nikola said. “But if you already know, then you know that you’re the only one who hasn’t landed a girl yet.”
“Listen, reeling in a lady like Olivia is an art,” John said. “And you can’t rush art.”
“Uh-huh,” Nikola said, skeptical. “I’ll bet you a hundred bucks if you called and asked her out right now she’d be here and ready within half an hour.”
“What’s the stakes?” John asked. Nikola was surprised by this. He didn’t expect John to take the bait, but now that he was on the line Nikola might as well reel him in.
“If I lose, you can put me in a portal box for half an hour,” Nikola said.
“Oh, I like that,” John said. “And in the off chance that you win?”
“Then you pay for the date I’ll take Emma on,” Nikola said. If John was going to officially get a girlfriend he couldn’t lag too far behind.
“Deal,” John said. He lifted his hand into the air above him, where it went through a portal and came out in front of Nikola.
“Are you really too lazy to just sit up and shake my hand?” Nikola asked.
“Yes,” John replied. He wiggled his hand, urging Nikola to shake it. Nikola obliged, grabbing and shaking firmly.
“I’m holding you both too that,” Seth said, appearing in the doorway.
“Yeah, yeah,” Nikola said. “Elain would be here in ten minutes if you asked her out.”
“I’m not an idiot like John,” Seth said. “I’m not taking your bait. Besides, who says I haven’t asked her out yet?”
Nikola didn’t dignify that question with a response. Instead, he wordlessly pulled out his phone and began dialing a number. Seth’s cocky expression fell as he realized what Nikola was doing. He dove forward to grab the phone, but a well-placed kick to his chest paired with a reasonable burst of kinetic energy sent him sailing out of the room. Nikola pressed the green button, and the phone began to ring. Seth grabbed the phone telekinetically, intent on throwing it against the wall. The phone traveled at great speeds, but John caught it in a portal, sending it directly back into Nikola’s hand.
“Hello?” Elain’s voice came over the phone.
“Hey, Elain!” Nikola said in an overenthusiastic voice. Seth made another dash for Nikola, tackling him into his chair. They both flipped over with the chair.
“What’s going on over there?” Elain asked.
“Elain, listen, I wanted to ask if Seth has ever mmm hmmm,” Nikola said, the last part of his sentence rendered inaudible by Seth’s hand over his mouth. Seth shot Nikola a fierce glare.
“Has Seth asked you out yet?” John called from the bed. Seth looked up at him, his face twisted in pain as he was betrayed by his friend. The expression was quickly replaced by disgust as he realized Nikola was licking his hand.
“No, he hasn’t,” Elain said. “You said ‘yet’ though. Does he plan too?”
“Why not ask him yourself? He’s right here,” Nikola said. Seth fell off Nikola, defeated.
“Hi Elain,” he said, his voice low.
“Hey, Seth,” she said, giggling. “So are you going to ask me out?”
“I was,” Seth said. A twisted grin appeared on his face. “But I’m not anymore. Nikola and John made me change my mind.”
“They did what?!” Elain asked. Nikola and John’s hearts dropped. The list of things in this universe that could scare these three men was short, and it only got shorter. All three could agree, though, that Elain was at the top of the list. She wasn’t violent or anything. On the contrary, she was an absolute sweetheart, and all three thought she was adorable. That also meant that when she was upset it felt akin to hurting a puppy, and they wanted to avoid that at all costs.
“He’s lying!” Nikola yelled. “He’s sinking the ship to kill the captain, don’t fall for it!”
“Yeah, we’d never do that,” John said. “If anything we are trying to help him realize what a great girl you are. We’re trying to make him ask you out!”
“And it’s not like that’s a big step,” Nikola said. “I mean, all of us know you two are basically a couple already. Just… don’t be sad please.”
A moment of tense silence hung over the room, broken when Elain started laughing. Seth quickly joined in on it.
“What’s this now?” John asked.
“I guess we weren’t as obvious as you two thought,” Seth said. “I asked her out the day before the festival. We didn’t tell anyone because I knew this day would come. Before I came in I texted Elain to play along.”
“You’re evil, man,” Nikola said. “And you too, Elain.”
“I don’t care about being evil, your faces were worth it,” Seth said. “I think those reactions might just give me the spirit to make it to the long weekend.”
“Speaking of, do you guys have any plans for that?” Elain asked.
“Not really, no,” Nikola answered. “We’re probably just going to train.”
“Why not come to our beach house then?” Elain asked. The three looked at each other, then back to the phone in Nikola’s hand.
“Elain, did you say you own a beach house?” Seth asked.
“Oh yeah, my parents are loaded,” Elain said. “How do you think I made that copper threaded clothes for you?”
“Ok, I’ll process that later,” Seth said. “For now, going to the beach sounds like a lot of fun. I’m in.”
“We are too,” John said.
“Cool!” Elain cheered over the phone. “I’ll call the others and invite them too. Bye!” A monotone note from the phone indicated that she hung up.
“So… we have a rich friend,” Nikola said. “That’s something.”
“And we’re going to a beach,” John said. “You can go electric fishing.”
“I’ll kill someone if I tried that,” Nikola said. “But you… you can drain the oceans.”
John collapsed back onto the bed, a prolonged groan escaping his mouth.
“I am so excited for this,” Logan said. He wasn’t kidding. Even just by passively keeping his mind open Seth could feel his excitement. Not that he intended to listen in. This weekend he was giving his telepathy a break. It was time to relax.
“Yeah, I can’t wait to get away from campus,” Nikola said.
“What, is the adoration of the masses getting to you?” Emma asked.
“Yes, it is,” Nikola said. “Everywhere I turn there’s posters or graffiti or something about one of us. There are even videos online trying to explain what our powers are.”
“And the scary part is, they’re getting it right,” John said. “I mean with me and Seth it’s pretty obvious, but Nick’s power is confusing, but people still managed to guess it.”
“I think you underestimated how smart this world’s people are,” Elain said. “Even without superpowers, we’ve come pretty far.”
“Have you been to space?” Nikola asked.
“Yeah, we have a space station that’s permanently occupied,” Elain said with a smug grin.
“No, I didn’t mean the royal you,” Nikola clarified. “I meant you specifically.” Elain’s eyes widened.
‘No, I haven’t,” she said. “Are you telling me you have?”
“Yeah, we played golf on the moon for my 16th birthday,” Nikola said.
“Dude, those lunar milkshakes were insane,” John said. “If we ever find a way back home we should definitely go again.”
“Sometimes I really hate you three,” Olivia said with a scowl. “I have dreamt my whole life about being able to go to space, and you three treat it like an amusement park.”
“It’s not our fault we come from a cooler world,” Seth said.
“If you ever go back I’m coming with you,” Olivia said. “I want to see your world with my own eyes.”
“We won’t be able to guarantee that you can come back,” John said. “You might end up stranded there, a normal human in a world filled with superhumans.”
“Well, technically we’d be the normal humans there,” Seth said. “She would be a lesser human.”
“That’s sexist,” Olivia said.
“No, it’s not,” Nikola said. “Your gender has nothing to do with it. It’s like making fun of a guy without legs.”
“That is a really mean thing to do,” Olivia said.
“It is,” Nikola agreed. “Which is why I haven’t made fun of you all for not having powers.”
“At least not to your faces,” John added. Olivia glared at them both, her gaze sending chills down their spines.
“Ok, how about we get this show on the road before Olivia kills these two,” Seth suggested. “Logan, are you sure you’re ok with driving the whole way?”
“Yeah, I don’t mind,” Logan said. “I got a good night’s sleep and I’m stocked on energy drinks.”
“Alright, then let’s pile in everyone,” Seth said. Everyone followed his command, piling into Logan’s SUV. As soon as everyone was buckled up Logan put the pedal to the metal, driving in a way that made even the supers reach for something to hold on to.
“How long till we reach your place, Elain?” Logan asked.
“It’s about two hour’s drive,” Elain said. She was in the passenger seat. Seth, Nikola, and John sat in the middle row, and Emma and Olivia sat in the back. Logan had suggested this arrangement so the girls would have the most comfortable seats. Ever the gentlemen the other three men agreed. Now Nikola was regretting that decision as he had drawn the short straw and got the middle seat.
“Try to get us there in one piece, please Logan,” Nikola said.
“Hey, my driving is excellent,” Logan said. This sentence was punctuated by some swerving as he took his eyes off the road. “Now how about we cue up some tunes to listen to?” He fiddled with the radio until he managed to get music playing from it. Pleasant conversation began rising from the car as everyone basked in the excitement they all shared. Logan seemed to be too focused on the road to partake, but the smile on his face betrayed how happy he was. The good mood in the car continued till about an hour into the drive, when a huge explosion in front of them almost sent them careening off the road.
“What was that?” Nikola asked. As if to answer his question an attack helicopter flew out in front of them. Logan slammed on the brakes in an effort to avoid any more attacks. Before they could react the doors were thrown open and Seth, Nikola, and John were shoved out of the car. They scrambled up to get their bearings only to find their friends being held at gunpoint and pushed into the helicopter.
“Let them go!” Seth yelled, charging forward. He mentally grabbed onto one of the gunmen, intent on throwing him into the side of the helicopter. He didn’t make it far, though. A few steps into his charge he collapsed, doubled over, and crying out in pain.
John was about to act too. He was planning on making portals under their friends and to drop them into the apartment. The fall would be unpleasant, but it would be better than this. The gun that began firing at him foiled his plan, though. He had to make a portal in front of himself to catch the bullets, cutting off his line of sight from his friends, effectively neutralizing him.
Nikola knew he had to move. Seth and John were both incapacitated, and the helicopter was lifting off the ground. He ran forward as the helicopter rose further and further. A kinetic leap brought him close, but before he could make contact with the helicopter he was bathed in flames. He quickly switched to absorbing fire, but that left him vulnerable to what felt like a large bean bag hitting him in the chest, taking away both his breath and his momentum. He hit the ground hard.
“If you want your friends, come to these coordinates and take them,” A voice came over a megaphone. The three looked up to see a man in a crisp suit standing in the helicopter. He threw a small box out of the helicopter. The helicopter began flying away at an impressive speed. Nikola tried one more desperate leap, but his aim was off. The only thing he could try was a bolt of lightning, but he risked hitting his friends. He decided to take the chance, blasting the helicopter. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have any effect. He fell back to the ground, absorbing the blow this time.
“What the hell was that,” Seth asked, slowly getting to his feet.
“It’s the people who want our powers,” Nikola said. “It has to be. They found us.”
“How?!” Seth asked, rubbing the back of his head. “And how did they know about the telepathic blast?”
“Is that what happened?” Nikola asked. “I thought you got shot.”
“No, they somehow mimicked what you can do,” Seth said. “If I had a few seconds to think I’d be able to work past it, it’s not as strong as your blasts are.”
“Guys, this is what he gave us,” John said, joining them. He had gone to pick up the black box. Inside was what seemed to be a very sturdily built GPS device, leading them to a location a few miles away.
“I assume that’s where they took our friends,” Seth said.
“John, take us home so we can regroup,” Nikola ordered. John followed the order, opening a portal to their apartment. They stepped through and all went to their rooms. Seth and John emerged with a change of clothes. They were wearing sweats so they could move easily, and bandanas hung around their necks. Nikola came out in normal clothes. He only changed because the fall had ripped his shirt.
“Nick, why aren’t you dressed for this?” Seth asked.
“Because I’m not going,” Nikola said. “And I don’t think you two should either.” A stunned silence hung in the room, paired with expressions of disbelief on Seth and John’s faces.
“Why not?” John asked. He didn’t sound upset, but as if the question genuinely perplexed him.
“Because, John,” Nikola said. “It’s a trap. It’s obviously a trap. They want our powers. We can’t let them get it from us, even if it costs a few lives. We don’t know how many more will be put at risk once they get their hands on us.”
“Nick,” Seth said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Those lives you’re just throwing away. They’re our friends. Are you saying your power means more to you than they do?”
“No, I’m…” Nikola began, but he trailed off. He took a moment to gather his thoughts. “Listen, this isn’t our world. When we go home whatever happened here won’t matter anymore. But if we let whoever that guy in the suit is get our powers we will be responsible for whatever he does. He might murder millions. He might plunge this world into a dystopia. Can you two live with that?”
“I won’t let him take my power,” Seth said. “And if he does, I can live with the fact that I tried my best to save my friends. Can you live with yourself if you let them die?”
“Seth, I’m sorry,” Nikola said. He shifted his legs to be in a more balanced position and raised his hands. “You need to think of the greater good. I’m not letting you go.”
“And I’m not letting you stop me,” Seth said, also taking a combat stance.
“I’m with Seth,” John said, falling in beside him. “I need to save them. You don’t have to come with us, but we won’t let you stop us.”
“So be it,” Nikola said. The crackle of thunder sparked from his fingertips, but Seth tackled Nikola to the ground before he could shoot. Seth rolled with the dive, making sure he got off Nikola before he could try something. This proved wise as a wave of fire blasted from Nikola’s body. John saw the opportunity and made a portal beneath Nikola. He was planning on sending him to the training grounds, but Nikola blasted back through the portal before it could close, crashing into John. He was about to electrocute his friend when Seth telekinetically yanked him back by his hair, sending him tumbling backward.
Nikola knew he was at a disadvantage here. He didn’t think Seth would try to rip out one of his organs, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do anything else. This was perfectly demonstrated when a chair flew through the air and nearly slammed into Nikola. He just barely managed to roll out of the way, leaving the chair to shatter into the floor where he had just been. He leveled a hand to where Seth was, only to find him gone. He realized too late what had happened. Seth fell from the portal above Nikola, landing straight on his back and knocking the wind out of him. Seth grabbed a fistful of hair and forcefully drove Nikola’s head into the ground, leaving him disoriented.
“Come on, John,” Seth said. “Let’s go.” John nodded and opened up a portal to the spot they were ambushed earlier. Nikola dragged himself to his feet with a yell and blasted lightning at John and Seth, intent on making sure they couldn’t get away. John expected this, though. A portal opened between Nikola and John and Seth, and another formed right above Nikola. He couldn’t react in time, and the full force of the thunder crashed into his body. He was more resistant to energy than most, but it was enough to leave in incapacitated.
“I’m sorry, Nick,” John said. “But we have to save our friends. When we come back I hope you’ll forgive us.” With that, he stepped through the portal, Seth close on his heels.
It took almost ten minutes of portal jumping to get to where the tracker told them to go. From the surface, it looked completely normal, but Seth could hear several minds milling about underground.
“Come on, let’s find an entrance,” Seth said. They tried to move sneakily, scouting for any sign of an entrance to what felt like a massive underground complex. They tried to go to the exact point marked by the GPS device, but to no avail. As they searched Seth listened to the minds below them, trying to find some clue as to how they could get in. As time passed their desperation grew, and Seth decided to try something he had no success with yet. He focused his mind, feeling the world around him with his telekinesis. He felt through the world for anything that could be moved, willing an image of his surroundings to form in his mind. His eyes shot open and he spun around.
“What is it?” John asked.
“I think I found an entrance,” Seth said. He began running, and John followed. A few seconds later he came to a stop above a vent that was covered by the growing grass around them.
“Well, it’s a kind of entrance,” John said. He peered through the grates, and a portal appeared beside him. “Now we don’t have to worry about setting off an alarm if we break this,” John said. Seth nodded and followed him through the portal. They found themselves in a room covered with cabling and piping. It reminded Seth about the crawlspace in homes he had seen in horror movies.
“Ok, now we just need to find them,” Seth said. He narrowed his focus again and began scanning all the minds he could feel, looking for the familiar thought patterns that he recognized as his friends. It took a few minutes, but he found them, and surprisingly close at that. “Come on, I think I know where they are.”
John and Seth crept through this system of vents and ducts, the occasional room with a bunch of valves and knobs giving them a place to stretch out. It was in one of these rooms that Seth stopped them.
“They should be right below us,” he whispered. “One of these vents leads down, so then we can make a portal.” John nodded and they crawled through the next vent. Just like Seth predicted, it had a grate that pointed down into the room. It seemed to be some kind of holding cell, with their friends inside. John and Seth exchanged a glance before crawling back to the room.
“So how do we do this?” John asked.
“I say we get in and get out,” Seth said. “You take us in there, then take us all home. I’ll be much more comfortable fighting with Nikola by our side, and he’ll help us if we fought on our own territory.”
“You’re not mad at him?” John asked.
“No, I get where he’s coming from,” Seth said. “The others will be angry at him, though.”
“You’re probably right, but he can deal with that,” John said. “Now are you ready?”
“Let’s do it,” Seth said. A portal opened and they both jumped through. They appeared in the middle of the holding cell, much to the surprise of the other occupants.
“You guys came!” Elain said, jumping into Seth’s arms.
“Damn, am I glad to see you,” Logan said.
“We can have a happy reunion later,” Seth said. “For now, John, get us out of here.” He turned to John, and his heart instantly sank. John wore an expression he had only seen once before. The day they arrived in this world.
“I can’t,” John said.
“What do you mean you can’t?” Seth asked.
“I mean I’m trying, but the portals aren’t forming!” John yelled.
“Of course they’re not!” A voice called out. Seth and John turned to look outside the holding cell. There stood a man in a crisp suit. “We can’t have you leaving, after all.”
Seth was about to telekinetically rip this guy’s heart out, but before he could get a grip he doubled over in pain. This wasn’t like before. This wasn’t even like what Nikola could do. What he experienced now was a feeling of pain he didn’t think was possible.
“Now, now,” The Suited Man said. “We can’t have you trying to rip me apart from the inside, now can we? As for you, John, a simple fluctuating magnetic field was enough to disrupt your portals the instant you make them. Well, maybe simple is the wrong word. It’s a pretty strong field that’s sweeping over you to make sure your portals can’t stabilize. Now, Seth, you must be in excruciating pain, right? Let’s see if I can make it worse.” The glass doors of the holding cell swung open. Instantly men with guns appeared and leveled them at the prisoners.
“You see,” The Suited Man continued. “This would not have been possible without the help of someone I hold in very high regard. I knew he was the right guy for the job, but I have to say, you even blew my expectations out of the water, Falcon.”
“Thank you, Sir!”
John and Seth both turned in disbelief, at Logan. He stood at crisp attention, with a smug smile on his face.
“Why?” Seth managed to wheeze out.
“Sorry, buddy,” Logan said, taking a step forward. “I was just following orders. Though, I have to say, my job was made a bit easier.” He turned to face the Suited Man. “I was quite surprised when I found out you stationed someone else there too, and even more so when I found out it was the Turtledove.”
“Two heads are always better than one.”
John and Seth felt the sting of betrayal sink even deeper, as Olivia took a tentative step forward. She fell in beside Logan, also standing at attention.
“But,” John said. He was unable to find more words. All he could do was look at Olivia with puzzled eyes.
“Sorry, John,” Olivia said. “For what it’s worth I do think you’re a really good guy. But my mission comes first.”
“Did someone manage to pierce the Turtledove’s cold heart?” The Suited Man asked with a laugh. “You boys are full of surprises. Now, I’ll be honest, I expected all three of you to come here, but two is fine as well. After we kill you here hunting down Nikola will be a piece of cake. Now Falcon, Turtledove, fall in.”
Logan and Olivia both stepped out of the cell and fell in line behind the Suited Man, who gleefully rubbed his hands together.
“This is nothing personal, I hope you know that,” he said. “But your existence upsets the natural order. We can’t have beings like you running amock, upsetting the power structures we’ve worked to put in place. Because of that, we have to eliminate you. Unfortunately, your friends will be collateral damage.”
“No, please,” Seth said, barely forcing the words out. He collapsed back onto the ground, groaning in the head-splitting pain.
“You can do whatever you want with us,” John pleaded, picking up for Seth. “Please, just let them go.”
“Sorry, we can’t do that,” The Suited Man said. “On the bright side, you’re going to die in a very cool way.” He sounded almost like a giddy child when he said that. From behind him, a big door opened, and a group of men wheeled in what seemed to be a huge gun. The glass doors of the cell closed again. “This is a laser. It should completely disintegrate you in less than a second.” The Suited Man laughed as he turned around and walked out of the room, everyone else following close behind.
“It’s going to fire in one minute after this door closes. Go ahead and say your goodbyes.”
The door slammed shut. Seth was still writhing in pain. A vein on John’s neck bulged as he threw all the energy he had into creating a portal. A small one flashed in and out of existence, but he couldn’t get it any bigger. The breath he had been holding burst out of his lungs.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I can’t get us out of here.” He turned to see Seth still curled up on the ground. Tears were in his eyes. John felt a pang in his heart. His friend’s last moments would be spent in indescribable agony.
“It’s ok,” Elain said. She was crying too, crouched over Seth. “It’s not you’re fault.”
“At least Nick will give us vengeance, right?” Emma said with a grim. “I doubt he’ll let these people get away with it.”
“Yeah, he will,” John agreed.
Seth couldn’t muster the strength to speak. He could barely form thoughts, but those he did in those last few seconds were all the same. He heard his friends around him accepting defeat. At this point, he welcomed death as well. He could see a faint glow come from the laser cannon as it prepared to fire. The last thoughts that echoed through his mind before the gun blasted were all the same. A repeated plea. A cry he knew no matter how hard he pushed, would never be heard.
Nick, save us.